TEA Newsletter – 10th Edition – Spring 2012

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TEA@TIE

E-Newsletter

Tenth Edition: May 1st, 2012

Table of Contents


Introduction from the Steering Committee
Tufts Institute of the Environment Update
Environmental Studies Curriculum Overhaul
Maurin Wallace (N’11) Making It Local
Alum Inspired To Be a More Active Citizen
Lake Quannapowitt in Pictures
A Graduate Student’s Musings on the World Water Forum
Tufts Energy Conference 2012: Towards Sustainability
TEA Spring Speaker Recap

Mark Taitz Happy Spring from the TEA Steering Committee!

While global warming seemed to strike all at once on Boston’s Marathon Monday, activity levels for TEA have also been heating up.

On March 7th, over 70 people attended our Environmental Career Panel, which featured Keith Ainsworth, Esq. (A ’87) with Evans, Feldman & Ainsworth; Susan Lyon (UEP ’93) with the MassDEP; Kathleen Luvisi (E ’84) with Alternative Resources, Inc.; and Carly Rocklen (’97) with the Neponset River Watershed Association. Panelists offered perspectives on their work experiences, particularly on the process of finding their current positions. During a lively question and answer session, panelists also provided insight on identifying job and internship opportunities. Given the enthusiastic response, the Steering Committee has recommended making this an annual event.

TEA is also pleased with the success of our April 25th Annual Spring Speaker event with Dr. Paul Kirshen. Please see the sidebar for a review of the event by Steering Committee member Lyn Lustig.

TEA’s other efforts of late include co-sponsoring a lecture featuring Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, with a handful of UEP alums who live and work in the Washington DC area. We have also supported a student-led effort to create an Environmental House on campus. We also look forward to working with our counterparts at TIE at the upcoming Graduation and Young Alumni Weekend to make our presence known and welcome new members to TEA!

Finally, this introduction wouldn’t be complete without congratulating Kiersten von Trapp, our more-than-capable, always smiling facilitator, on her upcoming wedding. Please join us in wishing her well!

Enjoy the newsletter, and thanks for keeping up with TEA!

Mark Taitz (A’71) on behalf of the TEA Steering Committee

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Antje Danielson Tufts Institute of the Environment Update

It was so great meeting many of you at the Paul Kirshen TEA event last Wednesday. There is always a lot going on here at TIE and it’s nice to talk about it in person! If you can make Sivan Kartha’s TIE Talk tomorrow (Wednesday, 5/2 at 4:30pm – details in the sidebar to the left) I’d love to see you there, too!

So much has happened since last I wrote. In University-wide news, Tufts has started a Campus Sustainability Council, chaired by President Monaco.  The Council has created working groups that will be setting up goals and monitoring achievements in the areas of energy use and carbon emissions, waste management, and water usage. I have been appointed to the working group on water, and look forward to participating in this important initiative.

The end of the academic year is always an exciting time and this year we were excited to co-sponsor the Tufts Energy Conference and the WSSS Symposium. The TEC Conference was well-attended and the Energy Competition award was given to two teams: the High Voltage Lithium Ion Battery Management System from The Tufts Hybrid Racing Team, Will Salisbury, Christopher Jackson, Brennon Costello, and Trevor Babbitt; and Wind Turbines and Solar Cookers in Zimbabwe, Jonah Kadoko and Kristen Johnson.

The sold-out WSSS symposium went wonderfully again this year. Congratulations to Jeff Walker, the winner of the Poster Competition, and the entire Symposium organizing committee.

Congratulations are also in order for last year’s DOW winner Ned Spang who successfully defended his thesis, and to Jonathan Torn and Ahmed Malik for being short listed as presenters at various clean tech competitions (including next week’s MIT $200K). We are happy to report that we renewed the contract with DOW for another three years. This year’s selection is currently in progress and we are lucky to have many great submissions to choose from.

The list of TIE-affiliated, award-winning students continues! Andrea Brown, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Jennifer (Yaning) Shen — both TIE fellows and WSSS students — received awards last week from their respective schools (the Award for Outstanding Graduate Researcher, master’s level, for Brown; and the Award for Outstanding Academic Performance, master’s level for Shen) at the Graduate Student Awards ceremony on the Medford campus. Also receiving an award was incoming TIE Fellow Alexandra (Sasha) Kulinkina, recognized for Outstanding Graduate Student Contribution to Undergraduate Studies.

