Environmental Justice Radio

15 Dec

I created this podcast, Environmental Justice Radio, as an extra credit project for Environmental Integration I: Environmental Perspectives.


Context:

As I study environmental issues, ranging from the disruption of biogeochemical cycles to the economic and social costs of climate change, I find myself continuously returning to the interconnectedness of environmental and societal health. This concept reveals the disproportionate impacts of climate change on groups of people, often coinciding with racism, classism, sexism, and many other forms of oppression.

Since coming to Smith, the themes of my academic work have inspired me to independently research environmental justice in the United States. Attending the People’s Climate March in New York and joining the Divest Smith College network have been influential in my thinking about the intersectionality of social and environmental issues.

I have come to realize that all of the issues I previously felt passionate about are strung together by a not-so-thin thread.

This podcast is a small example of how climate change is not a problem affecting only distant “Others.” The impacts fall on people in our own country, and we need to raise their voices up. To me, one of the most important steps to sparking change is reworking the ways in which we communicate environmental issues.

- Callie Sieh, ’18J transferred to Smith this fall. She studies Environmental Science and Policy, and in her free time hosts a radio show on WOZQ, is an active member of Divest Smith College and explores coffee shops in the Pioneer Valley.

Music at MacLeish

11 Dec

Smith College CEEDS:

Below is a post by CEEDS intern Julia Graham, ’16 about an event that she and a fellow intern organized at the MacLeish Field Station. Julia is an environmental science and policy major and is completing the environmental concentration: sustainable food.

Originally posted on jsgraham2014:

On a recent cold and rainy evening, a troupe of dedicated Smithies wandered their way up to the Field Station to join a mysterious group of Smith faculty, staff, and friends. This is what we found in the building:

Music at MacLeish

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Hugelkultur at MacLeish

11 Dec

Smith College CEEDS:

Below is a post by CEEDS intern Julia Graham, ’16 about some of her work at the MacLeish Field Station. Julia is an environmental science and policy major and is completing the environmental concentration: sustainable food. She is very interested in global food policy and the effects of imperialism on our current food structure. Julia hopes to be able to apply all that she has learned towards changing the food system. She also hopes to work with youth, and use the process of producing food to educate them about the world around them ( history, health, ecology, etc.)

Originally posted on jsgraham2014:

View from the southern field.

View from the southern field at the MacLeish Field Station.

At MacLeish, we have spent the past month preparing to plant our comfrey root stock by building a raised hugelkultur bed in the fruit orchard. Hugelkultur is a permaculture technique that was developed by Sepp Holzer, who has a large permaculture plot in Austria (http://www.holzeragroecology.com/). A hugelkultur bed is built by piling compost on top of rotting wood. It retains moisture and the rotting wood provides a long-lasting fertilizer for plants.

hugel bed

Overview of a hugelkultur raised bed. http://www.inspirationgreen.com/hugelkultur.html

Over the next few weeks, we will finish the hugelkultur bed by piling sticks from the surrounding woods and fill in the bed with compost. Our comfrey roots will hopefully be in the ground before the ground freezes so they have a nice bed for the winter. We plan to “chop-and-drop” the comfrey leaves around the base of the fruit trees. The…

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Smith’s SGA Sustainability Committee Sponsors Successful Vintage Sale

10 Dec

shoes

On Friday, November 21st, Smith students swarmed the lower level of the Campus Center for a Heroes and Villains vintage sale. There were racks of colorful flannels, jackets and dresses and tables layered in purses, jewelry, belts, and shoes—and a busy stream of shoppers all day long. Students threw on and off jackets, laughed at ridiculous jumpers and ran back and forth between the bathroom and the sale racks to try on outfits and to check out their glamorous new looks in the mirror.

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Buying and selling vintage clothes—in fact any type of used clothing—can make a great impact on the environment. It’s a great way to reduce waste and reuse styles. Recycling fashions further awards you with unique outfits and quality items. But more significantly, your clothes tell a story.

 

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With such inspiration, Heroes and Villains Vintage was founded by two Hampshire College alums. Vintage enthusiasts, they road tripped around the U.S. after graduation, exploring the country and collecting vintage items from thrift stores in big cities and lone main street towns. Upon return to Northampton, they found they had accumulated more clothes than they knew what to do with. And thus, in a bout of entrepreneurial spirit, the business was born.

bootsSelling primarily to college student crowds (we college students do love vintage and good deals!!) they were welcomed to a day at Smith College. Duly noted, a few furious shoppers hung around for over three hours, debating different sweaters and leaving only to return with more friends.

