Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's poop...It's pellets...No, it's water!

Stacey here! This afternoon's observation day out on the water was fun and eye-opening, even though it was in the mid 80s and muggy for most of the afternoon. Having never spent that much time near our harbor, once we left land everything was completely new and this boat ride offered an incredibly fresh take on Boston for me. With my observation skills ready and sharpened from studying the inside of a sink, I was ready to open my eyes and mind to what the harbor had to offer. We left the wharf at about 1:20 p.m., the peak of low tide, which we determined by looking at the seaweed right above the water's edge (because it was dry!). This fortunately allowed us a glimpse of glacial rock deposits we might not have otherwise seen out in the harbor. I was expecting the water itself to be more choppy and filled with waves like ocean water, but since the area was protected by land masses it was very calm and still compared to the ocean.

I was surprised by how developed and busy some of the Harbor Islands are; there were, I want to say, hundreds of boats in the harbor today, including sailboats, powerboats, and even a military vessel; some of the islands themselves were crowded with multimillion dollar homes, homeless shelters and lower income housing. And although Professor Berman says the area is not very industrial, the closer we got to Quincy, there appeared the most industrial sites I've ever seen in Boston. Huge stacks of containers, shipping docks, wind turbines, and sewer treatment plants seemed to crowd the area once we passed under the Long Island bridge. There was a clear presence of money in the area, from My Trust Fund to the awesome-island-no-big-deal-I-have-a-beachside-view houses. In addition to this, I could tell there was a high volume of man-made objects and activity in this area. For example, as Professor Berman told us, even the beaches are man-made by huge sand deposits every few years. But there was also a fair share of very green, undeveloped islands that, although they tolerated some temporary beach goers, seemed relatively undisturbed compared to others, at least from my point of view on the boat. Overall, I saw alot of vitality and beauty of the area, but I know this only skimmed the surface of what the harbor contains and does not necessarily indicate the true health of the area, though it is a good sign.

Looking beyond and above surface impressions, I was very interested to learn about the "very expensive but very popular" process that has allowed this area to flourish in the past 30 years. After a very colorful and animation demonstration of how our poop is carried to Deer Island to be filtered, chlorinated, un-chlorinated, turned into pellets, and then turned into water fit to bathe a babe in, I realized that it is not impossible to find solutions to some of our world's most complex environmental problems. As Professor Berman pointed out with the Rachel Carson example, it simply requires for us to pay attention and observe our environment as well as carefully weighing the benefits and costs of what comes with tampering with our environment. And not to mention, a boat-load of money helps, too.

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