Monday, December 31, 2007

Mixed Feelings...

After our first meeting at the Museum of the Earth, I had mixed feelings about the project we were about to begin work on. On the one hand, I was excited to contribute to something “real,” a museum exhibit, instead of doing the usual final project that has significance only in the class I’ve created it for. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if we were the right people for the job. Originally, I thought that students in a freshman level class wouldn’t have the appropriate level of knowledge and experience to create an information guide to the public on such a delicate, important topic.

After completing the project, my opinion on this is mixed. I’ve definitely come to see the project as a win-win situation for both the Museum and the students in my class. As the students do research and work on the project, they gain knowledge while the Museum gains an addition to their exhibit. It’s true that while doing research I often found myself feeling less knowledgeable than I would have liked about many of the topics I was reading about and then writing about in the project, however I also realized that our less educated perspective was also an asset to the exhibit. As we were often reminded, the exhibit is intended for the general public, so our content should be structured appropriately. As those with a perspective between the well-educated on climate change and the general public perhaps we were the bridge the exhibit needed. I am also reminded that our professor and teaching assistant, who certainly have the qualifications I was worried we may have lacked, were there to guide and edit our work so that any factual errors or gaps were corrected and filled.

In the end, I’m definitely proud of the final product (I know I’ll be bringing my parents to see the exhibit!) and I think it was a fun way to integrate the theme of the semester, taking action, with an academic project.

-Fiona Kirkpatrick, Cornell University Student

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Challenges....

Writing from the tail end of this collaboration with PRI and the Museum of the Earth is much different from initially being unsure of what to expect at the commencement of the project. While researching, writing and completing the final layout for my portion of the design I have learned a number of things that I feel are important for future educational projects regarding the impending global Climate Change.

I think that the most imposing obstacle regarding modern environmental awareness is the challenge of making people realize that rather than some far-off leftist propaganda, climate change is happening today. Whenever I try to encourage awareness I am, overwhelmingly, met with sentiments of frustration and disdain. The “yeah right, not here not now” mentality that is so detrimental to most efforts towards change is completely pervasive in today’s culture. I have to agree that it is an easy issue to discard, especially as we are so isolated in our little collegiate utopia, but as a global policy, this is terrible.

So, in setting out on this project, this was my primary goal. My final layout design included a number of visuals that I hope will be beneficial in spreading the feeling of necessity that will hopefully foster future action. My portion of the project was temperature, so I opted to include the quintessential climate change graph comparing temperature to CO2 concentration over the last 450,000 years. By superimposing this information with details about the possible effects of temperature increase and the incredible rate of anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 change, the pamphlet will (I hope) convey some anxiousness, hopefully enough to encourage public action/policy change.

To conclude: I, you, we, everyone, we are the people that have to deal with this. Not because in fifty or one hundred years our children are going to be screwed, but because we’re going to be screwed now and (maybe) permanently into the future if we don’t do something. This is not an issue to be left to others, to be thrown to the side for others, this is an issue that must be dealt with everywhere, by everyone, now.



-Lloyd Ellman, Cornell University Student

Thursday, December 27, 2007

You Can Make a Difference...

One thing I’ve repetitively found since I’ve started this project and have been sharing my findings with my friends is that many people believe that they can’t make a difference. It made me wonder a lot about how much difference one person can make and if all individual attempts are going to be futile until large corporations find it fiscally beneficial to become environmentally friendly.

Well, a few weeks ago I was at work and was talking to a friend who was nay saying the power of individual choice. I work in a restaurant that is currently using Styrofoam containers to give people their to go food in. By the end of the day it adds up how much is used, and as my friend and I were chatting I thought about the Styrofoam and thought I would say something to the owners to see if we could use something a little more environmentally friendly.

When I asked the owner he said that he was already looking into something else only he was having a hard time getting it from our food distributor. He said that they didn’t offer many environmentally friendly options, but they were planning on soon because of the requests they’ve been getting. I asked him what made him decide to switch and he told me that there were a couple of customers over the past few months that asked if there were something besides the Styrofoam to take their leftovers in. He said that it was the right thing to do for the environment, and also he didn’t want to lose any business because of it. Though it may cost a few more cents to get better containers, the money would be easily compensated by the fact that they wouldn’t lose any customers.

