This past Friday, a few other Dickinson students and I attended the PERC Student Sustainability Symposium at Becknell. This year was the second annual symposium where students from schools in Pennsylvania come together to share sustainability initiatives that are taking place at their schools. We had people from Dickinson talking about the Energy Challenge, Athletic EcoReps, the biodiesel shop, the CAT, among other initiatives and research happening.
Students can present in one of three styles; a presentation, a poster, or hold a round table discussion. I wasn’t really sure what to expect since I have never been to this event before so I took the easy way out and submitted an abstract to present the Global Climate Change Mosaic as a poster. During the opening remarks they relayed the message that there were only four people holding round tables and that if anyone was interested in doing so, they were more than welcome to. Within a few minutes I made a decision to prepare a round table discussion. I am glad I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to make that decision because once I was talking about the mosaic and engaging with other students I was comfortable and pleased.
I started by talking about the Mosaic, what exactly we did, and a few other climate related things such as our Climate Action Plan. Then, I asked the others at my table what they have in terms of classes that pertain to climate change, organizations, outreach, energy challenges, etc.. From there I took a poster and split it into two sections: “worked well” and “needs improvement”. We spent the remainder of our time from focusing on the fact that often times there is a part of the student body who is invested and passionate about environmental concerns and a large portion that is not. We talked about what our schools have done that has worked well and what needs improvement.
In all, the day was extremely insightful and inspiring. I was able to see what sort of things other schools may be doing that we aren’t and what sorts of things have succeeded or failed. At the conclusion of the conference many of the students had a conversation about how to we further this connection and information base. How do we take the PERC symposium from being a once a year thing to an around the year sharing source?
At their core is the premise of lack, the notion that there just isn’t enough– of anything. Not enough food or fuel, jobs or jungles, parking spots or pandas, laughter or love… There isn’t enough goodness either. Our culture seems to whittle the human essence down to a caricature: We are selfish, materialistic, and competitive… So, the worldview we absorb everyday is driven by a fear of being without– without either resources or human qualities we need to make this historic turnaround. Within this Western, mechanical worldview that we absorb subconsciously, we are each separate from one another, and reality consists of distinct, limited, and fixed things. I think of it as the three S’s: separateness, scarcity, and stasis. that’s our world.” – Francis Moore Lappe
Studying abroad on a Non-Dickinson Program has been all but an easy experience. A couple of days ago I finally hit my month mark of being abroad and I am happy to say that everyday has gotten much better than the previous. It is with great happiness that I share the good news of my latest involvement with the S.E.A (Students for Environmental Action) community at the University of Otago. Finding a pool of like-minded people was exactly what I needed to finally feel like I had a place here. S.E.A. provides a safe space for open dialogue about pressing environmental issues locally and internationally. S.E.A hosts a variety of events ranging from coastal cleanup days, film screenings, Farmer’s Markets, lectures, seminars, workshops, etc.
S.E.A tries hard not to focus solely on local campus wide issuesbut rather extending out within the larger Dunedin community through Green Drinks. Green Drinks Dunedin is part of a non-political international movement to foster a safe space for people interested in sustainability and the environment. Green Drinks Dunedin is hosted by Sustainable Dunedin City, which is the local council on climate change activism. Last Friday I met with the head of the council and shared my experiences from COP20. She was delighted to invite me to share my experiences at the next Green Drinks Dunedin on Thursday, March 26th. I look forward to sharing my perspectives from COP20 and to continue to connect with individuals from all walks of life who truly value the environment. Cheers to keeping the conversation going on the road to Paris.
Better late than never… I still have yet to reflect on my experiences at COP20. Almost three months ago the mosaic team embarked on their journey to Lima, Peru. Looking back on the opportunity as a whole, including the leisure parts of the trip to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Ollantaytambo, and my personal travels to Arequipa and Puno, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed the academic portion of the trip better.
Being at an international conference was inspiring and one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Even the bus rides to and from the COP every day was unique and I still remember many of my conversations. If you managed to sit next to someone interesting on the bus then you had the entire hour long ride to talk with them and ask anything about where they are from, what they do, or what are some important concerns of their nation from climate change. On the bus I met people from Benin, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Brazil, Peru, and Ethiopia among plenty of other fascinating people. Furthermore, being present at the actual COP was, sorry for the lack of vocabulary, so cool. Everywhere you walked and everywhere you looked, there was hundreds of people from different nations and I think that’s what was the neatest part for me. When I got home and everyone would ask me what my favorite part was, my first response would always be just simply talking to people from everywhere… I mean, I met and spoke to someone who’s been to space before, I met Picchauri, I met heads of delegations, and the president of the COP.
