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New Yorkers! Westchester’s Teatown Offers High Level Climate Change Symposium

What better place to hold a climate change symposium than at Teatown, one of New York State’s most popular nature preserves. Just a train ride away, Teatown attracts city residents to this forested oasis in the Lower Hudson Valley. The preserve boasts 15 miles of forested trails for hiking and a two-acre island refuge for over 230 species of native wildflowers. The symposium is part of Teatown’s public programs.

Teatown’s Climate Change Symposium is on Saturday, December 9 @ 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, and features high profile climatologists, policy and research experts who will discuss the impact of climate change, sustainability and future efforts to withstand the possible impacts.

  • Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, will talk about the science and impacts of climate change
  • Michael Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, will present on current climate change policy
  • Leo Wiegman, Croton Energy Group Inc, will talk about how to thrive while we undergo “climate disruption” and examples of proactive ways that people are responding to a changing climate.

You can register here. The climate change symposium is part of the Teatown Sustainability Series. Hours and directions are here. Map is here

Teatown

1600 Spring Valley Rd
Ossining, NY 10562 United States. 1(914) 762-2912

 
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The intersection of Race & the Environment: the Asian Pacific Environmental Network in the San Francisco Bay Area by Barnard Blogger Pearl Karliner-Li

From my experience, many individuals dismiss environmental climate change as a leading and urgent issue, not because they don’t believe it to be true or important, but because they believe there are more urgent issues at hand, for example, the fact that there are 45 million people “stuck below the poverty line” in the US (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/poverty-household-income_n_5828974.html) or the 795 million people who suffer from “chronic undernourishment” in the world (https://www.worldhunger.org/2015-world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/). However what many people fail to recognize is the pervasiveness of the current and potential effects of climate change and environmental degradation on all sectors of life, and that these are inseparable from global and local inequities. https://apen4ej.org/

The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), located in Richmond and Oakland, California, does an excellent job of synthesizing the inequalities that exist politically, economically, and socially and their intrinsic relationship to the environment. The Asian/Pacific Islander population in the San Francisco Bay Area makes up an ever increasing 24% (http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/bayarea.htm). People often discount the struggle of the Asian American and Asian communities in America as they are often named the “model minority” and excluded from discourse around race and POC communities. However, there is a long history of racism and discrimination towards people of East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, West Asian, and Pacific Islander descent that is still in effect today. This is especially true in the Bay Area, which has historically been a hub for API immigrants. (https://apen4ej.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Skilled-immigration-masks-APA-poverty.pdf)

Specifically organizing in the East Bay, APEN promotes an agenda that involves the API community, consisting of low income youths, immigrants, and refugees, to “develop an alternative agenda for environmental, social and economic justice” (https://apen4ej.org/who-we-are/mission-and-vision/). Their mission and vision statement clearly demonstrates a basic understanding that the social and economic welfare of the community is dependent on its access to a safe and healthy environment, and vice versa. One cannot occur without the other. 

APEN implements a three-pronged approach consisting of civic engagement through electoral organizing, building membership and power through community organizing, and “advancing structural changes” through policy (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-do/policy/). In the “policy” page on the website, APEN sites the “economic environment” as having the greatest impact on the natural one. Within the current capitalist system, nationally and globally, money seems to control the political, the social, the environmental. This goes to show that it is impossible to consider environmental conditions and climate change in terms of science alone; it must be situated within current economic structures. 

Starting in 1993 in Richmond, APEN originally worked with the Laotian refugee community (generally non-English speaking), living in proximity to the Chevron Refinery. Throughout their campaign APEN has won key victories to improve the air quality and general quality of life for this community. They won a community multilingual warning system in 2001, stopped Chevron Refinery’s expansion in 2010, and passed the Richmond General Plan in 2012 (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-do/organizing/Richmond/). APEN has transformed the Laotian immigrant community into a highly politicized group that uses grassroots organizing to fight for environmental justice. (https://apen4ej.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Lipo.Award_.pdf) This comes a surprising and unique case, many low income communities of color experience environmental injustice. (https://apen4ej.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/With-an-Eye-on-the-Future-Ethnic-Californians-Embrace-Environmentalism.pdf)

Later on in 2002, APEN expanded to Oakland, where they mainly worked for housing and workers’ rights within the APA community in Chinatown (https://apen4ej.org/what-we-do/organizing/Oakland/), where my grandmother lives. Although APEN functions within and across political lines, largely recognizing these borders in terms of its policy work, the fact that it has spread across the East Bay over time, demonstrates the recognition of very real political forces at work while simultaneously considering environmental effects that cross borders.

