Nature Inspiration

Growing up I have always felt an extremely strong connection with the natural world and have been fortunate enough to have a knowledgeable mentor. Throughout my childhood as well as his my dad took me fishing almost every single morning. His love of the natural world and the peacefulness that came along with it began to rub off and in turn I too became obsessed with the mechanisms of nature. Catching fish and spending as much time on the water as we did truly gave me a lust for figuring out how these processes are all pieced together.

As I got older my understanding of the intricate balance of nature grew. The ways in which the tide was flowing, the wind was blowing, light was showing, and endless amounts of factors more played a role in whether we would be fishing or catching that day. Free of technological distraction, the water forces you to be in the present. Sometimes it can be powerful and frightening sometimes it can be your friend but the feelings that the water can give you are continually humbling. I’ve personally had many of these experiences on the Chesapeake Bay with my dad as well as surfing all over the east coast. Situations when you get caught in the middle of a thunderstorm or thrown onto a rock are only tastes of the power of Mother Nature. This raw and untamed power is increasingly being trifled with by man whom of which typically has a lack of respect for or just simply a lack of understanding.
These intricate interconnected processes that surround us are subject to disruption by man as well as the natural processes that have the ability to greatly affect each other. These changes are rarely noticeable until it’s too late. Changes such as biodiversity loss in the Chesapeake have taken a noticeable toll on water quality. This is because of disease decimating oyster populations and their ability to filter the water on top of runoff, dumping, and pollution. These circumstances add up for a volatile situation for man as well as nature.

The extent of the quality of the water gets worse and worse as you go further inland where almost nothing can survive. The rockfish or striped bass which is the main target of our adventures was once of abundance and healthy but almost a quarter of the fish we catch now have bulging red sores and look skinny in appearance. This is a parasite called micobacteriosis which is found in 76% of sick bass. These are a couple of the reasons I cherish a strong connection with nature. Sometimes we would get lucky and sometimes we would get skunked but the love of nature is something that I will always hold close.


My Failed Attempt – Contacting Our Senator

Earlier this week I was feeling bold and decided to write emails to South Carolina’s legislature concerning the debate on whether or not SC should allow off-shore drilling in the near future. After conducting research into voting trends of our state senators, I noticed that Senator Lindsey Graham was beginning to vote more in-favor of environmentally friendly bills… this was a very small trend, but a trend nonetheless. I wrote to Mr. Graham telling him how I appreciated his new found concern for the environment and I hope he would continue to consider the impacts that his votes have on the planet. I concluded stating that the off-shore drilling plan could detrimentally affect the state’s $2M tourism industry if something were to go wrong. This was his response:

Dear Ms. Barto:

Thank you for contacting me regarding offshore drilling.  I firmly believe the United States must break its dependence on energy from unstable areas of the world–particularly the Middle East–but that we must also be good stewards of South Carolina’s natural environment. Safe and environmentally conscious offshore drilling can create jobs and decrease our dependence on foreign oil and gas.  I believe the question of whether to permit drilling off the coast of South Carolina should be closely evaluated, and ultimately the people of South Carolina should make the decision.  As the Senate considers this issue, I will continue to seek a balance between energy independence and the protection of South Carolina’s coast. As your United States Senator, my primary job is to understand and represent the interests of all South Carolinians.  The opportunity to hear from you about the issues confronting our nation is not only essential to representative democracy, but allows me to better serve the people of South Carolina.  We will not see eye-to-eye on every issue; however, I promise to always give your concerns the consideration they deserve. I encourage you to visit my website — — as it will have information on the most recent activities before the U.S. Senate.  You can also sign up for our e-mail newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages which will provide the latest information and updates on the major issues facing our state and our nation. Thank you again for contacting me. I truly appreciate the opportunity to hear from you and am honored to have the opportunity to represent your interests in the U.S. Senate.


Oh well, I guess you can’t win all of them. If off-shore drilling creates jobs, then who cares about what an oil spill would do to our beautiful marshlands, coasts, and marine life? Not to mention, fishing jobs – jobs related to tourism – and overall quality of life in our waters? Graham takes an L for this one, for some reason I am not sure that he would actually take my concerns seriously when it came down to making more $$$. But that doesn’t mean we should give up!!

