Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week 3 Featured Journal Entries

This week's featured entries come from Cheyenne Hassan, Sarah Schmitt, and Robbie Ludlum. (Robbie's entry is from Week 2.)

Week 3 Journal Prompt
The University of Cincinnati has a variety of environmental initiatives, many of which are described at http://www.uc.edu/af/pdc/sustainability/campus_initiatives.html. In class we have talked/are talking about the three general types of environmental policy instruments. Describe one UC environmental program that uses government regulation as its primary instrument, one that uses market-based approaches, and one that uses law as its primary instrument. In this writeup, “government” regulation can encompass policy made by the university. Similarly, university policy can be considered “law.” If you cannot find a UC environmental program that fits one of the instrument types, you may instead select a policy measure pursued by Cincinnati’s city government.

Describe the advantages and disadvantages of each approach with specific reference to the UC/Cincinnati programs you are describing. For example, writing that government-based approaches may not be cost effective is insufficient. If you are discussing UC’s new Trayless Dining policy, you should discuss whether or not this regulatory approach appears to be cost-effective for the university. Cite class readings about environmental policy instrument choice and other sources as necessary. Your narrative should be 6–9 paragraphs.

Cheyenne's Week 3 Journal Entry

Market Instrument: Having the LEED-certified buildings at University of Cincinnati is a good example of a market based environmental policy intrument. These buildings were designed to meet a certain rating that can go LEED-Certified to LEED-Platinum; buildings at UC are required to be at least LEED-Silver or above. This type of building construction calls for more sustainable construction costs, water savings, energy efficiency, etc. (UC Sustainability - Buildings)

This LEED project at UC is considered a market EP instrument, because not only is it cost effective to UC through construction and building costs, but UC receives tax breaks and incentives for building these types of energy efficient structures. Also, there are environmental incentives that allow for lower greenhouse gas emissions and a better use of materials and water. These LEED certified buildings are both effective for not only the University of Cincinnati as an establishment, but also for the students that attend classes in these buildings and for the environment that the buildings reside in.

Law Instrument: The vegetarian option, or "Vegetarian Corner" implemented at UC's dining court is a good example of a law based environmental policy instrument. There are many vegetarians and vegans that attend not only the University of Cincinnati, but also every university and college nationwide. This is a lifestyle that many people have picked up on and also some religious affiliations require worshipers to eat vegetarian meals. (UC Sustainability - Food)

If UC's food court did not offer at least one vegetarian meal to the students that eat there daily, they would be setting themselves up for a lawsuit dealing with religious and PETA students alike. It is in the best interest of UC to keep a cheese pizzas and veggie burgers on the daily menu to allow for the happiness of both the students and the lawyers.  (UC Sustainability - Food)

Regulation Instrument: The University of Cincinnati has been keeping a Carbon Inventory to keep track of both gross emissions of CO2 and also more specific CO2 emissions such as purchased electricity, process emissions, and solid waste. (http://rs.acupcc.org/ghg/1425/) This is regulated by both the University of Cincinnati and the ACUPCC (American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment) to make sure that emissions of CO2 are not in exceeding previously set up standards.

This type of regulation allows for both UC and the ACUPCC to keep tabs on CO2 emissions and also to better understand what exactly needs to be taken care of in terms of solid waste, public transportation, electricity, etc. Giving the University of Cincinnati performance based standards allows for a more efficient CO2 emissions report, and also less harm done to the environment. (UC Sustainability - Climate Action)

Sarah's Week 3 Journal Entry

Environmental Policy Instruments

A University of Cincinnati environmental program that uses “government” (UC) regulation as its primary instrument is the Bearcat Bike Share program. Bikes are available for check out at multiple locations around campus. This Program was created to help reduce carbon emissions, pollution, traffic, and parking shortages, while increasing health, fitness, and sense of place. Bikes can be checked out with your UCID and at no cost at all. When you check out a bike, you will receive a safety and rule guide and a numbered key that corresponds to the bike that you are borrowing. Requests of certain bikes are allowed, but helmets are not provided, which  are strongly encouraged to be worn. Check-out  time limit is up to three days at a time and late fees are given if bike is not returned on time. This policy is made and enforced by UC’s Office of Sustainability.

