Extra Credit Senator Sandy Senn

Hello! If you read my last blog entry then you know that I recently went to an event hosted by Cultivate SC. While I was there I met a woman named Carolee Williams who works as a Lowcountry Field Director for the group Conservation Voters South Carolina. While at Cultivate, Carolee and I discussed the topic of the “ban on bans” bill currently in the South Carolina Senate. We both agreed that this bill was outrageous and, if passed, would mean only bad things for our local environment and South Carolina’s waterways. Carolee told me that the best way to oppose things like this was to contact your local representatives. To which I responded with the usual string of excuses about politicians only listening to money, and Republicans only voting Republican, seeing the rejection letters first hand, and being only one person. I told her my doubts and how I thought it wouldn’t make a difference. Well, it turns out that Carolee Williams had with her some local Charleston postcards with beautiful beaches and grand oak trees on them. She told me, “Just write a short message. Say you support local government and not the ban on bans. You don’t even have to address it! Just write your home address and ill address it to your representative.” It was so easy that I couldn’t say no and this was something that I felt strongly about…so I filled out 2 postcards, one with my address and Carolee’s recommendation for wordage and the second with my parents South Carolina address and a similar message. I dropped the postcards with Carolee and went about my arts and crafts.

About a week or two later, my husband and I get a letter in the mail from the SC Senate. Man, were we sweating! What could they want? What did we do? Turns out it was our State Senator Sandy Senn writing with a response to my postcard. Here we go, I was ready for rejection when I read the following message….



For those of you who cant read the letter, ill retype the key lines.

“Thank you so much for reaching out to me. I agree with you and will oppose this bill. I believe in local governments and their ability to regulate themselves and will advocate for that position.”

WHAT?! Let me retype that one more time for the people in the back. She said, “I Agree With You and Will Oppose This Bill.” I don’t think a letter has ever made me happier. Okay, well it was up there in the surprise and happiness category. My senator not only took the time to respond to a postcard but she agrees with me and will fight for this outcome! Yes! It was an amazing realization that there are good guys and girls out there fighting for you and your voice and the environment and our planet. They are going against the popular vote and saying no to lobbyists with big checks and agendas. They are doing their job so now we need to do ours. They need more from us. More support. More good jobs. More critiques. More communication. More opinions. They need us to step up and speak up. So next time you’re out, grab a postcard or sit down and write a short email. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Make it easy on them. If it weren’t for a stranger in a bar handing me a postcard and offering to do the heavy lifting I would never have known that I am represented by a woman who cares about the same things that I do and I would never have realized how much my opinion matters.

So write a letter to your representative and if you ever find yourself in a bar with Carolee Williams, take the time to talk to her because she might just push you to find your voice.

Cultivate South Carolina

Perhaps you saw the post on Oaks or maybe it escaped your notice.

It was short. Only a few sentences long, and contained an attached flyer for a local happy hour + science + art class called Cultivate SC.


So, if you missed it, or read it but thought maybe next time, I’m here to tell you that you are missing out!


