Metrofocus: June 7, 2022

PERIL & PROMISE SPECIAL REPORT

DEADLY HEAT, SUPERSTORMS AND CLIMATE SOLUTIONS FOR SAVING THE PLANET

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the nation, claiming the lives of about 350 New Yorkers every year with Black city residents twice as likely to lose their lives as white New Yorkers. Tonight, we’ll examine the climate solutions that can help save lives as the tristate braces for an especially hot summer and also what’s predicted to be an above average hurricane season. Our go-to expert on the planet, Bill Ulfelder of The Nature Conservancy, is back with the steps we can all take to protect New Yorkers amid our changing climate.

In New York City, where one-third of garbage is compostable, there’s a woeful shortage of composting services — especially for the one in 15 people who live in public housing. To prevent that trash from ending up in landfills and contributing to global warming, Domingo Morales has made it his personal mission to spread the power of composting to all New Yorkers. He started the organization “Compost Power” that maintains a growing number of public housing composting sites across the city. Tonight, he joins us to discuss how this grassroots campaign is helping combat global warming and promote inclusivity.

Peril and Promise is an ongoing series of reports on the human impact of, and solutions for, Climate Change. Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III. 

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, UNBEARABLE SUMMER HEAT.

SUPERSTORMS AND THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE PLANET.

HOW CLIMATE CHANGE IS THREATENING NEW YORK'S MOST VULNERABLE.

> AND FROM PUBLIC HOUSING TO COMPOST CHAMPION, MEET THE YOUNG MAN ON A MISSION TO MAKE COMPOSTING COOL AS THIS 'METROFOCUS' SPECIAL STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO THIS 'METROFOCUS' SPECIAL REPORT.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THIS SUMMER IS EXPECTED TO BE ESPECIALLY HOT, AND WHILE HEAT WAVES POSE A THREAT TO EVERYONE, SOME NEW YORKERS ARE MORE AT RISK TO THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE THAN OTHERS.

HEAT KILLS ABOUT 350 CITY RESIDENTS EACH YEAR WORK BLACK NEW YORKERS MORE THAN TWICE AS LIKELY TO DIE THAN WHITE RESIDENTS.

NEW YORK IS ALSO ENTERING HURRICANE SEASON, AND THOUGH IT'S BEEN TEN YEARS SINCE SUPERSTORM SANDY DEVASTATED THE REGION, THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY THAT STORM AND OTHERS SINCE IS STILL WITH US.

SO FOR MUCH MORE, LET'S WELCOME BACK OUR GO-TO EXPERT ON THE PLANET, BILL OLFELDER.

HE JOINS US AS PART OF OUR ONGOING INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS SOLUTIONS.

BILL, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU BACK ON THE SHOW.

THANKS, JENNA.

I ALWAYS APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE IN NEW YORK WITH YOU, SO THANKS.

WELL, SO, FIRST, LET'S START WITH THE ISSUE THAT I THINK MOST PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY GOING TO START NOTICING, BECAUSE OF COURSE FOR WHERE NEW YORK CITY IS SITUATED.

IT'S THE HEAT AND HUMIDITY, AND THOSE TWO THINGS ARE GOING TO START RISING SIGNIFICANTLY.

THAT'S RIGHT, AND YOU MENTIONED THE STATISTIC OF HOW MANY HUNDRED OF NEW YORKERS DIE EACH YEAR FROM HEATSTROKE AND HEAT RELATED ILLNESSES, AND THIS IS ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE.

AS I SAY, THE THING WE DON'T LOVE ABOUT NEW YORK, HEAT AND MOISTURE, THESE ARE EXACTLY THE THINGS CLIMATE CHANGE IS BRINGING SOME WE'RE EXPECTING TO SEE -- THE SCIENCE TELLS US WE'RE GOING TO GO FROM AN AVERAGE OF ABOUT TWO HEAT WAVES A YEAR PROBABLY TO SOMETHING LIKE SEVEN BY 2050.

THAT'S OVER 60 DAYS OF 90 PLUS DEGREES.

IMAGINE ALL OF JULY AND AUGUST BEING 90 PLUS DEGREES.

IT'S KIND OF MISERABLE, AND NOT JUST THAT, IT'S A KILLER.

A SILENT KILLER, NUMBER ONE WEATHER RELATED KILLER IN THE UNITED STATES.

YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING, AND IT'S AN ISSUE I PERSONALLY STRUGGLE WITH, BUT I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH WITH THE ISSUE OF CLIMATE CHANGE, AND THAT IS THAT IT'S ALL GOING TO GET WORSE.

