Monday, December 20, 2010

Penn State's Strategic Plan & Sustainability

Biophiles! This just in from Penn State's Office of Sustainability:
What would a sustainable Penn State look like to you? This is the key question to an ambitious sustainability strategic planning effort that was kicked off this fall with all the University’s top leadership—and the guidance of some of the world’s leading sustainable businesses. Town hall meetings and various other forums are being planned now to gather input. For more information, and to contribute, visit:
What do you think Penn State needs to do? What should the university's curriculum do to move us on a more sustainable path?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In Cancun, a movement for Mother Earth's Rights

It's not just about human rights anymore. Free speech. The free exercise of religion. The right to due process. Assembly. These are all noble things that we, as citizens of the United States take for granted and hope for more of the world's people.

What about the right to free water? To sanitation? Maude Barlowe argues that these are essential to sustainable human society. And they rest, perhaps, on something much deeper. The right of the Earth's biosphere to sustain itself.

Yes! Magazine reports that a group of concerned people have gathered at the Cancun climate talks to press the case for a broader and more sustainable vision of the rights that global society ought to guarantee and the responsibilities it must fulfill.
Activists in Cancún and Mexico City are rallying behind the idea of environmental rights. Many support a document called the “People’s Agreement on Climate Change,” which includes a “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.” It’s an idealistic name for a proposal that would sound either visionary or improbable, or both—if not for the fact that the declaration represents the work of representatives from 56 countries and of tens of thousands of people who attended a climate conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia, last April. The document declares that everybody has rights to basics like clean water and clean air, but it also says something even more extraordinary: that the planet’s ecosystems themselves have rights.

You can read the text of the document here. This is a renewed vision of humans on Earth. When the Rio conference happened in 1992, people envisioned something better and more sustainable for the world, including renewed interest in education for sustainable development under Article 21. In the years since, it has been sorely neglected and only paid with lip service by most national and global institutions.

Barlowe and others see new possibilities on this global action. And yet, maybe it is going to be most effective through the creation of local and regional stability and sustainability. I think it's fair to say that our so-called "leaders" continue to lead us into more monetary and ecological indebtedness, more consumption, and more growth. And yet, at least in this country and many others around the world from Bolivia to India to Australia, it is communities working together that make the difference. And in some of those places, change occurs when people see themselves in their places and their places in them and then love those places and recognize their limits and its limits.

So it might just be the wise thing to do (maybe) to press for a declaration of rights for Mother Earth. Without her, we would and will be nothing. But with her, we flourish.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Learning Progressions, National Standards, and Environmental Science Literacy

This just in:

Waterbury Lecture

Learning Progressions, National Standards, and Environmental Science Literacy

Professor Charles W. (Andy) Anderson

Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University


December 9, 2010 11:00-1:00

Ballroom AB, Nittany Lion Inn

“Buffet Lunch Available Following Talk”

We are currently developing new national standards for science education. This gives us a rare chance to reconsider what is REALLY important in our science curriculum and teaching. This presentation focuses on research exploring two ideas. The first is "environmental science literacy:" We should prepare students who understand the environmental consequences of lifestyle, political, and economic decisions. The second is "learning progressions:" We should organize the curriculum around increasingly sophisticated ways of thinking about or understanding the most important scientific ideas and practices.

Charles W. (Andy) Anderson is Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University, where he has been since receiving his Ph.D. in science education from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979. He is past president of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. He has been co-editor of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and associate editor of Cognition and Instruction. He recently served as a member of NRC’s Committee on Science Learning, K-8 and of the NAEP Science Standing Committee, and NRC’s Climate Change Education Roundtable. His current research focuses on the development of learning progressions leading to environmental science literacy for K-12 and college students.

Contact Information: Jennifer Glasgow 814-865-180

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fiji fights Fiji

That's right. Fiji water*, one of the most overpriced single-use plastic water bottle companies is in trouble with the Fijian government. MSNBC, AlterNet, and others are reporting that there is a dispute on taxes between the corporation and the military junta government.

AlterNet reports:
It seems there is trouble in paradise. The boutique bottled water brand Fiji Water has announced that it is shutting down its operations in Fiji after the nation's government proposed a tax hike -- from 1/3 of a cent to 15 cents a liter. This comes just a week after one of the company's top executives, David Roth, was deported.
Ouch. On the one hand, how great is it that there is less bottled water coming from one of the worst collusions in corporate-governmental history. But how terrible is it that the junta will sell it to some other corporation to come in and exploit the people and the ecosystem in which they live to sell overpriced water primarily to people who don't need it but are stuck believing in a manufactured need for "convenient" and "glamorous" "Artesian water?" Companies like Coke, Pepsi, Nestle, Violia, Suez, and Thames are probably going to scramble all over each other to get at this one.

I'm with Maude Barlowe and Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch who say the closure should be permanent. At Food and Water Watch today they write the following:

“Like oil in the 20th century, water has become increasingly managed by corporate cartels that move it around the globe, where it flows out of communities and towards money. The commodification of water will continue to contribute to human rights abuses around the world, whether it helps bolster undemocratic governments or drives water from a community where it is needed.

“Water must be managed as a common resource, not as a market commodity. Unfortunately, celebrities, sports figures and American consumers pay a premium for the Fiji Water brand, buying it at approximately 3,300 times the cost of U.S. tap water. According to the EPA, a gallon of tap water costs consumers anywhere from .002 to .003 cents. A liter of Fiji Water costs approximately $2.19.

“Ironically, Fiji Water, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been named finalists for the Secretary of State’s 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence. It would be extremely unwise for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to honor these corporations, which have been known to extract water from developing countries that are facing water scarcity or that otherwise cannot meet residents’ needs for clean water and sanitation.”

Hear here! Are you going to walk away from bottled water? Do it. And tell Take Back the Tap that you are on board by signing the pledge.

Hat tip to Vince and Jess for this one.

* You have to love the sound of the tropical rain forest coming through your computer to show you just how free and unblemished that water is. If only corporations really protected the wild that much. Maybe they'd leave the water there for the wildlife and the people. Just a thought.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day

This coming Friday, December 3rd, marks World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day.
Sustainable development is an issue all countries in the world are currently looking at. The degree of emphasis and the level investing resources invested however varies from one country to another; but regardless of whether we are talking about industrialised or developing countries, the quest for environmentally sound, socially just, economically viable and ethically acceptable development needs to be regarded as a priority by all nations of the world.

For many years now, a large number of initiatives have been carried out throughout the world to attempt to stoke up awareness about sustainable development and promote initiatives to achieve it.

The 1987 Report "Our Common Future" produced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), "Agenda 21" produced by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and the "Johannesburg Declaration" produced following the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 are examples of the type of initiatives being worked on internationally. These have been complemented by the various "National Sustainable Development Strategies" produced prior to UNCED and after Johannesburg.
As a club committed to sustainability, this marks a great opportunity to learn from others around the world about the myriad faces and facets of this thing called "sustainable development."

