planet forward - 克罗地亚vs加拿大让球 // inspiring stories to 2022年卡塔尔世界杯官网 mon, 20 nov 2023 15:32:57 +0000 en-us hourly 1 decarbonizing steel: senators discuss a vital climate move // fri, 17 nov 2023 18:49:02 +0000 // by haajrah gilani

the united states experiences major natural disasters about five times more frequently than it did in the 1980s, sen. tom carper, d-del. said in a senate hearing on wednesday. this statement cited a national climate assessment released by the biden administration on tuesday.

“adjusting for inflation, in the 1980s, the united states experienced a $1 billion disaster every four months, on average,” carper said. “today, there is one every three weeks.”

this finding set the tone for the senate environment and public works committee hearing by underscoring the importance of slashing greenhouse gas pollution from industries. whether it was about cement, steel or timber, senators raised concerns about what decarbonizing industries could mean for the economy of their home states, and the country, with the backdrop of a looming climate crisis.

“we’re all experiencing climate change now through increasingly devastating extreme weather events throughout our planet,” carper said. “to slow climate change, we need to slash greenhouse gas emissions and one-third of the solution lies in our industrial sector.”

carper said the decarbonization of industries that produce essential products like steel, cement or aluminum, would play a crucial part in reducing america’s greenhouse gas emissions. for carper, meeting climate goals also posed an opportunity for economic advancement. 

the panelists at the hearing represented various approaches to industrial decarbonization, including switching from fossil fuels to clean hydrogen and adopting new cement manufacturing processes.

but not all senators viewed industrial decarbonization as a step towards more opportunity. 

during the hearing, sen. john fetterman, d-pa., expressed concern for the edgar thomson steel works, which he called the last functional steel mill in the western part of his state. 

he shared that in his conversations with united states steel, he questioned their stated initiatives to decarbonize steel. 

“to me, decarbonizing the steel industry would be like having a steakhouse that you don’t have a dead cow [at]. it seems kind of incompatible there,” fetterman said. 

fetterman later said that the edgar thomson plant, which is owned by u.s. steel, was supposed to have a $1.5 billion expansion. according to fetterman, that project was ultimately canceled and u.s. steel instead said it wanted to prioritize decarbonization. fetterman said he’s worried the result will mean fewer good jobs for the people of pennsylvania. 

“facilities, like edgar thomson, might just get chucked,” fetterman said. “and you’re pretending that they’re all gonna get great new jobs and great kinds of things. it’s just not realistic.” 

a panelist at the hearing, leah ellis, the ceo and cofounder of sublime systems, inc., said that her organization, which commercializes a process to make low-carbon cement, signed a partnership agreement focused on high quality jobs with united steelworkers.

ellis wrote in her testimony that the production of novel clean industrial technology can spur jobs for all skill and education levels, although some jobs would require specific training and expertise. 

“a portion of sublime’s advanced manufacturing technology jobs require experience in clean technology concepts and techniques not commonly found in today’s workforce or education curricula, and thus require additional workforce training that some unions are very well positioned to support training, as well as community colleges and public schools,” ellis’ testimony said.

carper emphasized the role of industries that produce essential products in his closing statements.

“by producing materials in cleaner ways, we can reduce emissions throughout supply chains. and, by investing in the industries that are producing lower carbon materials for our buildings, our roads, and electric vehicles, we can help support our clean energy transition,” he said. 

essay | deadly heat in oregon stresses the need for worker protections // fri, 17 nov 2023 15:14:20 +0000 // after less than two months in the united states, sebastian francisco perez died from heat exhaustion while moving irrigation lines at ernst nursery and farms in oregon on june 26, 2021. perez, a 38-year-old guatemalan migrant who was raising money for his wife’s fertility treatment, began his nine to 10-hour day at work at 5 a.m. at around 3:30 p.m., as temperatures reached 105 degrees fahrenheit, perez’s coworkers noticed he was missing. he was found unresponsive after collapsing from heat exhaustion and dehydration in the field.

ernst nursery and farms is located in marion county, the largest agricultural-producing county in oregon. the company had previously been cited by the oregon occupational safety and health administration (osha) in 2014 for not providing its workers with water during a previous record-breaking heat wave, telling them they needed to bring enough water from home for a full day in the fields.  

in the wake of perez’s death, ernst nursery and farms was fined $4,200 after an oregon osha investigation found that the company had not properly trained all employees on how to protect themselves from the heat. according to the oregonian, which obtained notes from an oregon osha employee, the farm’s controller, kim stone, argued that the company employees working in the hot sun should use “common sense” and bear personal responsibility for “how they push their [bodies].”

consequences of climate change

in june and early july 2021, oregon experienced what was termed “the heat dome,” when temperatures topped 119 f in some parts of the state. at least 96 deaths were attributed to the 2021 summer heatwave. two days after perez’s death, on june 28, construction worker dan harris collapsed while fixing an irrigation leak in a roof. he later died at the hospital. oregon osha listed his death as “heat stress” and ultimately fined robinson construction co. $420. such cases are expected to multiply as oregon experiences ever-more extreme heat waves, increasing the vulnerability of manual laborers to the health consequences of working outdoors.  

the ponina wildfire in oregon on april 18, 2021. (oregon department of forestry/public domain)

these days, 100-degree-plus temperatures in the pacific northwest are no longer unusual. a 2023 climate assessment from oregon state university found that the number of days that are hotter than 90 f and nights that are warmer than 65 f are increasing across oregon. in addition, the total annual area burned by wildfires in oregon has increased during the last 35 years. along with ruining homes and claiming lives, wildfires also choke the air with smoke that can have short- and long-term effects on those who breathe it in.

