Archive

Environment

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

When I originally came up with the idea for this blog, I wanted to incorporate the voices from academia who have direct expertise on a wide range of environmental issues. Many thanks to Dr. Debatin, Dr. Buckley, Dr. Jokisch, Dr. Kruse, Dr. Perkins, and Dr. Fogt for their contributions every Wednesday to the blog. I have compiled all of their work and credentials here. In case you missed any, check it out!

Here is a quick list of all the articles:

Dr. Debatin: What’s the Flurry About Fracking?”

Dr. Buckley: “Urban living could hold key to greener tomorrow” and “The costs of consumption

Dr. Jokisch: “The case for buying local

Dr. Kruse: “Possible consequences of the extractive industry

Dr. Perkins: “The Extractive Industry, Decision-Making, and Environmental Justice in Athens County

Dr. Fogt: “Global Climate Change: Science, misinformation, and the role of humans

And here are profiles of all the professors. I put the links down here too, just for kicks.

Dr. Debatin: Bernhard Debatin is a professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and Director of Studies of the HTC journalism program. He is also a member of the concerned citizens group “Slow Down Fracking in Athens County” (SD-FRAC) and frequent contributor to the group’s website (http://slowdownfracking.wordpress.com/).

Check out his article on how fracking could affect students and residents in Athens County.

“What’s the Flurry About Fracking?”

Dr. Buckley: Geoff Buckley is an associate professor in the Department of Geography. His research interests include conservation history and sustainability; management of public lands, especially state forests and urban green spaces; environmental justice; and the evolution of mining landscapes. Over the years his articles have appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geographical Review, Historical Geography, Urban Ecosystems, Maryland Historical Magazine, Appalachian Journal, and the Encyclopedia of Energy. His first book, Extracting Appalachia: Images of the Consolidation Coal Company, 1910 – 1945 was published in 2004 (Ohio University Press). His most recent book, America’s Conservation Impulse: A Century of Saving Trees in the Old Line State, was published in 2010 (Center for American Places). Another book, Mountains of Injustice: Social and Environmental Justice in Appalachia, co-edited with Michele Morrone, is scheduled for publication in fall 2011 (Ohio University Press).

Check out his work on urban sustainability and how our consumption affects sustainability.

Urban living could hold key to greener tomorrow

The costs of consumption

Dr. Jokisch: Brad Jokisch is an associate professor in the Department of Geography. His areas of specialization include cultural and political ecology, agriculture, population, migration, and Latin America.

He took a hard look at our food system and how it ties into the environment.

The case for buying local

Dr. Kruse: Natalie Kruse is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. Kruse holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Geosciences from Newcastle University, and a B.C. in Civil Engineering with a minor in Geological Sciences from Ohio University. A winner of the Marshall Scholarship, Kruse won the Best Paper award from Mine Water and the Environment in 2009. She also won the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and the Morris K. Udall Scholarship.

Dr. Kruse, an expert in extractive industries, examines the potential impacts of shale gas.

Possible consequences of the extractive industry

Dr. Perkins: Harold Perkins is an assistant professor in the Geography Department at Ohio University. He conducts research on the political economy of environments, including claims for environmental justice.

He wrote a little bit about environmental justice and who has the decision-making power in Athens County.

The Extractive Industry, Decision-Making, and Environmental Justice in Athens County

Dr. Fogt: Ryan Fogt is an Assistant Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Geography.  He is also the director of the Scalia Laboratory for Atmospheric Analysis.  His research interests span a wide range of topics on climate variability and change, with a particular focus on Antarctica.

Dr. Fogt wrote about the science behind global warming and climate change, and the misinformation being spread by certain groups that oftentimes leaves the public confused.

Global Climate Change: Science, misinformation, and the role of humans

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

 

Brief eco-news roundup for today: Apple looks to go green, Los Angeles bans plastic bags, and the story of an ancient civilization that was “upended” by climate change.

 

1. “Apple Dumps Coal—Sort Of

Tech giant takes another step in its quest to be a green leader.

 

2. “L.A. OKs ban on plastic bags at checkout

Los Angeles becomes the biggest city to ban plastic bags and the latest in the state of California, where bans of various degrees are in place.