The SGA Sustainability Committee, which received 20% of the profits, declared the sale a great success. And as I can attest, more than a few students asked: “When is Smith having the next vintage sale?”

-Odessa Aguirre is a senior at Smith College from Sonora, California. She studies Anthropology with a focus on immigration and Spanish. When she is not at Smith College, she is somewhere sunny and warm. Her future plans include backpacking in every feasible mountain range–and for the non-feasible mountain ranges, she has plans to train as a mountaineer.

Smithies take a Fieldtrip to Crimson and Clover Farm

8 Dec

ThCC logois fall semester, students from the ENV 100: Environment and Sustainability: Notes from the Field lecture course, loaded into vans for a fieldtrip to Crimson and Clover Farm. Located in Florence, MA, Crimson and Clover works closely with the Northampton Community Farm in an effort to sustain community based farming. On 40 acres, they primarily grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers for their Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) and for nearby farmers markets. And thus—on a beautiful fall day—students toured Crimson and Clover with head farmer, Nate Frigard, exploring the open fields and greenhouses and learning about sustainable farming.

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Back in the Smith classroom, students were asked to write reflection papers incorporating their newfound knowledge. Many wrote about how CSA models benefit small farmers, addressing how Crimson and Clover survives by their steady 300+ CSA members. One student reported that “in the variable world of farming, CSA provides both the producer and consumer with predictability and stability while still providing a superior product and healing the land and communities.” Another student recognized CSAs as imperative for maintaining balanced, creative, and sustainable diets year-round. Further addressing Crimson and Clover’s year-round CSA, she maintained: “year round production of food does not mean tomatoes in January in Massachusetts or individual chip bags hanging on trees, but bounty in the summer so that members can preserve for the coming winter.”

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Alternatively, an international student from China offered a unique perspective. Addressing a recent experience she had at home, she reflected:

“This summer I went to my father’s hometown, a quiet village called XiaoXian in Anhui Province, China. I could not tell the differences in the village from my last visit ten years ago, but my father said there were some big changes going on right before my eyes. Land in rural China is owned by the government, not by individuals. After a reform in 1978, however, individual farmers were allocated lands for their own use. Today, lands are becoming cooperative once again, because young adults, who are supposed to be the main laborers in families nearly all leave for cities; those who are left behind are mainly the elders and children. Farmers no longer cultivate the land on their own and earn profits for their single household; instead, they work together. This pattern in China is similar to CSA in the States, for both of them invoke a sense of community and cooperation. They differ in that the Chinese farms still operate as a small part of the larger agriculture industry while in the U.S., the CSA makes itself a complete market. Instead of selling produce to an enormous market far away, to unknown customers, perhaps such collective farms in China could try to form a smaller, nearby market for themselves, like CSA farms in the U.S. After all, this was how agriculture worked in the old days. There are two obvious benefits of doing this: creating a tighter community and improving the food quality.”

These varied student reactions to the Crimson and Clover field trip remind us of the sense of community and the high-quality food desired across cultures and different backgrounds. They address the means by which we can, and are, creating reliable and small-scale food systems. A big thanks to Crimson and Clover for providing an educational day on the farm!

-CEEDS intern Odessa Aguirre is a senior at Smith College from Sonora, California. She studies Anthropology with a focus on immigration and Spanish. When she is not at Smith College, she is somewhere sunny and warm. Her future plans include backpacking in every feasible mountain range–and for the non-feasible mountain ranges, she has plans to train as a mountaineer.

A Message from the SAL

12 Nov

Greetings [CEEDS] readers! I am writing as a guest-blogger from the Spatial Analysis Lab on campus (Sabin-Reed 104). My name is Victoria Beckley, and I am the post-bac fellow for the Spatial Analysis Lab (or SAL), which is a cross-campus academic resource that supports GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping projects for students, faculty, and staff across the academic divisions. Our work ranges from mapping Paradise Pond with faculty in the sciences, to mapping decades of India rainfall in Economics, to mapping a narrative around the issue of food access in the Study of Women and Gender. For a complete list of our current projects visit this link.

Mapping Rainfall in India

Mapping Rainfall in India



The SAL has a long-standing history of collaboration with CEEDS, and so we thought we would take a moment to share some of our previous collaborative efforts as well as consider opportunities for the future.

Current Collaborations:

CEEDS has an ongoing relationship with the SAL through which we manage spatial data collected from the MacLeish Field Station as well as a variety of other local areas and projects. The lab helps equip student workers with GPS and GIS skills to better enable them to conduct research. trimblegpsStudents borrow our Trimble GPS units (see image to right) to map data on the American chestnut and fruit tree groves at MacLeish, to map the movement of local invasive plant species, and to continue work on an ongoing project along the Mill River.

More Recent Developments in the SAL:

In early October the Spatial Analysis Lab hosted an Ebola First Responder Mapping workshop. The 38 workshop attendees learned to use OpenStreetMap to draw roads, paths, and buildings -features that are commonly not mapped- on West African maps. The point of this exercise was to provide aid workers on the ground, in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, the ability to identify features like roads and paths to remote villages, bridges and river crossings, schools that are being used as temporary health clinics, and even open fields for helicopter landings. Groups like Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross rely on this crowd-sourced cartography to navigate areas where previously the only available maps were made up of fuzzy aerial images.

Similar OpenStreetMap projects were created for mapping features in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, as well as for mapping the Gaza Strip, in order to utilize GIS technologies to better understand our geographies and make them accessible for spatial analysis.

A few weeks later we hosted a follow-up social mapping lab session (including pizza of course) that provided a space for collaborative mapping efforts and further conversations around the topic. Experienced and new mappers alike joined in.

Potential Collaborations for the Future:

Along the same lines as the OpenStreetMap projects described above, one could imagine CEEDS students working in collaboration with the SAL to conduct home-grown mapping projects pertaining to issues of sustainability on campus. Last year students put together a story map to highlight campus efforts in sustainability, which can be viewed here.

As long as your data has a spatial component it can be visualized on a map. allowing you to investigate patterns and perform spatial analysis. Furthermore, if you have an idea for a mapping project, but the data does not yet exist, feel free to drop us a line with a project proposal and we can help you determine how to go about creating those 
data. Visit the SAL website to explore all of our workshops and resources. You can also contact me directly with any questions, comments, or ideas: vbeckley at smith.edu.

-Victoria Beckley is the current post-bac fellow in the Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL). Victoria comes to Smith from Southern California, where she completed an undergraduate degree in Interdisciplinary GIS. She is originally from Dallas, Texas.

An Impressive Affair: CEEDS’ 4th Annual Cider Festival

4 Nov

The Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability [CEEDS] celebrated Family Weekend with a cider pressing event* on October 25th to great success.

This being my first experience with this event I did not know what to expect.  That morning, I staggered over to Chapin annex road with a milk crate filled with 6 varieties of heirloom apples. As I rounded the corner of Chapin I was amazed to see a white pick-up truck filled to the brim with an impressive load of apples -of all different colors, shapes, and sizes.

Lily1The truckload of apples: a mix of Macoun, Gala, Empire, and Honeycrisp.

As the morning preparations continued in a flurry of table cloths and apple slicing, crowds of parents, clearly in awe with the idyllic setting of Smith College on a breezy fall morning, began gathering around the apple tasting and cider press.

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As the numbers grew I was soon unable to see anything past the heirloom tasting table where I was stationed. Parents and students crowded around the white-clothed, apple laden table, clutching compostable cups of fresh-pressed cider and samples of aged local cheeses or a Hadley-made cider donut.  I could hear the director’s voice facilitating the operation of the pressing as people called out their preferred varieties for tasting to me.

Over and over, I was asked where the apples had come from (Scott farm in Dummerston, Vermont) and where one could get some of the heirloom varieties. “Our supermarket would never have these!” was a constant refrain. ‘”I never knew there were so many kinds of apples!” was another common exclamation. It was wonderful to see so many people marveling in the possibilities of such local, diverse fruit.

Lily3
The heirloom apple tasting table.

The grandmother of a friend of mine delighted immensely in the Cox’s Orange Pippen, her favorite variety of apple, which has been unavailable to her since she moved to the States from Great Britain. She reported that she had tried to smuggle a pound of this variety through airport security a few years prior, but had had them confiscated.

I slipped her a whole apple.

-Lily Carlisle-Reske is a sophomore at Smith College from Alexandria, Virginia. She is studying environmental science and policy with a concentration in sustainable food and Italian. When she is not working she is probably in the kitchen stirring a pot of soup and baking bread.

*The event, this year in collaboration with Dining Services, included cider pressing with apples generously donated by Clark Brothers Orchard in Ashfield, MA (and gathered by CEEDS students and staff), fresh-made cider donuts from Atkins Farms in South Amherst, MA, an heirloom apple tasting with apples from Scott Farm in Dummerston, VT, and 1yr and 5yr cheddar cheese from Grafton Village in Grafton, VT.

