Monday, May 23, 2011
This week, I spoke to the group about our nation's farm bill- a $300 billion piece of legislation that is up for renewal next year. The Bill does a lot of good- it does the food stamps program, school lunches, and land conservation. But all of these beneficial programs are negated by the effects of a piece of the legislation- farm subsidies.
Why does giving out $25 billion per year to farmers hurt our country and the world? Because all they are growing with that money is corn, soybean, wheat, rice, and cotton. No vegetables. No fruit. And it's not even small, family farms receiving the aid- it's the huge agriprocessors who spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress to get these billions.
As a result, junk food is cheaper than produce. As a result, corn is in 25% of grocery products. As a result, Americans are not getting the nutrients they need. As a result, our environment is being destroyed with these vast lands of monocultures, killing biodiversity and demanding huge amounts of chemical, toxic inputs. As a result, farmers in developing countries cannot compete with America's cheap corn and are forced off their land.
This needs to change. You can watch this video to really see the pervasiveness of commodity crops and why we need to let Congress know how we want our tax money spent- not on huge corporations destroying our environment and our health, but on our local veggie farmer.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Northwestern has a wonderful recycling program that places recycling bins around campus to promote the practice. Most students know that the university recycles, but not all students know that we not only recycle paper and plastic products but also have recycling receptacles for batteries, ink cartridges, and plastic bags.
ECO established Northwestern's recycling in these alternative areas long enough ago now that they should be widely known, but still many students do not seem to know that they can recycling their ink cartridges and batteries on campus.
Last Friday ECO hosted an event hosted an event at the Rock on campus to promote our recycling efforts. I was surprised by the number of students approaching us who had no idea that the ink cartridge, battery, and plastic bag bins were in Norris. They had either been hoarding their batteries, bags, and cartridges, or throwing them away. This make me realize that we might need to start better promoting these services on campus so more people know that they can recycling these destructive items instead of disposing of them in a worse way.
I ran across this video by the Friends of the Earth, a British organization that works to promote sustainable living habits. The advertisement below for recycling uses strong emotional responses to influence sustainable behavioral changes:
ECO doesn't have to make emotional ads to promote our recycling, but I believe that advertisements in some way would greatly help students to learn about ECO's recycling efforts and hopefully influence them to participate!
ECO hopes that by putting on more educational events like the one on Friday we will be able to reach out to the campus at large and spread the word that ECO is here, ready and waiting to make a difference!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
(Is this a spa, or a university?)
One of the major influences in my coming to Northwestern was the gorgeous campus. Among the serenity of the lake and trees, I could imagine tolerating a stressful schedule and maintaining my peace of mind. You, also, might have been struck by the beauty of the campus when you realized that Northwestern was the best university for you.
It turns out that we’re not alone.
Characters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Henry David Thorough, inspired the current environmentalist movement. They were transcendentalists who found great peace and serenity in nature, and encouraged others to rejuvenate themselves with what nature had to offer.
Recently, social-scientific research has confirmed that this isn’t just a whimsical suggestion for the poets. Frances Kuo is a social psychologist who wanted to know whether greener neighborhoods really make for more peaceful citizens.
“In one study, she compared the self reported levels of violence of two comparable groups of citizens living n housing projects in Chicago: One of the groups lived in a housing project with nice parks and lawns nearby; the other lived in a housing project with no greenery, surrounded by barren asphalt.”
As Emerson and Thorough would have predicted, the citizens in the green urban areas reported less aggression in their neighborhood and performed better on assessed the ability to concentrate.
Green spaces—parks, weeping willows near Norris, perhaps a lakefill—calm people’s minds, allowing them to handle frustrations and focus on the task at hand. No wonder Northwestern students are so successful J
Monday, May 31, 2010
The Bag-Monster’s Nemesis
We all saw him a couple weeks ago—that terrifying, ugly monster. You know who I’m talking about: The Bag Monster.
Finally, the Bag-Monster has met his match, but not in the hero anyone suspected. Scientists have been working on projects to rid us of the seemly insurmountable problem of plastic bag litter and waste: but a high-school pipsqueak beat them to it.
Danial Burd, a Canadian high-school junior, has found a way to make plastic bags degrade in as little as three months. The finding wasn’t just good for him—landing him a first-prize trophy in the Canadian-wide science fair—but a chance for us to be relieved from a major environmental issue.
Burd recognized that plastic does eventually degrade on its own, as it is slowly eaten by microorganisms. He set out to recognize what these microorganisms were—and their optimal living conditions—hoping that this would speed the degradation process.
And it did. By concocting a mixture of household materials such as yeast and tap water, Burd found quantifiable results; the plastic exposed to the bacteria was seventeen percent lighter than the control after a month and a half. He was able to identify Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas as the hungry little plastic munchers. At warm temperatures and the bacteria’s optimal conditions, the little buggers had consumed almost half the exposed plastic sample in six weeks.
At last, the Bag-Monster has met its nemesis.
Monday, April 19, 2010
For all of our human existence, we have managed just fine. But in the matter of a century, we imperil all of civilization; With what? With civilization.
Our first time approaching that danger zone was with the nuclear arms race. It had families fearing the safety of their entire city. Now, it’s resource depletion, which may leave families fearing for their entire world.
Such irony; I can almost hear a violin playing in the distance. Or the soundtrack from Psycho. But seriously, it is a fascinating quirk that the more technologically advanced we become, the more we are doomed to our own actions.
We have so much more power now than ever before. This is because we’ve gone from human power (physical labor), to human power PLUS the incredible amount of energy stored in fuel, gas, or even an atom. It used to be that a thousand slaves were necessary to get a big job done. The demand for things was kept in check by the supply of power that we had to give.
Now, our demand has skyrocketed because each person possesses much more than one person’s manpower. With increased supply of power, we can enjoy the benefits of increased demand. Yet, all this time, our resources have hardly changed their supply at all.
Everyone wants to be a comic book/ Cartoon Network action-character who acquires an exorbitant amount of power for an average human body. In a way, Our advanced civilization IS that superhero.
But as we Cartoon Network fans know, the hero doesn’t always come out on top. If he doesn’t limit his use of power, the story ends badly. Sometimes, even, he becomes corrupt with his own power and spirals down a path of self-destruction. This may be a dramatization of the position that our global population is in (everyone would have to wear capes/ underwear on the outside to be that dramatic). But we must realize how our current power exceeds our resources if we aren’t discerning about when to use it.
If we master the ability to reserve our technological, twenty-first-century strengths for the times we need it—limiting our power rather than spending in excess—our generation will become its own hero.