WHEN IT COMES TO DEALING WITH THESE HEAT WAVES IN NEW YORK, ARE THERE THINGS THAT ARE -- SOME SORT OF TACTICS OR SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP EASE THE SUFFERING THAT WE KNOW IS COMING?

RIGHT.

WELSH THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT, AND I THINK THERE'S TWO THINGS.

I MEAN, ONE IS IT IS GOING TO GET WORSE.

I MEAN, WE HAVE BEEN EMITTING CARBON POLLUTION LONG ENOUGH THAT THERE IS MORE WORSE STUFF COMING THAT'S JUST BUILT INTO THE SYSTEM.

I MEAN, EVEN IF WE STOPPED EMITTING ALL CARBON POLLUTION TODAY IT WOULD STILL GET WORSE FOR A PERIOD OF TIME.

THEN OF COURSE THE QUESTION IS, ARE WE TAKING THE STEPS TO REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF CARBON POLLUTION GOING FORWARD?

THAT'S SOMETHING WE CONSTANTLY HAVE TO BE PAYING ATTENTION TO.

I MEAN, A PIECE OF, I GUESS WE'LL CALL IT GOOD NEWS, IS THERE ARE SOME SIMPLE, WE'LL CALL THEM ROBUST AND ELEGANT SOLUTIONS TO HEAT.

THE NUMBER ONE THING WE AT THE NATURE CONSERVANCY TALK ABOUT, WE'RE WORKING WITH A BIG COALITION, IS THE TREES AND THE POWER OF TREES IN THE CITY TO SOME NEIGHBORHOODS AS MUCH AS 20 DEGREES.

PLUS, YOU KNOW, THEY GIVE US OXYGEN, CLEAN AIR TO BREATHE, THEY CAPTURE CARBON, CLEAN OUR WATER, PROVIDE WILDLIFE HABITAT.

THEY IMPROVE PROPERTY VALUE.

SO JUST INCREASING THE NUMBER OF TREES AND THE FOREST CANOPY COVER IN THE CITY WILL HAVE A DRAMATIC POSITIVE IMPACT ON REDUCING THE IMPACTS OF HEAT ON NEW YORKERS.

WHEN YOU SAY INCREASING THE NUMBER OF CANOPY TREES -- BECAUSE PERHAPS A PERSON COULD SAY, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

THIS CITY IS FULL OF PARKS.

CENTRAL PARK'S HUGE, AND MANHATTAN ALONE.

WHY IS THAT NOT GOOD ENOUGH?

RIGHT, WELL, WE NEED MORE.

THAT'S THE FIRST THING.

AND THE TREES AND PARKS ARE VERY INEQUITABLY DISTRIBUTED ACROSS THE CITY.

IF YOU LOOKED AT NEW YORK.

IF YOU WERE A BIRD OR SATELLITE AND LOOKING DOWN AND YOU SEE THE CITY, THERE'S ABOUT 22% OF THE CITY WOULD BE COVERED IN TREES DURING, WE'LL CALL IT, LIKE, THE SUMMER TIME WHEN THEY'RE FULLY LEAFED OUT.

WHAT THE ANALYSIS OF NATURE CONSERVANCY AND OUR PARTNERS IS THERE'S A REAL OPPORTUNITY AND NEED TO ADD ABOUT 2 MILLION TREES TO THE CANOPY, WHICH WOULD GROW IT FROM 22% COVERAGE OF THE CITY TO 30% COVERAGE.

BUT WHAT WE REALLY HAVE TO DO IS PUT THAT IN NEIGHBORHOODS THAT HAVE VERY FEW TREES.

SO YOU'RE RIGHT.

LIKE, YOU THINK OF CENTRAL PARK.

I LIVE NEAR COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.

THESE ARE THE MOST TREED SECTIONS OF NEW YORK CITY.

THEY'RE ALREADY ALMOST AT 30%. BUT IF YOU THINK OF HUNT'S ISLAND, JAMAICA QUEENS, NORTH SHORE OF STATEN ISLAND, THESE ARE TREES THAT HAVE SINGLE DIGIT PERCENTAGES OF TREE CANOPY WHERE THEY ARE.

THAT'S REALLY WHERE WE NEED TO BE FOCUSING THE INVESTMENT IN THE YEARS AHEAD IS MAKING SURE THEY GET MORE TREES, THEY GET MORE PARKS.

OF COURSE, AND AS YOU LISTED OFF THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS, ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS THAT CAME TO MIND IS PEOPLE OF COLOR AND THE HOUSING DISPARITY THAT HAS PLAGUED THE CITY FOR GENERATIONS.

EXACTLY.