how can states protect workers?

in 2020, oregon governor kate brown directed the state’s osha and oregon health authority to create rules to protect workers from extreme heat; but this process was delayed by the pandemic. this meant no excessive heat protections were in place during the sweltering 2021 heat dome. perez’s death shined a harsh light on the lack of such protections.

land surface temperatures in oregon, washington, and canada on june 29, 2021 showing record high heat. (european space agency/cc by-sa 2.0 deed)

at a vigil for perez, the oregon farm workers union again demanded protections for workers forced to work outdoors during deadly summer heat waves. finally, in late summer 2021, oregon osha implemented a set of emergency protections for workers during extreme heat. on may 9, 2022, oregon osha adopted permanent rules that officially made these protections state law.  

these rules require employers to provide all workers in environments over 80 f with free, fresh water and mandatory shade breaks, as well as training on safety precautions to take during extreme heat, particularly how to recognize signs of heat exhaustion.

in doing so, oregon implemented the most comprehensive heat protections for workers of any u.s. state. it is one of only five states to have any standard that protects workers from extreme heat.

for workers around the country, the risks are increasing. according to the national climate assessment, if current greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, high and low temperatures will increase by 5 f in most of the united states by mid-century, and there will be 20 to 30 more days of the year that surpass 90 f. extreme heat has already caused over 600 deaths nationwide from 1999 to 2009, according to the center for climate and energy solutions.

earlier this summer, the federal government acknowledged the risk with a statement from the white house. on july 27, president joe biden announced actions that directed the department of labor to issue a hazard alert which affirmed worker protections for heat related issues and outlined employer obligations to protect workers.

federal osha has been developing federal heat-related standards since 2021, however there is as yet no federal standard for protecting workers from heat or wildfire smoke.

planet forward inspires sesno to lead gw’s new alliance for a sustainable future // thu, 16 nov 2023 13:59:48 +0000 // george washington university named planet forward founding director and emmy award-winning journalist, frank sesno as the inaugural head of the george washington university alliance for a sustainable future on wednesday.

but this story doesn’t begin with the alliance or even at gw. instead, its roots are in the colorado rockies. an avid horseback rider and camping aficionado, sesno’s love for the beauty and balance of our world started as a young child. there wasn’t a specific moment that he can recall a love for the environment, he said, but rather a mosaic of memories. 

in exploring the spiritual experience of our environment, sesno came to believe every inch of earth he saw should be protected. during his time at international bureaus such as the associated press and cnn, this environmental adoration took form in his journalism. among the stories he worked on at cnn, the environmental angle was an ever-present factor in stories ranging from the local, global, economic, and political. as he worked on documentaries and coverage across the world, the urgency of this fight was undeniable. 

“this challenge is the most daunting and paralyzing, but also the most exciting and hopeful challenge that humanity has ever been confronted with,” sesno said.  

frank sesno loves telling stories and inspiring solutions — it’s a muscle he’s flexed his entire life. the power of student storytelling has been clear to sesno since his time as a student at wilton high school in connecticut, where he fought to cover controversial topics for the school newspaper. decades later, that same spirit would inspire the next generation of young environmental storytellers to think courageously through a project called “planet forward.”

founded in 2009, planet forward came out of a need for effective environmental science communication and awareness. sesno wanted a space for students to learn and participate in the climate conversation, but it’s the stories that speak to people that leave a lasting impact.

“you give a person a piece of data and they’ll probably forget it the next day,” sesno said. “but embed that data in a story and people will remember it — and understand the context of why it matters.” 

since its birth, planet forward has expanded in ways sesno had only dreamt of. with thousands of student participants and over 30 partner universities across the globe, the project is an epicenter of innovation and solution. 

in the classroom, sesno’s sustainability reporting class has long offered students a space to research and report on the most pressing issues facing the climate, but the manner in which students connect to the crisis has changed over the years. 

“what i’m now finding out when i go around the table and ask students why they’re in the class is that they’re starting to tell personal stories. it’s their first person experience with climate change and i didn’t hear that when i started teaching this class 15 years ago,” sesno said.

these days, sesno wears many hats. beyond serving as the founding director of planet forward, sesno is the director of strategic initiatives for gw’s school of media and public affairs (smpa), professor of sustainability reporting, and now a new one: the executive director of the george washington university alliance for a sustainable future. 

the alliance will take a multidisciplinary approach across university programs to engage in sustainability with a purpose to convene, expand, and research on the basis of climate change in the nation’s capital. among its goals will be expanding the sustainability minor and deepening the student experience around climate and sustainability through experiential learning, internships, projects, and work across washington and beyond.

a critical component of the alliance will be communicating science and sustainability through the planet forward platform, where students across disciplines write, publish, and share stories from around the world about the ideas and innovations that will 2022年卡塔尔世界杯官网 .

according to sesno, planet forward served as an inspiration not only for his role as director, but for the development of the alliance at large. 