On that note, we would like to welcome all of the 2012-2013 TIE fellows: Paula Castano and JeanneCoffin from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine; Noah Cohen-Cline, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Graham Jeffries, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy; Sasha Kulinkina, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Xueying (Shirley) Lu, Economics; and Christine Lattin and Nicole Soltis, Biology.

The WSSS research fellowships were also awarded this spring. The fellowship recipients for 2012 – 2013 were Noah Cohen-Cline and Lesley Pories, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; Lauren Cole, Kate Olson, and Adam Weinberg, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning; Stephanie Galaitsis and Margaret Kurth, Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Gabrielle String, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

TIE is proud to support the diverse and unique interdisciplinary, environmental research by graduate students here at Tufts, across all three campuses. We even partner with international researchers. This summer we are hosting Corinna Altenberg, a visiting scholar from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.  Corinna will spend the next few months at TIE working on her PhD thesis, “ Towards low-carbon cities: The nexus between governance, energy and lifestyles.” Part of this work involves comparing the metro-regions of Berlin and Boston.

Even though the academic year is coming to an end we keep moving along here at TIE.  We are now gearing up for the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute (TELI).  The theme for this year’s week-long faculty development program is “Communicating Environmental Issues through Education”.   We still have space available for one more person. If you are interested in joining us please let us know!

And lastly I am pleased to announce that I am the president-elect of the ! The CEDD is part of the .The position begins immediately and continues until I succeed current CEDD President, Joyce Berry, in January 2014. If you’re in the Boston area, I would like to invite you to the ’s Annual Dinner. I have been asked to keynote the event and will be speaking on “Creative Thinking and Inspiration for a Sustainable Future” on May 16th. You can follow this link for more details and to register:

Antje

 

Antje Danielson
Administrative Director,
Tufts Institute of the Environment

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Colin Orians

Colin Orians
Director,
Environmental Studies

 

Environmental Studies Curriculum Overhaul

On April 11, 2011, the Tufts University faculty of A&S voted to approve changes to the Environmental Studies Program that have been in the works for over a year. Beginning in the fall 2012, the Environmental Studies major will be changing to incorporate the feedback of current students, faculty, and an independent review by the National Council for Science Education (NCSE). These changes will both offer students more flexibility in choosing their courses and create a more specialized, rigorous program overall. The new system will require that students complete five core courses, rather than the previous eight, plus five courses in any one track, rather than the previous three. The new curriculum requirements will apply to all incoming Environmental Studies students (class of 2016), but are optional for current majors.

The five required core classes are designed to help students master basic scientific principles of environmental processes, examine interactions between technology and the environment, and explore the societal context for implementing environmental policy. In addition, there are four possible track options: (1) Environmental Science; (2) Sustainability, Policy, and Equity; (3) Environmental Communication; and (4) a self-designed track. This last track allows a student to put together a group of courses related to his or her particular environmental interest—for example, renewable energy. The Environmental Studies Department recognizes  this new track option will require a greater need for faculty advising but feel these changes will make the program stronger and more nimble.

Meanwhile, the non-credit internship will still be required. Because making students aware of internship opportunities has been a challenge in the past, we have recently worked with the Office of Sustainability (OOS) to improve our listings and reduce redundancies. While OOS focuses on jobs listings, the ENVS blog focuses on publishing internship and fellowship opportunities, as well as career counseling information (http://as.tufts.edu/environmentalstudies/internships/blog.htm). If you know of internship opportunities for our majors, please contact us and we will post them.

Keep an eye on the Environmental Studies website as we revise it to reflect these exciting changes (http://as.tufts.edu/environmentalstudies/).  Finally, while we strengthen the Environmental Studies Program at Tufts, we continue to welcome your feedback and suggestions.

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Maurin Wallace (N’11) Making It Local

By Marisol Pierce-Quinonez (N’12, G’12)

In this interview with TIE’s Marisol Pierce-Quinonez, we hear from Maurin Wallace (N’11), Sales Manager at Organic Renaissance FoodEx.  She gives us the dirt on what it means to be in the food distribution business and how to scale up the local food system, and also tells us how all this relates to the Environment.

 Maurin Wallace Marisol Pierce-Quinonez: Tell me a little bit about Organic Renaissance FoodEx.  Since it’s a relatively new company, can you tell me what it is that you do?

Maurin Wallace: FoodEx is a way to manage food inventory. Farmers and other producers drop off product to us and we deliver it to whomever they designate. We manage the warehouse, inventory, and all the orders going throughout the system. Everything that we do (all the volumes, transactional items, sales, trucking routes, etc.) are entered into a database. Producers can see exactly where everything is, including when it will arrive. We can schedule routes based on how many orders we have to particular locations.