I MEAN, THE REASON -- THE LACK OF TREES IN THESE NEIGHBORHOODS IS SYMPTOMATIC OF HISTORIC POLICIES, ZONINGS, ET CETERA, WHICH HAVE DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES OF COLOR AND LOWER INCOME COMMUNITIES.

THINGS LIKE RED LINING WHERE, THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS WERE NOT ABLE TO HAVE THE SAME ACCESS TO MORTGAGE LOANS TO BE ABLE TO INVEST IN HOMES, TO BUY PROPERTIES, AND THAT HAS JUST ALL ADDED UP OVER TIME, AND SO WHAT WE REALLY NEED TO THINK ABOUT IS, HOW DO WE MAKE INVEST INVESTMENTS TODAY THAT GIVE THEM MORE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO THE URBAN FOREST, TO PARKS THAT THEY TOO HAVE PARKS TEN MINUTES WITHIN THEIR FRONT DOOR WHERE THEY CAN COOL OFF AND FEEL ALL THE BENEFITS NATURE PROVIDES.

IN ADDITION TO BEING ABLE TO GO OUTSIDE AND HAVE TREES AND AS YOU WERE SAYING, CLEANER AIR, ET CETERA, THERE'S ALSO THE ISSUE OF HOW YOU'RE ABLE TO SURVIVE THE SUMMER IN YOUR APARTMENT.

A LOT OF THE NEW BUILDINGS, THIS WINDOWS ARE CLOSED BECAUSE THEY'RE CLIMATE CONTROLLED.

BUT SAY YOU'RE IN A NEW BUILDING A WALKUP OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, IS THERE ENOUGH EQUITY WHEN IT COMES TO AIR-CONDITIONING?

NO.

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

AND AIR-CONDITIONING, IT'S A TRICKY CRAZY THING, BECAUSE ON THE ONE HAND WE NEED MORE AIR CONDITIONERS.

WE'VE TALKED ABOUT THE NUMBER OF HEAT WAVES THAT ARE COMING, THE NUMBER OF DAYS, AND HEAT REALLY DOES TEND TO MAKE ILL AND EVEN KILL YOUNGER PEOPLE, OLDER PEOPLE, PEOPLE WITH PREEXISTING CONDITIONS, AND PEOPLE WITH FEWER RESOURCES.

BUT THE THING ABOUT AIR CONDITIONERS IS THEY SPEW OUT HOT AIR.

LIKE, AS THEY SCHOOL INDOOR SPACES.

SO WHAT YOU DO IS YOU GET IN REALLY BAD FEEDBACK LOOP WHERE ALREADY HOT NEIGHBORHOODS.

SO IN THE LONG RUN WHAT WE NEED TO BE THINKING ABOUT IS HOW DO WE TAKE ALL THE STEPS OF ADDING TREES -- WE'RE GOING TO NEED AIR CONDITIONERS.

IT'S PART OF WHAT WE NEED HERE, BUT ALSO, LIKE, COOLING CENTERS.

THERE WAS A RECENT ARTICLE TALKING ABOUT THE ROLE LIBRARIES PLAY IN PEOPLE'S LIVES AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO A LOCAL LIBRARY AND COOL OFF THERE.

ANOTHER THING WE DON'T WANT TO OVERLOOK IS IT'S SO IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF CLIMATE CHANGE, CLIMATE RESILIENCE AND NATURAL DISASTERS, WHETHER THAT'S HEAT WAVES, BIG RAIN BOMBS, HURRICANES, IS THE COHESION OF COMMUNITIES.

AND THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

RESILIENCE IS FAR BETTER.

PEOPLE FAIR BETTER THROUGH NATURAL DISASTERS WHEN THEY'RE LOOKING AFTER EACH OTHER.

AND SO STEPS WE CAN TAKE, IF WE'RE LOOKING OUT FOR OUR NEIGHBORS, CHECKING IN ON THEM.

IF YOU HAVE AN OLDER NEIGHBOR, A NEIGHBOR WITH PREEXISTING CONDITIONS, MAKING SURE THEY'RE OKAY, THAT GOES A LONG WAY TO FEWER PEOPLE GETTING SICK AND MORE PEOPLE SURVIVING THE EFFECTS OF A POWERFUL HEAT WAVE.

SO TOGETHER.

AND I THINK THAT'S TRUE IN SO MANY DIFFERENT SITUATIONS.

BUT IS THAT JUST A MATTER OF MAKING SURE PEOPLE HAVE ENOUGH WATER TO HYDRATE, GETTING INTO COOLING CENTERS?

LIKE, IS IT JUST, HEY, ARE YOU OKAY?

KIND OF CHECKING IN?

OR IS THERE AN EXTRA STEP BEYOND THAT?