“planet forward was the catalyst for this new, very ambitious venture. it will also ground one of the cornerstones of the research and teaching space of the alliance: communication and storytelling,” sesno said. 

the alliance will also focus on critical research by leading experts and scholars across disciplines who will convene to assemble significant research proposals, expand funding sources, and communicate the most urgent issues relating to the climate crisis.

the creation of the alliance is another sign of the commitment gw is making in the climate fight. in 2020, gw pledged to accelerate its carbon neutrality timeline to at least 2030. the recent renovation of thurston hall also served as an opportunity to improve sustainability efforts in the building, which earned a leed platinum rating from the u.s. green building council — gw’s second platinum building on campus. 

while the future is daunting, it’s not hopeless. for the self-proclaimed “glass half empty optimist,” the students are the ones who keep him inspired. by marshaling the talent in our student body and faculty, sesno, who is always down for a good pun, said there is a lot of “renewable energy” here on campus. 

though climate anxiety is a common and persistent concern among students across campus, sesno said he sees the alliance as an opportunity to ease fears about climate change by providing tangible solutions. 

“understanding that there are solutions, understanding that there are so many brilliant, committed people who are working on this is one of the antidotes to climate anxiety. there’s always hope,” sesno said.

senators support development of wildlife crossings to aid animal migration // wed, 15 nov 2023 18:39:24 +0000 // by phillip powell

senators expressed bipartisan support tuesday for developing wildlife crossings to encourage migration and conserve wildlife populations. this came on the same day as the release of the fifth national climate assessment detailing the negative impacts of climate change on wildlife in america.

“across the united states, we face a challenge where wildlife is losing the ability to navigate,” said witness chuck bonham, director of california’s department of fish and wildlife. “the reality is that all wildlife needs the ability to move.”

according to the fifth national climate assessment, the effects of climate change and economic development disrupt ecosystems, making wildlife bridges and tunnels even more important as they allow animals greater ability to migrate safely. the report says these connecting corridors help limit collisions between drivers and wildlife, connect wildlife populations, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

“in a scrambled world because of climate disruption, animals and plants face three basic choices. they can adapt, they can die, or they can move,” bonham said. “we as people have the opportunity to give them that movement through our decisions.”

according to the center for large landscape conservation, wildlife crossings can take many forms, including naturalistic bridges and tunnels that allow animals to cross roads and other human infrastructure.

a photo of a wildlife crossing over a colorado state highway. (courtesy of jeffrey beall)

the first large federal movement on wildlife corridors was a 2018 secretarial order by interior secretary ryan zinke, who led the department of interior from 2017-2019. the order directed the department of interior to work with state level agencies to develop wildlife corridors.

when congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure law in 2021, $350 million in federal aid was allocated for projects to build, improve, and research wildlife crossings.

the full senate environment and public works committee will conduct oversight on how the funding has been spent at a future meeting.

at tuesday’s hearing, bonham and sen. alex padilla, d-calif., discussed how wildlife migration issues were put in the national spotlight last year when a mountain lion called p-22, who made his home in griffith park, los angeles, was hit by a commuter. p-22’s story drove the effort to build the $100 million wallis annenberg wildlife crossing over 10 lanes of highway, the largest wildlife crossing project in the world.

that project relied upon private donations to come to fruition, though the state of california also contributed funding in a public-private partnership.

the director of the center for public lands madeleine west and chief game warden of the wyoming game and fish department richard king also gave testimony at the hearing on tuesday.

in their expert testimony, all three witnesses emphasized that wildlife corridors are good for commuters and wildlife. but according to west, the greatest barrier to the success of developing corridors was funding.

“it is mostly a money problem,” west said. “we have the foundation of strong leadership at the local and state level, and if they had more resources more good work could be done.” she said that permanent funding should be set to develop wildlife corridor projects, so that agencies do not have to pull from their general funding to fund these wildlife crossings.

sen. cynthia lummis, r-wyo., the ranking republican member in the hearing, and other republican senators in the hearing did not say if they would support permanent funding for wildlife corridors, though lummis praised wildlife corridors and held up the work wyoming has done as a model for success. 

after the hearing, sen. padilla, who chaired the committee, said he was hopeful that congress would allocate more funding for wildlife corridor projects.

“congress can also take a major step forward in improving habitat connectivity by providing authorized funding streams, rather than to force federal agencies to pull funding from their general funds,” padilla said at the end of the hearing. 

“my hope is that after the hearing today, we can take some of the bipartisan momentum around habitat connectivity and come together to move a bipartisan bill that supports voluntary conservation efforts throughout the country,” padilla said.

feeding the future | two budding technologies that could help feed the world // tue, 14 nov 2023 21:05:05 +0000 // at a time when feeding the world’s population appears increasingly difficult due to extreme weather and limited space for farming in densely populated areas, innovation lies in both conventional and unconventional places.

in 2022, 735 million people faced acute hunger and the united nations projects more than 600 million people will still face hunger by 2030. still, when so much of the news surrounding food insecurity focuses on threats and losses, it’s important to keep in mind that people and organizations of all kinds are actively working to find innovative ways to continue bringing food to tables around the world. 

the university of arizona and the bayer marana product development center are both places where new innovations are being tested that could drastically change the way food is produced. freight farms at the university of arizona and short-stature corn at bayer are two different technologies that illustrate the potential of new innovation, as well as the challenges associated with scaling them to increase production.

farming in new places – the innovation of freight farms

when one thinks of farming, expansive fields traversed by tractors might be one of the first images to come to mind. conventional means of food production have largely become synonymous with a need for ample growing space and water as well.

the concept of growing some vegetables inside shipping containers, however, offers a very different image of what farming can look like. at the university of arizona’s biosphere 2 research facility in tucson, arizona, researchers are working with a company called freight farms to make this concept a reality.

a freight farms shippings container at the university of arizona’s biosphere 2 research facility. (leonidas kehagias)

freight farms takes empty shipping containers and installs vertical hydroponic farms within them. these containers can be used to grow certain types of produce in enclosed environments in locations all around the world.

