Think about all the water on Earth. Nearly 98% of that water resides in the ocean and is unfit for human consumption. Only ~2% of Earth’s water is freshwater. However, 69% of freshwater is tied up in glaciers and ice caps and 30% is trapped in underground aquifers. Only 1% of freshwater in the form of surface water is readily available for human consumption. This small percentage of available freshwater is used to quench the thirst of nearly 8 billion people worldwide!
Zaccharia Haynes, a current student, has used the MPP program as an opportunity to take a closer look at water policy both in the US and internationally. Zac’s interest in water quality and access to clean water is rooted in his deep connection to the environment. Originally, Zac began his academic career at DelVal as a Criminal Justice major. He chose this major because he wanted to help people. During this time, Zac was also highly involved with the wrestling team and with poor time management, Zac quickly found himself behind in his studies. He decided to take some time off from school and headed for the mountains of Colorado to clear his head. Zac ended up spending two years exploring the great outdoors and the Rocky Mountains. He used this time for self-reflection and along the way recognized the deep bond he had with the natural world around him.
During his time in Colorado, Zac attended night classes to satisfy his general education requirements and get back in the academic mindset. As an elective course, he took a Regional Geography course which inevitably opened the door to other environmental science courses. Zac was hooked. Not long after, he transferred back to DelVal and immediately switched his major to Environmental Biology. Throughout his undergraduate studies, Zac began to notice an issue regarding the correspondence between environmental science and policy. He recognized that a gap existed between environmental scientists and politicians and this gap was being reflected in environmental policies and legislation, or lack thereof. Zac explained, “The gap isn’t an intellectual gap. At this point, there’s nothing that scientists know that policymakers don’t know or can’t think of. The issue is the language that is used by scientists and the separate language that is used by politicians. Politicians don’t want to hear about data and graphs. They only want to hear how this data will affect their bank account and the way their constituents view them as a political leader. If the data means less support from constituents, then the data is irrelevant. Politicians look first and foremost at the economy, secondly at their constituents, and if there is leftover room for environmental considerations, then so be it.”
For Zac, the MPP program has helped him better understand this communication gap. As an environmental scientist focused on the health of ecosystems, Zac tries to take a holistic approach by analyzing how certain activities impact the environment and while also taking note of the costs associated with either future remediation or immediate prevention. “The program has helped me gain a better grasp of how politicians think,” says Zac. “You can’t write environmental legislation with economic thoughts in the forefront because they are two completely different mindsets.”
As a part of an MPP program that allows students to explore the issues that interest them most, Zac’s interests in public policy focus heavily on water quality, water rights, and one’s access to water although he is equally as interested in renewable energy and localizing food systems. Additionally, Zac is interested in public policy regarding education and healthcare. He explains, “Through this program, I have gained more of a respect for some of the other aspects of policy. Heading into the future we need to fix the way our education system is structured. Health care is as equally as important.” He continues with “I have developed a passion for education and healthcare but if you don’t have clean air to breath and safe water to drink, you are not going to be healthy and education will be impossible.”
Since entering the program, Zac has worked on a number of projects. This past summer, he worked on an organic farm in Bucks County. His experience helped transition him into writing a paper about urban agriculture and being published for a paper on water rights. Zac also interned with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center which rescues wounded sea turtles in addition to aiding marine mammals. The experience there not only educated Zac on the vast ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean but also allowed for him to observe first-hand how the Marine Mammal Stranding Act is being implemented and enforced.
In addition to being a wonderful person and a passionate environmentalist, Zac was also a DelVal wrestler and was fortunate to All-American during his senior year as an undergrad. The wrestling team finished in the top ten during each of the four years Zac was a starter. Now, as part of his Graduate Assistantship, Zac is one of the coaches for the DelVal wrestling team. He has strived to make both the wrestling team and the athletic department become more environmentally conscious when ordering material. Following wrestling tournaments, Zac encourages his team to clean up litter that is left behind by the crowd and fellow competitors.
It is clear that Zac portrays the same grit and determination as a wrestler as he does in his fight for environmental rights and legislation or perhaps its vice versa. Currently, Zac is working on his thesis that ties together the theoretical concept of the commons and public policy concerning land, air, and water. Following graduation in May 2018, Zac is interested in attending environmental law school at CU Boulder. This specific law program would allow him to work towards a Master’s degree in water science/hydrology while also working towards his JD. The program believes that in order to produce stronger environmental lawyers, law students should specialize in what they plan on practicing.
In the future, Zac would like to start a nonprofit with the mission of helping people in developing nations gain more efficient access to clean water, fresh food, and renewables. Zac explains that the organization will also provide education. “The only way these systems will be sustainable is if the people in their own countries and their own towns are invested in the system. They need to know how to maintain the system and they need to be just as excited about accessing these resources as we are to provide them.”