Most food hubs try to aggregate deliveries on one or two days a week. Our whole thing is that we want to service all the different producers. A chef doesn’t want one delivery a week. The complexity that we’ve built in to this system allows people to deliver on every single day. In terms of this complexity, nothing else exists out there like this exists.

We’re also working with institutions a lot. This allows us to be a little more flexible—it allows us to aggregate orders in different ways and be more efficient in actual trucking. Trucking logistics is the big selling point for some producers.

What brought you to Tufts, and what did you focus on while you were here?
My career prior to Tufts was corporate recruiting in San Francisco, but the whole time I was just obsessing about food. I was reading everything I could get my hands on relating to food systems. One of the many blogs I read was Professor Parke Wilde’s blog US Food Policy, which mentioned Friedman, and I did a little bit of investigating and determined it was such a great fit with what I decided I wanted to be doing. I weighed Friedman against some other graduate programs and the idea of jumping right in professionally, and decided that gaining a food system framework from an academic standpoint was valuable.

My research started as an investigation of supply chain management, primarily for larger industrial operations. It was pretty soon into my first year that I realized that a lot of the problems and obstacles in building the regional food system stemmed from problems with distribution and supply chain management.  There were certainly good models out there, but nothing that seemed very scalable. There wasn’t anything that was the be-all end-all of distribution innovation. I read a lot of case studies about different operations all throughout the country.  I started interning with FoodEx during my last semester, which influenced my research as well.

The first two parts of your degree (Agriculture, Food) are obvious in your current line of work. How does Environment play in to your work?
Obviously from an environmental standpoint, adding technology to increase efficiency in trucking is key for reducing carbon emissions. But re-regionalizing the food system is a big part of our mission as well.  This current food system works when gas prices are low, but when they are high it doesn’t work quite as well. Our mission is about taking steps back to where we used to be…to reduce the distance food has to travel. The environmental benefits of a better managed supply chain are great, but the economic benefits are probably even greater.
FoodEx logo

The terminology distinguishing “regional” and “local” seems to be up for debate right now. Why is it that FoodEx chooses to focus on the regional food system rather than the local?
I keep saying region and not local because we need to source from places like the Hudson Valley, et cetera, because its only a couple hundred miles away. I think where we come in to the debate is around the idea of scale. It’s great to have farmers who are working parcels of 20 acres—there is definitely a need for that. But when you’re talking about a college that wants consistent deliveries of larger quantities, you have to sometimes source from further out in order to supply that need. If every college wanted 100% local it would be a little crazy to source because there just aren’t that many farms that can meet this demand right now.

So it sounds like for institutional purchasing you are targeting the “Agriculture of the Middle,” the farms that are not quite big enough to target the bulk commodity market but are too big to sell directly to consumers.
Well, we don’t go out and find people. The system that we’re building actually allows a lot of smaller producers to deliver their products to a particular chef/restaurant/school, and all the deliveries can come together. Some of the smaller food producers deliver a case here, a case there. I think that if anybody sat with the institutional buyer for a week they would have a better idea of larger customers and wholesale needs (price points, grading, quality). I think there is a real opportunity to meet that need. It’s just trying to be matchmaker.

What’s next for Organic Renaissance?
We’re hoping to connect to food hubs everywhere.  Because it’s a regional model, we’ll never be trucking from Boston to Ohio, so we’re thinking about how to replicate the model in other areas.  An institutional CSA is another dream—in this scenario, an institution would buy up four acres of a farm’s carrots for the rest of the year. Guaranteed that farm is going to plant more carrots and it will increase the amount of food being grown locally.  Our big goal is to use technology to think ahead and to bring the marketplace together.

 

Mari Pierce-QuinonezMarisol Piere-Quinonez is a food system planning consultant and part of the administrative support staff at TIE. She is a Steering Committee member for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) and spends ample time in her garden.  Mari holds an M.A. in Urban Planning and an M.S. in Agricultural Policy, both from Tufts University.

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Alum Inspired To Be A More Active Citizen

By Libby Mahaffy (G’11

When Rose Chaffee-Cohen (A03) talks about what she’s going to do next month, “people are surprised. They’re also excited for me. A lot of them have said ‘Better you than me!’” This reaction comes after she tells them she plans to travel from her home in New York City to Washington, DC—a total of 300 miles—by bicycle.

