Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Climate change education workshop

Orion Magazine and Unity College in Maine are teaming up to teach us how to teach climate change. The following release explains it all:

Education in a Changing Climate Workshop
August 1 - 4, 2010

Climate change is not just for scientists to deal with. It’s a challenge for us all, and we need everybody’s skills and perspectives to confront it—now. But the scope and complexity of the issue can seem intimidating and frustrating, like trying to grasp hot air. How can we understand global and long-term problems when we live and work in the here and now? Do we need to be experts before we even mention climate change in public or add it to our teaching?

Join us at Unity College for a 4-day workshop that will give you powerful, practical ways to move past anxiety and educate yourself, your students, and the public.

We’ll offer a climate change primer on basic climate science, likely effects on ecosystems and people, some ethical, literary, and artistic responses, and a sampling of potential solutions that range from political to personal, technological to philosophical. In each case, we’ll show you where to find the best current information and teaching resources.

Through hands-on activities, we’ll explore how to combine place-based teaching with this global problem. We’ll explore outdoors with a Unity College naturalist, write, make art, and consider how to deal with the perspective-bending nature of climate change. In short, we’ll exercise our brains and imaginations in the service of practice.

Education in a Changing Climate is an annual event jointly sponsored by the Orion Magazine and Unity College. Orion is a bimonthly, advertising-free magazine that stakes out the territory of ecology, the arts, action, education, and social justice. Unity College is a learning environment where sustainability and environmental awareness are central to the school’s mission and vision and is intrinsic to all aspects of college life—ranging from the curricular focus on the environmental liberal arts, to the campus-wide emphasis on energy efficiency and local foods.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wal-Mart and the locavores

Food, Inc. does a wonderful job of complicating Wal-Mart for everyone. On the one hand, it shows how its foray into organic milk and other organic groceries correlates with the influx of the mega-food companies like Kraft into organics. But on the other hand, its investment shows two other things: first, that we as dairy eaters want more humane and healthier (for human consumption and the land) dairy and second that its desires moved to a better end can reduce ecological impacts that we have on the environment. But is that the end of it? Apparently not.

In this article on MSNBC, "The great grocery smackdown," the Wal-Mart complicates itself further. What if it invests in local or regional agriculture? Not always organic, but local. Can it give Wegman's, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's a run for their money? Well, in the world of money, Wal-Mart's business model is still unrivaled. [pic at right from MSNBC]
As everyone who sells to or buys from (or, notoriously, works for) Walmart knows, price is where every consideration begins and ends. Even if the price Walmart pays for local produce is slightly higher than what it would pay large growers, savings in transport and the ability to order smaller quantities at a time can make up the difference. Contracting directly with farmers, which Walmart intends to do in the future as much as possible, can help eliminate middlemen, who sometimes misrepresent prices. Heritage produce currently accounts for only 4 to 6 percent of Walmart’s produce sales, McCormick told me (already more than a chain might spend on produce in a year, as Fishman would point out), adding that he hopes the figure will get closer to 20 percent, so the program will “go from experimental to being really viable.”
What do you think? Can the Wal-Mart juggernaut be a force for good in this movement? Will it take over and turn local agriculture to its own interests? Where are its interests? I wonder if this is the corporatization and a new kind of shell game for powerful people's convenience that replaces the Department of Ag with Wal-Mart. The article's closing speaks to this indirectly:
In an ideal world, people would buy their food directly from the people who grew or caught it, or grow and catch it themselves. But most people can’t do that. If there were a Walmart closer to where I live, I would probably shop there.
But what do you think? Is this where we should be going with our food system? Is this where you want to go with your and your community's food system?

Hat-tip to Mike for the article.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sustainability Summit News

The Collegian did a small story on the Student Sustainability Summit in today's paper.

The university already has a green building policy, uses renewable energy and has a composting facility, Foley said, but it wants to continue going green -- which is where the sustainability statement becomes important. Because of the number of groups at the summit, the statement will make an impact, he said.

"It's the students demanding a lot of the resources, so if the students demand green, then green is what we get -- in our labs, our residence halls, our parties and our classrooms," he said.

