Cop22 from the Source

by Asha Brogan

I spent last semester living in Berlin, Germany and taking classes at the Free University of Berlin. One of my professors had a full time job working for an environmental think tank and much of his class was in discussion of the Paris agreement and what is meant for Europe and the US. AJ, the professor was Polish and frequently disgusted with his own country’s views on climate change. Without denying it’s existence they simply chose to continue burning coal, letting the other countries handle the dire climate change situation, much like the US. I knew AJ led a group from Germany to the recent conference in Marrakesh CoP22, so last week I sent him an email asking for his thoughts on the new President and conference. With prior permission to use our “interview” here is his reply.

1. What were the major issues discussed?
COP 22 was mainly about specifiying some of the details referring to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, with financing for low carbon development and the way the facilitative dialoge in 2018 will look like. It was a much more technical COP as compared to the very political one last year.
2. How important was it compared to Paris last year?
COP 21 was decisive. With the adoption of the Paris Agreement and its very swift ratification (so far it has been ratified by 113 countries representing almost 80% of the global emissions) the main priority is to make sure that the contributions of the parties are enough to not exceed the temperature limit agreed upon in  Article 2 of the agreement.
3. Does Paris seem to have improved things in the last year?
Yes, especially its early entry in force on 4 November 2016.
4. What is the global/European prospective opinion on president elect Donald Trump in your opinion?
The USA was the decisive player in facilitating global negotiations and the successful COP21 in Paris last year. Under Trump this role will change. Keeping in mind the lack of consistency in what Trump was saying on the issue of climate change it is not really clear what can be expected. But as we could see during the events organized by states and cities, climate action will continue even faster than before. No one wants to be associated with this guy and block action against the major environmental challenge of our times.

Unspoken of Hygiene

by Asha Brogan

Take a deep breath because I want to talk about THAT topic which you don’t talk about. Specifically… periods. Now before you run away I promise this is not a feminist rant or gross detailing of personal bodily fluids but a serious environmental concern.  There are seem products in our lives we know are bad for the environment and use anyway: toilet paper, tissues, paper napkins, and of course pads and tampons. According to slate.com the average woman throws away 250-300 pounds of plastic and paper period related products in her lifetime, but thats only about 0.5 percent of the total garbage contributions each person makes in their lifetime, so maybe its not an issue for the environmentally concerned.

What I find interesting is periods are such an unspoken of topic that “eco-friendly” products don’t seem to have the sheer volume of commercials that many do, surprising since there are viable options. The issue is gross factor, all the products involve getting far more involved with your body cycles then most woman are willing to do. The two most environmentally friendly products on the market are cloth pads and cups. Each collects that lovely red liquid, but instead of allowing you to throw it in the trash requires washing and cleaning.

While I don’t personally use either of these products I do believe they should be talked about more when it comes to personal steps in environmental change, .5% may not seem like a lot, but every little bit counts over the course of a lifetime.

Descriptions of products may be found here: http://lunapads.com/?geoip_country=US

 

A Spoonful of Honey

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By Asha Brogan

I love honey. My friends have been known to give me jars of honey for christmas and birthdays, when traveling I’ll pick up little containers and bottles and eat the honey straight with a spoon and keep the container as a souvenir. Theres always a bottle of honey somewhere in my house, but depending of my week to week financial situation the quality of that honey varies. More then once I was forced to buy the cheap Kroger brand honey just to tide myself over, but it never tastes quite the same and the reason could be that it isn’t real honey.

Honey brings connotations of happy bees flying around collecting nectar from flowers, a truly beautiful image. With bee populations threatened nation wide buying honey seems like a way to participate in the bee epidemic and consume a wholesome and natural product, but what honey companies don’t tell you is that over 3/4 of the product sold in stores isn’t actually honey.

The product has been filtered out to have the pollen removed thus making it impossible to tell where the honey came from if even in the US. Not to mention the extraction techniques are very harmful to bees resulting in the fact that most consumption of honey is in fact detrimental to bees and the already endangered bee populations. Companies greenwash their honey by completely leaving off where the honey comes from and leading the consumer to believe that with a couple flowers on the label all honey equals happy carefree bees. Something most consumers and even myself have chosen to accept.

Source: http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/#.WCoSyOErKRs

Green Advertising

By Asha Brogan

Last week’s discussion and reading on Advertising made me think of this priceless clip from the popular comedy show Parks and Recreation, if you haven’t seen it take the 1:47 to do so. The clip features the Pawnee Farmer’s market’s latest vender a man selling chard, While on the surface the clip is a funny “pawnee” moment I think it shows the issues with advertising green products. They are completely pushed toward a young athletic and affluent audience. A group of people who goes hiking and and already eats healthy foods. In other words the audience is already there and easily presented as green to those people who will snap up the latest green products.

The situation that this clip shows is the hardship of trying to advertise “green” products to a non “green” audience. In a way the sexual advertisements of chard in the clip can be classified as a “green product attributes” because it is advertising a so called environmentally friendly health concious product, but instead of aiming for an audience prepped to receive the product the vendor has to go into the commonly used, albeit not  family friendly use of sex to sell a product. I can’t imagine this is a common strategy used environmental ads (clearly more significant then chard), but wonder what advertising strategies can and will be used to convince a non-empathetic audience of the benefits of environmental practices.