The advantages of having a regulatory program like the Bearcat Bike Program are that it makes it easier for others to follow and step-by-step approach.  This approach easily outlines the rules that need to be followed to be able to rent a bike.  There is little to no cost-benefit because the program is focused more on accessibility than making money. The program wants to help UC student get involved in emission-reduction process.  A disadvantage of this regulatory approach is that is only for UC students and that there is a time limit given to each person.  There is also a disadvantage when it comes to when the program runs out of bikes; this prohibits others from being able to rent a bike.

A program that uses a “market-based” approach on campus is the LEED program. UC’s LEED program has completed six LEED-certified buildings on campus. LEED can directly reduce building construction and operating costs on campuses.  The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a nationally accepted benchmark or design, construction, and operation of high performance ‘green’ buildings.  It gives building owners (UC) the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. LEED promotes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality (U.S. Green Building Council). UC has a requirement for all new construction, and whenever possible renovations, to be certified LEED Silver or higher.

An advantage of a market-based approach is that the program is cost efficient to the University. It saves the university money on energy to power buildings, which is mainly powered from the coal powered plants. It is also very efficiently organized, especially the LEED program.  The LEED program has certification process that is step-by-step process to design and construct a “green” space. A disadvantage can be that it can be expensive; even though it will save the University money in the long-run, it will cost them a good amount to get it up and keep up to Silver certified standards.

A program that uses a “law” based approach at UC is the UC chapter of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment is an effort to address global warming by garnering institutional commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions, and to accelerate the research and educational efforts of higher education to help society re-stabilize the earth’s climate. When you sign the commitment your campus is pledging to eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions over time. This involved: completely an emissions inventory, setting a target date and for becoming climate neutral, taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving short-term actions, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, and making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available. There is a steering committee that is responsible for guidance, policy and direction of the Commitment.  

An advantage of law-based approach is that it has a larger group to identify the problem and develop a solution or goal for that problem.  The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment also knows the ins-and-outs of how to get policies approved and moving in the direction that they want. A disadvantage of a law-based approach to this program is that it has a commitment with signing.  This commitment assures that you take actions to solve the emission problems, so if these actions aren’t taken you can be asked to leave this program. 

Robbie's Week 2 Journal Entry

I do not believe I am an environmentalist although it is something I aspire to be someday.  I also think that most people who say that they are environmentalists are also not environmentalists even though they would like to think that they are.  I hope to point out the cognitive and actual differences between a real environmentalist and someone who truly believes themselves to be one.

First, defining an environmentalist:  An environmentalist is somewhat a recent phenomenon.  There have been naturalists around for a very long time but, environmentalism is something new.  I imagine an environmentalist is someone who lives their life giving thought to their every action in regards to its effect it will have on the landbase and the humans and non-humans that person shares that landbase with.  They are also someone who more closely defines themselves to the land they live on and owe their life to rather than an economic system in their actions, thoughts and lifestyle, ensuring that they give back more than they take.

An environmentalist probably doesn't consider themselves an environmentalist.  Some time ago I read a book about a tribe that didn't have a word for 'art'.  Of course they would do things that we consider art such as decorating a clay pot they made or using natural dyes to paint their body but they didn't have a word for the act of creating or adding decorations to themselves or their things.  It came to them naturally.  I think true environmentalism is the same for true environmentalists.  We don't call Native Americans (living tribally prior to 1492) environmentalists because that's the lifestyle that they lived.  The same way that produce in Africa isn't labeled as 'local' and 'organic' because that's exactly how things are.  To label them as such is redundant.

