Sunday, March 22, 2015

Who Are These "Climate Extremists?"

I watched a three minute long trailer about a documentary called "Thin Ice" today, and found it very intriguing. I have posted the link below this paragraph. This documentary has been filmed, and the bulk of the work has been completed, but the producers (a very small unit) needed the funding to complete the editing process so that the film could meet the requirements for public release.

The film, as you can see, has already exceeded its donation goal of 27,500 New Zealand dollars (or about 20,000 USD), and has raised 34,448 NZD (26,000 USD) from 228 sponsors. This is great news, it means that the documentary will air, thanks to the support of hundreds of donors.

I particularly liked the idea of this film because instead of fighting the anti-climate change opposition, it analyzes the subject of attack for many politicians, company executives, and public speakers. The phrase "environmental extremists" and "climate radicals" is used often in those attempting to shoot down notions of climate change, and promote less regulations on corporations that profit from environmental destruction. This documentary never states that these people are wrong. It simply accepts their claim, and takes a look at these so-called extremists.

With the word "extremists", typically associated with terrorism and disorder, being pinned to scientists studying the environment and climate change in our world, it is easy to make the people dedicating their lives to science look like the bad guy. This documentary follows a seemingly unbiased direction, following these scientists around the globe in their research, and connecting the dots between their results. As a news-watching citizen, I am curious of these "climate extremists". What exactly are these people doing in their research, what are they looking at? And what are they finding that is causing so much controversy?

Documentaries like "Thin Ice" could be a great way to reach out to the public through services like public tv, theater showings, and video streaming services. I feel that many people would also like to see the truth behind these political claims, and take an inside look at the real work scientists are doing to study our environment and test the effects that our society has on it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Law Enforcement...By the People?

       The main problem with any law (after getting it passed), is enforcement. Some people simply aren't aware of laws, or choose not to abide by them. This is certainly the case with the vehicle idling laws present in a number of states. Idling, as you may know, is when a car is left running when it is not in use, thus spewing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful substances into the air. Vehicle idling is a practice that poses major threats to not only environmental, but also human, health, and many state governments (including Connecticut's!) have tried passing legislation to limit it.

        New York City, as one of the nation's most populous, faces this problem on a great scale, and has one of the strictest idling limits in the country; three minutes max in the street, or one minute in front of a school. Due to the great size of the city, enforcement is consequently not consistent or easy; in 2014, for example, only about 200 tickets were given for idling. On Wednesday, two NYC Council members, Donovan Richards and Helen Rosenthal, proposed a possible solution; putting the task of enforcement into the hands of the common man. With their proposed bill, New Yorkers would be able to videotape idling cars (license plate & all) and send the footage to the Department of Environmental Protection, in return for up to half of the paid fine (which this bill would also hike up from $220-$1000 to $350-$1500 for offenses after a first warning).

        I found this proposal for citizen enforcement of vehicle idling laws to be very interesting. On one hand, I feel it a bit sad that people have to be given an incentive to help stop common and easily preventable actions that are harmful both to them and to the world around them. Realistically, however, this probably isn't something that many ordinary people would be willing to do otherwise, especially when they are unknowing of the harm posed by vehicle exhaust in the air, and so in that way, I feel that this bill would probably be effective. With so many people owning smartphones today, stopping to take a video wouldn't be a problem for most, and certain measures have been taken to ensure legitimacy and safety; people have to first attend training classes by the DEP, and are required to identify themselves when submitting videos. In a way, I think that this law would increase awareness of actions people do everyday that harm the environment. It will be interesting to see how the New York City Council responds to this proposal, and to see other moves taken by state governments in the near future to decrease vehicle idling.

Read more about it:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Urban Infrastructure: What can Engineers do?

This video was created for the NAE's (National Academy of Engineering) Grand Challenges for Engineering

Monday, March 16, 2015

Climate Change and the Media in 2015

This year, the Northeastern United States received record setting levels of snow. The cold fronts seemed to never end, and snowfall rose to well above 100 inches in parts of Connecticut. The media broadcasted reports of the endless snowstorm in New England to all parts of the United States, and across Europe and Asia. It seems that the entire world was watching the record breaking winter storm that New England faced.

