Talkin’ Trash (and Makin’ Compost) at RU

It’s official — the 8th floor of the Auditorium Building (or, “AUD 8” for short) is now the coolest floor on Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus. Why, you may ask? Well, Physical Resources and the Sustainability Studies Program have just launched a composting pilot project on this floor.

In an effort to further sustainability efforts on campus, the 8th floor will be participating in a 30-day composting pilot. Compost bins are now available in three convenient locations noted in this neato map created by recently graduated business major and honors program student, Tom Smith (BSBA ’16):

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  • Southeast Elevator Bank on Michigan
  • Central Stairwell on Congress
  • Northwest Elevator Bank on Wabash

Signs will be located above the compost bins to educate people on what they can and cannot compost. Compost will be accepted throughout the day up until 5pm. At the end of the day, volunteers will pickup collected organic waste, weigh it in RU’s Urban Sustainability Lab so we can track home much food waste we’re diverting from the landfill, and take it to the Wabash Dining Center. Here food waste is composted through a SOMAT waste disposal system, located behind the scenes in the Wabash Dining Center. Once collected and taken offsite, it is converted into compost, with some eventually making it to the Schaumburg Campus to be used in the community garden.

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Instructional Signage created by: Thomas Smith

Why is composting important you ask? Organic matter makes up about two-thirds of all refuse in the waste stream. By composting, we can keep organic matter out of landfills that could be used to provide nutrients and helpful micro-organisms to lawns, gardens, and potted plants. Think of compost as a protein shake for your garden. Even more importantly, we reduce the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from landfilling.

The ultimate goal of the pilot is to research and develop methods to make composting a campus-wide initiative.  The pilot would not have been possible without all the work done by RU alumni and current students, faculty, and members of Physical Resources. We appreciate your participation in this pilot program and welcome any feedback or suggestions that you may have as we get it rolling.

If you have any questions or suggestions, or would be willing to volunteer to perform a compost pickup, please contact Moses Viveros (mviveros@mail.roosevelt.edu), SUST Student Associate.

Posted in activities, education, food, recycling, Roosevelt, students, waste | Leave a comment

Calling all Future Conservationists: Doris Duke Program at UM Seeks Applicants for Summer 2017 Program

Applications for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program hosted by University of Michigan are now officially open. This unique program is committed to diversifying the conservation workforce by training the next generation of land, water, and wildlife professionals among traditionally underrepresented groups. Participants in the program have a commitment to becoming a part of and changing the conservation arena, bringing new ways of looking at, understanding, and protecting the earth’s land, water, and wildlife.

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Doris Duke Conservation Scholars work hard but have fun, too (photo: DDCSP)

On the first week of the program, participants will travel to Pellston, MI, to explore the University’s Biological Station. During the next seven weeks of the program, participants will work full time on an independent research project. During this time, one will have the ability to gain knowledge and develop skills working closely with staff from Michigan University’s School of Natural Resource and Environment. Some past research projects include “The Effects or Urbanization on Bee Diversity” and “Inequity, Development, and Reform: The Intersections of Environmental Justice within a Sustainable Future.”

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2016 Scholar, Emily Murphy, presenting at the 2016 DDCSP Diversity Symposium Source: DDCSP Website

Participants will have the opportunity to gain hands-on conservation experience working with professionals and stakeholders in the environmental field while visiting some of Michigan’s pristine, natural sites. In addition to learning about conservation, participants will also take part in a series of workshops and student led seminars revolving around the topics of diversity and equity in conservation. Concepts such as power, privilege, identity will be examined and discussed.

For those interested in applying, the application deadline is February 8th, 2017. An application form, three essays, and two letters of recommendation are required for one to be considered for the program.

So what are you waiting for? Here is your opportunity to get out there and get your hands dirty while creating some real change!

 

 

Posted in conservation, ecology, education, research, restoration, science, social justice, students

Donald Trump and the Possibilities of Climate Disaster

Editor’s note: In this op-ed post, RU biology major Mark Barr reflects on the implications of Donald Trump’s election for environmental policy.

