Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour this Saturday

So this Saturday, Penn State is doing a lot for Earth Hour. And, I got a really good email from Paul Ruskin at OPP that shows some small participation! Cool! Maybe we can see that we should step it up a bit...make a slippery slope of it.

Earth Hour Participation

(University Park) On Saturday, March 28th at 8:30 p.m., the exterior lights on Penn State’s Old Main will go out for Earth Hour 2009. “We feel it is symbolically important to join in this worldwide effort to show the effect that many people, working together, can have on climate change,” says Steve Maruszewski, Deputy Director of the Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant. In addition, decorative floodlights at the Lion Shrine, the Nittany Lion Inn and the Information Sciences and Technology building will be shut-off. Even the Bryce Jordan Center Marquee sign will be dark in honor of this international collaboration. Penn State students suggested various building lights to consider, and after safety evaluations, all were approved.

Penn State also encourages students, faculty, staff, and local businesses to participate in this effort by turning off their individual office and residential lights during that hour to show their support for slowing the effects of climate change. Penn State will be joining over 2,712 cities in 83 countries in this event sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund. Other cultural icons that will go black include Chicago’s Sears Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, New York’s United Nations and Empire State Building, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. What began as an effort in Sidney, Australia two years ago has grown into a worldwide celebration of the power of people to turn it off.

Here's to a small step!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Now here's a way to get attention to water bottle waste

Some students from Green Reps at SUNY Cortland had a brilliant idea. String up 1,800 bottles on three trees on their campus to draw attention to energy use and waste on and from their campus.

"Three trees in front of Neubig Hall on the SUNY Cortland campus took on a different look Wednesday, courtesy of students trying to make a point about bottled water.

The Green Reps, students who advocate for colleges to find ways to cut down energy use and trash in residence halls, tied plastic water bottles in the trees’ lower branches using hemp twine."

Friday, March 20, 2009

The White House Garden!

Guess what all? The New York Times reports that the White House will be installing an organic garden. And guess what?

It's for learning and teaching!!!

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three fifth graders from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington will help her dig up the soil for the 1,100-square-foot plot in a spot visible to passers-by on E Street. (It’s just below the Obama girls’ swing set.) Students from the school, which has had a garden since 2001, will also help plant, harvest and cook the vegetables, berries and herbs.
This is what we need. We have been calling for it and they have responded. Let's all take a moment and write to Dean Monk about our proposed teaching and learning garden and urge him to come on board as I did earlier this semester. I wrote:

School Gardens:
For the past year I have found that placed-based ecological education might best be accomplished with school gardens. Students who work in gardens find that they develop innate understandings of living things by cultivating flowers and vegetables, weeding, eating them, and sharing them with friends. Gardens naturally build community and interconnectedness with nature by making the place itself the learning environment. As John Dewey would note an educative experience must be connected and continuous such that a student can apply to her/his life outside of school. Gardens can and do break down artificial barriers between schooling, working, eating, and nature, thereby providing Dewey’s pleasurable and continuous educative experience.

Alice Waters, owner of one of San Francisco’s great restaurants Chez Panisse, has worked with the in Edible Schoolyard in Bay Area schools and the Garden Project. The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley explains itself as follows:

The Edible Schoolyard, in collaboration with Martin Luther King Junior Middle School, provides urban public school students with a one-acre organic garden and a kitchen classroom. Using food systems as a unifying concept, students learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare nutritious seasonal produce. Experiences in the kitchen and garden foster a better understanding of how the natural world sustains us, and promote the environmental and social well being of our school community.
Waters notes the danger of leaving nature out of food as follows:
We’re losing the values we learned from our parents when we sat around our family table, when we lived closer to the land and communicated. The way children are eating now is teaching them about disposability, about sameness, about fast, cheap and easy. They learn that work is avoided, that preparation is drudgery.
The industrial food system that has arisen in post-World War II America has wreaked untold harm on domestic and international soil, air, water supply, and human bodies, brains, and attitudes. Convenience and its correlated drudgery avoidance has an American out-of-sight/out-of-mind attitude to food and its necessary energy costs that contributes to climate change.There is no single fruit from a proverbial tree of knowledge that can impart the knowledge to future generations that will help us undo environmental degradation. However, work with the living food we eat brings knowledge and care. All of the following can come from a garden: biology, botany, soil science, meteorology, solar science, math, aesthetics, preparation, self-sufficiency, and best of all conviviality. A well-prepared social studies teacher can easily teach about history, geography, or world cultures simply by using a sweet potato. The sweet potato and its relatives are used in today’s cuisine, indigenous North American Indian food, and indigenous South Americans and Africans for millennia. A simple vegetable becomes a throughway for learning about endless things. It shows the interconnectedness of all life and the integration of human lives through time. Just a yam can become Dewey’s superb “educative experience” that is both agreeable and transferable. Luckily for us, the State College area schools have already created school gardens. In fact, this past week the State College Area School District posted a website devoted entirely to gardens. Additionally, parents are moving to incorporate school gardens in Philipsburg and Penns Valley. It seems that Penn State is well behind the curve on this matter. It is my hope that the Penn State College of Education can remedy this and work to better future teachers’ experiences in school gardens.

Please send Dean Monk a note at Maybe even point him to today's landmark (literally) announcement for planting this garden by the Obamas and the story in The New York Times. Please write nicely and assure him that this is something we not only want but need for a more sustainable future.

Slow Food and Alice Waters

Hey guys! Check this out! Alice Waters, mother of The Edible Schoolyard and Slow Food International, was on 60 Minutes. Vive the food revolution.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Meeting this week!