I had never heard of Cultivate SC before I saw the flyer on our class page. Immediately the words happy hour, science, and art stood out. Those subjects are all a good time individually and if you put them together…well I definitely needed to see what this was all about. After my last class on Tuesday, I rushed over to Bowties Speakeasy on Maybank Hwy. The timing was perfect as my last class got out at 5:30pm and Cultivate SC began that night at 6:00 pm. I was alone, didn’t know a single person there, though I kept scanning the crowd for one of your familiar faces. I was nervous, so I did what all sober people at an art/science/happy hour do and I got a drink. I took that drink and bellied up to a bar front of a projector and a basket of trash. That’s right, a basket of trash. While everyone chatted and got to know each other I made friends with the trash. I selected a few pieces that I thought were really special and set them aside to look at until the presentation began. Before too long everyone else was sorting through their trash and a brilliant woman named Marielena Martinez began speaking to us about the Hopi Indians and their Kachina dolls.  The story goes that young Indian boys would carve the little figures from the roots of the cottonwood tree and use the figures to teach younger children about the sprits. The Hopi people believed that these figures each represented a spirit god and that each god had a responsibility (of the harvest, the hunt, the weather, the sun, etc.) They believed that the dolls could communicate the wishes of the people to the sprits whom they resembled. Each doll was then painted and decorated with small trinkets and found objects. After we learned about the Hopi’s Kachina dolls we were each armed with a small wooden base, scissors, hot glue and our baskets of trash to create our own Kachina dolls! This is when things got serious and I went to work drink in hand. I was determined to make an amazing doll that would bring me good grades and peaceful naps. While scavenging for the perfect piece of trash (all the trash had been collected from beaches and neighborhoods by the women hosting the event) I met a woman who introduced herself to me as Carolee Williams. She was super nice, and we got to talking about school and interests. Turns out, she is a low country field director for Conservation Voters of South Carolina. Hello Networking! Carolee and I each finished our Kachina dolls just as our speaker for the night took to the stage. Her name was Kea Payton and as it turns out, she was one of Dr. Beckingham’s Graduate students! Small world. Kea talked to us for about 15 minutes on micro plastics and their dangerous roll in our environment. She reemphasized some of what we had learned in class but she also told us some things that I had not heard before. Did you know that fish like to feed in brackish waters where the salty ocean water meats the fresh river water? They choose these spots because there is an abundance of microscopic food in this mixture of water. It is also here that much of our plastics and micro plastics travel resulting in fish ingestion. Did you also know that the Charleston harbor is the perfect place for this tragic combination of fish and plastic? Charleston’s harbor is protected and filled with brackish water meaning that the issue of microplastics could have a big effect right here at home. Thankfully we now know the impacts plastics can have in our waterways and after this class we know some ways we can work to better protect the environment.

In 2 hours I had made a new friend, learned about the Hopi Indians, learned about micro plastics and had a sculpture to keep that I made from recycled materials.

It was a good night!

If you thought this story was interesting or if you have decided to check out Cultivate SC for yourself you can learn more by clicking on the link below. The next and final class will take place on May 8th at 6pm. Hope to see you there!


PS here is a picture of the Kachina doll I made!



Activism Music 🎶

For one of my extra-credit blog posts, I have decided to quote my most favorite song concerning modern-day, global and environmental issues. The song is called Good to be Alive Today by Michael Franti & Spearhead. The lyrics are powerful and to the point – and pretty much throw the problems of the world into your face for an entire 4 minutes and 11 seconds. But it’s a good thing because we all need to become more aware of the world’s problems instead of living inside our own little bubbles. One music critic commented on Franti’s push for us to become aware, “The danger with politicising music is that too easily it can become a turn off when you’re forever harping on about what’s wrong with the world. In Franti’s case though his eternal optimism and predilection towards writing music that makes you want to get up and dance have proven to be an infectious formula in getting the message across” (Jackson, 2016). At first the lyrics turned me off too because the truth upset me, but as I grew to appreciate the song for its optimism, I also grew to love it. I hope you will too. I recommend the acoustic remix version that you can find on Spotify. Here is a link to the music video which is also the acoustic remix version: https://youtu.be/FVztZI-OMUg

Check out the music video, read the lyrics, think about how the song makes you feel and let me know in the comments! I’m curious to know what y’all think, thanks!


Jackson, Trevor. “Good To Be Alive Today – Michael Franti & Spearhead.” Sound Distractions, 16 Aug. 2016, www.sounddistractions.com/good-alive-michael-franti-spearhead/.

Michael Franti & Spearhead. “Good to Be Alive Today.” Soulrocker.


It’s a long road, oh
Everyday I wake up and turn my phone on
I read the news of the day, just as it’s coming down
I do my best not to let it get me down
I try to keep my head up, but is Babylon
This world’s in crisis, we try to fight it, this changing climate
With scientists and politicians divided by it
So many ways we could solve it but they would never sign it
This mountains tumbling down, but still we try to climb it
It’s in the Torah, Quran and in the Bible
Love is the message for some how we turn to rivals
It’s come to people always picking up their rifles
Another school getting shot up homicidal
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
No matter what nobody say
People used to feel safer when they would hear a siren
Like help is on its way but now they only think of violence
Another youth in the streets and police is in a conflict
And now they hear the guns click, yo
Ebola crisis and ISIS is taking heads off
A drone is bombing a village and now the kids all
Signing up to be soldiers, but they all willing now
To do the killing now, now are you willing now?
Some politicians out there making up some problems
And tryna tell the people that they can solve them
With TV shows and soundbites and quotes
But everybody knows that it’s all about the cash flow
They telling you and me, they’re making progress
But tell it to the millions of jobless
It’s like a players club with billions of dollars
To get the votes you got to make it rain in congress
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
And we all say
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today