I THINK IT'S EVERYTHING YOU JUST DESCRIBED.

DEFINITELY CHECKING IN ON PEOPLE.

BRINGING THEM COOL WATER IF THEY DON'T HAVE IT.

SOME PEOPLE, IF THEY'RE GROCERY SHOPPING DAY-TO-DAY AND IT'S, LETS SAY, 100 DEGREES AND HIGH HUMIDITY, THEY MAY NOT BE ABLE TO MAKE THAT TRIP.

IT'S JUST ABOUT CARING FOR NEIGHBORS.

I LOVE YOUR POINT, WE JUST KIND OF NEED THIS MORE ALL ACROSS THE CITY AND COUNTRY THESE DAYS THAT WE'RE LOOKING OUT AND CHECKING IN ON EACH OTHER AND SEEING WHAT'S NEEDED AND RESPONDING TO THAT.

BUT IT MAY BE TAKING A NEIGHBOR TO A COOLING SENT OTHER OR TAKING THEM SOMEWHERE WHERE THEY CAN COOL OFF IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO FAIR AND GET THROUGH A HEAT WAVE, FOR EXAMPLE.

WELL, SPEAKING OF GETTING THROUGH A HEAT WAVE, THERE'S ALSO THE ADDITIONAL CHALLENGE, AS I MENTIONED IN THE INTRO, OF HURRICANE SEASON, WHICH WE UNDERSTAND IS SUPPOSED TO BE AN INCREDIBLY ACTIVE ONE THIS YEAR.

I THINK THAT'S THE KIND OF NEWS THAT'S GOING TO GIVE ANYONE WHO LIVES ALONG THE COAST A LEVEL OF ANXIETY.

YEAH, IT'S -- AND YOU MENTIONED THIS IN YOUR OPEN.

YOU KNOW, NOAA IS PREDICTING A MORE SEVERE HURRICANE SEASON THIS YEAR.

WE SHOULD JUST GET USED TO THAT.

ALL THE CLIMATE MODELS SAY THE EXPECTATION IS HURRICANE SEASON IS GROWING.

WE'RE SEEING HURRICANES EARLIER IN THE SEASON.

WE'RE SEEING HURRICANES LATER IN THE SEASON.

IT'S JUST LIKE WILDFIRES OUT WEST.

THERE'S ALMOST NO WILDFIRE SEASON ANYMORE.

THEY'RE JUST COMING ALL THE TIME.

HURRICANES WON'T COME YEAR ROUND, BUT THE SEASON'S LONGER AND THEY'RE GETTING MORE INTENSE.

THIS IS THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF HURRICANE SANDY, AND THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING.

THERE ARE INVESTMENTS BEING MADE AROUND THE CITY, AND WE'RE SEEING CHANGE, BUT WE NEED TO PICK UP THE PACE.

WE NEED TO DO MORE.

SO BACK TO THE URBAN FOREST AND THE TREE CANOPY, YOU KNOW, TO ADD THOSE 2 MILLION TREES, THAT'S ABOUT A BILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT.

THE GOAL IS TO GET TO 30% CANOPY COVER BY 2035.

WE NEED TO BE MAKING THE INVESTMENTS NOW AS A CITY IN ORDER TO WITHSTAND THE EFFECTS OF THESE HEAT WAVES AND HURRICANES THAT ARE ALL COMING IN OUR FUTURE.

OF COURSE, AND WHAT ABOUT ALSO THE BERMS THAT WERE TALKED ABOUT SO MUCH AFTER SANDY?

BECAUSE OF COURSE THERE'S THE WIND AND THE RAIN, BUT IT'S REALLY THE SEA SURGE FROM A HURRICANE THAT'S REALLY THE PROBLEM.

WELL, IT'S ACTUALLY ALL OF THE ABOVE.

I MEAN, THIS IS THE THING, IN A CLIMATE CHANGING WORLD.

WE HAD HENRI AND IDA LAST AUGUST THAT DROPPED RECORD BREAKING RAINFALL IN A WEEK, AND THAT ALL CAME STRAIGHT FROM THE SKY.

YOUR POINT IS A GOOD ONE.

HURRICANE SANDY, WHICH WAS ABOUT THE TIDES AND WIND AND CURRENTS, AND IT JUST PUSHED THAT MASSIVE VOLUME OF WATER INTO THE CITY.

AND IT'S TOUGH.

I'M GOING TO BE HONEST, THERE ARE GOING TO BE TRADEOFFS.

IT'S NOT -- THE PATH TO MITIGATING CLIMATE CHANGE AND BETTER ADAPTING IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY.

WE HAVE TO BE VERY COMMITTED.

AND THERE WILL BE TRADEOFFS.