Biophiles! This week we are going to have a cool meeting. We need to get on task and work out a quick hash of the teach-in on water bottles, paper cups, waste, and whatnot!

Then Bob Burkholder will be joining us to give a presentation on his outdoor literature class. You guys in English education are in for a sweet treat I think. It can open up avenues for you to cross disciplines and really bring nature, ecology, geography, and ecological justice into your current and future classrooms!

Print out a flier or pass on the message!

Now More Than Ever

When I was a senior at Penn State, students occupied the HUB to protest the administration's inaction in the face of death threats to black students at Penn State (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Now, some of those same people are reconvening to look at social justice once again. As we are in solidarity with the Progressive Student Alliance, USAS, the Social Justice Reading Group, and other organizations committed to justice I think it is appropriate to post this and invite you to join this conversation.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Even stronger consensus on climate change

From March 10-12, over 2,500 delegates from 80 countries came together in Denmark to discuss climate change at the International Scientific Congress Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decision. They have released their 6 Key Messages none of which are pretty.

They are as follows:

1. Climatic Trends: The IPCC "scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized." According to John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Greenland and Antarctica are rapidly losing ice, raising sea levels by as much as 3 mm a year since 1993 (see picture at right). The IPCC predicts 18 cm to 59 cm (7"-20") by 2100.

2. Social Disruption: "Societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk." (See the Tuvaluan climate refugees at right.)

3. Long Term Strategy: "Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation."

4. Equity Dimensions: This weds 2 & 3 together. "An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable."

5. Inaction is Inexcusable: "There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches - economic, technological, behavioural, management - to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services."

6. Meeting the Challenges: "To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability."I think that this is a call to us. A very real call to step up and do more by both doing less as individual people - consuming less in general - and doing more as teachers now and in the future. I have done only the most cursory search but at this point they have no education recommendations that I can find. Schools are among the most robust institutions we have to work in and with to transform society. It seems likely that this is shaping up to be the greatest social justice issue ever in history because it is total. If you want a quick listen on the justice and ethical issues we face in this, I recommend this interview with James Garvey on Ethics Bites.

The full synthesis report for this convention will be released in June of this year. Before that, from 21-23 April 2009, Antalya, Turkey, the IPCC will meet. All of this is shaping up as the prelude to the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009 held in Copenhagen. Let's hope that we will see some leadership on education and schooling as well as in industry and government.

How can Penn State be more sustainable? Ask U.C. Davis

Sal Genito, UC Davis director of Buildings and Grounds, came last semester and spoke at Penn State's Forum on the Future for Environmental Stewardship.

One of the things they are doing: making olive oil from their olive trees. Seems obvious to turn untold numbers olives squashed by pedestrians into food. But it wasn't. The industrial food system so separates us from own food production that we don't think about olives outside of industrial olive groves as food sources. That's creepy. Take a watch.

(If memory serves, our own Jackie Edmondson was there.)

Forum for the Future 2008 from ABS Marketing on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

People Protecting Communities

In just a few weeks a representative from People Protecting Communities (PPC) will be coming to 3E-COE to talk to us about what they are doing to prevent a landfill from coming to Rush Township. Not just any landfill mind you, but the largest landfill east of the Mississippi River constructed by Resource Recovery LLC (RRLLC). Notice the green background at their website, an obvious ploy to play on the green as the coolest thing in marketing. The proposed site would go from 5,800 acres of mixed-use area and wilderness to a dump with an incinerator.

There is a recently added proposal to reconvert ten miles of rail-trail into an industrial rail line for waste disposal (pictured here). It would rip away a community-building asset for leisure, relaxation, and connection and turning it into a severing artery for the flow of thousands of tons of waste. The proposed train, as far as I understand it, would bring 55 rail cars of trash to the site 6 days a week. (People don't produce trash on Sundays?) What would that train look like?

That. Full of garbage. There are those who will say that trash has to go somewhere. True. But this is just another delay of the real problem of total waste. Endless packaging and endless throw-away culture and commodities. This is, to me, another side of the fight regarding disposable single-use water bottles. People need to reduce their waste outputs and saying "NO!" to this kind of land "development" is one way to start.

Here are PPC's 100 reasons to say no.If you're interested in learning more or joining this fight, visit their website or take action.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Water bottle madness?

This is totally absurd. It's a different step for waste but it's the most gargantuan price inflation you can imagine. He wants some comments. Leave him some.

I have some mixed feelings about using their logo and packaging on the right. But I just find this a little difficult to swallow. No pun intended.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Penn State's Madhu Prakash on YES! Magazine's Web Site

I was just checking out YES! Magazine's web site and I came across an audio interview with Madhu Prakash called "The Story of Lentils and Chicken." She talks the "artistry of food" in India and says, [although] we were very poor in terms of a cash economy[,]... in terms of a cultural economy and a flavor economy we made out like bandits, ... or kings or presidents.”

I especially enjoyed hearing about the social community of exchanging recipes and giving gifts of food.

Check it out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Vandana Shiva is coming to Penn State

Check this out everyone!

Who: Vandana Shiva, Author, eco-feminist, and environmental activist
Topic: Gender Issues and Access to Water in the Developing World
What: Public lecture followed by a reception
When: 4:30 p.m., Monday, March 16
Where: Greg Sutliff Auditorium, Lewis Katz Building (off Park Avenue and Bigler Road)
Sponsor: Penn State School of International Affairs
Read the full story on Live.

I will try to get an interview with her if possible and post it to the blog. This is very exciting!