What is being developed and what is being sustained? So far, much of sustainable development seems to have been a global corporate-governmental collusion that has served the advantage of the already wealthy and powerful. Looking at just water issues in India, Bolivia, and Africa, the idea and practice of sustainable development might seem an oxymoron. There is no doubt we have a conundrum on our hands if we hope to bring health and material prosperity to 6.8 billion people and counting. Maybe we should be going for what James Lovelock, father of the "Gaia theory" has called a "sustainable retraction" and/or get in on the Transitions Initiatives. Or maybe that's just doomsville.

As teachers, we have a significant role to play. What do hope to sustain? Who do we develop? What and whose purpose does all of this serve? In a world of uncertain futures, how and for whom do we conceive of our teaching? These are the biggest questions we have to answer. Ultimately, we are servants and we have to serve people well.

What should education for sustainable development look like right here at Penn State and in the Centre Region? Where should we go?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And the movement just keeps getting bigger

Do you know how many people are fed up with bottled water? Millions. And lots of people are getting together in all kinds of configurations to do something about it.

Yes! Magazine has this feature:

Restaurants in California, Oregon, New York, Maine, and other states are serving only tap water. Students at Brown University were inspired to start Beyond the Bottle after Washington University in St. Louis ended sales of bottled water on its campus.

Seattle University and Gonzaga University in Washington state, and the University of Portland in Oregon, have also ended sales of bottled water. Multnomah County became the first county in Oregon to ban bottled water from county meetings and functions. Efforts to prevent a bottling company from extracting millions of liters of water from the local aquifer led the city of Bundanoon, Australia, to ban the sale and production of bottled water. Toronto, London, and other cities in Ontario, Canada as well as school boards in Ottawa and Waterloo have stopped the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities.

Bottled water is marketed as superior to tap, but public water supplies are actually cleaner, less expensive, and more environmentally responsible, according to organizations like Take Back the Tap, Food and Water Watch, and Stop Corporate Abuse. They are mounting campaigns to combat misconceptions caused by bottled-water marketing.

That's right. Take back that tap. In the near future, we'll be expanding our work on this with some film projects, a musical project, and other humorous theatrics. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Expanding Sustainability: Rights, Global Economics, and Human Transformation

Expanding Sustainability: Rights, Global Economics, and Human Transformation
A Public Talk with Chilean Environmental Economist, Diplomat and
Spiritual Teacher Alfredo Sfeir-Younis

Tuesday, Oct. 26
Noon —1:30 PM
124 Sparks

Brown Bag Lunch Talk (drinks and dessert provided)
Sponsored by
Penn State’s Center for Sustainability & Global Studies Institute

"It is impossible to attain the aims of a sustainable civilization without agreeing on a bundle of rights, be it for this generation or future generations. Sustainable Development embodies a social contract which must unfold from a vision and a set of human values that prove essential to human transformation in our global reality.”
—Alfredo Sfeir-Younis

Learn more about our speaker at:

Update: You can listen my interview with Alfredo Sfeir0-Younis here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 bottle filling stations at Penn State University Park

There are now 10 bottle-filling stations across campus! Though it's still technically in its pilot phase, it looks as though these things are going to stay. After getting a ton of emails this past spring requesting a machine or information on how to get them, I've been so happy to see new ones installed. That's fewer single-use plastic bottles in landfills.

In fact, this morning I used the Pattee Library bottle station. Its meter read over 24,000 plastic bottles saved! Yesterday I used the one in Chambers - over 10,000 bottles!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green Careers in Energy

We have had a splash in the nation's educational/schooling publishing wing with the release of Green Careers in Energy (linked through Powell's Books). I wrote an essay, titled "Education and Action to Achieve Sustainability" featured in Chapter 1: Essays on the Importance of Sustainability. Several people in the club, especially Zach B, Jared B, and Derek L contributed to the thinking and writing of the essay. Having read the other essays, we are the "bomb throwers" so to speak because we/I reject the global growth economy outright and demand place-based solutions.

I concluded the essay (with Zach's input!):
In the end, we must reduce our economy. We must not just learn about reduction. If we want a verdant planet, then we will need to educate ourselves by unlearning the consumption economy and retool culture to live while using less. Only then, will we live in a truly green economy, and will humans and all life flourish on Earth.
I think it's a hallmark of our progress and our society's progress that this can even make it into a book that informs "the economy." While not mainstream, we have people listening and reading and that is reason for hope.

The book, by the way, is a reasonably comprehensive guide to the opening field of renewable energy jobs and programs. Certainly, it provides a way for people to think and act on ways to retrain themselves in the emerging "green economy" and it helps students out there in undergraduate and graduate degrees or in their searches for the "greenest one." By the way, 3E-COE has a big fat blurb on page 242! Nicely done folks. Keep it up!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bill McKibben coming to Penn State on October 4th

Noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben to speak on October 4, 2010

Bill McKibben will speak on the University Park Campus on Monday October 4, 2010 as part of the annual Colloquium on the Environment Speaker Series. His lecture, “The Most Important Number in the World,” is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of the HUB-Robeson Center. A book signing will immediately follow his lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming and alternative energy and advocates for more localized economies. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist." In 2009 he led the organization of, which coordinated what Foreign Policy magazine called “the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind,” with 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. The magazine named him to its inaugural list of the 100 most important global thinkers, and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009.

“Penn State continues on its path to achieve a 17.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 and is currently working on the next plan. We are looking forward to Bill McKibben’s presentation and hope to be inspired to do even more,” explained Steve Maruszewski, Assistant Vice President of Physical Plant and Manager of the Finance & Business Environmental Key Initiative.

McKibben is the author of numerous books. His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. In March 2007, McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise. In April of 2010, he published Eaarth. In Eaarth, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we’ve waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

The annual colloquium is sponsored by Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the Finance and Business Environmental Stewardship Strategy at Penn State. This year’s event is also sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and Penn State Outreach. The event has brought numerous high-profile guests to campus including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christine Todd Whitman, William McDonough, Amory Lovins, and David Suzuki.

Contact for more information:

Patricia Craig

Paul Ruskin

Milea A. Perry
Program Coordinator
Penn State University
Campus Sustainability Office

1 Land and Water Building
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-865-2714


Monday, September 6, 2010

BPA in plastics - No certainty about its safety

The New York Times has an interesting article on the science and the politics surrounding bisphenol-A, a chemical found in many plastics and linings in food packaging. It is a known endochrine disruptor and some studies have linked it to a several health problems not the least of which are cancer and disruption of male development in mammals. Being that one of our major thrusts has been to convince Penn State to eliminate the sale of plastic water bottles, it might serve to get a good read on this.

