Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week 3 Featured Journal Entries

This week's featured entries come from Cheyenne Hassan, Sarah Schmitt, and Robbie Ludlum. (Robbie's entry is from Week 2.)

Week 3 Journal Prompt
The University of Cincinnati has a variety of environmental initiatives, many of which are described at http://www.uc.edu/af/pdc/sustainability/campus_initiatives.html. In class we have talked/are talking about the three general types of environmental policy instruments. Describe one UC environmental program that uses government regulation as its primary instrument, one that uses market-based approaches, and one that uses law as its primary instrument. In this writeup, “government” regulation can encompass policy made by the university. Similarly, university policy can be considered “law.” If you cannot find a UC environmental program that fits one of the instrument types, you may instead select a policy measure pursued by Cincinnati’s city government.

Describe the advantages and disadvantages of each approach with specific reference to the UC/Cincinnati programs you are describing. For example, writing that government-based approaches may not be cost effective is insufficient. If you are discussing UC’s new Trayless Dining policy, you should discuss whether or not this regulatory approach appears to be cost-effective for the university. Cite class readings about environmental policy instrument choice and other sources as necessary. Your narrative should be 6–9 paragraphs.

Cheyenne's Week 3 Journal Entry

Market Instrument: Having the LEED-certified buildings at University of Cincinnati is a good example of a market based environmental policy intrument. These buildings were designed to meet a certain rating that can go LEED-Certified to LEED-Platinum; buildings at UC are required to be at least LEED-Silver or above. This type of building construction calls for more sustainable construction costs, water savings, energy efficiency, etc. (UC Sustainability - Buildings)

This LEED project at UC is considered a market EP instrument, because not only is it cost effective to UC through construction and building costs, but UC receives tax breaks and incentives for building these types of energy efficient structures. Also, there are environmental incentives that allow for lower greenhouse gas emissions and a better use of materials and water. These LEED certified buildings are both effective for not only the University of Cincinnati as an establishment, but also for the students that attend classes in these buildings and for the environment that the buildings reside in.

Law Instrument: The vegetarian option, or "Vegetarian Corner" implemented at UC's dining court is a good example of a law based environmental policy instrument. There are many vegetarians and vegans that attend not only the University of Cincinnati, but also every university and college nationwide. This is a lifestyle that many people have picked up on and also some religious affiliations require worshipers to eat vegetarian meals. (UC Sustainability - Food)

If UC's food court did not offer at least one vegetarian meal to the students that eat there daily, they would be setting themselves up for a lawsuit dealing with religious and PETA students alike. It is in the best interest of UC to keep a cheese pizzas and veggie burgers on the daily menu to allow for the happiness of both the students and the lawyers.  (UC Sustainability - Food)

Regulation Instrument: The University of Cincinnati has been keeping a Carbon Inventory to keep track of both gross emissions of CO2 and also more specific CO2 emissions such as purchased electricity, process emissions, and solid waste. (http://rs.acupcc.org/ghg/1425/) This is regulated by both the University of Cincinnati and the ACUPCC (American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment) to make sure that emissions of CO2 are not in exceeding previously set up standards.

This type of regulation allows for both UC and the ACUPCC to keep tabs on CO2 emissions and also to better understand what exactly needs to be taken care of in terms of solid waste, public transportation, electricity, etc. Giving the University of Cincinnati performance based standards allows for a more efficient CO2 emissions report, and also less harm done to the environment. (UC Sustainability - Climate Action)

Sarah's Week 3 Journal Entry

Environmental Policy Instruments

A University of Cincinnati environmental program that uses “government” (UC) regulation as its primary instrument is the Bearcat Bike Share program. Bikes are available for check out at multiple locations around campus. This Program was created to help reduce carbon emissions, pollution, traffic, and parking shortages, while increasing health, fitness, and sense of place. Bikes can be checked out with your UCID and at no cost at all. When you check out a bike, you will receive a safety and rule guide and a numbered key that corresponds to the bike that you are borrowing. Requests of certain bikes are allowed, but helmets are not provided, which  are strongly encouraged to be worn. Check-out  time limit is up to three days at a time and late fees are given if bike is not returned on time. This policy is made and enforced by UC’s Office of Sustainability.

