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APEC Blue

Hoping to present the best possible of image of Beijing, the Chinese government implemented changes for its hosting of the 22nd annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference. The government was mainly concerned with portraying Beijing as a non-polluted city, and therefore enforced policies to ensure blue skies over China’s capital, skies that have come to be known as “APEC blue”.

For public school students as well as government officials, the APEC conference was a mandatory holiday. The government hoped that many of these city dwellers would leave Beijing, diminishing the number of people in the city along with its crowds. In addition, many of Beijing’s surrounding factories were closed, making an impressive difference on the pollution levels. Lastly, a law was implemented stating that on even days of the month even license plated cars could drive while on odd days odd cars could drive. This reduced the city traffic by one half, reducing both the commute time as well as the carbon dioxide emitted from cars.

As a Beijinger myself, I was overjoyed during the conference, but have found it difficult to readjust to the smog now that the holiday has ended. I know I am not alone in my opinions because a term knows as “APEC Blue” has appeared on social media. “APEC Blue” represents the mask that Beijing wore to impress foreign media and visitors. Many Beijingers were displeased because, although the city was wonderful for a week, the traffic problems and pollution problems have returned. The government proved they are able to solve these problems, but do not wish to do so. Nevertheless, fixing the pollution problem for a week is more simple than implementing a permanent solution. The government cannot shut down factories for the entire year or always give its citizens a vacation. “APEC Blue” should represent the fact that Beijing has the ability to consider different options for how to fix the pollution instead of symbolizing the artificial blanket draped over Beijing’s negative qualities, hiding reality.

Within the past couple of years, researchers have invented a new material that can readily absorb CO2 directly from the atmosphere. This is a huge achievement, as scientists think that this new composite can help solve the world’s presently ongoing problem of global warming and can also help with ocean acidification.

Scientists at the University of Southern California created this CO2 absorbing material by taking fumed silica, a substance which is found in common sand and coating it with a type of polymer, known as polyethylenimine (PEI).

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The science behind Co2 adsorbtion

This new type of CO2 absorbing device has many good characteristics to it. A couple of the most important qualities of which it does possess, however, are its stability, durability and its affinity for CO2. This PEI device has such an affinity for CO2 that it can absorb CO2 directly out of the atmosphere, even when it’s placed in an area of rather low CO2 concentration.

While this new composite can absorb CO2 from an area of low CO2 concentration, it would be far more effective to put it in an area of higher CO2 concentration. The more CO2 is around the composite, the more CO2 it has the potential to absorb. This is why the scientists who are leading the research for this new PEI device say that one of the most effective ways that we could use it would be by placing it directly into the flues and chimneys of factories and power plants, which usually emit large amounts of CO2. The absorber would then collect the CO2 that would be flowing around it, through the flues and chimneys. When the device becomes filled with CO2, it will be replaced. Having the device placed in the flues and chimneys of factories would prevent the CO2 from escaping from the chimneys and into the atmosphere, where it would then have the chance to wreak havoc on our environment.

Even though there are numerous benefits to this new invention, the scientists that invented it say that there are still some kinks that need to be worked out before the PEI device can begin to be used. Firstly, the scientists say that once the CO2 is captured in the PEI device, they’re having trouble containing it. It’s proving difficult to find a container that doesn’t leak to store the CO2 in. This is a big problem when looking at the devices effectiveness over the long-haul. Once you have the CO2 captured and out of the environment, you don’t want it seeping back into the environment. This would defeat the entire purpose of the new invention– to get CO2 out of the environment. Also, the scientists say that, even though it’s already fairly cheap the produce the PEI devices, it needs to become cheaper before people, companies, or even governments will start using them on a large scale.

In the end, however, this is a great new invention that has the potential to help global warming and ocean acidification in a big way. This device could be a big part of our future.

Sources

 

Pickering, Keith. “Cheap Plastic/sand Composite Absorbs CO2 like Crazy.” Cheap Plastic/sand Composite Absorbs CO2 like Crazy. Kos Media, LLC, 4 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

 

Irfan, Umair, and ClimateWire. “New, Reusable Materials Could Pull CO2 Straight from Air.” Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American, 6 Jan. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Personal Sustainability

This past month, I have been thinking a lot about myself and the change that I can make. I have always been a true believer that every little thing that I can do will help, and today I think I did my part to the fullest. As my school’s sustainability prefect, I had the opportunity to tour a quite recent alumni and her boyfriend around our school’s living machine. When the alumni attended my school, graduating in 2007, she was also the sustainability prefect like I am today. This, in addition to the point that she was my sister’s friend when they attended the school at the same time, made the afternoon one more of bonding than of a classic living machine tour.