jason deleeuw speaking in front of an open freight farms container at the university of arizona. (leonidas kehagias)

“they make these in such a way that they are essentially plug and play,” said jason deleeuw, a terrestrial biome manager who runs the freight farms unit for the university of arizona. “if you can get power to them, get some water, you can go ahead and plant plants in them.”

the freight farms unit at the university of arizona currently grows lettuce and can house about 1,100 plants at a time. seeds are first planted in the nursery portion of the container, before being transferred to vertical growing panels in the cultivation area as they get larger.

deleeuw said the freight farms container at the university of arizona only uses about 0.3 gallons of water per head of lettuce, where conventional methods would require three to five gallons of water per head. on average, the entire cargo container uses about five gallons of water per day.

aside from consuming less water per head of lettuce, freight farms can potentially conserve space relative to conventional lettuce farming. deleeuw said the university of arizona’s freight farms unit can produce the same amount of lettuce in a single shipping container that conventional methods would require 2.5 acres to grow.

the nursery (left) and vertical cultivation area (right) within the u of a’s freight farms container. (leonidas kehagias)

however, despite these benefits, challenges do exist that prevent freight farms from scaling in their current form.

“they’re tremendous energy hogs,” deleeuw said. “it uses somewhere around 220-250 kwh a day, which is a lot.”

for comparison, the average american household in 2021 used just 29 kwh per day.

a seedling growing in the nursery section of the freight farms container. (leonidas kehagias)

heads of lettuce are grown in vertical panels here. (leonidas kehagias)

high startup costs also pose a barrier to widespread utilization of freight farms, as the unit at the university of arizona initially cost $150,000, deleeuw said. while many educational institutions around the world are investing in freight farms, deleeuw said he does not see them as accessible to the average consumer at their current cost.

while freight farms may not currently be able to sustain heavier, staple crops like rice, wheat, and corn, they do show promise as a way for smaller commonly used produce such as lettuce, strawberries and various herbs to eventually be grown within urban communities.

further progress is certainly still needed to address the high energy consumption and startup costs of freight farms, which is what the researchers at the university of arizona are currently investigating. 

efficiency through resiliency – how shorter corn is transforming conventional agriculture

not far from the university of arizona in marana, arizona, the biotechnology giant bayer is working on creating a new type of corn to improve the yields of conventional agriculture production.

known as short stature corn, the new crop has been bred to stand seven feet tall when fully grown. traditional breeds of corn on the other hand stand roughly between nine and 12 feet.

“[some] of the benefits of short corn [are] it has a stockier, lower center of gravity, less wind damage, things like that,” brett sowers, bayer marana’s site enablement lead said.

short stature corn at different stages of development in the bayer marana greenhouse. (leonidas kehagias)

sowers said the taller builds of traditional corn breeds increase the likelihood that corn will be irreparably damaged during instances of high wind. the taller the corn is, the more easily it is weighed down by the ears of corn it carries when storms occur.

short corn is not just more wind resistant but also easier for farmers to manage. sowers said the smaller size makes it easier for farmers to apply fertilizer and other crop inputs.

corn that is more wind resistant and easier for farmers to care for can lead to a greater crop yield overall, since ears of corn are more likely to remain attached to their stalks for the entirety of the growing season. sowers said that this, combined with the greater likelihood of stalks remaining unbroken, leads to better harvests stemming from the short corn.

ricardo rodriguez, senior operations lead at the bayer marana facility said another advantage of the short stature corn comes from the amount of water it consumes relative to more conventional corn breeds. “thanks to the foliage of these plants, it is possible to create a dense coverage which allows short stature corn to keep moisture in the soil for 10 days longer than conventional corn. so there ends up being less water used during the production cycle,” rodriguez said.

stalks of short stature corn can be planted closer together which leads to more corn being planted on less space, something that can be beneficial to corn growth yet detrimental to soil health. rodriguez said that the more closely planted corn leaves little to no room for intercropping, the practice of growing two or more crops in close proximity to one another which adds nutrients to the soil and helps prevent erosion.

young short stature corn being grown in bayer’s controlled greenhouse at the marana facility. (leonidas kehagias)

as with freight farms, there are other challenges to the applicability of short stature corn. 

sowers said the research at bayer’s marana plant is currently focused on the development of short stature corn that will be primarily used for things like animal feed and ethanol production. corn geared toward feedstock and ethanol production is not conducive to human consumption due in part to its harder texture and lack of sweet flavor.

bayer sites around the world are working to increase the resiliency of other staple crops such as wheat, cotton, and soy, according to ryan mertz, plant establishment lead at bayer marana.

bayer expects the corn seeds to be more widely accessible during the 2024 growing season.

when it comes to feeding the world’s population, there are no ‘one size fits all’ technologies 

growing smaller produce in shipping containers and breeding short stature corn are two distinct innovations that both seek to develop better ways of growing food in a changing climate. while new projects like freight farms may be necessary to bring fresh produce to places it previously could not be grown, the resources of large scale actors like bayer will also be important in maintaining and improving staple crops that so many already depend on.

each of these innovations seek to fill respective gaps in the accessibility and resiliency of crops by improving existing agricultural frameworks or by developing completely new farming techniques. at the end of the day, our agricultural future will be secured using vast combinations of these techniques and others, each addressing the needs of stakeholders big and small. 