As part of the annual Climate Ride, the high school Environmental Studies teacher will spend a week cycling from Manhattan to the nation’s capital. “I definitely would not have considered myself a cyclist before signing up,” she says, laughing. “But I wanted to show my students what a regular person could do when they wanted to see a particular problem changed.”

 

Rose C-C
Even though she has dedicated her entire professional life to sustainability, Chaffee-Cohen didn’t feel like she was doing enough to be an environmental activist, given the enormity of environmental problems today. “I was doing enough in my lifestyle and my teaching,” she says, “but I wasn’t making any public stand or taking part in a lot of political action.” So when she heard about Climate Ride NYC-DC, she felt it was a perfect fit.
Climate Ride, a non-profit now in it’s 5th year, has raised over $638, 000 for environmental causes. Although Chaffee-Cohen has seen plenty of fundraisers for health-related causes, Climate Ride “spoke to [her] as a unique approach” to raising awareness and funds for sustainability. And for Chaffee-Cohen, who graduated from Tufts with a Spanish and Environmental Studies degree, this undertaking has both professional and personal goals.

Modeling Active Citizenship

Chaffee-Cohen’s biggest goal as a teacher is “to show my students the relevance of climate change for them, and how they can impact an issue that is so all-encompassing and global.” Along with learning about climate science, the students in her classes at Kent Place, an all-girls independent school in Summit, NJ, will research how a particular passion of theirs may be affected by climate change. Students will then create blog entries to reflect on this learning. Chaffee-Cohen will be blogging along the ride, too—as much as possible, she wants to take her students along by posting pictures and possibly even video footage of the ride in progress, as well as interview other riders over the course of the trip. The students will be live blogging while she’s on the road, and when Chaffee-Cohen arrives in DC she plans to meet with New Jersey state representatives, presenting them with her students’ written thoughts and concerns.  “I get a lot of inspiration from my students,” she says. “I wanted to model for them how to be an active citizen, engaged in the issues they care about.”

Doing “Something Dramatic”

But riding 300 miles in 5 days isn’t just for her students. Chaffee-Cohen has personal goals, too. “By taking on the physical challenge,” she says, “it was a way for me to do something dramatic.” It helps that she’s not alone. Her cohort of Climate Riders this May will include 174 other cyclists, as well as support personnel for the all-inclusive charity ride. She has also been working hard to create “micro-communities” as she prepares for the event, by training with a local bike shop team and reconnecting with the School for Field Studies, an organization she studied with at Tufts that benefits from Climate Ride funds and fields a team for the ride every year. She’s found another way to create buy-in as well, in a literal sense: she’s seeking the financial contributions of friends, family, co-workers, and students. “Whether they donate $1 or $100, it’s all important,” she says, because donations of all sizes are helping to “build a support network of people who are invested in me personally and invested in the ride and what I’m doing. These are the people I’ll be thinking about on the ride because I’m doing it for them.”Climate riders in DC

This isn’t the only life-changing thing Chaffee-Cohen has done recently. Last year, she and her husband—Tufts alum Jacob Cohen (A03)—turned 30 and decided to make some changes. They joined Weight Watchers and began working on building a healthier lifestyle, which includes increased physical activity. “I’m proving that I can do some pretty challenging stuff!” she says.

 

A Jumbo Undertaking

Though Chaffee-Cohen surprised even herself by taking on this challenge, she sees a clear connection to her undergraduate experience at Tufts. With initiatives such as Tisch College, the Trek to Talloires, the Marathon team, and the new Sustainability Council, Tufts has a reputation for championing active citizenship, healthy lifestyles, and environmentalism. “Tufts is about finding your place in the world where you can be an active citizen, an agent of change,” she says, “whether that’s related to education or health or the environment or politics. Whatever your niche is, you’re encouraged to be an active citizen, an active professional. It’s a philosophy that anyone can embody.”

This year’s Climate Ride will take place May 19th to the 23rd, with meetings with representatives on May 24th. To learn more, visit www.climateride.org.  Climate Ride logo
Libby Mahaffy
Libby Mahaffy is the Communications Specialist at TIE and Tufts Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning alumna (G’11). She hails from the Great Lakes State and her interests include facilitation, mediation, and intercultural communication. As the shepherd of TIE’s communications strategy, she coordinates various publications and TIE’s social media presence. 