Here is a speck from the middle that I think nicely highlights how groups are arrayed in this fight:
Perhaps not surprisingly, the issue of whether BPA is safe has become highly partisan.

Environmental groups and many Democrats want BPA banned, blaming it for an array of ills that includes cancer, obesity, infertility and behavior problems. Environmentalists think the United States should adopt the “precautionary principle,” a better-safe-than-sorry approach favored in the European Union. The principle says, in essence, that if there are plausible health concerns about a chemical, even if they are not proved, people should not be exposed to it until studies show it is safe. The United States takes the opposite approach: chemicals are not banned unless there is proof of harm.

Many Republicans, anti-regulation activists and the food-packaging and chemical industries insist that BPA is harmless and all but indispensable to keeping canned food safe by sealing the cans and preventing corrosion, and to producing many other products at reasonable prices. They argue that the chemical has been demonized, and that adopting the precautionary principle would lead to needless and ruinously expensive bans on safe and useful products. Both sides are closely watching the issue unfold, because BPA is widely seen as a test case in an era of mounting worry about household chemicals, pollution and the possible links between illness and environmental exposures, especially in fetuses and young children.

“This isn’t the only endocrine-disrupting chemical on the block,” said Patricia Hunt, a biologist at Washington State University, in Pullman. “It’s just the one that’s captured the attention, because researchers like me have gotten into the field and gone, ‘Holy cats! We’re all exposed to this.’ There’s been a heavy industry response, and we’ve gathered our forces together a little more strongly to shine a light on it. This is the poster child for this group of chemicals. Academic scientists are saying we need to do something, and we need to do it fast.”
Read on here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

League of Women Voters to tackle bottled water

The Centre County chapter of the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters is holding a panel discussion on the effects of plastics and other chemicals on human health. One of our most consistent allies, Lydia Vandenbergh from Penn State's Office of Sustainability, will lead things off.

Plastics, Pesticides, and Pharmaceuticals: Understanding the Potential Health Risks to Ourselves and Our Children

State College, Pa—Did you know that many plastics, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals contain harmful chemicals such as BPA that can disrupt our hormone systems? What are these harmful chemicals and how can we protect ourselves and our children from them?
A panel discussion, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Centre County, will answer these and other questions. The panel discussion—which will be held on September 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. at the State College Borough Council Chambers located at 243 South Allen Street, State College, PA 16801—will feature keynote speaker John Vandenbergh, a professor emeritus of biology at North Carolina State University, who is an expert on endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) and their human health risks. Also, presenting research on remediation of EDCs will be Rachel Brennan, an assistant professor of civil engineering at Penn State, as well as the following local water officials: Max Gill, the executive director of the State College Borough Water Authority, Cory Miller, the executive director of the University Area Joint Authority, and James Baird, a utilities system engineer at Penn State. EDCs mimic or block the action of natural hormones in our bodies. Research suggests that they may cause a host of reproductive problems in animals and humans, such as cancer of the reproductive organs and the early onset of puberty. Babies and young children are particularly at risk.
Read the rest of the release here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The greenhouse is finished

Hey biophiles! Look! It's finished! Becky M went with her husband and attached the roof. It looks beautiful! I think we owe Becky and her family a lot of praise and thanks.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Responding to Nestle

3E-COE president Peter Buckland responds to a Nestle employee who has argued for bottled water in the campus paper.

To the editor:

Yesterday, Nestle employee Tom Uhl argued that “bottled water is actually a better environmental choice than other packaged beverages.” Newsflash: water is better for you than soda full of chemical additives and high fructose corn syrup. Uhl’s argument is a distraction.

From beginning to end, the more than 50 billion bottles of water sold in the United States wreak environmental, social, and economic havoc.

First, it takes 1.85 gallons of water to manufacture one bottle of water – more than 14 times the amount of water finally delivered in a 16 oz. bottle itself. Why waste so much water?

Second, bottled water is fossil fuel intensive through its production, transport, cooling, and its disposal. Why waste so much oil to move water around?

Third, with a national plastic recycling rate of between 17% and 20%, I hardly think that we can call this a good environmental choice. Why waste so much plastic?

Finally, bottled water commodifies a biological need. It puts water into a “beverage” (it is still water isn’t it?) for “on-the-go” people (what are we hamsters in wheels?) at a price 700 to 10,000 times that of municipal water. Who profits? Not local communities and economies and the bioregions in which they live. It lines the pockets of already excessively rich people who have no right to that water. Why waste the money?

So do your part – grab a reusable bottle or cup and drink essentially free water from our Spring Creek Watershed.

"The wisdom to follow nature’s example..."

These were my statements to the press today for the National Wildlife Federation's call for more sustainable action:

Thank you for coming today.

It is my great joy to say that the Centre region gifts us with abundant rainfall, mountain gap streams, deep wells, fertile soil for agriculture, gorgeous forests, and wildlife that brings rich experiences to all lives. As a modest gardener and naturalist (and I do mean modest), mountain biker, teacher, and father I love this place so much.

By disposition, I am an optimistic person. What isn’t to love about the Seven Mountains or the fields of the Penns Valley? Just go to Allen Seeger or Penn’s Creek and you will know what I mean.

But by forecasts and data, I am a pessimist. I doubt our collective ability to get out of this mess. As a nation, we are failing to act responsibly in the brotherhood and sisterhood of nations. As a wealthy community, much of whose wealth comes from the dizzying success of Penn State University, we are failing to act responsibly in the brotherhood and sisterhood of interconnected Pennsylvania communities. Why?

If you look at the data of the recent past and the experience of too many people in Pennsylvania and the American northeast you find troubling trends.
- Pennsylvania, according to an assessment released last year by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor’s office, generates 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions though we only house a smaller portion of that global population.
- We see fish kills in rivers because of rising temperatures that make life great for fish parasites and awful for fish. Fishermen can tell you this. This is climate change in action.
- If you listen to farmers, like my Uncle Tony from Whitney Point, New York you know that hay crops come in almost a month earlier than they did in the 60s. And it’s not because of advances in fertilizers. Steadily rising seasonal temperatures.
- If you listen to the Union of Concerned Scientists you’ll see that temperature spikes caused by climate change hurt everything from the hemlock tree susceptible to bark beetles to dairy cows who have trouble thermoregulating in extreme heat let alone produce milk under duress. Many of us eat beef and drink milk. This will be a challenge.
- If you examine the wake of our fuel consumption, you see tragedy. Whether it’s the TVA coal ash spill almost two years ago, the Gulf oil gash and geyser, or the natural gas tragedies across the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the delinquent companies that run them, we are confronted with the limits of our progress at the expense of people and the places where they live with the plants and animals that support them

All of these things align with the sad and quite certain statement contained in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2010 report.