“food is about everything,” holly mclaughlin, pacwest sustainability specialist at bayer, said. “you’re diving into the complexity, not only of it being interdisciplinary and systems thinking, but it’s personal, spiritual, cultural, ecological, biological…you really can’t look at food challenges in a vacuum.” 

gen-z’s calling: one youth-climate org works to turn anxiety into action // tue, 14 nov 2023 16:59:42 +0000 // the deepwater horizon oil spill of 2010 is amelia southern-uribe’s first memory of climate-related anxiety. growing up in the south, the effects of climate change were not foreign to them, but they were frightening.

“i had these immense feelings of anxiety and worry and frustration toward the climate, i guess, because i didn’t know how to verbalize these things at such a young age, but i just remember being very scared,” southern-uribe said.

by 2019, southern-uribe had seen the tangible effects of climate change around the world. from devastating climate disasters to deep political divides, they began to feel trapped in the reality of the climate crisis, but knew their lived experiences and fears could be used for the better. 

that’s when they found zero hour, a budding youth-climate organization based in the metro dc area that had mobilized young people across the world to take a stand against the worsening crisis.  

turning anxiety into community

born of youthful frustration and passion, zero hour has been a force in the fight for climate justice. jamie margolin is at the root of the organization’s founding. at only 16, margolin banded together with her soon-to-be co-founders zanagee artis, nadia nazar, and madelaine tew to produce the youth climate march in the summer of 2018. the march, which spanned across 25 different locations including washington, d.c, was zero hour’s first official demonstration. 

a group of zero hour marchers walk down a rainy street in pittsburgh.
a zero hour march in pittsburgh on july 23, 2018. (marx dixon/cc by 2.0 deed)

following the march, margolin, artis, nazar, and tew realized their work to gather the younger generation was not something done in vain. they began to work toward environmental education, leading a program called “getting to the roots of climate change.” 

the program taught prospective members about systems of oppression, including patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism, and racism, as “root causes” of climate change, according to artis, who was 17 when they created zero hour.

now 23, artis said the focus in educating about fossil fuel policy has become the driving force in the organization’s work. he said that while organizing demonstrations and rallies such as the march in 2018 is important, education is the foundation for any form of resistance. 

southern-uribe, who is now the director of southeastern chapters, and president and founder of zero hour arkansas, said they discovered margolin’s work with the organization through research and quickly found themself emboldened by her accomplishments. southern-uribe said they participated in the organization’s training program, ultimately leading to their decision to open the arkansas chapter. 

teaching the next generation of climate activists

southern-uribe said the largest challenge in the fight against climate change is the lack of education surrounding the issue, especially in red states such as arkansas. one initiative they have taken in the arkansas chapter was creating a climate magazine called roots, to help spread knowledge about the environmental crisis and the ways that it could affect communities who might be hesitant to believe in it.

“arkansas ranks 47th in the nation for education,” southern-uribe said. “and so that’s what i mean when i say there are no conversations happening. there’s lots of climate change denial. and since there’s denial, there’s a lack of action.” 

aditi lele, the research & policy communications lead for the organization, said the training program explaining the rooted relationship between climate change and systems of oppression was what truly struck a chord in her. 

“it really matched the framing of how i conceptualized climate and how i wanted to pursue it,” lele said. “i didn’t really want to work on climate from necessarily a conservation lens or just sort of addressing global warming as a whole, i really wanted to focus on how it was impacting people in communities and how it was a justice problem.”

lele, who at 8-years-old moved from pune, india, to cincinnati, ohio, said her identity as an immigrant informed a unique understanding of the effects of climate change.

“it centered my focus a lot on how climate was impacting people,” lele said. “i was able to see monsoon seasons and extreme weather firsthand. and so i had a little bit more of a tangible connection to the more nebulous things we hear about climate.” 

lele, 20, said she developed anxiety about the climate when she was in high school. she said she felt overwhelmed by the pressure of the rapidly changing climate and a growing uncertainty of the future, ultimately leading her to seek avenues through which she could take action. 

since its founding, zero hour has led many campaigns and demonstrations including art festivals, lobby days, and rallies calling for the eradication of fossil fuel projects around the world. the organization now spans 15 countries on every continent, with 50 active chapters and more in the works. 

out of fear, action is born

jamie minden, the global organizing director for zero hour, said the organization’s largest campaign now is the fight against liquified natural gas (or lng), otherwise known as fracked gas. 

in 2021, the u.s. began operations to move away from its dependence on russian fuel with u.s-sourced lng following the start of the russia-ukraine war. while the gas emits less carbon than other fossil fuels, its main component is methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which can leak into the atmosphere from drilling, shipping, and distribution. 

minden said zero hour is creating an educational program that advocates for an immediate termination of lng use. the ultimate goal: inspire more action. 

a zero hour protester holds up a cardboard sign reading, "think about the consequences."
a young marcher holds up a sign at the july 23, 2018, zero hour march in pittsburgh. (mark dixon/cc by 2.0 deed)

“hopefully, we’ll recruit people to take action in their local cities, or in their nations once they see the presentation and are galvanized to take action,” minden said. 

minden, who began her environmental advocacy at 13 years old, said growing up in mountain lakes, california, was a constant reminder of the worsening conditions of climate change. 

“i have literally never lived in a world without climate chaos,” minden said.

this, according to lele, is a common sentiment among young people today. 

“there is so much fear around ‘what the world is going to look like when i grow up,’” lele said. “’what is it going to look like when i’m my parents’ age? what is it going to look like when i am going to college, when i’m looking for a job, when i’m thinking about raising a family? what does all of that look like?’ i think that [fear] made it hard for young people to even conceptualize the rest of their lives.” 

artis said the only way this crisis can be stopped from worsening is if there is “bold climate action” and a total phase-out of fossil fuels. though that seems daunting, artis believes young people have the power to achieve that. 