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Lake Quannapowitt in Pictures

By Robin Cohn, Freelance Journalist and resident of Wakefield

 Lake Q book cover Images of America: Lake Quannapowitt, by Wakefield residents Douglas Heath and Alison Simcox, is the latest in Arcadia Publishing Company’s historical collection on local towns in Massachusetts.  Released in April 2011, the book is a spirited, multi-perspective account of a subject matter of great interest to Wakefield residents or anyone who frequents the lake.  Using abundant photographs, maps, and images, the authors address the lake’s prehistory and geological formation, colonial development, commercial expansion, and recreational use, organizing the book into six chapters.  They also tackle events leading to the lake’s pollution and the beginning of the environmental movement.

The book is foremost a pictorial history and the largest part consists of historic photographs, maps, documents, and images of artwork and ephemera.  Detailed annotations provide fascinating back stories about the people and buildings pictured and their significance to the social and cultural landscape.  Maps and images provide physical reference points to orient the reader. The photographs and images enable us to witness the lake’s transformation from a rural, agrarian oasis to a commercial center, and finally to a suburban playground over approximately five hundred years. Lake Q - beach

The introduction is an historical overview of Lake Quannapowitt, beginning with its glacial formation and ending in the twentieth century.  It tells the story of the town’s beginnings and forces leading to population growth and commercial expansion, such as the arrival of the railroad in 1845 and the birth of the automotive industry, setting the scene for chapters on industrialization and development of the lake.

Abundant photographs tell the stories of the business establishments and people who played key roles in Wakefield’s growth.  Wakefield had a thriving ice industry, in addition to shoe manufacturing, a foundry, and a rattan factory.  Icehouses dotted Lake Quannapowitt’s shoreline for a century up until 1946, producing ice for domestic and foreign use.  The chapter, “Historic Buildings” describes the builders and shakers of early Wakefield, who lived in estates bordering the lake.  Images depict Lucius Beebe, his wife, and the Beebe Mansion.  A nineteenth century image displays the Wright House, now Kirkwood Nursing Home, which was built by A.J. Wright in 1885.  There are images of Hartshorne House during the Colonial Revival of the 1930s and 1940s and historic photographs of the construction and then reconstruction of the First Parish Congregational Church after a 1909 fire.Lake Q - boathouse

The most tantalizing photographs show idyllic scenes of lake Quannapowitt in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Scenic postcards show romantic images of the lake bordered by lush stands of willow trees and extensive vegetation in the background.  There is an image of a forested picnic grove and a boathouse established by Charles and Emma Rosson on the north end of the lake.  Lake Quannapowitt was a popular “pleasure spot” beginning in the nineteenth century.  We see views of our Victorian ancestors frolicking by the lake, boating, and canoeing.  In 1887, Captain Will Wiley, built a large boathouse which became the launching pad for boating, fishing, and dancing, which continued through the 1960s as Wiley’s and then Hill’s Dance Hall.  Wiley’s Boathouse was also the home of the Quannapowitt Yacht Club for 67 years.

“Lakeshore and Watershed Transformed” and “Modern Age” address environmental concerns and the preservation of the lake.  Factors involved in the loss of wetlands and the lake’s watershed are explored.  The reader learns of the decision by the Town of Reading to divert drainage from Lake Quannapowitt to the Saugus River, which caused a four-fold reduction in the size of Lake Quannapowitt’s watershed and the impact of Route 128.

Pollution of the lake was the product of many ill-guided decisions that were typical for the times.  Coal tar at the bottom of the lake was a legacy of the coal-gas operations of the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department which used Hartshorne Cove to drain waste coal tar from 1904 to 1924.  When algae became a problem in the 1920s, the town dumped copper sulfate into the lake, creating a breeding ground for weeds.  These clogged the lake to such as extant that in the 1960s, state health officials sanctioned a weed-control program where thousands of pounds of arsenic were dumped into the lake.  Lake Q - Sailing

The book traces the emergence of the environmental movement and civic pride, which resulted in the acquisition of parks along the lake.  Key figures are included, like Gertrude Spaulding who was instrumental in lobbying in the 1960s for a conservation commission and who established Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLP) in 1991.  Spaulding Park and its earlier incarnation as the Lanai Island Restaurant are pictured.  Cartoons and documents reference another environmental group, Apple Pie, which ensured public access to the north shore of the lake.

“Modern Age,” the final chapter of the book, treats the period from 1964, when Hill’s Boathouse was demolished, into the present day.  Photographs from the 1960s and 1970s show swimming and sunbathing on the lakes’ northern and southern beaches, which are no longer available for bathing.  Nostalgic photographs from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s document the lake’s ongoing use for picnics, recreational boating, canoeing, jogging, bicycling, races, ice-skating, and ice-boating.

