The benefits of Community Gardens and Green Rooftops

The amount of community gardens and green rooftops has significantly increased, especially in the urban setting. New York City is a prime example because it is one of the most crowded cities, people and building wise. This city is always undergoing new construction projects and movement, so it is about time that it took a few initiatives to mitigate the city’s ecological footprint. Community gardens and green rooftops are tackling climate change while providing numerous of other benefits to the community. Community gardens reduce the amount of transported food and offer locally grown fruits and vegetables. This reduces the emissions that are produced from transportation, which will reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and decrease the temperature.

Community gardens are proven to have mental health benefits especially in children. This allows more people to be more connected and aware of their surroundings. By being exposed to the benefits of community gardens can make people have a deeper connection to the environment and make them want to protect it. A few of the ways that it helps mitigate climate change are by filtering rainwater, and helps keeps rivers and groundwater clean. Reduces soil erosion and runoff, which decreases flooding and saves the city money. Overall, it reduces CO2 in the atmosphere because the plants and soils take up the CO2 and releases more oxygen, acting as sinks.

Green rooftops are also extremely beneficial to the urban environment and its well-being. Green rooftop contributes to storm water management because water is stored by the substrate and taken up by the plants from where it is returned to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation. In the summer, depending of the types of plants and their growing season, green roofs retain 70%-90% of the precipitation that falls on them. During the winter, they retain 25%-40% of the precipitation. Through the daily dew and evaporation cycle, plants on vertical and horizontal surfaces are able to cool cities during hot summer months and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. Green roofs can also help reduce the distribution of dust and particulate matter throughout the city, as well as the production of smog. This can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting urban areas to a future climate with warmer summers.

The plants on green roofs can capture airborne pollutants and atmospheric deposition. The temperature moderating effects of green roofs can reduce demand on power plants, and potentially decrease the amount of CO2 and other polluting by-products being released into the air. The presence of a green roof decreases the exposure of waterproofing membranes to large temperature fluctuations that can cause micro-tearing, and ultraviolet radiation. Green roofs can sustain a variety of plants and invertebrates, and provide a habitat for various bird species. By acting as a stepping stone habitat for migrating species they can link species together that would otherwise be fragmented. Using green roofs as the site for an urban agriculture project can reduce a community’s urban footprint through the creation of a local food system. (GreenRoof 2014)

There are many positive outcomes that come with the creation of community gardens and green rooftops. I hope that they will continue to increase which will minimize the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The plants and soils take up more CO2 and release more oxygen into the atmosphere. Community gardens and green rooftops are increasing and they are a great way to combat climate change.

Even though community gardens and green rooftops provide a lot of benefits for the environment, it also improves the well-being of those involved. Any person can get involved by joining an existing community garden or by creating their own. Once a person helps contributes to a community garden, they also get to take their own vegetables home. A person can also support community gardens by buying a plot f the garden and picking up their vegetables instead of buying them for the store. Green rooftops can be created on top of a person’s home or a office buildings.


Gardening Matters. 2012. Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening. Retrieved from:

Green Roof for Healthy Cities. 2014. Green Roof Benefits. Retrieved from:


Climate Change Guilt

By this point, many of us have spent years of our lives feeling guilty. We know we buy too much and waste too much. We don’t always eat organic. We drive cars and fly in airplanes even when it’s not strictly necessary. Sometimes we leave the lights on because it’s winter, and it’s dark, and it just feels nice. We’ve learned to think of these lapses as direct contributions to climate change, sinful pleasures that more conscientious people forswore long ago.

It’s entirely possible that some of climate change denial is rooted in an adverse reaction to this very guilt. People who refute the effects of rising emissions are reluctant to believe in something that will instill shame for their most quotidian actions. They can’t bear to accept that every time they let the tap run while brushing their teeth they’re adding to the force of our inexorable doom.

Who can blame them?

In his 2009 article “Forget Shorter Showers,” writer and environmental activist Derrick Jensen posed these questions:

“Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal ‘solutions?’”1

Jensen’s point is to equate the argument behind our constant, personalized guilt about climate change to the old saying, “Finish your dinner – children are starving in [some far-off country].” We knew it then and we know it now: whether or not we eat all that broccoli, there is no way a starving child will benefit from it.

