Oceans 2014 Marine Conservation Conference in DC Continues Today

Yesterday and today, the US State Department is holding an oceans conference addressing some of the problems that face our oceans on an international scale (sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification). The gathering is a mix of scientists, politicians, ambassadors, and leaders from major ocean related organizations around the world and is focused on all of these people coming together to try to find answers to these problems. Find out more and watch the live stream of today’s proceedings here!

Below is one of the many video resources on various topics related to ocean conservation provided on the conference website.

Posted in biodiversity, conferences, conservation, ecology, policy, pollution, science, water

Sierra Club Posts Clean Water Advocate Position for College Students

Current college students might find this job ad intriguing: a full-time position with the IL Chapter of the Sierra Club, “Clean Water Advocate.” Details are at this link, courtesy of ChicagoEnvironment.org.

Posted in ecology, education, green jobs, Illinois, policy, students, water

SETF Offers Waste, Recycling, & Petcoke Tour on June 11th

This waste, recycling, and petcoke tour of Chicago’s far South Side by the Southeast Environmental Task Force is a great opportunity on June 11th to see how and where Chicago’s waste gets recycled! See flyer below for details and registration info.

Chicago Waste and Recycling Tour June 2014.jpg

Posted in cities, ecology, events, field trips, pollution, recycling, social justice, waste

Important Environmental Bills Pending this Week in IL General Assembly

Editor’s Note: This message on Memorial Day 2014 is from Jen Walling of the Illinois Environmental Council, a non-profit group focused on monitoring the IL General Assembly and advocating for progressive environmental policy for our state. Please consider contacting your IL representations this week on one or more of these issues, if you are so moved.

I don’t put this lightly when I say that the environment is under assault by the General Assembly this week. There are a seemingly unprecedented number of anti-environment measures up for consideration this week. Here are the biggest threats we face this week and what you can do about them:

  • Gutting of Illinois fracking law.  On Friday, the IEC sent out an action alert on SB649.  Amendments to this bill completely re-write the Illinois fracking law and would end the public process that is already ongoing to write rules for environmental regulations of fracking.  This bill is posted to be heard at 3PM today. Take action here.
  • Funding and Authority for Illiana Tollroad.  The Illiana Tollroad threatens the Midewin Tallgrass National Prairie and is a $250 million bad transportation decision for the state.  Take action with ELPC or Sierra Club to ask your legislators to oppose this “Road to Nowhere.”
  • Oppose New Subsidies to Nuclear Power.  HR1146, a resolution introduced last Friday suggests legislative support for a pathway that would prioritize and subsidize nuclear power.  While it’s a resolution with no binding effect, following this pathway would be diastrous for renewable energy production and energy efficiency and would keep open nuclear power plants even if they were less economically viable than renewables and efficiency.  Take action with our alert to your legislators.
  • Funding for IDNR. Should the General Assembly not approve the tax rate extension, the Department of Natural Resources faces extreme cuts.  Reduction in state police, closure of state parks, and cuts to inspection and enforcement of the areas DNR regulates are all possibilities if the revenue is not in place to fund this agency.  We are watching and working to make sure this agency is funded and support keeping this revenue in place.
  • Climate change.  HR782 would call for delaying or weakening carbon pollution standards that haven’t even been proposed yet.  This bill was held in committee, but the sponsor has filed a motion to discharge the bill and it could be heard on the floor this week.

Expect frequent updates from IEC about the happenings in Springfield and what IL citizens can do about it.

Posted in climate change, conservation, economics, energy, Illinois, news, policy, transportation

Microcosm Goes Canadian!

by Jordan Ewbank

This past fall (2013), Microcosm director Michele Hoffman-Trotter packed up her bags and headed up to Nova Scotia. While the water was a little too chilly to get great underwater diving in, she took to the microscope and camera instead. Her trip took her from Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to the Bay of Fundy then back to Chicago. During the trip, she interviewed scientists at Dalhousie University, went on a whale-watching expedition, and witnessed the Grand Manan kelp harvesting in action. Originally, we documented her journeys on the Microcosm website (http://www.microcosmfilm.com/), but wanted to share it with you all through the Sustainability Studies blog, too. This piece is part one of a two-part series entitled “Microcosm goes Canadian.”

Mather Carscallen and Michele Hoffman-Trotter in Nova Scotia, 2013

Firstly, Michele started her trip in Halifax, Nova Scotia at Dalhousie University. If you’ve never been, Halifax is one of our favorite cities for its beauty and extremely kind people. At Dalhousie, Michele met with fisheries scientist Dr. Boris Worm who studies the economy of ecosystems. He generously gave us an interview and talked with Michele about the state of sea surface temperature, and the state is currently in. While in Dalhousie, Michele also met with Mather Carscallen who is creating a startup with the aim to generating algae-based biofuels for the aviation industry.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse

As the crew traveled from Halifax towards Grand Manan, they took a bit of a rest in Peggy’s Cove, a little town of less than 50 people. Known for its iconic landmark the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, this area also is home to a unique landscape of perfectly smooth granite sheets and boulders. Because of the eroded sooth nature of the granite, water easily flows from the surface of the rock back into the ocean, carrying vital nutrients to feed the plankton in the bay. This in turn provides the basis of what the whales eat whenever they pass through this area!

From Peggy’s Cove, we traveled to the little town of Digby (still small by what we’re used to, but still much larger than Peggy’s Cove with a population of around 2,150 people) to get our first glimpse of the Bay of Fundy. This bay is a United Nations World Heritage site and is considered to be of ‘superlative natural phenomena or an area of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance’ and we couldn’t agree more! The Bay of Fundy has the largest tidal exchange on the planet, meaning the tides rise and fall here with more force and variation than anywhere else on earth. Large scale water movements like this help to move and distribute plankton masses all over the globe, but are most obvious in places like this bay.