I was really happy to see hear this and I’m glad my friend did too because it showed that just a couple of people can make a change in the practices of a business. Then, after a few businesses start putting pressure on suppliers, the practices of suppliers change. This then presents options to businesses that may not have even considered using less pollutant, recyclable materials.

The few people that mentioned something to one restaurant may not have known that they helped to start such a ripple, but they did and I think that it is a great example of how consumers as individuals in a capitalistic society can affect the practices of larger companies and corporations and help to make noticeable changes in the world.

A few days later my friend told me that she went out and bought reusable grocery bags, inspired no doubt by the few people who simply asked about an alternative to Styrofoam.

-Michael R. Johnson, Cornell University Student

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mitt Romney a Second Opinion...


As a new voter, the process of finding a presidential candidate to support seems overwhelming. Not only are there still many candidates at this time but the number of issues our nation faces is astounding. Trying to pick the best of the bunch requires careful understanding of all subjects relating to their election. In this blog I will focus on the environmental policies of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney firmly believes that the US needs to reduce its dependence of foreign oil. He proposes that we do this by increasing funding for research into alternative energy sources. He is a strong supporter of nuclear power as well. He also advocates increasing energy efficiency and the cleaner burning of fossil fuels through processes such as carbon sequestration. All of these are environmentally friendly policies but I don’t see how he will implement them. He wants to curb federal spending but claims he is going to implement an, “Energy Revolution if you will. It will be our generation’s equivalent of the Manhattan Project or the mission to the Moon.” (http://www.mittromney.com/Issues/ending-energy-dependence) It is my understanding that a project on that scale will cost a considerable sum of money, while Romney aims to cut government spending. He also claims to support alternative energy but opposes the “Cape Wind” proposal which would put offshore wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod. It seems that former governor Romney says he supports these alternative energy types but takes a “not in my backyard” stance when they are proposed in his state. Romney also intends to reduce or dependence on foreign oil through the drilling of oil in domestic sites, notably ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf.

All in all, Romney’s environmental reform claims seem promising at first but at a closer glance I think that they conflict with his other policies. Given the nature of politics, I think he is trying to please everybody and that it would be very unlikely for many of the changes he wants to make to occur if he was elected president. For these reasons I give Romney a C on his environmental policies.

Photo Credit: This United States Congress Image is in the public domain.

-Max Royster, Cornell University Student

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dennis Kucinich


Reading recently about Dennis Kucinich’s position on Global warming I was struck by his apparent concern about the issue. Regrettably however much of his proposed policy seems out of touch with reality, a phenomenon more and more common in today’s politics. Take for example the Safe Climate Act of 2007 a bill which Kucinich is co-sponsoring in the House of Representatives. The bill calls for carbon dioxide emissions to be frozen in 2010 and reduced to eighty percent below 1990 levels by 2050. While the bills ultimate goal of heading off climate change is admirable and many of its propositions such as increased funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency initiatives, and a carbon cap and trade system are long overdue the bill’s ambitious goals seem at odds with reality. Consider how reluctant we are as a nation to accept the Kyoto protocol with its much more limited goal of reducing carbon emissions to 1990 levels and the potentially crippling economic consequences that would result from the abrupt and severe cutbacks in carbon dioxide emissions proposed by Kucinich’s bill. Add to this the fact that Kucinich is a vocal opponent of increased nuclear and hydroelectric power—currently our two largest energy sources unrelated to fossil fuels—and it becomes clear that Kucinich’s proposed energy policy has serious flaws. It’s possible I am being overly skeptical and Kucinich sees some way of successfully implementing the policy he is proposing but even so, working to make the smaller changes that are possible today a reality would seem the best strategy for achieving real progress in combating global warming. The bill’s purpose strikes me as more allow Kucinich to tout having introduced “the toughest climate bill in the house”, than to work in any meaningful way towards a practical solution to the threat of global warming. While we need to recognize and address the threat of global warming, we need realistic propositions aimed at truly achieving change, not fantasies designed to appeal to voters. By no means is Kucinich the only politician guilty of presenting unrealistic propositions designed to appeal to voters and Kucinich’s actions pale in comparison with the immeasurable harm done by candidates who for political reasons refuse to acknowledge global warming’s existence. What we are sadly lacking in this country today are voters and political leaders willing to see beyond party politics and inflated rhetoric who will work towards achieving the change on which our nation’s future depends.