The entire opportunity of the Climate Change Mosaic is something I am so grateful for and would do it over again in a heart beat. The thought of our final papers being done in a week from tomorrow makes me want to vomit.
Last week in my March to Extinction: The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity class we did an exercise focused on climate change. On Tuesday we split the class into five groups, each with a different topic. My topic was climate forcings and magnitude. Each group had to brainstorm and come up with everything they knew about the subject and all their uncertainties they had and then present it to the class. Before the following class on Thursday, we were instructed to address all of the uncertainties we had and present again. The exercise was helpful in forcing me to realize it’s not so easy to just talk about climate change and teach a class about it without any preparation. We had a reflective assignment to do wrapping it all up. The first question was “Did this exercise teach you anything new or identify for you important gaps in your knowledge?” I responded with the following…
“I have to say that no this exercise did not really teach me anything new in terms of substantive material, however I did get something out of it. I realized that I might think I know a decent amount about climate change but when it comes time to actually verbalize my knowledge, I struggle. Having discussions with people or teaching and informing people is very different from writing a paper, taking a test, or reading a book. You have less time to think about what you are going to say in a conversation and it’s certainly not as easy as reading something for class and absorbing only the big picture or listening to a lecture. I found it difficult to vocalize my knowledge that I do have, on the spot.
As far as knowledge gaps go, this is something I struggle with all the time. In fact, it stresses me out. There is literally so much more for me to learn in the environmental field as a whole. Even after being in the mosaic I feel that I still have only briefly touched the surface and that’s stressful to me. How am I going to make a difference (on the bigger scale) if I don’t know enough? I’ve been researching and exploring sea level rise since last semester, my paper is currently at 22 pages and I STILL feel like I don’t know nearly enough about the subject. What’s worse is there isn’t enough time in the day to learn everything.”
Although the COP20 was a couple months ago, one moment of clear inequity will be an indelible memory in my mind. In our climate change governance course, we learned that indigenous peoples had an observer’s status at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences. However, there’s always a difference between reading about something and actually seeing the thing you read about. Six of my classmates and I were fortunate enough to attend the COP20 as observers for the first week. I didn’t realize just how fortunate we were until I was interviewing an Amazonian indigenous chief. He discussed how difficult it was for him to gain access to the COP and how he was the only one representing his entire community. I looked down at my tag and then looked at his, I felt extremely guilty and wanted to tear the blue lanyard from my neck and hand it over to him. This chief, who’s highly respected amongst his peers and was fighting for his rights, had the same role as me. An observer.
He was at the COP to create awareness and protect his lands from being further threatened by REDD+, land claims and deforestation. While, I was at the conference for an undergraduate research project to gather information about his situation. This situation felt so unfair. In negotiations, delegates and members of the World Bank would discuss the future of the Amazon territory, while Amazonian indigenous peoples could only observe the discussion about the lands they inhabit. In addition, when the room was full or the negotiators did not want to answer any questions, all the observers were asked to leave the room, meaning they couldn’t even observe negotiations. Indigenous peoples are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change since they often depend on the environment for their livelihood. Hence, I believe that indigenous peoples should have full participation in negotiations to express their concerns and situation.
Although, this video below is a little off topic, I thought it’s message was really interesting!
So I just finished reading The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis for my Sustainability, Social Justice, and Human Rights class… I have to say, I am left completely disagreeing with Lynn White’s perspective of our ecological crisis (coming from someone living in the 21st century while the article was written in 1976. When White says, “By destroying Pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects” (White 1205) I began to wonder why I have never learned this Christian view seeing that I went to catholic schooling for several years and we supposedly were taught world religions. If I have to say I learned something from this reading I certainly have. The idea that Christianity establishes a dualism of man and nature but insists God’s will is that man exploits nature for their own ends is a totally new concept to me. (White 1205)
White’s main point is essentially that the joining of science and technology together had huge ecological impacts and that Christianity is to blame for this. She states, “I personally doubt that disastrous ecological backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology” which I do agree with. I don’t think technology advances will solve our problems- costly carbon sucking vacuums can only do such much for our atmosphere but behavioral and cultural changes along with changes in worldwide frameworks are what will solve our ecological disaster. Where I do not agree, however, is when White says the only way to solve our disaster is through a change in religion… “More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one.”
This graph (2005) shows world religious identifications where 77% are not identified as Christian and of that 16% identified as nonreligious. Can you blame a global problem on 33% percent of the world? I don’t think so… furthermore, I do not think it’s plausible that any religious changes could make a significant enough impact to better today’s environmental crisis
White, Lynn. The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis. 10 March 1967. Science 155, 3736; 1203-1207.