The advantages of having a regulatory program like the Bearcat Bike Program are that it makes it easier for others to follow and step-by-step approach.  This approach easily outlines the rules that need to be followed to be able to rent a bike.  There is little to no cost-benefit because the program is focused more on accessibility than making money. The program wants to help UC student get involved in emission-reduction process.  A disadvantage of this regulatory approach is that is only for UC students and that there is a time limit given to each person.  There is also a disadvantage when it comes to when the program runs out of bikes; this prohibits others from being able to rent a bike.

A program that uses a “market-based” approach on campus is the LEED program. UC’s LEED program has completed six LEED-certified buildings on campus. LEED can directly reduce building construction and operating costs on campuses.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a nationally accepted benchmark or design, construction, and operation of high performance ‘green’ buildings.  It gives building owners (UC) the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. LEED promotes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality (U.S. Green Building Council). UC has a requirement for all new construction, and whenever possible renovations, to be certified LEED Silver or higher.

An advantage of a market-based approach is that the program is cost efficient to the University. It saves the university money on energy to power buildings, which is mainly powered from the coal powered plants. It is also very efficiently organized, especially the LEED program.  The LEED program has certification process that is step-by-step process to design and construct a “green” space. A disadvantage can be that it can be expensive; even though it will save the University money in the long-run, it will cost them a good amount to get it up and keep up to Silver certified standards.

A program that uses a “law” based approach at UC is the UC chapter of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is an effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to help society re-stabilize the earth’s climate. When you sign the commitment your campus is pledging to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions over time. This involved: completely an emissions inventory, setting a target date and for becoming climate neutral, taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving short-term actions, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, and making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available. There is a steering committee that is responsible for guidance, policy and direction of the Commitment.  

An advantage of law-based approach is that it has a larger group to identify the problem and develop a solution or goal for that problem.  The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment also knows the ins-and-outs of how to get policies approved and moving in the direction that they want. A disadvantage of a law-based approach to this program is that it has a commitment with signing.  This commitment assures that you take actions to solve the emission problems, so if these actions aren’t taken you can be asked to leave this program. 

Robbie's Week 2 Journal Entry

I do not believe I am an environmentalist although it is something I aspire to be someday.  I also think that most people who say that they are environmentalists are also not environmentalists even though they would like to think that they are.  I hope to point out the cognitive and actual differences between a real environmentalist and someone who truly believes themselves to be one.

First, defining an environmentalist:  An environmentalist is somewhat a recent phenomenon.  There have been naturalists around for a very long time but, environmentalism is something new.  I imagine an environmentalist is someone who lives their life giving thought to their every action in regards to its effect it will have on the landbase and the humans and non-humans that person shares that landbase with.  They are also someone who more closely defines themselves to the land they live on and owe their life to rather than an economic system in their actions, thoughts and lifestyle, ensuring that they give back more than they take.

An environmentalist probably doesn't consider themselves an environmentalist.  Some time ago I read a book about a tribe that didn't have a word for 'art'.  Of course they would do things that we consider art such as decorating a clay pot they made or using natural dyes to paint their body but they didn't have a word for the act of creating or adding decorations to themselves or their things.  It came to them naturally.  I think true environmentalism is the same for true environmentalists.  We don't call Native Americans (living tribally prior to 1492) environmentalists because that's the lifestyle that they lived.  The same way that produce in Africa isn't labeled as 'local' and 'organic' because that's exactly how things are.  To label them as such is redundant.

Now that I've defined what I believe an environmentalist is I can tell you why I don't believe myself to be an environmentalist.  My actions and lifestyle immediately give me away as not being an environmentalist.  I awaken to an alarm clock, use hot water provided by a hot water heater, light my home, refrigerate my food, type on this laptop - all this and more, all powered using coal from the Appalachian Mountains by a corporate entity that uses mountain top removal to extract coal from the living soil.

I drive my motorcycle to school sometimes which uses oil as fuel.  Oil that has been taken from the earth through many different methods, none of which gives back to the land that it takes from.
I eat food that also uses oil to transport from farm to grocery store (the average item in a grocery store has traveled over 2,000 miles [Dive!{2010}]).  Oil is also used in the form of pesticides and fertilizers so that plants growing in non-native soil and in unnatural soldier rows may be harvested with an industrial ease.  This industrial farming also causes topsoil erosion, destroys natural habitat as farmland continues to expand, pays workers slave-labor wages, and dumps so many chemicals into the lakes and rivers that in the Gulf of Mexico there is an area at the mouth of the Mississippi River called the dead zone where fish die of hypoxia due to high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which is bigger than the state of Connecticut.

