A Bug’s Life

heather_hannah_bees_1024

On May 25th my environmental club took a field trip to a nearby restaurant called Rainbow Gardens. The establishment is well known for its eco-friendly habits, however my class mates and I had the privilege of visiting the secret rooftop beehive.

Chef and owner, Heather Profetto, has been maintaining beehives her entire life. As a child she assisted her father with their backyard beehive. As she grew older she continued this hobby- not as a professional beekeeper, but as she put it, “someone who has conducted many experiments with many different hives; sometimes successful and sometimes not.” Her current project has been a success. Heather has been working to catch a swarm of bees and merge it with a dying beehive.

Bees swarm when they are leaving behind an old dwelling. During this frenzy they follow the queen bee in search of a new home. They may also send out “spotters” to find an ideal location such as a tree branch, abandoned car, or even an empty hive. Catching a swarm is one of every beekeeper’s goals. You can catch a swarm using either a sheet, a bin, or professional bee-catching equipment. Once you have a handle on the bees you provide them with a hive where they will live and produce honey.

After a brief explanation of her experience in the beekeeping world Heather allowed me to suit up and join her on the rooftop to check on the beehive. Once on the rooftop, she explained how to determine whether a hive is working successfully. You can tell whether a queen bee has recently entered a hive based on the presence of tiny, white larvae within the hive. Heather’s hive was thriving and busy with the new swarm of bees.

Without bees, we would have no avocados, peaches, apples, or any produce you can think of. So next time you shy away from their stingers and curse their names, remember their important role.

 

 

Madagascar Series Pt. 2

Salama Indray! Hello Again!

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Madagascar (I am on my way there this month) I have been working to finish up a few projects.

In an effort to help the people in Madagascar, I have contacted a public health service called PIVOT that has a center in Ranomafana. PIVOT is an organization strives to strengthen health at the hospital and community health center level. PIVOT has been focusing on tackling issues like malnutrition in Madagascar. I have coordinated a medical supplies drop off with them. I was able to find a local organization called InterVol near my school that collects medical supplies and I have arranged to hold a trip group sorting party. We will be able to gather medical supplies at InterVol to bring to the PIVOT staff.

I am also creating a conservation storybook with a few other students that will be put on iPads that we are bringing to a school in Madagascar. The story is about a species of lemur that is endemic to the island. We will also help the school in Madagascar with a reforestation project, which I am excited about! Stories to follow…

The Power of Student Voice: A Conference by Youth, for Youth

On April 9th, the first annual Sustainability in School Communities Through Student Voices conference kicked off at the Calhoun School in New York City. In the months prior to the conference, I had the opportunity to work on the 16-student planning committee.  A core idea behind the conference was that it was fully student planned and run. While we had many educators around us to help plan, most of the logistics, recruiting schools, and bringing in presenters was done by the planning committee. Attendees and planners consisted primarily of students from schools within the New York State Association of Independent Schools, however our goal for future years is to have the conference extend to all schools in the tri-state area.

The conference was modeled similarly to the Student Climate and Conservation Congress that the Green Schools Alliance runs each summer (albeit this one was only a day-long), with a number of speakers, workshops, and a goal for each school to be able to bring what they learned at the conference back to their respective communities, and implement some sort of change. We hosted two keynote speakers at this conference, both of whom have had extensive experience campaigning for social movements surrounding their respective governments, and the United Nations. Anjali Appadurai has worked as an activist, campaigner and strategic communicator at a local and international level around issues of climate change and environmental governance, and now works with the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Kehkashan Basu is a 15 year old activist from Dubai, who has advocated for peace and sustainability through her Global Coordinator position at the UN Environment Program.