Upon Donald Trump’s election, the sentiment among many was “give him a chance.” Individuals with backgrounds in science in general, but climate science in particular, were worried, but some nevertheless maintained hope that his stances on climate science and environmental protection would be more moderate than what he exclaimed throughout the election cycle. Trump has been on both sides of the spectrum regarding climate change. A tweet from his twitter account stated that global warming is a hoax propagated by the Chinese government to hurt the American economy; but as recently as November of 2016, Trump stated that there is “some connectivity” between human actions and the climate, so it’s difficult to tell what his stance will truly be. More than one month after the election, the man has yet to officially take office and is already alarming the entire science community. The “give him a chance” sentiment is turning out to be a nightmare in terms of the planet’s chances of fighting climate change and environmental issues.

On November 9th, Scientific American published a story in which Trump’s views on many science policies seemed rather moderate, for his standards at least. The article included a discussion with a representative from the Trump campaign and asked a few questions regarding 20 different science issues facing the country. While the campaign’s response to a question about climate change, that there is too much “unknown” in the study of climate science, leaves much to be desired, the campaign representative did mention that a major goal of the administration will be to attain energy independence through the continued development of wind, solar, nuclear, and bio fuels. This mention of a focus on alternative fuels for an economy more independent from the geopolitical entanglement that is the fossil fuel industry gives a slight glimmer of hope for the climate over the coming years; however, these were just words on paper in the early stages of Trump stepping into his role as the President-Elect of the United States. Trump’s actions over the next four years may be very different from these words. As many know, actions speak louder than words, and the actions that Trump has taken thus far are terrifying.

First and foremost, let’s examine the notable cabinet positions that Trump has awarded to proponents of the fossil fuel industry. Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma and a known antagonist in the fight against climate change, has now been nominated by Trump to head the EPA. Not only has Pruitt sued the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, the Obama Administration’s proposed plan to reduce emissions from the energy sector, he’s quite openly received funds from Big Oil. Over the course of his political career, Pruitt has received over $300,000 dollars in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, which may cause a conflict of interest with Trump’s supposed interest developing alternative fuel sources.

Additionally, Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, has been nominated as the Secretary of State. A Washington Post article released after the nomination became public noted other high-ranking Republican party members’ concern with the pick. Marco Rubio, a former Republican presidential nominee and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said “The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests.” Tillerson’s ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin will surely come under intense scrutiny from the Republicans vetting him for the position. The Trump campaign expressed an interest in developing the alternative fuels market of the United States, but these two cabinet picks cast doubt on the likelihood of that interest being pursued.

Only time will tell what the Trump administration will mean for the climate as Trump has shown to be rather back and forth on a multitude of issues throughout his campaign and in the time leading up to his inauguration; but it seems as if the plan to continue and even increase the production and use of fossil fuel is in place. This could be devastating for the climate and the environment alike. Giving Trump a chance may have relinquished our chances at combatting irreversible climate damage.

Posted in climate change, policy, students

RU Finals Week / Spring 2017 Registration

Reading Room at RU's Auditorium Library

Reading Room at RU’s Auditorium Library

Best of luck to all Roosevelt students during your finals this week! Scholars, please note that the RU Library has extended hours this week to provide a quiet place to study and write.

Auditorium Library Finals Hours

Tuesday  Dec. 13         9:00am – 9:00pm
Wednesday Dec. 14    9:00am – 9:00pm
Thursday  Dec. 15       9:00am – 9:00pm
Friday  Dec. 16            9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday  Dec. 17        11:00am – 4:00pm
Sunday   Dec. 18          CLOSED

Schaumburg Library Finals Hours

Monday Dec. 12 – Thurs Dec. 15  9:00am – 8:00pm
Friday Dec. 16 and Saturday Dec. 17  9:00am – 2:00pm
Sunday   Dec. 18          CLOSED

Meanwhile, advising and registration are still underway for the Spring 2017 semester. 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 post from our blog  provides a wealth of links and useful info. If a particular class is full, we recommend you get on its waiting list in case a spot opens up.