I WAS JUST RIDING MY BACK LAST WEEKEND ALONG THAT EAST SIDE AND STARTING TO SEE THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BERM CONSTRUCTION, AND IT'S VERY DIVIDED.

SOME PEOPLE ARE VERY EXCITED AND APPRECIATIVE THAT'S COMING AND SOME PEOPLE ARE REALLY UPSET.

I THINK WHAT WE NEED IS A ROBUST PROCESS TO ALLOW THE VOICES AND BEST IDEAS TO GET IN THERE, BUT WE'RE NOT -- UNFORTUNATELY WE'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO MAKE EVERYONE HAPPY ALL THE TIME AS WE MAKE TOUGH CHOICES TO PROMOTE THE RESILIENCE IN THIS CITY, WHICH WE SO DESPERATELY NEED.

BILL, WE'VE GOT ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT.

FOLLOWING THE DECISIONS THAT OUR GOVERNMENT AT FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL LEVEL ARE MAKING BUT WHAT ARE SOME OF THE INDIVIDUAL THINGS WE CAN EACH BE DOING TO ENSURE WE HAVE A HEALTHY CITY IN.

NUMBER ONE IS VOTE.

WE'VE GOT A CRAZY PRIMARY SEASON COMING UP IN NEW YORK, BUT WHEN ALL THAT DUST SETTLES IN NOVEMBER ON ELECTION DAY, THERE IS A $4.2 BILLION BOND ACT, THE CLEAN WATER, CLEAN AIR, GREEN JOBS BOND ACT.

WE NEED THAT.

EVERYBODY SHOULD FLIP THEIR BALLOT OVER AND VOTE YES ON THAT.

AND THEN THE OTHER THING, TALK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS, WITH YOUR FAMILY.

WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT?

WHAT ARE THE STEPS WE CAN ALL BE MAKING AND BE READY THE DO YOUR PART IN MAKING THAT HAPPEN?

LASTLY, KEEP THE THINGS IN YOUR DAILY LIFE, LIKE RIDING PUBLIC TRANSIT, COMPOST -- ALL THESE LITTLE THINGS THAT ADD UP TO MARKET SIGNALS.

BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, NEW YORK NEEDS A MASSIVE CAPITAL INVESTMENT IN CLIMATE MITIGATION, AND THE BOND ACT WILL BRING THAT, SO I ENCOURAGE EVERYONE TO VOTE YES ON ELECTION DAY FOR THE BOND ACT.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, ON THAT NOTE WE'RE GOING TO LEAVE IT.

THANK YOU, BILL OLFELDER.

BILL IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IN NEW YORK.

BILL, ALWAYS GREAT TO TALK TO YOU.

THANKS, JANA.

IT'S SUCH AN IMPORTANT TOPIC AND I APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY.

ABSOLUTELY.

> IN A CITY WHERE ONE-THIRD OF ALL GARBAGE IS COMPOSTABLE, MOST TRASH ENDS UP IN LANDFILLS WHERE IT RELEASES METHANE AND CONTRIBUTES TO GLOBAL WARMING.

HOW OUR NEXT GUEST MADE IT HIS PERSONAL MISSION TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT.

DOMINGO MORALES GREW UP IN NEW YORK CITY.

ON HIS OWN INITIATIVE, MORALES STARTED COMPOST POWER.

AN ORGANIZATION THAT MAINTAINS A GROWING NUMBER OF PUBLIC HOUSING COMPOSTING SITES ACROSS THE CITY.

HERE'S DOMINGO EXPLAINING WHAT HE'S TRYING TO DO.

I WANT TO BUILD A COMPOST SITE AND HELP THAT COMMUNITY STAND ON THEIR FEET SO THEY CAN TAKE OVER IT AND I CAN WALK AWAY AND HELP BUILD MORE COMPOST SITE.

THAT'S WHAT COMPOST POWER IS, GIVING THE POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

NOT ONLY AM I REDUCING THE WASTE THAT GO LANDFILL, BUT I'M CREATING A RESOURCE.

I WANT TO HIT THE AREAS THAT SANITATION, DSFY SORT OF MISSED.

THOSE SPOTS IN NEW YORK CITY THAT REALLY WANTED TO COMPOST, BUT THEY DIDN'T HAVE A FOOD SCRAP DROPOFF NEARBY.

JOININGS NOW AS PART OF OUR ONGOING PERIL AND PROMISE INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORY OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS SOLUTIONS IS DOMINGO MORALES.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET'S START WITH THE OBVIOUS FIRST QUESTION.

EXPLAIN TO US, IF YOU WILL, WHAT IS COMPOSTING?

