Changing the future on a…train?

Millennial Trains Project (MTP): 20 participants age 18-34 are set to embark on a fast-paced cross-country journey in the name of sustainability, entrepreneurism and social change.

Ten cities, 10 days, 20 bright young minds on a transcontinental train trip sharing ideas for solving real-world problems — that’s the concept behind The Millennial Trains Project, a sort of mobile think tank that brings together socially minded entrepreneurs to address the challenges of the present and future. Departing Aug. 8 from San Francisco, the train will stop in Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington on its journey of discovery. 

Read more about this project in Mother Nature News reporter Gerri Miller’s interview with Patrick Dowd, the project’s founder and CEO.

All of the projects sound really interesting! There are studies of food waste, energy conservation, health and diversity issues like- living with chronic illness or what it’s like to be an Arab American– and one, not surprisingly, about the use of trains for transit as a sustainable choice. In all, the MTP categorizes the individual projects into ten tracks:

I’ll be very interested to learn more about that last one; it’s Malcolm Kenton’s project. Trains Revitalizing America, is born out of Malcolm’s passion for trains and interest in sustainability and ecology. He’ll be creating a documentary that highlights various reasons that makes train travel a sustainable, efficient and ecologically sound mode of transportation. Cool!

The individual millennials and their project ideas can be found on the Project’s website. They have some really unique and creative stories and ideas. I hope they are able to make great strides and grow their concepts into real, actionable and helpful strategies to shape a better future for us all.

Safe & successful travels, Millennials, Choo Choo!!

Staying Hungry for Justice

Students, staff and faculty frat the University of California, Santa Barabara recently participated in a 24-hour “Justice Fast”, to promote justice, solidarity, integrity and dignity, in light of humanitarian issues worldwide and other social justice concerns.

Excerpts from the article, Campus Fasting Event Highlights Diverse Social Justice Movements, shed some light on the event:

  • …the act of fasting, or abstaining from eating, emphasizes a continued prevalence of people’s hunger for justice. … “We’re trying to bring awareness to certain issues that are affecting our society and our larger global society,” Ochoa said. “At first, we were trying to figure out what issue to revolve our fast around, but in the end, we realized we couldn’t just focus on one issue. So we decided to split them, and students decided to take upon their own issues.”

Another recent article, which cites this UC-SB event, discusses deeping the academic experience to help students foster their already innate connection to the global challenges facing them and expounds on why these students resorted to fasting:

  • From water shortages to climate change, population growth to the health of bees, biocultural diversity to globalization, everything feels inextricably interdependent and connected. Higher education is a great leverage point for addressing the complex issues that affect us all. Many students recognize the multifaceted challenges that face us, and they can become overwhelmed when classes seem abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life and there is no clear action component to the learning process. A recent article discusses a student fast at the University of California, Santa Barbara with the slogan “There’s too much to lose, don’t make me choose!Resorting to fasting shows the seriousness with which these students take environmental, social and economic problems.

And these students and others across the nation are serious!  80% of US grads want to make a positive impact on the environment and 92% want to work for an eco-friendly company. Thankfully, 53% of our Fortune 500 companies are publishing some kind of sustainability or corporate social responsibility report, so our grads can find these companies, and nearly 80% of the nation’s population agrees we need to decrease consumption of energy and goods. This means, more and more our institutions of higher education need to be preparing students to be able to design systems, social and economic, that will meet these concerns and allow humans to persist within our limits.

At Moraine Valley Community College, faculty are fortunate to have an excellent resource that will help them integrate the concepts of sustainability into their coursework. The Moraine Valley Learning Academy, in collaboration with the Center for Sustainability, offers a faculty-enrichment program called the Greening Your Curriculum- Prairie Project. Enrollment for Fall 2013 is open now. The course explores many facets of sustainability, addressing today’s challenges and the unknowns of tomorrow, and guides faculty to understand how these topics relate or can be used to teach their individual disciplines. The program is unique to Moraine Valley, but there are other similar examples across campuses regionally and nationally. I am inspired and hopeful because of them.

Windy City Just Got Windier!

Thanks to recent municapl electricity aggregration deal cut by Chicago, the City is set to receive nearly double the wind power it has currently. The deal also includes methods to reduce carbon emissions by 16%. A 98% reduction in ozone depleting and acid rain causing NO2 emissions, and a water-use savings equivalent to the annual consumption of about 12,500 households should also be realized through this new strategy.

Read more about how this deal is also saving rate payers money and driving the demand to create more green jobs in the City. Where do you live? Do you know if your city is following suit? According to WBEZ.org reporter, Chris Bentley about 600 cities and towns across the state have pursued aggregation deals and that they can take advantage of these deals like Chicago has to create a cleaner, thriving economic environment:

Renewable energy supporters are hopeful that municipal electricity aggregation could prove a useful vehicle to promote policies from distributed energy storage to local green jobs.

“With municipal aggregation,” said The Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin, “cities like Chicago and every city and suburb in Illinois has the power to ask those questions to their suppliers.”

“Chicago’s inclusion of local wind energy in their power supply is an example for other aggregated communities to follow and build upon,” he said in a statement.