The reason for her visit was the in a less than a year, she and her boyfriend are moving to Colorado and are planning to live off the grid. This will be done in the tiny home format, yes we have all seen the buzzfeed articles, but they will also be building their own marshland and natural living machine-esque water purification system. This will be for all of their grey water. They also plan on building two composting stations, one for food-scrap compost and another for solid human waste compost. Their own garden and greenhouse is also in the works. The plan is to basically create an outdoor oasis that gives back to the Earth as much as it takes away. One of the big sticklers of their project is that they want to build something that will go back into the environment easily if they choose to move: the tiny house is on wheels and most everything else is easily removable.

Having the ability to contribute to this endeavor today was a great experience. I not only learned more about what it takes to live off the grid, I also got to help the young couple learn about how living machines work and how simple it can be to return water to the environment. This experience helping them reminded me why I love the environment to begin with and why I want to continue to be sustainable in all the little ways. I know that it will not be possible for me to move into an off-the-grid living arrangement in the next year, but knowing that I helped others make it possible makes it all the more satisfying.

Tiny homes:http://www.buzzfeed.com/alannaokun/tiny-homes-you-can-actually-buy

Human waste composting: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/human-waste-zmgz11zrog.aspx#axzz3JC9LeAgN

http://www.alternet.org/story/141718/your_crap,_our_compost%3A_turning_human_feces_into_fertile_soil

YouthCAN! And youth did!

I remember a hot, sticky day in mid July in Washington DC (where I was this summer before going to Sc3) sitting on my friends roof being in this conference call with all my friends and committee members bach in Minnesota, straining to hear what they were all saying. I couldn’t really hear what was happening but I could hear passion through the phone lines, people were getting ideas, and getting excited. We were brainstorming ideas for an event that would later develop into YouthCAN! (Youth Climate Action Now). This event took place Saturday at El Collegio High School, we had students from all over the metro-area, Wisconsin, and even Northfield.
This past weekend (Nov 8) YouthCAN! became a reality. Lots of people showed up, we had 3 keynote speakers, 3 times for 12 different workshops and a huge group discussion about all the intersectionalities between social justice issues and environmental justice and activism. It was so completely extraordinary to be in a beautiful space with so many cool people with shared passions from different backgrounds, cultures, and places all over the area. After working so hard on this and investing a lot of time in this, it was incredible to see the event happen in real life after months of emails, phone calls, and all things not so physically real. In this long period of time I learned so much about planning events like this; how to gauge time when planning, how to write emails to people I don’t know, and how to realistically plan given the time and ressources you have at hand. I think though the most important thing I learned was that youth can, no matter how ironic it is, or cheesy, youth can! Youth can plan, and we actually did! Youth can organize, and have passion, and most of all youth care. I know a lot of adults do, and some don’t also but youth care, it’s our future and we stand up for it, which gives me a lot of hope.
Something else that gave me a lot of hope was our opening keynote speaker Kim Wasserman. In addition to starting LVEJO (Little Village Environmental Justice Organization) raising two kids, after 12 years of fighting to get a coal plant shut down in her neighborhood she, the LVEJO, and Little Village residents shut down the coal plant. First off, 12 years is a ridiculous amount of time, and to have kept up passion inspiration, and the determination to do this for that long, I am eternally in awe. I loved the way Kim Wasserman presented herself to us, she was real, she told us the facts, and she told us the way she had a solution. You can see Kim Wasserman’s Goldman Prize interview here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Jxeu7cyJk).

Another thing that gave me a lot of hope was the amount of people that came for our free, all-day event. About two weeks before the event we were starting to get a little stressed out about attendance, and all this hard work we had been putting in and all the speakers and presenters would be putting in, and making it all worth it. In the end we had about 140 people at the height of the day. Our original goal and overall maximum was 100.

In being at YouthCAN!, and planning I have come to realize that there is a lot of terrible stuff going on in the world, but there are people who care, people who drive 2 hours to go to a conference, people who take their saturdays to talk about social justice, and people who everyday are spreading what they believe in a million different ways. To me that is hope.

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A couple of minutes ago the New York Times reported that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a climate change deal after secret talks. President Obama’s been meeting in China for several days with its President, and up until now, climate change was not really the focused of the trip. But now this deal has been called its “signature achievement.”

Until now, the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies and emitters of greenhouse gases, have done little working together against climate change. But this is a really big shift that truly raises the possibility of a successful and far-reaching global climate treaty during the 2015 UN climate conference in Paris.

This deal was, according to the BBC, the result of a 5-hour long dinner between the two leaders last night, in what has become an increasingly warm relationship between them despite tensions. President Obama agreed to the target of reducing U.S. carbon emissions from between 25 and 28 percent by 2025 from 2005 levels, a doubling of the target he previously set for reductions from 2005 to 2020. The Chinese president set the goal of having 20% of the country’s energy provided by renewable energies by 2030, and pledged that peak carbon emissions will be reached in 2030 (not a bad goal given that China’s economy is still rapidly expanding).