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Spring 2017:

ACP 110 Primary Texts (MW 11am-12:15pm, Bryson)*
SUST 210 Sustainable Future (14-week online, Pickren)
SUST 220 Water (8-week online, 1/17-3/10, Bryson)§
SUST 230 Food (M 2-4:30pm)
SUST 240 Waste (14-week online, Pickren)
SUST/ACP 250 The Sustainable University (W 2-4:30pm, Bryson)◊
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (8-week online, 3/20-5/12)§
SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, & Planning (Th 2-4:30pm, Pickren)
SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics (14-week online)
SUST 395 Sustainability Studies Internship (by arrangement)

* First Year Seminars are open to new full-time undergrads with 12 or fewer hours in transfer credit.
§ These 8-week accelerated online courses are open to all students and synced with the Flex-Track adult degree calendar. They may be taken back-to-back.
◊ Students may register for either ACP 250 (Grounds for Change credit) or SUST 250 (Sustainability Studies credit).

Posted in courses, education, Roosevelt, students

Northern Exposure: Student International Research Panel at RU Today, 3pm

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Cozying up at Lake Crescent Lodge Source: Bethany Barratt

As part of the 2016 Distinguished Environmental Justice Organizer Series hosted by the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project, students that participated in Prof. Bethany Barratt’s POS 350 Environmental Justice class will report back from their comparative research trip in late November to the Pacific Northwest.

The students will have returned from a week-long trip to Seattle and Vancouver where they met with advocates, activists, and scholars in British Columbia and Olympic National Park. Vancouver is known as the continent’s greenest city. Students will report on topics including Environmental Racism, Indigenous Land Rights, Eco-Gentrification, Air Quality Issues, Environmental Justice Organizing, Green Space Access, Industrial Responsibility, and Fossil Fuel Extraction. What comparative lessons does the struggle for environmental justice in the Pacific Northwest offer Chicago?

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Elwha River in Washington Source: Moses Viveros

We are also honored to host community environmental justice leaders, Kim Wasserman from LVEJO & Tom Shepherd and Peggy Salazar from SETF at this event.

Please join us in the Sullivan Room on December 7th
from 3:00pm to 4:30 pm
at Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus, 425 S. Wabash Ave., downtown Chicago.

For more information, please contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director, Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project (bbarratt@roosevelt.edu).

Posted in courses, education, events, field trips, parks and public land, policy, presentations, Roosevelt, social justice, students

Environmental Justice Students Report on Trip to the Pacific NW this Wed 12/7 at RU

For a pdf of this image, click here.

Click here for a pdf of this image

Posted in biodiversity, cities, education, ethics, field trips, policy, presentations, Roosevelt, social justice, students

Planting the Seeds of Change: Reflections on a Tour of Southeast Chicago/Northwest Indiana

by Moses Viveros

A cold and cloudy day seemed to fit perfectly on our trip through the somber, industrial landscape that characterizes most of the Southeast Chicago and Northwest Indiana region. As part of Dr. Bethany Barratt’s Environmental Justice course at Roosevelt University this fall semester, we took a tour earlier this month with Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) to visit heavily polluted communities not too far from downtown Chicago.

One constantly hears about environmental injustices happening throughout the world. There’s the group of protestors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline to protect the integrity of their land and water resources. The city of Flint, MI still does not have a source of safe drinking water. It’s one thing to hear about these things in the news, but it is a completely different experience actually going down to visit these sites and seeing firsthand the environmental injustices that plague these communities.

Oil Refinery in NW Indiana

Oil Refinery in NW Indiana (photo: M. Viveros)

Southeast Chicago and Northwestern Indiana are home to myriad industrial sites. The communities in this area host countless oil refineries, factories, and steel mills. Consequently, this area is known as one of the heaviest polluted regions in the country. Many of the residents in the area live in what is known as a Superfund Site, as officially designated by the EPA. This indicates a heavily polluted area that is eligible for federally-funded cleanup and remediation.

