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  • Iceberg

    What’s Happening to the Arctic Sea Ice?

    October 17, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Though the most recent data concerning Arctic sea ice melting has received attention in the media, it is hard for most to grasp what “record melting” means. “Record melting” is difficult to show in one simple figure and to understand in a historical context. In the New York Times, two weeks ago, the Science section put up a great interactive graphic which really demonstrates how quickly the ice is melting. I strongly recommend that you check this feature out.

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  • Al Gore

    Gore, IPCC win Nobel Peace Prize

    October 12, 2007 at 11:13 am

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced today that Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in spreading awareness of global warming and in laying the groundwork for solutions to be developed. In a statement released by the former Vice President, Gore said he was "deeply honored" to have received the prize. "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level." Gore became the country's most prominent figure on the issue of global warming following his Academy Award winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." For the Panel's part, chairman Rajendra Pachauri said he was "overwhelmed" by the award and that he hoped it would bring a "greater awareness and a sense of urgency" to the fight against global warming.

    Source: BBC

  • Hurricane Dean

    Hurricane Expert to Speak at Carleton

    October 11, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    On Wednesday, October 17, Kerry Emanuel will deliver a lecture entitled “Global Warming and Hurricanes.” Dr. Emanuel, a meteorologist at MIT, has written a number of books on the subjects of hurricanes and climate change, the most recent of which is What We Know about Climate Change (Boston Review Books). In his research, Dr. Emanuel has found connections between climate change and increased hurricane intensity. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Emanuel was named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people. The talk continues a yearlong public lecture series on the topic of climate change hosted by Carleton’s Environmental and Technology Studies program.

    Dr. Emanuel will lead an informal discussion at 4:00pm in Olin 103. His lecture will begin at 7:30pm in Boliou Hall, room 104. Refreshments will be served afterwards. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Adam Smith.

    Read a recent review of What We Know about Climate Change, written by Bill McKibben.

  • Apple Orchard

    Rotten to the Core?

    October 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    It's fall in Minnesota. The leaves are turning colors, and it's time to go apple picking, right?

    Daniel Gross in an article available at argues that the Fall apple-picking tradition is more idiotic than idyllic and represents American tendencies to esteem overconsumption and balk at nature that's a little too natural.

    In my opinion, that may be a little harsh and condemning. It may be true that when we go out to buy a half-bushel for our house or floor, we may not eat it all, but of all battles to choose, why apple-picking? What do you think?

  • Carleton's wind turbine

    Wind Energy Production Temporarily Stopped

    October 10, 2007 at 9:20 am

    For over a week now, wind has been blowing, but the wind turbine has unfortunately been unable to spin. On October 2nd, the gear box (which is essential in allowing the blades to rotate and in generating mechanical power) malfunctioned. Facilities will have to find a crane to come in and make the appropriate repairs. There is a strong possibility that the repairs will involve at least partially deconstructing the turbine. This means that the blades may have to be temporarily removed—it will certainly be odd to look out at the horizon and see the turbine without its three blades. Hopefully, the gear box can be repaired or replaced within a month so that we can take advantage of Minnesota’s fall breezes and start producing energy as soon as possible.

    To learn about how wind turbines produce power, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program website.

  • Break Through

    Thinking Positively....

    October 9, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger have excerpts from their new book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility on They first rip the way that prominent environmentalists have framed the issues over the past fifty years:

    “Eco-tragedies are premised on the notion that humankind's survival depends on understanding that ecological crises are a consequence of human intrusions on Nature, and that humans must let go of their consumer, religious, and ideological fantasies and recognize where their true self-interest lies.

    Grounded in a tradition of eco-tragedy begun by Carson and motivated by the lack of progress on the ecological crisis, environmental writers have produced a flood of high-profile books that take the tragic narrative of humankind's fall from Nature to new heights: Sir Martin Rees's 2003 Our Final Hour, Richard Posner's 2004 Catastrophe, Paul and Anne Ehrlich's 2004 One with Nineveh, James Kunstler's 2005 The Long Emergency, James Lovelock's 2006 The Revenge of Gaia, and Al Gore's 2006 An Inconvenient Truth, to name just a few.

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  • James Hansen

    What James Hansen Had To Tell Us At Gustavus

    October 8, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    An impressive congregation of academics descended on Southeastern Minnesota last week at Gustavus Adolphus’s Nobel Conference to speak about energy and global warming. In addition to Nobel laureate Steven Chu , the list of panelists included James Hansen, Paul Joscow, Kenneth Dreffeyes, Joan Ogden, and Will Steger.

    Even though Steven Chu has won the Nobel prize in physics, arguably, the most recognized person on this panel was James Hansen. Hansen, for those who know little about him, is most famous for his testimony before the US Senate in 1988 on the danger of anthropocentric global warming and published this paper, where his model’s predictions have closely matched observed temperature trends (see graph below). He serves as the director for the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. More recently, Hansen has received attention for claiming that the Bush White House has been censoring science. He has said that NASA officials tried to influence his public statements on climate change, and the White House has edited press releases to make the impacts of global warming seem less severe. 60 minutes had a great piece with Hansen where he discussed these issues.