SO, COMPOSTING IS BASICALLY THE HUMAN MANAGED PROCESS OF RECYCLING ORGANIC MATTER AND TURNING IT INTO SOMETHING WE CAN USE AS FERTILIZER TO GROW MORE FOOD, TO CULTIVATE TREE PITS, GROW PLANTS, SHRUBS THROUGHOUT NEW YORK CITY.

SO, GIVE US A SENSE, IF YOU WERE GOING TO ENGAGE IN SOME COMPOSTING TODAY, EXACTLY WHAT WOULD YOU BE WORKING WITH?

AND WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING WITH IT?

YEAH, SO IF WE'RE COMPOSTING TODAY, WHAT WE'LL BE WORKING WITH IS RESIDENTIAL FOOD SCRAPS, SO THINGS IN PEOPLE'S HOMES THAT THEY CAN'T EAT, SUCH AS APPLE CORES, BANANA PEELS, ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN'T REALLY EAT, WE CAN'T USE.

GREEN WASTE THAT COMES OFF FARMS.

AND COMPOSTING IS WHEN WE TAKE THAT NITROGEN RICH MATERIAL AND BLEND IT WITH LEAVES, WOODCHIPS, WOOD SHAVINGS, AND THAT CARBON AND NITROGEN PUT TOGETHER STARTS A CHEMICAL REACTION, A BIOLOGICAL ORGANISMS -- I LIKE TO CALL THEM THE FBI, FUNGUS, BACTERIA AND INSECTS RECYCLE THAT MATERIAL AND TURN IT BACK INTO SOMETHING NEW PLANTS CAN USE AS NEWT RECENTS AND ORGANIC MATTER.

I'LL ASK IN A MINUTE ABOUT WHERE ALL THIS IS BEING DONE, BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS.

YOU'RE STILL A YOUNG MAN, CERTAINLY, BUT YOU BECAME PASSIONATE ABOUT THESE ISSUES AND WORKING ON THIS.

I ALSO READ WHEN YOU WERE INDEED A YOUNG MAN, YOU DID NOT LIKE GERMS.

YOU DIDN'T LIKE DIRT.

WHICH MAKES IT AN INTERESTING QUESTION, THEN, HOW DID YOU BECOME THE CHAMPION OF COMPOSTING IN NEW YORK CITY?

YEAH, I MEAN, I HATED THE THOUGHT OF GERMS.

I REALLY DIDN'T LIKE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BECAUSE OF HOW DIRTY IT CAN BE IN NEW YORK CITY.

MY FAMILY MEMBERS WOULD DRINK FROM MY CUP AND I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO DRINK THAT ANYMORE.

SO I'VE ALWAYS HAD A FEAR OF GERMS.

AND I HATED FARMING.

WHEN I STARTED IN AN AMERICA CORPS PROGRAM THEY SORT OF JUST THREW ME UNDER THE TABLE.

THEY WERE JUST LIKE, HERE YOU GO.

YOU'RE GOING TO FARM IN A PUBLIC HOUSING COMMUNITY.

YOU'RE GOING TO WORK WITH FOOD SCRAPS.

I WAS WORKING WITH ROTTING FOOD.

AND IT REALLY -- IT WAS HARD FOR ME TO GET USED TO WORKING IN THESE CONDITIONS, BUT WORKING WITH MY MENTOR AT THE TIME, DAVID BUCKLE, WE ACTUALLY SHOWED ME THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GOOD GERMS, YOU KNOW, THE FUNGUS INTO THE BACTERIA THAT ARE ESPECIALLY FOR CREATING LIFE, AND SUPPRESSING THOSE DISEASES I WAS AFRAID OF.

SO REALLY IT WAS THE EDUCATION AND, YOU KNOW, THE HANDS ON TRAINING THAT GOT ME AWAY FROM THAT, UGH, I'M AFRAID OF GERMS.

AND NOW I LOVE GERMS.

SO IT TOOK A LIFE OF ITS OWN, AND NOW I'M TEACHING PEOPLE THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPOSTING AND WORKING WITH THESE GERMS.

YOU KNOW, WE OFTEN HEAR THE NOTION OF HOW ENGAGED A CONVERT CAN BE IN VARIOUS AREAS, AND CLEAR I THINK YOU FIT THAT DEFINITION -- SOMEBODY WHO SAID, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, TO, WOW, I WANT TO DO THIS AND I WANT TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE DO THIS.

YOU MENTION TEACHING.

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE EDUCATION COMPONENT OF WHAT YOU'RE DOING HERE AND WHAT COMPOST POWER IS DOING?

OH, IT'S IMPORTANT.

