Happy New Year, TEA!
With a new year comes new opportunities to reconnect with your Tufts roots – be they colleagues in the environmental field or friends you’re still in touch with from your first days on campus. And with the events and activities TEA puts on throughout the year, we can help make that happen! TEA is hosting its 2nd annual Environmental Career Night on Monday, February 25th, and we welcome all alumni to attend. You can RSVP here.
If you’re not in Boston, not to worry! We hosted a networking event for Washington, DC, area members in January, which was a lot of fun, and we’d love to meet up in your area, too.
TEA is also looking for new steering committee members. As a member of the TEA Steering Committee, you will participate in meetings and help plan programs and events. Please email TEA (firstname.lastname@example.org) your resume and a brief bio if you’re interested!
We hope you enjoy this winter edition of the TEA Newsletter. If you’d like to contribute an Op Ed or know of a fellow Jumbo who would make a great alumni spotlight, please let us know!
— Ann Gisinger (G’10) on behalf of the TEA Steering Committee
Tufts Institute of the Environment Update
TIE Convenes Panel on Resilience
It’s already been a busy start to 2013 for Tufts Institute of the Environment. On January 15th and 16th TIE ran a panel discussion and workshop on “Coastal Cities: Planning for Resilience, Adaptation, and Sustainability” at the National Council on Science and the Environment (NCSE) conference Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness and Resilience. The panel was moderated by Professor Kent Portney, with New England-based speakers discussing the Who, What, and How of adaptation plans; nine recommendations came out of the workshop that will be used by the NCSE to brief policy makers. With over 125 attendees at the two events, Tufts made a significant contribution to the conference!
Though I expected the conference to focus on infrastructure and engineering solutions to environmental disasters, I was surprised and pleased to find speakers and panelists agreeing on the importance of ecological approaches and social capital. Participants considered both grey (e.g., engineering) and green (e.g., wetland restoration) solutions to the myriad issues.
I was particularly impressed by Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. The thesis of her keynote address was that it isn’t the disturbance of nature that creates a disaster but society that provides the basis for it. She discussed communities and their role in changing the course of a crisis and helping to alleviate suffering. She then talked about the 8-year-old HYOGO Framework for Action to reduce disaster losses, and how surprisingly few decision-makers know about it. With respect to climate change she remarked, “there will be social instability; there will be losses; citizens will have to take care of their own risks.” Her speech reminded me of a book I recently read by the economist E.F. Schumacher, titled Small is Beautiful, in which the author stipulates that complexity increases vulnerability and risk. Ms. Wahlstrom and many of the speakers throughout the conference talked about the importance of creating early warning systems, development planning (including both agriculture and urban planning), the challenges with information flow, and the issues around governance. These are all topics that we care deeply about, which is reflected in our teaching and research at Tufts.
For the very first time I heard serious mention of land abandonment at a conference. Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey, pointed out that coastal zones are dangerous places to live; Craig Fugate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) called attention to insurance claims. As taxpayers we are subsidizing coastal risks below market value, and insuring properties where we might not be able to afford to live. Nancy Kete from the Rockefeller Foundation referred to a study published in a book called “On the Water: Pallisade Bay,” which highlighted how “soft infrastructure” was being implemented in New York City as an attempt to adapt to climate change. Several speakers mentioned sacrificing land areas to save critical infrastructure.
In the end, the general sentiment of the conference was that Benjamin Franklin’s advice for fire fighting, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is relevant for climate change disaster prevention.
If this snapshot has made you curious, check the NCSE website in a few weeks to see what next year’s conference will be about.
I am looking forward to seeing some of you at the upcoming TEA events.
Antje Danielson is the Administrative Director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment. She can be reached at Antje.Danielson@tufts.edu.
Environmental Studies Update
New interdisciplinary seminar entitled “Food for All: Ecology, Biotechnology and Sustainability” team-taught by Professors Colin Orians, Tim Griffin and Sara Gomez.
With the human population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, how will we meet the increasing demand for food in an ecologically sustainable way? This is the question a new interdisciplinary seminar asks a diverse group of both graduate and undergraduate students to consider.
Representing such fields as Environmental Studies, International Relations, Biology, Engineering, Nutrition, Urban Planning and Policy, and Education, these students will explore how rapid increases in food production and yield have historically been the result of three main technologies: (1) improvements to the use and practice of genetic modification of seeds; (2) the development and use of synthetic pesticides and/or fertilizers; and (3) the increased use and increased size of irrigation projects.Students will review these technological advances in light of their limitations and for the significant environmental degradation that has resulted from them. Together, students and faculty will work to identify and explore new approaches to food production that do no destroy the environment.