Ideas for the statement included using local food in dining commons, making campus more bike-friendly and requiring freshmen to take an environmental course.

But there was so much more to this than this reporter got. We presented and exchanged so many ideas and ways of being from the "Green Economy" to a mural to our Manifesto to community gardening to climate legislation to the inheritance of our great-great-great-grandchildren. Let me say, as the emcee and a participant, I found it energizing to learn what others are doing and want to do.

When we get the Sustainability Manifesto, you will see it here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spanier notes us in the Board of Trustees speech

All. Check it out from President Spanier.
I'm proud to report another student accomplishment — this one on our University Park campus. Thanks to the work of a student ecology group from the College of Education, we're experimenting with new drinking water filling stations around campus. These sensor-activated filling stations accommodate reusable drinking cups and larger containers. The group collaborated with the Office of Physical Plant to install the new hydration stations as well as to upgrade some of the college's water fountains. The intention is to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles, which will reduce our environmental footprint and keep our campus clean.
Now we're getting somewhere. Maybe we can go to a meeting sometime. That would be nice.

Greetings EDTHP 115

Hello all. I want to welcome you to join us for a journey. This journey is at once about who we are, what we do, why we do it, and how what we do individually and collectively matters.

As current and future teachers, you and I probably believe that we can positively impact the world by teaching children, with those less experienced than us, or those who have learned differently than we have. I think we also probably believe that we can learn a great deal from the children with whom we work, with their families, and with our whole communities.

But what about about the places - the natural environmental places where we live? What do they teach us? What do we give to them and they give to us? These are questions at the hear of who we, in 3E-COE ask?

We focus on three things in our club with the goal of fostering more environmentally and ecologically aware people.
  • Our first pillar asks that we look at the natural environment and understand that it is a complex thing of which we are a part, a part that creates many side effects of which we can be both proud and ashamed. This leads to...
  • Our second pillar, that we are part of a web of natural relationships that the science and practice of ecology shows us. That is, by systematically examining the world(s) around us - the political, economic, social, and natural worlds - we can come to ways of understanding how we look at the natural world and are a part of it. This naturally leads us to...
  • Our third pillar, which is to bring our learning and doing into what John Dewey would call an "educative" mission that promotes "growth" toward a good end. In fact, many of our actions in 3E-COE create reflections on our experiences so that we can develop better practices as teachers and living people.
We focus on trying to integrate ecological thinking into the whole school system. Think about how many ways and at how many levels you could use a garden in any school.

Botany, biology, and organic and inorganic chemistry: Through the study of plants, fungus, animal, and microorganisms working in and through soil, air, water, and sunlight. We can learn about life cycles.

Meteorology and climatology: Think of the seasonality of the garden, its water and solar cycles.

English: Speaking of water. If you are a high school teacher interested in teaching Dune, you can incorporate its thoughts on water into the actual use of water where you live.

Math: From the simple arithmetic of the number of seeds you plant to fractions and proportions of how many mums we planted to how bloomed or differential equations of predator and prey relationships (that'd be a big garden and a pretty advanced class!) you can do it.

History, geography and anthropology: By growing sweet potatoes (if it's appropriate in your bioregion) you can investigate the natural evolutionary and cultural history of a kind of food used by the Incas and modern Africans.

Art and music: If you grow gourds, you can make musical instruments. Cooking. Poetry. The art of arranging the garden and its landscape.

Economics: If a garden works well, as it has at many schools from Vermont to northwest Washington state, children can sell the fruits and vegetables they grow and make a sustainable living.

Cooperative learning and team thinking: People work together and with something larger than themselves when they do this.

There is a reason that people remain lifetime gardeners. They always teach. They teach you about who and what you are in the place where you are.

This is only one petal on our "green school" flower. We have no shortage of media and natural sources to use for the development of formal and informal curriculum. From Edutopia's Climate Change Curricula to the Edible Schoolyard to the Center for Ecoliteracy to the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education, we have abundant resources.

