A Year of Sustainability | COP 18 and More...
Happy New Year to all,
At the end of fall semester, I sent an email to the campus community, writing both as a member of the college delegation that had just returned from the U.N. climate conference (COP18) in Qatar and as co-chair of this year’s In Focus Center of Investigation on Sustainability. I noted that the global phenomenon of climate change is considered by many to be one of the biggest challenges to a sustainable future. In that email, I referred to two blog posts in which I discuss the "Why care" question and the "Costs of inaction" on climate change. I welcome comments and hope that we can engage in campus-wide dialog on these topics in the spring semester.
Since that time, I have also written a summary and analysis of the outcomes of COP18.
Don and I encourage the campus community to participate in the 2013 "World Sustainable Development Teach-In Day"on February 8th. Given our InFocus theme this year, this seems to be perfect timing. This will also be a nice follow-up to Dr. Julian Agyeman's talk on January 29th on "Just Sustainability." This teach-in project is recognized by UNESCO as a project in the framework of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). There will be newly developed interdisciplinary teaching materials available at the International Greening Education Event (IGEE) website, and, best of all, there is NO COST!! On the website, there are also examples of resources from the 2010 teach-in that are quite interdisciplinary in nature.
Today’s school children and students of higher education and other educational institutions – the tomorrow’s custodians of mother earth – need knowledge, skills, attitude and motivation to ensure that economic wellbeing is linked to environmental protection and human health. This gives educational institutions the colossal responsibility and positions them as one of the key leaders in protecting our planet and, in turn, the humankind.
- IGEE 2011
The latest issue of Liberal Education published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities focuses on the theme of “Liberal Education for Sustainability”. There is a thought-provoking article written by Neil Weissman, provost and dean and Dickinson College – one of the five other liberal arts colleges accredited to attend the U.N. climate conferences and a recipient of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which allowed the campus to establish a Center for Sustainability Education. (Some articles from the magazine, including the one by Dr. Weissman, are available online at http://www.aacu.org/liberaleducation/le-fa12/.)
I am very excited that the Art Department is sponsoring a sustainability-related show in the HUB Gallery to kick of the spring 2013 semester. The local artist, Gregory Warmack, AKA Mr. Imagination, used found objects and recycled materials like bottle caps in his art. You should also be hearing soon about the choices for the spring environmental film series. It is wonderful to have the arts well represented in the InFocus programming.
Have a great semester and I look forward to discussions on can and should we make sustainability an integral part of teaching and learning here at Moravian College.
I leave you to ponder two excerpts from a publication by Peter W. Bardaglio from Planning for Higher Education 36: 16-22 (2007) entitled "A Moment of Grace": Integrating Sustainability into the Undergraduate Curriculum”:
As we enter the twenty-first century,” writes the theologian and environmentalist Thomas Berry (2000, p. 196), “we are experiencing a moment of grace.” Anyone paying attention to the news these days has good reason to view this claim with some skepticism. What Berry means, however, has less to do with divine mercy than with the limited-time only offer that has been placed on the table for our consideration as a species. It is a moment unlike any previous one in terms of what is at stake. It is a moment that challenges us to transform our exploitation of the Earth into a relationship that is “mutually beneficial” (p. 3). And, as luck would have it, the moment is a brief one. Unless we act now to preserve and enhance the life, beauty, and diversity of the planet for future generations, as Berry puts it, we will become “impoverished in all that makes us human” (p. 200).
Although colleges and universities may be inherently cautious, as G. Wayne Clough, Jean-Lou Chameau, and Carol Carmichael (2006, p. 37) insist, “we have to find a way to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant.” By adopting an approach to planning that models collaborative learning, inclusivity, and mutual respect, academic institutions can provide the kind of leadership that will result in more sustainable communities. Committing to a democratic process of planning, one that involves all stakeholders in the decision making and seeks to fully inform them of the trade-offs inherent in any particular course of action, may cut against the grain of traditional practices in higher education, but it is critical to the success of the sustainability effort.
Diane W. Husic, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Don St. John
Co-directors of the Sustainability Center of Investigation
Environmental Studies & Sciences Program Dedicates
New Deputy Field Center
The Environmental Studies & Sciences Program recently received a much-needed resource with a gift of 70 acres of land in northern Northampton County. The A. John '50 and Lillian K. Deputy Field Center for Environmental and Biological Sciences, a gift from Mr. Jay Deputy named in honor of his parents, serves as an outdoor laboratory in which students and faculty can conduct various environmental experiments and research. The center is located approximately 30 miles from the college just north of the town of Roseto and within the Kittatinny Ridge Corridor. Many vernal pools that serve as breeding places for several endangered and threatened amphibian species are located on the property.
This semester, students in Dr. Frank Kuserk’s ecology class initiated two studies designed to monitor long-term ecological changes. Teams of students collected and dried leaves from four tree species, weighed out equal amounts, and placed each sample into a mesh litter bag. They then secured their bags into a section of the stream that runs through the Deputy Field Center. Next spring students in Frank’s aquatic biology class will retrieve the bags, weigh them again to determine loss of material due to decomposition, and then collect and identify the macroinvertebrates most responsible for the changes. The purpose of the project is to find out which of the four types of leaves decompose fastest and to determine whether different species of macroinvertebrates have a preferred food source. (See a short video on Youtube)
The students also spent time this fall establishing 20 meter x 20 meter forest plots that they then censused and mapped for the types and number of trees found in each. They also recorded the basal height diameter and the condition, whether healthy or diseased, of each tree. Moravian is participating in this Permanent Forest Plot Project along with several other colleges and universities across North America in order to monitor changes in forests due to such things as climate change and development.
