Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Refill Not Landfill Pamphlet

As part of 3E-COE's initiative to reduce water bottle waste, Steve and I created this pamphlet to try to persuade people to break the bottled water habit and begin drinking tap water from a refillable canteen. So remember, refill not landfill.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More reasons to discard the bottle?

As if we needed more...

The Discovery Channel has posted this:

"What we found was really surprising to us," Wagner said. "If you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds."

The study adds to growing concerns about products that span the plastic spectrum, added Shanna Swan, an epidemiologist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.

"This is coming at a good time because the use of bottles for consuming water is getting very bad press now because of its carbon footprint," she said. "It's just another nail in the coffin of bottled water, the way I see it."

This can go for teachers as well

This story at DotEarth brought something to me today.

President Obama addressed the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday morning, stressing the commitment he made during his campaign to “restore science to its rightful place” in the policy arena.

But he also urged scientists to take steps themselves to engage with citizens and leaders. In the address, he called for scientists to move out of the laboratory into society, essentially becoming emissaries in what he said must be a national movement to inspire and enable young people “to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.”
This is not meant to be a political blog.

Obama has called on scientists to move out of the laboratory and into public life. Teachers? We can do this too. We need to move out of the classroom and into public life as people who are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about climate change and the small things we can do. Our action on plastic water bottles is just this kind of thing - a bold public move that moves us toward less waste, toward less built-in obsolescence, and we hope for and act toward the slowing of the things that we consume.

He has asked common people “to be makers of things, not just consumers of things." We are common people. We can do this. The little incremental steps that we each take, day in and day out, change who we are. As we change, so too does some part of the world inside us and outside us.

If you are interested, you should also note that Obama recognizes the founding of land-grant universities. We attend one.


Update: Today I saw that people had been busy posting things around campus as well. I saw pamphlets at study tables and fliers on bulletin boards. Tomorrow I know that more of us will be out to push this a little bit more. We're tired but eager to see change. I actually think it might be good to drop some in faculty mailboxes of all things. I did it in EDTHP today. Maybe go to other departments and try it if you can afford to do it!


Feel free to print it out and use it.

Post it around campus.

Post it on your door.

Give it to friends and talk to them about why we do this.

We do it because we know the costs...costs that have been hidden from us for profits made in the name of "convenience." It's a culture that comes from what Wendell Berry calls "a symbiosis of an unlimited greed at the top and a lazy, passive, and self-indulgent consumptiveness at the bottom."

We are not deluded. We know that there is much work to be done and that what's on this flier is only the tip of the iceberg. It's a massive iceberg that presents our generation's and future generations' proverbial ship with disaster. So let's do this thing and ween ourselves off of this alleged convenience.

Let's do the right thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Living on Earth's educational outreach

The show Living on Earth on PRI has been devoted to reporting on the state of the ecosystem for years. I never knew that they had an educational outreach component too!
Living on Earth’s Ecological Literacy Project engages middle and high school students in a science-based exploration of their local environment and trains them in professional radio production.

The following are some examples of the students’ work:
Camden High School, New Jersey
Queen of Peace High School, Chicago
Northside College Preparatory School, Chicago
Now that's something to consider going into the future. If the school you work in has a radio program, then engage those who want to do media in fighting for and reporting on a sustainable life.

Some beautiful pictures of our local watershed

I love Spring Creek and its tangled banks. A realtor took these pictures (visit here for originals).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Indigenous people meet to work on climate change/ Updated

We take the nation state for granted, barely aware of how large numbers of people work outside of the day-to-day life of national bureaucracies. These people, like the Lapps of Scandanavia, the Inuit of North America, the Aboriginal Australians, and San of the Kalahari, the Yanamamo of South America, or the pymies of West Africa live subsistence lives directly tied to their daily interaction with the Earth. Unsurprisingly, many of these people face incredible challenges to their culture's survival because of anthropogenic climate change.

Many of them are getting together to do something about it reports New Scientist. In a recently posted article, they report:

From Arctic Inuit to Pacific Islanders, indigenous peoples from 80 countries are meeting at a summit in Anchorage, Alaska (pdf), this week to forge a common position on climate change. They want an official voice alongside national governments in upcoming negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto protocol.

The meeting is emphasising indigenous peoples' histories of adapting to change. But beneath it is the fear that they will be trampled by rich countries trying to cut greenhouse emissions by managing indigenous lands.