It all begins with the community: a site visit to Azilal Province

23 Oct

This post by student in the sustainable food concentration about her experience in Morocco was originally published on the High Atlas Foundation blog on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 11:49

Burke_AzilalSite_1

It was well past nine by the time we rumbled through the city to pick up Abderrahim. The streets of the medina were only just waking up from their Sunday morning snooze, but HAF’s Project Manager had been up since six. He hopped in the front seat of the taxi, passing back loaves of warm barley bread to the four of us scrunched into the back seat. We were happy to accept; it would be a long ride to Azilal province.

It is summer already in Marrakech. The city echoes with the slapping of thousands of sandals on hot pavement. People congregate at night in the cool parks, squares and cafés, sipping juices, feeding pigeons and chatting. But outside of the city the change in season takes on a larger significance. As we drive, we see on either side of the road small groups of men and women harvesting golden fields of wheat, scything the long grass with steady rhythm. The barley harvest has also begun, and the markets are already filled with fresh apricots, peaches, melons and plums. In a country where more than 45% of the labor force works in agriculture; the harvest is a matter of the utmost environmental, cultural and economic importance.

We drive north along a dusty road for a couple of hours before we stop at a roadside café. As we dip our bread in olive oil, honey and amlou – a nut paste mixed with argan oil – we discuss the agricultural system that produced our breakfast. What does it take to grow almonds, walnuts, and olives in the mountains of Azilal province? Why these crops? Encouraging fruit tree cultivation over grain or livestock production can be challenging, but the environmental and economic benefits, can be enormous. Today we’ll be seeing HAF’s methodology in action, visiting a tree nursery and seeing the beginnings of participatory planning in a local community. With the launch of HA3, the High Atlas Agriculture and Artisanal enterprise developed to connect farmers with organic markets domestically and abroad, these nuts and oils will mean increased family incomes and reinvestment in community development. But it all begins with the trees.

Burke_AzilalSite_2

Our breakfast finished with sweet cups of tea, we head on toward the nursery, passing the incredible Bin al Ouidane lake with its myriad shades of blue and green. Dammed in the 1950’s for hydro-electric power and irrigation, the lake reflects all of the faded greens and clay reds of the mountains. The new nursery, built in partnership with a local cooperative, is nestled into the slope of one of these mountains. We half walk, half slide our way down to the terraced beds. The three large plots are all prepared for planting, and several workers have already begun propagating thousands of olives in the lowest bed. The farmers use varieties that are well adapted to this mountainous environment, and the cuttings used for planting come from local olive trees, dried briefly to prevent rot. Abderrahim is hopeful that the success rate could be over 90%, comparable to the nearby nursery at Ait Mohammed.

The two upper terraced beds will soon be filled with more fruit trees: walnuts mixed with the adult almonds already littering the land, providing ample saplings to distribute to local farmers. These varieties, unlike many fruit trees grown in the region, don’t require pesticides or intensive irrigation, and are therefore excellent candidates for organic cultivation. Additionally, on the mountainous soils of Azilal province, they are essential in the battle against ongoing soil erosion.

These nurseries represent a huge commitment from the participating communities – some trees, such as almonds, will mature enough to bear fruit in a couple of years, but others will take as many as seven or eight. The amount of labor required, especially early on in the process, is high, but regular labor is also required after the seedlings sprout. Yet the local cooperative has been more than willing to take on these responsibilities, ensuring regular maintenance by community members and leasing land. Efficient drip irrigation systems are the next step here. The community is making excellent progress considering they only began clearing the land in late February. Insha’allah, these neat rows will soon be spotted with olive seedlings.

Burke_AzilalSite_3

 It’s now past noon and the blazing sun makes the air above us dance. Slowly, we make our goodbyes and work our way back up the hill to the taxi and toward Ourouizarght. It’s a small town, but a hub of the province, and it is here that we meet Amina. As the director of a women’s association in town, she’ll be joining us for a community visit to Ait Shribou, a nearby village. HAF hasn’t yet gotten involved in the community, so we’re here to introduce the organization and to get a feel for the conditions of the village, its environment and its agriculture. On the way there, we pick up women and children who volunteer to show us around. It is strikingly beautiful: walnuts are already coming in on the trees and some spring wildflowers are still in bloom. Si Hassan stops the cab by the edge of the road and we climb down into the valley.

The slopes are fairly steep and we stop in front of a small cave where one of the women invites  us to drink the spring water. Ait Shribou is built around this spring and its sweet water is syphoned off into an aqueduct and transported to surrounding towns. Further down the hill, several women have gathered with their children to wash laundry in the aqueduct, beating their clothes dry in the sun.