But understanding that disconnect doesn’t stop us from trying to take on a problem the size of humanity at the scale of our individual, day-to-day actions. And here is something we perhaps should feel a little guilty about: for many of us, myself included, it’s easier to imagine that we’re making a dent in the world’s problems by biking to work than it is to join together as a united movement, confront the powers-that-be, and create change at the only level where it will make a difference. As Naomi Klein put it in a 2015 commencement address to the College of the Atlantic,

“The hard truth is that the answer to the question ‘What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?’ is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.”2

By pretending that we can stop climate change through our own tiny good intentions, we may be shirking a harder, scarier, far more imperative task.

I have to admit I can’t quite fathom the “massive and organized global movement” Klein envisions as an alternative to individual simple-living. But maybe the path to that kind of revolution can start as small as the path to a net-zero house or a greywater-fed garden. Instead of taking shorter showers, maybe we should be focusing on something just as easy but much more far-reaching: taking every opportunity to talk about climate change.

Dan Kahan, a Yale Law School professor and member of the Cultural Cognition Project, conducts studies to identify what motivates people to believe or disbelieve in climate change. Kahan found what many social scientists have found before: that most people are primarily motivated to agree with their friends, with the people they trust, and with the prevailing opinions of their social or political groups.3 Does everyone you know already believe in climate change? Then perhaps it’s time to start talking to people you don’t know.

Kahan is careful to stress that the mission of the average believer should not be to educate others about climate change. The scientific community has learned the hard way that throwing facts at the public doesn’t win any converts. What’s needed is more subtle: the creation, through sustained social pressure, of a cultural mindset that acknowledges climate change as a political (not just a scientific) issue, and one that requires action.

Developing such a culture certainly seems like a daunting task. But maybe if we free ourselves from the burden of our own misguided guilt, we’ll at last have the will to confront our neighbors. The less energy we expend in feeling bad about our cars and heating bills, the more we’ll have to think about and talk about and make voting decisions based on climate change, and the more chance we’ll have of swaying those with real power toward policies that will make a measurable difference in the composition of the atmosphere and the future of the planet.

  1. Jensen, D. 2009. Forget shorter showers. Orion Magazine.
  2. Klein, N. 2015. Climate change is a crisis we can only solve together. Commencement Address, College of the Atlantic. The Nation.
  3. Kahan, D.M. The tragedy of the risk-perception commons: culture conflict, rationality conflict, and climate change. Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 89.

Small Entrepreneurs with Huge Potential

With any problem that our species faces as a whole, come new and creative ideas to solve these problems. A group of innovators steps up and tries to solve the problem to the best of their ability. Climate change is one of these huge problems that our species is facing today. The forecast for climate change is grim, but that is not all there is to the story. There are tons of small entrepreneurs that are reinventing energy and that are poised to save the planet through their ideas.

“Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity” Julia Gillard

As an eager freshman determined to face the climate change problem head on, I came across this book called Earth: The Sequel by Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn. This book is all about how small entrepreneurs are using capitalism to save the world.

Harman's refrigerator fan.

Harman’s refrigerator fan.

One way these innovators are trying to solve climate change is by finding ways to make products more efficient. An example of this is PAX Scientific in San Rafael, California. Founded in 1997, Jay Harman harnessed nature’s efficiency to mundane products: fans and mixers, propellers and turbines. He first noticed that seaweed will twist itself into a coil in order for water to easily pass through it with the least possible resistance. Harman translated these natural shapes into mathematical algorithms that made these products. One of their first products was a little fan for refrigerator motors that is 25% more efficient than the conventional fans. If everyone who owned a refrigerator had this motor, it would translate to 219,000 megawatt-hour of electricity not being used (Krupp and Horn, 2008). Not too shabby for a refrigerator fan.

Another example is Serious Material, a construction company founded in 2002 by Marc Porat. Snoop Dogg was actually one of Porat’s first costumers. A product that is now in the market is called EcoRock, a type of drywall. Drywall produces 12 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide each year. These emissions come from the burning required to dry gypsum, grind it, boil it with water, shaping it, and drying it. EcoRock cooks itself through exothermic chemical reactions. Since it needs no heaters, it produces little to no carbon dioxide. It is also stronger, cheaper, and lighter than conventional drywall (Krupp and Horn, 2008).