Many people have used this storm as "evidence" against climate change. In my own personal life, the "so much for global warming" case has come up several times in the past few months (I am writing this in March 2015), and I have seen this argument used frequently on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. If you have studied climate change, and the effects of greenhouse gasses on our atmosphere, you would know that despite the frequently used title of global warming, climate change means that the weather conditions in our world will rapidly increase in frequency and severity.

When we look back on the United States during the winter of 2014-2015, we will most likely remember the record setting winter storms and snowfall that took its toll on the Northeast. However, the media may not have mentioned something that happened on the other side of the country. Regions on the west coast experienced record-setting warmth. One side of our country experienced freezing lows, the other, extreme highs. 

Climate change watch site analyzed 417 extreme weather news reports broadcasted from January 25th to March 6th 2015. They measured the prevalence of the following subjects: Northeast/Midwest Winter Storms, Western heat/drought, and Stories that Mentioned Climate Change. Their findings were as follows. NE/MW Winter Storms: 182 (ABC) 77 (CBS) and 158 (NBC). Western Heat/Drought: 3 (ABC) 2 (CBS) and 7 (NBC). Climate Change: 5 (ABC) 2 (CBS) and 1 (NBC). For reference, just over 1% of climate broadcasts mentioned climate change.

I believe that it is unfair that the media chooses to ignore the drastic effects of climate change that our nation is currently experiencing, and instead chooses to report on the "crazy snow!!!". It seems that news stations that reach the entire United States and provide updates to the rest of the world are more interested in creating Facebook post material than informing the public on the current effects of climate change. As a citizen, I feel very concerned about this. I would like to know the truth about what is happening to our world, not just take a closed-minded look at the immediate effects, and ignore the underlaying problems.

Monday, March 9, 2015

IYEYS Recap- Chinanu & Jordyn

The second workshop we attended at IYEYS last Sunday was about Climate Change, led by Maayan Cohen. This presentation started off with an interactive slideshow/video explaining the effects of climate change and how we are the main part of it. One topic focused on was our relentless desire to "live large"; we are a materialistic society, always concerned with acquiring new things, even when the ones we already have are perfectly usable. The video gave the bare, harsh truth; if we continue living the way we are, the planet is going to suffer even more than it already is, and as a result, we will too. The video emphasized that we  need to make changes to our current standard of living if we still want to live comfortably.

Following the video, we played a game in which we created a "snapshot" of the problems faced when trying to increase awareness of global warming, and the changes people should make in their lives. About seven kids went up and acted out these barriers; one kid held open an empty wallet, another stood off to the side (representing some people's indifference to the issue; sone people simply have no interest in getting involved), and another kid held his finger to his lips. That last one was to indicate that some people, especially people of color, aren't really given opportunities to put forward their ideas and opinions, and that social justice is a playing factor too. Overall, this inspiring workshop really forced us to see the big picture, and all the factors that contribute to climate change and our ability to help fix it.

It was my first time (Jordyn) participating in environmental workshops, and it was a very helpful and inspiring. I never realized how much of a voice I have, and all youth environmentalists. The diversity workshop was the most interesting to me because I enjoy learning about diversity and its importance, especially in the workplace. If there is going to be a major environmental change in the world we should all have the opportunity to take part in it and have an opinion.

IYES With Vanessa & Anna

Environmental Debate!
No... It really wasn't a debate. We might as well call it a panel! 

            There are the skeptics and the environmental enthusiasts, and though they don’t agree on much (climate change is still a question), but both parties certainly do enjoy a good debate!  Debate allows for the trade of ideas and viewpoints, and allows the many sides of a controversial topic to shine through.  In this activity, all of the information regarding controversial topics was brought up, but there was no debate!
            From now on, we will refer to this activity as a panel.  The panel of experts in their various fields was enlightening—secret information about New York’s school system and what they plan to do regarding their energy use was shared.  Surprising information about the amount of energy that we waste was shared, and important questions regarding the future of New York public schools were answered.  This was an insightful session, but it wasn’t a debate like what was expected.
            Having a debate with these experts would really help us understand both political aspects of environmental science, or hot topics like climate change.  Since the debate wasn’t applicable, we did, however, enjoy going up to them and having a one-on-one conversation to solidify what we do know about climate change and enhance our knowledge about the topic.