Sources on Dennis Kucinich’s Energy Policy:

http://www.house.gov/waxman/safeclimate/

http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/08/01/kucinich_factsheet/

http://www.ontheissues.org/2008/Dennis_Kucinich_Energy_+_Oil.htm

http://www.dennis4president.com/go/issues/a-sustainable-future/

Photo Credit: United States Congress

-Patrick Nadeau, Cornell University Student

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Start? Enough? Not Enough? You Decide!

The official press release from the White House regarding the new Energy Bill passed by the United States Congress and slated to be signed by President George W. Bush:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
July 29, 2005

The Energy Bill: Good For Consumers, The Economy, And The Environment

"America must have an energy policy that plans for the future, but meets the needs of today. I believe we can develop our natural resources and protect our environment."

– President George W. Bush

FACT SHEET

President Bush entered office calling on Congress to pass the first national energy plan in a generation. He proposed a comprehensive energy plan to encourage conservation and energy efficiency; expand the use of alternative and renewable energy; increase the domestic production of conventional fuels; and invest in modernization of our energy infrastructure.

The energy bill passed by Congress this week paves the way for a brighter and more secure energy future with more reliable, affordable, and clean sources of energy to power America forward. It will help put us on the path to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Our reliance on imported energy did not come about overnight, and it will take time to reverse.

By harnessing the power of American innovation and technological development, the energy bill will help us transform the way that we use and produce energy - resulting in greater energy security, a growing economy, and a healthier environment for generations of Americans to come.

To Encourage Conservation And Energy Efficiency, The Energy Bill:

  • Establishes new energy efficiency standards for a wide variety of consumer products and commercial appliances, and offers tax incentives to encourage their purchase
  • Encourages improved efficiency in homes and buildings, establishes new aggressive Federal energy savings goals, and reauthorizes the Energy Savings Performance Contract program to conserve more energy at Federal facilities
  • Offers tax incentives to consumers to purchase energy-efficient hybrid, clean diesel, and fuel cell vehicles
  • Requires a new, multi-year rulemaking by the Department of Transportation to increase fuel economy standards for passenger cars, light trucks, and SUVs

To Expand The Use Of Alternative And Renewable Energy, The Energy Bill:

  • Establishes a new Renewable Fuel Standard that requires the annual use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation's fuel supply by 2012
  • Extends the existing tax credit for production of electricity from renewable resources, such as wind, biomass, and landfill gas, and creates for the first time a tax credit for residential solar energy systems
  • Authorizes full funding for the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative
  • Provides Federal risk insurance and extends the Price-Anderson Act to mitigate the potential cost of unforeseen delays and encourage investment in a new generation of safer, more reliable, and more proliferation-resistant nuclear power plants

To Increase The Domestic Production Of Conventional Fuels, The Energy Bill:

  • Makes needed reforms to clarify the onshore oil and gas permitting process, and reduce conflicts with other laws and regulations (stormwater, CZMA, hydraulic fracturing)
  • Clarifies FERC jurisdiction over siting of onshore LNG facilities to accelerate development of a global market in natural gas and help reduce prices for U.S. consumers
  • Authorizes full funding for the President's Clean Coal Research Initiative and updates Federal coal leasing laws
  • Eliminates the 2 percent "oxygenate requirement" for reformulated gasoline, to improve the flexibility of our fuel supply and reduce the number of "boutique fuels"

To Encourage Investment In Modernization And Reliability Of Our Energy Infrastructure, The Energy Bill:

  • Requires mandatory reliability standards to make the electric power grid more reliable and protect against blackouts
  • Reforms outdated tax laws to expand investments in electric transmission and generation facilities
  • Establishes last-resort Federal siting authority for transmission lines deemed in the "national interest" to ensure a better functioning power grid

The Energy Bill Also Helps Reduce The Global Demand For Energy By:

  • Working with our international partners - including fast growing nations like China and India - to encourage them to deploy the cleanest and most efficient energy technologies as they develop and grow their economies

# # #

Monday, December 17, 2007

Interesting MSNBC.Com Article

Warming seas, disease take toll on coral reefs
A top coral researcher has advice for anyone who admires reefs: enjoy it now, because if sea temperatures continue to rise, expect to see more - and more severe - disease outbreaks that wipe out colonies.