WHENEVER I TALK ABOUT COMPOSTING IN NEW YORK CITY, THERE'S A LOT OF SYSTEMS THAT ARE IN PLACE THAT ARE CENTRALIZED.

AND WE HAVE, LIKE THE BROWN BIN PROGRAM WHERE YOU PUT YOUR SCRAPS IN THE BIN AND IT GOES AWAY.

THE DIFFERENCE FROM THAT AND WHAT WE DO IS WE'RE GIVING PEOPLE THE HANDS ON TRAINING, RIGHT?

YOU'RE GIVING ME YOUR FOOD SCRAPS, AND IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK.

IT TAKES PEOPLE SHOVELING, PITCH FORKING, CHOPPING FOOD SCRAPS, BLENDING IT.

IT TAKES MONTHS FOR THIS STUFF TO ACTUALLY TURN INTO A FINAL PRODUCT THAT WE CAN USE TOBY REBUILD OUR LAND.

BUT THROUGH THAT PROCESS WE'RE ABLE TO CHANGE PEOPLE'S BEHAVIOR.

THEY SEE HOW MANY PEOPLE IT TAKES.

WE CAN'T CHANGE THE BEHAVIOR OF AVERAGE RESIDENT WITHOUT GIVING THEM THE INFRASTRUCTURE TO COMPOST BE THE EDUCATION NECESSARY TO DO IT.

ONCE WE HAVE TO INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE EDUCATION, THE HANDS ON TRAINING, THEN AND ONLY THEN CAN AN AVERAGE RESIDENT START TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL HOUSEHOLDS.

AN EDUCATION CAN HAVE A NUMBER OF COMPONENTS TO IT.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEBODY WHO SEEMS TO BE INTERESTED IN THIS?

AND YOU EXPLAIN THE PROCESS YOU EXPLAIN IT TO US AND THEY SAY TO YOU, OKAY, I UNDERSTAND THIS, BUT WHAT'S A BIG PICTURE?

WHAT'S THE BENEFIT HERE FOR US OTHER THAN SORT OF GETTING RID OF THIS, MOVING IT FROM ONE PLACE TO THE OTHER?

HOW CAN IT BE HELPFUL TO US?

, SO ONE THING IS IF EVERYBODY WAS COMPOSTING THEIR ORGANIC WASTE IN A LOCAL FACILITY IN THEIR HOUSEHOLD, HOWEVER THEY WANT TO COMPOST, AND WE CAN REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TRUCKS THAT ARE TRUCKING WASTE THROUGH OUR CITY, WE CAN REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF ORGANIC WASTE THAT GOES TO LANDFILL.

WHEN ORGANIC WASTE GOES TO LANDFILL IT GENERATES METHANE, WHICH CAN BE 80 TIMES MORE POTENT THAN REGULAR CO2.

IF EVERYBODY COMPOSTED WE COULD SLOW THE RATE OF CLIMATE CHANGE BY 30%, AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE REALLY DON'T REALIZE IS IT REGENERATES OUR SOIL, ALLOWING US TO GROW FOOD IN SOIL THAT MIGHT BE CONTAMINATED WITH LED, ARSENIC.

WE CAN BUILD RAISED BEDS, GROW FOOD IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES.

SOIL.

WE'RE DIVERTING WASTE AND REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF GREENHOUSE GASES THAT WE'RE PRODUCING WITH OUR WASTE, AND THEN ON TOP OF THAT, WE'RE FEEDING PEOPLE.

LE.

ALL GOOD BENEFITS HERE.

YES.

TELL US WHAT YOU'VE DONE IN TERM OF SETTING UP AND HOW YOU'VE SET UP VARIOUS COMPOSTING SITES AROUND THE CITY.

THE GREAT THING ABOUT THE SITES I HAVE IS I'M PARTNERED WITH GREEN CITY FOREST, WHICH IS THE PROGRAM THAT THREW ME INTO FARMING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

THEY'RE GROWING FOOD IN PUBLIC HOUSING COMMUNITIES ON PUBLIC HOUSING LAND, AND THEY'RE GIVING THAT FOOD AWAY TO RESIDENTS FOR FREE.

SO WHAT I WAS ABLE TO DO IS I WAS ABLE TO UTILIZE THAT FARM, BUILD A COMPOST COMPONENT, WHERE WE'RE TAKING THE ORGANIC WASTE COMING FROM THE FARM, ALLEGATION TAKING FOOD SCRAPS FROM RESIDENTS THAT COME ONCE A WEEK TO PICK UP FRESH VEGGIES THAT THEY CAN EAT.

WE CREATE A BARTER SYSTEM.

COME AND GET YOUR FOOD FROM THE FARMER'S MARKET AND GIVE US YOUR FOOD SCRAPS.

