Friday, September 16, 2011

Reasoning with Climate Change Deniers

A major component of my writing seminar class (which focuses on environmental philosophy) is reasoning. To start, we were asked to read Premises by Valerie Ross, within which I found some great tips for reasoning with deniers (I have specifically climate deniers in mind).

"The paradox of argument is that it must begin in agreement. If you share no common ground with your interlocutor, you are unlikely to change her mind....A skillful critical writer is able to identify common ground between himself and his readers, and uses this to launch his argument from the very edge of that common ground.

"An understanding of of your audience's premises is fundamental to any argument, and will dictate both content and ordering...Failure to grasp whether one needs to commence with universal or specialized premises will typically stall the argument before it gets off the ground."

Ross, herself, is a skilled critical writer, and so I don't think that really needs much explanation. Just some interesting things to think about when dealing with climate change deniers.

Guide to Green Colleges

The following is what The Guide to Green Colleges had to say about UPenn's sustainability initiatives. 
I went to the Penn Environmental Group meeting this week and was also accepted as a house leader for the Eco-Rep program. I was also at the grand opening of the beautiful Penn Park yesterday and have decided to take part in the Solar Decathlon (more on that to come).
So many exciting opportunities!

University of Pennsylvania
1 college hall, philadelphia, pa 19104 • Admissions: 215-898-7507
FAx: 215-898-9670 • FinAnciAl Aid: 215-898-1988
E-mAil: WEbsitE: www.Upenn.edU/sUstainabiLity
In 2007, the University of Pennsylvania became a signatory of ACUPCC, and it has convened the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC) to prepare a university Climate Action Plan. ESAC’s six subcommittees
(Academics, Utilities & Operations, Physical Environment, Waste Minimization & Recycling, Transportation, and Communications) com- pleted their work in 2009, and Penn’s Climate Action Plan was launched on September 2009. Penn has a full-time Environmental Sustainability Coordinator who leads a staff of four in providing education and leader- ship regarding sustainability initiatives on campus. Penn is already one of the nation’s leader in wind energy purchase among institutions of higher education, with Renewable Energy Credit accounting for more than 49 percent of the annual electrical consumption. The university is pursuing LEED certification for nine projects, including an anticipated LEED Platinum Horticulture Center at the Morris Arboretum. Plans are in place to update systems in high energy-use buildings to reduce their carbon footprint. All roofing projects are evaluated for the feasibil- ity of green roof installation, and Penn’s new athletic facility, Penn Park, will feature a rainwater reclamation system for irrigation needs. Penn Environmental Group is a student-run organization that pro- motes environmental education and awareness around the campus and in the neighboring community. The university offers students paid sustainability internships and 48 positions within its campus-based Eco- Reps program. Getting back and forth is easy thanks to the PennPass, a heavily subsidized student transit pass that allows for unlimited rides on buses and subways in the area. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Energy Efficiency

When most people think of energy efficiency, they think of turning off the lights when they leave a room or only running the washing machine when it's full. However, as my Environmental Science teacher (Professor Alain Plante) pointed out today, energy efficiency is really referring to the efficiency in creating energy at the source. The process used to generate electricity from fossil fuels, for example, is only 30-40% efficient, nuclear 30-35%, solar 5-30%.  

That's not to say that every drop in the bucket doesn't count, but it follows along with the same principle that countries need to develop sustainable policy and companies need to use sustainable practices. Energy producers, countries, and companies really need to get on board in order for us to get going on the climate change issue. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

College Classes

This past week I dove into my first college classes. I've chosen to major in Environmental Studies, so 3 of my 4 classes directly relate to the content of this site. Here are a few things I've already learned:

Intro to Environmental Earth Studies: I think this will be my favorite. I'm a science geek at heart and the teacher is passionate and engaging. The first day he countered many students' assumptions that the class would focus on climate change, emphasizing that the material is on earth systems, with frequent footnotes on human destruction. I can't wait to take more of my major's requirements!

Mass Media and Society: There really is theory behind all of this! Spending the past year working on social media for environmentally related causes (including this blog), it's exciting to learn some hard facts. Really, I was making my tactics up along the way, but it's great to read "expert" opinions on mass communication. Currently working through the first chapter of my professor's text - Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Communication. 

Writing Seminar: Environmental Philosophy: For tomorrow's homework we had to read Peter Singer's All Animals are Equal. Wow, what a compelling argument. And honestly the closest I've come to being convinced to be a vegetarian. I think I still have to get through Eating Animals to go all the way, but a great argument against speciesism. For homework we had to write 3 propositions, so here they are!

1. One cannot dispute discrimination with the justification that all individuals are equal. 
2. Equality is justified on the basis of treating all that have interests (individuals that have the ability to suffer) with morality. 
3. Nonhumans should be included in the case against discrimination and exploitation.

Calculus 104: Okay, so this one doesn't pertain. But math is interesting and could be useful in the econ sector. So far, so good, still doing a review of high school calc.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Competition --> Collaboration

When I started my blog, I didn’t really have a sense of direction. I knew I wanted to contribute something to the environmental blogosphere but wasn’t exactly sure where to start or what to focus on. As I wrote random articles and used social media to market my site, a pattern became evident: competition and isolation within the environmental movement rather than an atmosphere of collaboration. 

I encountered many experts at the events I was attending and blogging about, but as one speaker said, there were “silos of information with no conduits connecting them.” In order to make the biggest impact possible, people from all sectors need to be working together – sharing ideas and resources.  Rather than create just another blog among the thousands that focus on “going green,” I wanted to contribute a solution to the discontinuity I was witnessing.  I came up with Experts’ Opinions on Sustainability and asked bloggers from around the world to answer questions on sustainability. Combined we could harness our over 20,000 Twitter followers and multiple sites to really create a discussion. 

I’ve now begun to see a trend towards these uniting sites – The Urban Cnoversion, 2Degrees, EcoDesk, and other sites with multiple contributors.  I hope the environmental movement can continue in this direction to harness the incredible ideas and resources we have as a combined force.   

$aving Green 2 Way$

Circle of Moms recently asked the question:

What's an easy, eco-friendly habit that could help families save money?

My answer: Buy Less Stuff.

Probably the simplest answer for saving money. But definitely easier said than done.

Watching The Story of Stuff videos and having your kids watch them too can help everyone understand the purpose of these steps. Garbage Land is also a great book that teaches about the process of what happens to our waste.

I've found that the best thing to motivate almost anyone is a contest. See who can spend the least money each week, or who can create the least trash. How can you repurpose your garbage into something useful or cool looking? Do you really need to throw out one just to buy another? Who has the most creative reuse design?

I know it sounds simple, and a little too straight forward, but doesn't it just make sense? If you want to save money, stop buying so much stuff. It's something all of us can work on, and in the process you'll also help save the planet.