"The United States constitutes less than 5 percent of the world's population yet uses more than one-fourth of the world's resources and produces one-fourth of the world's pollution and waste.  If you compare the average U.S. citizen to the average citizen of India, you find that the American uses fifty times more steel, fifty-six times more energy, one hundred and seventy times more synthetic rubber, two hundred and fifty times more motor fuel, and three hundred times more plastic"  (Jensen 2006, 115).

Essentially, if you are an average American, you cannot be an environmentalist as well.  It is the same as saying that you are a vegetarian while having a mouthful of steak wrapped in bacon and topped with a turkey leg.

That being said, I am not saying that being an average American with the 'American Dream' is wrong.   Environmentally, biocentrically, and realistically it IS wrong to think that 300 million people (in the States alone) can collectively live the most wasteful and destructive lifestyle on the planet.

There are many reasons why people choose to identify themselves as environmentalists.  Primarily, it feels good.  When people are able to make consumer choices about buying 'organic' or 'local' they feel like they're really making a decision that is doing good.  This is largely due to the fact that we are in essence consumers more than anything else whether we define ourselves differently or not.  And having that 'consumer power' makes people think that that and a few other things (like recycling, bringing your own bags to Wal-Mart, and not running the water while brushing their teeth) is enough for them to do.  Being an American environmentalist is easy - all you have to do are a few token actions and you get the cool points that socially label you as a good guy or girl that is considerate and caring.  And as for electric cars and sustainable energy - the Great Saviors that will herald in a new cleaner era - all of these new gadgets require mining operations, transportation to move raw materials and end-products, and industry to turn the raw materials into molded plastics, complicated electronics, and shiny metal (and all the waste associated with these processes).  All on a massive, global scale.  All still using finite resources.  I was under the assumption that sustainable meant sustainable.  What a load of malarkey...

There are also some groups that choose to not associate themselves with environmentalism and I thank them for their honesty.  Environmentalism is a four-letter word that increases taxes, takes away freedoms, and inhibits industry.  I've mostly found it to be men and women that like living 'the good life' and the thought that they have to limit themselves in any way is an infringement on their freedom.  They buy land and things so that they can do anything they want with it rather than the idea that they are now a steward or responsible for that item or acreage. I've had very candid conversations with unashamed neighbors, family members, and friends who said that if the polar bears or crocodiles or habitat were going extinct or being destroyed then, it was their time and nothing could be done about it, the thought of slowing progress never even crossing their minds.

And then there's someone like myself that doesn't fit into either of those two very generalized groupings.  I understand what environmentalism means to me.  I believe that ideologically I'm an environmentalist but that doesn't keep any trees from being cut down, now does it? It means living on a human scale versus an automotive or industrial scale.  It means giving more back to the land than I take away from it.  It means being responsible for my own land by restoring habitat.  It means growing my own food.  It means minimizing my participation in the destruction of the environment.  It means knowing that my miniscule actions will not and never will save the world.  But it means doing those actions anyway. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 2 Featured Journal Entries

Every week, this blog will feature some of the most thoughtful or interesting journal entries produced by students in POL/EVST2031. This week's entries came from Jon Schlachta, Zak Kamphaus, and Nicholas Keller.

Week 2 Journal Prompts (Choice of Two)
Hardin’s (1968) tragedy of the commons is all around is. It replicates on small, medium, and large scales, and in all sectors of life. The environment is a common-pool resource, but arguably so is the internet, the interstate highway system, and the office candy jar. Because it is difficult to keep people from using these resources and because one person’s use inhibits the use of another, the resources are over-exploited and everyone suffers as a result. For example, most anyone who can access a public library can use the internet and clog bandwidth; anyone with a vehicle or access to public transportation can take up space on a highway and cause traffic jams and air pollution; and when your cubicle-mate takes the last of the M&Ms from the candy jar, you won’t be able to have them for your afternoon snack.

Find an example of a tragedy of the commons in your personal or professional life. Document it using 3–5 digital photos and upload them onto Blogger with explanatory captions. Write a narrative that identifies the resource, explains why/how it its use is non-excludable and subtractible, and describes the consequences of its over-exploitation. The narrative should be 3–6 paragraphs.

Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? Why or why not? To answer this question, you must explain what you believe it means to be an environmentalist. How does an environmentalist think and act? If you are not an environmentalist, do you have explicit reasons for rejecting the label? If so, enumerate the reasons and explain them. If not, speculate on why you have never thought about whether you are/are not an environmentalist.