An Altrenate Experience

img_0314By Asha Brogan

While in class and reading “Communicating with Nature” we predominantly discussed the American perspective, and many of us in the US only observe that culture. I recently was given the chance to spend a few months in Berlin, Germany studying. During my time there I not only took a class in environmental science taught by a native EU citizen, but I experienced the EUs attempts to prevent a linear consumer cycle toward a more circular one, as discussed in “Communicating With Nature”. The times this seemed most prominent were in the complex recycling system and grocery shopping experience.

While Americans can save a few pennies by using their own bag at some grocery stores the generic plastic bag is still a staple of Kroger’s nationwide. At our local “Rewe” (Its not Ree Wee Asha, its Rei Vae) If you went to the store and forgot to bring your own bag it would cost you several Euros, and as a college student thats a fair sum. The only bags the store provided where a fairly heavy weight plastic or cloth bag each costing 3 Euro. One quickly formed a habit of keeping a grocery bag or two tucked in a purse and this is a habit thats carried over into my American life.

The recycling system is nearly a mind game. But cleverly devised by the EU Environmental commission. There is the cardboards and papers, the plastic. and the glass bins. Then the glass bins are divided up by color: green, clear, and brown. I will not lie that I groaned knowing it was time to haul out the large bag of wine bottles I had accumulated and sort them into the various bins located on the sidewalk down from my apartment, yet all my neighbors did it, and the bins would fill me with guilt if I didn’t use them. Not to mention the trash cans were too small to contain all of our waste.

Small baby steps don’t seem like a difficult step, although they apparently are since I don’t see many of the changes that Europe has, and the US still is rated as one of the largest consumers in the US. I do hope we can come to a point where this changes though.

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/

Forest Kindergarten

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Photo taken from the Antioch School Facebook Page 

 

As Corbett states in her book “Communicating Nature” one of the main influences on how a person views the environment comes from their childhood experiences. There has long been a perception that “Europe does it better”. European citizens are more likely to care about their environment using green energy  sources, recycling etc. Why is this though? How do we get Americans to share these same ideologies instead of denying world’s ecosystem is NOT changing at a drastic rate?

By changing childhoods. Of course this is not a simple solution, and also not the solution to the major problem but it could be one way to get more young impressionable children outside and connecting to nature. My father teaches at a private elementary school in Yellow Springs, OH that is one of the first schools in the US to start a “forest kindergarten”. This is a very European movement getting young children outside and into forests as a form of their primary learning instead of being taught in a class room. No matter the weather, or time of year children pull on rain boots and hike out between the trees exploring streams and the forest floor, expanding their senses and learning about nature first hand.

The movement was started in Germany in the late 18th century and has grown since and is called Waldkindergartens, directly translating to Forest Kindergarten. The point of these early experiments were all about “Nature Immersion” and that continues through today, having the early impressionable school years not inside walls. As children are pushed more and more indoors as nature areas shrink and neighborhoods become sterilized I hope this movement can take off in the US and more children can spend their beginning school time forming a relationship with nature, that we know from Corbett is invaluable.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/3357232/Waldkindergarten-the-forest-nurseries-where-children-learn-in-Natures-classroom.html

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2016/04/12/graves-forest-kindergarten-classroom-kids-antioch-school/82926392/

http://antiochschool.org/joomla_antioch/index.php/extensions/programs/kindergarten

https://www.facebook.com/The-Antioch-School-48247684632/

 

Making Science Popular

By Asha Brogan

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Selfie with Ira Flatow and a friend

Unscientific America by Chris Mooney and Kirshenbaum brings up a lecture I attended a few years back about how science had become so “unpopular “ in the eyes of the American public. The lecture was a life changing hour for me, and a total inspiration. It was given by the host of NPR’s Science Friday: Ira Flatow*. Flatow spent the duration giving examples of popular TV shows, personal life experiences and observations explaining how unpopular science had become and how dangerous that was for both the United States and the world.

Some of his most memorable comments were about how many college students are proud that they find creative ways to get out of taking college math and science classes, and while this may seem like an achievement to some students in college (especially the communication students) it creates many of the issues that Flatow discussed in his talk, and that Mooney and Kirshenbaum have illuminated in their book such as “ScienceDebate2008”. This was a movement in response to “growing fears the United States could be falling behind in science and innovation” (Unscientific America p. 54).

As I said Flatow’s talk was particularly important to me as it changed the flow of my education. I had previously wanted to go into prime time TV journalism, but hearing how much science was in danger and how much the US population was in danger of loosing their grasp of science (if they haven’t already!) I decided I wanted to combine science and journalism to work to help combat this awkward gap that has been created between science and popular culture. While Flatow laid out the problem I feel like he didn’t go into extensive detail as to how we got there and thus I have so enjoyed the opinions in Unscientific America on the rise and fall after Sputnik, the issues within governments, and the growing of the religious right. I think shows such as Science Friday and another science podcast Star Talk Radio* by Neil Degrass Tyson are healthy starts on combining pop culture and science and attempting to get audiences listening. The only issue, as stated in the October 4th lecture is people only listen to those platforms when they seek them out and otherwise can pretend they don’t exist. I feel the only way to push science in the face of popular culture is find a way to shove that information into the media consumption of greater populations and especially children and hope there is a way for this to be done.

*Find links to what Science Friday is and how to listen here http://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444525/science-friday

* Find information on Star Talk Radiohttp://www.startalkradio.net/