Much of the ethical talk about climate change has focused on how the poorest people (a note on this below) in the world will be affected the most and worst by climate change. People like Dan Brown, James Garvey, and Peter Singer, organizations like the IPCC, the U.N., and too many publications to list here have been saying for years that melting ice will affect Inuits and Lapps and people in Micronesia will have their island homes flooded and they will either drown or be displaced. Many of these people have been experiencing these effects. They know what is happening to them because of modern industry and they are owed a place at the table to determine their own fates and how we invest in a common fate. This might well necessitate recalibrating the international deliberative bodies that work on climate change.

If we believe in democracy then people unaffiliated with national governments should have some voice. People with their own sovereign communities are owed fairness and justice. We owe them their survival at the very least. Currently, they are consigned to doom if we continue the status quo.

Finally, it strikes me that even calling these people poor is a misnomer. How can we call a people who have lived in these habitats - indeed evolved into these habitats as nature has selected them - poor? They are not monetarily wealthy because their purpose has not to become monied people, but people adapted to their climates and bioregions. It seems to me that we do not face an issue here of rich and poor, but an issue of the adapted and the unadapted. We have developed such maladaptive behaviors that the well-adapted are being selected out. How is that selection happening?

There are at least two versions at work. The Inuit and Lapps are facing melting tundra such that muddy and unpassable morasses make it extremely difficult or impossible for disparate groups to visit one another. Those with industrially-desirable resources are being face industrial theft and displacement. As New Scientist reports

Forest dwellers such as the Dayak tribe of Borneo or the pygmies of Cameroon fear they will be dispossessed by forest developers rushing to grab carbon credits by cutting and replanting trees.

Other indigenous peoples are already being displaced as foreign companies grab "unoccupied" indigenous lands to plant biofuels or "carbon offset" trees to compensate for fossil fuel use elsewhere.

"We're having the hardest time we've faced in 500 years," says Dennis Martinez, an ecologist and O'odham (Pima) Indian at the meeting. He says indigenous peoples living off natural resources could be highly resilient to climate change – but not if their cultures are destroyed as the rest of the world tries to respond.

Such is the cost of Western life we are to suppose. This is a call to each of us in my opinion. A call to think about how schools play into this system. I think that we need to reconsider how the schools in which we participate as students and teachers prepare us for a life that takes the natural environment of West Africa and transforms it for its own purposes instead of leaving it for the people, animals, and plants that live in West Africa. I think that if we think long and hard about it we can see that not only are we complicit in ecocide, but in (sometimes) slow culturcide and genocide. Preparing people to become the many things that we become as professionals - farmers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, plant workers, taxi cab drivers - has an ethical dimension that has been hiding and hidden from us for decades.

Now we are coming to face a problem so vast that it sometimes seems insoluble: How does what I do in the classroom continue behavior in other people that leads to unintended destruction? This might be the most awful and most important question that we as a profession face? But it's a question that we have to answer so that we can change what is into what ought to be. It seems that, at the very least, we need to engage in some sort of retracted resource use in our own lives, perhaps in our classrooms themselves, a recalibration of day-to-day activities in which schools now invest such that we are using our bodies more for their own sustenance in gardens or farming, and learning more and more from indigenous peoples who have lived within their own niches for millennia. It is time to center education on our own places.

It is time to adapt. An integrated community school can be that place.


If you want to watch the Indigenous People's Summit on Climate Change click here (artwork at right). It started on Monday, has run through today (HAPPY EARTH DAY!), and concludes tomorrow. Their summit goals are:

1. Consolidate, share and draw lessons from the views and experiences of Indigenous Peoples around the world on the impacts and effects of climate change on their ways of life and their natural environment, including responses;

2. Raise the visibility, participation and role of Indigenous Peoples in local, national, regional and international processes in formulating strategies and partnerships that engage local communities and other stakeholders to respond to the impacts of climate change;

3. Analyze, discuss and promote public awareness of the impacts and consequences of programs and proposals for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and assess proposed solutions to climate change from the perspective of Indigenous Peoples; and

4. Advocate effective strategies and solutions in response to climate change from the perspective of the cultures, world views, and traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples, including local, national, regional and international rights-based approaches.

I am eager to see what happens as a result of this.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Campus Earth Day Celebration

I hope that others were able to make it down to Penn State's Earth Day Celebration today. I saw some really fine posters from various student groups, from EDTHP 440 students, and a host of local people. Follow up on the action at Eco-Action's website.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An edible schoolyard?

This makes me think we need a garden at the College of Education more than anything? How do teachers lead when we are ignorant? We don't.