A quick, little ted talk on EcoRock:

These are just several examples of the many entrepreneurs mentioned in this book that have the potential to change the way we deal with climate change. With new challenges, comes new solutions. With climate change being a complex problem, there are more opportunities for people to share their ideas on ways to solve this problem. Personally, I had only heard of a handful of these companies before reading this book. It is a shame that these companies have big ideas and even developed better, more efficient technology, but are not getting much recognition. Maybe if they did get the recognition they deserve and their products were more integrated into our lives, climate change would be much different than it is today.


Krupp, Fred, and Miriam Horn. Earth, the Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. Print.

How we deal with Ozone depletion VS Global warming


One of the most biggest issues across the world is probably ‘global warming’. According to the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5), the world is struggling with climate change because of the artificial rising of instruction development. Globally, we are still of different minds for how to deal with global warming. However, it is not true that we need to just let climate change happen without any action. In fact, we have acted globally to confront environmental problems in the past. A great example of this is ‘ozone depletion’ in 1980s. You probably know this was big news and also know that it is steadily recovering. This is a good example how international efforts can and are working. Then what about global warming? Do we think it has the possibility to recover from our current gloomy situation?

What I want to talk about through this post is our attitude on each situation: ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’.

Let’s compare the two situations. First, consider ozone depletion. Observed since the late 1956 by G.M.B. Dobson (Exploring the Atmosphere, 2nd Edition, Oxford, 1968), the ozone hole was what gathered the attention of not only a lot of scientists from all around the world, but also public’s fear of ozone depletion and the ozone hole. As many of you already know, the ozone layer is a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits 9.3 to 18.6 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) above the Earth and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the Sun. Thanks to media’s fuss at that time, fear of ozone depletion spread all around the world. Throughout the 20th century, discoveries and observations trickled in that allowed scientists to understand how human-made chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons create a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica each spring. Not only people’s fears about ozone depletion but also swift action by advanced countries led to clear and concrete actions. In 1987, representatives from 43 nations signed the Montreal Protocol. At Montreal, almost all advanced countries, such as USA and EU, agreed to freeze production of CFCs at 1986 levels and to reduce production by 50% by 1999. Apparent results and swift actions led by advanced countries made a bad situation better noticeably and effectively. It has been extremely successful.

What about global change? Global warming is what we struggle with these days. What is now clear is that global warming is caused by humankind. This fact was not acknowledged by many people at first. Too many suspicions even at the national level made it hard to progress into action. Because the burning of fossil fuels – which produce of GHGs – are linked to both global warming and national development, it is no doubt to hard to give up. The first time when it was brought up, developed countries such as USA did not really pay attention to global warming. The countries that emit the most GHGs in the world are reluctant to stop burning fossil fuels to cease the acceleration of global warming. Even though fossil fuel burning must stop (or reduce dramatically) to reduce global warming, when it comes to real actions, the USA didn’t really act. At the ‘Kyoto protocol’, it implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. However, the United States rejected the treaty on the basis that “it exempts 80% of the world, including major population centers such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy.” For these reasons, the treaty to reduce global warming is not effective and slow. Fortunately, fewer and fewer people believe global warming is fake and the IPCC also clearly states that it is caused by people’s actions. However, actions toward global warming are still slow and not effective.

Because global warming is entwined with economical and political issues, it is really hard to step forward. Comparing the two examples of ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’, the approach each issue shows how much we can accomplish when we decide to take action. Complex situations with other countries – especially related to economic and political issues – make it more difficult to step forward and achieve what we need to achieve. We need to think seriously and act to do our best to stop global warming.

Reference :

– Liverman, D.M. (2008). “Conventions of climate change: constructions of danger and the dispossession of the atmosphere” (PDF). Journal of Historical Geography 35 (2): 279–296. doi:10.1016/j.jhg.2008.08.008. Retrieved 10 May 2011

-Summary for Policymakers” (PDF). IPCC/TEAP special report on safeguarding the ozone layer and the global climate system: issues related to hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. Cambridge: Published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [by] Cambridge University Press. 2005. ISBN 0-521-86336-8.

