Preparation for Paris


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.


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Art and the Environment- Strip Mining

Lang Cover
Credit: Bernhard Lang  A 30 story bucket excavator  cuts out more coal.
Credit: Bernhard Lang
A 30 story bucket excavator cuts out more coal.

I came across a recent collection of photos by aerial photographer Bernhard Lang. This collection is that of an aerial shoot above the Hambach Mine in Germany. This lignite open pit mine is the deepest (in relation to sea-level) on the planet, being 931 feet below sea-level. Currently the mine is about 35 square kilometers large with a planned ending size of 85 square kilometers, roughly the size of Manhattan. All of this in a country that plans to be 80% renewable by 2050 and currently is the solar energy capital of the world. Some argue this is a result of the shutting down of nuclear facilities after Fukushima, as well as a result of the way emissions trading schemes are set up in the EU. The mine is still open and churning out coal everyday. Lang has done an excellent job of showcasing it, much in the way Balog has represented glacial melt and the impacts of anthropogenic global warming. This is not the first time Lang has been up in the air, attempting to capture the scale at which our society operates, much of his aerial work has taken on an environmental twist. As I find more artists looking to use their talents and passion to raise awareness and enact change, I wonder what else we might see in the coming decades.


Two Years Later, What have we learned from Sandy?


Two years ago the Jersey Shore, a place where I call home, was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. My friends and family were left without heat, electricity, and some were left without homes. While my family was fortunate enough to have mild damages to our properties, others had lost everything. The first time I returned home, about a month after Sandy, there were still incredible signs of the destruction. Boats were still washed up on major roads, the streets were still full of debris, and beach towns resembled ghost towns. I observed places that were once very familiar seem almost unrecognizable.



This famous photograph (above) was taken in a nearby town, which I recalled having to pull a u-turn in the driveway during the previous summer months. Hurricane Sandy forever altered the landscapes of the Jersey Shore.

During our trip to Washington DC, we spoke with Joel Scheraga, the Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation in the Office of Policy in the Office of the Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Joel Scheraga spoke to us about the importance of mainstreaming climate adaptation planning. As we have already seen impacts of climate change through intensifying natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, it is imperative that the process of redevelopment incorporates climate-resilient methods. It is the EPA’s mission to anticipate and plan for future changes in climate. Climate adaptation will prepare the world for the impacts of climate change.

After meeting with Joel Scheraga, I began to wonder in what ways the Jersey Shore was rebuilt to withstand future climatic events.

Will New Jersey be ready for the next superstorm?

These images show the changes in the landscape after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy. 


Trick or Treat? The truth about Halloween candy

Lets face it, Halloween is all about the candy! Every October, Americans spend at least $2 Billion dollars on Halloween candy. However, what most people don’t realize is that the environmental impact of these sweet treats is actually a trick. Here is the low down on Halloween candy, and how you can avoid the tricks and enjoy more treats.

Palm oil, a type of edible vegetable oil grown specifically in tropical climates, is an extremely versatile cooking oil that, among many other household items, is also found in candies. Palm oil is inexpensive and can be found in “50 percent of items found in supermarkets” (Donlon, 2014). This global commodity is extremely popular and production rates are doubling. So what is the problem with palm oil? Palm oil is a driving force of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions, which are all contributing factors to climate change. Large areas of tropical forests have been destroyed throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa in order to clear land for palm plantations. This process of deforestation has several impacts on the environment. The process of clearing the land involves slash and burn agriculture, which is the deliberate burning down of forests. This burning results in habitat loss and species disruption, which in some cases is leading to extinction. The clearing of the land also makes it easier for poachers to capture and sell wildlife. Orangoutangs are often targeted by poachers. Not only does this impact wildlife, but also it releases stored carbon into the atmosphere, thus altering the concentrations of greenhouse gasses. This is just one aspect that shows the unsustainable side of Halloween.

Read further on sustainable chocolate!

This Halloween be “HalloGREEN” and refrain from consuming candies containing palm oil!

See how to enjoy Halloween treats without destroying the planet here!

Find more information about Palm Oil and how to get involved!! 

Happy HalloGREEN !!