In addition to the keynotes, we had more than 20 workshops run by both students and educators from different schools. These workshops included topics like composting basics, gardening, renewable energy with Solar 1, and Ban the Bag NYC. With over 120 participants, the workshops each contributed a unique learning experience. In a workshop I attended about sustainable school lunches, a teacher at The Family School, a public elementary school in the South Bronx, explained how he has changed their school lunch program: “Many kids at my school would either eat their unhealthy school lunches, like hot dogs, chocolate milk, etc … or simply not eat their lunch. But I believe that eating healthy starts at a young age, and increases sustainability in the future.” In his tenure at the school, this teacher has helped the school stop offering chocolate milk for lunch, and only give the students local fruits and veggies, some of which are grown in their two new tower gardens. This sort of small change in a school exemplifies how teaching sustainability can contribute to both healthier students, and ones who are more inclined to be more sustainable themselves in the future.

At the end of the conference, each school group gathered in its own “pod,” where they discussed their takeaways from the conference. As we all returned to our respective communities, each pod met to develop an action plan for their school. Having attended the Student Climate and Conservation Congress for three years, I felt that planning this conference finally completed part of my own “action plan,” in successfully bringing together a number of conservation-minded individuals from around NYC and beyond, to create changes we can implement in each school, and the city as a whole. Back in my school, we are working with a number of administrators who also attended the conference, to form a school sustainability task force that will contain a coalition of students, teachers, parents, and administrators. Although I will be graduating this year, I hope that my school, as well as the Sustainability Through Student Voices Conference, will continue to grow and spread conservation efforts through youth action. In the words of keynote speaker Anjali Appadurai, “What we’re seeing in our world today is a connection to people across the world at the click of a button. This access that we have to all corners of the world helps us to organize. It helps us to find ways to act together, and use our collective power to build movements from the ground up. And to use the swell of those movements to bring new ideas to the table. That’s why I believe in the youth. We can do better, and we must. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Give the Green Light to Green Education

SOPHIE
Sound familiar? In one school, rows of desks stand in strict conformity, as though waiting in line for a matinee. Not a pencil quivers, for it is afraid to waver from the confinements of what is expected of it. Students follow suit.
But in another school, rows of rocks, benches, and logs of different sizes reflect their view: green leaves and moss, dirt and trees. So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? They’re both schools.
The difference is in the minds and health of the children attending these two schools.
 Education is meant to revitalize. As Salon.com puts it, “disengagement is one of education’s greatest quandaries.”
Today’s stance on outdoor environmental education is as ancient as the first Earth Day in 1970, yet schools across the globe dismiss it as not worth the time and energy it takes. Critics may argue that kids can’t tell the difference between work and play, but here’s some evidence that integrating “play” and work provides for enhanced generations in practically every aspect of life.
Aside from better grades and a better connection to nature, what benefits does outdoor learning provide?
It teaches kids to communicate more effectively – with each other, and with themselves
Outdoor education lets students work together, a critical skill for both children AND adults…
It helps students realize their true passions and gain motivation. 
As Salon.com states, “In a 2004 study comparing 400 students in environment-based education programs with students learning in traditional classrooms, the authors determined that environment-based education significantly raised motivation levels.” Moreover, the multi-sensory experience enables children to learn with all of their senses.
It lets students experience the real world and think critically about real-life situations
There’s more to learning – and life – than a textbook. Outdoor learning lets kids develop an awareness of the complexities of the real world. Students are able to understand the relevance of the information they’re taking in.
Sources Used in This Post:
Pictures taken from Google Images.

Spring Has Sprung

Although the spring season technically began in March, the April showers accompanied by warm, humid air have just begun. Spring is a time of growth and renewal-a perfect time to start a butterfly garden.

The first step to creating a garden is to determine which type of pollinators you would like to attract. Butterflies and bees each enjoy different types of plants.

Next, look into which nectar or color the pollinators you wish to attract prefer. This can be done with a simple internet search. A great resource is: http://www.butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm

Finally, you must purchase and plant your flowers or plants, preferably in a sunny location in a quiet, not heavily trafficked space.

Soon your yard will be brimming with bees, butterflies, or whatever insects your plants attract. Creating a butterfly garden is beneficial to both you and the pollinators and is a great way to enjoy the warm weather ahead.

Dr. Jane Goodall

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 6.35.47 PM

This past Tuesday I saw Dr. Jane Goodall speak in Toronto. Her strength and elegance is beyond inspiring. She spoke about her life, her activism, and our changing world.

Dr. Jane Goodall started off by thanking her supportive mother who always encouraged her. She talked about her adventures as a curious child and she spoke about growing up during World War II. She did a lot with very little. She would borrow The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting from the library and she said that she loved reading about Tarzan (going on to say that he married the wrong Jane!) She stressed how important it is to work toward discovering your passion (take a year off, work, volunteer, do what you have to do!). She set out to study animals in Africa. She waitressed for a year and saved money leading up to her first trip to Africa.

She spoke about her work as a primatologist and she explained how she became an activist in the process. Her chimpanzee studies led her to advocate for them. She highlighted how social and intelligent animals are, detailing how complex the relationships can be within a community of animals. She told us a heartwarming story about Wounda the chimpanzee and gave us the backstory behind the infamous hug scene in an accompanying viral video. She touched on how animal testing is wrong as well.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 6.40.25 PM

She emphasised how important it is to help people in poverty. Human needs and conservation are linked. She spoke about how, in order to help conserve resources and save ecosystems, we have to provide people with water, food, healthcare, and education. Helping people will help with reforestation and ecosystem recovery. Saving animals through ecotourism will help our planet flourish, but first we must connect our brains to our hearts.

She talked about how we need to eat less meat. She brought a cow stuffed animal on stage and went on to say that consumers can make a change. She explained how large scale meat production is harming the environment. She illustrated how cattle can be packed in small spaces and she mentioned the antibiotics they are fed, which help keep the cows alive in the harsh conditions. Methane from the cows also contributes to the blanket of greenhouse gases above us. We need to support local organic farms and get the government to do the same, but in the meantime we all need to try to eat less meat!

She said herself that she has to go faster at age 82 because she doesn’t have that much time left. She travels 300 days a year and ticket sales go toward the Jane Goodall Institute! She works with children and tells them that they are capable of changing the world. She did say that she runs into young people who are disheartened by the state of their world and she understands why. She said that we have stolen the world from our children, but that there is still hope. She quoted Gandhi saying that, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” She stated that we only have one Earth and that we all have to help our world every single day. 

The Future is Now

article-2574052-07195DF500000514-35_634x423

In Theodore Roosevelt’s seventh message to Congress on December 3rd, 1907, he stressed conservation, stating, “To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.”

Remaining cognizant of natural resources to ensure “prosperity” for future generations is not a message that has changed since 1907, but in fact grown in importance in those 109 years. Population has since then sky rocketed from 1.75 billion in 1907 to over 7 billion in 2016. Colonized countries such as China have developed independent economies and consequently have had boosting eras of industrialization, and technological developments and a growing consumer culture have given rise to sustainable and not-so-sustainable ways to use our natural resources.

       Environmental problems that for Roosevelt were “far into the distant future” prove to affect our daily lives. This Earth Day is the perfect opportunity not only to reflect on the environmental problems that have already occurred but also to consider the challenges that are yet to come.

Our Declining Resources

       Many of the problems with natural resources, such as water shortages, are caused by both misuse and overuse which will lead to problems in the near future.

In California, for example, mismanagement, a five-year drought, and an abundance of agriculture has led to a severe water shortage that, according to News-week, will cost California 2.7 billion dollars in 2015 alone. So what exactly caused the water shortage?

       First, California over-estimated the amount of water that they have. When officials divided up rights to the Colorado River, which provides critical water supplies to seven states including California, they claimed it has 1.4 trillion gallons a year more than the river actually produces, a mismanagement that led to a disproportionate number of citizens with water.

       Second, 70% of the Colorado River’s water goes to producing two thirds of our nation’s fruits and nuts. According to the Pacific Institute, each American indirectly uses over 300 gallons of California’s water each week by eating food grown in California. Additionally, one almond takes almost an entire gallon of water to produce. In a state where thousands of citizens are without running water, if California limited the production of almonds, it would make a huge difference on water accessibility to citizens.

       Additionally, due to the drought, California has started tapping into aquifers, or groundwater, for up to 60% of its water use as rivers start to dry up, according to CBS News. This is a problem because, according to PBS, of the 37 major aquifers, 21 of them are losing more water than is being replaced and 13 aquifers could exceed a point where they will not replenish themselves. Because of mismanagement, California is depleting natural resources in order to fulfill the needs of the people and agriculture and forcing them deeper and deeper into the dry and expensive desert California has created.

The Sixth Mass Extinction

       In addition to resources readily declining, scientists say the Earth is on the brink of its sixth mass extinction in the past half-billion years of plants and animals –except instead of cataclysmic asteroids or volcanic eruptions, the primary cause is humans. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, 99% of threatened species are at risk due to human activities, through habitat loss, introduction of new species, and climate change.

According to The Washington Post, the Earth is losing mammal species 20-100 times as fast as ever before, a statistic meaning that extinctions could rival the event that killed the dinosaurs 250 million years ago.  Thus, by mid-century, 30-50% of all species could be heading toward extinction.

“We are now moving into another one of these events that could easily, easily ruin the lives of everybody on the planet,” Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich said in a video created by the school. Our loss of biodiversity is not a problem that is off into the future but one we are right in the middle of as more than 10,000 species annually go extinct.

China and their Environmental Problems

       China’s air pollution due to urban development and an abundance of factories is another example of how environmental disasters can lead to the need for change. According to The New York Times, air pollution is calculated to contribute to 1.6 million deaths a year, which is specifically 17% of all deaths in China and 4,400 people a day.

       The dangerous particles are fewer than 2.5 microns in diameter. After entering the lungs, they are absorbed into the blood stream and can result in asthma, strokes, lung cancer, and heart attacks. The particles are part of the smog that shrouds large cities such as Beijing, and that comes from industrial zones.

       Due to these staggering numbers, China, the world’s biggest polluter, also has the world’s largest renewable energy market, according to CNN. China has had to face its reality, and in doing so they have made environmental reform a main part of their five-year-plan, which, according to Telegraph, is a social and economic plan that details changes from 2016 to 2020. Additionally, last year, in an agreement with President Obama, China pledged to cap its outputs of greenhouse gases by 2030 or earlier.

The Real Meaning of 2 Degrees Celsius  

       In 2009, 114 countries signed the “Copenhagen Accord,” which recognizes the “scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2  degrees Celsius.” So, why 2 degrees?

According to Carlo Jaeger, chairman of the Germany-based Global Climate Forum, “Humans never have lived in post-2-degree world, if we start warming the planet way beyond what humans have ever experienced, God knows what will wait for us.”

       Regardless of whether this increase in temperature is due to humans or just natural climate irregularities, this number was agreed to represent a dangerous increase by countries around the world at the most recent international Climate Change meeting in Paris . They pledged to do their best to limit warming “well below” 2 degrees by moving towards 100% clean energy, meaning no greenhouse gas emissions, between 2050 and 2080.

According to NASA, the global world temperature has raised almost 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. Local temperatures fluctuate significantly, but global temperatures depend on “how much energy the planet receives and how much it radiate back into space—quantities that change very little.” In fact, it was a drop of only 2 degrees Celsius that caused the Little Ice Age.

The World Resource Institute has projected that if we continue to live the same and emissions remain “unabated,” the world is on track to exceed its “budget” in 30 years, “expos[e] communities to increasingly dangerous forest fires, extreme weather, drought, and other climate impacts.”

Scientists and the international community have agreed that 2 degrees, the number you haven’t ever really heard of, will determine the way we chose to live our lives in the near future and how we chose to cut back on certain aspects of them.