Monday, June 15, 2009

Copenhagen Address

By Abe Lincoln and Andrew Munn

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what our nation does or does not do at Copenhagen. It is for Barack Obama to undertake the unfinished work of climate change mitigation and nobly advance a treaty that will ensure the survival of all nations and peoples.”

On the last day of unproductive climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Abraham Lincoln came to the Hill with a message for President Obama: it’s time to rise to the challenge of the century and solve global warming.

Honest Abe was joined by a group of young climate activist from around the country in calling for President Obama to commit to attend the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December. As Lincoln demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges, so too must President Obama show bold global leadership in halting climate change. By publicly committing to go to Copenhagen, Obama will prove that stopping global warming is truly a priority of his administration.

In the halls of Congress (and outside the Capitol South metro station) Honest Abe delivered his “Copenhagen Address”—a riff off of Lincoln’s most renowned speech tailored to address the crippling lack of US leadership in halting climate change:

“It is often said that global recession precludes the possibility of strong climate mitigation. But, in a larger sense, we cannot back down from this challenge, lest it continues to grow until waters overwhelm out coastal cities, deserts encroach on our fertile plains, and the parched voice of a mother with no water for her child calls to her relative far away, only to find that she has been displaced by floods. In the face of such a future, we have no choice but to demand that our leader, Barack Obama, consecrates the negotiations at Copenhagen with his presence.”

Lincoln drew the attention of hundreds of commuters slowly winding their way out of the metro station, and caused quite a stir outside the Energy & Commerce subcommittee markup before he was asked to leave by the capitol police.

The Copenhagen Address was strategically delivered at a key point during the buildup to Copenhagen, on the last day of the UN climate talks in Bonn. The Bonn negotiations failed to spark the dramatic progress that is necessary to produce a strong international climate treaty in December, and time to make crucial international agreements is quickly running out. Industrialized countries refused to agree to the aggressive emissions reductions in the near-term, and the talks largely stalled as developed countries pushed for even weaker targets. Although Obama’s team has claimed to support a strong treaty, the US failed to take a leadership role at Bonn.

Our message as youth is simple: actions speak louder than words. To prove that the US will truly take the lead in solving climate change, Obama must utilize his global political capital to push all nations toward a scientifically sound, politically aggressive Copenhagen treaty. In openly committing to going to Copenhagen, Obama will draw much-needed attention to the negotiations, and send a clear message to other nations that the US will not obstruct climate negotiations this time around.

As President, Obama must also pressure policymakers at home to ensure that the US takes a leadership role by addressing global warming at home. Passing a vigorous domestic energy bill that provides for clean, sustainable energy infrastructure is a crucial part of this process. This bill in it’s current form, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), provides for only a 3% reduction in CO2­ emissions below 1990 levels by 2020. As such, ACESA will likely fail to cut US emissions enough to slow climate change, nor is it sufficient to convince other nations that the US is prepared to take global warming seriously on an international stage. With special interests continuing to poke holes in the bill, it is possible that ACESA will generate even poorer results.

The President’s appearance in Copenhagen, in conjunction with moving a strong climate bill through Congress, would provide a serious and committed stance on battling climate change. As young people, we will inherit the disastrous results of global warming: rising ocean levels, extreme storms, widespread drought and desertification, the spread of disease, the rapid loss of entire ecosystems—the list goes on and on. Because we are the ones who must live with the consequences of inaction, we have united around the globe to call for a strong climate treaty. Lincoln’s appearance at the Rayburn Building during the ACESA markups served as a reminder to Congress that domestic leadership is crucial to building an effective, equitable, and aggressive climate treaty in December.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Moves You?

The amount of energy that is required to operate a bicycle is 100 watts, about the same as powering one light bulb. The average amount to operate a car is about 100,000 watts, or 1,000 light bulbs. Something that we all need to start asking ourselves when we step into a car is whether we really need to use that much energy for most of our travels? There are without a doubt lots of trips that a car makes the most sense to travel in, on a rainy day I always appreciate a ride to school. Anyone who unconditionally refuses to ride in cars is out of touch with reality, but I think these people would be very hard to find. On the reverse, the people who refuse to ride in anything but a car are much more common but just as equally out of touch with reality.