In this interdisciplinary seminar, Professors Orians, Griffin, and Gomez will compel students to examine the pros and cons of two divergent approaches to meeting food demand: organic farming and genetic engineering. Using case studies of how crops are grown in developing countries and how they are grown in industrialized countries, students will evaluate: (1) how ecological knowledge makes food production more sustainable; (2) what existing and emerging approaches can, in the face of climate change, contribute to a reliable supply of nutritious food; and (3) the political and economic drivers that shape who has access to these technologies. The class will also explore the perspectives of specific stakeholders (growers, advocacy groups, industry, governmental agencies), as well as develop important communication skills for negotiating on behalf of these different perspectives.
Given the diverse background and interests of the students — some students grew up on farms, some have worked internationally and others are simply passionate about issues of food justice — the seminar will allow them, as well as faculty, to no doubt learn from each other.
For more information on “Food for All,” or how to be involved as an alumni, visit the newly updated website, or e-mail me.
Colin Orians is a Professor in the Biology department and Director of the Environmental Studies program. He can be reached at Colin.Orians@tufts.edu.
Financing Sustainable Sectors
Briana Malloy graduated from Tufts in 2005 and almost immediately began working at Root Capital, a small nonprofit social investment fund located in Cambridge, MA that lends to sustainable agricultural businesses. Since that time, Briana has remained at Root Capital, where she focuses on loan operations and legal matters, such as loan administration and processing, and enforcing Root Capital’s loan documents in different regions. She also sits on Root Capital’s Global Credit Committee, where she reviews potential loans and develop standards for underwriting. She has witnessed and contributed to Root Capital’s remarkable growth over that time, as the company has more than doubled in size and exceeded $400 million in loan disbursements to businesses in Africa and Latin America since its founding in 1999. Briana sat down with TIE intern Caroline Incledon to discuss Root Capital, its growth, and her unique role in the company.
You graduated from Tufts with a degree in International Relations and Spanish. Did you have a goal to work in the environment field upon graduating from Tufts? How did you end up at Root Capital?
At Tufts, I was a member of ECO, the Environmental Consciousness Outreach group, and we focused on improving environmental standards on campus and increasing environmental awareness among students. I’ve also had a longtime interest in agriculture, have volunteered on farms, and am a member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Root Capital, as a non-profit lender specializing in rural agricultural markets, was a perfect fit for me. I came to Root Capital not necessarily with an interest in business or finance but with a love for their mission. In both my studies and in my practice working at Root Capital I have witnessed how the environment is an inextricable component of development. I also now see business as a more sustainable solution than aid and as a potential catalyst for environmental conservation and poverty alleviation.
You work as a loan operations manager, meaning that you work on financial matters in the office. How does Root Capital integrate environmental sustainability initiatives with its lending techniques?
In terms of environmental standards for lending, we use both a social scorecard and an environmental scorecard to evaluate potential borrowers. The environmental scorecard looks at everything from the basics, such as whether the business has environmental policies and whether producers are aware of those policies, to more technical issues, such as whether the business is efficiently using water and other resources or how significantly they are using agrochemicals. The scorecards are pretty rigorous and include a rating system that compares all of our borrowers across a variety of industries. We look favorably upon certain environmental certifications (such as organic, Rainforest Alliance, Marine Stewardship Council, and others) but don’t rely on certifications solely to determine whether to work with a potential borrower.
We also support better environmental practices by encouraging the use of clean and appropriate technologies that benefit both the environment and the business. We have provided financing for such technologies as water-efficient coffee washing stations or biodigesters that process the waste from production processes in an ecological way. We also leverage partnerships with technical assistance providers to support the implementation of these technologies.
Obviously, environmental standards would vary by country and occupation, or be characterized by varying levels of commitment. How do you deal with this difficulty when assessing businesses for their environmental record?
Evaluating a businesses’ net impact on the environment is nuanced and depends on the industry, geopolitical context, and local business environment. We have borrowers in over 30 countries that produce and sell products ranging from coffee and cashews to fresh produce and handcrafts. We try to be rigorous while keeping in mind these unique contexts as well as the opportunity costs of doing business. There are certain things, though, that are “red flags”: we wouldn’t finance a business that is deforesting virgin forests, for example. We also have different loan authorities that approve an applicant depending on their environmental scorecard results. For example, if an applicant receives scores below certain thresholds, either in aggregate or in a single category, then the loan proposal will be sent to a higher committee for approval.