George Baldwin and Daniel Brigham's Debate Session Experience

The debate session at the IYEYS conference went very well. Daniel and I found ourselves captivated with the extraordinary ideas and new technologies presented by the speakers. These innovations included energy efficient buildings, piezo crystal energy generating technology, and green transportation. Mr. Clayton Ferrera and Dr. Sharon Jaye shared their knowledge of environmental issues within the city, and their stand on political, social, and economical environmental concerns. The debate turned into a well constructed conversation between our (the students) questions and ideas, and the answers that the experts had on the topic. It was very interesting to learn first hand how environmental groups are making steps to create a more natural and healthy city, and to learn how we, as citizens, can make a positive difference for the world in our daily lives.

IYEY Conference

Environmental Professionals Of Color
Rachel Russell and Daijah Sek

Among the selections of the first few morning workshop sessions, this particular one seemed to interest us both. Being young females of color, we wanted to learn more about the scarcity of young colored women in the environmental work field. Prior to workshops beginning, we were let loose by Andrea and Matt to mingle with other students and environmentalists. We came across the EPOC table and immediately wanted to learn more. There we met, Donna Hope and her coworker (cannot remember her name, and we have 1 itinerary circulating the room).
They gave us a very brief overview of what they were all about, and told us that they were having a session. We decided to take part in it.

Upon walking into the room, the women greeted us and had us sit in a circle. We did a small icebreaker, in which we stated our name, our grade, educational/career standing point, and favorite dance move. To be honest, it was a very strange activity. Following the icebreaker, we all did a gallery walk around the room and wrote and drew our thoughts on a specific word. For example, the posters said: Diversity, Equity, Equality, Justice, and Privilege. We all wrote and drew a variety of different things that we thought represented those words. After we completed this, we did a discussion. Because we got so in depth with the activity, we did not have a ton of time to talk about diversity within environmental professions. However, we are now aware of the small amount of young colored women in these work fields, and can do research and contact EPOC for more information and questions.

Kristy, Cora, and Brigitte IYEYS

 The session that we are writing about is Saving the World: 21st Century Sustainability Solutions for the Millennial Generation.  The man giving the presentation did a good job at getting his point across in a fun simple kind of way. He told us a  lot about the organization he worked for and highlights of their work. He told us this amazing story about how he helped a college save thousands of dollars by teaching the students little things they can do to save energy, like unplugging things.  Then he also held a candle lit party and to enter the party they had to unplug all of the plugs in their room and before they entered they had to say how many things they unplugged.
 Then he also told us this really cool story about how he and a few people helped save a pond. The pond had too much algae  and the people who owned the pond would spray herbicide into it every month and it would cost $500. So one day he went to them and said how about you give me that $500 and ill go out and buy plants and plant them in the pond.  Then they ended up doing it and the next month no one needed to spray the pond the algae was controlled.

Mairead and Zariah's Take on IYEYS

Mairead and I went to all of the same sessions at the IYEYS Event in New York. We are going to talk about the "Combined Sewer Overflow & Effects on the Bronx River," by the Rock the Boat after school program in the Bronx.

This session was led by three students that were apart of the eerily Evo-like program called "Rocking the Boat." The program was focused on learning about the Bronx River and ecological data collection while learning about seamanship skills. This particular session presented the problem of the over flowing sewer system in New York and how it is negatively affecting the Bronx River and the communities around it. After, they lead a Q&A session in which the audience mainly asked about water quality testing and the methods to clean the Bronx River that have been proposed thus far.

Our opinions:
We both thought it was interesting how the program tied together the ideas of learning about science and being community activists. We were also impressed by how much knowledge this program has gathered for researchers to use around the world. The program was a mix of the Sound School and Evo and also challenged it's students to be apart of a world led by old people (the science community.) We overall thought it was a great enviornmentally focused presentation :)