As you can see, we are invested people. Our mission states, "We hope to create a way for students at Penn State to learn lessons about our natural environment, our ethical and ecological understanding of that environment, and how to create educational experiences that foster that understanding. Therefore, we strive for personal and communal sustainability defined as “the possibility that humans and other life will flourish on Earth forever.” Join us in this flourishing.

Please come to our meetings to learn and share more. First Thursday of every month at 7 pm in the Chambers PC Computer Lab. That means we have two more meetings this semester and then one more before Earth Day to shore things up for our plastic bottle greenhouse. More on that later.
April 1st @ 7 pm
April 15th @ 7 pm
Weekend of the 17-18th TBA
Please join us. Any questions or requests to be added to the mailing list, email Peter Buckland @ pdb118@psu.edu

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Story of Bottled Water

From Stop Corporate Abuse, Annie Leonard, and the makers of The Story of Stuff comes The Story of Bottled Water.

Now where's "manufactured demand" for things we need like family and community? As the film shows, the plastic bottle's "life cycle" too often ends in polluting other people's backyards or downcycling the bottles into other disposable materials.

The film is a nice shot in the arm for us here. Let's take the opportunity to bring the bottle ban back to Penn State's consciousness. Take Back the Tap!

Composting is getting talked about...

Hi everyone!

Am writing to you from the land of composting to power city buses and do other marvelous things. I came across a cool article in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine called The case for composting.

Apparently some cities in the US have already made mandatory legislation in favor of composting. How cool! This is just the beginning, I think. While obviously it's a lot harder (logistically speaking) to do things in a country of 300+ million people versus a country of 9 million, nothing is impossible. If we can manage to have organized trash collections (or trash drop-offs) in so many places across the US, then composting is not an impossibility.

Monday, March 22, 2010

PSU Student Sustainability Summit on Wednesday March 24th @ 7 pm

UPDATE: Reminder to one and all. You should come to this. In addition to those listed below, Ed Perry from the Global Warming Outreach team for the Pennsylvania branch of the National Wildlife Federation will be there as will some representatives from Environmental Credit and Envinity to talk environmental advocacy and green jobs.


Sustainability Summit Targets Student Involvement

University Park, PA - March 24, 2010

Those who have an interest in learning more about what their fellow Penn State students are doing to promote sustainability on campus will come together for Penn State’s first Student Sustainability Summit on March 24, 2010 from 7:00-9:30 p.m. in the HUB’s Heritage Hall. The summit will showcase student organizations working toward environmental and social change, give participants the opportunity to collaborate on group projects, and provide a forum to share knowledge and learn about campus sustainability resources.

Summit organizers are reaching out to students who have an established interest in sustainability issues, as well as those who may be curious. “The sustainability summit is not for a type of person or member in a particular group,” said Doug Middleton, a senior in Energy and Mineral Engineering and president of Penn State Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions (I.D.E.A.S.). “Sustainability reaches all kinds of people, and we are trying to bring them together under one roof,” he added.

The Student Sustainability Summit is being organized by Penn State students under the direction of Erik Foley and Milea Perry from Penn State’s Campus Sustainability Office. “I don’t think the students know how big sustainability is on this campus,” said Foley. “This is a chance for people to see and hear all of the amazing work happening around them and to build relationships as they move forward.”

Student and staff representatives from Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Eco-Action, Student Affairs, Penn State I.D.E.A.S., Center for Sustainability, Interfaith Power & Light, as well as others sit on the planning board.

Summit attendees are encouraged to arrive early for live music, light refreshments, and the opportunity to meet representatives from a variety of student organizations. The evening, which will be emceed by Peter Buckland, a graduate student in Penn State's Educational Theory and Policy Program and president of 3E-COE, will showcase ongoing projects and organizations and allow those in attendance to begin to work together toward addressing sustainability issues on campus.

For more information about the Student Sustainability Summit, please contact Milea Perry, Campus Sustainability Office, at MAP40@nw.opp.psu.edu.

Contact: Milea Perry, MAP40@nw.opp.psu.edu
Rob Andrejewski, rga116@psu.edu