“i think over time we’ve seen how much young people can actually influence the political system from the outside,” artis said. “i think expectations were that this group of young people were naive and inexperienced, but there are protests all around the world now. young people are leading the climate movement everywhere.” 

“we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. and there is no other course that is going to save us. and we have the power to make a lot of change,” artis said. 

litigation, red tape prevent abandoned coal mine cleanup efforts // fri, 10 nov 2023 17:13:51 +0000 // by esther frances

abandoned coal mines threaten community safety and the environment, but despite bipartisan support, remediation efforts are often stalled by litigation and red tape, senators said at a hearing on nov. 9. 

states must undergo prolonged vetting processes before they can turn previously mined lands into wildlife habitats, commercial areas or other reclamation projects, chairman sen. joe manchin, d-w. va. said at the energy and natural resources committee hearing in washington, d.c.

“these coal communities sacrifice everything to power our nation to greatness and should be able to implement projects that will have positive impacts on the community in a timely manner,” manchin said. “they sure as hell don’t deserve to be strung along by the federal government, tied up in bureaucratic red tape, and forced to wait to put transformative projects into action. it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

acid water saturated with metals and long standing fires beneath the earth threaten entire communities located near abandoned coal mine sites. communities that complain the most about damage from former coal mines are prioritized for restoration projects, according to rob rice, director of the division of land restoration at the west virginia department of environmental protection.

states get new instructions every year on how congressional funding should be used in a restoration project.

“and each year, that guidance document becomes thicker, so there’s more hoops to jump through,” rice said. “the vetting period has increased over subsequent years.”

glenda owens, deputy director of the office of surface mining reclamation and enforcement at the u.s. department of the interior, blamed the lengthy processes on court disputes over approval of coal mine restoration projects.

“we want to make sure that the decisions we make during these environmental reviews will sustain judicial scrutiny,” owens said. “if we don’t adhere to the controlling court decisions, we’re going to risk getting those decisions vacated or having to start all over, which is just going to require additional time.” 

this discussion followed a hearing last week that addressed a similarly slow approval process for carbon capture and storage wells, despite both issues receiving bipartisan support and congressional funding. 

“it’s just very frustrating that things aren’t going out the door. i want to make sure that the government is not impeding this and putting more oversight to the point where their intention is not to let it happen,” manchin said. “that’s what’s scaring me, because everything we’re doing, we’re trying to show that we can produce the fossil [fuel] that’s needed for energy security, better and cleaner with more innovation [and] technology than any other place in the world, but we can’t if the government’s fighting you.”

winter is coming: road salt contaminates drinking water in connecticut // wed, 08 nov 2023 19:53:27 +0000 // the use of road salt during the winter has become a common practice in connecticut in order to keep roads open, but this may be sacrificing the quality of important water resources for quick road access. road salts have contaminated public and private drinking water across connecticut, but experts say that the public is generally unaware of its effects.

the harmful impacts of road salt have come to light in recent years. according to a 2018 article by allison dunne, research on private well water quality conducted from 2007-2013 in new york found that more than half of the private wells tested had levels of sodium higher than the guidance levels set by the environmental protection agency (epa). the epa recommends drinking water contain no more than 20 milligrams per liter. the public has remained generally unaware of this issue according to michael dietz, a hydrologist who heads the department of natural resources and the environment at the university of connecticut.

effects of contaminated water

road salt dissolves into melted snow and the resulting runoff ends up in surface water, such as streams and rivers. as it travels down through soil, the salt contaminates groundwater as well. this impacts vegetation, aquatic life, and public and private drinking water, dietz said. 

according to the epa’s website, “road salt can contaminate drinking water, kill or endanger wildlife, increase soil erosion, and damage private and public property. alternative methods are needed to mitigate these drawbacks.” one component of road salt is sodium chloride, which can have harmful effects on infrastructures. 

“chloride is not going to cause cancer, the sodium can be problematic for people on sodium-restricted diets and that sort of thing, so it’s not necessarily going to kill you if it’s a little high,” dietz said. “the problem with chloride is it can cause other things to leach out from your piping system, like metals. for example, lead. it can corrode the pipes itself, so that’s a reason chloride is a concern,” dietz said.

the epa recommends that private well owners test their wells annually to ensure they are not contaminated with toxic chemicals. according to their website, the epa recommends testing a private well if there is significant change in water quality, or changes with the environment of a well.

a 2023 report on private residential wells by the connecticut institute of water reported that out of the 102 wells tested across the northern half of connecticut, half of the homes’ wells had exceeded the standard level of coliform, a bacteria that lives in warm blooded organisms, set by the connecticut department of public health. these numbers are discouraging, given that 820,000 residents relied on well water in the state according to the 2010 census report. when found in wells, coliform is a sign that there could be pathogen contamination, which could indicate a contamination from road salts.

several public water supply wells in connecticut are also contaminated by road salt. the connecticut department of public health (dph), is in charge of regulating public wells. according to dietz, water companies and the dph are both very much aware of the issue. unfortunately, there is less information on public wells available to the public. 

where is the salt going?

road salt can be flushed out of soil and natural water sources, but not always in a timely manner. according to dietz, water that moves slowly through soil will flush out contaminants more slowly than water that moves quickly. dietz said that rainfall helps flush road salt contaminants out of our environment as well. however, recent droughts make rain an unreliable source of relief.

with large amounts of road salts applied each winter, it could take anywhere from months, years, decades, and possibly centuries to flush out all of the saline in groundwater according to ashley helton, researcher and associate professor for uconn’s center for environmental sciences & engineering.

