Tufts Institute of the Environment Update
Hello all! It’s been another busy semester at Tufts Institute of the Environment.
These past few months are notable for some big initiatives, which have expanded TIE’s presence and research in exciting ways.
In June, TIE helped send a delegation of graduate students and faculty members to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Learn more about the students’ experience at the conference on their blog, Jumbos in Rio. TIE also co-sponsored a side event at the conference, “From Burden Bearing to Opportunity Sharing: Reframing Environmental Negotiations,” proposing that environmental negotiations shouldn’t just be a debate about pollution control, but rather should be used to promote sustainable development, improved health, and cleaner energy technologies.
Closer to campus, we are proud to report that TIE has become a partner in a new public-private initiative focusing on global water challenges called the U.S. Water Partnership. Not only are we eager to offer interdisciplinary expertise on water-related concerns, we are thrilled to put our students at the forefront in the fields of water science and management.
On a personal note, I’m honored to have been selected as President-elect of the Council of Environmental Dean and Directors (CEDD) for 2012-2013. The CEDD has allowed me to work with my counterparts from other schools to expand the environmental discourse on our campuses, a process which has been enjoyable and productive for all.
Last month, Political Science Professor Kent Portney’s Our Green Cities guide was included as a supplement to the Washington Post. Our Green Cities assigns green city scores and rankings based on cities policies and programs as they work to save energy, protect their environments, and promote green economic development. His findings showed that some cities have managed to make impressive progress – even with strained budgets. Professor Portney’s Guide and the success of some of the cities he profiles reminds me that there are always new ways of looking at and promoting environmental sustainability.
Looking ahead, TIE is planning two events: a Water: Systems, Science and Society symposium on Water and Agriculture and an “environment and health” workshop. Other plans include offering new summer research grants specifically for master’s students, who have historically had difficulty obtaining fellowships. We are creating six new designated fellowships, each offering between $3,000 and $6,000, for master’s degree candidates in several environment-related departments.
Finally, we plan to launch an education program for minority students from local high schools. These students will work with graduate students and faculty mentors on a research project, which they will present in Washington D.C. at the NCSE conference. We are still fundraising for this $30,000-per-year program. We welcome your support and fundraising suggestions for this promising initiative.
Likewise, if you are in any way interested in participating in any of TIE’s programs or events, we would love to hear from you.
I hope you enjoy this newsletter, and I look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming events. Until then, have a great summer!
Antje Danielson is the Administrative Director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment. She can be reached at Antje.Danielson(at)tufts(dot)edu.
Alumna Mixes Art and Science
By Caroline Incledon (A’13)
Dr. Batchelder holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a B.A. in French from Tufts University. Currently employed as Technical Director of Hydrogeology at Loureiro Engineering Associates, Inc., she works as a Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP) in Connecticut and as a Professional Geologist in three states. In Massachusetts, she serves on the Board of Registration for Licensed Site Professionals and on the Steering Committee for the Society for Women Environmental Professionals. Throughout her career, Dr. Batchelder has focused on subsurface investigation and remediation projects for a variety of contaminants and hydrogeologic settings. TIE Communications Intern Caroline Incledon (A’13) interviewed her in July 2012.
Caroline Incledon: You received a BA in French at Tufts, and then went on to pursue a graduate education in Geology from UMass. How did you develop your interest in geology while studying French?
Gail Batchelder: After Tufts, I was working as a paralegal in poverty law, and planning to go to law school. But I quickly realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life inside law libraries, and that I had to do something different… I had always loved science, and after graduating from Tufts, I had been hanging out with a lot of geologists [and found that] geologists are very fun people and can work outdoors. Plus, geology melded well with my liberal arts background—it’s a mix of art and science together.
How did your Tufts education prepare you for your work as a hydrogeologist?
In so many ways. Even though I was a French major, I explored classes at Tufts, and was able to take math and chemistry, which are requirements for geology. I also took a broad base of courses, which gave me an ability to look at things from multiple perspectives, and trained me to not let preconceived notions rule me when making decisions. For example, aside from understanding the science of my work, I have an understanding of things like the social implications. My liberal arts education made it natural for me to think about all of the pieces—the science, and how to make it work in today’s world.
