Seattle considers switch to LED streetlights

Mar. 13, 2012

Posted by Agyapong Awo under In the News
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Seattle is gearing up to install energy-efficient light-emitting diodes in many of its streetlights.

Before doing so, a consortium of power companies, consultants, the Department of Energy, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle City Light are gathering public opinion about the plan to install LEDs around the Pacific Northwest city.

Full Story here

INVASIVE SPECIES: No rats in sight on atoll, but FWS not ready to declare victory

Mar. 13, 2012

Posted by Agyapong Awo under In the News
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An effort to eradicate rats on a remote Pacific atoll appears to be succeeding, federal biologists say.

Targeting hundreds of thousands of rats that had swarmed Palmyra Atoll, rat hunters armed with slingshots and rodenticide swooped in by helicopter last June in a $2.7 million project aimed at killing every invasive rodent. The rats -- believed to have arrived from ships in World War II -- are an ecological menace. They had devoured seabird eggs and tree seeds as quickly as they were produced.

Full Story here

Trouble in the air, double on the ground:China objects to European efforts to curb its airlines’ emissions

Feb. 28, 2012

Posted by Agyapong Awo under In the News
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Could a fresh row over airline emissions lead to a global trade war? That is the scariest prospect raised by China’s objections this week to the European Union’s new plan for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions from aeroplanes. The scheme, which came into effect on January 1st, forces airlines flying into the EU to buy tradable carbon credits as part of its broader emissions-trading system.

Many countries are unhappy with the policy, but China’s proclamations this week—official news agencies report that China has “banned” its airlines from participation without specific government approval—appear to be an escalation. Not least because Chinese and European officials are expected to meet for high-level talks in Beijing next week. It also raises the temperature of the row in advance of a meeting of 26 dissenting countries, including India, China, Russia and America, in Moscow on February 21st.

 Read full story here

1. WETLANDS: New tool could flood Louisiana wetlands with private financing

Jan. 31, 2012

Posted by Olivia K Derks under In the News
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A new program in Louisiana could bring in billions of dollars of private financing to restore disappearing wetlands along the Gulf Coast.

The program would create the first-ever carbon offset market for broad-scale restoration of American wetlands. A consulting firm and nonprofit organization developed the groundbreaking methodology, financed with the help of a Gulf Coast electric company that is interested in investing in the offsets.

Voluntary carbon markets oversee investment in hundreds of conservation projects around the world, but the projects have thus far focused largely on reforestation or agricultural practices. The new tool would allow investors for the first time to pay for wetlands restoration along the Gulf Coast as a carbon credit.

Conservation advocates are hopeful the partnership could bring in new sources of revenue to restore wetlands they fear are shrinking faster than the states or federal government can afford to restore.

Full Story available for MHC faculty, staff, and students through E&E Publishing


1. DEFENSE: Pentagon still can't define 'energy security,' much less achieve it

Jan. 31, 2012

Posted by Olivia K Derks under In the News
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Hurricane Katrina humbled U.S. military bases in 2005, cutting power at air towers, training facilities and command centers just as it did everywhere else along the Gulf Coast.

The Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Miss., for example, a staging ground for regional relief operations after the storm, needed relief itself after running for two weeks on backup power systems. And Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi, Miss., lost its airfield lights and had to scramble to keep its hospital running after a generator was swamped.

While diesel generators kept critical missions going during Katrina, the storm provided a wakeup call for Pentagon leaders concerned about terror attacks on the electric grid, which provides 99 percent of the energy that bases consume. Could bases withstand a power outage that outlasts their three-to-seven-days' supply of diesel for backup systems? Is it wise for the military to rely on the same power plants and transmission lines that feed homes and businesses?

Full Story available for MHC faculty, staff, and students through E&E Publishing

NYT: Signs of New Life as U.N. Searches for a Climate Accord

Jan. 25, 2012

Posted by Ruby Maddox under In the News
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Published: January 24, 2012

WASHINGTON — Critics and supporters alike agree that the U.N. forum for negotiating international climate change policies is an ungainly mess, its annual gatherings marked by discord, disarray and brinkmanship.

Each year, exhausted delegates and observers return home thinking that there has to be a better way to address what they believe to be one of the defining challenges of our time: the relentless warming of the planet and its impact on the world’s inhabitants.