 

3. “An Ancient Civilization, Upended by Climate Change

Climate change took out an ancient civilization. Are we paying attention?

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

 

What devices should you unplug to save money and energy? Why is natural gas threatening carbon storage? Could skyscrapers of the future be covered in windows that double as solar panels? If any of these questions interest you, dive into today’s articles!

 

1. “Unplugging These 6 Gadgets Will Cut Your Electricity Bill

Saving money and energy: two good things that often go hand-in-hand. But it’s not just about turning off our gadgets, we should be unplugging them too. However, some make more of a difference than others. Find out in this article.

 

2. “With Natural Gas Plentiful and Cheap, Carbon Capture Projects Stumble

Last week I wrote about some carbon storage initiatives here. However, cheap natural gas may be discouraging energy companies from pursuing carbon capture technology. Natural gas does burn more cleanly than coal, but it is still a fossil fuel that emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases when burned as fuel.

 

3. “Will Solar Windows Transform Buildings to Energy Producers?

Sneak preview (from the article): “The vast amount of glass in skyscrapers and office buildings represents enormous potential for an emerging technology that turns windows into solar panels.

Businesses and entrepreneurs are looking to utilize this technology. It is definitely a fascinating proposition.

The term sustainability is used so often today it has come to mean both anything and nothing. At one end of the spectrum, it is used by advertisers to sell “green” items and technologies that promote a way of life that is clearly unsustainable. At the other end, sustainability is linked to an emerging worldview that aims to protect and conserve resources, build strong human communities, and strengthen our connection to the natural world. Ask ten people on the street what the definition of sustainability is and be prepared for ten different responses!

Before we can even think about sustainability, we need to address a couple of points. First, we need to recognize there is a problem. In America, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is our consumption of resources. Whether it is the food we eat, the water we drink, the gas we burn, or the electricity we use, we need to understand that everything we depend on for survival has a source in the earth and that our consumption has social and environmental impacts, both here and abroad. In other words, all of us are responsible in some way for the environmental changes occurring all around us.

Unfortunately, many of us are only vaguely aware there are environmental costs to our consumption. When we flip a light switch on campus, for example, the electricity that illuminates the room comes from the burning of coal. Few of us, however, are aware of the costs associated with coal mining. Likewise, when we purchase a computer, a key component of the circuit board is copper. How many of us are aware of the environmental damage associated with copper mining? Because few of us ever witness the destruction of mountaintop removal or visit a giant open pit mine, we fail to make the connection between our resource use and the environmental damage associated with it. Thus we are lulled into thinking there is no cost to our consumption. According to Martin Pasqualetti, the problem lies in the fact that our landscapes of consumption – shopping malls, residential developments, etc. – are far removed from our landscapes of resource extraction.

Encouraging people to adopt more sustainable practices is difficult when so few of us get a chance to witness the environmental impacts of our consumption. Even when we do, it is easier to keep doing what we are doing than to change our habits. It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear someone confess to feeling a little guilty about using resources wastefully, but then admit they will most likely not change their ways. “I’m just one person,” they say. “What difference can one person make?” Of course, it’s true. One person doesn’t make a difference. However, when you add up all our “individual ecologies,” collectively, we can have quite an enormous impact.

This leads us to the second point we need to address. Many of us want to do the right thing and often say we are doing the right thing but too often our words and our actions do not align. Harold Nicolson once said, “We are inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals, others by their acts.” Unfortunately, we’ve gotten quite good at this. In sustainability circles this is known as the “green gap.” Consider a recent study focused on the U.S. Approximately 68% of those surveyed say that walking, biking, or taking public transit to work is an important thing to do but only 27% of us actually do it. Likewise, a whopping 81% of Americans agree that buying food grown locally is important but only 49% of us ever do.

For those of us who recognize there is a problem and are willing to do something about it, there are plenty of resources to turn to, especially here at Ohio University. A good place to start is with the university’s sustainability plan (http://www.ohio.edu/pacsp/sustainability_plan.html).

As the plan suggests, there is more to living sustainably than simply behaving in a more environmentally benign manner. Geographer Rutherford Platt offers us a glimpse of what a more “sustainable future” might look like. It is a “vision” with five parts:

• Green: protection and restoration of ecological services;

• Restorative: promotion of physical and mental health and safety of residents;

• Efficient: conserve energy, matter, water, and time;

• Equitable: inclusive, being socially and environmentally just;

• Neighborly: maintain a sense of community and a sense of place.