The community is indebted to Heath and Simcox for their hours of research and the book which resulted, which is clearly a labor of love. Images of America: Lake Quannapowitt has romantic appeal, but it is also a cautionary tale.  The lake’s shoreline is the end product of commercial and political decisions regarding development over hundreds of years.  Its future beauty and recreational value depend on the community’s wise management and ongoing protection of this resource.

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The World Water Forum–A Graduate Student’s Perspective

By Jory Hecht

World Water Forum logo I skedaddled off the red-eye in Marseille, France, navigated a new public transit system, and wheeled my suitcase into the world’s largest water meeting. The 6th World Water Forum, held every three years, convened over 35,000 water professionals, ranging from heads of state and government ministers to representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—not to mention graduate students eager to solve the world’s water problems.

I was excited to see what the forum would be like. After quickly scarfing down a Panini sandwich and chugging a Coke (to eke out a few more hours of post red-eye alertness), I made my way over to the exhibition hall. I quickly saw just how global this event was. Attendees in traditional cultural attire added colorful sprinkles to the usual sea of bland conference attire. A smorgasbord of booths quickly whetted my intellectual appetite and zapped my fatigue. A representative from Iran handed me a thick, glossy brochure of water infrastructure projects in his country. I surprised a woman at the booth for Tajikistan, a Central Asian country, with my classroom-acquired knowledge about her country’s Rogun Dam. Relief International, a NGO, showcased a low-cost domestic rainwater storage tank composed of stitched crop sacks that a winning Internet design contest entry inspired.   This novel design, in turn, inspired some of my own ideas on low-cost rainwater harvesting in developing countries, one of my research interests.

Later, I attended two panel sessions on the water-energy-food nexus and water shortage, both of which featured a mix of high-level government officials and representatives from multi-lateral agencies as well as prominent NGOs and academics. The first session concluded with a consensus among all panelists that water, energy and food needed to be managed in a more integrated fashion, although no specific course of action was recommended. The second panel, about dams, was more heated. Proponents of large dams highlighted how they attenuate the water shortages and floods that can otherwise shock the economies of developing countries while other panelists criticized their social and environmental impacts.  Watching the debate tactics was at least interesting as the content of the discussion, which I already heard in many classes and articles. An NGO representative, watched his words to avoid coming across as myopic or a bleeding-heart activist as he advocated for communities threatened by large dams.  Meanwhile, a former foreign minister used some light-hearted humor at the beginning of his opening statement to deflect attention on a controversial large hydropower project in his country.

Contrasting with the high-level panel sessions and government-sponsored exhibits were the Solutions Village and Oasis in which solutions to more local-scale water problems were on display, such as a Nigerian’s efforts to coordinate the activities of poorly regulated water vendors, and local adaptation strategies for climate change and desertification. Informal activities, such as role-playing games and TED-style idea presentations, facilitated the exchange of solutions. I joined the fray with an impromptu sketch of an off-stream blending reservoir used to dilute nitrate in drinking water, a water management practice I had once studied.

According to some observers, one issue undermining the forum was the limited extent to which some stakeholders, most notably the poor, were represented. While many attendees clad in designer suits—from governments and NGOs alike—advocated for pro-poor water sector development policies, the 700-euro registration fee for non-students coupled with high travel costs limited their attendance. In fact, an Alternative World Water Forum was held at a warehouse on the other side of the city and included a protest against the main event.  However, after a brief visit to the alternative forum, I found that attending both events was the best option, as the concentrated presentation of grassroots perspectives at the alternative show nicely complemented insights I gained from the main event.

As an engineer with a natural problem-solving inclination, solution-oriented exhibits often appealed to me more than the recycled debates and preaching about the importance of water issues without immediately achieving anything tangible. Yet, the presentations given at the Emerging Academics Program session reminded of my underlying career goal: to improve water management in the world through applied research.   A fundamental part of being in the profession is being able to effectively disseminate research findings and incorporate them into policies appropriate for place and culture-specific contexts.  The World Water Forums – both the main and alternative events – were just the right place to learn more about this.

Jory Hecht

Jory Hecht is a Water Diplomacy IGERT Ph.D. Fellow at Tufts University specializing in water resources management, surface water and groundwater hydrology, GIS, international development, and optical remote sensing.