Let us speak plainly. Poor and weak people and the non-human environment have paid, are paying, and will increasingly pay for our way of life. These may seem like radical statements but they are corroborated by too much data to be waved away.

If we want to live with something approximating the standards of living we enjoy, we need to act now to maximize our collective welfare in a way that stops doing what President Lyndon Johnson called an experiment with the atmosphere. This is no longer an experiment. Today, the United States plays a game of chicken with other “developing nations” that is running millions of humans off the road, runs over thousands of non-human species a year, and is in a collision course with the physical limits of our planet. The United States, for all its power and might, cannot overcome planetary physics. Nature limits us.

We rely on fossil fuels the way that dope fiends rely on heroin. We all do. In this room almost every piece of technology that we use relies on coal, natural gas, or petroleum. They will run out. Everyone knows this. You. Me. Ed. Dr. Mann. We all know. And yet we do not collectively act to change it knowing that we are driving ourselves right over an abyss. It’s like we are the alcoholics on the Titanic who’d rather fight for the last bottle of bourbon when we know that we can survive if we just drop it and get on the lifeboat…if we only knew where the lifeboat is.

I think we do know where it is. It is in a more sustainable way of life. To start, and only to start, it lives in the reduction of our dependence on the obviously disastrous path before us that will bring us to 600 ppm CO2. In part, that means a retooling of our national economy, our industry, and our education systems away from fossil fuels and focus them on the sources that have fueled organisms on this planet for billions of years – plants have harnessed the sun and birds and insects have taken flight on the wind and we all need water. With all of our ingenuity and intelligence, I hope that we can have the wisdom to follow nature’s example and sustain ourselves without eating ourselves, and the rest of nature, in the process.

Thank you. (Peter Buckland)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Let's follow one of our own through the process of teaching

Derek Luke was a member of both 3E-COE and EcoAction at Penn State. He now teaches in Alaska. Derek organized the PowerShift conference in 2009 at Penn State and so many other events. And he is not one to shy from risk...And as someone who is a perfect commodity for the globalized educational economy why not take a kid from Pennsylvania and move him to Alaska?!?

So let's follow him on YouTube! Here is installment #1:

Here is installment #2:

Installment #3:

Installment #4:

...and #5 is at this link.

An adventure for sure.

The National Wildlife Federation's "Extreme Heat in Summer 2010"

This in from the National Wildlife Federation:

The National Wildlife Federation has released “Extreme Heat in Summer 2010.” This summer is the hottest on record so far and a sign of more to come. The Eastern and Southern United States are especially suffering, with many states having one of their hottest summer months on record. A new analysis from National Wildlife Federation finds that summers like the current one could become the norm by 2050 unless steps are taken to curb global warming. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are on a list of those cities most vulnerable to heat wave effects as the planet warms. Approximately half of the residents in both cities have relatively high levels of vulnerable populations and low rates of air conditioning.

The analysis comes a few weeks after the U.S. Senate shelved action on comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

The State College community is better equipped than most to deal with extreme heat because most residents have air conditioning. However, many communities are not so fortunate. Our failure to take action on global warming will affect those who can least afford to deal with extreme temperatures. It is the poor, elderly, and those with health problems who will bear the brunt of the expected extreme heat events.

When: August 25, 2010, 10:30am

Where: Schlow Memorial Library, Community Room

Who: Dr. Michael Mann, Director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State University
Prof. Sylvia Neely, Creation Care Coalition, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light.
Arno Vosk, MD, Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians
Peter Buckland, President of Environment - Ecology - Education, Penn State University

Contacts: Ed Perry, National Wildlife Federation, Phone - 814-880-9593

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reflections on Dirt! The Movie

In recent years, filmmakers of varying stripes have collectively released a spate of ecologically-minded films, including Food Inc., Fresh, Gasland, Blue Gold, Flow, The 11th Hour, and An Inconvenient Truth, to name only a few. This seeming plethora of films dealing with our looming global ecological crisis and its corollary, sustainability, led a journalist with Time Out: London to ask a rather pointed question: "can eco-films save the planet?"

Putting that question aside, and being the glutton for punishment that I sometimes can be, I sat down this evening to watch Dirt! The Movie, a film that, as the title suggests, is about soil. Given the tenor of similar films that I have viewed in recent months, I was expecting to once again experience two hours of familiar arguments regarding the industrial systems and institutional relationships that are slowly destroying our planet, one farm field and local economy at a time. I was also preparing for the emotional recovery I would need following said anticipated experience.

Dirt! did present arguments regarding how "our butts is in the ringer," to quote a friend of David Orr's, but only for a concise and pointed fifteen minutes. The remaining hour and five minutes of footage addressed human relationships to the soil, how to keep humans and the soil healthy, and what is being done to promote peace and responsible stewardship of our communities, land, and food.

The first half hour of the film is part microbiology lesson and part spiritual awakening, which is a combination of perspectives that I have found increasingly pleasant and enlivening in recent years. The argument presented, in short, is this: we, as humans, come from the soil, and the minerals in the soils came from the stars. Our relationship to the soil, therefore, connects us with ourselves, creation, and the cosmos. Furthermore, there is a proper balance to be struck in this relationship that has ensured, and might still ensure, the flourishing of life on this planet.

The majority of the last half of the film is a panorama of organizations and people who are striking that balance to foster better relationships between humans and the soil. The organizations include The Land Institute, Hearty Roots Community Farm, Cannard Farm, Navdanya Farm, Sustainable South Bronx, Tree People, The Edibile Schoolyard, Kinney Compost, Four Seasons Farm, and even some Harvard biology laboratories. Throughout this exploration of professional and community groups, there is a focused discussion of the principles that enrich the soil upon which life on earth depends. While enriching the soil, however, relationships between humans and the soil are strengthened, as are relationships between individuals and their communities.

I will close this post with an observation presented in the early minutes of Dirt!: in Hebrew, the name Adam means "dirt or clay," and Eve means "life." We are, in the words of a fellow biophile, "earth standing."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letter on Penn State's Coal Plant to the Board of Trustees

Recently, I was alerted that the Board of Trustees removed discussion of the coal plant from their meeting. It prevented public comment. As a concerned person, I wrote them the following letter:

To the Board of Trustees,

It has recently come to my attention that the Board of Trustees were to discuss the energy future of Penn State University at its most recent meeting. Specifically, the coal plant's future was on the agenda. From the reports I have from attendees, it was absent. I do not include myself among the conspirators who think that Penn State and Massey Energy definitely colluded to obstruct and obfuscate the agenda, but it is most unfortunate that the UP coal plant's future was removed from the agenda the morning of the meeting. Given that interested and concerned groups lost their possible voice at that meeting, I would like to ensure that you understand my position.