But the recently concluded meeting in Durban, South Africa, which established a new mandate for concluding a binding agreement of some sort by 2015, has given the process new life and hushed many of its critics. For now.

“Apart from the fact that we took 36 hours longer than we expected, I actually think Durban will be proven by history to be the most encompassing and farthest reaching agreements that any climate conference has ever reached,” said Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who leads the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that oversees the negotiations.

Full Story...

Is there BPA in your Thanksgiving dinner?

Nov. 27, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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CE's note: This is too late for your Thanksgiving but still in time for the Christmass extravaganza.


You may be doing a great job of minimizing your family's daily exposure to BPA, but one nonprofit organization is warning that your traditional Thanksgiving dinner may be loaded with the chemical. The Breast Cancer Fund, an environmental health advocacy group, wanted to know how much BPA could be in a typical Thanksgiving meal, so the organization tested canned foods used to make popular Thanksgiving dishes: turkey gravy; creamed corn; cranberry sauce; pumpkin and evaporated milk (for pie); and green beans and cream of mushroom soup (for green bean casserole).

The results of these tests were released just in time for Thanksgiving. The report, BPA in Thanksgiving Canned Food, tested Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, Campbell's Turkey Gravy, Carnation Evaporated Milk (by Nestle), Del Monte Fresh Cut Sweet Corn (Cream Style), Green Giant Cut Green Beans (by General Mills), Libby's Pumpkin (by Nestle) and Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce.

Single servings of almost half of the products tested had levels of BPA comparable to levels that laboratory studies have linked to adverse health effects. In contrast, there was no BPA detected in any of the cans of Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce.

Full story at Miami Herald 

BBC: No let up in greenhouse gas rise

Nov. 21, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to yet another high in 2010, according to the UN's weather agency.

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the major contributor to climate change - rose by 2.3 parts per million between 2009 and 2010.

That exceeds the average for the past decade of 2.0 parts per million, the World Meteorological Organization says.

The latest round of UN climate talks begin in South Africa in two weeks.

"The atmospheric burden of greenhouse gases due to human activities has yet again reached record levels since pre-industrial time," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Concentrations of CO2 reached 389 parts per million in 2010 - the highest such concentrations since the start of the industrial era in 1750.

 To read the full article on BBC, click here

GOVERNMENT REFORM: Whistleblower groups object to new bipartisan bill designed to help them

Nov. 03, 2011

Posted by Olivia K Derks under In the News
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A rare bipartisan agreement on whistleblower protections doesn't have the full support of a key constituency: the whistleblowers it aims to protect.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced a bill yesterday that would amend the Whistleblower Protection Act. Ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is a co-sponsor, all but ensuring the bill's passage in a markup this morning.

In a statement yesterday, Issa said the bill would enhance protections, closing "judicially-created loopholes," increasing avenues for intelligence employees to report abuse and creating a specific protection in the law for scientific freedom.

But some whistleblower groups say that the bill may actually scale back protections. Soon after Issa released the bill, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) urged members to call lawmakers and object to "toxic amendments" that would block employees from going to the U.S. Courts of Appeal and enable the Merit Systems Protection Board to dismiss cases without a hearing.

Full Story available for staff and faculty through E&E News

Don't Think of a Pig: Why "Corporate Greed" Is the Wrong Frame

Oct. 25, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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Frances Moore Lappé and Anthony Lappé reflect on the Occupy Movement. Frances Lappé will be talking about her new book EcoMind this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Gamble. 

As the Occupy Wall Street enters its fourth week, the meta-narrative around the rapidly spreading movement is beginning to take shape. From CNN to Fox News to many protestors themselves, one central slogan is sticking: corporate greed.

During an inspiring visit to Zoccutti Park, we saw abundant posters with slogans like "Another Mother Against Corporate Greed" to "Corporate Greed is the Vampire."

OWS has historic potential. It's already succeeding in raising questions typically buried by the mainstream media. We want it to gain power fast, but much will depend on how its core message gets framed. As linguist George Lakoff argued in his seminal book Don't Think of an Elephant, "frames" have enormous power.

Unfortunately, smashing "corporate greed" is not only limiting, but we fear it's bound to fail. The "we are virtuous, you are evil" message is admittedly, a great way to get people fired up. But does it get us where we need to go?

