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Toxic Beauty on the Gowanus

From today’s Everyday Climate Change post on Instagram:

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Please note: all photos are available for purchase. Your generous support helps me keep the environmental reporting coming.

Yesterday the Gowanus Canal was slicked in colors that made it seem like an inspired canvas of expressionistic brilliance. Patterns, colors textures flowed under the 9th Street bridge for hours as the low tide brought the flowing canvas out to the Upper Bay and then to the Atlantic Ocean. The materials used to make the flowing abstractions were most likely PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, sewage solids from combined sewer overflows, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to the organization #Riverkeeper—in short, as beautiful as the patterns are they are equally as toxic. The water smelled particularly putrid and although I was photographing for only 20 minutes my skin itched all day afterward and my glands felt like a cold was coming on. For those who spend their lives around these toxic bodies of water it’s a different story. For millions of Americans who do not have clean drinking water these irritations are a daily presence and over time can turn to something much more dangerous than an irritation.

As I watched the deadly colors floating beneath me, thoughts went back to a #guardian article that I read hours earlier stating that Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. That legacy was floating beneath me and it will be in our air, rivers and oceans for decades to come poisoning what is left of the environment. There is little we can do about that legacy, however the future is a different story—and it’s an urgent one as the UN’s IPCC report makes starkly clear stating that we are at brink of no return in regard to total environmental breakdown if we do not transform our industries into ones that no longer emit greenhouse gasses. The 100 companies and nations listed in the article can make a tremendous amount of change should they finally realize that their survival too depends on a planet that can sustain all of us.

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Jake Price