What do you feel has been the most serious impact of climate change on groundwater and soil contamination?
Since soil and groundwater contamination is directly related to people polluting, I don’t think climate change will really affect contamination. But, for water issues, climate change is huge. I think the biggest effect climate change will have on water is that it will affect the availability of water in certain environments. Climate change accelerates things. Once you are in a critical position, where I think we are with a lot of water resources, any change might tip the balance, so I am particularly concerned about climate change and water resources.
You’re on the Steering Committee for the Society for Women Environmental Professionals, Massachusetts Chapter. How does your membership and experience in SWEP influence your work?
The group of women is fantastic—SWEP membership is so diverse, which exposes members to different aspects of the environmental field. Another advantage is the networking, as you have contacts that you can call up, and, even if you’re technically competitors, you’re also friends. So the organization is a great way to spread knowledge and develop friendships that erase competitor lines.
Your work has focused on conceptual models to explain the distribution of subsurface contaminants and to evaluate remedial alternatives. Is there a specific remedial alternative that you feel offers an innovative or exciting solution to large contaminant concentrations?
The short answer is no—it’s all site-specific and dependent on the conceptual model. Conceptual site modeling should be the basis for hydrogeologic work because every site is unique, and there is no one set of conditions that will apply to everything. What are the objectives you have for your project? How can you address the competing needs? These questions have different answers for each site. When considering a solution, one first needs to think about the myriad of consequences, including the environmental footprint of the selected remedy. This just reiterates why such problems must be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective.
What has been one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on as a Technical Director of Hydrogeology?
I do a lot of work cleaning up soil and groundwater for large companies, which can be challenging scientifically, but one of the projects that stands out for me is one where I was asked to support a few neighbors in fighting the development of a golf course. The project was interesting technically, but it also required me to focus on such larger issues as how to convince the state regulators that it wouldn’t be appropriate to approve the golf course. I had to really believe in the science, which I did. Research for the project made me very aware of the risks to water resources in humid climates. You cannot take a huge amount of water, such as that required for golf courses, out of the headwaters of a watershed where there’s limited recharge—so the golf course would have had a significant negative ecological impact.
What should students interested in your field focus on in their studies? In other words, what will the hydrogeologists of the future need to know or be able to do?
In general, I think what hasn’t always been stressed in the study of geology is how critical it is to understand the sustainability of hydrogeologic resources, even in humid climates. People need to understand the implications of their actions. How do you limit development, and say that, although a person has property rights, further development may not be appropriate because it will have a negative effect on someone downstream or the environment? That can be complicated, but it needs to be done. Hydrogeologists need an interdisciplinary background to understand what to do when real life includes more considerations than just the computer model.
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.
Uncommon Events for the Common Read
By Regina Raboin
This year’s Common Reading theme focuses on the environment and, in particular, environmental sustainability. The theme relates to new initiatives at Tufts: the hiring of new Environmental Studies faculty for 2012; the Peace and Justice Studies department’s national conference in October, “Anticipating Climate Disruption: Sustaining Justice, Greening Peace”; the new Sustainability Council initiated by Tufts President Anthony Monaco; and the Tufts Art Gallery’s fall exhibition of artists whose work addresses climate change.
After soliciting input from Tufts students, faculty, and staff, the Common Book Committee selected The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard.
According to Beth Rohloff, Tisch Library’s First-Year Experience Librarian and member of the Common Reading Book Committee, this book stood out from others because of its mission to raise consumer awareness about the life cycle of consumer products. With Tufts incoming Freshmen Class of 2016 bringing lots of “stuff” to campus, questions the book raises –such as, What thought is put into what we buy? How is it made, by whom, and where is it disposed? – are even more salient. The answers to these questions expose the links between over-consumption and environmental issues such as electronic waste, food insecurity, ocean garbage patches, pollution, and much more. The Story of Stuff also speaks to active citizenship, outlining steps people can take to become “concerned consumers.”