Interested in Wind Power? Illinois Wind is a website dedicated to information for Illinois residents interested in wind as a source of renewable energy.

Dept of Energy: Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns

The NY Times has an article out today about how climate change will affect (is affecting) our electrical grid. Journalist John Broder sites the US Department of Energy stating, “The nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy“.

The fact that our power grid is threatened should be alarming enough, however, climate change is affecting so much more that will then again threaten our ability to maintain power, quality of life, etc.

Broder further writes, “The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.”

Coincidentally, (??)  The Weather Channel website is featuring a 254-page slide show of images from NASA showing dramatic changes to our planet, not just the US.

Dramatic Images of Our Changing Planet “The pictures, featured in NASA’s “State of Flux: Images of Change,” show movement over time, with lapses from just a few days to centuries. They look at cities and locales the world over, from Saudi Arabia to El Salvador. They exhibit lake shrinkage and flooding and drought and fires. Many highlight the impact humans have had on these natural places.

In some instances, the changes are slight, circled or outlined to delineate the modification. But in others, like this one of deforestation in Argentina, the difference in just three decades is stark.”

In that same posting by The Weather Channel, they have quick video about how NASA is using its images and other data collected from satellites to understand climate change. It’s very quick, but educational if you’re not yet aware of this process.

Wait, NINE Billion People?? World Population Day 7/11/2013

I recently received the following (slightly shortened) email. Sometimes, because there’s just not enough time to read them all, I delete mass emails like this. However, I found the title compelling enough to open and then, the message within even more interesting. There could be 9 Billion people on the planet before my time is up (given I live to be nice and old and past 2050). That’s alarming since we’re struggling now to balance food and water and other resources equitably for the 7 billion we have now. Read below and learn more about these challenges- truly upsetting.

BUT, what I liked most about this email is the hope it provides. Hope is a powerful motivator and clearly (below) there are many folks out there with hope that they can make a difference.

Danielle, author of the email, asks the readers to suggest other groups and names addressing the issues presented within- do you know anyone? I wrote back and suggested the Half the Sky Movement.

 

“Dear Stephenie,

Thursday, July 11th, is World Population Day.   The United Nations estimates that global population will swell to 9 billion by the year 2050.   Most of this growth will occur in urban areas and emerging economies in Asia,   Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Cities such as Delhi, India; Sao   Paolo, Brazil; and Lagos, Nigeria will become the largest in the world, while   rural areas will lose inhabitants.

At least one billion   people around the world do not get enough to eat. A nearly equal amount – 1.4   billion – are overweight, and can suffer from various health problems such as   diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. And more than 200 million women across the globe have an unmet need for   contraception, keeping them from planning how many children they want to have   and when. In addition, women farmers often lack access to land, credit, and   education making it harder for them to provide for their families. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women had the same access to these services as men, global malnutrition could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.

But committed groups around the world are highlighting the   connections between population growth, gender, reproductive health,   agricultural production, and environmental sustainability and the need for   integrated, holistic approaches to nourish both people and the planet.

The 18 individuals and organizations below (in alphabetical order) are all taking action to prepare for the challenges presented by global population growth through research, advocacy, education, and community outreach.   What other groups are taking on these issues? Please let us know in the comments or email me.”

  1. Aspen Global Health and Development
  2. Cecile Richards
  3. Center for Environment and Population
  4. Debra Hauser
  5. The Earth Institute, Colombia University Center on   Globalization and Sustainable Development
  6. Every Mother Counts
  7. Family Care International (FCI)
  8. Global Fund for Women
  9. Hans Rosling
  10. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)
  11. Jane Goodall Institute
  12. Jill Sheffield
  13. Jon Foley
  14. Population Council
  15. Population Services International (PSI)
  16. Suzanne Ehlers
  17. Marie Stopes Foundation
  18. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

“Who would you add to this list? Please email me and let me know! Also, you can share the list by clicking HERE.

All The Best,

Danielle Nierenberg
Co-Founder, Food Tank
foodtank.org
Email: danielle@foodtank.org
Phone: 202-590-1037

Eco-friendly summer drives…

It’s summer time. Time to roll down the windows, turn the radio up and take a long ride, blasting the summer hits and letting the warm air blow through your hair… I love summer rides, really I do. I wish I could do it with less of an eco-impact though. In the future this should be no problem- if we keep letting industry be innovative and also act to push and create market-demand. Until then, I’ll dream along with the dreamers.

Dreamers like who ever invented this – Wow! When can I get one of these?

If you search YouTube for other green, future cars you can find a lot of neat, flashy and really out-of-this-world (or under it?!) concepts. However, I think the idea from Honda above is actually realistic. I mean, it looks so easy and comfortable, it’s like a seated-segway! It’s exciting to me industry is developing more options for green individual modes of transit, like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt.

And industry leaders like Nissan, Chevy, Honda and Ford are continuing to explore other new and exciting ways to help us get around. But students in higher education are getting in on the action to create our future transit options, too. The US EPA has a competition called EcoCAR Competition where teams compete to create the coolest, most innovative and least environmentally impacful car possible. You can see several of the winners on this YouTube page.

Still, some of those futuristic concept cars are pretty sweet and fun to dream about…

Happy Summer!