ABZÛ: A Story of Environmentalism Told Without Narration

Our relationship with the ocean with modern day media is more or less antagonistic. From movies like Jaws to the way many sea creatures are represented in documentaries or science blogs shoehorn the idea that “the ocean is scary” and continue to feed public fear of the deep, blue unknown. The media has more power over public perception than we think. I feel that it’s the responsibility of artists and the media to, rather than brew fear and misunderstanding, make works that have lasting and positive impact when it comes to issues concerning our environment. ABZÛ, a title from Giant Squid Studios, is an indie game that tells a story of environmentalism through a lens unique to video games: the language of interaction.

I will start by saying that ABZÛ is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. It’s full of vivid colors that make the world feel bright and open. As you swim around, you’re able to explore deeper depths, learn about the diversity of species and interact with everything around you. This is already a vastly different representation we see of the ocean. Rather than the usual portrayal of the ocean’s vast emptiness, this world feels full and gorgeous and fills the player with a sense of wonder rather than dread.

But the greatest thing about this game is in its message. Without spoiling anything, ABZÛ biggest message is about the subjugation of nature, and how human activity has played a major role in its deterioration. The imagery used throughout the game is symbolic and moving. As you dive deeper, you see a less dazzling aspect of this underwater world, with wildlife becoming less friendly along with mines and other man-made hazards littering the area. The diversity begins to slowly diminish as well, showing how human activity has deeply affected the ecosystem. Its message isn’t all doom and gloom wrapped is a beautiful package. It’s as much of a story about human responsibility to the environment as it is one of redemption, a path to mending society’s mistakes and building a healthier relationship with the environment. Technology is portrayed as having both the power to harm and to heal, and the player slowly builds a more amicable relationship with the wildlife they’re surrounded by.

What stands out the most to me is the use of the Great White Shark as its mascot. An animal typically depicted as a vicious antagonist is treated with reverence and respect. As I touched on in my first blog post, a shark is an apex predator. Their function goes beyond just eating things. They regulate population sizes and prevent potential trophic cascades. This makes them incredibly important to the health of an ecosystem. Rather than depicting them as bloodthirsty murder machines, they are acknowledged for their usefulness to nature. Instead of looked upon with fear, they are a companion.

I think a story like this is more beautifully told through the medium it’s in. Unlike other art forms like film, that can only show and tell its message, video games actively make the player complicit in this system of subjugation. It’s a beautiful, immersive, and moving experience that’s told uniquely through the interactivity that video games allow us. By letting players explore the expansive underwater world, it teaches about the importance of biodiversity, the negative impacts of human development, and how we can heal rather than destroy simply through understanding, empathizing with living things we would typically run in fear from. In the face of real-world environmental catastrophe, the message of ABZÛ is an important one. It’s a marvelous and profound example of art being used to spread a positive and important message, as well as challenge our views of the natural world.

ABZÛ is available for purchase on PS4, XBOX, and Steam.


Wall-e; the environmentally woke robot.

I want to use this blog to discuss how the Pixar movie Wall-e was not only cute, but an environmentally woke film. In the movie Wall-e; an empty, waste filled earth is shown as the current state of the planet. I feel this is one example (extreme perhaps) of what the future of our planet could look like. I believe this movie is a good representation of the result of our actions if we don’t get on the right track of reducing the damage that we do every day to the only Earth we have.

Not only does it show a polluted, trashed Earth, but they show in other aspects of the movie how we as a society live the lives of consumers. During the movie the humans are shown as overly obese people who ride in floating chairs on a space ship that they live inside of instead of Earth. The Spaceship is run by a brand “Buy N Large” that keeps the people on an endless cycle of buying their products and living in and off of everything Buy N Large. The food is junk and keeps the people fat and lazy and continuously living of off these products. This is a good representation of how our society is run off of consumerism. We keep these big businesses like McDonald’s and Burger King running, when all they are doing is putting bad food into us. This cycle is not just affecting our health and the way we live but, it’s effecting the health of the earth by all the waste these companies produce. In Wall-e the earth is full of piles of metal and garbage, much like our landfills are. If we don’t change our waste to Biodegradable or something of that nature, eventually our planet will fill up too, and we will have to find our own ship to live on.