After you discuss your personal orientation toward environmentalism, think about the concept more broadly. What factors do you think encourage or discourage people in today’s society from associating themselves with environmentalism? Your narrative should be 6–10 paragraphs.

Jon's Week 2 Journal Entry

The Last Cherry Pepsi in the Fridge
To begin with, let me explain something, my family keeps our 24 packs of Pepsi and such in my mom's van. Not sure why, but it's always been like that. However, my dad more often than not, will bring in a Cherry Pepsi (His favorite) and put it in the fridge to keep it cold. I too love Cherry Pepsi and once again, more often than not, I steal the last Cherry Pepsi from the fridge; and I never seem to want to replace it.

     The question, boils down to in my opinion, that I am just way to lazy to go out to the car to get a Pepsi in the first place. Further, why on Earth would I steal the Pepsi then replace it by going all the way out into the car? At that point I might as well just get off my butt and walk to the garage. It's the convenience factor. Why walk the extra 100 feet when what I want is literally in the next room, already cold and ready to pop open to drink? However, the problem is cyclical in nature. The Pepsi is put into the Fridge, the Pepsi is then taken back out of the fridge, and the process repeats itself. The problem is self evident, and both my father and I loose at some point in the process.

The Cycle of the Pepsi Dilemma

(1).  Father Puts Pepsi in Fridge: He had to walk all the way to the garage to get it.

(2.)  I take the Pepsi out of the Fridge: I capitalize on his work, and end up using the  product that my father worked to obtain.

(3.)  No more Pepsi in the Fridge: If either my Father or I wish to have another Pepsi we must go all the way back into the garage. Thus, I loose I am too lazy to go to the garage. My father looses by having to go to the garage to get another Pepsi

(4.)  Father puts another Pepsi in the Fridge: I forced my dad to go out of the way to get another Pepsi, even though he already had one.

(5.)  I take the Pepsi out of the Fridge: The cycle continues on.

     Now, in abstract thought the Pepsi represents a the good, with my Father and I as the actors. The Fridge is a common pool resource. The Pepsi, in nature, is subtractable ergo If I drink it, my dad cannot. If my Dad drinks it I can not (Of course it can be replenished  which begs the question of controlled common resource pools) but in essence, its original status as an ice cold pop, just begging to be drank, can not be achieved. Once again, in abstract thought assume the restocking of the Pepsi (Maybe a day or so) is equivalent to fishing population rebounding after 10-30 years. Looking at it this way, I may have prevented Population X from being able to consume the Pepsi (Fish) and cause them to die out. Now, in reality this isn't so, but I think this very well exemplifies the problems and the tragedy of common pooled resources.

Zak's Week 2 Journal Entry

 In the past decade I feel as if there has been a rise in the number of people who claim to be environmentalist. About five years ago is when I began my journey as an environmental advocate. I was just out of high school and was bored with no hobbies because sports had taken up most of my four years, as it does to many high school students, and now that those games were over I had to find something to do. I always remembered growing up and going camping and hiking with my family. It was just one of those activities we all enjoyed doing together, and we lived right by the Cincinnati Nature Center about 25 miles east of UC. I began to take a liking in the joys and the slowness of nature, and this allowed me to really open my mind and learn who I really was. I have always enjoyed being in nature, and have always respected it, therefore I do consider myself to be an environmentalist.  

    Once I started getting outside more I found myself getting into many new and different activities. I would drive down to Red River Gorge whenever I had time and would hike for a few days while camping and being with the land. I worked hard so that I could purchase a kayak, and I began to go kayaking on the Little Miami River that runs through Milford. I even got a job at a canoe livery where I still work and clean up the river in the summertime. These values are very important to me, and the way I live my life. I believe that to be an environmentalist you must be a person who enjoys the outdoors. and who also respects the outdoors. The environment cannot protect itself from humans, and that it why we, the good people, need to intervene to ensure our future generations can enjoy the same views and spectacles.

    I believe that people in our day and age do not give a hoot about the environment because they do not realize it is depleting. People are straight up ignorant about the whole idea, and they just believe that it'll be there forever because it always has been. They don't understand the changes that occur in nature, or how beautiful they are. Everyone moves far too fast these days to even catch a whiff of a flower, or to admire the beauty of the changing colors during the fall time. 

    Personally I have taken such a large interest in being an advocate of the environment, and I plan to keep it going by improving the ways in which I live and function in everyday life. This is very important to me because without the wilderness and the outdoors we would not have our lives, or anything even near human existence. The environment is the tool that we should replenish because it replenishes us every time we take a breath in. If we destroy all that we have then we are the most foolish creature that ever walked the Earth. 