“road salts come in the winter when there is not a lot of biological activity, so the idea is that the snow melts and the big spring storms will flush it downstream to salty systems, so it doesn’t matter,” helton said. “here we are and the systems are salty in the summer, so what happens is road salts that don’t get flushed away seep into the soil. salt does not bind very well with soil so it just percolates right into the groundwater and then we have salty ground water,” helton said.

associate professor ashley helton demonstrates the process in which road salt flushes into our ground water, ultimately leading to the contamination of well water. (kelti johnson)

road salt runoff either moves downhill or flushes into groundwater, both of which could end up in natural bodies of water. this negatively impacts organisms in these bodies of water that have evolved to survive in freshwater. too much salinity can harm a variety of aquatic organisms such as fish, salamanders, and microbes, according to ashley helton. this can also disrupt the food chain as well as ecosystem function.

when testing the salinity of eagleville brooke at uconn, helton said they found that the water was brackish in the summer, meaning the system is partially fresh water and partially salty. this was unusual because eagleville brooke is a fresh water system. according to helton, this has happened to freshwater systems across the state of connecticut as a result of road salt runoff. researchers are currently questioning how much salinity these organisms can withstand and how much they are affected by road salt, helton said. 

road salt is generally applied in a wasteful manner, dietz said. road salt stops water from freezing at temperatures of 32 f (freezing point of water) and below, but when temperatures reach around 10 f, the effectiveness of road salt slows down. regardless of how much road salt is applied, it will runoff and cause harm downstream. 

action on uconn’s campus

green snow pro, a program started at the university of connecticut in 2018 and run by the ct training and technical assistance center has received state funding to expand and train municipalities throughout the state. the program was adapted from the green snow pro program in new hampshire that trains people who apply road salt, such as contractors and public work staff. the program teaches workers how to apply road salt more efficiently based on weather and the conditions of the road, according to dietz, who has attended training sessions.

this is a photograph of hydrologist michael dietz who is involved in the green snow pro program, which works to reduce road salt contamination.
hydrologist michael dietz works on the green snow pro program at the university of connecticut. (kelti johnson)

a major conflict arises since connecticut utilizes road salt to maintain safe driving conditions during the winter season. road salt use is the most efficient way to maintain safe driving conditions according to dietz.

it may be crucial that the public stay patient with issues like this. as dietz emphasized, the public is generally unaware of the severity of this issue. dietz also emphasized the importance of understanding the connecticut department of transportation’s (dot) obligation to clear the roads of snow in a timely manner, so people can drive safely. “the dot has to deal with people,” dietz said. when snow falls people call the dot regularly, so it’s important to understand the complexity of solving the issue. the dot was also a partner on the green snow pro project when it was started, according to dietz. 

“dot is really good. they try to have the best equipment [and] the best technology they can to most efficiently apply [salt],” dietz said. “they are very aware of this program [green snow pro], you have to think about the quantity of salt they apply across the entire state, so it’s in their best interest to do it efficiently,” said dietz.

according to helton there has been research done on wetland vegetation and the remediation of road salt pollution by restoration and plant ecologist beth lawrence. plants can take up salts, so by planting vegetation like cattail’s (typha) along roadsides, the amount of road salt that enters groundwater can possibly be reduced. although it seems like a good tactic, in the article “plants as a tool for roadside contaminant removal” written by elaina hancock and published to uconn today on september 21, 2023, lawrence said that the process of removing the biomass takes a lot of energy. although research is being done, efficiently placing road salt is still the most feasible way to reduce this problem.

“it’s tough doing this work in extension where you’re trying to solve a problem, you’re trying to address a problem, it involves behavior change in one form or another,” dietz said. “it’s very frustrating when you know what needs to happen, but people either don’t want to know, or just haven’t got the message and aren’t changing their behavior.”

children are the future: how climate change impacts the next generation // tue, 07 nov 2023 15:13:57 +0000 // did you know that children are more likely to experience negative health impacts from climate change than adults? according to kari nadeau at stanford university’s center for allergy & asthma research, kids not only experience worse health outcomes than adults, but often experience negative impacts on their mental health as well.

this podcast is about the impacts of climate change on children, and how children are being introduced to climate change in schools. action starts with awareness, and so it is crucial to talk about climate change with the younger generation in a way that empowers and enables them.

i interviewed a 12-year-old in elementary school to learn about her experience with climate change, the ways it impacts her personal life, and the role that climate change plays in regards to her education. this gave me deep insights into how we can better include children in the fight against climate change. 

full transcript below. the interviewee’s initials are pseudonymous.

sr: hello and welcome to this week’s podcast on planet forward. i’m your host, sam rajesh. and today we’re gonna be talking all about children, climate and change. climate change undoubtably has a massive impact on human life and no one is exempt. this episode is dedicated to the impact of climate change on children. our children are the future. they are the ones to bear both the brunt and the benefits of our actions today. but just as much as it will impact their future, climate change has devastating impacts on their lives right now. in this episode, we explore how children are impacted by the effects of climate change, how they learn about and conceptualize it, and how we can engage them in eradicating its reach.

according to kari nadeau of stanford’s center for allergy and asthma research, children are more likely than adults to suffer health problems due to environmental impacts. their bodies metabolize toxins, and regulate body temperature differently than adults. they also need more oxygen per pound of body weight. as a result, they experience complications in their heart, lungs, and immune system over extended periods of exposure to pollutants. scientists tell us that industrialization-related pollution has increased so much in the last decade, that every single child in this world is expected to suffer from at least one climate change related event in the next 10 years.