Donlon, Diana. “Trick or Treat? The Frightening Climate Costs of Halloween Candy.” The Huffington Post., 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

The Tip of the Iceberg

James Balog is an American nature photographer whose most recent work has been focused around climate change and glacial melt. His project, the Extreme Ice Survey, was founded in 2007 as a mode of educating those on the immediate impact of climate change, as well as proving that the human-induced warming of the planet is having obvious effects on the natural world. It is safe to say that he was successful in his endeavors. I can say this based entirely off of the experience of having him come to Dickinson for a residency he did as a result of winning the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism; previous winners include founder and author Bill McKibben and former EPA Admistrator and current VP for Sustainability with Apple Lisa Jackson. Balog’s visit began before he even arrived on campus with a free public viewing of the film Chasing Ice. This attracted over 500 people and was well received by members of the Dickinson community, as well as the local Carlisle community. Balog arrived the next day after the People’s Climate March in NYC. It was then a whirlwind two days for the photographer that was filled with class visits, informal Q&A sessions, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. This all culminated in a half lecture and half performance. The performance was a spoken word reading set to a slideshow of images captured through EIS, as well as some of his past work with endangered species. It was captivating.

Alaska, Dry Ice, Water
An activist from Alaska drags dry ice as it sublimates, through the streets of NYC to represent rapidly melting ice.

My experiences with Balog, as I was lucky enough to sit down with him in several smaller settings, were inspirational. He touched on many subjects, from the difficulty of copyright in the media world to how rock climbing has influenced his path through life. The whole time he was here though I kept wondering what the best way to illustrate climate change to large groups actually is. How do we effectively take the knowledge and concern of climate change and help others understand it? Balog seems to have figured out a very effective way to do this. He has made something very difficult to comprehend as a human and he did it with stunning photography. I am still asking myself what might be the best way to represent climate change. Balog’s next piece of work will incorporate the California wildfires and will hopefully draw even deeper connections of human influence on the natural order to disturbances in the climate system.

So, Balog came to Dickinson. It was an incredible experience and we all learned a lot from him. Inspiration flowed and conversations started. I don’t mean to sound cold about his residency, it was truly incredible and I am going to be working on doing something very similar after a I graduate because of my time with him, but what happens now? Where do we take this conversation on our campus? Where do communities take the public showings of Chasing Ice once they are done? How do we enact change? These are the questions. One answer I have seen is continuing the conversation. I plan on attending several follow up events to Balog’s visit over the next few weeks. These events will be conversations about climate change and different sectors of society. Many people asked Balog what they need to do on a personal level to help mitigate and adapt. He flat out told them that he has no idea what they need to do. How could he? He has never met them. He did remind them though that something needs to be done, something more than what is being done now. And I think that is a huge takeaway from the experience. There will not be one thing that a single person or even an entire community can do to mitigate further climate change. Each person, each community, each nation-state will all need to find the solution that works for their political regime, their societal needs, their culture. That patchwork of solutions will be what the negotiators will be discussing in Lima. Finding the common ground and ways to work to meet all needs are what they need to figure out. For the sake of these glaciers, these seemingly lifelike objects, I hope they can figure it out.

James Balog Presents Ice: COOLER than expected

One of my initial reactions to watching James Balog’s Chasing Ice was that I didn’t know ice could be photographed in such a magical way. My second reaction was holy $#!% this is really happening at such an astonishing rate. This documentary is different than other climate change related films I have seen. Many climate change documentaries are very scientific and factual which doesn’t address the “average” moviegoer. Balog’s documentary is very relatable to the average student, citizen, grandmother, whoever. His film is attractive in the way that it captures incredible visuals in a time lapse of what is happening at this very moment. People tend to only believe what they can see and James Balog is able to express climate change occurring in real time through photographs of melting glaciers.

When Balog met with our class on Tuesday September 23 I felt star struck after such an intimate classroom conversation covering topics about his personal interests, family references, and what he thinks we can contribute to climate change. Later that day, I was in the library and I found myself distracted looking at his photographs on display in our library. Still in awe about how magnificent and lifelike these glaciers were portrayed by James Balog. I definitely have a different perspective about natural landscapes, like glaciers, that are disappearing from out planet, faster than we think.

James Balog successfully used his interest in photography and his passion for a cause, climate change, to spread awareness and activism. I think this is a really important message that shows no matter your background, scientist, politician, activist, or student, we can all contribute in some way to the global issue of climate change. james-balog-web

From A Different Angle: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado

sebastiao salgado genesis

Earlier this week, famed nature photographer and documentarian James Balog was on Dickinson’s campus for a two-day residency as part of the Rose-Walters Prize he received at Commencement this past May.  His vivid pictures and time-lapse videos of glacial retreat are a stark representation of the scope and rate of global warming and climate change in our own lifetime.  While Balog approached his photography as an avenue for showing the beautiful destruction of the climate, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado’s most recent work, Genesis, shows the inherent beauty of the world that is at peril of being disturbed or lost forever to the effects of climate change.  Deserts, ice, endangered species, beautiful designs naturally cut along a valley are a few of the subjects of Salgado’s photographs.  His work approaches the same vein as Balog’s, just from a different angle, and both angles have a story that is important for everyone to experience and internalize as we approach the climate question.  The Earth around us is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind environment that is imperative for us to cherish and protect from ourselves so that future generations may have the privilege and honor to cherish and protect it as well.  As we move forward in our work this semester at COP20 and in all future climate negotiations, it is crucial that this message not be lost upon us.