    On a lighter and more happy note I plan on taking this love of the environment to the next level. To me this means that I must become more sustainable. I am on a different path than most at UC because after college I am moving away to start my life in nature. I wish to be as sustainable as possible, and hopefully be off the power grid someday. This lifestyle fits for what I want and who I am. It will allow me to do my part and help to pass this onto future generations. I have been studying and practicing permaculture ideas, and this will be my tool on honing in with nature to live. 

    Permaculture and urban agriculture are newer ideas that are taking off with a boom. I myself don't understand why people have big yards with green grass, and instead they should have large gardens that produce many fruits and vegetables. I believe in order to take from the environment we must be able to give back anything it gave us and a little more. These ideas and practices will push us past our modern emissions problems. However, these are not widespread practices for the same reasons people aren't even environmentalist. 

    The people in the cities and in our modern society today are largely afraid of anyone who is above them, and they just really enjoy being told what to do. The ideas of environmentalism have been associated with hippies, democrats, and weirdos which is why it is so easy for these large companies to pull the wool over every ones eyes. Most people believe that recycling and cooking at home are the ways in which we will save the environment. They have done a little tiny, and this will help to begin to solve the problem. We cannot just sit at the start line forever. We must take action and save what we have here on Earth instead of finding a new planet to destroy. Environmentalism will begin to catch and the people will take things into their own hands just like we have for thousands of years. GO EARTH!

Nicholas's Week 2 Journal Entry

Tragedy of the Commons: Hogan's Tragedy

We see Hogan depicted in an alert position as he sits in the center of a mud hole created by the many. This is the dog park on Westwood Northern in Cincinnati. As he protects his area he reflects on what caused his territory to become so desolate. Hogan remembers the park as it once was. The park used to be a pedestrian park, until there became a demand for people to take their dogs without worry of them running away. Cincinnati decided to fence in a section of land, creating the dog park. People from all over began to bring their dogs. One small cause what Hogan is envisioning as he reflects in the pit of despair. Dogs and masters were happy together as they shared the new found land. 

We loved our park with all of our being. One of the few places we can be without being dragged around by a belt around our neck or a harness on our back. This is our sanctuary. We play, we wrestle, we run and fight. This is the place that we are free, free to run, free to play, free to evade our owner if we wish as we struggle to be the top dog. For every action there is an equal an opposite reaction, for every event there is a price. Our sanctuary aged faster than natural. With each change of direction our nails dug in and tore at the vegetation. Our masters' feet smothered the grass while we turned the soil (Brink). This the tragedy of the devastation of our sanctuary. 

There is a lot to be said about this story. After Cincinnati decided to allocate resources to build this park, the owners decided to take their dog to this park. People from all around the area began to use this park. This park has been labeled as one of the nicer parks on the west side. With a large area on a non steep hill, this park became popular. Running, loitering, playing became part of the atmosphere of this park. People enjoy themselves. But, as in Hogan's Tragedy the grass began to wear, the dirt became exposed. 

The fact that people bring dogs to the park creates a tragedy of the commons. There is a common pool resource, that grass and land. As a dominant dog they will try to take gain the high point of the park (the top of the hill). This is the common pool area that most dogs (since they are pack animals) are striving for. All dogs represent the dominant self interests. This territory is very rivalrous as most dogs want to be on top of the pack structure. The extremely localized damage they cause to the park can be offset. This would be done by the owners' taxes having the park put wood chips in to delay the degradation of the park. The Edge of Ruin shows how the top of the hill differs from the sides. This line is so prominent that he paused and stretched across the grass because he could make the distinction of the line. 

Environmentalist use stories much like Hogan's Tragedy to help rally support from citizens for a particular cause. A story like this could be used to help try to bring more money into the park system, have the park system allocate more money toward dog parks, or have the city create more so similar trampling problems don't occur. This could potentially become a different tragedy of the commons. 

                                             Hogan's Tragedy Nicholas Keller 2013
Hogan sitting in the middle of the dog park of Westwood Northern. 

                                             One small cause Nicholas Keller 2013
This is a couple other dogs at the dog park in the large dog section.

                                              Brink Nicholas Keller
This is a photo of the small dog section.

                                              The Edge of Ruin Nicholas Keller 2013
This is Hogan in the large dog section.