The New York Time had an article today titled, Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change, Poll Finds. A recent study conducted by both the New York Times and Stanford University shed light on the changing mindset of the American people and perhaps more importantly American Voters. The republican party is notorious for its position of climate change, in fact I wrote a blog post last semester on what the republican domination of the last election meant for government action on climate change… it was not optimistic. So this research came as a happy surprise. Its opening line states, that “An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming… [and] two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change.” The study also found that the majority of people (and about half of republican voters) would be turned off by a candidate who questioned the science of climate change or called it a hoax.
However, this study begs the question, why are republicans candidates not in line with the views of their consituents? Clearly half of republicans in office do not think government should take action on climate change. Of the 2012 republican presidential candiateds only one publicly acknowledged the science of climate changed and believed it to be “real,” and thought it would be beneficially to have some government policy for emissions reductions. The chair of the senate’s Environmental Committee is a republican by the of James Inhofe that literally wrote of book on climate change denial. Furthermore, the senate approved the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, pushed by republican leadership despite its dire climate consequences.
Perhaps the answer lies in campaign finance. It is no big secret that big oil companies contribute hefty amounts of campaign funds to politicians with some expectations on how their candidates handle climate change. The article states that, “advocacy groups funded by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch have vowed to ensure that Republican candidates who advocate for climate change action will lose in primary elections.” Perhaps the divide between republicans and democrats is not actually as large as we often perceive, maybe the problem lies in a much broader issue of how we allow large corporations to influence American politics.
This semester I am taking a course called Sustainability: Social Justice and Human Rights. Each week we have to write an journal entry and I wanted to share some of my entry from the first week of class. We watched the film The Eleventh Hour in which Leonardo DiCaprio had a narrating role.
“Week one 1/12 and 1/15
The first week of class we watched the film The Eleventh Hour, several main themes of this film struck my attention. First I want to mention the reappearing narrative of Leonardo DiCaprio. A few months ago I would have had NO IDEA that he was an environmentalist. I took part in the Climate Change Mosaic last semester where a group of 14 students and I went to COP20 (The Twentieth Conference of the Parties) in Lima, Peru. I first learned that Leo was an environmentalist a month or so prior to the conference, when he announced he would be attending the COP (Conference of the Parties). He never ended up attending the COP which is an entirely different conversation, but maybe if he had gone it would have done some good in terms of climate change awareness. Perhaps climate change needs a celebrity face to help engage the public and bridge the education gap. I envision something along the idea of the “Got Milk?” commercials that use celebrity faces to publicize their product.
Several ideas mentioned in the film resonated with me, particularly the idea of “current” sunlight versus “ancient” sunlight. These are terms that I have never heard before and I loved that they were brought up. When the world population was less than one billion people we could live off of completely current sunlight and on the other hand, with the exponential population growth we are experiencing today, we rely heavily on ancient sunlight. In general with this and many other environmental concerns, I always believe that a population limit would do our earth some good.
I am a supporter of the one child limit that China imposed for a period of time. The larger the population, the more stress on necessary resources. Think about the amount of clothes a single person goes through in their entire lifetime. All the materials that go into making them; millions of acres that are used to grow cotton to make a simple white t-shirt, shipping, fueling the factories clothes are actually made in. I think about the amount of food I consume daily… Personally, I don’t even eat that many processed foods and I don’t eat meat. I am one person; I consider myself to be a fairly sustainably minded person yet my carbon footprint is HUGE. “The UNICEF estimates that an average of 353,000 babies are born each day around the world.” (http://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/How-Many-Babies-Are-Born-Each-Day)
This is disgusting and quite frankly I believe that this rate needs to slow down and it needs to slow down as soon as possible. Think about how many resources are needed to supply 353,000 people… Society cannot just keep growing at this exponential rate and assume there is going to be infinity of this “ancient sunlight”. The Eleventh Hour also mentions that humans are the only species to recognize the future and know that there is a future. You’d think maybe we would treasure this ability and plan better for the future.”
The post Lima preparation for Paris is already underway. While each country and their delegations have their own expectations and responsibilities, it is imperative that the entire global community prepares as well. What better way to spread global awareness and participation than with live music!? Al Gore and pop icon Pharrell Williams have teamed up to announce a global Live Earth concert in June. This concert, with its purpose to demand climate action, will be staged in six cities on all seven continents. Yes, Antarctica will also be participating in this global event. On this day, the entire globe will stand up together for a cause that is affecting all aspects of our shared planet. The ultimate goal of this music festival is to collect 1 billion signatures to encourage world leaders to adopt a new climate agreement in Paris at COP21. There is a lot of pressure for the outcomes in Paris, especially after 2014 was recorded as the Earth’s warmest year on record. A global event like this could be groundbreaking for increasing public action and awareness.