We Need to Believe in Change!

I think one of the hardest ideas to comprehend about climate change to is that we can reverse or reduce the damage humanity has already done to Earth. This doubt might prevent someone from taking action. Everyone says, “how is one person not recycling going to make a difference”, just as an example. Especially right now with many of the 2016 presidential campaign politicians still rejecting climate change as a fact. It seems like only one of the candidates is motivated to do something about climate change – maybe two but I am not sure if I trust what that individual has to say.

To understand if change can happen you can’t focus on what is happening politically. As we know there are many sources of greenhouse gases. All need to decrease significantly in order for modern society to live sustainably, but I want to focus on energy. This is the largest source of carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans. Finally, change is happening in this industry!

In 2000 the IEA Global Wind Council projected that wind power would account for 30 Gigawatts by 2010. By 2015, the amount of energy produced by wind turbine was 14.5x the projected amount. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association solar companies will add 16 gigawatts of panels in the U.S. in 2016. This is over double of what was installed last year (Ryan 2016). The triggers for the increase of solar installation were the price plunging by 67% since 2010 and a 30% tax credit that makes solar even more affordable. The price of solar has dropped so much that it is getting closer to cross the grid parity line, which is when the cost of renewable energy is less than the cost of fossil fuel. Once it crosses this line the incentive to invest in solar will be exponential.

The investment in renewable energy is happening around the world as well. 81% percent of the energy Germany uses comes from renewable sources. Many underdeveloped nations have been increasing the installation of solar panels (Sawin 2015). The Sustainable Energy for All is an international initiative with the goals of ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

There is hope that we can get away from our reliance on fossil fuels. For a long time scientists have been working to increase the public’s understanding of what climate change is and how it works (for example, on TV news and science shows). Now that the global majority understand this, the next step is getting people to believe they should invest in a sustainable future. The most successful companies in the world tell the consumers why they believe in their product. Its not about what their product is or how it works. The climate change movement should start to send the message of why we believe renewable energy and other sustainable environmental practices will create a better future for society.


Ryan, Joe. “U.S. Solar Growth Will More Than Double in 2016, Study Finds.” Bloomberg, 9 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

Sawin, Janet L. RENEWABLES 2015 (n.d.): n. pag. Renewable Energy Policy Network, 9 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

The Dirt on Climate Change

As a collective whole, we humans are making dangerous adjustments to our planet’s thermostat. Then again, as individuals, many of us are searching for ways to reverse this trend. For now, look no farther than the patch of ground beneath your feet.


You may be standing on the second story of an office building or on a parking lot, but beneath these trappings, lies potential. As opposed to just a blank slate in which we grow our veggies, healthy soil is a living entity and a crucial carbon sink.

Plants convert CO2 into chemical energy through photosynthesis. Rather than being released back to the atmosphere, this carbon can end up in the soil thanks to the host of microbes that do business with plant roots. Essentially, living plants leak extra carbon to  bacteria and fungi in the soil in exchange for other nutrients. Soil organisms use this energy to go about their lives, and in the process, they transform decaying organic matter into humus.

k7421540_HUMMUSDespite lacking a second “m,” humus does relate to the delicious Mediterranean spread in the sense that it is extremely important to soil fertility, and thus all plants, garbanzo beans notwithstanding. Although humus is highly complex and difficult to define, there is no mystery shrouding its relative stability. Humified carbon can stick around for well over a hundred years in the soil without degrading to CO2. 1   So, we can picture high-functioning soil as a massive carbon sponge capable of storing thousands of gigatonnes of carbon.2

But, what about soil­­­ that no longer hosts an ecosystem of humus-makers? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of it underfoot. Any number of crops may soon be planted in such soils across the continent this summer. Widespread application of chemicals has largely uncoupled conventional agriculture from soil health in the modern era. In excess, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides can severely alter microbial communities, rendering the soil inherently less fertile (so it requires even more inputs), and ultimately reducing its carbon-storing capacity.3