The uncomfortable truth is that the world cannot afford to have everyone using 100,000 watts of energy to travel to the grocery store. It is mathematically impossible for everyone to create this amount of energy with petroleum and have this lifestyle last. There is obviously not enough petroleum. Lewis and Clark prides itself on being part of the global community. A crucial part of any community is responsibility to people throughout our community. Our overconsumption of fossil fuels today is not only leading to climate change, but also makes it more difficult for developing countries to develop.

Our demand for petroleum raises the prices of oil worldwide, limiting the availability of its usage to the poorest countries. Not to mention all the political problems this resource create. If we really consider ourselves to be part of a global community we need to think about this before the next time we drive our cars somewhere. What are the true costs of our dependence on petroleum?

Bicycling is not the only answer to our transportation crisis but it can make up a big part of the solution. They are cheap, available to most people, don't require much energy to operate, good for your health, fun...

We need to start thinking about what are the reasons that we depend on cars that require so much energy to operate. How and why did we create a society in which everyone has to own a car? Who benefits from this society and who loses out? And most importantly we need to start acting.

We need to start demonstrating in our own individual lives that a society that doesn't require the energy of 1,000 light bulbs to move around is not only possible but is preferable. A more sustainable transportation network is only going to happen if people decide to make it happen. There is no better place in America to plug into this new society than in Portland. Check out and or just get on a bike.

Getting your bike ready for the summer

Here are some basic tune ups anyone can do to get your bike ready for some good summer riding.
What you need:

Rags, WD-40, Bike Chain Grease, little piece of sand paper (you can get all of these at Fred Meyer or just stop by the Bike Room located in JR Howard)

First we are going to improve your braking capability.
Begin by cleaning off all the residue and junk on your rims with a dry towel

Next lightly sand the inside of your break pads to get off any residue build up on them, this will increase your breaking ability. To do this you will need to unlatch the breaks and take off your wheel.

Unlatch your breaks – the latch might work differently depending on what kind of breaks you have

Next unlatch your wheel and unscrew the lever until you can just pull the wheel out. When you put it back in make sure it goes in the same way it came out, lever on the same side as your gears.
Lightly sand the inside of your break pads and then rub with a dry cloth to get off any extra residue. Then check to make sure your breaks are tight enough. This is somewhat of a personal preference.

However the break lever should not go to the handle bar

Twist the break adjuster until your breaks are tighter, you want to be able to spin your wheels without rubbing onto the breaks.

This is about how tight I like my breaks

Next we are going to clean and lube the chain, begin by spraying WD-40 into a dry cloth and then running your chain through the cloth. This will remove any grim from the chain.

Then liberally apply bike chain lube to your chain. As you drip it onto the chain have someone crank it and go through all the gears. This will make sure everything is lubed up!

Run another dry cloth over the chain to pick up any loose lube. This will prevent your chain from attracting lots of dirt.

Lastly get on your bike and enjoy your ride!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Comes After Environmentalism?

By Charles Halvorson

With just three short weeks remaining between now and graduation, the urge to reflect has begun to occupy this senior. In what must be a perennial activity for graduating classes everywhere, I fill out cap and gown measurements and I recollect. Often this recollection takes me down paths of social remembrances of little interest to anyone who wasn’t there. But sometimes, the object of my reminiscence has far broader relevance.

Central among these is the problem that dwarfs all others in its significance – climate change. Within our four years at Lewis and Clark, we have witnessed a transformation in the discussion of this issue. What was once a demand for radical change put forth by an almost exclusively liberal base has been taken up by mainstream society. This would have been a good thing except most Americans did not want to radically restructure the way we live our lives. Maintaining the status quo has hitherto taken precedence over enacting meaningful change and the solutions we have put forth seek to address the issue in terms that do not threaten the hegemony of capitalist accumulation in our culture.

As it was commercialized, global warming lost its urgency and its capability to inspire radical action. Green became the new black and proved itself an equally capable color when it came to denoting the bottom line. Emission credit swaps and the Hybrid Cadillac Escalade illustrate the degree to which our response to the threat of global catastrophe has been co-opted by the forces of capitalism and to our willingness, our eagerness to let this happen.