APEN’s political (and subsequently environmental) victories in the East Bay have not been won alone. APEN often collaborates and participates in coalitions spanning race and the environment. However APEN is one of few organizations that actually combines the two, functioning at an intersection that is often passed over. What’s interesting is that APEN, beginning in 1993, grew out of a national push to recognize environmental racism as an important and real trend. The First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit of the Environmental Justice Platform convened in 1991 (https://www.ejnet.org/ej/). Since then there has been a greater push to pay attention to the intersection of race and the environment, however it is rare to find an organization that uses the environment to push a social agenda. 

 
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Ag & Urban Land Use in New Zealand by Barnard Blogger Amelia Marcantonio-Fields

I vividly remember walking through customs barefoot after a 14-hour plane ride to New  Zealand. It was the summer of 2013 and I was about to embark on a six-week trip of hiking and environmental service projects. As my group approached customs, we were asked to take off our boots as a result of efforts to maintain the environmental integrity of the county. Our boots were sent through a machine and inspected by employees to make sure no non-native invasive species were to be brought into the country. I was surprised by this, but admired the importance of environment to the citizens and the efforts made by the New Zealand government to allocate their resources to maintaining the natural state of their country.

New Zealand faces many problems as a result of climate change and has been actively working to reduce climate change impacts in their country. While the United States pulled out of the Paris agreement in 2017, New Zealand has been outspoken about the damages of climate change worldwide. Under the Paris Agreement, New  Zealand has pledged to reduce their 2005  emissions by 30% by 2030, encouraged ratification of the Paris Agreement by other countries, and has implemented domestic policies promoting sustainability (New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2005).

Two of the most pressing issues that New Zealand faces in climate change are the erasure of biodiversity and deglaciation. New Zealand’s alpine region is home to approximately 613 species of vascular plants with a high level of endemism. These plants are in extreme danger due to rising temperatures and New Zealand is facing possible extinction of many of their indigenous alpine species. With just a 3 degrees Celsius rise in temperature, there could be a 33 – 50% loss of these species, and temperature rise is just one impact of climate change. These plants will also face changes in rainfall, wind, and snow (Stephen R. P Halloy and Alan F. Mark, Climate Change Effects of Alpine Plant Biodiversity). New Zealand is facing a crisis in maintaining their indigenous plants as a result of climate change.

Deglaciation is affecting not only the glaciers of New Zealand, but the landmass itself. According to a study completed in 1996, glaciers of the Southern Alps of New Zealand have shortened by 38% (T.J Chinn, New Zealand glacier responses to climate change of the past  century). A volcano, Rerewhakaaitu Tephra, has allowed scientists to research land re-organization over thousands of years. Scientists have determined that the newest land  re-organization around Rerewhakaaitu Tephra is due to global warming that sparked ice retreat in both  hemispheres of the globe (Newnham et al, Rerewhakaaitu Tephra, a land–sea marker for  the Last  Termination in New  Zealand, with implications for global climatechange).

Climate change is now embedded into New Zealand life through business and government practices. A 2006 study showed that smallbusiness owners are extremely aware and afraid of what climate change will do to their business in the future (C. Michael Hall,  New  Zealand tourism entrepreneur attitudes and behaviours with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation). The New Zealand government has issued many reports describing solutions that address climate change impacts under different scenarios over the 21st century (Nottage et al,  Climate Change Adaption in New  Zealand) as they are extremely aware of climate change impacts on agriculture, tourism, and forestry.

 

 
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Climate Change & Lake Michigan by Barnard Blogger Olivia Loomis

Lake Michigan is a valued cultural, economic, and environmental asset for Wisconsin. It is a rich resource for outdoor tourism offering lake recreation along its shoreline, while providing water for millions of people, houses ports that serve global shipping markets, and is even featured on Milwaukee’s new flag! While growing up a few blocks away from a public Lake Michigan beach, I frequented its freshwater shores often to cool off and take in its beauty. However, the lake and natural ecosystems in Wisconsin are changing as a result of global climate change.

As greenhouse gas emissions cause global temperatures to rise, our beloved lake is subject to warmer air and higher precipitation. Algal blooms are unhealthy for fish and degrade water quality, but they will become a more prevalent phenomenon as the lake warms. The EPA stated in a 2016 report that an increase in dense precipitation events caused by global warming will increase flooding, resulting in higher levels of sewage overflow into Lake Michigan. Agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry in Wisconsin that will face decreasing yields as a result of more severe droughts and floods. In response, farmers may choose to apply more fertilizer to their fields which could result in runoff that further pollutes the lake.