In what follows, I speak as the founder and serving president of Environment-Ecology-Education in the College of Education, the co-host of a WKPS The Lion radio show called Sustainability Now, last year's Assistant to the Director of the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium, and the emcee for Penn State's first Student Sustainability Summit. I speak for none the organizations nor the show but as someone steeped in the sustainability movement who is concerned about his own impact on his own community and his sad involvement with the mandated ecocide and pollution that our university's cost of doing business does.

Silence and remove the coal plant as soon as possible. Coal, from its extraction, to its byproducts via extraction, to its combustion, to its scrubbing, and to its scrubber cleaning destroys life. It is a powerfull anti-biotic - a destroyer of life - that serves to enrich few people lavishly, support an unsustainable and ecologically crippling way of life for many more, and poisons poor people and their water systems. The cascading effects spread. One need only look at the economic, social, and ecological corrosion of the Tennessee Valley Authority disaster or the decades-long legacy of mountain top removal in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or Kentucky. How fortunate and easy it has been that we at the lavishly equipped Pennsylvania State University have been able to define those people, their traditions and customs and ways of being, their watersheds, and the habitat that depends on those waterways as economic externalities. And I have said nothing of climate change, the study of which our university stands as a shining beacon.

Perhaps now, with all of the attention on the Gulf oil disaster, the methane gas disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine, and the continued small disasters regarding drilling in the Marcellus Shale, Penn State will begin moving more ethically and responsibly regarding human welfare and the environment regarding its energy "needs." I understand that Penn State has been able to negotiate an environmental assessment of its coal purchasing. This is a noble first step and a good intention. Forgive me if I remain skeptical of its impact and am niggled by the statement, "The road to hell is laid with good intentions." Were we to be extracting coal from the Purdue Mountain to the west, Mount Nittany, the Tussey Ridge, and the Seven Mountains, I don't think we would have Penn State here and our good intentions would be too little to late.

I apologize for the polemic tone of this letter but have found that our turtle's pace could be quicker and that we could do more to reduce our energy use. The Campus Sustainability Office is doing marvelous things with behavior, curriculum is changing, and perhaps more than anything, facilities and operations under Steve Maruszewski and Al Matyasovsky have been doing amazing things. Now is the time to pony up and recognize that coal can't be clean and that we need to move away from it immediately. Too much of our collective health from the newt to the walrus to me need it.

Peter Buckland

Monday, June 28, 2010


I want to share this movie, Home, with all of you. In all of our work for sustainability education and the flourishing of all life on Earth, it pays to watch something as humbling as this documentary (if you can even call it that). Home took my breath away on several levels and I think it might yours too. Best of all, it's a feature length film that the producers and directors decided needed to be free because its message was too important.

The brief showing on American agriculture placed in the context of human and natural history is particularly startling given the film's emphasis on balance. To paraphrase, the U.S. grows enough grain to feed 2 billion people but most of that grain goes to feeding livestock and increasingly into biofuels (that substitute for the fossil fuels the film has been discussing). This seriously calls into question the idea that the American farmer feeds the world.

Some people dislike words like "balance" or "harmony." What do you think? Does this film oversell those points? Or are we as out of balance as it portrays?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plastic greenhouse redux on 6.21.2010...the longest day of the year

In case you were wondering about what is happening with the plastic bottle greenhouse, here is an update. We have a roof frame with bottles on the outer edge...

...and they look really cool with the sun behind them...

...and now it also has some of the roof complete...

...and soon it will be up on the frame with the whole shebang in order.

See you soon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tragedy of the Commons explained by dinosaurs

I love Dinosaur Comics and I love "The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin. Now they are both in one place! "Tragedy" is an exploration of what happens if people overuse common resources and stands as one of the most influential essays in the history of sustainability.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Plastic bottle greenhouse update - Two walls up! Door on next wall that's nearly ready for mounting!

In the continuing saga of the Corl Street Elementary School plastic bottle greenhouse...we have some more progress. Over Memorial Day weekend, Becky and her husband Vilmos finished a wall that I got to put up yesterday and tie the bottles together for support.

Today, another wall frame was finished and the door put on with Zach (in the picture with the door).

So this thing is coming along. For me, the coolest thing has been talking to people about why I came up with this hair-brained idea and why we started doing it. We live with these bottles and really wish we could get rid of them. Barring that at this point, maybe we can exapt them for an educational, social, and ecological good. Why not use them to try to help grow food and increase awareness about the waste cycle and show how to reduce-reuse-recycle. Every teacher and parent that has talked to Becky or me about this is really into it. All of them want to make something that is both "cool" and instructive for sustainability.

In a few more installments of work, we'll have all the walls up and then we'll get to work on the roof. Enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A small taste of Cuban urban agriculture

Cuba is at the forefront of urban agriculture. Watch and learn. "If we could bring this same attitude to our millions of back gardens back at home, our millions of back gardens and allotments, producing wonderful vegetables just think of what that could do to change the whole structure of our approach to food."

Spill. Plume. Geyser. Wound.

Once again this morning on NPR, I heard about the “biggest oil spill in U.S. history.” I don't know about you, but the word "spill" just seems so inadequate, so insultingly paltry, to describe what's happened since the TransOcean/British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico six weeks ago. "Spill" is what I do when I accidentally dump juice, coffee, or water on the table when I'm eating. It's what happens when something pours out of something else because of gravity. "Spills" are usually little things that we might swear about and apologize for at dinner. They are worth an "Oh crap" followed by "I'm sorry."

Somehow, I think that what's unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico is hardly a "spill." Tar balls are on their way to the Florida panhandle hundreds of miles away from this “spill.” Pelicans are being covered in oil (image from Associated Press). Sea turtles are dying. British Petroleum has used thousands of gallons of ultra-toxic Corexit to disperse oil. Corexit contains arsenic, chromium, and copper and the EPA has advised BP to stop using it. It's likely to worsen the oil "spill."

Words like "plume" or "geyser" come a little closer. When they are coupled with “disaster” or “catastrophe” they start to make sense. This “disastrous plume” of oil or “catastrophic geyser” words might work for us.

Starting with plume, let's consult the Oxford English Dictonary for some guidance:
plume, n 7. a. A trail or cloud of smoke, vapour, etc., issuing from a localized source and spreading or billowing out as it travels.
That's a bit more like it. I think that more or less describes this now (tragically) standard footage.

