PERC Student Sustainability Symposium

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PERC

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?

Sustainability at Otago – Cheers!

 

Dunedin Peninsula, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ
Dunedin Peninsula, University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ

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.

 

Green Drinks, Dunedin, NZ

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.

Highlights from Peru

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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.

 

 

 

The Eleventh Hour

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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.”

Preparation for Paris

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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.

 

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pharrell-al-gore-live-earth-2015-20150121

Dinner with Delegates

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Thus far our time in Lima has been spent sightseeing, for both people and places. We have been spending our days at Voces por el Clima interviewing delegates and representatives from various countries, Peru, Bolivia, Netherlands, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to name a few. While also exploring Lima outside of COP venues, we continue to run into party members and representatives. We were fortunate enough to have dinner with Gabriel Blanco a delegate from Argentina who has attended 9 previous COPs. Through a more relaxed interview involving cebiche and cerveza, Señor Blanco held nothing back about Argentina’s insufficient climate action. While it was surprising to hear about Argentina’s climate denial, it was even more surprising to me that Argentinas government continued to send delegates to a convention in which the argentine people had very little commitment towards. Leaving that dinner was a bit frustrating to hear that despite this being the twentieth conference of the parties, some governments are still in disagreement about the changing climate which is greatly impacting the lack of education for its citizens. Therefore a cycle of negligence occurs. However, Gabriel Blanco seemed somewhat optimistic for the outcomes in Lima, and we told him we will come to Argentina to help change the minds of the many Argentines who remain apathetic towards climate change.

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Brazil: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Brazil Protest

In today’s class lecture we discussed Brazil’s progress towards mitigating climate change. Brazil has made an enormous effort in reducing tropical deforestation, Brazil has kept 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere since 2004″ (Atkin, 2014). Brazil once had the highest deforestation rate in the world mainly due to livestock and logging. Rainforests are an important carbon sink, however deforestation emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus changing the climate. Although Brazil’s 70 percent decline in deforestation has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, other parts of Brazil are still feeling the effects of climate change. Sao Paulo is suffering from one of the worst droughts to have hit Southern Brazil in several decades. The water scarcity is causing violent conflicts between residents. As the climate continues to change, and droughts become more prevalent we can expect to see more violent conflicts and citizens protesting for access to resources like water, which are necessary for survival. Rainy seasons in Brazil have shown a pattern of less rainfall each year, “The Sao Paulo metropolitan area ended its last rainy season in February with just a third of the usual rain total only 9 inches” (Gomez-Licon, 2014). The government is being blamed for the issues of water scarcity, which shows that as the climate keeps changing and water becomes more limited there must be systems implemented for distributing water equally. Otherwise the world’s poor will be exposed to more vulnerabilities, and violent conflicts will increase. 

 

Atkin, Emily. “Brazil Has Done More To Stop Climate Change Than Any Other Country, Study Finds.” ThinkProgress. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/06/3446097/brazil-cuts-carbon/>.

Gomez Licon, Adriana. “Sao Paulo Drought Leaves Brazil’s Biggest City Desperate For Water.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/sao-paulo-drought_n_6118888.html?utm_hp_ref=green>.

 

Movement Towards A Sustainable World

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Climate change is by far one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Humans are creating this change in the climate; therefore humanity must take responsibility for previous actions. Developed and developing nations must switch to an energy efficient and renewable world, but it is a global effort. Climate change is expected to put pressure on natural environments as well as those constructed by humans. Therefore, in order to minimize these challenges, it is imperative to put adaptation plans into action. While the world continues to grow and develop, it is important further development is done in a sustainable manner. Sustainable development is a considerable solution towards developing in a way that lessens environmental degradation. Sustainable development is defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development  as, “a mechanism for growth without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Warner, 2014). Sustainable development can be achieved through climate resilient pathways, which combine methods of adaptation and mitigation. However, it is argued if climate change will pose significant threats to prospects for sustainable development.

According to the UNFCCC, “Climate change poses a moderate threat to current sustainable development and a severe threat to future sustainable development.” Climate change involves a complex interaction between social and ecological systems; therefore new approaches to sustainable development must take this into consideration. Adaptation and mitigation are both essential for minimizing the risks attributed with climate change. Currently and previously, actions on sustainable development have been delayed, which poses a threat for future sustainable development because it can reduce the options for climate resilient pathways.

On the other hand, researchers at MIT, “looked at three policies achieving the same reductions in the United States, and found that the savings on health care spending and other costs related to illness can be big” (Resutek, 2014). Policies that aim at reducing carbon emissions are beneficial to health problems because these policies lead to reductions in harmful pollutants. These emission reductions also in turn have huge cost reductions for healthcare. One of the researchers Tammy Thompson states, “If cost-benefit analyses of climate policies don’t include the significant health benefits from healthier air, they dramatically underestimate the benefits of these policies” (Resutek, 2014). These results show that climate policies not only benefit the environment, but also benefit health and the economy. The recent advances in technology for renewable energy can achieve more than just meeting the goals of emissions reductions.

While the future in respect to climate change looks entirely too bleak, humanity must use existing technology and implement policy towards continuous sustainable development. We cannot move forward without doing so in a sustainable manner. All nations must work together and assist the most vulnerable nations in taking drastic measures in order to remain under the two-degree limit. Sustainable development produces global benefits in combating climate change.

Works Cited

Resutek, Audrey. “Study: Cutting Emissions Pays for Itself.” MIT News. MIT, 24 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Warner, Koko, Dr. “Climate Resilient Pathways to Sustainable Development.” Multiple Resilience Pathways: (n.d.): n. pag. UNFCCC. UNFCCC, 19 May 2014. Web.

 

 

 

Just a Minute

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The other day while in a cab in Washington DC, my driver started reciting Benjamin Mays’ Just a Minute immediately after he rushed through a yellow traffic light…

Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it,

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it,

Give an account if I abuse it,

Just a tiny little minute,

But eternity is in it.

I had never heard this poem before but it struck me. Every single minute matters and every single minute must be maximized. The negotiations of COP20 need to maximize each minute. There are strong hopes that the outcome of Lima will not be one similar to that in Durban. It is essential that texts are negotiated and ready to go for COP 21 in Paris, 2015. The time is now.

NextGen Climate in New Hampshire

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This weekend while at Pumpkinfest in Keene, New Hampshire I stumbled upon a bright orange tent with a sign right in the middle of the table that read “I’m a New Hampshire climate change voter”. Naturally, I went over to the table to inquire about who they are and what they do.  NextGen Climate, founded in 2013, is a “non-partisan organization focused on bringing climate change to the forefront of American Politics” and “holding eleced officials accountable”. It is comprised of the efforts of seven states; Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan. (NextGen Climate)

The photo below shows members of NextGen Climate NH doing their part this weekend at Pumpkinfest.

Nextgen Climate NH

 

Recently in our Global Environmental Challenges and Governance class we have talked about the different structures and forms that climate governance  and climate action may take place; international/transnational/national, public/private, Top-Down/Bottom-Up/Mixed-Track, etc.. It was extremely interesting for me to see an example of real local bottom-up action taking place.

For more information on NextGen Climate, please visit their website and consider committing to become a climate voter, helping to achieve their goal of 50,000 committed voters for the 2014 elections. Watch this video of president Tom Steyer speak about the upcoming November elections.