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Journalist & Author Alex Prud’homme is coming to Philly tomorrow to discuss his book the Ripple Effect and show a screening of Last Call at the Oasis, which both focus on water. I was lucky enough to chat with him about his Philly visit and ask about his famous great-aunt, Julia Child.
Green Philly Blog: We’re looking forward to your discussion tomorrow. How’s the book tour & Last Call at the Oasis screenings going so far?
Alex Prud’homme: I’ve done a bunch of book tours and screenings. The movie is now available on Amazon, so it’s great to get the word out.
GPB: What do you want participants to gain when they leave tomorrow’s discussion & from Last Call at the Oasis?
Alex Prud’homme: I hope that participants will start to think about water. I know Philadelphia has made a huge push towards becoming a so-called “porous” city. But most Americans take water for granted, because we can turn on the tap at any time of day and get some of the most fantastic water in the world for free. We overlook water; we ignore it. But we’re going to have to start paying attention as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated – Climate change is real. It’s causing greater floods and droughts. We have water pollution.
Hopefully people will start to think about this simple source. I call my book The Ripple Effect because every time we use water, it sets off a ripple effect – which is a series of consequences. Even when you do something as simple as leave the lights on all night, electricity uses huge amounts of energy and emits pollution.
When we start to think about how we use water, it can have a profound effect. We want to people to talk about it and ‘spread’ the ripples.
GPB: Philadelphians (and most Americans) see an endless amount of water from their faucets – What do you think it will take for people to consider their own habits?
Alex Prud’homme: Sandy certainly impacted us here in NYC in a way that we’ve never experienced. Now people are thinking about it and it’s causing a big discussion of how we’re building the coast line. Another way is if there was a huge pollution event or, unfortunately, a mass poisoning. It would cause people to think about what’s in their water.
We tend to be selfish – humans – we really ignore warning signs until there’s a crisis upon us. One of the reasons I wrote this book is because the warning signs are already out there. If we wait for a crisis, it will be too late.
GPB: Interesting you mention that - There was just a train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey with a chemical spill of Vinyl Chloride.
Alex Prud’homme: That’s what it takes. Here in New York City there’s a huge pollution in Newtown Creek, a dividing line between Brooklyn & Queens. It’s one of the largest oil spills in history that no one knows about but will have huge health impacts. It’s fascinating to me that it’s in the middle of NYC and no one wants to think about it.
It began in the 1870s when standard oil built along Newtown Creek and would dump their excess into the creek. 17-30 million gallons of oil are estimated to have leaked with some other nasty chemicals. It sets off these vapors that come through the ground and through buildings. Obviously it’s affected marine and bird life. Plus, there’s sewage runoff in Newtown Creek as well.
Water infrastructure in the US has been given a grade of D- by the American Society of Civilian Engineers, which basically means its on the verge of failure. It’s difficult to fix this stuff; it’s expensive. But we have to do it because we rely on this stuff.
GPB: Your book mentions tales close to home like the alleged murder of a water scientist in New Jersey, Chesapeake Bay and fracking. How close to home will the Last Call at the Oasis screening & discussion hit Philadelphians?
Alex Prud’homme: I certainly hope so. Water can be localized but it can be global. It unites us together as human beings – we all rely on water. I think there’s a huge opportunity to use water as a central theme to do a lot of good across the country and across the world.
GPB: I have to ask – Did you pick up any cooking skills from Julia Child?
Alex Prud’homme: I was Julia’s great-nephew and I grew up with her and did a lot of cooking with her. As Julia always said, “Be willing to take risks, don’t worry about making mistakes, learn your technique, work hard, and above all, have fun.” That can be applied to cooking or all else.
We’re glad Alex is working hard at spreading the water message. Hopefully you can attend the screening and discussion tomorrow.
Here’s a clip of Last Call at the Oasis for you to check out: