Paul Rose visits Dartmouth!

On Tuesday Paul Rose came to Dartmouth to talk about his experiences all around the globe. A true adventurer, Paul spoke about skiing trips across Greenland, scuba diving in the Mediterranean, hiking in the Himalayas, and working in the Antarctic. Throughout his talk, Paul emphasized the importance of communication. Sure he may travel the world hiking new mountains and setting new routes or diving into a literal black hole, but then he must find a way to show the public what he has seen and experienced on his adventures (for each trip is nothing short of an adventure) and communicate to us why what he sees is important.
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Paul has worked with the BBC making documentaries of natural spaces around the world. A scuba diver at heart, Paul spent time talking about filming ‘Oceans,’ a BBC series which took him to the black hole in the Bahamas, to caverns in the Mediterranean where the effects of water level rise and fall over the centuries was evident, to the coast of Mexico where he dove with Mexicans using hacked together and out dated diving equipment, and to deep water dives searching for elusive sharks. Through this television series, as well as through his other adventures, Paul has found a way to combine what he loves best: travel and sharing.
 
Many thanks to Paul for a fabulous and animated talk and for inspiring the adventurer in all of us!
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Contributed by: Leehi Yona, 16′ Change is a curious

Contributed by: Leehi Yona, 16′
 
Change is a curious thing – on the one hand, when it comes to collective-action issues such as climate change, we need monumental action in order to make a significant difference. On the other hand, however, when you go to international conferences and learn more about the true politics of negotiations, you realize that large-scale change isn’t readily going to come from the top-down. I recently attended such conferences: the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP18), and Commission on Social Development (CSocD-51).
The UNFCCC is generally the main international body dealing with climate negotiations, and meets around every November to hash out agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, for example. There are many NGOs at these conferences, particularly youth delegates, who are responsible for both honestly reporting developments to communities back home and for attempting to positively influence the outcome of negotiations, whether through media and public pressure or direct dialogue with their countries’ negotiators (although most developed countries aren’t too keen on youth input).
 At Rio+20, and more recently at COP18, I confronted the harsh reality that our government officials aren’t going to be the ones to make the necessary commitments to fight climate change. This realization was both depressing and inspiring, because while I sadly see very little hope in the multilateral process, I’ve been reaffirmed that the work that I do, the work my fellow volunteers who strive for climate justice do, the work local communities are doing, is the positive change that is most likely to have an impact. Meeting other youth delegates from around the globe, as well as inspiring and motivating non-governmental organizations, constantly reminds me of the power of grassroots organizing and the bottom-up approach.
My experiences have further reinforced my belief in local, grassroots work. I think that we have an incredible potential here at Dartmouth and in the Upper Valley to effect positive change. As cliché as it may sound, the change really does begin with us. Ultimately, I believe that we should all collectively work together to shift the mindset people have about that climate change and sustainability means. It’s about bringing these issues to the forefront of our priorities, establishing goals and working towards them. We need to educate others, and collectively raise awareness – leading, of course, to action – on these issues. What we do here locally has tremendous importance and can definitely have an impact on the environment. Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of work to do.
We are also so fortunate at Dartmouth to be a hub for intellectual thinking, a source of networking with other communities in the United States and around the world. It’s crucial to establish a connection between what we’re doing here locally, and efforts that are being had in other regions. If there’s anything I’ve learned at the United Nations, it’s that there are people everywhere who are consistently striving to make a positive difference in their local communities. Imagine the power unleashed if we were to put our efforts together!
More citizens need to realize the crucial interconnectedness between our natural environment, our economies, and our social conditions. In my eyes, one of the biggest challenges facing sustainability is a lack of mass awareness or interest that is needed to push change forward. Grassroots organizing is quite a task, indeed, but I believe that knowledge is incredibly empowering. The more people you educate about the issues, the more energy you have to take significant action.
 
Some wonderful resources if you’d like to learn more about the UNFCCC or grassroots youth climate work:
– 350.org is a wonderful resource, particularly when it comes to issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and the campus fossil fuel divestment movement [gofossilfree.org]
– For any youth delegates, check out the Sierra Student Coalition and SustainUS for future conferences you can attend! [ssc.sierraclub.org; sustainus.org]
 – Live Streaming at U.N. Negotiations/Conferences: [webtv.un.org]
 
 Some great videos are available at:
– Wakeupfreakout.org
 
Lastly, an amazing article on what it feels like to be a U.N. delegate: [http://matadornetwork.com/change/notes-from-the-international-youth-climate-movement-doha/]
Former Dartmouth professor Dana Meadows’ “Leverage Points” article is also definitely worth reading! [http://www.sustainer.org/pubs/Leverage_Points.pdf]

US Green Market Investments

Contribution by: Emily Chan, 16′

There has always been controversy within the US over investing in renewable energy sources. For instance, a portion of Obama’s alternative energy investments has ended up declaring bankruptcy. Though only calculated to have a “failure rate of about 8%,” the other companies which did fail, such as Solyndra, created a politically unfavorable climate for future investments into renewable energy sources. The focus for reelection for politicians in the US has shifted attention away from renewable energy sources and has taken us to the point where other countries have surpassed the US (who was previously number 1) in the market for green energy. In recent green market headlines, China has finally reclaimed their spot as number 1 in green energy investments. A Yahoo finance article noted how “Green investments in China in 2012 rose 20% to $65 billion while they fell 37% in the U.S. to just under $36 billion.”

Divergent investment opportunities and specific government policies have caused this significant difference in investment amounts. China has enacted long term goals, which give incentive to investors since China will mostly likely follow through due to their increasing pollution problems. Meanwhile, the US has disjointed policies, without an umbrella federal policy for reducing emissions. Only a select amount of states have issued any explicit goals, leaving investors questioning the future for the US green market. As Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy program at Pew explains: “When a country has a strong target and a consistent policy, investors will go invest.”

 Perhaps what the US needs is a bipartisan renewable energy investment plan, one that puts the responsibility on not only the federal government but also state governments to invest in renewable energy. That way, each state can find the energy system most effective for their location. Google has an interesting method that puts the power of investment into a level even more localized than state governments- the consumer’s hands. Martin LeMonica in the MIT Technology Review explains how Google has planned for “utilities own renewable energy projects and customers have the option to purchase a portion of their energy production.” In that sense, the increased cost of the new type of energy production is placed directly on the buyer, and this increases the individual’s responsibilities in terms of responsible energy production.

We can try a top down or bottom up approach, both are not mutually exclusive. Yet, to enact these policies takes the right timing and funding. For now, now that the election season is over, we can finally focus on how we can invest for the future.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/17/news/economy/china-green-energy/

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/china-overtakes-u-lead-green-energy-investments-155809509.html 

http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/22/news/economy/obama-energy-bankruptcies/index.html

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/513906/google-floats-renewable-energy-data-center-plan/

Nuclear Power in Namibia

Contribution by: Jocelyn Powelson, 14′Image
Production of nuclear power is a very controversial subject among environmentalists; on the one hand, nuclear power produces no greenhouse gases, but on the other hand, storage of hazardous nuclear waste and safety of the power plants are still in need of big improvements. I had the opportunity to visit the Rössing uranium mine while in Namibia this past fall and struggled with these conflicting views. Rössing is one of the largest open-pit uranium mines in the world and provides about 8 percent of the world’s uranium. While standing at the edge of such a massive pit gauged into the Earth, my immediate gut reaction was of pure disgust. But then I began to think about the fact that this single pit, even if it is massive and ugly, provides the same amount of energy as thousands and thousands of coal mines (the energy-density of uranium-235 is 3 million times that of coal). Maybe it’s better to have a single mine like this in the middle of a desert (Rössing is located in the Namib desert) rather than blasting off the tops of hundreds of mountains in West Virginia in an effort to obtain coal.
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Of course, this mine comes with its own hazards; radon dust (uranium decays into radon) can cause serious lung problems, particularly if worker safety isn’t a top priority. While upon first glance, the Namib desert appears completely dead, its delicate ecosystem is actually home to a huge variety of endemic species, which the mine does threaten to some extent. And of course, there is no way to ensure that the uranium that comes from this mine will be used in safe nuclear power plants or that the waste resulting from these plants will be stored safely as it decays into the future, well past the lifetime of the human race.
Is the promise of clean, carbon-free energy with a comparatively miniscule footprint on the Earth’s surface worth these dangers? The debate will continue raging, and only time will tell.

Peru’s Stand Against GMOs

 

 

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Contribution by: Maya Wilcher, 16′

This past November, Peru placed a ten year ban on GMO foods throughout the country.  The ban “prohibits the import, production and use of genetically modified foods. The law is aimed at safeguarding the country’s agricultural diversity and preventing cross-pollination with non-GMO crops. It will also help protect Peruvian exports of organic products.”

 The decision was prompted by pressure from the Parque de la Papa in Cusco, a farming community of 6,000 members that represent six different communities.   One of their primary fears over GMOs is the loss of biodiversity and the compromising affects on native species such as purple corn and Peruvian potatoes.  Peru has one of the top ten biodiversities in the world, and famous Lima chef Pedro Schiaffino claims that, “in a country as diverse as ours, GMOs make no sense.”

The debate over GMOs is far from resolved, as advocates argue that they increase yields, allowing the world to feed a growing population and helping farmers adapt to climate change.  Critics warn of the dangers to the environment and to human health, and the dependency GMOs create between farmers and the corporations that provide GMO seeds.  Many countries have placed bans on the cultivation of GMO crops, while others place restrictions on their growth and labeling.  The US, despite polls showing that more than 90% of Americans want GMOs to be labelled, refuses to require GMO labeling.  Since 2010, agribusiness corporations have contributed about $300 million to influence Congress towards the massive introduction of GMO foods into society.

Only time will tell when it comes to GMOs, but for now, Peru has vowed to protect the rights of its citizens and farmers over the interests of corporate agriculture. 

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26686.cfm

http://www.occupymonsanto360.org/2012/03/10/peru-passes-monumental-ten-year-ban-on-genetically-engineered-foods/

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/peru/130101/latin-america-gmo-genetically-modified-monsanto-farming-agriculture

http://planetsave.com/2012/12/03/peru-bans-gmo-food-nationwide-for-ten-years/

Ice Cores Lab at Thayer

Ice Cores Lab at Thayer

Today we had the opportunity to visit the ice cores lab at Thayer School of Engineering. Kaitlin Keegan, an IGERT and grad student at Thayer, was kind enough to show us around the building and let us into the lab to show what a firn looks like.

We learned that polar ice sheets are important in Earth’s climate system and tell us a lot about environmental conditions in the past, like temperature and amount of carbon in the atmosphere. We got to see a firn from Greenland, which a part of is being used to improve understanding of the environment and climate throughout history.

Special thanks to Alden Adolph and Kaitlin Keegan for making this awesome experience happen!

What is DC3?

Dartmouth Council on Climate Change (DC3) is a group of undergraduate students based in the Dickey Center that focuses on exploring the scientific and policy aspects of climate change and their international implications.  Our goal is to increase student involvement on campus, nationally and internationally in climate change research, action and legislation.  We intend to achieve these goals through a variety of activities, namely by engaging students with experts in the field, sponsoring speakers knowledgeable about the issue and promoting student dialogue and debate about the role young people can play in addressing the problem.  We also hope to involve students in potential projects and conferences that will enrich their experiences in an international setting.