What are some of the specific ways that Root Capital supports small businesses that employ responsible environmental practices?
Beyond the specific loan products I mentioned earlier such as clean technology finance, first and foremost is simply that we are present in the sustainable agricultural sector. Despite consumer demand for organic or sustainably produced products there is lack of access to working capital finance for producers. The local financial sectors in the countries where we operate are not adequately serving many of these businesses. We prove that risks can be mitigated and that these are bankable businesses.
Do you have any career advice for Tufts students who want to work in the environmental field?
My advice would be to keep an open mind in terms of your career path—there are so many ways to plug into the environmental field. Environmental organizations have a need for people with business, technical, or legal backgrounds who want to apply those skills to environmental work. The broad education that Tufts offers is a solid base for pursuing environmental work.
Caroline Incledon (A’13) is an intern at TIE and a senior at Tufts. She is majoring in Political Science with a minor in Mass Communications and Media Studies. She has previously worked with international NGOs such as Global Policy Forum and Club de Madrid, and became interested in issues of sustainability while working on issues of responsible investment in higher education. At TIE, she works on social media and various communications projects.
Adventures of International Educationeers
By Caroline Incledon (A’13)
When Laura Read and Gabrielle String started International Educationeers in Fall 2011, they could not have realized the project they were embarking on. They were simply trying to start a student interest group to remedy what they viewed as common oversights in how international development engineering projects are currently implemented. Both had worked with organizations such as Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and realized that even though there are many talented people working with Engineers Without Borders, engineering projects often don’t succeed in the long term due to a lack of education models in the implementation system. Projects attract talented workers, but are planned before these workers even enter the community. This model lacks a focus on the citizens of the communities in question, who may not be fully integrated in planning for a project, and often lack training and knowledge about a project or its benefits. Overlooking these on-the-ground considerations can impact the long-term success of engineering projects.
Laura and Gabrielle realized that the traditional method for conducting engineering projects abroad, which neglected the value of incorporating community input and support both before and after the project, had a negative impact on the longevity of projects. To combat this, Gabrielle and Laura created International Educationeers in Fall 2011, in order to create a forum for students at Tufts interested in creating a framework for more sustainable international development projects. By promoting education models in the primary implementation system and focusing on the communications aspects of engineering projects, they felt they could create engineering development projects that were ultimately more sustainable.
They began by researching education models that could be adapted to their projects, pulling from public health education standards and ideas from the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) at Tufts University. Both drew on their current areas of study, as Laura is a NSF IGERT Water Diplomacy Fellow and a Civil and Environmental Engineer at Tufts and Gabrielle is a Masters Candidate in Mechanical Engineering conducting research on the sustainability of Engineers Without Borders programs. Along the way they were helped by their advisor Christopher Swan, an Associate Professor at Tufts School of Engineering and a researcher at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach and Annie Soisson, the associate director of CELT. Eventually, they developed a framework for working on educational development which enabled them to assess future engineering projects and their impacts on communities. This led to a model that not only educated communities, but also empowered them to make their own decisions. Laura and Gabrielle believed that by including citizens in the planning, construction, and maintenance of engineering projects, they could create projects that were more effective for the specific communities and more sustainable overall.
Soon, this framework was put into action. Laura and Gabrielle received a Tisch Active Citizenship Summer Fellowship Grant and funding from the Tufts Institute of the Environment to implement their ideas in two rural communities in South America. Laura, along with Sara Matasci, a recent graduate of International Relations and Environmental Studies, traveled to the mountains of Peru, and Gabrielle piloted a similar project in Ecuador, working on training operators on the technical use of their filtration system. Their work varied as the educational tools were personalized to each community’s needs.
In Peru, Laura and Sara held educational workshops and conducted pre-surveys to learn about the community members’ daily lives and issues regarding their water supply. They worked closely with a local NGO, The Mountain Institute, and a member of the community to translate their activities into the local language. Their activities did not rely on literacy, but instead used pictures and phrases through techniques known as “three-pile sorting” and “pocket diagrams.” Focus group discussions were open-ended, and attempted to understand the community members’ needs and wants related to water use and supply.
In Ecuador, Gabrielle worked in two different communities on safe drinking water projects. In much the same way as Laura, Gabrielle identified the needs of the community by working with the community. Rather than conducting a typical “training” session with water system operators in one community, for example, Gabrielle had the operators draw out their filtration and chlorination system and then explain what function each part had. Errors were corrected if necessary, and the operators eventually created their own manual to follow — something Gabrielle suggested would be much more helpful and accessible for them.
