So MUCH To Do, APRIL 2014

Happy Earth Month, Y’all!

Everyday is Earth Day, of course, but this is the month we take extra time to celebrate all that is wonderful on this big blue planet, how we can behave to support its health and ultimately our health as communities and individuals.

Check out all the great events happening this Earth Month here at MVCC.

Also, there’s a really cool energy reduction challenge happening in Crawley Hall! You can watch real time energy demand and see how the building users are doing as they attempt to reduce their energy demands!

And here’s a bit from the US EPA on how to stay involved nationally and digitally. They have some pretty cool campaigns this month; definitely worth checking out.

Happy Earth Month from EPA!

April 22 is Earth Day, but we’re celebrating all month, sharing a new tip each day to help you act on climate change.

Below, we’ve listed many ways you can take action yourself and spread the word to your friends and family. Try one or many, but either way, let’s all #ActOnClimate!

Help us get the message out
Please help us share a message at noon on Earth Day, along with the link to a page full of things everyone can do to act on climate. We’re using a new system called Thunderclap to coordinate, so a message will go out from everyone at noon on Earth Day. Here’s the catch: we need 500 people to sign up or the message won’t go.

The message is: “For Earth Day, I commit to protect the climate. Take small actions that add up! #ActOnClimate http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/

We need your help, both to send the message and to invite your friends to send it, too. Join the effort or if you want more information about how it works, see our blog post.

Share daily tips through our website and social media
We’ve created 30 daily tips to act on climate, and we’ll post one each day. Help us get them out there:

Join a Twitter chat about climate issues
We’re going to have EPA experts available to discuss various climate issues on our @EPAlive account every Tuesday in April:

  • April 8, 2:00pm EDT – What can I do to act on climate?
  • April 15, 2:00pm EDT – What is EPA doing to act on climate?
  • April 22, 2:00pm EDT – EPA Research and Climate: What does the research show about climate change and what we can do about it.
  • April 29, 2:00pm EDT – Why is climate action important for our water?

How can you join the conversation? Just follow @EPAlive and the #ActOnClimate hashtag on Twitter. Ask us a question or share your ideas, or just read along with the conversation. In addition to using Twitter, we’ll publish a blog post for each chat, and you can ask your questions or send your thoughts as comments on the post. Here’s the first one: http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/04/lets-chat-about-how-to-act-on-climate/

We look forward to working with you to #ActOnClimate!

Movie Night!

Whenever (and it is rare) I find myself with a night of nothing to do, I always think: well, I should watch a movie! But then I am overwhelmed by my Netflix choices. Sometimes I want to be entertained and sometimes I want to learn something, a lesson, some facts, etc. Actually, this weekend I think I have a night that I’ll be able to watch a movie…so what will it be?

I often turn to a theme I personally love: Sustainability. And there are a lot of sustainability-related movies available today. One of the first times I remember when I made a conscious connection to enjoying  a cartoon and learning an eco-lesson, was FernGully: the last rainforest, in 1992. But it was, according to Karl Burkart of MNN.com, 1973 that the environmental film-making was born. That year, Chinatown and Soylent Green both hit the big screens. From there, we’ve enjoyed (and possibly been frightened by or disgusted by): The Day after Tomorrow, Whale Rider, Avatar, Erin Brockovich, WALL-E, March of the Penquins, and Happy FeetEven Finding Nemo has an sustainability-story as viewers explore the exotic fish trade, diversity issues, and water/ocean pollution.

and then there are the eco-mentaries, more documentary than entertaining and mostly fiction like: Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, Who Killed the Electric Car, Food, Inc., Crude, Forks Over Knives, King Corn, and The Cove just to name a few.

Want more? There are repeats of above, but there are some others not yet listed in the following articles and lists.

Here’s a list of the Huffington Post’s top picks for the 2000-2010 decade.

And, Jill from OdeWire, asks “Are These the 11 Most Inspiring Eco Movies Available Online?

Mother Nature Network shares several movies in this entry:  The best of 2010: environmental picks that include documentaries, fiction and even kid movies.

Earth911.org, one of my go-to-favorite sites for a lot of really useful green info, shares this top 11 eco-flicks the kids and adults can enjoy together and then this top 5 eco-documentaries they think are must-sees (I have to agree) that are all available on Netflix!

So what’s your top eco-flick? Have you watched any of these listed here? Have a suggestion for something missing? Head on over to the Moraine Valley Sustainability Facebook page and let us know.

Your state is polluting my state’s air- what are you gonna do about it?

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the EPA’s ability to force state governments to curb local emissions that pollute the air of neighboring states. Under review is the 2011 Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR). The CSPAR requires 28 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states.

Supporters of the rule say it would avert the loss of nearly 2 million work and school days each year to respiratory illnesses. Business groups say the rule would cost $800 million in 2014 and be otherwise economically harmful.

In a nutshell: States are required to clean their air and keep it clean. But if pollution is coming from some other state, at what point is that state responsible to help clean the impacted state’s air? That’s the question the EPA is attempting to answer with this rule.

The full report can be found here. A quick briefing of the rule is here, plus a quick synopsis of why EPA and others are asking SCOTUS to a previous D.C. appeals court ruling that invalidated it. The wind blows in all directions.   There are also several articles about this, one in the Economist and another here. Both highlight cost perspectives compared to impact. It’s an interesting concept, one I hope to see get some footing and help mitigate air pollution in general.

Is it really THAT radical?

“It may well be true that capitalism is incapable of accommodating itself to the limits of the natural world. But that is not the same question as whether or not capitalism can solve the climate crisis,” writes Christian Parenti in his article A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis.

Parenti provides a comprehensive yet easy to understand overview of the state of our climate crisis as well as how capitalism and government influence may be the way to getting us out of it. But they can do nothing without, what he calls, radical reform.  I particularly like this piece because his idea of radical reform does not hail to the ideals that we all return to living off the land, eating grasses and raising our own foods.

No, he defines it as: reforms that achieve qualitative change in the balance of power between the classes. And suggests that the only way this will  happen is if we, the people, rise up and demand it. We do so by putting pressure on our government bodies as well as our business entities. The result is a shift in government behaviors which would naturally drive the costs of fossil fuels up and renewables down. I am not going into detail here because Parenti does a very fine job of explaining this in his article, which can be found in the Summer 2013 edition of Dissent Magazine or at  Resilience.org

Plenty of others are in agreement with many of the points Parenti makes, including the idea of charging for polluting (some call it a carbon tax). For example, Severin Borenstein, Bad Incentives For Green Choices, explains, “The near-unanimous view of economists is that the best way to deal with pollution externalities is by pricing them, generally through a pollution tax or cap and trade program. Yet, policy makers still prefer to reward “good” behavior rather than impose costs on bad behavior…”

What happens over the next seven years or so is pivotal. Some might argue it’s too late. Call me a bit pie-eyed, perhaps even quixotic, but I’ll hold out hope for change before 2020.

weather stress, climate change, & < 28 year olds…??

Checking the Weather Channel’s online weather update is usually a quick in and out for me, as I am there mostly to answer one question: what’s the weather going to be like today? But sometimes the site has interesting articles, photographs, videos, etc. that catch my eye. Today was one of those times.

I found a brief article with interactive graphics depicting “what climate change looks like“. It’s a really concise view of the trends of our warming planet. Following the article is also a brief video about “Weather Stress” or the psychological threats climate change poses to our mental health.

Within, I found this fact to be particularly remarkable:

“In fact, according to NOAA’s data set, each month for more than 28 years has had a global average temperature that was above the 20th century average, meaning that anyone younger than 28 years old has never experienced a cooler-than-average month on earth.”

Whoa.

Of course, this Weather Channel’s article covers global trends. Want to see what’s been happening just in the States? ClimateCentral.com has some really interesting graphics (great classroom material!) that depict warming trends for the nation.

Read the full article and watch the video here.

Interestingly, the site has a lot about climate change and health impacts. In fact, there is another brief but informative article here about current climate change health risk factors. It’s not about the future, it’s about the here and now and it’s definitely time to pay attention and take precautions.

 

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.

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

I <3 Local Food from our (what’s a?) CSA!

With all the rain lately, I find myself thinking of my childhood home, specifically the bathroom… You see, growing up, there hung these cross-stitch framed pieces in the bathroom. One said, April Showers bring May Flowers and the other, Save Water, Shower with a Friend and there was an image of 2 bunnies pulling a flower head over to have water shower from it onto their fuzzy bunny heads.  It’s silly, but I loved those pieces…not so sure if I’ll be showering with friends anytime soon…but…

What I am sure about is that April showers do bring May flowers and those flowers often turn into fruit, vegetables, herbs and other wonderfulness that farmers grow for us every year. And I am sure that sharing that food, once I get it from the Farmer with a friend is always much more satisfying than enjoying it alone!

And here we go- year 2 of Moraine Valley Community College participating in a CSA and year 2 of my friend Maura and me sharing the box of goods. So, what’s a “CSA anyway?” The acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Small, food-producing farms (i.e., not industrial, mono-culture farms growing only one of corn, wheat, soy, canola, etc. to others for feed, processing, etc.) benefit from having capital on hand before the yield of the crop to ensure they have the funds for maintaining the soil, equipment, staff and so on to grow the food into saleable crops. Rather than going to the bank for a loan, many farmers have started offering this CSA as an option. Community members pay the farmer in advance of the crop. In exchange for their investment, they are guaranteed a set scheduled delivery of food from the farm as it matures. Sometimes this arrangement is referred to as buying a “share” of the crop or farm. More on the benefits for local economy, farmer independence, where to locate local CSAs or locally farmed food (ex., farmers markets or you-pick) can be found at LocalHarvest.org

For our CSA we get a box of different foods grown just down the road in St. Anne IL. It’s delivered to the College every week, with each week’s contents potentially different as it is dependent on the viability of the crops including weather, farming techniques, what was planted, what bugs are eating what, and on and on. Our Farmer practices organic and sustainable farming techniques, so dealing with Mother Nature is that much more challenging. Still, she has figured out the best way to manage pests, weeds and weather related challenges and is ready to deliver our very first box of the season!! I am so excited.