High tide on the Bay of Fundy

High tide on the Bay of Fundy

Low tide on the Bay of Fundy

Low tide on the Bay of Fundy

This concludes part one of ‘Microcosm Goes Canadian’, but stay tuned to the Roosevelt Sustainability Blog for the next piece coming early next week! Until then, feel free to check us out on Twitter (handle @microcosmfilm, and on Facebook, too!

Editor’s note: all photos courtesy of Michele Hoffman-Trotter.

Jordan EwbankJordan Ewbank is currently an undergraduate majoring in Sustainability Studies at Roosevelt University and the social media manager for the forthcoming film documentary on marine biodiversity and conservation, Microcosm. At left, Jordan delivers a talk on the Microcosm project at the Spring 2014 SUST Student Symposium at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Posted in arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, faculty, internships, Roosevelt, science, students, water

SUST Graduate Troy Withers Promotes Wellness at Chicago Schools through the “Peace Diet”

This story from The Chicago Crusader on May 3rd, 2014, profiles the work of Troy Withers, a recent graduate (BPS ’13) of RU’s Sustainability Studies program and current intern at Morrill Elementary in Chicago. We applaud Troy’s work as a advocate of community health, sustainable food production, good nutrition, and social justice. (Editor’s note: The text of the article has been modified slightly to refer to the May 6th Wellness Event in the past tense.)

Troy Withers serving up tasty vegan fare at Morrill Elementary School in Chicago for Wellness Day, 3 May 2014 (Chicago Crusader)

Troy Withers serving up tasty vegan fare at Morrill Elementary School in Chicago for Wellness Day, 3 May 2014 (Chicago Crusader)

As a new wave of gang and gun violence hits Chicago, a Roosevelt University intern at an impacted elementary school in Chicago is promoting a wellness agenda that includes a ‘Peace Diet’ that is meant to reduce youth aggression and violence.

Troy Withers, a 2013 graduate of Roosevelt’s Sustainability Studies program and a vegan, has long held the belief that diet can negatively impact behavior, particularly processed foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, refined carbohydrates and sugars.

That is why he organized a Wellness Day that was held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6 at the Morrill Elementary School, 6002 S. Rockwell, Chicago, just blocks from the scene of a recent shooting of a 2013 graduate of Morrill and the brother of a current Morrill student.

“It will be a day devoted to healing in which we will be discussing why so much violence is happening and how we can turn the tide against it,” said Withers prior to the event. He works part-time at the school as a peacekeeper helping students resolve conflicts using restorative justice practices in conjunction with an internship through Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation.

“We will be presenting some possible solutions to the violence epidemic, including providing information on the importance of having our kids eat better on a regular basis,” said Withers.

The event included a 4 p.m. Symposium on Inner City Violence where Withers introduced the concept of his Peace Diet, (which includes plant-based whole foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants and essential micronutrients), as a tool for violence prevention.

Sample servings of the Peace Diet, including lentil sloppy joes, sweet potato fries seasoned with kelp and a leafy green vegetable, were served at the Symposium. Free-food giveaways, hip-hop music geared toward violence prevention as well as participation by community activists, including Ameena Matthews from the award-winning PBS documentary, The Interrupters, were among other activities.

A resident of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, Withers is the founder of the Gahn Institute for Sustainable Solutions, a Chicago-based policy institute stressing sustainability, health and community wellness as a means to combat societal problems. He first began researching causes of violence last year as a Roosevelt student after learning of the highly publicized murders in Chicago of Hadiyah Pendleton and six-month-old Jonylah Watkins. During the research, Withers became convinced that there is a correlation between poor nutrition and violent behavior, and has been working since then to educate and engage communities, youths and their parents about the importance of eating healthy foods.

“Young people in this community are facing violence on a regular basis,” said Nancy Michaels, associate director of Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute, which has been working at Morrill since 2011 and at other Chicago Public Schools as well to support young people through the use of restorative justice practices, including peace circles.

“While there are many factors that can contribute to violence, we believe Troy’s ideas are worth considering as we look for ways to establish a more peaceful, positive environment for young people to thrive,” Michaels said.

The Wellness Day event was co-sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, Morrill Elementary School and Roosevelt’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation. For more information, contact the Mansfield Institute at 312-341-2150.

Posted in activities, community, education, food, health, internships, Roosevelt, service, social justice, students

Summer 2014 SUST Courses at RU Start Soon; Still Time to Register!

SUST 390 Sustain Chgo 2014Sum Flyer v2With the Spring 2014 semester officially in the books, registration continues for Summer and Fall 2014 classes in Sustainability Studies at RU. Summer classes start soon, and our program has two excellent and convenient options for study.

Featured summer term courses include SUST 210 Sustainable Future (online) with Prof. Carla Jones, which begins on Monday 5/19; and SUST 390 Sustainable Chicago (Chicago/Schaumburg) with Prof. Vicki Gerberich, which starts on Saturday, 5/17. The latter course is a Special Topics section that will feature a wide range of field trips to cool sites and institutions in Chicago and neighboring suburbs over 5 Saturdays, and will thus emphasize field-based learning.

Current RU students should contact their advisor to discuss spring (and summer) course selections and sign up for classes while they are still available. This page from the RU Registrar provides a wealth of links and useful info.

Prospective students may learn about admissions and our many program options at RU, request information about a particular campus or academic program here, or visit the SUST homepage to explore our BA (120 semester hour) and BPS (adult student fast-track) bachelors degree options.

Posted in courses, education, field trips, Roosevelt, students