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Sunday, February 27, 2011

From the OSEC blogroll: Getting Pumped About Protecting the CAA

      Egypt. SB5. I see you. I feel restless. When I got the call about a chance to get a message straight to Sherrod Brown, I couldn't dial phone numbers fast enough.

      Mr. Brown is getting ready to go to Washington to vote on proposals that would slash the EPA's budget for the Clean Air Act. He is considered a swing vote - who has previously voted for health care, who impeccably votes for jobs- but needs to hear our voice and vote to protect the Clean Air Act from the very same budget-slashing rampage that threatens the likes of organizations such as AmeriCorps and NPR. If EPA loses their funding for the CAA, they won't have staff to keep tabs on the big polluters.

     Do I even need to mention the benefits of the CAA?

     Enter 1sky, Danny B (Cincy organizer), and OSEC's Ohio Beyond Coal initiative. Cincy is getting organized to drop-in on Sherrod Brown's local office Monday, and plans to roll loud and deep. Originally, a lobby meeting was set for March 3. Since Mr. Brown will likely vote on the proposal before then, we're just gonna drop in early, say hi, and maybe leave some autographs and literature. We'll call the press too.

     Brown has offices across Ohio, and if you're looking for something to do Monday afternoon on your
lunch break; this is my subtle suggestion. If you want to come to Cincy and join us, we'd love to have you.

(I wrote this blog and also posted it to the OSEC website)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

UC, Meet OSEC. Oh yeah- it's big.

     The Ohio Student Environmental Coalition is as good as it gets for statewide student environmental networks. In fact, they are the model referred to at Powershift when students from states across the country are looking to create state wide networks of student groups. This is an agenda to create working groups that can catalyze change on a state level, combining the powers of the several universities; like a giant optimus prime of organizations.

     OSEC has enjoyed huge levels of participation from Ohio University, Bowling Green, Cleveland State, Kent State, Miami University and Ohio State University, just to name a few. From OSU's Free the Planet, to OU's Sierra Club Chapter, to Miami University's Ohio Beyond Coal (I'll get more into that one later), there is some SERIOUS work getting done in Ohio. (By the way, OSEC kids across Ohio, I just randomly picked schools and groups off the top of my head no hard feelings that I didn't name them all k?)

     UC has been the missing piece to the Ohio collaborative, and it was noticed by both parties. Maybe OSEC realized the need to build a relationship when UC suddenly, maybe a lit bit out of nowhere, leads the nation in student Powershift registrations. Consider this problem solved.

     An exuberant group of UC students including Amanda Morgan, Kayla McKinney, and myself were beyond excited to get the invite to the OSEC Planning Conference last weekend in Athens, Ohio. In an ironic twist, the retreat began merely days after mentions of the missing relationship at a UC Student Sustainability Coalition meeting, which subsequently was discussed at the UC PACES meeting (Presidents Advisory Council for Environment and Sustainability).

     Needless to say, the retreat had several moments of being taken aback by the enormous efforts and initiatives going on in both spheres. The real excitement is in the opportunities ahead.

     The retreat included a visit to Meigs County, Ohio. In the picture above, I sit on a park bench with Kayla in front of a school with an enormous coal plant in the background. Besides coal being the single largest global ambient Carbon Dioxide contributor at over 60%, the most dramatic parts of this tour were the social justice issues. Meigs county has the second highest concentration of coal burners in the U.S. The cancer rates and public health in this county are simply devastating. The kind folks in that county can't afford to keep them out of their backyard, as other counties can, so they get stuck with them.

     The impact on this community is unspeakable. I spoke to a man who owned a gas station across the street from one of the coal plants, whose livelihood depended on the plant workers. "You here to take pictures of the pollution they're putting up there?" he said. When I told him we were, he refused to accept money for my coffee. "Good luck to all of you", he said. "I'd rather see it shut down, and lose my business. They're going to convert it to natural gas, then we're [in big trouble]."

     Meanwhile, the coal companies get lobby after lobby to put up more, and Meigs county residents don't have the political or financial leverage to stop them. This specific topic in social justice is referred to as "Environmental Justice" issue.

     Enter OSEC, thousands of students, Powershift, student groups, the Sierra Club, and a level of organization unparalleled across the states. Alternative energy sources are ready to go, from wind-farms in Lake Erie, and across Ohio, and the amazing technologies of biofuel being diligently produced in University Labs across the US.

      Also, enter the Ohio Beyond Coal campaign. Now, OBC is represented at each of the seven universities (including UC) in Ohio, and has made a partnership with the Sierra Club. The main initiatives are to shorten timelines for removal of coal plants on Ohio campuses, protecting the Clean Air Act, and targeting a specific coal plant in Cleveland to pressure.

      It's time for Ohio to go beyond coal, to renewal, sustainable energy sources. Lets heal Meigs county. Lets heal the climate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

FLOF and Sustainability

     Words can't express how happy I am about the recent success of the UC student group Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP); which as of late, has the feel of the little group that could.