Blue Skies in Beijing? YEAAA Right

The other week, I decided to present my news report based on the air pollution in China, namely, the efforts being made to combat this major environmental issue. For many years now, devastating levels of toxic pollutants including PM2.5, O3, NO2, and SO2 have consumed China. PM2.5 is a contaminated air particle so small that it can only be detected with an electron microscope. O3 is a resulting pollutant in our atmosphere that is formed when previous pollutants react under the sunlight. NO2 is Nitrogen dioxide and this is a group of gaseous air pollutants most commonly formed as a result of fossil fuel combustion and carbon emissions. NO2 mixing with other air pollutants results in acid rain. Lastly, SO2 is Sulfur dioxide, and this too is produced from the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, SO2 is produced from the smelting of mineral ores that contain sulphur. Like NO2, it is a major component of acid rain. . In 2013, China’s State Council implemented the Action Plan for Air Pollution and Control – which included three goals focusing on the air pollution in China. The goals included PM2.5 reduction, setting a limit on coal consumption, and mandated renewable energy growth. In a way to measure the effectiveness of this plan, a group called Greenpeace East Asia decided to collect data on the pollutant levels in China’s cities and provinces. The article that first drew my attention to this current event discussed the decreasing levels of pollutants in Beijing, a major city in China. Hoping to read something actually cheerful in the realm of environmentalism, I read into the article: “A Blue Sky in Beijing? It’s Not A Fluke, Says Greenpeace” from The New York Times. According to author Steven Myers, “In Beijing, pollution fell 53 percent. Greenpeace estimated that lower pollution levels resulted in 160,000 fewer premature deaths across China in 2017” (Myers, 2018).  Even though pollutant levels have decreased since 2014 in the populous city of Beijing, one should not think that the problem is over. On the contrary, polluting coal and metal industries have only increased their output, causing more pollutants being released! This is happening in places other than Beijing, like the providence of Anhui. Since 2014, O3 has increased from roughly 40 ug/m3 to approximately 70 ug/m3 in Anhui alone. In addition, NO2 is on the rise as well (Greenpeace East Asia, 2018).


Learning this, I understood a little bit more about the complexity of the environmental crisis that China faces. It’s next to impossible for the State Council to make strides with their Action Plan for Air Pollution and Control if the fossil fuel burning and metal industries undermine their attempts! It’s easy to become frustrated when you know so well how awful these corporations and industries are affecting air quality – this means even children are affected – but if it means they can make money…

I have attached the link to the short film by Jia Zhangke, bringing awareness to the daily lives of those in China living in air pollution. When we educate ourselves we can more effectively make a difference.


“We don’t have to sacrifice a strong economy for a healthy environment” – Dennis Weaver




Myers, Steven. “A Blue Sky In Beijing? It’s Not A Fluke, Says Greenpeace.” The New York Times 2018. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.

“PM2.5 In Beijing Down 54%, But Nationwide Air Quality Improvements Slow As Coal Use Increases.” Greenpeace East Asia. N.p., 2018. Web. 26 Jan. 2018.

Zhangke, Jia. Smog Journeys. East Asia: Greenpeace East Asia, 2015. film.




