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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Verona, New Jersey, USA

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Verona, New Jersey, USA
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Registered: December 2019
City/Town/Province: Verona
Posts: 1
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Spending time out in nature and breathing in the fresh air has always been my way of rejuvenating my mind and body. My parents raised me to be environmentally-conscious. They consistently made the effort to lead by example; taking me hiking or biking, shopping for produce at the local farmer's market, planting a garden at home, and driving an electric car so that I grew up with good habits and the necessary awareness to reduce my impact on the environment. However, the most significant thing is that I have been following a plant-based diet since birth.

It has been proven that animal agriculture and factory farming is the biggest culprit threatening our environment. 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans, which is a huge danger to the planet's biodiversity and has contributed to the mass extinction of wildlife. It also takes a tremendous amount of resources to feed and raise an animal to be butchered, as opposed to the amount it takes to grow crops for human consumption. Agricultural land for animals accounts for 83% of all farmland but only 18% of calories worldwide. If that farmland was converted to only crops grown for people, imagine the amount of mouths that could be fed. It takes 18 times as much land to feed a meat-eater than it does to feed a vegan. Water use is another dire consequence of animal farming; eating just one hamburger uses 660 gallons of water, which is more than showering for 2 months. By going vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of freshwater per year. The list goes on. Being a vegan doesn't only protect the world's biodiversity and greatly lessens land and water use, but it also reduces greenhouse gases, global acidification, and eutrophication.

Being aware of my impact on the environment from a very young age has caused me to truly see the value in the world I live in. The quality of our environment is extremely important to me. The Earth and all of its natural processes allow us to not only exist, but live a healthy, happy, long life; it gave us the gift of life, and it is now my turn to give back to our planet. I have been a volunteer in my town's environmental commission since I was in middle school. As part of the environmental commission, I regularly participate in park and river cleanups, tree plantings, gardening in front of the schools, and manage our commission's table at the annual Green Fair to educate others on how they can help preserve the environment. When I heard about the Apprentice Ecologist Project I saw it as the perfect opportunity to conduct a project that would have a lasting impact on my community in a positive way.

For years, I have been fighting with the Verona Environmental Commission to preserve a local area in my town. This small area on Grove Avenue had been completely abandoned, covered in debris and garbage, and illegally used by underage drinkers and smokers. With the unrelenting threat of development and urban sprawl, it was not easy to convince the town to let us keep this area a preserve. However, this year we were finally able to do so. With the town's permission, me and other volunteers began removing trash from the area; we dragged out car tires, refrigerators, and picked up multiple garbage bags' worth of broken glass and plastic. After cleaning the area, we created a small dirt path that circled around the woods and on the opening day of Grove Park a sign and bench was placed at its entrance.

In Northern New Jersey where I reside, urban sprawl seems like an unstoppable force. Many areas in which I used to hike or bike are now strip malls or housing. At first I thought it would be impossible to protect even this small space that is now Grove Park, but through the efforts of the environmental commission and I, we have been able to preserve the little we have left. Grove Park provides a break in all our local development where the woods have been kept natural for recreational use. Many dog-walkers, parents with young children, and anyone else looking to spend some time outside now utilize this area and walk on the path. From now on, the environmental commission is planning on giving away tree saplings annually at the park on Earth Day. I am proud to have helped create this park, however small, because it has kept that space green with vegetation and brings our community together.

The Apprentice Ecologist Project has helped me realize that it is in my hands to combat the destruction of our environment and stand up for what I believe is right. Me and a handful of other volunteers may not seem like enough against wealthy developers, however our success in founding Grove Park has proven that anything is possible if you work hard enough. This project has empowered me to take bigger strides from now on in protecting the environment. Picking up litter and planting trees are still a great way to help the environment, but it is time that we turn our focus to the bigger picture: preserving the wilderness areas we have left. After high school, I plan to continue my efforts in protecting our natural surroundings and wildlife. As my parents once did for me, I will accomplish this by leading by example; it is impossible to inform and change others by force. Furthering my education in college will equip me with the necessary tools and information to lead others in the right direction and create a future that is sustainable for generations to come.
Date: December 1, 2019 Views: 1817 File size: 31.5kb, 4964.6kb : 3024 x 3780
Hours Volunteered: 30
Volunteers: 16
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 13 to 64
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