Science & Health
Plastic and water shouldn't mix
You’re shopping at a local convenience store and grab a cold Poland Springs plastic water bottle. You chug the water ‘till your heart's content and casually throw the bottle  into a trash bin. You may not have realized it, but you have likely just contributed to groundwater pollution, which is the contamination of underground water by outside waste. “How?” you may ask. I’ll explain. 
According to PBS NewsHour, humans have created over 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste, as of 2017. Even today, 60% of the plastic we make is still on our planet somewhere. Boston alone produces about 1.2 million tons of waste every year, according to WBUR. The waste production is expected to keep increasing year by year as the population increases, but Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to cut that amount to 20% by 2035.
Items like plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, tea bags and even clothes made from nylon or polyester — all of which contain plastic — are thrown away by the thousands every day in Boston. When plastic waste is thrown in a trash bin, it may get dumped in a landfill, and since plastic takes hundreds of years to break down naturally, the plastic will remain in the landfill. However, as the plastic degrades over years of weathering, elements like carbon, nitrogen and sulfur start to seep into the ground and pollute the natural reservoir of groundwater beneath the landfill. 
Boston, as well as cities like New York and Chicago, use these groundwater sources as drinking water. I don’t think anyone would want to drink trash water, at least not me. Contaminated water can result in serious health problems often causing the spread of diseases such as typhoid. According to a study conducted by The Lancet, contaminated water caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015 alone worldwide. In addition, plastic also harms the environment around us. It is evident that plastic is a leading environmental problem, particularly in the oceans where unimaginable mountains of trash harm marine wildlife such as turtles, fish and local birds like seagulls. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, over 1 million marine animals, including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles and birds, are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.
Nicolette Pocius, environmental science teacher at the John D. O’Bryant School explained that plastic waste produces microplastics that easily escape through water treatment plants and enter the ocean.
“These microplastics can be ingested by animals that are lower on the food chain and then go through something called biomagnification so that they’re in small amounts in small animals and then larger animals eat the smaller animals and get more,” she said. “So by the time we eat those large animals we’re actually eating a greater amount of the plastic than the small animals.”
Essentially, we are not only drinking trash water, we’re eating trash as well! 
So now that we get why plastic is a problem, what do we do? Jahlisse Bruton and Felix Yanes, seniors at the O’Bryant and co-presidents of the O’Bryant Recycling Club, say there are many things someone can do. “I’ve seen a lot of people with Hydro Flasks or reusable cups and bottles,”  Bruton said.  “Since a lot of students go to Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning, rather than ordering on the go you can ask if you can put this in my cup instead of getting a plastic cup.” Something so small can really help. A standard 18-ounce Hydro Flask sells for around $30 each, so instead of buying non-reusable plastic bottles, invest in a Hydro Flask or other reusable water bottle to be more eco-friendly!
If everyone in Boston used reusable straws or bottles, we would produce far less plastic waste. The thousands of pounds of plastic that would have been used to make those straws and bottles could instead be used to develop Boston infrastructure or provide more insulation to homes that may not have it. There is so much we can do. However, with modern culture emphasizing luxury and comfort, getting everyone to use reusable straws and bottles is highly unlikely. That doesn't mean people shouldn’t try. Maybe limit your plastic use for a week, or just use a reusable straw on certain days. 
So the next time you’re walking in the market aisle, you may want to consider where that plastic bottle will end up and get a reusable water bottle instead. Get a personalized one if you want, so you’ll be looking stylish and being eco-friendly!
And remember what Ms. Pocius said: “No action is too small!”
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Science & Health
We should expect wildfires until we take our climate more seriously
Photo by Marcus Kauffman of Unsplash
You’re walking down the street and see big chimneys attached to a working factory. You look up to see the beautiful blue sky being rapidly consumed by thick plumes of smoke turning it a midnight black. Your chest tightens up, then you start coughing, violently. As you cough, you suddenly realize how the word has changed. You see dead trees and animals, people wearing face masks while looking down at their phones watching videos on YouTube. Nobody is paying attention to what is happening around them. You didn't notice what was happening around you either, until now. 
The Earth has warned us about our doom many times. This is important to realize this because someday we'll look back and regret not doing something about it. It’s not too late, we can still do something about it now. 
Some recent warnings are the 2018 California wildfire, The Camp Fire, which started in Butte County, California. According to the Washington Post, it lasted two to three weeks destroying over 150,000 acres of land and around 18,800 buildings. It caused $16.5 billion of damage, forcing 52,000 people to evacuate, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and a total of 85 casualties. 
The Camp Fire was caused by a faulty electric transmission line by company PG&E and lasted weeks because California was facing a drought caused by climate change. Since the fire burnt for so long, a bunch of carbon dioxide was released into the air, which will make climate change and global warming worse. The 150 thousand acres destroyed means that there are fewer trees to help us breathe. This fire felt predictable because electric company PG&E is responsible for 10 fires in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times. 
