The State of Our Environment: You Have to Look to See It

New Bedford Harbor

New Bedford Harbor, MA

I don’t know about you, but the state of my environment is constantly on my mind. I’ve been told I was born with the condition. While this photo endeavor isn’t the only project I work on, it sure seems to hold relevance everywhere I turn.

Just recently, I’ve been working a few days a week out of a construction trailer alongside one of our country’s largest Superfund cleanup sites. As a community involvement coordinator for this project, I saw potential for holding walk-in office hours to answer questions and help community members learn a little more about what we’ve been doing here since 1983. Indeed, you read the year correctly.

Short of giving out free doughnuts, I’m not sure how to draw in the crowds. We’ve sent out e-mails, tweets, a news release, and left flyers for the 400+ employees at the new grocery store across the street (you wouldn’t have to throw a rock to hit it).

Buying a coffee there, I asked one of the girls behind the counter who looked to be about my age, if she knew about the cleanup activity across the way and if she knew it had to do with the harbor at the end of the parking lot.

Perplexed she replied, “Oh, not really, is THAT why all those people in the yellow vests are always coming and going?”

“Yes! Exactly!” I replied and proceeded to try and explain a little bit, but then I realized I was holding up the line.

I left some flyers hoping some might drop in after a shift, after which one of the store managers told me: “thanks for the effort, I doubt many will be taken though, mostly kids” with a sympathetic look.

Walking back across the street, listening to our equipment pumping away, I picked up yet another plastic bag tumble weeding out of the parking lot (as new a development as the market) and couldn’t help but think of the irony of it all.

At least I can say we’re doing our best to be transparent and accountable to the work we’re doing. All to give a clean harbor back to the four communities that surround it, but who is going to keep it clean when we’re done?

Jeanethe Falvey, State of the Environment project lead in EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education

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