Laura, Gabrielle, and Sara are excited by the progress made thus far but noted the work was not without difficulty. They said that communication was their biggest challenge, as operating in both a different language and a different cultural context was challenging. All three plan to return and are optimistic about the work already implemented. They have been in touch with locals from Ecuador and Peru and noted that progress continues. A community member they worked with to measure water flow for the community’s springs – measurements that must be taken throughout the year – has been taking consistent measurements since they left. The water operators in Ecuador are still using Laura and Gabrielle’s cleaning system manuals and have been working with their Water Board to develop a more consistent cleaning and evaluating process. When the three women return in the near future, they hope to use their pre-surveys to assess progress more fully. Until then, it seems that the International Educationeers’ mission of promoting education models in the implementation system and focusing on the communications aspect of engineering projects is providing a more sustainable framework for education in international development programs.
TIE Gets a New “Pet”
By Isaac Anderson (E’14)
Please note: This article was written for the visitor to TIE who might be curious as to why there is a green bicycle in the entryway to our offices, and what it might be for.
What do you see before you? At first glance, it’s a pedal-powered electrical generator, but consider what else it might be: a tool for the exploration of the relationship between the appliances we use and the way we power them. How often do you think about how much electrical power you’re using when you turn on a television, charge your phone, or flip a light switch? You might have an idea that watts are units of power from inscriptions you’ve seen on light bulbs, but what does 100 watts feel like? How hard is it to generate? Can you generate that power yourself? And we might all know that bicycles are efficient means of getting around, but just how power thrifty are they compared to cars? Hint: a family car can make 150 horsepower when the pedal’s to the metal but only generates around 30 horsepower to maintain highway speeds, and 750 watts is about equivalent to 1 horsepower. Grab a calculator and get on the bike seat!
How did I make this contraption? Well, as you can see from the photos, I salvaged an old bicycle (made outside of Springfield in 1965 from the serial number!), stripped it down and repainted it and paired it to a car alternator and a voltage inverter.
You pedal, you spin the alternator, it makes electricity, and the voltage inverter converts that electricity into a format usable by 3-pronged wall-plug electronics in the US: 120 volts of alternating current at 60 hertz. There’s a catch, though–you might have noticed the 6V lantern battery on the stand–it’s there because with a car alternator, you need power to make power! By tapping on the red switch near the handlebars, you briefly power up the electromagnets in the alternator, allowing for you to generate electricity. Once you start generating electricity, you take over from the lantern battery–a little bit of the power you generate is fed back into the electromagnets to keep them powered up. All right, but what’s that other giant cylinder on the base? It’s a supercapacitor, which acts as a power reservoir to smooth out the inconsistencies you might make in pedaling when you’re on the bike, and the little digital display on top of it reads out how many volts you’re generating at the alternator. This number is different from the 120 volts you get at the red inverter box’s plug, as the inverter contains transformers which convert the alternator’s ~12V direct current output into 120 volts alternating current. Still, if you don’t pedal hard enough and allow the voltage coming out of the alternator to drop too far below 12V, the inverter won’t be able to make 120 volts–and it will angrily beep at you to tell you to pedal faster!
All right, so enough of the technical information about how this rig works. You want to know how to power stuff? Well, plug whatever you want to try powering into the red inverter box at the back of the wooden base: a lamp, your cell phone charger, a blender–whatever you can think of! Then, get on the bike and start pedaling. When you’re ready to try to power up your device, push and release the red button on the handlebar to start! That’s it! If the red inverter starts to beep, pedal harder! If you alternate between beeping and not and can’t quite get your device to come on now matter how hard you try, your device might just be too power-hungry for you. Have fun, and remember, with regard to what you can plug in, the sky’s the limit! As are your legs.
“Water, Water Everywhere: Any to Drink?” with Mary Shultz
Wednesday, 5 to 6:30pm
Miller Event Space (next door to TIE)
Water is said to be the next World crisis: indeed, it will make the current energy crisis seem like child’s play. The issue is not so much having water (though the distribution can cause difficulties) but having clean, safe water. This talk will not only present some of the daunting statistics on the current status of water in the world, but also bring it home concerning our own water supply. Looking to solutions for cleaning contaminated water, the talk will set out the constraints and current progress based on using sunlight and photo-active catalysts to clean water supplies. Chemical principles used to guide catalyst development will be emphasized. Background in chemistry is helpful, but not necessary as the needed principles will also be presented.