Now in its 7th year, the Common Reading Program boasts an incoming student essay contest and an extensive calendar of events and programming, including a talk, Q&A session, and book signing with Annie Leonard at Cohen Auditorium on October 24 from 8-10 pm. Ms. Leonard’s talk is being primarily sponsored by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), Tufts Office of Sustainability, and Tisch Library. In addition to these events, Tisch Library created “Common Reading 2012: The Story of Stuff,” an online research and information guide that provides links to The Story of Stuff Project videos, and Tufts related books, films, and student projects.
For more information about Tufts Common Reading Program, see the Tufts Undergraduate Orientation page or contact Tisch College Senior Program Manager Mindy R. Nierenberg at Mindy.Nierenberg@tufts.edu or 617.627-4159.
Regina Raboin is a Science Research & Instruction Librarian at Tufts University’s Tisch Library.
What’s Somerville Reading? A book review of Novella Carpenter’s Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer
By Jane Parkin Kullmann (G’06)
Some are cat people. Some are dog people. Then there’s Novella Carpenter, who would probably be thought of as an every type of animal person, since she’s raised everything from bees to pigs and lived to tell her tales about urban farming through her book, Farm City. The book begins with her and her boyfriend moving into a rather down on its luck neighborhood in Oakland, California that is filled with a cast of characters that would seem completely improbable if not for the fact that this is a true story. Lucky for Novella, her landlord has a small vacant lot adjacent to their apartment building, which she quickly co-opts for a garden, raising all manner of produce, no matter whether or not they might be considered “appropriate” for an urban farm.
The book cycles through her stories, interweaving tales of heartbreak and loss with high points of joy and fulfillment of the garden’s promise and her own hours of hard work. It is a well-written chronicle of her life in Oakland; she does not varnish over any of the difficulties she encounters, including the various criminal activities of her neighborhood as well as the unimaginable prospect of killing an animal that she had raised almost from birth. The accounts of her current endeavors are given context and color with comparison to the stories of her family life growing up and the lives of others she has gotten to know along her farming journey. Novella seems to relish a challenge, or at least when she comes up with an idea, jumps in feet first not knowing even what might lie in store for her and her ever-patient boyfriend. One might think that night after night of dumpster diving for pig food (they particularly liked cinnamon bread and fish guts) would test even the strongest of relationships, but Bill is game for it all.
The book is set up in three sections, beginning with a turkey, then moving onto rabbits, and finally the pigs. In each case, these are the animals that Novella acquires at infancy and tends them on her farm until it is time for the inevitable end. Some of the most poignant aspects of the book relate to her struggles with this process. However, Novella manages to muddle through it all, often with the help of a library book or two (wherein she learns that reading about something and actually doing it are very different things) and friends, farmers, chefs, and some Black Panthers that share her passions for local food and urban gardening. Overall it was a fascinating read, and although I would love to say I was inspired to plant my own urban garden, for the moment my aspirations remain limited to several herb plants, a pepper, and the random seeds and pits my husband decides to harvest from our fruit and produce (one time he thought about trying to get the strawberry seeds to grow strawberries…).
Farm City was also the most recent book selected by the City of Somerville (a Tufts neighbor!) as part of the “Somerville Reads” program, whose slogan is “one city, one book,” and whose mission is to promote literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over Somerville to read and discuss a book around a certain theme, which in this case was “Food: local, sustainable, and delicious!” The City made available many copies of the book at its libraries, and also held several events that offered residents opportunities to discuss the book and participate in activities around the theme of urban gardening and local food. By all accounts this was yet another successful iteration of this program, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!
Jane Parkin Kullmann is a TEA Steering Committee member and Risk Assessment Specialist at Haley & Aldrich.