Then, there were the Australian bushfires which started in September 2019. According to Time Magazine, the fires scorched millions of acres, killed two dozen people, and killed an estimated half a billion animals in the country in only a few months. Again, these fires create a lot of carbon dioxide that is heating up the Earth more and that, on top of all of our bad habits, will lead to the destruction of our planet with us on it.
If you’re unaware, let me tell you, climate change is a real thing and it isn't pretty. Climate change comes in different forms, but it all results in destroying our earth. For example, the global average surface temperature has increased by more than 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit, according to National Geographic. Our daily habits contribute to global warming, such as driving to school or work or just throwing trash on the ground when you can’t find the nearest trash or recycling bin.
According to NASA’s website, the increase in temperature is “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.” Global warming then leads to extreme weather events and natural disasters. According to NASA, the number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950.
It’s important to discuss these warnings so that action can take place. In the past, we started using more fossil fuels to create things, focusing on how bright and lovely our future will be with a bunch of new technology. But if we keep treating our Earth like this, the only one we have, we won’t be able to replace it like we can replace a broken iPhone. We should work together and help fix it by doing little things like throwing your waste in the trash can, using more reusable items and only driving a car when necessary. It would make our world a much better place to live with cleaner streets that we are proud to walk across, better air to breathe and less trash in the ocean.
When people ask if we understand what's happening to the planet we say yes, but we often don't do anything to help make the world better. Let me be the pair of glasses you need to see the world, because before you know it there won’t be anything else to see. I know this is scary to think about, but it needs to be said before it's too late. And it's almost too late.
Another thing we can do to address fires is advocate for post-fire seeding. According to National Geographic, it helps suppress and put out fires before they become big. It happens often in North America, but is rare in other parts of the world like Australia. Planting forests with non-native, fire-resistant vegetation can help with land management, as those new plants will be much less likely to burn and therefore spread fire.
Let’s make a commitment to actually doing something about the climate. After reading this, reflect on how your own behavior contributes to climate change, and try and dial it down. It’s the only way to help our planet.
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Science & Health
Lessons learned from Australia's wildfires
The forest fires in Australia have tremendously affected people, animals and their homes over these past several months. Millions of animals have been killed and thousands of homes destroyed. Due to these scary statistics, I want to share some tips on what we can do to help out those affected and protect ourselves if there is ever a fire here.
While Australia's wildfires became much more severe in January 2020, the bushfires started in June 2019. In a BBC News article, a reported 1,600 firefighters were needed to put out the fires. This is something people should care about because people and animals are getting hurt. Animals are affected more drastically because their habitat is in the forest, and they cannot all relocate on their own. Houses were also destroyed by fire, which spread faster and faster throughout the country. 
We might not have experienced a wildfire, but we can still help others that are in need. Even though we might not live in hot climates, knowing what to do if you are ever in a fire or near a fire can be helpful.
“I just watched a show over the weekend about wildfires in Africa,” Keith Magni, a science teacher at Fenway High said. “It's less of a problem for the humans than it is for the animals.”
In some parts of the world, planned and controlled fires are used to reduce the risk of a bigger fire.  
“I've heard of controlled fires...every couple of years [they] are done to make sure things don’t build up to the point where there’s a lot of fires,” Magni said. Unfortunately, Australia’s wildfires were not controlled and put many lives in jeopardy.
People that live near the wildfires are affected differently than animals, but the impact is still negative. Humans have cars to distance themselves from fire and masks to help them breathe better. Even with these quick solutions, some people are left homeless from the fires. They may sleep at a hotel if they have the money or stay with friends and family that have not been directly affected. Oftentimes, they need to take advantage of resources that will help them stay safe and supported long after the fire takes their homes away.
The government in Victoria, Australia established a fundraiser for families and communities who have been affected by the fires. You can donate directly to the State Fire Authority or to the Australian Red Cross, which has already helped over 18,600 people stay safe after the fire. People can also donate to fundraisers that support healthcare and rehousing for animals. To find more information, visit the websites of the Australian Red Cross, Pray for Australia, About Australia and the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors. 
Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors:
Finally, here are some ways you can stay safe when you are near a wildfire, according to Little Things magazine:
  1. Prepare your home before wildfire season. You want to have your garden hose as close to you as possible. Regularly clean your gutters and roof, move any stacked wood or newspaper away from your house.
  2. Make an evacuation plan
  3. Prepare for evacuation by having a bag or a suitcase that contains the important things that you’d need to stay safe
  4. Limit your exposure to smoke
  5. Leave immediately when evacuation is ordered
  6. Don’t go home unless you’re told to by the authorities 
  7. Clean your home safely after the fire 
  8. Help others when you finished cleaning your home and you know that you and your family are safe
  9. Call 911 if anyone got injured during the evacuation
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Science & Health
A brighter future has less pollution
Remember when society said we should feed animals plastic? No? Well, me neither. However, it seems like humans don't mind eating celery for the rest of their lives in order to be healthy, so why are we ruining our wildlife and planet Earth by not taking care of it?   