     Last Tuesday the group held an event to raise awareness about food sustainability. Why? Most importantly; food is number two on the list of global ambient carbon contributor at 18%, behind energy supply. This is more than transportation (15%). Eating locally can cut this number by much more than one half. The pesticides used for non-organic farming heavily reduce soil carbon retention rates. The pesticides themselves create contaminant plumes that pollute watertables, our drinking water, our rivers, our oceans.

     Beyond eco-impact, FLOF supports local economy and culture. Keeping your dollar local keeps the money in our schoolyards and the hands of small local business owners. Again, this is an issue of sustainability (see: Tale of Three S's), which encompasses much more than simply the environment.

     Above: students check out the UC Sustainability student group booths at the flof event.

     What excited me most about this? The momentum of the UC Sustainability community. Seven (!!!) UC sustainability groups were represented with tables at this event. Students found out about great things happening on campus, and the groups have undoubtedly seen a spike of interest from the student community. Not only that, but the list of groups involved in the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC; collaborative of the groups) has since grown. Props to Students for Ecological Design (SED), Environmental Legacy Foundation (ELF), Engineers Without Borders (EWB), the Office of Sustainability, the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC), and UC Historical Building Preservation (formerly ReUC) for the epic booths and help with the event. Welcome: Sustainable Transportation Organization, Planning Student Organization, and UC Garden Club to UC Sustainability!

     The epicness continues... The launch of the "UC food petition" at the event was a huge success. In challenging Aramark and President Williams to shift food supply chains at UC to be more sustainabile, the kickoff at the event saw 80 signatures; all in a day. Since then, the petition has over 800 signatures. It's only been just over a week. A working group for meeting with Aramark to establish working models and an open discussion on the implementation of FLOF at UC is thus underway. The plan is to have this meeting, hopefully, in March.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Giving Some Props

     It's super bowl Sunday. A lot of large companies spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get short clips during the most watched television event in the world. Not Pepsi.

     The wonderful marketing people of Pepsi Co decided that spending this amount of money for market recognition during the super bowl was a little excessive. They reallocated the several thousand dollars that used to get spent on superbowl advertising to something called the "Pepsi Refresh Everything" contest. It is a community grant fund, where people can vote on ideas for things that build community and make America a better place. Congrats to Energy Action Coalition for winning a nice bit of scholarships to put towards students going to powershift (the yearly conference in DC of over 10,000 college students advocating clean energy). Condolences to Keep Cincinnati Beautiful's Future Blooms Program, which paints local buildings and makes wonderful reused material art displays in abandoned storefronts to promote local businesses in those locations. I voted for them repeatedly and although they lost, hope they can keep up their great work! If you haven't seen any of it before, check out their photo album. Imagine if all of the super bowl advertising money went towards real changes such as this, and not just market recognition for products.

     Also, I follow quite a few eco-websites and I have to give props to one in particular that has been throwing down awesome stories left and right. has been flat out bringing it, with articles from eco-friendly valentines gifts, to recycled plastic shoes, and reused bridges converted to giant wind turbine power facilities... I gotta give them props for posting such regularly interesting stuff.



Thursday, February 3, 2011


Here is a blog with some good cartoons.... why do cartoons seem to say things in a way that words cannot?


     Carbon Nation film director Peter Byck joined us Monday via Skype after UC Sustainability showed his film. "CCID" is the acronym he used to describe "Climate Change Induced Depression". It is something that anyone who considers the implications of the global climate change on any type of regular basis has to deal with.

     Peter was talking about this because I had asked him (this was a Q&A session) how we could continue to keep a positive message in light of the burdensome knowledge of climate change. I had been inspired by the tone of his film, which had filled me with lots of hope for clean energy.

     Not only is green energy the future, it is now. The film shows how the movement for clean energy has begun, and the strengths and profitability of several types of clean energy alternatives. I can't reccomend this film enough. Wind farms are so profitable, they are saving small towns in the wind belt. Algae fuel and other biofuels promise to cure oil dependency. Geothermal is so energy and cost efficient it is hard to explain why it isn't everywhere. A man named Van Jones gets low-income familes loans for solar panels, and teaches the residents installation so they can get work and pay back the loan. Green energy could be the boost our economy needs.

     As Peter explained, these are the stories that need to be told. Now, let me share one of my own.

     Today, I had the opportunity to hear 2010 Earth Award Grand Prize Winner Carlos Montemagno give a presentation. He is the dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences here at the University of Cincinnati. He has discovered how to replicate photosynthesis. He has methods that are 98% efficent (compared corn ethanol at 6-7%), and he can convert the acellular chemical energy from his foam into fuel OR electricity. Essentially, you take a box of this special foam- it makes sugar, which is converted to fuel or electricity.

     He could frankly hold the solution to anthropeogenic climate change from carbon emissions. Take a moment.

     The solutions exist, and there is money to be made. Foam, anyone?