Each week we get an email update containing the musings of our Farmer- what’s happening at the farm; is there a new crop coming in; perhaps a deluge washed out the greens; or maybe the extra sunny days made the peppers come early… and then she includes what’s in the box. For giggles, here’s the first of the next 16 emails Maura and I and all the other CSA Members received:

***

Eggs: This is week 1, so both weekly egg shares and half shares pick up eggs this week.  For those of you who signed up for bi-weekly eggs, please only take eggs on the odd numbered weeks.  If your name is not on the list for eggs, please contact me, but do not take eggs.  I will take care of the problem next week.

The rain has gone on its journey out of Illinois, happily for we farmers.  I would like a little warmer weather than we have today, but just to see the sun shine is a real treat.  Because it has been so wet, we have been ditch digging most days to drain the fields of water.  For the most part the water has flowed nicely, but I have seen a bit of crop damage due to the wetness of the soil.  It is all part of farming, being at the mercy of nature, but it can still be discouraging.   Almost all of our greens turned yellow or purple from too much water around the roots.  Some of the peppers curled up and died.  But, most things are fine and will come out of it just fine.  And, fortunately, I have enough extra plants that I should be able to replant the areas that died off, so we really do not have a loss there, just in the greens department.

I was able to pick strawberries today.  Hoorah!  I was worried they would be ruined due to the wetness, but they are mostly fine.  I do ask that you wash them carefully prior to use to make sure all the dirt is gone.   For those of you who were spring CSA members, Mr. Gray Bunny relocated to the berry patch and is very happily snacking on our strawberries.  And, I thought I hated the meeses to pieces, but the darn bunnies on this farm have gotten my goat!

I have started a new blog where there are little missives and the beginning of a collection of recipes.  Please feel free to contribute to our recipe list with original recipes.  I will send out recipes from cookbooks, etc via email, but not in the blog.  Here is the link to it. http://blog.genesis-growers.com/

Your box

  • Strawberries – please wash them prior to eating
  • Turnip greens – these are young and tender and can therefore be eaten raw as well as cooked
  • Asparagus – I heard an idea for asparagus and tried it – Ymmm.  Wrap bacon around the individual spears and then roast or grill. What a treat!
  • Rhubarb
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radishes
  • Loose leaf Lettuce head
  • Basil – I picked several different varieties.  The Thai is great for an Asian twist.  Purple and lemon are nice in salads, and green is your typical basil

Vicki
Genesis Growers
8373 E 3000 S Rd
St Anne, Il  60964
815 953 1512
www.genesis-growers.com

***

I canNOT wait to get my hands on those fresh berries and the greens and the kohlrabi and… well, all of it! I know for sure that basil is getting chopped with the turnip greens & loose leaf lettuce and topped with hunks of roasted asparagus and radishes for a robust, flavoral dinner salad. I’ll make a vinagrette-0oo maybe with some of the strawberries!- and drizzle the salad that will accompany my rhubarb corn muffins. The kohlrabi, you ask? I’ll make that into pickles. Mmmm…what a yummy, summery dinner I have to look forward to this weekend! [FYI: these links are not my own recipes... I'll probably use a few to inspire my own work]

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, and experienced myself, folks explain how local food is so fresh it’s really a different experience than grocery store food. Try it yourself and then tell me all about it on Facebook or email me @ sustainability@morainevalley.edu. Not sure where to start? Check out LocalHarvest.org to find your own amazing summer dinner fixins’…Happy Summer, y’all!

Safety First- then Fun in the Sun!

Happy Sunny Days! Yes, it’s a great time of year to get out and have some fun, but we should take measures to do it safely, too.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its 2013 Sunscreen Guide rating the safety and efficacy of more than 1,400 sunscreens, lotions, lip products and makeups that advertise sun protection. What fascinates me most about this report is that the stuff we think is protecting us from terrible sun damage and cancer can actually be exposing us to more frightening threats!

This year, 25 percent of products on the market meet researchers’ standards by offering strong and broad UV protection and posing few safety concerns.

What sunscreens made the list this year? Click here to see EWG’s 2013 Sunscreen Guide.

Even though 1/4 of the sunscreens looked at made the best list, they are not enough. The vast majority of sunscreens available aren’t as good as most of us think they are. EWG’s advice to you is to use the tips in the guide: wear sun-protective clothing, stay in the shade to reduce intense exposure and schedule regular skin examinations by a doctor.

Here are some highlights from this year’s EWG report: