Tag Archives: climate change

Smith team takes on climate change video challenge

27 Feb

Each year the Environmental Engineering and Science Foundation (EESF) and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP) put out a call to current undergraduate and graduate students studying environmental engineering or sciences worldwide for a video competition.

This year’s theme, “What can individuals do to help reduce climate change?”, inspired Jocelyn Yax ’18 (engineering), Amelia Wagner ’18J (engineering/government), and Jasmine Pacheco-Ramos ’19 (environmental science and policy) to take on the challenge. Assistant Professor Niveen Ismail in the Picker Engineering Program acted as the faculty advisor for the project.   Check out their video on YouTube.

The winning teams will be announced at the Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on April 13, 2017.

eesf_logoMore on the contest rules:
The video should be targeted to motivate 8th grade and higher students to change daily habits that contribute to climate change. The video may also be used more broadly to motivate the general public to change simple patterns that contribute to climate change.

The video should motivate individuals to change daily habits that cause carbon emissions that may contribute to climate change. People have varying views on climate change. Contestants are urged to develop a message that acknowledges the breadth of opinions on this issue but that encourages everyone to make changes that will help with climate change. Because most people do not understand the roles of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, the video should end with brief reference as to how Environmental Engineers and Scientists are working on climate issues.

Out with the Old, in with the Insulated: The Renovation of Lamont Windows

19 Feb

One might consider general upkeep around a college campus to be pretty generic work; indeed, campuses like Smith consist of countless old buildings and houses that do not perform at modern standards. As students, we rarely think about how much these improvements benefit us. Additionally, we rarely think about how much of our comfort in our built spaces is inherently connected to the preservation of energy.

Lamont windows

Left: (Before) Original single pane wood windows. Right: (After) New Marvin aluminum clad wood with argon insulated glass.

Lamont windows_2

Left: Low-expansion foam insulation being installed behind frames. Right: Air filtration and water penetration testing.

An example of this is the renovations to Lamont House completed this past summer. Located on upper Elm Street, Lamont had all of its traditional single-pane wood windows replaced with double-pane aluminum-clad wood windows. In addition to improving the type of window, the new windows were tested to be sure that water and moisture will not find a way in between the sashes or around the frame. The edges behind the window’s frames were fully sealed with low-expansion foam to keep warm air from leaving and cold air from entering the rooms.

The results are noteworthy. Lamont House looks better, and it should be much more energy efficient and more comfortable for student residents.  

“A lot of the houses on campus have very old windows that do not have insulated glass, or the double pane set up, so a lot of heat that would otherwise be preserved escapes.” said Karla Youngblood, project manager and assistant director of facilities management, during an interview. She recalled going into a student’s room once and seeing three thick strips of duct tape placed over the cracks around the windows. She also remembered a time when she entered a room and saw the student’s bed moved to the furthest corner away from the window.

Youngblood reported that in recent years, students complaints on the cold and lack of insulation in their rooms have been on the rise. In a campus where community and collaboration dominate the daily routines of most students at Smith, Youngblood argued, no student should ever feel uncomfortable in the one space on campus that is entirely theirs. “Even if we are certain that these new window installations will help Smith’s energy bills, my biggest priority is always occupant comfort.” she said. Youngblood said that the Lamont window project is part of an ongoing effort on campus to update and insulate all of the houses. “Recently, we insulated the roof of Dewey, which is one of our oldest buildings on campus. Lamont was on our list for this summer, but houses like Tyler are definitely due to be renovated.”  

These improvements often go unnoticed by students and faculty at Smith; however, things do not have to be this way, said Dano Weisbord, director of campus sustainability and space planning. “We want to get the word out about these projects so that we can hear feedback from students who live in Lamont, and other houses that have been renovated to be more energy efficient and comfortable.”

Lamont_outside1

Before: Lamont House, west elevation.

Lamont outside_2

After: Lamont House, west elevation.

So, Lamont students, what is the verdict? As we move through February and the nights are consistently chilly, do you feel that your rooms are warmer and better insulated? The office of Campus Sustainability would love to hear your thoughts!

-Andrea Schmid, class of 2017, is an environmental science and policy major and a recently declared climate change concentrator. She is interested in environmental journalism and the role that digital media plays in the environmental movement.  She currently works as the communications intern for the Office of Campus Sustainability.

Green Team’s Third Annual Climate Justice Open Mic

27 Feb

The stark white bar was laden heavily with cheese, cookies, crackers and tea cups. Heavy ochre curtains were tugged across the entrance way to the dim room, crowded with plastic chairs circled around a small, brightly lit stage.

Last night, I attended Green Team’s annual Climate Justice open mic. The atmosphere was warm despite the excited jitters that pulsed through the crowd like electricity. Green Team’s president, Siiri Bigalke, opened up the night with a moving story about coming to understand environmental injustices during her time abroad.

Another student read a chilling anecdote about her first time visiting receding glaciers. One sophomore, who had dropped by spur of the moment, recalled the various forms of pollution she saw affecting the environment and local residents during her 6 month stay in China. I read a poem about the constricting, overwhelming nature of the climate injustice conversation, or lack thereof.

As attendees became more comfortable, the pieces and stories being shared began to foster stimulating conversations. Students were discovering injustices within the injustices being spoken about; they were learning, listening, and opening their minds as peers braved the bright stage lights.

Perhaps we can look to this event and others like it in searching for ways to open up conversations about environmental (in)justices.

Calling

Footsteps reverberating, exponentially.

Around this hallowed space

curving walls

and dripping ceilings, concrete

pressing and stretching

and acres of black and white tiles.

Drowning in uniformity

echoes of disparate voices

I, too, call out.

 

Deeper down, down we slide

grit, grime wearing as we accelerate; a

perverse progression

and yet there’s a way to

devour, hopelessly

and it cranes our necks to look back at all.

Scraping at the only dust that remains

that would give our floundering feet traction

the void calls out.

 

Along the way, bulbs in dusty prisms

gleam dull and cruel; like

hoarded luxury

and insatiably hungry eyes, all framing an

unfathomable maw

and blinding us against the unknown.

The glow is warming inside these walls

the night never comes, but however stifled

we call out.

 

Billions of eyes focusing

forward through the chaos, reflecting

speckled trees

and cacophonous Springs

righteous respiration

and rusting, silent chains.

Voices presently choked, almost muted

a technological compromise and no one need leave

but they call out.

 

Beaten bodies building

soils sown with poisons

seas roiling; a pot over flame

and yet we march

walls contracting

and we grow restless.

These tunnels were not built to burst

but the breath of the Earth beyond is rallying

the climate is calling.

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-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. #veganchef

From Apple Orchards to the Big Apple, Smith Students Take to the Streets

23 Sep

Smith students rolled into New York City this weekend for the People’s Climate March, leaving the peaceful country setting of the College to raise our voices and join with communities around the globe demanding climate justice.

The People’s Climate March was slated to turn out just under a quarter of a million marchers in New York; the estimated tally after the fact exceeded 311,000, with hundreds of thousands more marching internationally in solidarity with the local movement. Smith sent a contingent of approximately 60 people–students, faculty, and staff who were ready and willing to take their commitment to sustainability at Smith to a larger stage.

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As we stood, packed shoulder to shoulder in the blocks preceeding the start of the route at Columbus circle, I bore witness to dozens of joyful reunions between friends who came from far and wide to converge at the March. All along the route I marched hand-in-hand with close friends who had traveled with Oberlin, Cornell, University of Chicago, and University of Virginia.

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Although students made up a massive part of the March, there were parents with strollers in tow, front-line community members, laborers, teachers, politicians, and celebrities to be sighted along the 2-mile route. Children wearing superhero costumes with cape lettering such as “Super Villain for Climate Justice” swayed on their parents shoulders; many laborers lifted signs demanding fair wages and food justice; there were politicians and celebrities who marched along the front-line.

DSCF5053 DSCF5083

This was a landmark event in the Environmental movement. Over the past few years I’ve heard the opinion voiced that effective, long-lasting policy change in terms of the climate will only come in the aftermath of large-scale destruction on a historic level as a result of the rapidly changing environment. I have shared moments working with environmental organizations and with my classmates here at Smith, in which the overall feeling of the group in terms of the movement has been so discouraged that we have just felt lonely, unimportant.

My feelings after the March were that maybe this was the historic event to change everything. I finally felt that we are not alone.

-Lily Carlisle-Reske is a sophomore student 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.

Bring on the Bikes!

28 Aug

Smithies have been bicycling for over 100 years, with good reason: it’s fun, convenient, and usually the quickest way door-to-door for trips under two or three miles.

Smith bikes1Photo: Smith College Archives*

Now we know another reason to bike: it’s the most energy-efficient mode of transportation ever invented.  The automobile is the least efficient: driving cars produces some 1/4 of US greenhouse gas emissions, and 2/3 of all US trips one mile or less are currently made by car, so bicycles will play an increasingly important role in combatting climate change.  As an Environmental Fellow of Smith’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability and Director of our new Environmental Concentration on Climate Change, I invite you to visit CEEDS to pick up a regional bike trail map and a “Go By Bike” safety info brochure, and to ride your bike!

SMith bikes2Photo: Smith College Archives*

You can read more in this column I wrote for the Amherst Bulletin and Daily Hampshire Gazette.

-James Lowenthal, Professor, Astronomy

*Used with permission of the Smith College Archives from the Athletics Subject Collection–Bicycles, 1920s–Box 1348.

President McCartney’s Divestment Panel –

14 Apr
The article below was written as an op-ed for the Sophian in response to a February fossil fuel divestment event. That event, hosted by President Kathleen McCartney’s Office, was the third in a series of panels coordinated by CEEDS as a way to raise awareness and educate the Smith community on the topic of fossil fuel divestment. In the interest of full disclosure I want to say up front that though I am a CEEDS intern, I am also a member of the student org Divest Smith College, and one of the co-authors of the article. I hope you find it informative!  -Savannah Holden, ’16
 

On Monday, February 24th, concerned members of the Smith community literally filled the Carroll Room to discuss the relationship between the college’s endowment and the fossil fuel industry. President McCartney’s office sponsored the panel discussion in response to the growing movement on campus to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Attendees hoped to hear about the social responsibility of Smith, but the conversation focused on the financial structure of endowments. The panelists and administrators who spoke failed to place our endowment in the context of Smith’s institutional power and failed to address the political statement we are making by investing in the fossil fuel industry.

After publicly recognizing the threat of climate change, Smith created the Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan, which details how Smith will reach carbon neutrality by 2030, although it does not mention investments. In the past, Smith recognized the political statements made by our assets and divested from companies operating in Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s, and in Sudan in 2007. By refusing to recognize the implications of investment in the fossil fuel industry, Smith is making a statement that our institution supports the harmful practices of fossil fuel companies that result in community and environmental destruction, while simultaneously perpetuating climate change.

Divest Smith College, a network of concerned students, advocates that Smith cease investing our endowment funds in the fossil fuel industry, because Smith has the responsibility to reflect institutional values in its financial decisions. This divestment campaign is backed by strong support from the student body, a third of whom have signed a petition advocating for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

Displaying SCD logo.jpg

President McCartney’s panel featured Peggy Eisen, chair of the Investment Committee on Smith’s Board of Trustees, Alice Handy, founder and CEO of Smith’s investment management firm Investure, and Bob Litterman, chairman of the risk committee of Kepos Capital. Smith is Investure’s first and largest client and because of this, enjoys a reduced fee structure, as well as Investure’s impressive returns history. Ms. Handy emphasized that the system Investure and many other management firms use is layered and complex. Funds from Smith College and 11 clients are pooled together before being given to different fund managers. These individual fund managers then invest in a wide variety of companies, but Ms. Handy stated she does not want to restrict their investment practices. Despite the fact that only 6.5% of our $1.71 billion endowment is invested in fossil fuel holdings, Ms. Handy argued that 70% of our endowment would have to be sold in order to ensure complete divestment as she doesn’t know exactly how individual fund managers are choosing to invest.

Bob Litterman rounded out the panel by addressing the issue of coal and oil sands investments within an endowment portfolio from a solely financial perspective. Mr. Litterman discussed a tactic he used a member of the investment committee of the Board of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that lowers risk and gives an institution a vested stake in ensuring that we all begin to pay the true price of burning fossil fuels. WWF’s endowment has instituted a “total return swap” on particular fossil fuel stocks held within their investment portfolio, which is essentially a bet that current holdings will be unprofitable in comparison to a broad market index such as the S&P 500. The total return swap serves two purposes common with divestment. It lowers the risk of existing fossil fuel holdings, and, as Mr. Litterman put it, “aligns the mission of the institution of the portfolio” by ensuring a greater stake in securing a price of carbon in the near future. This is not a strategy that divests an endowment from fossil fuels, and, as he stated, is “a very simple approach; it is certainly not a comprehensive approach,” which still sends a mixed political message. Ultimately, the panel failed to address one of the most important issues that the Smith community came to hear: why does Smith continue to have an investment policy that does not align with its institutional values?

After the presentations concluded, President McCartney opened the floor to questions. Students and professors responded with concerns about the statement Smith is making by continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry. Michael Klare, a Five Colleges professor, stated that “these [fossil fuel industry investments] are toxic assets that you’re holding on to and should be gotten rid of, not only because they will become worthless in time but because, to protect the college itself from environmental destruction, it’s necessary to send the message that everybody should divest of these companies because these companies are a threat to the survival of the planet.” Immediately, the entire room burst into applause.

It is also important to acknowledge that there is no inaction here; continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry sends a message that conflicts with Smith’s political goal to seek solutions to climate change. Smith College has the power to draw attention to the destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry and change the way society views these companies. As a prestigious institution, Smith divesting would send a strong message that the fossil fuel industry is an unacceptable investment. When questioned, the panelists offered no plan for how Smith will pressure policymakers to institute incentives that will force fossil fuel companies to act more responsibly, although Mr. Litterman admitted that “we are wasting a scarce resource…the atmosphere’s ability to safely absorb carbon emissions…that is wrong. The way to correct that is to price emissions appropriately.” Unfortunately, those of us who follow international climate negotiations and domestic environmental politics recognize that the fossil fuel industry has powerful influence on policymakers, which impedes the creation of a price on carbon. Divestment effectively revokes the social licence of fossil fuel companies and pushes our government toward more responsible energy policies.

During the question and answer session, Ms. Eisen said that disinvestment from the fossil fuel industry is “definitely a possibility.” Ruth Constantine, our Vice President for Finance, excused Smith’s inaction because “in a way, we are waiting for the investment community to change.” Because of its advantageous position in Investure, Smith College has the unique ability to push for this change to happen now – and we cannot afford to wait. The fossil fuel industry poses an immediate and extreme threat to communities around the world. This danger only increases over time- even as Smith College’s administrators deny our tacit support of this industry and the potential that divestment has to protect our endowment while promoting a shift away from fossil fuel companies. Divest Smith College will continue to push for a socially responsible investment policy and hopes that you, as members of the Smith community, will join in this important dialogue.

Written and edited by Ellen Monroe (’15), Anna George (’17), Savannah Holden (’16), Eleanor Adachi (’17), Jessie Blum (’15), Fiona Druge (’14), Emma Swartz (’16), and Kim Lu (’17)

 

Arctic Blast

27 Dec

  “Arctic Blast” (Annie and the Natural Wonder Band)

Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Arctic Field Program, gave a presentation last month in which she emphasized the need for “approach stewardship.” Due to the fact that the Arctic is a site of rapid and accelerating change, interventions are now required that not only address present concerns, but also anticipate needs of the future. One positive note is that technological progress has been made in the area of assessment; tools that model different scenarios of ecological change have been developed which aid scientists and policy makers in addressing approaching challenges. On a more complex note, the overall catalyst for the majority of problems is climate change.

Although global warming affects the entire Arctic ecosystem, I think it is appropriate that the polar bear serves as an icon for this crisis, given that sea ice is literally melting under his or her feet. Additionally, the image of a powerful creature in such a precarious position, faced with the prospect of losing its “island in the storm” is compelling. Furthermore, anthropogenic sources play a role in the polar bear’s plight; oil and gas drilling as well as Arctic shipping contribute greatly to escalating polar cap, permafrost, and glacier melt. It strikes me as unfortunate, especially for indigenous people whose survival and way of life is increasingly threatened, that increased ice melt translates into easier access to fragile areas for shipping companies and oil and gas companies.

Fortunately, however, I am encouraged by the bold stance Margaret took in a WWF statement dated September 20, 2013, in which she asserts “Global climate emissions must be reduced and the surge in polar shipping must be accompanied by strong, international safety and environmental safeguards. Waiting until the next disastrous Arctic spill is simply not an option.” I could not agree more and I hope that others who feel the same, regardless of their age, will let policy makers know their concerns.
  “Save the Seas” (Annie and the Natural Wonder Band)

– Ann Grilli, AC
Ann is a first year Ada Comstock Scholar and environmental science and policy major. A New York native, Ann now lives in Hadley, MA. Before coming to Smith, Ann and her husband formed Annie and the Natural Wonder Band and have traveled around the world, using their music to teach children about the natural world. They performed “Save the Seas” with a children’s choir from Maryland at the United Nations as part of an international children’s contest focusing on preserving the oceans.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: Good for Smith, Good for the World?

1 Nov
Last Friday, CEEDS hosted the first in what will be a series of campus community discussions about Fossil Fuel Divestment. The series, inspired by the positive experiences of CEEDS-led faculty learning circles about the Deep Water Horizon disaster and sustainable food, is being planned similarly– with each gathering building on the next, following the threads of shared conversation and questions raised by participants. The goal of this first event was to lay the groundwork for the longer conversation, and since it was students in the Divest Smith College (DSC) org who have proposed that the College divest, it made sense that they should be the ones to help frame the issue. After a welcome by CEEDS Faculty Fellow James Lowenthal, members of DSC gave a 15 minute presentation about some of the the dangers of fossil fuels, the history of divestment and its place at Smith, and why DSC students believe that fossil fuel industry divestment is the right choice for the College. The presentation was followed by 20 minute round table discussions (facilitated by members of DSC) with the approximately 100 attendees.   

IMG_1668Divest Smith College students set the stage…  IMG_1680                          for the community conversation                          

I first heard about divestment from fossil fuels a little under a year ago in my micro economics class, when one of my classmates mentioned the movement in a discussion about economics and the environment. What prompted me to follow up with her afterwards, and eventually become involved in the movement myself, was the incredibly exciting notion that environmental activism is not just about recycling, light bulbs, and sustainable food (though those things are very important!). It is also about the corporate world, it is about assets, and about where we put our money. Fossil fuel companies inflict immeasurable damage on not only the environment, but also on people. This damage is observable in every stage in the life of fossil fuels: through extraction, processing, to the use of coal, oil, and natural gas. These effects are not only felt by the people and the environments of these extraction communities, but by everybody, in every area of the world. It is becoming increasingly difficult to escape the realities of climate change, and it will become more difficult as time goes on.

The Responsible Endowments Coalition defines divestment as “the act of selling all of one’s shares of a given company or type of asset for an explicit political or social reason”. College and university endowments are like savings accounts, and their operating budget is made up in part by the returns on the endowment investments. If Smith College were to divest from fossil fuels, that would mean selling the portion of our endowment that is invested in fossil fuel companies, making a public statement that Smith does not support their activities. Students at Smith began the divestment campaign about a year ago, at the time joining just a handful of schools in the effort. There are currently about 400 campaigns on college campuses around the world (most in the U.S.), and a number of organizations and cities that are also involved. Some of the schools/cities/organizations that have already committed to fossil fuel divestment are:

  • The City of Northampton (MA)
  • Hampshire College
  • The United Church of Christ
  • The City of San Francisco (CA)
  • Green Mountain College
  • The City of Madison (WI)
  • The City of Boulder (CO)
  • Unity College

Some key points about divestment and Smith College:

  • Smith is not new to divestment. The college has previously divested its endowment from Apartheid South Africa, the tobacco industry, and Sudan.
  • In 2010, Smith committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. The plan is called SCAMP (Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan) and is part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Greening the college’s endowment through fossil fuel divestment would fit perfectly into this already exisiting campus sustainability commitment.
  • The goal of divesting the College from fossil fuels would not be to financially harm the fossil fuel industry- college endowment investments in the industry are not nearly large enough to financially harm them in the slightest. The goal is to revoke their social license and stigmatize their harmful practices through a financially-minded campaign, much like was done to the tobacco industry 20 years ago.

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As a member of Divest Smith College, I was incredibly pleased with the results of this event. This is not because I believe that as a result of this single event that our new President and the Board of Trustees will necessarily decide to divest, but because it brought attention to the issue here on campus. I have heard more discussion about divestment from individuals not directly involved with the effort than ever before. Students, their family members, faculty and staff are asking questions. They want to know more. It brought attention to not only the issue of fossil fuel divestment, but to the question of sustainability in general. As more students and faculty pay attention to the ramifications of the College’s decisions and actions, the more they will pay attention to their own. This is incredibly important because we don’t really have a choice anymore. For the sake of human health and well being around the world, big changes need to be made. Whether the college decides to divest from fossil fuels or not, this movement as a whole makes a statement : every day, more and more people around the country and around the world are thinking about the impact of their decisions – food, transportation, housing, purchases, and investments – and how they can use the power of these decisions to positively impact the world. Because these positive decisions, to be perfectly honest, are our only chance.

-Savannah Holden, ’16

To learn more: come to a Divest Smith College weekly meeting (email sholden@smith.edu for more info) and check out the links below! 

http://gofossilfree.org/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/08/campaign-against-fossil-fuel-growing

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/07/29/divesting-from-fossil-fuels-means-a-cleaner-safer-and-more-resilient-future/

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/opinion/global/the-climate-change-endgame.html

http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/05/16/after-bubbles-in-dotcoms-and-housing-heres-the-carbon-bubble/?mod=e2tw&mg=blogs-wsj&url=http%253A%252F%252Fblogs.wsj.com%252Fcorporate-intelligence%252F2013%252F05%252F16%252Fafter-bubbles-in-dotcoms-and-housing-heres-the-carbon-bubble%253Fmod%253De2tw

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A Trip Down the Damariscotta

1 Oct

The Damariscotta River winds between small historic towns and meets the Atlantic Ocean at Maine’s rocky coast.  Despite its seemingly peaceful flow, this estuary habitat is teeming with life, as indicated by its Abenaki name which translates as “the river of many fish.”  Since the weekend mission of our marine ecology class was to study marine wildlife, the Damariscotta estuary was a perfect place to start. The class boarded the small research vessel Ira C.  prepared to see the workings of one of the most productive waterways in the state. Our Captain, Robby, immediately took the stage, climbing up on the edge of the boat to gaze over the masses congregated on the ship’s floor below him. “One rule on my boat: I don’t ask you to do somethin’, I tell you to do somethin’.” The gruff rough and tumble demeanor of this weathered looking native Mainer was quickly cut with a hearty laugh as he jumped off the side and began to share his passion for the river we were navigating. Through his historical knowledge we were informed about the incredibly unique habitat of the Damariscotta. The salinity of the river is higher than most estuaries, boasting levels that are comparable to the open ocean. The high salinity, paired with increased temperatures and the protected landscape, make this estuary a prime habitat for aquaculture. As we sped up the river, large black chains of floats, 30,40,50 units long were strung near the shore. Robby pointed a leathery finger off into the distance at the odd structures, saying “those there are the oyster farms…they’re popping up all ovah.” And in fact they were. Shortly after we saw another conglomeration upstream.

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Aquaculturists in the region use cutting edge engineering capabilities to produce millions of oyster seedlings annually for market production. One of the most predominant farms in the area, Mook’s Fishery, boasted a seed production of 80 million this last summer and is looking to increase this number by 50 percent in the coming season. The huge success of oyster production on the river is due to a mixture of the natural environmental conditions, as well as human advancements in seed nurseries, increased nutrient feed supply, and better growing and harvesting techniques. Robby mentioned that experimentation with mussel aquaculture, the first of its kind, is taking place in the Damariscotta. Plankton is the major food source for filter feeders like oysters, and the Damariscotta has plenty of it! To illustrate the richness of these primary producers, we dropped a  large plankton net 21 feet below the surface and towed it slowly behind the boat.  After only two minutes,  we pulled it back in to see that the net, originally white, was now brown because of the abundant single celled algae stuck to it.

Plankton Tow Dredge net                        

The Damariscotta is an immensely important resource for a multitude of marine organisms. Therefore, it is impossible not to notice the changes that the river has been experiencing over the last few decades as the effects of human activity begin to be felt. As a way to better understand the environment below the surface, we conducted a small dredging sample. The excitement on the boat was evident every time our net lifted back out of the water, pulling up everything from charismatic sea stars, to pinching crustaceans and various forms of algae. Yet, despite this diversity, both Captain Robby and professors Paulette Peckol and Graham Kent noted the differences in the catch between this year and past trips. The changing environment of the Damariscotta was a theme of the trip.  The challenges presented by climate change were reiterated by ecologist and oyster specialist Andy Stevenson when he later came to discuss aquaculture and the change in naturally occurring small-celled algae in the water column. Tim Miller, ecologist at the Darling Marine Center also discussed his worry about shell disease with the native lobster population, stating that while funding was not available to support it, research on the subject was needed. The trip left us with the realization of the fragility of our changing world and the effect that those changes will have, not only on single-celled marine algae, but on all species as it reverberates up the ladder.  The savory taste of lobster lingering in our memory from the previous night’s dinner became even more cherished with our new found understanding of this new wave of environmental uncertainty facing this complex marine system.

Hanna Mogensen, ’14

Hanna is a biology and environmental science and policy double major at Smith College and is working as a CEEDS intern! Despite being a proud Mainer, this trip was her first to the beautiful Damariscotta River. She is greatly enjoying having the opportunity to get out and explore the world through her courses. Hanna is excited to celebrate her last fall on campus with excessive amounts of apple picking, leaf peeping, pumpkin carving and other good old fashioned fun!

Rallying Against Climate Change

26 Feb

“Don’t be a chump.” These were the words Van Jones, a senior policy adviser at Green for All and Obama’s former Special Adviser for Green Jobs, declared on February 17, 2013 at the Stand Up for Climate Change Rally in Washington D.C. By the end of his speech, he had everyone chanting this mantra, which had the simultaneous effect of making me smile as well as conjuring up a steely resolve to stand up to climate change.

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The Smith College Green Team, with the leadership of Siiri Bigalki ’15, was able to fund and charter a bus that carried nearly fifty Smithies overnight to rally against climate change. It was not an easy trip, but we could not sit idly by and watch as others stepped out of their comfort zone to effect change. Leaving Northampton at 10:30 pm, we had to pack for overnight travel, sleep in cramped seats, and eat whatever we could carry, braving hours of frigid temperatures as we prepared to march on the nation’s capital. It was the least we could do to make our mark and represent Smith College in this peaceful demonstration. An estimated 40,000 people from all over the country joined the march on the National Mall in Washington D.C. It was by far the largest and most energetic rally for action against climate change yet.  The idea was to make Barack Obama take notice of the environmental concerns that accompany the continued extraction of fossil fuels with the specific goal of rejecting the further development of the Keystone XL Pipeline. It was not meant to be a demonstration of civil disobedience but rather a plea to our nation’s leaders to stand up to the status quo.

As one of more than two hundred and fifty colleges that attended the rally from all over the country, Smith College was invited to a youth gathering at the W Hotel blocks away from the White House. We met in the “great room” of the hotel to get energized and share information about each of our school’s environmental work. Smith’s Green Team members met with other like-minded individuals to confer about their fossil fuel divestment campaigns, and other topics like local solutions to global problems, how to keep the movement going into the summer and the most effective ways to take action now. The energy was contagious and, even though we had slept poorly on the bus the night before, we got caught up in the lively intensity created by the other rowdy college students.

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Celebrity speakers at the rally included Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Evangeline Lily (Lost), Nolan Gould (Modern Family), as well as Chief Jacqueline Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation and Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nations. Some of their standout comments were memorable and I couldn’t help but jot them down. Bill McKibben stated that “we [the activists] are the antibodies that the earth is using to fight its fever.” That was on the heels of the comment from the Cree Nation saying that “we cannot eat money and we cannot drink oil.” In essence we have to look beyond profits and death and stand up for what is going to be healthy for the earth going forward. I was proud to stand up for my country, my college and my future. Although I have to come to terms with the fact that this rally might not yield the results I am looking for, I know that I at least stood up for the planet in the face of climate uncertainty.

-Liz Wright, AC

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