But, let’s set industrial agriculture aside, and ground this conversation closer to home. At the very least, we can all be the land managers of our own backyards. Even damaged dirt can recover if we are willing to get our hands dirty restoring soil health. As you roll up your sleeves, keep the following principles in mind:

1. Less Lawn

Let’s face it, despite being costly
to maintain in terms of cash, water, and fossil fuel, many of us still want tidy, green grass in our lives. Nevertheless, we can shrink our lawns and our carbon footprint in step. Even if you replace just the corners of your lawns with native shrubs and cover plants, you can improve soil health and streamline your  lawnmower’s trajectory. Ask around at your local plant nursery to select suitable, native vegetation that’s pleasing to the eye and to the soil microbes.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.18.41 PM

2. More Mulch

Don’t toss the grass clippings when you trim your now-svelte lawn. Use them as a “green manure” to boost the health of your yard. Let them dry for a few days, and then incorporate them as needed around flowerbeds, trees, or shrubs. Also, use mulches such as straw, leaves, or wood chips on top of your soil as a protective blanket to encourage soil moisture and to reduce weeds.

3. You till, you kill

Admittedly, this mantra is a bit of an overstatement. Tilling can be very useful; experienced gardeners routinely dig up tidy rows in the spring. But, tearing up the dirt disturbs the living soil community and the resources they depend on. Avoiding tillage can improve soil moisture, prevent soil loss, and promote soil fertility in the long run.650x360xnotilling.jpg.pagespeed.ic.eOHliNvsUc

 4. Don’t dare to bare

Perhaps the most important lesson of all is to minimize bare soil. Carbon stored in soil can rapidly escape to the atmosphere as CO2 when exposed to the air. Prevent this scenario by keeping pathways narrow, tilling less, and covering  exposed  soil with vegetation or mulch.

Additional Resources:


  1. Dungait, J. A. J., Hopkins, D. W., Gregory, A. S. and Whitmore, A. P. 2012. Soil organic matter turnover is governed by accessibility not recalcitrance. Glob Change Biol, 18: 1781–1796.
  2. Ecological Society of America. 2000. Carbon sequestration in soils.
  3. Schwartz, J. 2014. Soil as carbon storehouse: new weapon in climate fight? Yale Environment 360.
  4. Barker, D. and M. Pollan. 2015. A secret weapon to fight climate change: dirt. The Washington Post.

Ecotourism the New Movement

Ecotourism has become extremely popular in a lot of countries, mostly in developing countries. Ecotourism is a great way to preserve the environment while providing the local people with economic profit. According to Martha Honey book, Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who owns Paradise? There are new tourists that want a different experience from the resort world. People are starting to get into tourism that involves nature. These types of activities might include hiking, sight-seeing, zip lining, climbing, and other recreational activities. Since this boom of ecotourism has arisen, many countries have taken initiative to conserve more forests and wildlife. This also gives the opportunity to the local people to start their own small sustainable businesses. Martha Honey mentioned in her book the seven key characteristics of ecotourism are: It

  1. Travel to natural destinations
  2. Minimizes environmental impact
  3. Builds environmental awareness
  4. Provides direct money to conservation
  5. Provides money and empowerment to local people
  6. Respects local culture
  7. Supports human rights and democratic movements

A great example of this is Costa Rica, which have broken a record this year for having 2.6 million tourists visits in the year 2015. That is fantastic that so many people around the world want to visit Costa Rica to explore its natural wonders. In Monteverde, Costa Rica is located the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, which allows the visitors access to see only 2% of the forest. The rest of the forest is protected and the visitors of the forest help contribute to the protection of the forest: some of the money for the ticket goes toward persevering the forest. The visitors also bring in revenue for the local people instead of the big corporations that are not involved in the environmental movement.

The community of Monteverde knows how popular ecotourism has become and has created small businesses that provide people with different experiences. Tourism has also become a popular career choice for students. Tour guides go into the field, and mostly work in national parks to eventually have their own business one day. Another popular attraction in Costa Rica, is in the Osa Peninsula where the Corcovado National Park is located. This national park holds 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity. It is a major attraction for people and economic source for the country. This makes the government more willing to protect the forests of Costa Rica, at the same time creating environmental awareness for people.