This is an ad campaign from the World Wild Fund for Nature. Their goal is to show the human impact on animals. The animals have graffiti on them and in today’s society that is viewed as vandalism. By showing this on the animals it is telling the audience that we are vandalizing the animals by taking their homes and messing up their environments. In society we see graffiti as something that immature, disrespectful people do.  As humans we are not treating the animals with the respect that we should be and as a result of that they are dying off. Their goal is to make humans see the negative impact that we are having on these animals and become conscious of it and hopefully inspire them to make a change in order to save and protect these animals. Also, showing the effect of humans on the actual animals appeals to the emotional side of humans. Most of the time these campaigns show the impact that we have on the environment for example instead of showing a whale with writing on it, there would usually be a picture of trash in the ocean. Most people would see the trash and not really care since its just water and something that doesn’t have life. But looking at the actual creature it promotes the compassionate side of humans. I think everyone would see this picture in the same way since it is geared towards all people. Seeing this makes me sad and makes me realize how much we do not respect these amazing creatures because as humans we only worry about ourselves. We only have one Earth and we are not the only living beings on it. There is enough space for humans and animals to live together and thrive in life. The only thing we have to do is be their voice and be more aware of the impact we’re having on other animals environments. Becoming aware of our effect is the most important step and this is what this ad is showing us. There shouldn’t be graffitti on and animal, so there shouldn’t be human impact on these animals. Another thing about this picture is that this is showing more than one environment. For example is shows the ocean, arctic and the sahara. This is a way of showing that our reach is affecting all kinds if environments and all types of animals are being affected. Even if we do not see it first hand, it is still happening all over the world and in every kind of environment. This picture does do its purpose in showing us the negative effect we have on all animals and it compels us to be compassionate towards these animals and hopefully promote the awareness of this. In the end, the ads purpose is to drive you to donate to the World Wild Fund for Nature in order to make a difference in these animals lives. In the end I think the ad is well made and is an effective ad that appeals to everyone.

Conceptualizing the Dimensions of Earth Literacy

This upcoming Spring Break, I will be leading an Alternative Break trip through the College of Charleston to Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center in Washburn, Tennessee. I was extremely pleased to be selected for this position in September due to my yearning to learn more about how to live in a more sustainable manner, and in turn gain more insight on how to teach others to do the same. The first semester of this school year consisted of a lot of preparation in regards to the proper way to teach the participants of my group, who are students, how to be more of an active citizen. However, this semester, every other week, I lead an orientation session for my participants in matters that are specific to Narrow Ridge.

This challenge I faced led me to reflect on what I thought was most important to teach my participants in the few meetings we have before we embark on our journey in March. I realized that although our trip is to an “Earth Literacy” Center, I was rather unfamiliar with the term. Educating myself on what Earth Literacy is seemed to be the most logical first step to take. I called the director of Narrow Ridge, a woman named Mitzi, and learned much more from that call than I originally imagined I would.

Prior to the call, I thought of Earth Literacy as a term that described reading about the planet, and being able to draw conclusions based off of scientific data. I was quickly informed that Earth Literacy is more than reading about the planet and its systems; it’s dedicating yourself to the planet in a profound manner. Mitzi described Earth Literacy to me as “being in a relationship with the Earth.” The concept describes one being able to read the Earth like they’d be able to read someone they’re in a relationship with. As one spends more time with the person they are in a relationship with, they learn more about the person. The same applies to spending more time with the Earth, outside. Mitzi described to me that although there is science involved with Earth Literacy-climate change/science deniers should be dealt with in a proper manner-most of what is involved with Earth Literacy is infused with wonderment and mystery. It’s essential to go into nature and be in awe of what the natural world has to offer. The concept of humans belonging to the Earth is also a vital part of Earth Literacy. Humans today, and historically, have thought of the Earth as a place that was made for us, for the functions that please us on an everyday basis. What many people don’t realize is that we belong to the Earth, it doesn’t belong to us. Therefore, we should nurture it, not harm it. What’s most important, however, is that in order to fully understand Earth Literacy, one must spend enough time in nature to truly understand the power that the Earth has.

This conversation certainly had an impact on me. Although most of what Mitzi said seemed so obvious, I had never thought so in depth about how I must be in a relationship with the Earth in order to truly nurture it and live in a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship between myself and the planet. When I asked the group participants about their relationship with the planet, many said they wish to have a better relationship with the Earth, but living in urban Charleston has stopped them from doing this. This made me upset, so I turned to Mitzi for answers. She described how being Earth Literate is more than just what it appears to be; humans are a product of the Earth, so even nurturing relationships with others is embodied by the term Earth Literacy.

After all of these descriptions of what Earth Literacy entails, I truly had, and continue to have, a different outlook on the planet. Mitzi helped me realize that we, as a 21st Century society, continue to treat the Earth horribly, but it has become the new normal. Everyday activities that humans perform harm the Earth very much, but we have all become accustomed to this way of life being extremely normal. We must retrace our steps, and ensure that the relationship humanity has with the Earth is intense, profound, strong, and mutually beneficial.

