I admit it; I am not a big fan of Earth Day. This aversion could stem from what happened to me on one of the first Earth Day celebrations in NYC in Central Park, when a large dog mistook my back as a tree stump and I was urinated upon; but, it doesn’t. My objection to Earth Day is more fundamental. Why must we set aside a day (or a week) to be “Earth conscious?” We should be cognizant of the planet and our effects on the planet every day – not once a year. For those of us who are trained ecologists, geologists, hydrologists, oceanographers, climatologists, and other environmental scientists; and for those that are passionate, active, and concerned citizens (AKA environmentalists), we don’t need an “earth” day. The people of the earth don’t need an Earth Day. Or do we?
With 7 billion people on this planet, increasing at 1% per year, perhaps we need to be reminded about finite resources, and unsustainable population growth and consumption. With agro-ecosystems providing the equivalent of more than 2700 Kcal per person, and with nearly 1 billion people undernourished, while obesity becomes epidemic elsewhere, perhaps we need a wake-up call. With unprecedented levels of factory farming and feedlots across the globe, loss of soil fertility and top soil, increased levels of pesticides and pharmaceuticals in groundwater, and 70% of the world’s freshwater being used by agribusiness – perhaps we need new priorities and new educational outreach.
With our climate system permanently altered by greenhouse gas emissions, with sea ice and land ice melting at unparalleled rates, with sea level rising, with increased frequency and severity of storms, with changes in the thermohaline conveyor system slowing the Gulf Stream and consequently allowing water levels to rise on the Mid-Atlantic coast of North America, and all the while, global carbon emissions still rise, perhaps we need a regular reminder that change is necessary.
While rivers cease to reach the oceans, and while ocean systems are over-harvested and polluted, we need to act now. We need to act. The dominant social and economic paradigms of consumerism and consumption as a measure of self-worth have to change. I tell my students that “business as usual” is no longer acceptable, that the dominant paradigms are outdated and self-destructive; that it’s up to all of us to work to protect the planet for the future.
My utopian world is one in which Earth Day is not necessary – until then I’ll continue to work to bring about change and hope that at some point we won’t need Earth Day any longer.
Arthur H. Kopelman, Ph.D.
SUNY Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Science at FIT
ClimAID Webinar Series
Climate change is already affecting the people and resources of New York State, and these impacts are projected to grow. Fortunately, there are many steps that state and local government actors can take to reduce the negative impacts of climate change and take advantage of possible opportunities. The ClimAID webinars will provide vital information and resources to help local government agencies take action to reduce local impacts of and adapt to climate change. NYSERDA is pleased to offer these webinars at no cost.
The webinar series will draw heavily from findings in the comprehensive report, ClimAID: the Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in New York State. Read the whole report or its components at: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/climaid
Responding to Climate Change in New York State: An overview of climate change, its impacts, and proactive actions that cities and towns can take to adapt to a changing climate.
Arthur DeGaetano, Northeast Regional Climate Center, Cornell University
Daniel Bader, Columbia University
Radley Horton, Columbia University
Moderator: Amanda Stevens, NYSERDA
Date: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Time: 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
Will be broadcast in the CET.
- If you wish to join on your own -Registration link: https://nyserda.ilinc.com/register/tpbwfwm
By Alison Moodie, GreenBiz.com, 10-9-2012
For a company like PepsiCo, which oversees more than 20 brands and hundreds of different products around the world, calculating the carbon footprint of just one of its products can take weeks, and at a signficant cost to the company. To save time and money, PepsiCo teamed up with researchers from Columbia University’s Earth Institute to create a tool that can measure the carbon footprint of thousands of products all at once.
The calculator, which lacks an official name, can calculate the carbon emissions of different materials and activities in a company’s supply chain and operations, and within minutes pinpoint which of these carries the largest carbon footprint.
‘The objective was to give companies several capabilities at once with only a single effort,’ said Christoph Meinrenken, the tool’s lead researcher and associate research scientist at the Earth Institute.
The calculator was developed to follow publicly known carbon footprinting standards such as the GHG Protocol Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) standard and PAS20:2011. The methodology and software helps businesses identify which materials or activities in their supply chain and operations have the biggest effect on the total carbon footprint of one of their products, product lines, brands or regions. The calculator also reveals the accuracy of this information and how this accuracy can be improved so a company can make better business decisions.
“We saw the opportunity to use our carbon/greenhouse gas analysis as a base for building a broader decision-making tool that could help us identify other efficiency opportunities throughout our supply chian, drive innovation and improve our overall operations,” said Rober terKuile, PepsiCo’s senior director of environmental sustainability.
The tool also provides certifiable product footprints to be used in ecolabeling and for environmental measuring groups such as The Sustainability Consortium and GoodGuide. This certification requires an intensive, bottom-up assessment of each product’s entire life cycle in order to provide the required microscopic level of detail and to be auditable outside the company, said Meinrenken.
The tool is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Danone announced it had developed a system, in partnership with SAP, that can calculate the carbon emissions of individual products. Meinrenken said the inner workings of the Danone tool hadn’t been made public, so it was hard to adequately compare the two. He said PesiCo’s tool was developed before Danone unveiled its calculator.