Read this MSNBC.com article now: Warming Seas

Friday, December 14, 2007

Green Holiday Tips from the Sierra Club

RECYCLE YOUR OLD CELLPHONE. Getting a new cell phone for Christmas? Not sure what to do with the old one? Now, you can drop off that old phone at any Staples store, as part of the Sierra Club cell phone recycling program. Each year, 130 million cell phones are thrown out, weighing approximately 65,000 tons. Recycling your old phone prevents hazardous elements like mercury, cadmium and lead from ending up in our landfills.
Find out more.

MAKE YOUR OWN WRAPPING PAPER. Most mass-produced wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. Instead, here's a great chance to get creative! Wrap presents with old maps, the comics section of a newspaper, or children's artwork. If every family wrapped just three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

ADD ORGANIC & LOCAL FOODS TO YOUR HOLIDAY FEAST. Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. Not only does it taste better, you'll be doing your part for the planet too. Looking for an organic turkey or ham for Christmas dinner? Find out where to get local green products in your neighborhood.

STOCKING STUFFERS: TEST YOUR ECO- KNOWLEDGE. do you have a family member who loves the outdoors? Stuff their stockings with Sierra Club Knowledge Cards, which come in a variety of outdoor themes ranging from survival skills to baby animals. Another great stocking stuffer is "guilt-free" chocolate! Give the gift of organic, fair-trade chocolate and you can eat your way to a better planet.

DO A "COOL HOME" TOUR WITH OUR ENERGY-SAVING CHECKLIST. Take a pledge this New Years' to reduce your home energy use by buying energy-efficient light bulbs. Installing only 6 compact fluorescent light bulbs will save the average American family $60 per year. You can also use our handy "Cool Homes" checklist to see what easy things you can do in your home to save energy. If there's a fire in your fireplace this Christmas, turn down that thermostat! Lowering the temperature even five degrees can take 10% off your energy bill.
Check out a complete list of energy-saving tips.

BUY ENERGY-SAVING "LED" HOLIDAY LIGHTS. Now you can decorate your house with LED lights that use 90 percent less energy than conventional holiday lights, and can save your family up to $50 on your energy bills during the holiday season! LED lights are available at many major retailers, including Target, CostCo, and Ace Hardware.

GET A PESTICIDE-FREE TREE. Demand is on the rise for Christmas trees that are not covered in chemicals; some growers use 40 different pesticides, as well as chemical colorants. The good news is that there are now a number of tree-farms that sell pesticide-free trees, so ask your local Christmas tree seller, or search for an organic tree farm near you.

RECYCLE YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE. Ninety-eight percent of Christmas trees were grown on farms, not in forests, so at least it's not as if you're cutting down an ancient tree. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. While your tree won't fit in the recycling bin with your newspapers and bottles, you can recycle your tree: many cities offer programs to turn your tree to mulch or wood chips. Call (800) CLEANUP or visit www.earth911.org to find the tree-recycling program near you.

DONATE YOUR TIME OR MONEY TO AN ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP. Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering! There are countless ways to help improve your community—and the planet—from cleaning up a local river to helping inner city kids experience the outdoors for the first time. Contact your local Sierra Club to find out about volunteer opportunities near you. A donation in honor of a loved one can also be a special holiday gift.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: GET READY FOR DINNER-TABLE DEBATE. Are you likely to be the lone environmentalist at the dinner table sometime soon? Win arguments and influence people with our famous holiday survival guide. You'll find ready responses to the predictable dinner table arguments that'll be directed at you. Who knows, you might even make a few converts!

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Follow this link to see how we can be more "green" during the holidays. I thought you might like it. (NBC is not allowing us to embed their videos yet, so you will have to follow the link!)


Dec. 13: LED lights are lighting up holiday displays across the US, and with potential energy savings worth billions, their use could spread beyond the holidays. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

Link: NBC Nightly News

Friday, December 7, 2007

Becoming Carbon Neutral

Eden Mills a small village in Canada is doing something that we can't seem to do here. They are going carbon neutral. Take a look at their website for more information:

Eden Mills is Going Carbon Neutral

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Their Own Words...

MIR9

Brad Pitt has announced that he is helping to create "green" homes for those affected by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans' 9th Ward. He recently appeared on the Today Show to discuss MIR9's mission and plan.