The aims are laudable but making them a reality will be challenging. We must recognize that there is a cost to our consumption and we must be willing to act.

Dr. Geoff Buckley is an associate professor in the Department of Geography. His research interests include conservation history and sustainability; management of public lands, especially state forests and urban green spaces; environmental justice; and the evolution of mining landscapes. Over the years his articles have appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Geographical Review, Historical Geography, Urban Ecosystems, Maryland Historical Magazine, Appalachian Journal, and the Encyclopedia of Energy. His first book, Extracting Appalachia: Images of the Consolidation Coal Company, 1910 – 1945 was published in 2004 (Ohio University Press). His most recent book, America’s Conservation Impulse: A Century of Saving Trees in the Old Line State, was published in 2010 (Center for American Places). Another book, Mountains of Injustice: Social and Environmental Justice in Appalachia, co-edited with Michele Morrone, is scheduled for publication in fall 2011 (Ohio University Press).

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

Last week, about 300 Athens residents convened to learn more about the new oil and gas leases being proposed by Cunningham Energy and attorney John Lavelle. You can read that story here. In response to this, today’s news stories will focus on fracking.

1. “Athens County to be Fracked Through the Back Door?

Dr. Bernhard Debatin is a member of the concerned citizens group “Slow Down Fracking in Athens County” (SD-FRAC) and frequent contributor to the group’s website. He has been closely following fracking in Athens and gives a detailed breakdown of Cunningham Energy in his latest post.

 

2. “New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

New peer-reviewed research has raised even more questions about the impacts of fracking. This study examines the possibility of groundwater contamination.

 

3. “Brooklynites: Don’t Frack Our Beer!

On the lighter side of things, fracking could contaminate our beer! Clearly, this is unacceptable. But really, to quote the article, “The brewmeister of Brooklyn Brewery says toxic fracking chemicals like methanol, benzene, and ethylene glycol (found in anti-freeze) could contaminate his beer by leaking into New York’s water supply.” Read on for more about fracking potentially botching the brew.

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

Since today’s stories are similar and both so awesome, I’m going to keep it simple with just two. Both deal with efforts to fight both global poverty and climate change, two very noble causes. Climate change also disproportionately affects the poor because they lack access to the infrastructure, technology, and resources that protect us from extreme weather and allow us to keep crop production at a stable level.

1. “Combating Climate Change and Global Poverty in One Fell Swoop

A innovative new organization looks to tackle global poverty with reforestation projects that bring money into poor third-world communities. At the same time, these large forests capture carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. The nonprofit, called Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP), is “the only 501(c)3 public charity in the United States that simultaneously tackles global poverty alleviation and climate change abatement,” according to the article. Read on to see how you can become part of this amazing cause.

 

2. “Peru’s coffee growers turn carbon traders to save their farms from climate change

Adopting a similar strategy, Peruvian coffee growers are receiving carbon credits for every ton of carbon their forests capture. They will then sell them later on the global market, addressing climate change while boosting the local economy in a developing country.

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

1. “Don’t call me an environmentalist

The term “environmentalist” gets a bad rap, and the word “environment” is often a loaded word. People often think “environmentalists” care more about nature than humans, but this is not the case. Really, “environmentalists” are more concerned about protecting the environment to make sure humans do not suffer consequences like resource shortages and an unstable climate, both now and in the future.

2. “I Call the Vote: A Farm Bill Litmus Test for the Food Movement

Agriculture has a lot to do with the environment and our health. The Farm Bill has a lot to do with what we eat, and has typically favored big, industrial commodity crops used to make cheap, unhealthy junk food. Check out how the farm bill could include more funding for fruits and vegetables and encourage healthy eating for kids.

3. “Poll: Americans Will Pay for Clean Energy

Clean energy is growing and will be essential in the future if we are to meet our energy needs without taxing the environment. Right now, renewable energies are not cost effective compared to fossil fuels, which is one of the biggest factors holding them back. However, a new poll shows many Americans may we willing to pay the extra amount for clean energy.