The PepsiCo tool takes inspiration from sites like Facebook and Netflix, which mine huge swaths of data to figure out what users like. It analyzes data already stored in a company’s database to infer information, like what materials are in a product and where they come from. This process saves a company time and money, said Meinrenken.
‘This is just a general argument of being smart and efficient with companies’ existing data to mine and ‘milk’ it if you will, to learn additional things from the same data, rather than hiring additional staff and building up new data,’ he said.
To learn more about this approach to carbon footprinting, finish reading the article HERE.
Data about energy consumption in buildings can revolutionize energy use and, if analyzed effectively, has the potential to transform buildings’ market value. This eBriefing examines ‘big data’ in the real estate industry and focuses on new systems for energy management.
Can Oysters Save New York Harbor?
Award-winning journalist Andrew Revkin led a panel discussion with some key players in the movement to restore New York oysters, who hope to revive the Harbor and train the next generation of environmental leaders. This eBriefing also features a special presentation by students from the Harbor School.
Across the United States, people are newly inspired to recapture nature in cities, but can these efforts rebuild biodiversity? In this eBriefing, leading scientists, authors, and urban conservationists discuss the science behind and the promise of today’s urban conservation efforts.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Pride: Flying Cars and Other Broken Promises
Society has often looked to science to create a utopian future free of worry and disease and full of gadgets and toys. Join us as we explore the potential world of the future and the unfulfilled scientific promises of the past. Part of the Science and the Seven Deadly Sins Series.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Sloth: Is Your City Making You Fat?
Join a panel of scientists, urban planners, and fitness experts for a talk on how designing and building better cities and towns may make us a healthier—and leaner—nation. Part of the Science and the Seven Deadly Sins Series.
|FREE WEBINAR: Sign Up Now!
Improving Product Lifetime Through Sustainable Design Thursday, Sept. 6, Noon PST / 3 pm ESTWhile some products should last a lifetime, improving a product’s life isn’t always just about making it last. Learn how to decide on the right strategies for optimizing a product’s life and end-of-life and how to get the most use out of the materials and energy that your product uses throughout its lifecycle.
To register: http://students.autodesk.com/?nd=form__365
Graduation Pledge Alliance
Media Relations Contact: Anthony Buono, Coordinator, AESR
CELEBRATES 25TH ANNIVESARY
APRIL 20, 2012, WALTHAM, MA – 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of students across the nation and around the world making a commitment to promote social and environmental responsibility in their future workplaces. Started in 1987 at Humboldt State University, the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility reads as follows: I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work. Since that initial year, more than 200,000 students have signed the Graduation Pledge.
According to Matthew Nicodemus, one of the original founders of the Pledge, “Taking the Pledge is not just signing a piece of paper or taking an abstract oath. It’s about making a lifelong commitment to pursue social and environmental responsibility in and for our real world.” For Jared Duval, a 2005 Graduation Pledge alumnus from Wheaton College in Norton, MA, that commitment translated into becoming the National Director of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), the nation’s largest student-run environmental organization. His experiences there lead to writing a book, Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change, published by Bloomsbury in 2010. Other Pledge alums have started their own environmental organizations to address community issues, persuaded their employers to refuse weapons contracts, encouraged more sustainable practices in the workplace or refused to accept job offers from companies with poor environmental and social responsibility track records.
More than 100 participating schools run the gamut from liberal arts colleges (Bates College, Grinnell College) to state universities (Colorado, Florida) to private research universities (George Washington, Stanford) to schools outside the U.S. (Taiwan, Canada). The Pledge is also in professional schools (Culinary Institute of America, Fashion Institute of Technology) and high schools.
The Pledge operates at three levels: students and graduates making choices about their employment; schools educating about values and citizenship rather than only knowledge and skills; and the workplace and society being concerned about more than just the bottom line. The impact is immense, even if only a minority of millions of college graduating each year sign and live out the Pledge.
Mary Munion, a senior at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, is ready for her Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 12, where she will be receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business Communication. She plans to fulfill her Pledge commitment by pursuing an environmental career in business. “My plan is to go to Law School for Environmental Policy. I really want to work for a large corporation in the environmental department so I can better the quality of the environment and enable big corporations to realize that the actions they take play a huge role on the effects of our environment.” Thousands of students like Munion are taking the Pledge and planning how they will make a positive difference through social and environmental responsibility in the workplace.
The Graduation Pledge Alliance (GPA) coordinates the Pledge at the national level and is a project of the Bentley University Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility. Sherman Morrison, who serves as the GPA’s Executive Director, noted that, “For the first time in the history of the Graduation Pledge, any student from any school can take the Pledge online through the GPA website.” In the past, the Pledge was only made available to schools that were running an official Pledge program on their campus. “In the digital age, that just doesn’t make sense,” said Morrison. “Besides, students who are motivated enough to take the Pledge online end up being our first contact at potential new Partner Schools, so it’s a win-win strategy for getting the word out.” Information about participating in several different 25th Anniversary activities may be found by visiting the GPA website: www.graduationpledge.org.