 

 

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Tufts Energy Conference 2012: Towards Sustainability

By Isaac Anderson (G’14)

We are at a crossroads. While we experience an unprecedented revolution in alternative energy policy and technology, the vested interests of the traditional extractive fuel industry have dug in their heels, finding creative new ways to remain competitive. The Tufts Energy Conference saw the interplay between these old and new sides of the energy industry, offering some fascinating insights into the future of our society.

TEC logo

Tufts president Dr. Anthony Monaco kicked off the event with a speech placing the University firmly on the side of the new energy industry, emphasizing an agenda of energy efficiency and experimentation with alternative energies. He claimed that the institution has dropped greenhouse gas emissions 12% since 1990, well ahead of the 7% reduction required of signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, and cited the exploratory geothermal project of Tufts professor Grant Garvin that is slated for use heating and cooling a Lane Hall classroom. He was followed by Dr. Mohamed El-Ashry, Senior Fellow with the United Nations Foundation, who echoed Dr. Monaco’s sentiments in favor of a future based upon alternative energies, claiming our “current energy path is not compatible with sustainable energy development,” and that the “way forward will require an unprecedented change in the way energy is produced and used.”

Dr. El-Ashry pointed out that the UN General Assembly has declared 2012 to be the “Year of Renewable Energy” and described the emergence of the green energy sector as “one of the great global economies of the 21st century.” He advocated for policies that would favor public-private partnerships, ideally ones that leverage private-sector capital to achieve public gains in quality of life and energy self-sufficiency through the development of green energy jobs. These breakthroughs in renewables technology, he claimed, could counter breakthroughs in extraction of natural gas to keep alternative energy competitive. Adding credence to his argument, he cited the example of another once-emerging technology: the cell phone. “Once cell phones reached one million in 1986, they doubled every year since.” He added that solar cells are now doubling every year. Thus, in the renewable energy industry, “the train has left the station,” he asserted, “and it’s moving in the right direction.”

Dr. El-Ashry’s statement of the UN Foundation’s commitment to alternative energies contrasted heavily with the following panel’s discussion of the development of oil and gas industries in the developing world. Dai Jones, the General Manager of Tullow Oil Ghana, cited oil exploration as a strong force for economic development, suggesting Ghana’s explosive annual growth in GDP of 13% per year was due in large part to the recent development of its brand new oil industry. Mr. Jones advocated for the development of resources in the developing world while paying attention to the needs and demands of the people who live there. “Setting up an national oil company is almost always a good thing,” he said, adding that one must remember who the extracted oil belongs to—“if you forget, you will always be reminded.”

Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States, echoed Mr. Jones’ sentiments, saying that oil and gas could provide a nice “cushion” in the progression of a developing economy, although he warned against the marginalization of other industries for the sake of the energy industry. “Oil and gas are energy products, just like any other commodity,” he said, and one should “make sure the energy sector doesn’t dominate and obscure every other sector of the economy.” He ultimately wishes for the development of high-tech industries in his country, but told the audience, “don’t forget the European Union began as coal.”

One point which was certainly made clear in this panel was the immense economic opportunity which exists in electrifying the developing world. Another member of the panel, Joseph Brandt, is president and CEO of ContourGlobal, a company specializing in capital investment in power plants in the developing world. His company started as a small office in midtown Manhattan six years ago and has rapidly expanded ever since, last year taking in $1 billion in revenue in 14 countries. Brandt suggested electricity consumption per capita as a good indicator of economic development, contrasting Europe’s 8300 kWh/person/year with sub-Saharan Africa’s 625 kWh/person/year. However, he added, the rate of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa suggests that the region may be at Europe’s level of consumption in 20 years. Given the millions of people who live in the developing world, this increase in electricity consumption represents trillions in potential revenue. Mr. Brandt defended the development of electricity generation in these countries via conventional, fossil fuel-based means on the basis that this region—with less than $1000 GDP per capita and under 15% electrification rates—simply cannot afford to explore alternative energy technologies. However, Professor Moomaw, the panel’s moderator, mentioned the large number of oil spills which have occurred in Nigeria as evidence against the unrestrained development of conventional “dirty” energy. Additionally, Greg Saunders, Senior Director of International Affairs at BP, mentioned that the charitable photovoltaic installation his company built a in a remote village in sub-Saharan Africa allowed villagers to use electricity for the first time in their history, and they enjoyed it so much that they came back asking for more. Saunders conceded that remote villages such as this one are not easily reachable by traditional power grids and may in fact be better served by alternative energy generation methods that produce power locally.