Earlier in the year the Environmental Studies & Sciences Program received a grant of $383,600 from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. In 2009 the program was awarded a grant from the foundation in the amount of $10,000 per year plus stock dividends for five years. One immediate use of the funds was the purchase of a new 15-passenger van that will be used to transport students and equipment to the Deputy Field Center and other locations to conduct environmental research.
Moravian Three at COP18 | National Media Attention
Three representatives from Moravian College attended the U.N. climate change negotiations meeting (COP18) in Doha, Qatar. Professor Hilde Binford, Marla Bianca '13, (dual chemistry and environmental science major), and Professor Diane Husic attended COP18 from November 26 to December 3. They maintained a blog about the issues that arise in the negotiations and educational side events.
Diane Husic was interviewed by Paul Brown for NPR for news segments that were aired during All Things Considered and Morning Edition on November 28th (listen to audio clip) and 29th (listen to audio clip).
Marla was one of a handful of students nationally to officially represent the American Chemical Society contributing to a blog for ACS as a way of informing undergraduates and the larger chemistry community about the events at the negotiations.
Check out the two Huffington Post stories that included quotes from Marla discussing issues related to the UN climate change conference.
• UN Climate Change Youth Involvement: A Call to Action
• UN Climate Conference: Feeling the Frustration of Youth
Climate Crises: Past, Present, and Future
The students of the Climate Crises: Past, Present, and Future course taught by professors Hilde Binford and Diane Husic have been moved to take action toward reducing their collective carbon footprint and ultimately becoming more carbon neutral. Last week the students began retrofitting the Jo Smith dormitory with 270 Philips 18-Watt CFL, energy efficient bulbs. These bulbs will use approximately 76% less energy than the incandescent bulbs which are currently in use, which translates to each bulb more than paying for itself in just the first year. In fact, over the course of its 11-year life expectancy (based on usage of 3 hours per day), each bulb will yield an average savings of just under $73.00. When this number is multiplied to reflect all 270 bulbs being retrofitted, the total savings is almost $20,000.
The students of the Climate Crises course have accepted culpability for and responded to the need for a reduction of carbon emissions," said Melissa Kutkowski' 13. "Perhaps just as important is the realization that effecting big change can begin with a single, small bulb."
(see a brief video on Youtube
If funds remain, students from the 2012 fall semester course would like to purchase rainforest acreage to preserve tropical forests which are significant carbon sinks and home to great biodiversity. A single tree, on average, captures about 13 lbs. of carbon per year, but other sources indicate that an acre of rainforest can capture about 2.6 to 5 tons of CO2 per year. Thus, preserving or replanting in the tropics can have a significant impact on offsetting carbon emissions.
Previous sections of this course have sponsored energy saving upgrades in one of the Hillside apartments, purchased the Greenhound metal water bottles to distribute to students to replace plastic water bottles which are energy-intensive to produce and lead to much waste. According to the Pacific Institute and the Sierra Club, “Production of bottle water for annual U.S. consumption alone requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy used for transportation. This releases over 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.”
The previous courses have also provided funds for planting of 3 native trees on campus during Earth Matters week.
World Bank Report on Climate Change Alarming
The World Bank has released a report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 C. Warmer World Must Be Avoided,” produced by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research. Pulling together the latest scientific findings with an analysis of risks and most likely scenarios of impacts, the report warns that recent progress in development, especially in poorer countries, may be undermined. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim warned that “Climate change is one of the single biggest factors affecting development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.” But the developed countries will not be spared the impact, however. The Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development, Rachel Kyte, noted that “The report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do.”
The report can be found on the InFocus Sustainability Blackboard site in the Course Content folder, “Climate Change.”
Events of Significance to Interdisciplinary Sustainability
Upcoming events of significance to interdisciplinary sustainability issues:
Ninth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability
23-25 Jan. 2013 Hiroshima, Japan
Everyday Religion and Sustainable Environments in the Himalaya
March 8-10, 2013 The New School, NYC, NY http://indiachinainstitute.org/initiatives/everyday-religion/
The International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture (ISSRNC) is a community of scholars engaged in critical inquiry into the relationships among human beings and their diverse cultures, environments, religious beliefs and practices http://www.religionandnature.com/society/index.htm
Online source/site for Religion and Nature:
http://www.religionandnature.com/ provides information about the complex relationships among the religious perceptions and practices of the earth's peoples and their diverse environments. It is hosted by Bron Taylor, author of "Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future" U. of Cal. Press
The Williamette Institute will offer a 7-week online course on Climate Change and the world's religions. It is open to members of all faiths and includes an introduction to o the science of climate change, the effects of climate change and how they can be addressed from within the teachings of various world's religions. The Institute is associated with the Baha'i faith. For more information, registration: