Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Home Grown Sustainability, From Pittsburgh to D.C.

My fellow classmates are part of University College at American University, which is a living and learning community. We all take the Environmental Science class, Sustainable Earth, and live in the same dorm with each other as roommates. We have the class 2 times a week with an additional lab once a week and a D.C. lab led by our leader an additional day per a week as well. It's really neat to be able to call Washington D.C. our "lab!" So far, we have participated in Freshmen Service Experience which was three days out of a week long welcome week. There were many different groups that American University, Earth Day Network, Green went to many different sites as volunteers. We went to Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD. As volunteers at this recently certified organic farm, we contributed to the volunteer work force that runs Clagett, harvesting squash, potatoes (digging them out of the ground, very tedious laborious work), and cucumbers and weeding a strawberry field.

While there are some paid workers who serve as the base for the farm, many of the workers are either working for CSA shares or as pure volunteers. In addition, we have gone to The Earth Day Network in Dupont Circle Washington D.C. and learned about their yearlong effort to educate and make changes to society. With lobbyists in Congress and people working with schools and local businesses, they gave us many opportunities to apply for internships and eventual full time jobs, opening our eyes to the importance and relevance of green jobs overall.

In addition to our D.C. labs, our actual class lab has included testing the water quality of the Potomac river in canoes and off a pier, and using those results to find the overall water quality which is not stellar but is better than it has been in the recent past. The Sustainable Earth lecture portion of the class is taught by Dr. Kiho Kim, a researcher of coral reefs. He leads the class discussion with engaging PowerPoints and goofy anecdotes of his experience in Costa Rica and other tropical sites.

Being able to live and have class with students who care about the planet and are mindful of their actions not only gives us all a greater hope for humanity, but helps us produce greater ideas for change and also study for tests. With many more D.C. field trips in the near future and many more problems to solve, the future of Sustainable Earth is exciting. American University has a major focus on sustainability including greening many roofs (which a few of us helped with, hauling rocks and soil) and focusing on locally grown food. If American University is any indicator of the future, the future looks bright. Laura Beck

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rachel Carson Legacy Conference

The conference opens with views of a sustainable future, and a message from Senator Casey urging support for his legislation rescinding the Marcellus Shale exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.This Conference examines the health, environmental and community effects we will experience from Marcellus Shale drilling and offers solutions from other places.

We urge precautions be taken to protect our air, water and fertile land from the effects of development. We focus on building the infrastructure and the economic and social structure to move to a renewable and sustainable energy base soon.. Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert of Sweden, founder of The Natural Step framework and principles will give the keynote address, followed by Mayor Ken Melamed of Whistler British Columbia whose community has implemented a sustainable policy. We have several presenters discussing energy systems based on wind, solar, anaerobic digestion of municipal sewage or dairy manure to produce methane in a sustainable way while solving other water and land use issues. This is a provocative discussion with an eye toward moving forward now to a sustainable future.

Register at www.rachelcarsonhomestead.org

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Field Trip to Westmoreland Conservation District September 22, 2010

Join Us! Visit the Westmoreland Conservation District and learn about green rooftops, permeable pavement, solar and more. Formal tour with Kathy Hamilton, landscape architect, and Sustainable Monroeville 2:00-4:00 PM September 22, 2010; Informal self-guided tour of grounds 5:00-7:00 PM with Jesse John Salensky. http://www.wcdpa.com/

In collaboration with the Turtle Creek Watershed Association and the Monroeville Public Library.