If you go to Alexander Higgins' blog you can watch lots of video footage at how ineffectively an "oil spill robot" tries to deal with a "massive plume." But I don't really like this word "plume" much either because in its best associations we think of plumes as linked to plumage, the beautiful mating displays of birds. There is nothing beautiful about this. This is pure ugliness threatening so many lives, human and non-human. Let’s face it, the already deteriorating and atrophied shrimp populations of the Gulf of Mexico are in for more devastation. As Zach noted in an earlier entry, this will compound the problems caused by chemical fertilizer, pesticide, and organic run-off that brought about the enormous Gulf dead zone. Put this plume on the dead zone Gulf and we have a peacock plucked of a third of its feathers and fanning a tail bathed in oil. Nice.

So what about "geyser"? Once again, the OED.
geyser, n. 1. An intermittent hot spring, throwing up water, etc. in a fountain-like column.

2. The name given to an apparatus for rapidly heating water attached to a bath. Also for the heating of water for use in wash-basins, sinks, etc.
This thing is hardly intermittent. At about 70,000 barrels a day, we are approaching 2,1000,000 gallons of oil in the Gulf. It is a column. It is a fountain. But it lacks the majesty of Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Like "plume," “geyser” and “fountain” hardly express this rupture...

this inundation...

this deluge...

this thing that shows us how small we are even with our awesome tools and how criminal we are in our acceptance of ugliness and collateral damage in the name of technocratic progress that wants to believe it should not and must not be limited. No matter how greedy, how negligent, nor how ill-informed this whole process is, it continues.

I am reminded of the children behind the Spirit of Christmas Present's robes in Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."

"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

The bell struck twelve.

Ignorance and Want. If you know anything about Dickens’s London, you know that it was a smoggy soot-coated city. It was the seat of British might. It was ugly and toxic. It killed the countryside. It was addicted to coal. Are we so different? A little. But not enough.

I think that in our hubristic belief in the "progress" of our industrial economy, our "enlightened" political systems, and our concomitant educational system(s) we have bred ourselves into being wanting and dependent creatures endlessly filled with "needs." This needy person (as the philosopher Ivan Illich called us) has educated himself into believing that his own "needs" are rights owed to itself and that the pursuit of those needs is the path to enlightenment. The enlightened person consumes their way to happiness through the acquisition of material wealth and the extraction, movement, and transformation of "resources" through "advanced" technology. The human product of this globalized state's market's school is, perhaps, the most parasitic organism on the planet. It wants as much as it can get, calls those wants needs, declares that those needs are owed to it by alleged rights and the person who understands that they have these rights is educated, enlightened, and progressed.

This needy person ignores and relabels the rights of the non-progressed people of the world. It pretends that they don’t exist as externalities to the economy or it calls them ignorant and in need of education. It forces them out one way or another: by climate change if your are an Inuit; by poisoning if you live on or near natural resources like coal or natural gas; by coercion if you are Filipino rice farmer, Jamaican banana farmer, or Indian farmer who refused the Green Revolution; or by military force if you refuse compliance. People are pushed and pulled from their historically evolved niches and places and moved into slums where they are neglected in high concentrations. Those historically evolved niches are transformed into places for resource development, into dumps, or into the homes for our waste. Of course the slums are polluted. At least in the slums they are within the bounds of civilization where they can be taken care of. Because people who do not work within the cash economy and have lived within the economy of nature cannot be trusted to take care of themselves because they don’t have access to things that they “need.” No. They are too ignorant. They must be hurting themselves.

Not only has our “progress” shunted people into slums, but it has ghettoized nature. Those niches and places fall to our ignorance and serve our want. The Gulf now falls rapidly to them. There has been no large lesson learned from the Exxon Valdez and comparable disasters. Chernobyl meant nothing. We are addicted to power, will, and appetite as Ulysses speaks in Shakespeare’s Troillus and Cressida:
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

We are those children and, as the Spirit of Christmas Present says, on our brows is written Doom. Can we call ourselves fine children? I would choke on the lie if I were to try. We eat ourselves as we eat that oil, both literally and figuratively. We are the ignorant universal wolf so needy and wanting we have made ourselves and every thing around us a universal prey. We bite and bite and bite. We wound.

There is the word. “Wound.” The Gulf rupture is a wound that we have punctured into the Earth.

Once again, the OED:
wound, n.
1. a. A hurt caused by the laceration or separation of the tissues of the body by a hard or sharp instrument, a bullet, etc.; an external injury.
2. transf. a. An incision, abrasion, or other injury due to external violence, in any part of a tree or plant.

5. (= L. plaga.) a. A blow, a stroke. (Cf. PLAGUE n. 1.) Obs.
b. A plague. Obs.

As Earth is a body of tissues, much of it living and all of it involved in the great processes of life and living. The sea and the seabed support life. This Gulf wound is a great laceration and separation of those tissues due to external violence. That violence came from a series of blow from our own plague for power.

I believe our hour has struck twelve. The night now deepens. Perhaps we will move into a new day, a day of sunlight, that greatest of disinfectants and the universal wolf will temper itself and stopping it up itself and find a more sustainable way of being. But right now it is very dark, and the wolf’s stomach is rumbling.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reflections on a Spill

"Spill is 'worst US eco-disaster.'"

This was a BBC headline gracing my iGoogle homepage when I logged onto the internet this morning.

Sure. I get it.

I have found it easy to reach new levels of despair and panic in the wake of the unrelenting flow of oil and gas entering the Gulf of Mexico from the now infamous BP Horizon oil rig. But is this incident the "worst" ecological disaster in United States history? And, if it is the worst, what does that tell us about how we identify an "eco-disaster"? And how do we respond?

The "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico well predates the BP oil spill, and could this not also be considered an eco-disaster of similar proportions? No doubt, the continuing flow of oil from the collapsed Horizon rig, at some 25,000 barrels a day, will no doubt contribute, if not well expand, the size of that dead zone in the Gulf, most noticeably along the coast of Gulf-bordering countries like the United States and Cuba.

Or take one of the leading contributors of greenhouse gases in the United States: industrial agriculture. Is this not an "eco-disaster" of similar proportions to the on-going BP oil spill?

Or take our own bodies, with diseases increasingly linked to the pollutants we encounter on a regular basis. Is this not a contender for the "worst 'US eco-disaster'" in history?

The current attention paid to the callous disregard for Life exemplified by BP and the federal government, the latter in the form of the Minerals Management Service, is little more than a high-profile acknowledgment of the pestiferous wake of an institutional juggernaut in which we are, for the most part, passengers.

As I and many others see it, the immediate challenge posed by the BP oil spill is its containment and the minimization of its negative environmental and economic impact. As of today, this challenge has been confronted with what appears to be a sad farce of human energy, imagination, and technology.

The next challenge is to reflect on what this oil spill shows us about how we live, and the societal and environmental conditions under which that life is possible. In short, our lifestyles, at least my own, depend largely on pollution and environmental and human exploitation. In response, action must be taken to increase the amount of mutually beneficial relationships between human beings as well as between humans and all that our activity relies upon and affects.