Another panel at the conference explored in depth the economics of renewable energy, particularly in the United States. Renewable energy has traditionally been a source of power which has relied on subsidies, and the question has been over how it can compete with traditional fuels—especially now that support from the economic stimulus packages has largely dried up and that, thanks to advancements in fracking technologies, the price of natural gas has dropped. Bram Claeys, Renewable Energy Policy Director from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, pointed out that, in fact, fossil fuels currently receive six times more subsidy dollars in the U.S. than renewables. But in spite of this disparity in subsidies, renewables are still gaining power generation market share, oftentimes because of price. Raimund Grube, President and COO of Element Power North America, said “it’s the prevailing grid price in California” that is driving that state towards grid parity, the point at which renewable energy is the same price as conventional energy. He claimed that “we’re largely there” with regard to parity in pricing on the “individual level”—homes and small businesses can generate their own electricity using renewables for about the same price as they can purchase power from the grid.

Wholesale solar and wind, however, still have to come down in price before they can compete with wholesale coal and gas. John Howe, Director of Public Affairs at FloDesign Wind Turbine Corporation, applauded how California is “staggering its way into the future,” already ahead of its goal of having 33% of its energy coming from renewables by 2020. He described the energy market as being like “8-dimensional chess,” but California is able to navigate that market because of the state’s “willingness to improvise.” He also applauded Massachusetts, another state with high energy prices, on its innovation in alternative energy industries, particularly in the construction of wind turbines. He claimed, “Massachusetts stands to become a Texas of the renewable energy era,” with its first-in-the-nation wind turbine blade testing facility (in Everett) and the immense creative capital at its slew of world-class universities mirroring the magnitude of the investment in the development of the oil fields of Texas in the mid-20th century. Additionally, Governor Deval Patrick’s establishment of the New England Clean Energy Council in 2007 was lauded as a step in the right direction. Perhaps the key sentiment of the renewable energy panel, as verbalized by Howe, was that the “money is there…[now] it’s going into four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline.” He spoke for the whole panel when imagining a shift in spending priorities from the gas tank to the wind turbine.

The end keynote speaker, Dr. Barbara Kates-Garnick, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Energy, applauded the audience for “embracing a transformation in energy policy.” If the generation before us had made “difficult choices,” she argued, we would be in a much better state nowadays with regard to climate change and dependence on fossil fuels. Thus, “what we are facing today is the result of our unwillingness to act” and that, nowadays, “states must be the conveners of change in the absence of a federal energy policy.” She echoed the sentiments of the renewable energy economics panel in ascribing Massachusetts’ forward-thinking energy policies to the state’s relatively high energy prices. She described energy efficiency as “Massachusetts’ first fuel.” She also stressed the existence of economic development.

Isaac Anderson

Isaac is a graduate student in biomedical engineering at Tufts presently working on plant-based photovoltaics. He also likes to bicycle, cook, and take things apart in order to figure out the little mysteries of the world. And sometimes he manages to get them back together.

 

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TEA Annual Spring Speaker Recap

By Lyn Lustig (J’89)

Paul KirshenOver fifty TEA members convened at Alumnae Lounge on April 25th to hear a presentation on Climate Change Impacts and Planning by noted water resources management and climate change expert, Dr. Paul Kirshen.  The presentation was preceded by a lively networking reception.  Kirshen, currently a professor at the University of New Hampshire, was well-known by many in the audience due to his prior Tufts positions as a professor and co-founder and director of the Water: Systems, Science and Society Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education Program.  Kirshen remains affiliated with Tufts as a visiting scholar with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Kirshen opened his talk by noting that climate change is affecting the entire world, in different ways, and the resulting stress on natural resources will ultimately lead to additional and more pronounced political unrest.  Kirshen noted that even the U.S. military has recognized these climate change consequences and is working on ways to address them.  Accordingly, Kirshen explained it is critical to study not only the impacts of climate change, but also how to adapt to it.

With regard to the effects of climate change on metro Boston, Kirshen gave a long list of scenarios likely to occur by the end of the century, including, among others: higher temperatures; faster-warming winters; loss of much snow pack; increasing risk of poor air quality (e.g., increased ozone levels); more vector-borne diseases; sea level rise and increased frequency of drought.  Regarding sea level rise in particular, the Boston area can expect more coastal erosion, wetland inundation and loss, salt water intrusion, higher groundwater elevations, and more frequent flooding and drainage problems.

Turning to adaption to climat