Now that I've defined what I believe an environmentalist is I can tell you why I don't believe myself to be an environmentalist.  My actions and lifestyle immediately give me away as not being an environmentalist.  I awaken to an alarm clock, use hot water provided by a hot water heater, light my home, refrigerate my food, type on this laptop - all this and more, all powered using coal from the Appalachian Mountains by a corporate entity that uses mountain top removal to extract coal from the living soil.

I drive my motorcycle to school sometimes which uses oil as fuel.  Oil that has been taken from the earth through many different methods, none of which gives back to the land that it takes from.
I eat food that also uses oil to transport from farm to grocery store (the average item in a grocery store has traveled over 2,000 miles [Dive!{2010}]).  Oil is also used in the form of pesticides and fertilizers so that plants growing in non-native soil and in unnatural soldier rows may be harvested with an industrial ease.  This industrial farming also causes topsoil erosion, destroys natural habitat as farmland continues to expand, pays workers slave-labor wages, and dumps so many chemicals into the lakes and rivers that in the Gulf of Mexico there is an area at the mouth of the Mississippi River called the dead zone where fish die of hypoxia due to high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which is bigger than the state of Connecticut.

"The United States constitutes less than 5 percent of the world's population yet uses more than one-fourth of the world's resources and produces one-fourth of the world's pollution and waste.  If you compare the average U.S. citizen to the average citizen of India, you find that the American uses fifty times more steel, fifty-six times more energy, one hundred and seventy times more synthetic rubber, two hundred and fifty times more motor fuel, and three hundred times more plastic"  (Jensen 2006, 115).

Essentially, if you are an average American, you cannot be an environmentalist as well.  It is the same as saying that you are a vegetarian while having a mouthful of steak wrapped in bacon and topped with a turkey leg.

That being said, I am not saying that being an average American with the 'American Dream' is wrong.   Environmentally, biocentrically, and realistically it IS wrong to think that 300 million people (in the States alone) can collectively live the most wasteful and destructive lifestyle on the planet.

There are many reasons why people choose to identify themselves as environmentalists.  Primarily, it feels good.  When people are able to make consumer choices about buying 'organic' or 'local' they feel like they're really making a decision that is doing good.  This is largely due to the fact that we are in essence consumers more than anything else whether we define ourselves differently or not.  And having that 'consumer power' makes people think that that and a few other things (like recycling, bringing your own bags to Wal-Mart, and not running the water while brushing their teeth) is enough for them to do.  Being an American environmentalist is easy - all you have to do are a few token actions and you get the cool points that socially label you as a good guy or girl that is considerate and caring.  And as for electric cars and sustainable energy - the Great Saviors that will herald in a new cleaner era - all of these new gadgets require mining operations, transportation to move raw materials and end-products, and industry to turn the raw materials into molded plastics, complicated electronics, and shiny metal (and all the waste associated with these processes).  All on a massive, global scale.  All still using finite resources.  I was under the assumption that sustainable meant sustainable.  What a load of malarkey...

There are also some groups that choose to not associate themselves with environmentalism and I thank them for their honesty.  Environmentalism is a four-letter word that increases taxes, takes away freedoms, and inhibits industry.  I've mostly found it to be men and women that like living 'the good life' and the thought that they have to limit themselves in any way is an infringement on their freedom.  They buy land and things so that they can do anything they want with it rather than the idea that they are now a steward or responsible for that item or acreage. I've had very candid conversations with unashamed neighbors, family members, and friends who said that if the polar bears or crocodiles or habitat were going extinct or being destroyed then, it was their time and nothing could be done about it, the thought of slowing progress never even crossing their minds.

And then there's someone like myself that doesn't fit into either of those two very generalized groupings.  I understand what environmentalism means to me.  I believe that ideologically I'm an environmentalist but that doesn't keep any trees from being cut down, now does it? It means living on a human scale versus an automotive or industrial scale.  It means giving more back to the land than I take away from it.  It means being responsible for my own land by restoring habitat.  It means growing my own food.  It means minimizing my participation in the destruction of the environment.  It means knowing that my miniscule actions will not and never will save the world.  But it means doing those actions anyway. 

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