Ecotourism is helping combat climate change because since the forests are being reserved, there are more trees and biodiversity. The forests are acting as carbon sinks and absorbing more CO2 in the atmosphere. If the forests will use this CO2 and store it in biomass. There will be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will cause  less harmful impacts to the environment. If there is less CO2 in then it will reduce the greenhouse effect and climate change.


Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If ecotourism is done the right way then more forests and natural land are going to be conserve which is going to help with climate change. If more forests are being protected instead of being deforested by people, then they will act as carbon sinks and decrease the amount of CO2 occurring in the environment. Ecotourism provides a lot of benefits, and the biggest one is protecting the environment. I am hopeful that a lot of forests and wildlife will be protected in the long term because of ecotourism.


Honey, Martha (2008) Ecotourism and Sustainable Development:Who Owns Paradise? 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: Island Press.




A Sea of Success in 2015

Written by: Gabe Andrews

Skimming Skimmer

Our senses are constantly bombarded with the woes of the world. The familiar fragrance of gasoline permeates our nostrils in stalling traffic; smog encircles the burbs and bronchi. We hear the stories of violence and unrest from the talking heads on television, to which we’ve become distressingly accustomed. We see images of plastic oceans and oceans of plastic. We glaze over.

The oceans, though they feel everything we do, are not burdened by the knowledge of an uncertain future with unstable humans.  They live on, especially when we give them room to do so. 2015 was a good year for oceans. We should talk about it and why it matters.

2015 Heroes 

  1. Palau. This western Pacific island made an awe-inspiring move last October. With the stroke of a pen, 500,000km2 of ocean found protection from industrial and foreign fishing. That’s an area representing an astonishing 80% of Palau’s waters [1].
  1. Chile. Following in the footsteps of the late Doug Tompkins, Chile preserved 397,000km2 of it’s waters, with an additional 631,000 km2 proposed to join the club [1].
  1. New Zealand. The Kiwis have always had a reputation for being green, but they upped their game last year when they designated 620,000km2 of ocean as a non-take preserve [1], which is essentially the area all of New Zealand’s land mass. Doubled.
  1. The United Kingdom. Rounding out the groundbreakers (or seabreakers) for 2015 is another island nation. With the declaration of the Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve, the UK created the largest fully protected marine area in the world with a whopping 834,000km2 of South Pacific waters secured [1].

Courtesy of Marine Conservation Institute

In total, these four countries conserved an area the size of two Alaskas. Besides a victory for depleted fish stocks and crumbling coral reefs, the designation of some 2,982,000km2 as marine protected area (MPA) in 2015 could also help ecosystems cope with the effects of our carbon appetite.

Climate change threatens to bring more than stronger storms, longer droughts, and crop crises. We notice these things because our eyes are fixed on the land and skies around us. But our oceans may face even greater pressures [2]. Researchers predict that intact habitats are the best defense against such stress. Marine ecosystems protected at a large scale have a stronger capacity to “absorb climate impacts.” [3]. With an estimated worldwide coral loss of 70% by 2050 [4] we need to encourage all of the resilience we can. In addition to absorbing climate impacts, MPAs provide a buffering capacity for bordering waters [5], often with spillover effects that restore ecosystem dynamics [6]. Coupled with enhancing diversity, healthy communities have the ability to increase resistance to—and recovery from—disturbance over time [7], a promising thought given the projected changes that lie ahead.

Loggerhead Sunrise. By: Gabe Andrews

In all, we have protected 2.2% of our oceans in 13,674 designated areas around the globe; awaiting proposals could bring the total up to 3.6% this year [1]. Small nations like Palau and New Zealand have given us reason for optimism. Using different models on land and at sea, we can work together to protect habitats that could assuage the consequences of climate change and help diversity thrive. As cohorts of citizens, we should continue to urge our elected officials to protect ecosystems and their functions. As individuals, we should reduce our consumption and our carbon footprint. Beyond the practical necessity to preserve vast stretches of ocean, lies the appeal to remember that “if there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” [8]