Skepticism cuts through the rhetoric of “buying green” and reveals our collective desire to hold environmental protection in high esteem without challenging the status quo of conspicuous consumption. We cannot simply change the names of our deities and presume to continue our vociferous consumption unabated. Our burgeoning population inhabits a planet with finite resources; clearly, our strategy for continued survival clearly cannot be predicated upon unlimited want.

Hardworking environmental advocates have capably synthesized and presented what will be the dire fate of our planet should we remain stuck in our current patterns. The threat of environmental catastrophe is real and plaintively evident to all who care to look: the dreidel on which humanity currently spins is coming perilously close to the edge of the table.

Recollection may remain in the realm of mere nostalgia. But remembering and empathizing with our younger selves also presents an opportunity to reconsider our present condition. The current state of environmentalism is not the inevitable conclusion of our historical circumstances. Indulging in our memories offers a poignant reminder of our continued agency.  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Earl Blumenauer

Lewis and Clark is a place where ordinary people become legends. Earl Blumenauer graduated from the same grounds that we walk on 38 years ago with a major in political science. At the age of 24 he ran and won a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives. Ever since then he has worked his way up through politics. In 1992 he lost his bid for mayor of Portland, however this turned out to be a stroke of luck because a US congress seat opened up afterwards which he won. He has been there ever since.

During this time he has taken a leading role in advocating action against climate change and bicycling as an alternative means of transportation. While many congressmen still sport their American flag pins, Blumenauer shows off a bicycle pin. The Wall Street Journal once commented that Blumenaer's “congressional office is one of the few – if not the only one – that didn't even apply for a parking permit. On occasion, Mr. Blumenauer has cycled to the White House. On Mr. Blumenauer's first visit, the Secret Service, more accustomed to limousines, was flummoxed at the sight of his bicycle.” He is one of only a handful of congressmen to vote against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War.

This past week in a heated debate on the floor of Congress he called out Republicans for fabricating numbers on climate change. In a moment of political passion he called the Republican claim that climate legislation would cost every American $3,100 a “canard” and “outright incorrect” based on the same MIT study the Republicans cite. He has recently been rewarded for his bike advocacy with the passage of the Bike Commuter Act, which pays people $20 a month to bike to work. (wouldn't it be nice if the LC administration followed in his footsteps and offered $20 a month for students to bike to school?)

At a college whose legacy into the foray of politics is usually only referenced to blow jobs and Monica Lewinsky, it is nice to see someone making a difference.

Monday, March 9, 2009

To be or not to be

The past year has not been an impressive for sustainability at Lewis and Clark College. Only two initiatives really stand out of the school fighting to become more sustainable. We increased in financial aid and the bookstore adopted a “sweatshop free” clothing policy. The school has also decided to turn down the heat in all building to save money.

While all of these advances should be applauded in many regards we have moved backwards. While the cutting of the shuttle service will save the school money, the costs will just be paid by the community, as we have to pay more money for cars, parking, and time spent driving around. The campus farm project, which was covered here the other week, failed to get off the ground and has been shelved because no department was excited enough to take charge of it. The school bike loan library program was a failure.

LC used to be at the forefront of sustainable leadership but over the last few years we are quickly being passed by. If we are ever going to return to being competitive with other schools we must ask ourselves why LC is at a stand still. Here are a small fraction of the exciting things going on at other schools and not at LC. The question is why?

-PSU got a $25 million grant from the Miller Foundation (the same people who our Miller Hall is named after) for sustainability. PSU must match the grant in 10 years, this means that at PSU in the next 10 years $50 million is going to be spent on sustainability.

-Oberlin College has agreed to provide $40,000 to fund a “sustainable house” on campus for students to live at. The renovated house is part of an eco-design class. The class will continue to work with the house after the renovation is complete.

-Oregon State University retrofitted 22 elliptical machines to generate electricity back into the power grid. This will produce an estimated 3,500 KWH every year.

-The University of Washington has begun using goats to eat english ivy and mow its lawn on their Bothell campus.

-The University of Delaware has a hydrogen powered bus

-Following a nine day hunger strike by students, Stanford University is expanding its living wage policy. This policy has now been expanded to include contracted workers. The reason we contract out all of our services is because LC has a similar living wage policy and contracting out allows us to avoid paying living wages. Where are the LC kids going on hunger strikes for our cleaning ladies?