even these impacts are not just physical reasons epidemiological research indicates that air pollution is a risk factor for mental health conditions in children and teens. exposure to traffic related air pollution, for example, can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression across our lifespan. on the other hand, children that become displaced by natural disasters, such as wildfires and flooding are at greater risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, not only in their early life, but also far into their adult lives too.

there’s this concept called eco-anxiety, coined by the american psychology association. it refers to quote, “the chronic fear of environmental cataclysm that comes from observing the seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change and the associated concern for one’s future, and that of the next generation.” just as children are exposed to climate change and air pollution as an early age. they need to be educated about how to combat these effects at an early age too. public schools can benefit from environmental education as part of a holistic curriculum as opposed to a chapter in their science syllabus.

this way, we can integrate various different subjects and disciplines into teaching children about the environment, its impact, and how to create change on a micro and macro level. here is a little clip from my discussion with a 12 year old student in elementary school. she wishes to remain anonymous, but has given us an exclusive insight into what it feels like to grapple with climate change as a kid in today’s world. how do you understand climate change? what does that mean to you?

jd: i know to me, based on what i’ve learned in school, it’s like how our actions affect our climate and how our actions affect the world and the global warming and stuff.

sr: can you please tell me a little bit about how climate change and the environment has impacted your life on a personal level?

jd: for me… so when i was really young, i used to live in china. and there, there was a lot of pollution. and it was really bad. so that’s what… to the point that we had to move when i was six. so we had to move. and it really affected my breathing. me and my mom, what we both had was really… i really struggled to breathe there. and it really affected our lungs and we could see it. so based on that for our health, we had to move. and later in life, maybe three years ago, i started developing some asthma attacks. i was really scared the first time and… to know that how it might have started, was pollution… because one of my asthma triggers, (is) dust and pollution, and like they really affect me. so it can really start an asthma attack, which is really scary to experience for the first time, or anytime to be honest. but i’m really happy that it’s getting better. but so, we need to fix the environment.

sr: in your opinion, how do you think that your schools you talk about climate change in a more productive way that helps motivate you to take change towards improving our planet for everyone? do you think that they’re doing a good job right now? do you think that they could do certain things differently? what is your advice?

jd: i feel like right now in the school system, it’s like they’re talking about it, but they’re talking about it as if it’s a task. it’s not just, “oh, complete this worksheet, and then you’re done.” i was learning about how we can make small changes into our lives. and when we’re washing our hands to turn off- turn off the sink or brushing my teeth and those stuff- those presentations stuck with me. but even the stuff i did last week on climate change, i really can’t remember it. so the way that they did it is that we had certain classes to truly focus on our health, first, our health. and when we were talking about our health, of course, the climate came in.

and we were talking about how we can save the climate. and we did a lot of fun activities, (learning about) the animals and how it affects them. and right now, i feel like we’re really dumbing it down and making it a less serious issue than what it actually is. and when kids grow out of this school system, they just have to find out then, where they haven’t learned anything on how to actually fix it, not just one person or how to spread the word. and, yeah, they should just do more activities and show actual real life, like actual real life scenarios from how it’s happening.

and (they should) do hands on activities to really make the knowledge stick. because if you just put it in a set presentation, the kids aren’t going to be listening, they’re going to be talking with their friend. get them to stand up, get them to actually go outside and see how it really is. and show them pictures from before and after. because that’s what’s really interesting to the children.

sr: thank you so much for your time and your insights. this was really, really helpful for me and for all our listeners to learn a little bit about what it’s like to be a young kid in today’s schooling system, learning about climate change and the environment. in trying to accomplish some of these changes, the united nations secretary general announced a second youth advisory group on climate change in march of 2023.

this group will support the united nations and accelerating global action towards climate change by leveraging the unique challenges, experiences, perspectives, and ideas of young people approaching tough conversations like climate change can be tricky to navigate for teachers and new parents. however, there are plenty of resources available to support us in this journey. one great example is a natural resources defense council, which has a step-by-step guide on how to talk with children of all ages, as young as zero to six, and much older, as for example from six to 12 on climate change, including basic facts, answers to tough questions, and tips for managing eco-anxiety.

in a nutshell, it’s about striking the fine balance between expressing urgency whilst assuring hope. that’s all for this episode. i hope that you learned a little bit more about climate change through the lens of children, how they understand, perceive, and work in their own way towards eradicating it. climate change is such a diverse and personal topic and there are so many actors that are involved, so many voices that need to be heard, and so many needs that need to be taken into consideration. so as we work hard to make this world a better place, the generation that precedes us. let’s not forget to keep them in mind as we do it right now.

the woonerf group: gw sustainability research fellows propose improvements to campus urban design // mon, 06 nov 2023 17:32:03 +0000 // at the start of 2023, a group of five sustainability-minded students began designing and implementing a project to improve george washington university’s use of outdoor space in foggy bottom and maximize the social, environmental, and safety benefits the urban campus could yield. their idea was to turn a typical city street into a woonerf, a “living street” that prioritizes pedestrians over vehicles via certain design elements that encourage interactions and engagement in a safe, shared street environment.

with the accidents and near misses of walkers and bikers, the potential to increase stormwater management and native biodiversity, and the lack of a feeling of a unified campus in the city, the woonerf is a unique opportunity and necessary change to improve student safety, protect our environment, and revitalize the campus community. browse the storymap below to learn more about their journey so far and the details of the project!

click to view in full screen!