  1. MPAtlas Marine Conservation Institute: Accessed 23 Feb. 2016
  2. U.S. EPA: Climate Change Indicators in the United States: Accessed 23 Feb. 2016
  3. Graham, et al.,2008. Climate warming, marine protected areas and the ocean-scale integrity of coral reef ecosystems. PLoS ONE 3(8) e3039.
  4. Mcleod, E. et al., 2009. Designing marine protected area networks to address the impacts of climate change Designing to address marine the area protected of climate impacts networks change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(7), pp.362–370.
  5. NOAA Marine Protected areas Accessed 23 Feb. 2016.
  6. Micheli, F. et al., 2012. Evidence that marine reserves enhance resilience to climatic impacts. PLos ONE 7(7), e40832
  7. Bernhardt, J.R., and Leslie, H.M. 2013. Resilience to climate change in coastal marine ecosystems. Annual Review of Marine Science 5, pp.371-392.
  8.  Eiseley, L. C.,1953. The Flow of the River. The American Scholar22(4), 451–458


Another Day, Another Dollar

The average American is fairly conscious of their monetary spending. With an issue such as climate change why not use this reality to our advantage? Truth be told, a number of daily activities can be altered to help the planet without hurting your wallet!

While this may seem like old news, I want to reiterate some very simple, money saving changes that we can make to reduce waste and improve the climate trajectory. Since food is necessary and continually present in our daily lives, let’s focus our attention there. In fact, let’s cut an even smaller slice of the pie and consider our household refrigerators and the foods we put in them.

The average American household spends around $6600 on food annually – about $4000 on groceries with an additional $2600 spent eating out [4]. Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 5.27.34 PMBehind housing and transportation, food represents one of the largest portions of the American budget – approximately 13% [4]. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this money is wasted when food spoils or is left uneaten. Scientists believe that approximately 40% of American food is wasted [2,6]. While much of this waste can be attributed to practices outside of individual homes, it’s hard to deny our partial accountability. In fact, the average American is accused of wasting 25% of the food they bring home [6]. Ok, lets do the math – $4000 spent on groceries and 25% goes to waste – the average household throws out $1000 each year! If you had 1000 dollars would you wrap it in plastic and toss it into a landfill? Probably not.

As a consumer we can only benefit from reducing our waste. Some strategies for reducing waste are as easy as planning meals, being conscious of the foods in your home and strategically using the freezer. If $1000 isn’t enough of an incentive, consider the environmental impact of these simple changes. By reducing household waste we can moderate greenhouse gas emission from multiple angles. Reduced waste means reduced demand – food production is a major source of carbon emission – lower consumer demands equal lower emissions [2].
Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 11.08.18 AMAdditionally, less food decomposing in landfills means less methane entering the atmosphere [2].

Why not protect our pockets and the environment at the same time – being aware and resourceful with the food in our fridge is a small contribution with double the incentive. Speaking of refrigerators… lets shift gears and consider the “cool incentives” this appliance has to offer. Chilling food allows us to significantly extend shelf life, improve food accessibility and when used appropriately, reduce waste. The refrigerator has its down sides of course. Refrigerators require a constant supply of electricity and account for 10 to 15 percent of a household’s monthly energy consumption [3]. Being one of the biggest electricity consumers in the average home, its important to ensure that this appliance is running as efficiently as possible [3].

When considering energy saving alternative, new “Energy Star” rated refrigerators are by far the most efficient option – up to 50% more efficient then their older counterparts [1,3]. However, replacing the refrigerator is not in the cards for many of us. Luckily, there are a few simple steps we can take to boost the efficiency of any run-of-the-mill refrigerator.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.16.13 PMFirst off, check the temperature settings! Your refrigerator should be set at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit [5]. Saving energy is as easy as the flip of a switch – the “power-save” or “energy saver” switch that is – be sure it is turned on! Dropping the thermostat down by even 1 degree can make a significant difference in energy consumption [3].

Location and upkeep are other simple fixes that should be considered. Take a few minutes to look at your fridge. Is it near a large window or located by a heating vent?
If moving your fridge isn’t an option – and lets be real, its not for most – then consider covering the window to reduce sunlight exposure and be sure to close any heat vents near by. Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.16.51 PMReducing external heat sources will improve refrigerator efficiency [1]. While your admiring your refrigerator take a gander at the condenser coil (typically found on the back or underside of the fridge). Is it clean? Likely not. Cleaning the condenser coil is a very simple task that can improve the efficiency of your refrigerator by 1/3! [3] That’s basically free money!

Why not use monetary incentives to our advantage, sure these changes help the planet, but they also keep money in your pocket – anyone can afford to save money! These changes might seem trivial, but minor day-to-day actions add up. So, get acquainted with your refrigerator, give it a little TLC and lighten its load. As for the food, be aware of your purchases and the contents in your fridge; don’t let wasted food toll the environment, or your wallet!

Help the planet: Waste less. Save money!








Look who’s talking…

What if I asked you whether human-caused climate change were a real and imminent threat? Let’s imagine you wanted to respond with a pithy idiom. You might say:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 3.06.20 PM

“Does a bear poop in the woods?”

Umm, well, I suppose so…




“Does the pope wear a funny hat?” Pope_Francis

Come to think of it….

But, speaking of the pope, does Francis agree with you on the matter? He sure does, calling climate change a “global problem with grave implications” in his 184-page encyclical Laudato Si this past September. Move over Al Gore, because the pope is not the only person with star power joining the climate change discussion on the international stage.

In 2014, Arnold Schwarzenegger and six other executive directors launched a documentary TV-series on climate change with celebrity correspondents including Jessica Alba, Matt Damon, and Harrison Ford. To paraphrase Schwarzenegger’s intention to air a second season of Years of Living Dangerously later in 2016, he more or less said, “I’ll be back.”

In September 2014, Leonardo DiCaprio lent his celebrity to the UN climate summit in New York. Although he did not make mention of it in his speech, his serious concerns over rising sea levels may have first set in when he filmed the final scenes of Titanic. The 2014 UN summit also opened with a short video on climate change narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman. Climate change deniers the world over cringed at this film, well aware that when Morgan Freeman narrates something, nature makes it so.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 3.13.27 PM.png

All jests aside, more celebrities are getting involved in climate change activism, and, in turn, hopefully engaging wider audiences on the topic. I am not sure I take heart in the fact that Han Solo and the Terminator are on board with cutting carbon emissions, but I think it is a good thing that more people are discussing the same agenda.

Or, at least tweeting about it—UVM researchers recently conducted an analysis of 1.5 million climate-related tweets, and tallied considerably more Twitter activity from climate change activists than from climate change deniers, “indicating that the twittersphere largely agrees with the scientific consensus on this issue.” 1 But, what about those near-mythical folks who dwell outside of the twittersphere?

After ducking out of the pouring rain on a 60°F day this past December, a friend of mine overheard this conversation while waiting in line at a Burlington pharmacy:

“You know, this is on account of global warning,” a man said of the weather to another woman waiting in line. “We’ll be seeing more of this as the glacier melts.”

Later, my friend and I puzzled over this conversation—is it good that people are connecting strange weather to global warming (or warning?) even if they are extremely confused by the terminology and the science behind climate change? At the very least, it’s more encouraging than politicians who deny that climate change exists.2

To me, recent stories of people taking extraordinary action against climate change are speaking more loudly than any misguided presidential candidate. For one, a growing chorus of island nations is making a powerful moral case to aggressively combat climate change on a global scale; check out Marshall Island poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the 2014 UN climate summit. 3 In another David and Goliath-type story, 21 young Americans are currently suing the U.S. government over climate change.4 They view U.S. promotion of fossil fuel as a direct affront to their right to enjoy a livable future. They may or may not win in court, but at the very least they ought to get people talking.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 3.25.32 PM

  1. Cody, E., A. Regan, L. Mitchell, P.S. Dodds, C. Danforth. 2015. Climate Change Sentiment on Twitter: an Unsolicited Public Opinion Poll. Plos One.
  1. Merchant, E. 2015. News Republic. How the 2016 Presidential Candidates View Climate Change.
  1. Mooney, C. and J. Warrick. 2015. Washington Post.
  1. Taylor, D. 2015. Huffington Post.