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

A recent Post letter caught my attention. It was written by Dylan Gustafson, a sophomore studying finance and the communication chair for the OU College Republicans, and talked about global warming. It can be read here.

Last week, the Ohio University College Republicans hosted Robert Wagner, a professor at Ohio State, to give a talk about global warming as part of their Conservative Week. The letter said“Professor Wagner himself is a skeptic of global warming and has gone around the country explaining and debating his own theories about certain occurrences in nature and their relation to the activities of the human population.”

Unfortunately, I had class and was not able to attend the presentation, but I decided to do some background research. The letter did not mention that Wagner is a professor of finance and economics at Ohio State University and is not an expert in the field of climate science.

Gustafson also claimed, “the topic of global warming and its validity isn’t going away anytime soon.”

I agree and disagree. Global warming certainly isn’t going away anytime soon — the earth will continue heating up whether we like it or not. However, the validity of it has already been established. There really is no debate over whether the earth is heating up; every temperature record will show that. The question is, how much of it is caused by humans?

Even here, scientists are almost unanimously in agreement that we are indeed contributing to climate change. According to a study published in the National Academy of Sciences, 97-98 percent of top climate scientists agree that global warming is attributable to human activity.

Gustafson also wrote, “It was rare that you turn on a television and saw a scientist or a professor talking about the facts in context or without political motivation. Most of the time, it was a politician and some piece of legislation he or she was going to bring to the floor of the House or Senate.”

Bingo. We have arrived at the problem. By continuing to make the debate political instead of scientific, we are hindering progress toward addressing the problem. If it were kept scientific without these outside political factors, there really would be no debate. The scientists are already in agreement.

Gustafson’s statement may be true, but I find it misleading, making it sound like all scientists and professors have political motivation behind their work. Perhaps it is rare to find something unbiased on TV, but there are many scientific articles and countless scientific studies that have nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with science.

It’s 2012 — one would hope we would have reached a consensus by now and be moving forward as a society, collectively working together to fight climate change. Instead, it remains a political football, where science is sometimes ignored in favor of “skeptics.”

Meanwhile, the earth continues to heat up, and more extreme weather events occur. Good luck, kids!

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

Domestic drilling, a new way of providing solar energy, and the relationship between universities and corporations are examined in today’s articles.

 

1. “CBO Report: Boosting Oil Production Won’t Protect Americans From Gasoline Price Shocks

A report by the Congressional Budget Office shows that increasing domestic oil production does not decrease gas prices here in the U.S. If this is the case, why then would we push for domestic drilling like the Keystone Pipeline considering its severe consequences for the environment?

 

2. “How Your College Is Selling Out to Big Ag

Some major agricultural research universities see a major amount of their funding come from corporate agribusinesses. Is this a good thing, providing money for research? Or is it compromising the integrity of the schools and researchers?

 

3. “Solar Installers Offer Deals, Gaining Converts

Solar power offers probably the greatest potential of any renewable energy. Read how some solar companies are making it easier to get solar panels in homes. If we learn how to efficiently harness any substantial portion of the sun’s energy, we could solve all our energy problems.

Austin Stahl | as506610@ohiou.edu | @AustinStahl24

In case you haven’t already, check out today’s professor piece on the science and misinformation of global warming and climate change here. In light of this, global warming will be the focus of today’s articles.

1. “State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings Across the United States

Choosing what vehicle to drive is one of the biggest determining factors of our carbon footprints. Switching over to an electric vehicle can led to a significant reduction in both greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs. However, much of it depends of how the electricity for your vehicle is sourced. This report breaks down the power grids in the U.S. and crunches the numbers for electric cars in terms of emissions and fuel costs.

2. “Heartland Institute Jumps the Shark

The Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian think tank that tries to undermine climate science and environmental regulations, ran a billboard that equated believing in global warming to being a terrorist. The sign said “I Still Believe in Global Warming, Do You?” with a picture of the man infamously known as “The Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski. This witty column delves into the absurdity of the tactics and reasoning of this denialist group. Clearly, believing in science and global warming makes you a terrorist. Oh yeah, the Heartland President Joseph Bast didn’t apologize for the billboard either.

Here’s a picture of the billboard:

3. “Carbon Footprint Reduction

Lastly, here are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

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