Becoming Vegetarian: a struggle

Personal Change– I’ve made a change of becoming vegetarian- for a week.

I have a few friends that are vegans, as well as vegetarians and they are always impacting my decisions when we eat because I tend to involve their eating habits around where we go. Whenever they want to try a new vegan place or somewhere with a vegan friendly menu, I go along too. I have never been huge on eating red meat anyway, and when I buy groceries I don’t typically buy any meat products. I get items such as pizza or burritos just plain cheese. Since my diet is already not all meat based I thought it would be an easy task to take it completely out of my diet for a week. I wanted to see if it would be a challenge and if I would feel any healthier after. Especially since any meat intake can really effect the environment and your health. Meat production factories not only use up about one third of the worlds fresh water, but they produce lots of waste and chemicals that aren’t helping the Earth. Also, eating meat raises your chance of getting heart diseases and cancer.

I’m not going to lie, after going a week trying not to eat meat it made me realize how frequently I actually do. I work at a sports bar so after a long shift, my friends and I usually grab food to go from there. (Chicken tenders, a burger, chicken salad). But, during this week at work I switched my chicken salad- to just a salad- and my chili nachos to just nachos without the chili. I feel like it’s an easier choice to make when we get pizza or Mexican food, because I always get plain cheese or beans. It got tougher later on because most of my sandwiches and main meals when I go out involve turkey or chicken.

I also didn’t realize Chick-fila was my campus go-to meal when I got out of class. I had to change a lot of my habits, but I think it was good for me. Also eye opening because it is possible to change your diet and if everyone went vegetarian for just ONE day, we would save around 100 billion gallons of water, 1.5 billion pounds of crops, 70 million gallons of gas, and so much more. Even though I’m just one person, I’d like to think that my 7 days had a positive impact somehow on the earth. I’m not sure if it will be a permanent change for me at the moment but, I do think I will work my way up to it. Especially since I

already don’t include meat into all my meals now; I will get to the point of less and less days during the week that include it, and get to where all my meals are better for me, and the environment and completely meatless. If someone were trying to go vegetarian, I would suggest trying meals you already know that you like, just minus the meat. So that way you aren’t trying a whole new meal that you might not enjoy, because it could trick you into thinking you won’t like any meal without the meat.

Also, after doing the ecological footprint homework, my carbon footprint really went down after changing my diet to only meatless products. I feel like if I 100% changed my diet to being meatless, along with a convincing a few more of my friends, it would be the start to a (small) but helpful change to the impact we have on our limited environment.

Plastic Bag Ban in Mount Pleasant, SC

Plastic Bag Ban in Mount Pleasant, SC

Mount Pleasant is considering placing a ban on plastic bags and foam containers!! Why one may ask? The single use plastic bags (used for grocery shopping, ect.) are polluting our oceans, the harbor, and our creeks. It not only affects our wildlife and ecosystems but it affects us as well. Everyone loves to eat locally and everyone loves seafood. You know the saying “you are what you eat” well that is literally true. Our local sea critters are eating this plastic and foam that are getting tossed or some how land in our waterways. When we eat our seafood locally we are not only getting a good source of protein, we are also, more likely than not, ingesting micro plastics. YUCK! The Charleston Water keeper, named Andrew Wunderley, believes that action needs to be taken and it needs to be taken NOW. He says that plastic grocery bags, polystyrene, and all plastic made food containers are all huge problems here in Charleston. In South Carolina, a few beach towns have ALREADY put a ban on single use grocery bags. Isle of Palms started this trend and Folly Beach followed them. The tri-county area is not the only place who has noticed this problem, Hilton Head Island AND Surfside Beach have already approved bans on plastic shopping bags in January. The Mount Pleasant city council has a meeting next week to talk about this ban we so badly need to place. There is talk about giving out fines starting at $250 if a business does not follow the ban. Awesome! A few exemptions would be made, I believe for health code reasons, and that includes “foam and plastic bags used for: meat trays, produce and bulk items, flowers or unwrapped bakery goods, dry cleaning, newspapers, fish and frozen foods”. Also, exempt would be life savers and life vests, obviously, we need those for safety purposes This ban was considered last year but state lawmakers shot it down after long consideration. Rumor has it that the house of representatives are going to take a vote soon to decide whether or not to allow this ban, glad they reconsidered! Councilman Owens has already taken into consideration a list of pros that has come out of this ban for barrier islands that have already adopted the ban. Mount Pleasant is the 4th biggest city in the state, so I think that it is very important that we take care of our water and our 85,000 citizens. Councilman Bustos is not so sure about this ban, but I guess we will have to wait until February 13th for the city to reveal the final outcome. Will they follow through with this ban or will they 86 the entire idea for the second time? Twenty sea turtles taken in for treatment at the local aquarium have been treated for consuming plastic products. Although we do not eat turtles, it is cruel and unfair to these helpless animals. Our single use plastic bags are hurting out sea creatures, edible and non-edible, and also hurting us! Keep an eye out for the results of this purposed ban as it will be announced soon!!