The skepticism of this deal is warranted, because to a certain degree it is extremely ambitious—the Senate has to ratify the treaty, these changes would require vast economic shifts and large government investment, etc—but a deal of this scale has never been reached before. Furthermore, with solar energy becoming cheaper with every passing week, as reported by one environmentally-focused website today that found that solar is actually cheaper than fossil fuels in Texas and several countries, renewable energy is becoming more and more attractive and feasible on a large scale.

This is a very encouraging step in the right direction, and it seems that the leaders of the world are slowly listening to the calls of the environmental movement and realizing how serious climate change actually is!

Image source: Wall Street Journal

Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been nominated a Finalist of the Americas in the Global High Schools Category for the Zayed Future Energy Prize 2015. The school got nominated as Finalist in 2014 as well, but won the second prize, of $50,000 USD to implement solar water heaters and solar PV. This year, the project that we applied with was called: GEAR (Generating Energy Alternative Research) Box.

It will be a purpose built facility on the Colegio Roosevelt Campus for research and development of energy alternatives for students at the Primary and Secondary School level. The building itself will be a simply structured industrial-style facility with the capacity to research, design, and experiment with energy solutions relating to energy production, conservation, efficiency, and transport. It will be student-led, project-based learning will bring the building alive, with collaboration from a local engineering university, UTEC, commercial alternative energy providers such as MD Tech and Enertek, NGOs such as Wind Aid, and Colegio Roosevelt teachers.

Data will be recorded as to the number of students engaged in GEAR Box learning, and a catalog of GEAR Box projects will be generated and published via a GEAR Box website to inspire students and schools to incorporate aspects of this model. Additionally data will be collected on economic and energy savings gained from energy solutions generated and then implemented on campus.

Read more information about the prize here: http://www.zayedfutureenergyprize.com/en/

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Having put down my beloved Blondie, an orange and white tabbie cat after eleven years of companionship, I truly realized the extent of the emotional connection and the level of compassion that humans have for animals.

Don’t we see that our actions are causing the death of many animals all over the world?
Dying polar bears have become a symbol of global warming intended to invoke sympathy in people and make them care because they can see the concrete consequences of their human influence.
We need to make people aware of the direct connection between their actions and extinction of animals and that these animals are crucial for reasons more significant than the way they greet you at the door every day or curl up at the foot of your bed.
What about eating food? Though honey bees are not quite as cuddly as the family pooch or pussy cat, there aren’t many things that we consume daily that are not a product of the hard work of honey bee pollination.
After the death of my cat, the next time I cried over the death of animals was in AP environmental science class when we watched a video about the effect of climate change on the Porcupine River Caribou herd of Alaska and Canada. These majestic creatures have been driven away from their luscious feeding ground by the increased mosquito population, a direct result of the increase in temperature. Consecuently, the caribou do not store up the fat that they need to last them through the winter. Their food source during the cold months is lichen that they dig out from under the snow. On top of the decrease in their stored fat, they are finding it increasingly more challenging to access this winter lichen because of the changes in percipitation. Increased snow is making them dig farther for the lichen and unusual amounts of rain are preventing them completely from accessing the lichen because it forms a frozen solid layer under the snow. In some places, streaks of blood can be found in the snow, a result of their desperate fight with the ice. With the additional energy exerted to attain this food, they are using up the minimal fat stores that they had and, and as a result, producing less young and dying more often. More than just feeling sympathy for the struggle of the individual animals, I have a deep concern for the toll that the decrease of this population will take on the ecosystem as a whole. As I learned in Disruption, the movie made about the Peoples Climate March, we are on the brink of many ecological tipping points that will completely deform the world as we know it and even if we completely ceased today to contribute to the problem, we have already caused more warming than we know. Each time our actions cause the massive decrease in another species, we are taking another step towards these terrifying tipping points.

At the Peoples Climate March youth convergence, I attended a workshop in which I learned about the different levels of environmental concern, ranging from people who do not acknowledge that there is a human-created problem to those who actively and passionately engage in creating solutions. Many people are slightly concerned but not enough to take action, and I encounter many of these people in my life. I am always thinking about methods of making these people understand the dire need for change, what will make them see the importance. Humans naturally have a compassion for animals. We need to remember that our actions affect the innocent lives of animals, many of which, though it may not seem like it, we cannot live without. I think that we should tap into this compassion to motivate change in less concerned citizens.

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(Story of the caribou was in National Geographics Strange Days on Planet Earth series, called Strange Days on Planet Earth- One Degree Factor- WATCH IT!)

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