In the case of Northwest Indiana, the soil has been so heavily contaminated by current and former industrial activity that the EPA has a testing facility in the region to continuously monitor soil contamination levels. This testing site itself is situated on a lot that is covered with a tarp, providing a barrier between the workers and the soil underneath.

EPA Testing Site

EPA Testing Site (photo: M. Viveros)

Just recently, residents of the West Calumet Housing complex learned that the soil outside of their homes contained 30 times more lead than what is considered safe. This is the same soil that children play on, the same soil that people grow food in. This news came along with notice by the mayor of East Chicago, IN, that the housing complex would be demolished, leaving more than a thousand residents scrambling to find new homes.

The plans came a shock to residents as they were previously under the impression that the EPA would be working to remediate the soil around their homes so that they would not have to leave. The housing complex is also near Carrie Gosch Elementary school, which was closed in August amid news about heavily contaminated soil in the area.

Broken Oil Pipeline near Gary, IN

Broken Oil Pipeline near Gary, IN (photo: M. Viveros)

The area is heavily influenced by large corporations such as BP and ArcelorMittal. These corporations bring along promises of jobs and community investments in order to win over the hearts of working class citizens. In exchange for that, these corporations have free rein to pollute these communities.

In 2014, BP was fined only $2,000 from the coast guard for 1,600 gallons of crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan. It wasn’t until this year that BP agreed to pay the EPA $275,000 in civil penalties to resolve violations of the Clean Water and Air acts. One thing that has stuck with me since we visited the area is a site that contained a broken pipeline. This pipeline has been actively spilling oil into a ditch for four years now. If this is not a complete disregard for the environment and the surrounding community, then I don’t know what is.

The residents of this area have been failed multiple times. Failed by the corporations that have come in and polluted their community, and failed by the local and federal governments for not protecting the residents and holding the large corporations in the area accountable for their actions. Fortunately, the residents of this region have not let themselves be silenced by the injustices in their community. SETF has had many victories such as closing an incinerator at 117th and Stony Island and, most recently, forcing Koch and Beemsterboer to stop storing Petcoke at their south facilities. Residents of Marktown, a small picturesque town near the BP Refinery in Whiting, IN, have been fighting back to stop BP from demolishing their community, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As stated earlier, it is one thing to hear about these environmental injustices in the news; it is a whole different experience to actually go and see these injustices happening in person. Leaving the Southeast Chicago/Northwest Indiana Region, I was in shock at the things that I had experienced on the tour. The citizens residing in this region are honest, hardworking people just trying to make a living. They deserve just as much consideration and protective from environmental hazards as anybody else. It is disheartening to see the injustices that these people have to face on a daily basis; it is even more disheartening to realize that no-one is holding these polluting corporations accountable for their actions.

My intention behind writing this is not to upset or discourage anybody. Rather, I want you, as an individual, to realize that you have the power to make a difference. As a Sustainability Studies major at RU, a question I frequently get is “Why should I even bother?” I am a firm believer that even the smallest of change can make a major difference. It only takes one person to speak up and spark a movement.

Had it not been for a community coming together and speaking out, the incinerator at 117th and Stony Island might probably still be there. Had it not been for a concerned resident in Flint reaching out to Professor Marc Edwards to come out and do testing after her concerns over orange-tinted water coming out from the tap were not acknowledged by local officials, the citizens of Flint may still be dealing with the water crisis on their own. The residents of Southeast Chicago/ Northwestern Indiana might have to put up with a lot of obstacles, but from what I have seen, they are not letting their cries for change go unheard. Go out there and spark a movement!

Moses viveros-m-croppedViveros is a senior SUST major at Roosevelt University and the SUST Program’s Student Associate for 2016-17. As part of this work-study position, he is also serving as the assistant editor for the SUST at RU Blog this year.

Posted in cities, community, energy, ethics, field trips, policy, pollution, Roosevelt, social justice, students, waste | 1 Comment