Back to the top
Reflecting on Rio: Two students share their experiences from the international conference
At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (known as Rio+20), world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, came together to discuss how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want. The goal of Rio + 20 was to provide an opportunity for the world to reflect on the commitments made at the 1st Earth Summit 20 years ago (also held in Rio) and develop a global vision for sustainable development for the next 20 years. As scholars working at the nexus of the environment and international development, attending Rio+20 was a chance for us to see up close, and better understand, these efforts to change our current course of unsustainable development at a crucial moment in the world’s history.
However, one might have easily left the Rio+20 conference last month feeling somewhat pessimistic. After all, the final text that was agreed to by the national delegations was at best a small step forward, and at worst a reaffirmation of language from past agreements. Yet, despite the meager outcome of the “official” negotiations, optimists could look to the side events for inspiration.
Two such events that we attended promised more short-term progress than the diplomatic process has delivered. The first, a side event jointly hosted by the World Bank and the UK, announced a new initiative they have called the 50/50 program. The program aims to unite at least 50 countries and 50 private sector entities into a partnership to promote and develop a sophisticated system of natural capital accounting (NCA). The event was extremely well-attended, packing the room well beyond intended seating capacity. Rachel Kyte, a 2002 graduate of the Fletcher School, and current Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, presided over the event, which included heads of state from Costa Rica, Norway, and Gabon, as well as representatives from private sector firms such as Unilever, Dow, and Puma. Prime Minister Stoltenberg of Norway and other speakers argued that NCA is the only way to truly hold private sector firms accountable for the natural resources they consume. Further, it aims to better measure the wealth held by resource-rich countries, which have been undervalued by traditional metrics such as GDP. So far, the 50/50 partnership is off to a great start, as it has already exceeded its initial goal, having enlisted 57 countries and 86 private companies.
The second notable side event was the launch of the U.S. Water Partnership (watch a video of the launch here), a consortium of government, private sector, academic, and NGO partners committed to mobilizing expertise, resources, and ingenuity to address global water challenges. TIE is a founding member of the partnership, and only one of a few academic partners. The launch brought together expert speakers to discuss the urgent issues that the partnership was created to overcome. Also at the event, founding partners Coca Cola and World Vision announced formal financial commitments toward the partnership’s goals.
These two side events displayed the power behind multi-sector partnerships—a power that, we feel, traditional diplomacy generally struggles to harness. The stark contrast between the enthusiasm and productivity on the sidelines of Rio+20 and the lack of momentum in the formal negotiations suggests that perhaps we should begin questioning traditional approaches to negotiations. While private sector actors and NGOs can be a powerful force for sustainable development, government participation is still critically important.
In order to advance the dialogue on this topic, TIE and the Fletcher School hosted a panel discussion about reframing environmental negotiations entitled, “From Burden Bearing to Opportunity Sharing: Reframing Environmental Negotiations.” The concept for the panel emerged from a paper on reframing the climate negotiations in terms of energy access, written by Bill Moomaw (of the Fletcher School) and Mihaela Papa (formerly of the Fletcher School, now a research fellow at Harvard Law). Their main argument is that the current negotiations’ focus on burden-sharing is unlikely to be successful. Thus, the panel proposed that by focusing on sustainable development, negotiations could be reframed around positives rather than negatives. At the event, we explored three examples of issues that are currently framed in terms of burdens but could instead be framed in terms of opportunities: energy use, climate change adaptation, and health.
Although the outcome document of the formal negotiations is now complete, much work still remains to implement the agreement, leaving room for modifications. Perhaps reframing the issues involved will engage more actors in sustainable development and bring some of the enthusiasm we witnessed in the side events to the formal proceedings.
Laura Kuhl is a doctoral candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, focusing on environmental policy and development economics. She is a recipient of a National Science Foundation IGERT Fellowship in Water and Diplomacy. Her research focuses on climate change adaptation.
Andrew Tirrell is a human rights attorney and sustainable development scholar, focusing his research and practice on rights-based approaches to natural resource management (especially water) and development. He has worked with various indigenous peoples in Latin America over the past decade on issues of development and human rights. He holds a J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law, and is a current PhD candidate, and IGERT Water Diplomacy Fellow, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.