Feeling salty? Check out Desalination Plants


           A desalination plant is a system that converts seawater to drinkable water. These plants are very important because as sea levels rise, fresh water can become less available. Some countries and states even rely on desalination plants because they do not have enough freshwater of their own. Israel, a country smaller than New Jersey, gets half of its domestic water from desalination, and actually has more water than it needs. Water is such a precious resource and having a desalination plant can save people’s lives and livelihoods. Israel had an extreme drought a few years ago, where farmers were losing a year’s worth of crops, but because they built desalination plants, they have more than recovered from the drought, and a lucrative business was built. The company that built the most recent desalination plant outside of Tel Aviv just built one in Carlsbad, Southern California, a place notorious for their droughts and fires.

            The reason having desalination plants in dry areas is relevant today, because Cape Town, South Africa is about to completely run out of water, and there is a viable solution on the horizon. The city is rushing to build some temporary desalination plants, so the people can survive until the earth can replenish itself. Technology can do wonders, and desalination plants are further proof of that, but the main issue with building these desalination plants is that it will cost the city big time. The process to turn salt water into drinkable water is a very expensive process, that uses a lot of electricity. The timeline for a solution to this grievous event, running completely out of water, is drawing near. The calculated date that Cape Town’s taps will run dry is April 16th, and that date could end up changing to a sooner time. Cape Town is going to have to build a desalination plant and will apparently be called the Strandfontein plant and cost around $19.8 million dollars. This might be a big expense, but it is well worth the cost, because the alternative is grim. If there is no water in an entire city, how can people possibly continue to live there? People would have to leave Cape Town, and the city would pretty much disappear.  

            Desalination is bound to become a more important necessity in our future on Earth, considering how the Earth is getting warmer as time goes on. Even a small change in temperature can cause a lot of changes to the planet, because the waters get warmer, which causes events like ice melting – which destroys habitats for the polar bears and other creatures – coral bleaching, hurricanes, and other horrible natural disasters. Desalination plants are a great way to start evolving with the changing environment, since humanity would rather just build more tech than make actual changes to how we live, which would solve a lot of problems.



The Astonishing Planet Earth

For my first blog post I wanted to do a documentary review. Environmental science and nature in general has always been a true passion of mine throughout my whole life. The natural world never ceases to amaze me every day. BBC network has created a beautiful art piece called Planet Earth that I’m sure many of you have also seen. It takes them years to make these films due to the unpredictable actors in their films, which consist of animals and plants around the world. Their first documentary series was released in 2006 and took four years to create, traveling to over 64 different countries.

The most current series though, is the main topic for my blog entry. Planet Earth 2 was released in 2017 and took 2,089 days of shooting, about 5.7 years to make. They traveled to over 40 countries to capture the most epic and meaningful clips of the natural world that all eyes should see. Throughout the most recent series David Attenborough, the creator shined a light on how much the earth has been changing in the current years. This was different to the first series. It became apparent to the filmmakers that things have truly changed in the environments although they had seen them no longer than ten years ago. The documentary is split up into episodes due to its length. They categorize the episodes based on the ecosystems. For instance there are different episodes for forest, oceans, desserts, etc.  This is the same between both Planet Earth 1 and 2, but an additional ecosystem was added to this most current ecosystems. This was Cities. They show how certain animals have adapted to our man made ecosystems and how their environment was destroyed but monkeys for example, have been able to learn how to survive in a concrete jungle.