WE BUILD A THREE BIN SYSTEM, A WOODEN STRUCTURE WITH THREE DIFFERENT BINS THAT HAVE DIFFERENT STAGES OF COMPOST.

YOU HAVE THE FIRST STAGE WHERE IT'S JUST FOOD SCRAPS, MIXTURE OF CARBON RICH MATERIAL.

SECOND STAGE IS THERMO FILLIC.

GETS UP TO 60 DEGREES CELSIUS.

THEN YOU HAVE THE MATURE STAGE WHERE YOU'LL SEE EARTHWORMS, PILL BUGS, BIODIVERSITY, AND THAT'S THE MATERIAL WE USE TO APPLY COMPOST TO THE CAMPUSES WE OPERATE.

WE HAVE FIVE SITE ON PUBLIC HOUSING LAND AND ONE ON PRIVATE SITE, AND THAT'S OUR PRIVATE SITE WHERE WE USE TO BRING LARGE GROUPS OF YOUNG ADULTS TO GIVE THEM THE TRAINING THEY NEED MANAGE THE SMALLER SCALE SITES THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

DO YOU ENVISION THIS AS MUCH MORE OF A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT?

OR DO YOU SEE THIS EVENTUALLY BEING SOMETHING THAT GOVERNMENT TAKES OVER OR SOME COMBINATION OF THE TWO?

HOW DO YOU SEE IT?

WELL, RIGHT NOW IT'S A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT.

EVERY TIME NEW YORK CITY FACES FINANCIAL HARDSHIP, THEIR SUSTAINABILITY TAKES A HIT, AND POLITICIANS PUT IT ON THE BACK BURNER UNTIL THEY CAN FIND THE MONEY TO DO THOSE PROGRAMS.

WHAT WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO IS WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO UTILIZE GRANTS, UTILIZE FUNDRAISING, UTILIZE THE POOL FROM THE RESIDENTS, FROM THE NEIGHBORHOODS, AND WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP IT CONSISTENT.

SO SINCE COMPOST PILE STARTED WORKING WITH GREEN CITY FOREST IN LATE 2020, WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP THESE FOOD SCRAP DROPOFFS CONSISTENT.

WE HAVEN'T SHUT DOWN ANY OF OUR PROGRAMS.

SO, THE IDEA IS WE KEEP IT GRASSROOTS, BUT IN ORDER FOR THIS TO WORK, WE HAVE TO WORK WITH LARGE-SCALE COMPOSTERS, WITH THE NEW YORK CITY PROJECT, WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION.

IT'S GOING TO TAKE THAT CENTRALIZED SYSTEM THAT SANITATION HAS, THE DECENTRALIZED SYSTEM THAT NONPROFIT HAS TO GET TO THE ZERO WASTE GOAL.

IT'S GOING STAY GRASSROOTS BUT WE'LL DEFINITELY TAKE SOME CITY FUNDING IF THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT TO GIVE US.

QUICK QUESTION.

GOT ABOUT A MINUTE.

SOMEBODY'S WATCHING THIS AND SAYS, THIS SOUNDS REALLY GOOD, REALLY IMPORTANT.

I WONDER HOW I CAN GET INVOLVED.

WHAT'S THE ANSWER?

THERE'S MANY PROGRAMS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED WITH IF YOU GO ONLINE AND LOOK UP NEW YORK CITY COMPOSTING YOU'LL GET A LOT OF OUTLETS.

FOOD SCRAP DROPOFFS IS A KEYWORD IF YOU WANT A PLACE YOU CAN BRING YOUR FOOD SCRAPS AND YOU KNOW THEY'RE GOING TO TAKE IT TO A COMPOST FACILITY.

YOU CAN VISIT THE COMPOST POWER COMPOST SITES THAT'S ON OUR WEBSITE, SO COMPOST POWERYNC.ORG HAS A LIST OF SITES WE DO HAVE, AND YOU CAN VISIT THEM.

AND JUST REACH OUT TO THESE DIFFERENT PARTNERS THROUGHOUT THE CITY.

SEND A MESSAGE THROUGH INSTAGRAM, THROUGH EMAIL.

LET US KNOW YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED.

ANOTHER WAY IS JUST SEPARATING YOUR WASTE AT HOME.

THAT'S THE FIRST STEP TO CREATING THAT BEHAVIOR.

THAT FIRST STEP.

AGAIN, THE FOUNDER OF COMPOST POWER.

GOOD WORK.

WELL DONE.

AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

YOU TAKE CARE.

GOOD LUCK MOVING FORWARD.

ALL RIGHT, YOU AS WELL.

THANK YOU.

BE WELL.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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