So let's follow in the best way we can. Let's learn!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

David Suzuki to visit Penn State

Hi everyone,

Environmentalist David Suzuki will be visiting Penn State on April 20. The details are below in the press release:

David Suzuki, former host of the CSB science magazine show
The Nature of Things, to speak on campus

David Suzuki, an award-winning scientist, environmentalist, and broadcaster, is the keynote speaker for the 5th annual Colloquium on the Environment. He will give the talk "The Challenge of the 21st Century: Setting the Real Bottom Line" on Monday April 20, 2009. The event will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Auditorium and it is open to all faculty, staff, students, and to the general public.

David Suzuki co-founded the David Suzuki Foundation in 1990 and the Foundation has worked to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us. Focusing on four program areas oceans and sustainable fishing, climate change and clean energy, sustainability, and the Nature Challenge - the Foundation uses science and education to promote solutions that conserve nature and help achieve sustainability within a generation.

Suzuki is renowned for his radio and television programs that explain the complexities of the natural sciences in a compelling, easily understood way. His television career began with CBC in 1971 when he wrote and hosted Suzuki on Science. He then created and hosted a number of television specials, and in 1979 became the host of the award-winning The Nature of Things. Suzuki is also recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology. He is the recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for Science, the United Nations Environment Program Medal and the Global 500. He is a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and recognized by Time Magazine as a Hero for the Environment. Dr. Suzuki earned a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago, and spent 40 years on the genetics faculty at the University of British Columbia before retiring in 2001.

His visit follows keynote presentations by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the inaugural Colloquium on the Environment in 2004, Christine Todd Whitman in 2005, William McDonough in 2006, and Amory Lovins in 2008. The Colloquium is sponsored by the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the University's Finance and Business Environmental Stewardship Strategy.

For more information please visit: The event is free and open to the public.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Human Population and Climate Change?

There have been lots of people who have warned about ecological catastrophes from Thomas Malthus to Rachel Carson to James Lovelock and E.O. Wilson. But one of the enduring voices of the late-20th and early 21st-century has been Paul Ehrlich who wrote The Population Bomb in the late 60s which argues that human population explosions are tied to an impending climate change, extinction, and a host of other problems. He's just written a new book, The Dominant Animal (which I haven't read yet) and he's talked about it in the following lecture at Stanford. That last link is a link to a Ehrlich's website.

What I think is most amazing is that he addresses the problem of how we are schooled and educated about how the world works. How does population work? What are its effects? How do we live more simply? These are questions to ask after watching and reading him.

You can also watch this shorter video from

The Dominant Animal by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich from Island Press on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Amazon: It's not all despair

I am the resident doomsayer. "EXTINCTION! CLIMATE CHANGE!" Maybe I come across as a Chicken Little sometimes. So it's nice to have some light in the midst of all of the gloom I bring.

A few weeks ago I posted a piece on the Copenhagen Climate Council that has since incurred a a bit of a push back regarding what seemed like too much zeal by some of the scientists present at the meeting. Climate change is real. It's bad. It might be really bad. But where and how to act and how fast? There are some differences of opinion on that matter among the participants. Since that time, some people have come out on different sides of the issue. I won't go through it here because DotEarth has a good round-up you can check out. We can hope that some of this will be cleared up by the United Nations Climate Change Conference also to be held in Copenhagen in December.

Some of the people at that conference released some extraordinarily sour news about the fate of the Amazon and The Guardian covered it. But maybe it's not all bad. Maybe there's some good news about the Amazon. Namely, it's not irrevocably doomed. Phew!

A recent response piece in The Guardian by some people studying Amazon deforestation states:

Scientific understanding advances over time, and all this discussion of uncertainty could be considered as the normal "to and fro" of the scientific process if the stakes were not so high. On the one hand, there is a clear and pressing need to communicate the overwhelming scientific evidence for the severity of potential climate change to a sometimes sceptical public and lethargic political process. But journalism that highlights only the most catastrophic scenarios has the potential to backfire.

If rainforests were already doomed based on the bulk of scientific evidence, then so be it. But when such a story is promoted, based on a model simulation that has not yet been reviewed by other scientists, it may do a lot of damage.

Climate change is undeniably a serious threat, and our comments should not be seized upon as an excuse for delay or inaction. Rather, conserving Amazonian forests both reduces the carbon dioxide flux from deforestation, which contributes up to a fifth of global emissions, and also increases the resilience of the forest to climate change. The potential impacts of climate change on the Amazon forest must be a call to action to conserve the Amazon, not a reason to retreat in despair.

I am reminded here of the words of Wendell Berry: "What is the use in saying, 'There is no use?'" In despair there is sympathy and the knowledge of some other way. In despair there is hope. The Amazon might yet be saved.