For some of us, this conclusion was made long before the BP oil spill occurred, and appropriate actions, both individual and collective, are underway. Some who have not yet drawn this conclusion, may still not draw it. But that should perhaps be of little concern to those of us who are committed to positive social change and real hope for the future.

No majority of the general population, as near as I can tell, has ever effectively struggled for democracy or has aspired toward "beloved community." Indeed, it has only been effectively organized and well-positioned minorities that have done, and continue to do, so. Therefore, keep the faith, and keep to the work.

On a personal level, perhaps the best immediate response to the present oil spill, in full awareness of its implications for human, animal, and plant life alike, may be to tell a dear friend that you love them, and to affirm, in thought or deed, that we are staying the course.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Greenhouse update...weeks later

The saga of our plastic bottle greenhouse continues...

Today, about 10 parents of children who attned the Corl Street Elementary School in State College worked with 2 members of 3E and a scad of third graders to get us to the next phase. We washed, cut, and sorted a few thousand more bottles while the physical plant guys for the district planted the posts and poured the concrete to set them in. Because the concrete has to set and part of the wall frame was used for it, we couldn't carry on with the frame and fix bottles to it.Kind of a bummer but so it goes. It started raining heavily anyway so it's not so bad that I've gotten to come back in.

That said, I am blown away by two things
1. Those third graders are awesome. They were enthusiastic while they washed and cut bottles, sorted them, and cut dowel rods. Our own Becky M. made this whole fun workstation thing and the children worked together on it so well. Some of them came back during recess to help us. I was personally pretty touched.

2. Holy giant amount of work that uses a giant amount of junk! I said in a previous post, "I am personally dumbfounded by the sheer volume of bottles we’ve gotten from the Office of Physical Plant’s bar pit. And these are the bottles that have been recycled. For every bottle that we’ve gotten from the recycling here, another one was probably thrown away." Putting that sheer volume into workable shape using just ordinary tools (water, soap, scissors, razors, dowel rods, nails/fencing staples, hammer, nails, screws, and power drill) is pretty crazy. I'm thinking that today's pure human work hours is somewhere around 50.
We should have some pictures pretty soon to show some more of this. Once the weather clears, I'll be heading over in the mornings to put the frame up piece by piece.

[To track back go here, here, and here.]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In case you ever wonder why school lunch is so bad for you...

...and fast food is so cheap you can just look at what our tax dollars subsidize. People who talk about the personal responsibility of our diets are right. We need to own what we eat and be responsible for it. Maybe we can start with what we subsidize as a nation.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Plastic bottle greenhouse door: Update #3

So we have a door for this plastic bottle greenhouse now (see the explanation video here). Here it is on the ground of the HUB lawn. Monday, I'll be working on sides, crossbars, and the larger frame. Phew!

Look at how many bottles are in that picture alone...about 200-250. All told, we will end up reusing something like 2000 in this project which is somewhere near half of of the daily recycled bottles that Penn State University Park's Office of Physical Plant collects, which is itself just over 1/2 of the total that PSU University Park disposes of every day. This total rough estimate leads me to believe that we could make 600-700 of these 5'x5'x6' gabled plastic bottle greenhouses out of just PSU University Park's recycling. That's a lot of waste.

We met a few parents today who were really into this thing. A few were from the Corl Street Elementary School who had heard about it and thought that it at least looked cool. Moreover, they said that they thought it was a really interesting way for their kids to engage their schooling. They were also quite interested in sharing, and having their kids share, how they are engaging the natural environment at school via the garden, the 3 Rs of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, and composting. One girl said that she wants one at her school - the Gray Wood's Elementary. That sounds great, but we might need this to be a full-time job with benefits if it gets to that point.

Stay tuned for more.

Pic courtesy of Garrett.

Kid's Earth Day

Come on out and bring kids for a fun and beautiful day. Like the flier says, there are some great activities in store for everyone, including an enactment of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. We'll be there, putting a portion of the plastic bottle greenhouse together. More pictures will be on the way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bottle greenhouse update #2

Wow! This thing is incredible and it's taking SOOOO much time. We've cut and washed well over a thousand bottles and have more to go. The frame is still unfinished and won't be for a few days just because the sheer size of the project required more people than we were able to muster. But you know what? We're moving along and we'll keep plugging away for the rest of the semester.

We will post more pictures soon and possible video soon.

To hear a story on some Earth Day activities, listen to this story put together by the Ohio River Radio Consortium that includes two of our members, Garrett Eisenhour and Jason Usdin, as well as people in Indiana and Kentucky.

To see some more of it come alive, come to Kid's Earth Day tomorrow, April, 24th, at the HUB lawn.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who knew that such malcontents would win Outstanding Student Organization?

We won the Outstanding Student Organization award last night for "Collaboration with other student organizations, faculty, and staff," "Programming a variety of purposeful events, "Positive promotion of mission/purpose of organization to University community," and "Building a sense of community." This is something that shows that if you are motivated, purposeful, a little organized, and full of good information that you can get some recognition. And we are a small group. Who knows what would happen if there were more of us?

I have to say that we owe this, in large part, to Alex for getting the ball rolling on this water bottle thing. She is the queen. This one's for you...even if it's Garrett, Peter, Jared, and Zach in the picture (left to right).

I also want to say that I think it's so cool that we won this award given the range of people in our group. Garrett is in his early 20s and a dad of two. I am in my 30s and a father of 1. We've had an atypical amount of graduate student involvement in the group. And we have a 40+ mom of three girl who comes out and bangs it home when it counts. I love you people.

The bottle house! Update one

Our greenhouse is really in full swing. We have THOUSANDS of bottles that we’ve been washing, cutting, and arraying into lines to form the house’s walls. We’ve done just some starts to fix them to the frame to start and it’s looking promising.

A few things are striking at this point:
1. People are impressed by this idea. Moms have walked by with kids and given us bottles to use.
2. Everyone who we tell that this is going to be used by a school has congratulated us. This is smart. A lot smarter than the intended use of the bottles themselves.
3. Wow! People at Penn State create a lot of waste. I am personally dumbfounded by the sheer volume of bottles we’ve gotten from the Office of Physical Plant’s bar pit. And these are the bottles that have been recycled. For every bottle that we’ve gotten from the recycling here, another one was probably thrown away.
4. This is fun and it’s community-building. We’re meeting people we haven’t met before. A Corl Street School mother and her 14-year-old son came by and helped. We have future teachers. We have passersby. The HUB lawn today has been a commons for people interested in furthering sustainability and education for sustainability.
5. Our group has rerouted something from upstream that would have gone downstream to further commodififcation or ugliness and turned it into something that can be potentially beautiful, useful, and good!