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Despite its water resources, life in the village is difficult. We gather in a small shop on the other side of the valley to identify the most pressing community issues. The three men in the shop offer us a table and chairs, and join the women in discussing the state of the village. Soon, poster paper and colored markers are produced, and two of the younger villagers began to map out their community. From this, in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) mixed with Tamazight (the local Berber Amazigh dialect), the development priorities of the village are discussed. Soon the paper is splattered in red, green and blue and the whole table is laughing. Neighbors leading donkeys peek into the shop, buying sugar and candies for the kids, and fresh mint is brought for tea. The discussion continues for several hours, and at the end, a meeting with the women of the community is proposed for the coming weeks. Spirits are high as we thank our hosts and work our way back to the car. As soon as the wheat harvest is finished, these women too will drink cups of steaming tea and discuss strengthening the future of their communities, one tree at a time.

Amelia Burke, HAF intern
Photos: Amelia Burke

Amelia Burke, ’16 is in the process of accelerating by an academic year to compensate for time spent working and learning abroad. She studies Middle Eastern Studies, Environmental Science and Policy and concentrates in Sustainable Food and is interested in HLLM implementation in North Africa. She returned to Smith this fall and is HR of Parsons House.

Keep current on gender and international agriculture

20 Oct

https://www.flickr.com/photos/icrisat/5814411222/in/faves-croptrust/ Sorghum at its peak.

Agriculture is the largest employer of rural women in much of the developing world (FAO 2011). Yet women farmers often face gender-based productive constraints, largely in the form of unequal access to resources. The world’s female farmers own less land, manage less livestock, and use less purchased fertilizer than men; they are less likely to obtain formal education, credit, insurance, membership in groups or collectives, and improved seed and livestock breeds (FAO 2011). In many agricultural communities, female-headed households are less resilient to economic and environmental stressors and more food insecure than their male-headed counterparts (for evidence from Africa, see a recent working paper from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). As should be the case, multilateral agencies and research institutions are increasingly committed to redressing gender inequality through agricultural and rural development.

harvesting wheat (2)
An Ahir tribal woman in Nadapa village, east of Bhuj harvesting wheat.

Through my research on and off campus, I have amassed a collection of favorite agriculture-related blogs. Below are some of the sites that I use to keep current on gender issues on the international ag front. Enjoy.

1. Gender-Nutrition Idea Exchange of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health
2. Year of Gender news page of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
3. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI): Gender
4. Gender, Agriculture, & Assets Project of IFPRI and the International Livestock Research Institute
5. Gender & Food Policy News from IFPRI
6. Climate Change, Collective Action, & Women’s Assets from IFPRI
7. On Gender and Restoration: A case study series by the International Union for Conservation of Nature
8. Agroforestry World posts on gender from the World Agroforestry Center

– Jacqueline Maasch ’16J

Jacqueline is an anthropology major, environmental science & policy minor, and sustainable food concentrator. Her interests include agroecology, human nutrition, (agro)biodiversity conservation, and climate.

The Solar Panels at MacLeish

17 Oct
The Bechtel Environmental Classroom at Smith’s Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station is an energetically self sustaining building. All energy required to run the building is provided by the 9.4 kW solar array on site. The solar array powers the water heater, the space heater, and the lighting for the building. The U.S. Energy Information Association reports that the average American residential utility customer consumes 10,837 kWh/year. CivicSolar states that a 9.4 kW array generates about 13,600 kWh annually. Therefore this panel could support the average U.S. household. The solar array at the Field Station was designed and installed by the local (PV) solar cooperative. The tilt angle of the array needs to be adjusted monthly to maximize solar radiation. This is because the sun’s position in the sky changes throughout the year. On September 30th we adjusted the solar panels for October, to a tilt angle of 45°.
Emily_solar
Working to adjust the solar array for October.
Interested in photovoltaics? Come visit the MacLeish Field Station with CEEDS interns on any Saturday afternoon. Sign up here http://www.smith.edu/ceeds/macleish_visit.php. In addition, the engineering department offers a class in photovoltaic and fuel cell system design that gives a more technical background for these renewable energy systems.

-Emily Dixon ’15

Emily Dixon is majoring in engineering with a minor in landscape studies. She is excited to work at MacLeish as a CEEDS intern. During her first semester at Smith she was introduced to the field station through Paul Wetzel’s lab for BIO 155 Biodiversity, Ecology, and Conservation.

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