-The Oregon Institute of Technology installed a 150-foot-tall drilling tower to eventually power its entire campus by geothermal energy. The heat trapping plant has a initial price tag of $4.5 million but will result in the school never having to pay for electricity again.

-Construction has begun at California State University, Fresno on a solar panel-topped parking structure system. 1 MW of photovoltaic panels are being installed atop 10 metal shelters that will shade more than 700 parking spaces. The panels will provide about 20 percent of the university's base electricity demand, which is equivalent to the power needs of 1,000 homes. The installation will cost about $11.9 million. LC just finished installing solar panels on top of the gym, which supplies .67% of our energy. And our micro turbine is broken.

-New Hampshire College, which like many other colleges (not LC), already has a full-time paid Sustainability Coordinator. However to show how much they value that position they moved that office along side the Office of the Provost.

All of these things have been dreamed up by someone at LC but those dreams have all lacked support to become realities. Instead every year we spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars on football which benefits a very limited number of students. At LC there has been no creative action to change the priorities of our school to promote sustainability. What are our school's priorities and how do we see those priorities receive the resources they require?

“To be or not to be” was the question Shakespeare once poised to us. We have the ideas to become a more sustainable campus, we have the desire, we definitely already have the words, but we lack action. If we as a community are going to become more sustainable it is going to require people taking action, getting involved, and fighting to make it a priority within our community. If a liberal arts college can't become sustainable then who can?

We should have a hydrogen bus instead of canceling buses. We have the same resources and similar opportunities as these other schools. The reason we are not on that list is that we put our resources elsewhere. Whether it is the football team or not (I think that would be a start) we need to look at that list and think about why we aren't on it and what needs to change to get us on it. Most importantly we need to act. Change requires action. I choose to be.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Taking The Road Less Travelled

By Sarah Bobertz

Somewhere on South Campus, there is a garden. It went mostly unnoticed by students, until Alex Johnson (’09) wrote a proposal last fall to institutionalize the garden and take advantage of a great opportunity to bring sustainability home to Lewis & Clark. The dream? An organic, sustainable farm project that could employ work-study students and give the Lewis & Clark community an amazing resource: truly local produce. The produce grown on the farm could supply produce to students, professors and neighbors in the Lewis & Clark community.

“This is about making the best use of our resources,” said Johnson, whose advocacy for this project has pushed it closer to reality than ever before. A Lewis & Clark farm would be the first college farm in Portland. The farm would also be a part of the growing CSA community. CSA stands for Community-Sustained Agriculture, and there are about a dozen member farms in the Portland area. It is a trend in local, sustainable agriculture, bringing local produce to a community level.

Lewis & Clark is the perfect place for a community farm. Its students are passionate about organic, local food and outdoor activities of any variety. The chance to learn about sustainable agriculture is a great educational opportunity, equal to any that could be found in a classroom, and there is a lot of interest and support on campus for the idea.

“The project grew really quickly and interest grew really quickly and before I knew it, it was like a wildfire,” said Johnson. Student, faculty, and staff support for a project proposal is not enough on its own to make projects a reality. Funding problems put the farm proposal on the proverbial back burner, presumably to be revisited in better economic times. After much budget trimming, operating costs for the first year of the farm are estimated to be about $15,000, and the profits from the first year would cover the operating budget for subsequent years. However, funding is not currently available from any Lewis & Clark source. Discretionary budgets of various departments have been cut, and there is no ASLC avenue to fund this type of project. Like with so many environmental initiatives, cash flow problems ultimately shelved the proposal.

The moral of the story is one of missed opportunity. The path to sustainability is about taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves to us, no matter what the cost. Energy efficient and environmentally friendly options are most often those that cost the most or are the least convenient in our current system. Organic produce is more expensive than non-organic, solar and wind energy is more expensive than oil and coal, and toxic materials are cheaper than biodegradable options

The opportunity for Lewis & Clark to run its own organic, sustainable farm is expensive, yes, but it is ultimately the best use of campus resources. Lewis & Clark’s commitment to organic, local food has earned the school notoriety among private liberal arts colleges. The chance to launch the first college farm in Portland, maintained by its own students, would create opportunities for both education and experience in sustainable agriculture, an increasingly important industry in the 21st century. Like solar power and biodegradable chemicals, a campus farm is not the easiest option to pursue, but it is the best one in our search for sustainability.