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  • Kale & Squash

    Heavens to Betsy, There Are Veggies in the Planter Boxes!

    October 8, 2007 at 10:36 am

    There you are, scarfing down your Snack Bar sandwich as you run out of Sayles, when suddenly a Dinosaur Kale plant attacks you. “Where the goodness did THAT come from?” you exclaim.

    Farm Club and Grounds, that’s where.

    Last spring, a friendly coalition formed between Farm Club members and Dennis Easley, Superintendent of Grounds, to plan the vegetal invasion of the previously floral-centric planter boxes outside of Sayles. They discussed aesthetically pleasing plants and decided that the best contenders would be Dinosaur and Red Russian Kale, Genovese and Purple Basil, Broccoli and several types of squash. The little plantlings entered the ground in the spring, and were mulched with cocoa bean hulls that created a delicious brownie aroma around the building, confusing drooling students for days. Despite the devastating drought this summer, the plants went wild.

    This fall, students have been observed transplanting basil plants from the planter boxes for personal consumption, and the remaining plants were stripped of their leaves for Farm House’s wildly successful Pesto Fest. It is uncertain whether any of the gargantuan kale or any of the less plentiful squash have been hijacked by hungry Carls. Farm Club will soon ravage the beds for compost-making.

    In planning for next year’s vegetable onslaught, Dennis Easley has recommended the planting of dwarf vegetable varieties.
  • Teton National Park

    Bringing "City Kids" to National Parks

    October 8, 2007 at 10:04 am

    An initiative in California to bring inner city kids from Oakland and LA to the Yosemite backcountry illuminates a growing concern within the environmental movement: lack of racial diversity. 92.7% of visitors to national parks in 2004 were white, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Shifting demographic trends indicate that, if this disparity continues, future generations of voters may not care about protecting open spaces.

    Why are visitors to national parks so disproportionately white? It's a complex question with a long history. In a survey by the National Park Service in 2003, African-Americans were much more likely to say they received poor service from park employees and felt uncomfortable visiting parks. Latinos were more concerned than other groups about making reservations far in advance and personal safety.

    That's a problem.

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  • Cars at night

    KRLX starts rideshare system

    October 5, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    KRLX, Carleton's student-run radio station, has recently initiated a rideshare program. The system, which is in its infancy, allows students who need rides or who can provide rides to various concerts to sign up on a sheet outside of the KRLX studio (in the basement of Sayles-Hill Campus Center). Students can leave their name, email address, the date and the artist of the concert, and whether they're looking for or providing a ride, and other students can contact them. While this is a great way to give students opportunities for transportation that they may not otherwise have, it also makes sense from an environmental perspective. Limiting the number of vehicles necessary to go between Northfield and the Twin Cities can minimize the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our music-loving ways.

  • Fair Trade Logo

    Happy Fair Trade Month!

    October 5, 2007 at 9:57 am

    It’s not just another phrase to tag on to organic, shade grown, dark roast, with cream, or no sugar. Fair Trade means ensuring that farmers in poor countries get a fair deal in the chaotic world marketplace that can so easily pass them over. It means guaranteeing farmers a fair price that covers the cost of production and provides a living income through long-term contracts that provide real business security. And it also means tasty coffee.

    In conventional trading schemes, local speculators (called “coyotes”) take advantages of price fluctuations and farmers’ lack of access to market information, often paying farmers less than the market place. After the transaction takes place, the beans can go through a dizzying circuit of middlemen including exporters, brokers, roasters and distributors. In the fair trade model, roasters work directly with farming cooperatives to create sustainable contracts that often pay farmers100-200% more than conventional trading systems.

    Fair Trade certification isn’t easy. The long list of regulations is often daunting for farmers, but they are quickly rewarded by the premium price that they receive for fair trade beans, and the assurance of a more secure, reliable market for their crop. Various Fair Trade Certification programs exist but all of them require fair prices, fair labor conditions, democratic and transparent organization, direct trade, environmental sustainability (no agrochemicals or GMOs) and community development projects like scholarship programs or quality improvement trainings. Additionally, Fair Trade systems often incorporate insurance programs to protect farmers from natural disasters that could devastate not only their crops, but also their livelihoods.

    After extensive conversations with students, Carleton Dining Services decided to buy all Fair Trade coffee from the Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Green Mountain was rated above the other contender, Starbucks, because of their stellar corporate social responsibility principles. The company’s stated purpose is to “create the ultimate coffee experience in every life [they] touch from tree to cup—transforming the way the world understands business.” They allocate 5% of their pre-tax profit to social and environmental causes and have extensive principles regarding coffee sourcing, community partnerships, environmental practices and the maintenance of a thriving workplace. At Carleton, Sodexho serves a variety Green Mountain’s organic, fair trade coffees, including many of their seasonal flavored varieties, even though they come at a significantly higher economic cost.

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