The effects of environmental waste on animals are devastating. These effects are slowly making animals go extinct. Seals, turtles and crabs are eating our plastic waste and it is destroying their bodies. Nobody should be eating plastic but animals do not know any better, and it's not like they are seeking out this source of food. We are literally dumping our plastic waste into their oceans because we are not properly disposing of our trash. The Ocean Conservancy states that the U.S. adds 160,000 metric tons of plastic to the ocean every year. This is extremely upsetting because there are trash cans everywhere that are easily accessible. For example, on just a short walk from my school to the nearest train station, there are at least 10 trash cans. 
Environmental waste affects our land and our health. Environmental waste is man-made trash or junk that is not disposed of properly and can damage our environment. According to Green Choices, toxic gases like dioxins, when released by incinerating plastics, can cause air pollution and create acid rain. These toxins pollute and destroy the environment. Want to live in a barren wasteland caused by polluted air, or somewhere with a healthy environment? The barren wasteland will be boring with no wildlife, and the outside world will no longer be safe for us. The natural beauty of the Earth is fading away and soon we will not be able to remember the things we used to enjoy. Future generations will be far less active because they won't be able to enjoy activities like apple picking or climbing trees or simply appreciating the beauty of nature.
In the example of a healthy environment, there would be a clear sky, a soft breeze and fresh air. This path brings us to a world that is similar to life before technology. People used to enjoy outside activities like riding bikes and going to parks and being active. Even if you don't want to be active it's still nice to live in a world where you feel comfortable because the world is clean and the outside environment has been taken care of.
A healthy environment leads to healthier relationships. We don't want future generations to miss out on the beauty of nature. But let's not worry about the future too much, we have a lot on our plate right now. Now we have factories polluting our wildlife and our health, and we see our animals slowly dying. But we can prevent such horrors by not buying unnecessary items, not buying over-packaged things, buying reusable bags and reusing glass or non-perishable items. Many items have the recycling symbol that means you can cycle or reuse that item. Embrace the green life and accept the celery.
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Science & Health
With teen suicides rates increasing, awareness must increase as well
Photos by Teens in Print
Teen suicide has become an increasing concern, especially quite recently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates have risen 30% since 1999. The LA Times reports that the suicide rate amongst young gay men hasn’t seen been so high since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s, currently at an astonishing rate of 17.9 completed suicides per 100,000 young men. And as of 2016, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 30.
Vanessa Prosper is a psychologist and therapist at Boston Latin School who speaks to students dealing with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. High school is a place where teens from all different backgrounds meet, so this conversation is important. Prosper first wanted to acknowledge a misconception: the idea that suicide is caused by one thing.
“That’s not true,” she said. “Suicide is caused by the interaction of many risk factors. So the more risk factors one has, the more one is vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.” 
Prosper then began to draw three circles, all crossing over each other and labeled as biological, social, and psychological factors. Biological factors that could contribute to suicide risk include a history of suicide in one’s family, while psychological factors could be mental illnesses such as depression and social factors could be anxiety the person has during interactions with other people. She explained that if all three of these factors are present in one’s life, that person is more vulnerable to having suicidal thoughts. 
“Why people have suicidal thoughts is the following: try to think of a time when you had a bad headache,” Prosper prompted. “How did it make you feel? ... Could you think or focus?”
She then explained how emotional pain can impact people similarly. 
“You want this pain desperately to go away, except, you can’t think clearly or problem-solve effectively,” she said. “So one thing that might first pop into your mind is to end your life as a solution to end your emotional pain.”
For teens who haven’t dealt with suicide in their own personal lives, the issue is still an important one.
“I believe suicide is a big problem,” said Issabel Goodrich, a 16-year-old student at Boston Latin School. “In the U.S.A. suicide rates are the highest they’ve ever been. It’s very scary — it’s real.”
Students believe that it’s important to discuss the issue.
“I think that suicide is a problem that definitely needs to be addressed,” said Anna Rekatas, a 14-year-old at Brooklyn Latin School. “One loss to suicide is one too many, and the least we can do is spread awareness about it.”
The thought of possibly ending one’s own life is something that a teen, or anyone, should never experience. However, research has reported that suicide is becoming an even larger contributor to young people’s deaths day by day. It affects all people, in one way or another; whether you are a parent, relative or friend of a person who took their own life, your life has been changed.
People like Prosper dedicate themselves daily to fighting suicide. Clinics and hospitals that specialize in treatment for people struggling with self-injury and suicidal thoughts are growing in number to help people who have considered killing themselves by giving them hope and aid. The suicide hotline is one of the most accessible and trustworthy places to find help. But it is also the unsung heroes that help win this treacherous battle. Friends and family members that offer their support are one of the most important things one could have; they are a reminder that someone does love and care for you, even if you think such a person does not exist. And that is how we will win: reminding each other that we love unconditionally, and through offering our support to anyone who needs it.
If you are in crisis, you can find help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.8255 or texting “Home” to 741741. If you are looking for mental health care outside of a crisis, visit
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