I love that Attenborough added these small changes in his filmmaking to make a huge impact and open the eyes to people who might not be able to see the actual effects of the human impact and climate change due to the anthropocene. I feel our society separates themselves from the natural world and every other creature that shares the planet with us. This makes it easy for humans to not care if their ecosystems are deteriorating because it won’t affect them directly. This is a very close-minded way of living life and this documentary has the ability to educate people of what isn’t right outside their front doors. Many people live in very urban communities with little nature or recourses to be able to immerse themselves in nature. This documentary is available on Netflix, which in this day and age, the mass of people have, this means they now have an opportunity to learn about all of the environments and ecosystems and all of the species within them. It may not be as rewarding as being in these areas, but the quality of this film is unbelievable and actually demonstrates certain thing that one would not be able to experience even if they were right in the forest. For example, one technique these filmmakers use is time-lapse film. This is where they leave a camera recording a plant or mushroom or what have you for a long period of time, months even, and then speed up the film. By doing this one can view the whole lifecycle of an organism in as little as thirty seconds. The creators of this film have an obvious and true passion for what they are doing and are sharing a true gift by letting the public experience this art piece of a documentary.

This documentary like previously mentioned is available on or for more information you can visit

Weeds, Dirt, and Dixie Plantation

Planting Day at Dixie


Did you know that The College of Charleston has a Sustainable Agriculture Program?

Did you know that The College of Charleston’s Sustainable Agriculture Program has three downtown urban gardens AND a two-acre student garden at Dixie Plantation in Ravenelle, SC?

I know what you are thinking, “Where is Ravenelle and why would I ever go there?”

As far as proximity goes, it is a bit of a drive from The College of Charleston’s downtown campus, 18.6 miles to be exact. But the good news is that if you are lacking in a vehicle or in motivation to make the drive then the Sustainable Agriculture Program will happily partner you up with fellow students to carpool out the plantation and trust me it is worth it.

When you first turn on to the dirt road at Dixie Plantation you start to get excited. Big old trees line the driveway and the occasional houses and businesses that were visible before now almost completely disappear. This is where you start to get an idea of the scale of the property, 881 acres, and the remote positioning that preserves the land’s integrity and beauty. About halfway down the driveway, you pass the original gates and the hall of angel oak trees that used to line the path to the original home.

Image result for dixie plantation

A couple turns and gates later you arrive at the student gardens. Complete with a custom gate and more than six beds for planting, the student garden at Dixie Plantation is the perfect environment for any student looking to relieve some stress and grow some vegetables on a historic Charleston property. Lucky for you there is an event at the property almost monthly, weekly during the busy season. At the garden, students focus on growing a variety of leafy greens and vegetables that are harvested and sold to the South Carolina Aquarium Sea Turtle Hospital. Talk about all the good vibes, your plants get to feed the sick and recovering sea turtles!

Aside from the garden, the Sustainable Agriculture Program hosts workshops and Expos in their newly built research facility on the property. In the past, they have hosted honey bee expos with the Charleston Bee Keeper Association, composting workshops, and other education events. They are also there almost every Saturday if you just have some free time and would like to help in the garden.

That is what my husband and I did! We woke up early, put on some comfortable clothes, and drove out to Dixie Plantation. We met up with Sean Dove and friends on a chilly Saturday morning to participate in the Dixie Planting Day. We were assigned a bed and were provided with tools to clear out weeds and debris from the soil so that it could be planted in the next few days. We were cold and our noses were running but we had so much fun. After we cleared our bed we took a walk through the grounds and learned a bit about the history of the plantation. It was a Saturday morning well spent.


So if you are thinking, “Wow! I want to grow veg for the sea turtles!” or maybe just “I would like to know more about these Sustainable Agriculture programs. ” Then you should reach out to Abbie Cain at and request to be added to the email list.

Hope to see you all out in the garden!