It also goes along with the nutrition discussion we had because everyone was obese and the ship ran off of their cravings for junk food. Americans today are overly obese and our society runs off of these cravings, like I said above. Although the movie is obviously exaggerated, it still gives an idea of the future of our health if we don’t get it together in the next few centuries. If we don’t stop our pollution and consumption of bad products and fast food, we will all be obese and living on an aircraft floating above an abandoned, and damaged earth.

Towards the end of the movie, Wall-e finds a small sprout from a plant and protects it in order to show it to the people, which eventually leads to hope; a hope that there is a future to live on earth again. However, I don’t think we should have to get to that point. If we as a society can continue to put forth the effort in making changes that prevent more harm being done to our planet, I believe that we can eventually make the earth a better, more livable place for us and the other creatures we share it with. And just maybe, we can stall the building of large Spaceships.

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.



Halsey Institute: Sea Change – The Tide is High

After grabbing lunch one day, I wandered into the Halsey Institute. I am a junior at the College, this is my first year here in Charleston because I transferred from USC, but it was the first time I had ever been in the Art exhibit. I was honestly just trying to avoid doing homework when I walked in, but I was never expecting the impressive creations that I just so happened to find…

First, I was met with magnificent art created by my peers. As I strolled, I was dumbfounded with how talented some people are and quite envious of their abilities. I briefly daydreamed of being an art major and had a “the grass is greener on the other side” moment, assuming that all art majors do is theraputic coloring and there must not be any papers or studying, but I recognized my ignorance and quickly snapped out of it, especially given my lack of ability. It was a nice thought for a moment.

Second, I found myself walking into this other room off to the side that was being monitored by someone at a desk and thought I must be coming on to something important. Then, beholden right in front of me, and frankly above and all around me was this large intricate, abstract, lightly lit fixture surrounding me. It was instantly soothing. Captivated by its originality, I read the description and found that it was created by Aurora Robson and created out of plastic debris. The title, “The Tide is High.” I thought how could this possibly be considered debris? She clearly did an incredible job making an eyesore into highly celebrated piece of artwork.

After I continued through the exhibit, I started to learn more about the theme encompassing Robson’s work as well as the cause. Robson is a NY based sculptor that explores ecological issues. Her work typically resembles other worldly organisms found in the depths of the sea which is where this “debris” will most likely end up. Her art is aimed at guiding viewers thoughts and ideas on their trash and where it goes in addition to its consequences. I also read that this piece was co-presented by the SC Aquarium and that Robson did a project with College of Charleston students to collect waste on a local beach clean up that will be used to make works of art. What an awesome opportunity! The artsist has another piece called Wave that is presented at the SC Aquarium.

Included in the Halsey Institute Sea Change exhibit were other art works made out of recycled trash or photos that interestling depicted our impact on the planet. Everytime I see something of this nature (no pun intended) I am overcome with feelings of guilt and stress. We all contribute to these issue, keyword: all, and it is near impossible to change that many habitual behaviors. I learned in an intro Public Health class that knowledge alone is not sufficient enough to change behaviors, we have to be motivated, and I am sure a large amout of us are, but these are such complex (wicked) problems – cue the stress – so how do we even begin to solve them? We need a major change in emotions, thought process, and behaviors  in order to rectify or heal the damage we have done to our home. It is safe the exhibit (Sea Change) accomplished their task, at least with me anyway.

Reference: AURORA ROBSON – THE TIDE IS HIGH. (2017, November 01). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from http://halsey.cofc.edu/main-exhibitions/the-tide-is-high/

Welcome to the ENVT 200 01 Class Blog!

This blog is a forum for environmental and sustainability studies students to share their reflections upon various learning experiences and topics relating to course material. Students will benefit not just from the critical thinking, reflection, and writing they put into their posts, but also from reading and interacting with their peers via their posts.
Students – This assignment will count as 10% of  your final grade. Details will be explained in class Tuesday, January 23rd, and topic categories, grading criteria, and due dates will be available via OAKS.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions! If you have any technical difficulties, please contact the Help Desk (Helpdesk@cofc.edu).
Thanks to The College of Charleston Blogs for providing this forum!

Here’s to a wonderful semester!


Professor Saunders and Dr. Beckingham