Trade vital to Wisconsin’s economy will be limited by the lake’s changing water levels. Major trading routes utilize Lake Michigan as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway shipping system, which supports “30,000 jobs and $3 billion of business every year” according to Wisconsin Educational Communications Board  (WECB) and University of Wisconsin Extension. WECB also reports that the net impact of climate change will be a decrease in water levels “by approximately 1 to 2 feet over the next century.” As the amount of summer precipitation begins to decline and evaporation occurs at a faster rate (despite an increase in heavy storm events) vessels carrying shipments will have to lighten their loads in order to travel through a more shallow lake. This will limit the lake’s capacity to be utilized in the Saint Lawrence Seaway shipping system resulting in financial losses. Although climate models suggest that there will be longer shipping seasons due to later forming and faster melting ice, this will be counterbalanced by lower lake levels. Ultimately, Lake Michigan shipping industry will face changes and must adapt to in order to continue thriving.

So what can I do to mitigate adverse climate change impacts? Obviously, I can try to decrease my own carbon footprint by using cars less often, eating fewer animal products which produce high carbon outputs, utilizing renewable energy when available, unpluging electronics, and using reusable containers and objects. Furthermore, I can encourage those around me to do the same! I can also fight for the protection of the lake by urging state and federal governments to implement the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy (GLRCS). This comprehensive plan aims for legislation that protects the lake from pollutants by repairing aging sewage treatment systems, preserves and restores wetlands, reduces runoff from farm fields by promoting agricultural practices that reduce soil erosion, and installs buffer strips to protect shorelines by filtering contamination. One can advocate for these laws by writing letters, signing petitions, attending community board meetings, and contacting elected officials.

As shipment managers and officials prepare for climate change impacts, beach goers like me must also be willing to participate in building the lake’s resilience. If people love the lake for all the cultural, economic, and environmental benefits that it provides, we will take part in mitigating climate change and protecting the lake from adverse climate change impacts.

 
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Climate Change to the Midwestern Farmer by Barnard Blogger Sara Lytle

The muggy summer evenings of Canfield, Ohio, were filled with countless lightning bugs in 2002. There were so many that I would run out of numbers that I knew as a six-year-old. This summer as I sat out on a porch swing fifteen years later, I made myself dizzy squinting to see if that one sparkle was indeed a rare sighting of a lightning bug. The once magical display in the corn fields surrounding my home had dwindled to none in less than two decades. Research generally attributes this decline to the loss of firefly habitat from development and excess artificial lighting at night. To me, it was an alarming signal that consequences of unsustainable human development could affect this inland Midwestern farm town too.

Agriculture has been the backbone of most Midwestern states and provides crop exports both nationally and internationally. However, a deficit in production can destroy entire communities’ economies. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History states thatclimate models suggest a seven to twelve-degree increase in temperature (F) in the winter and a six to fourteen-degree (F) increase in the summer for northeastern Ohio. The warming temperatures that accompany climate change will bring wetter springs and falls, with higher potential for drought during the summer growing season.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview David Hull, a third generation farmer at White House Fruit Farm, a two-hundred acre farm in Canfield, about his agricultural practices and his adaptation strategies for a changing climate (see http://www.whitehousefruitfarm.com)  Hull has been a family friend for decades and introduced me to the challenges facing agriculture in the northeastern Ohio region. He helped me understand the risks associated with increased temperatures and precipitation for northeastern Ohio agriculture. Northeastern Ohio already has one of the wettest climates in the United States. Thus, Hull has to take constant preventative measures to prevent moisture buildup in his apple orchards, the farm’s most famous crop. Warmer temperatures lead to higher amounts of moisture in the air that can get trapped under leaves and branches. In addition to using fungicides and herbicides, Hull must prune constantly to allow for maximum sun exposure to prevent diseases that enjoy living in dark and moist environments.

As a result of the naturally high precipitation rate, the water table is already relatively close to the surface. This makes the area prone to soil saturation and flooding that can wipe out entire parts of the apple orchard and other fruit trees. This occurs when roots can no longer act as anchors in the soil. According to Hull, too much water is actually worse than too little water because removing the water is such a complicated and inefficient process. While a large corporate agriculture firm may be able to cope with more frequent flooded fields plot destructions, will local Ohioan farmers be able to do the same? Climate change poses a real risk to the local farmers that sustain the Midwest economies and impacts the food security and livelihoods of the people who depend on them.

 

 
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