Environmental Career Night
Monday, 6 to 8:30pm
Dowling room 745
Tufts Environmental Alumni (TEA) invites alumni and students to attend an Environmental Career Panel and Networking Night. Students: Gain perspective on the environmental sector and network with professionals in the field. Alumni: Connect with fellow Jumbos working in the environmental field and meet the next generation of environmental professionals! This evening event is sponsored by Tufts Environmental Alumni, the Tufts University Alumni Association, and Tufts Career Services.
Tufts Energy Conference 2013
3/2/13 – 3/3/13
Saturday and Sunday
Tufts Medford Campus
The annual Tufts Energy Conference (TEC) is a dynamic forum for cross-border and cross-sector discussions on pressing energy issues. TEC convenes speakers, students, and professionals from a variety of disciplines to provide complementary and contrasting views on a wide range of energy topics. This vision is informed by a rich appreciation for the need for dialogue to promote meaningful solutions to the challenges facing the energy sector.
TEC is organized by a diverse mix of Tufts undergraduates and graduate students and receives support from a variety of partners including corporate sponsors, promotional partners, and Tufts University student groups, departments, and institutes.
TEC 2013: Powering Global Energy Security will bring together international policy makers, innovators, academics, and entrepreneurs to explore how both developing and developed countries are working to meet their energy needs, manage geopolitical risk, and ensure energy security.
“Who values clean water more – the rich or the poor? Evidence from Queretaro, Mexico” with Sean Cash
Wednesday, 5 to 6:30pm
Miller Event Space (next door to TIE)
Queretaro, Mexico currently lacks adequate water supply services and many of the residents in the city’s informal settlements are not served by piped water systems. This talk will investigate the demand for water supply improvements in Queretaro, Mexico. Are residents willing to finance improvements to the water supply system? Professor Cash will discuss a recent study, where data were collected from in-person surveys of over 800 households in both established neighborhoods and in informal settlements that do not have private water services. The findings showed that that there is a substantial willingness to pay for improvements, especially by the residents of informal settlements. This paper is one of the first studies in Mexico that demonstrates that residents are willing to pay a significant amount of money for water supply improvements, and also provides some of the first evidence from Latin America that residents from informal settlements are willing to pay a considerable proportion of their income for reliable water services.
Leontief Prize Ceremony
Coolidge Room, Ballou Hall, Tufts Medford Campus
Tufts University’s Global Development And Environment Institute announced that it will award its 2013 Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought to Albert O. Hirschman and Frances Stewart. The award recognizes the critical role played by these researchers in crossing disciplines to forge new theories and policies to promote international development. TIE co-sponsors this event.
Tufts Bike Week
3/25 to 3/29/2013
Monday through Friday
Tufts Medford Campus
In conjunction with the Tufts Office of Sustainability, TIE will support biking and bike culture, co-sponsoring events and touring its new bicycle generator around campus.
“The Human Face of Climate Change: Case Studies in Agriculture and Water.” with Kim Foltz and Rebecca Pearl-Martinez
Wednesday, 5 to 6:30pm
Miller Event Space (next door to TIE)
In this talk, titled “The Human Face of Climate Change: Case Studies in Agriculture and Water,” Rebecca Pearl-Martinez and Kim Foltz will discuss how recent events due to climate change such as Hurricane Sandy and the Midwest/Plains drought are beginning to put the human face of climate change in the spotlight. The pair will highlight not just how climate change is affecting people all over the world, but also how governments are beginning to respond to to this problem by trying to understand human vulnerability and resilience. Take a glimpse into the new field of climate change adaptation, which uniquely bridges the environmental and developmental sectors.
“Feeding Ourselves Thirsty:The Future of Water and Food Production” – 4th Annual WSSS Symposium
Friday, 8am to 5pm
Cabot Auditorium, Aidekman Arts Center, Medford
The fourth annual symposium of the Water: Systems, Science, and Society program will present “Feeding Ourselves Thirsty:The Future of Water and Food Production.” As in years past, the day will include two expert panels, a keynote speaker, and a student poster session.
World Health Day
Monday, 9am to 5pm
Events on all three Tufts campuses will highlight advancements in medical research and connections to public health and the environment.
TIE Talks (Speaker TBD)
Wednesday, 5 to 6:30pm
Miller Event Space (next door to TIE)