The Weather in 2050

On the UNFCCC newsroom homepage today I found the video at the bottom of this blog post. The first four minutes of the video show a news anchor man going through the current weather across the US with a hurricane off the coast of Florida, a heat wave in Chicago and a server drought in the south-west US. The video ends with Ban Ki-Moon addressing the viewers and asking for us to take action on climate change with him. On one hand the video seems overly dramatic. But, is this what it takes to get people to take up Ban Ki-Moon’s call for action?

After investigating the WMO’s website, I was able to find a link to a series of videos that the organization is running in preparation for the Climate Summit at the end of the month in New York City. A list of those videos can be found here.

It is very interesting to me that they are running this campaign on weather related events. We know that there is not a clear connection between any given daily weather event and climate, yet, this video series suggests that weather when examined in different locations globally is an indication of a warming climate. These videos are consistent with the predictions of climate modelers, according to the WMO website. So, maybe this is an effective way of convincing people of the real dangers of climate change. What do you think?


The Discovery of the Truth: Revised and Expanded Edition

The Discovery of the Truth: Revised and Expanded Edition

by Elizabeth Plascencia

Courtesy of Balog: Columbia Glacier, Alaska from 2006 to 2012
Courtesy of Balog: Columbia Glacier, Alaska from 2006 to 2012

To divulge the whole story of global warming – what a task. Where to even begin? How would we explain the state of our existence on planet Earth to a foreigner? Human activities in the Anthropocene? The Industrial Revolution? Population growth? Fossil Fuels? I am unsure of the beginning and I sure don’t want to know the ending.

Weart carefully tells the story of global warming through meticulously weaving in and out of science and history in The Discovery of Global Warming: Revised and Expanded Edition. Additionally, to my surprise, Weart actually stated a handful of aggressive verbs, which is often unlikely for climate change activists who try to “speak the party talk”. I was pleasantly surprised. Often climate change speakers are lost in their sea of words when attempting to maintain their position in the middle and not appear too radical. In order to achieve some sort of movement I really respected when Weart presents to model ourselves differently in the name of change. Real change. Not just something that we talk about and agree on at a conference.

Discovering the truth about our state of being is so much more than just the idea. It is taking action and creating momentum in order to catapult change.

The mistakes of the Industrial Revolution

After reading Spencer R. Wearts book “The Discovery of Climate Change” I realize that the science behind global warming is extremely simple.  As early as the 19th century scientists had already figured out what greenhouse gases were and identified CO2 as a threat.  The logic behind it is also extremely simple, without carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the earth would freeze.  Not only were greenhouse gases identified but by the time the industrial revolution was in full swing, scientists already knew that human created machines emitted large quantities of carbon dioxide.  I immediately thought, what were we [they] thinking?  I then began to think about pre-industrial life to a post industrial standard, and I became clear that the idea of machinery and higher standards of living blew environmental preservation right out of the water.  It is simply human nature.  As humans we seek constantly seek to better our lot in life.  As history has shown, long term issues are rarely considered when confronted with short term problems.  That sounds pretty bleak and slightly putting down the entire human race.  While continuing to read, and kept pondering the same question:  “if people knew, why didn’t they try and change then?”  Early industrialization led to machinery that could mass produce items as well as agricultural advances.  At this point, coal smoke was the primary emission of these early machines.  Coal was one of the only viable fuel sources at the time, so of course it was used.  Still this doesn’t explain why people didn’t try and rectify it early on.  I think it is actually pretty clear, and possibly another by product of human nature.  People back then did understand greenhouse gases, but couldn’t begin to comprehend the advances of technology or the true effects of CO2 emissions, in short they couldn’t predict what was to come.


By the early 1900’s some people had begin to predict future issues, which fell largely on deaf ears as the developed world was facing many other more”pressing” issues.  Part of me thinks there is blame to be placed on early industry but in reality, there wasn’t many other fuel options.  Only in the last part of the 20th century has technology surpassed fossil fuels.  Now renewable resources and processes for harnessing them are extremely viable.  Maybe there was no other way to industrialize than with fossil fuel, but in todays time, there is certainly enough technology and initiative to rectify those mistakes, and turn from a fossil fuel society to one based on renewables.