So come on by today and/or Saturday April 24th to the HUB lawn and help us reuse for a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Our plastic bottle greenhouse in the works

Since we started this club we've wanted to develop a way that the whole group could help local schools integrate a garden or natural area into their curriculum. We've also been doing so much on the water bottle and sustainable water use issue. So why not combine them?

Let's help teachers, administrators, parents, and students learn about our relationship to the Earth by building a greenhouse out of plastic water bottles? Let's take what was going to be pure waste and turn it into a way to create a growing environment...something that bottle companies never intended and don't care about anyway. And let's see something grow in spite of pollution by reusing bottles, reducing waste, and recycling wood and some other materials. From all of this all involved see the waste cycle before them and the life cycle. Amazing!

Check out the preview video!

Join us on Earth Day, April 22, 2010 on PSU's HUB lawn to help us bring the cycles of life to schools.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Filtering for good

Even though we didn't get the Filter for Good grant for $10,000, Brita and Nalgene sent us a few Brita pitchers and a bunch of reusable bottles because we are doing the kind of work that reduces waste in the long run and, we have to admit, can bring Brita and Nalgene some business by promoting clean, fresh, and filtered water that can be enjoyed with reusable bottles when you are on the go from here to there. I used one of the Nalgene's this morning at the Elkay EZH2O downstairs in Chambers Building at University Park.

No One Left Inside

It's not often that teachers like us can grab onto something a president says and run with it. We want nature to be important? This is part of our climate so here we go. Use it for what it's worth. This is the best we've gotten from a high elected official in a long time:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Memorandum -- America's Great Outdoors


SUBJECT: A 21st Century Strategy for America's Great Outdoors

Americans are blessed with a vast and varied natural heritage. From mountains to deserts and from sea to shining sea, America's great outdoors have shaped the rugged independence and sense of community that define the American spirit. Our working landscapes, cultural sites, parks, coasts, wild lands, rivers, and streams are gifts that we have inherited from previous generations. They are the places that offer us refuge from daily demands, renew our spirits, and enhance our fondest
memories, whether they are fishing with a grandchild in a favorite spot, hiking a trail with a friend, or enjoying a family picnic in a neighborhood park. They also are our farms, ranches, and forests -- the working lands that have fed and sustained us for generations. Americans take pride in these places, and share a responsibility to preserve them for our children and grandchildren.

Today, however, we are losing touch with too many of the places and proud traditions that have helped to make America special. Farms, ranches, forests, and other valuable natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. Families are spending less time together enjoying their natural surroundings. Despite our conservation efforts, too many of our fields are becoming fragmented, too many of our rivers and streams are becoming polluted, and we are losing our connection to the parks, wild places, and open spaces we grew up with and cherish. Children, especially, are spending less time outside running and playing, fishing and hunting, and connecting to the outdoors just down the street or outside of town.

Across America, communities are uniting to protect the places they love, and developing new approaches to saving and enjoying the outdoors. They are bringing together farmers and ranchers, land trusts, recreation and conservation groups, sportsmen, community park groups, governments and industry, and people from
all over the country to develop new partnerships and innovative programs to protect and restore our outdoors legacy. However, these efforts are often scattered and sometimes insufficient. The Federal Government, the Nation's largest land manager, has a responsibility to engage with these partners to help develop a conservation agenda worthy of the 21st Century. We must look to the private sector and nonprofit organizations, as well as towns, cities, and States, and the people who live and work in them, to identify the places that mean the most to Americans, and leverage the support of the Federal Government to help these community-driven efforts to succeed. Through these partnerships, we will work to connect these outdoor spaces to each other, and to reconnect Americans to them.

For these reasons, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment.

(a) There is established the America's Great Outdoors Initiative (Initiative), to be led by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and implemented in coordination with the agencies listed in section 2(b) of this memorandum. The Initiative may include the heads of other executive branch departments, agencies, and offices (agencies) as the President may, from time to time, designate.

(b) The goals of the Initiative shall be to:

(i) Reconnect Americans, especially children, to America's rivers and waterways, landscapes of national significance, ranches, farms and forests, great parks,
and coasts and beaches by exploring a variety of efforts, including:

(A) promoting community-based recreation and conservation, including local parks, greenways, beaches, and waterways;

(B) advancing job and volunteer opportunities related to conservation and outdoor recreation; and

(C) supporting existing programs and projects that educate and engage Americans in our history, culture, and natural bounty.

(ii) Build upon State, local, private, and tribal priorities for the conservation of land, water, wildlife, historic, and cultural resources, creating corridors and connectivity across these outdoor spaces, and for enhancing neighborhood parks; and determine how the Federal Government can best advance those priorities through public private partnerships and locally supported conservation strategies.

(iii) Use science-based management practices to restore and protect our lands and waters for future generations.

Sec. 2. Functions. The functions of the Initiative shall include:

(a) Outreach. The Initiative shall conduct listening and learning sessions around the country where land and waters are being conserved and community parks are being established in innovative ways. These sessions should engage the full range of interested groups, including tribal leaders, farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, community park groups, foresters, youth groups, businesspeople, educators, State and local governments, and recreation and conservation groups. Special attention
should be given to bringing young Americans into the conversation. These listening sessions will inform the reports required in subsection (c) of this section.

(b) Interagency Coordination. The following agencies shall work with the Initiative to identify existing resources and align policies and programs to achieve its goals:

(i) the Department of Defense;

(ii) the Department of Commerce;

(iii) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;

(iv) the Department of Health and Human Services;

(v) the Department of Labor;

(vi) the Department of Transportation;

(vii) the Department of Education; and

(viii) the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

(c) Reports. The Initiative shall submit, through the Chair of the CEQ, the following reports to the President:

(i) Report on America's Great Outdoors. By November 15, 2010, the Initiative shall submit a report that includes the following:

(A) a review of successful and promising nonfederal conservation approaches;

(B) an analysis of existing Federal resources and programs that could be used to complement those approaches;

(C) proposed strategies and activities to achieve the goals of the Initiative; and

(D) an action plan to meet the goals of the Initiative.

The report should reflect the constraints in resources available in, and be consistent with, the Federal budget. It should recommend efficient and effective use of existing resources, as well as opportunities to leverage nonfederal public and private resources and nontraditional conservation programs.

(ii) Annual reports. By September 30, 2011, and September 30, 2012, the Initiative shall submit reports on its progress in implementing the action plan developed pursuant to subsection (c)(i)(D) of this section.

Sec. 3. General Provisions.

(a) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of any necessary appropriations.

(b) This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(c) The heads of executive departments and agencies shall assist and provide information to the Initiative, consistent with applicable law, as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the Initiative. Each executive department and agency shall bear its own expenses of participating in the Initiative.

(d) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director of the OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(e) The Chair of the CEQ is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


For some analysis go to DotEarth and see what Andy Revkin has to say.