Recall, by contrast, the Civil Rights movement. Dr. King didn't rail against the racists; he demanded the end to laws that allowed racists to damage people. Going to great lengths not to demonize foes, he called on Americans to live up to our own ideals.

And, on a deeper lever, is greed really the problem?

For the full story, visit  

Poll shows voter support for EPA rules Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oct. 13, 2011

Posted by Olivia K Derks under In the News
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Voters support U.S. EPA's plans to cut mercury, smog and soot emissions, even though they believe the rules will cost them money, according to a new poll released yesterday sponsored by the public interest group Ceres.

The poll, which was conducted jointly by Democratic polling firm Hart Research Associates and Republican polling firm GS Strategy Group, surveyed 1,400 Democratic, Republican and independent voters about their level of support for conventional air quality rules for electric utilities.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they believed the rules would increase electricity rates, but the majority expressed strong support for new emissions reduction rules, including the Cross State Air Pollution rule for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions (supported by 67 percent) and an upcoming mercury and air toxics rule (supported by 77 percent).

The poll showed that 75 percent of respondents think EPA should set new standards, rather than Congress.

Respondents were divided about the likely effect of the rules on jobs and the economy. A plurality of 41 percent said they would be good for job creation compared with 33 percent who disagreed, but a small majority of 52 percent said they would be persuaded by the argument that emissions rules would hurt the economy at the time of high unemployment, postponing an economic recovery.

Respondents broke down along party lines, with 91 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans favoring the mercury rule for utilities, while 85 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans supported the SO2 and NOx rule.

Gender and age also played a role, with women and younger voters consistently favoring EPA rules more than men and older voters. For example, 80 percent of women answered favorably to questions about the mercury rule, compared with 70 percent of men. Eighty-seven percent of voters under 35 and 68 percent of voters over 65 answered the same way.

Greg Strimple, a Republican pollster and president of GS Strategy Group based in Boise, Idaho, said the poll showed that opposition to air quality rules is not a winning issue for Republican candidates.

"I advise my political candidates that you need to find issues that unite the Republican Party with the center of electorate and divide Democrats," he said. "And this issue does the opposite. This issue unites the center of the electorate with the left side of Democrats and divides Republicans."

"These are not the kinds of issues that Republicans should be picking up at the time when they have a chance to advance in their representation in Congress," he added.

To Read the full story, click here.  

NYT:A Passing: Wangari Maathai

Sep. 26, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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It’s time to pause and recall the life and spirit of Wangari Maathai, who died of cancer Sunday in a Nairobi hospital. Here’s her Times obituary, by Jeffrey Gettleman, our Nairobi bureau chief.

Maathai is best known for creating the Green Belt Movement, which has planted tens of millions of trees around Kenya, but she also personified a positive strain of environmentalism that stands out in a world where “woe is me” messages dominate. 

Wangari MaathaiRadu Sigheti/ReutersNobel laureate Wangari Maathai, center, in Nairobi in 2004.

Her work centered on improving the lives of women, building a sustainable relationship between people and the land and education. Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts. I encourage you to read the defense of her prize, which was criticized by some, from Anna Lappé and Frances Moore Lappé of the Small Planet Institute. Here’s a snippet:

Maathai’s genius is in recognizing the interrelation of local and global problems, and the fact that they can only be addressed when citizens find the voice and courage to act. Maathai saw in the Green Belt Movement both a good in itself, and a way in which women could discover they were not powerless in the face of autocratic husbands, village chiefs and a ruthless president. Through creating their own tree nurseries – at least 6,000 throughout Kenya – and planting trees, women began to control the supply of their own firewood, an enormous power shift that also freed up time for other pursuits.

Then, through popular education, village women – who had watched public forests be used by the Moi regime to grant political favors – began to see forests differently, as something they, as citizens, had a claim to.

The writer Terry Tempest Williams sent this note by e-mail:

I met her when I was 28 years old in Kenya, she changed my life. She showed me what a powerful woman's voice not only sounded like, but felt like. And she taught me as we traveled through villages what interdependency is all about -- environmental issues are social issues are issues of social justice.]

Maathai was not averse to speaking truth to power. John Vidal of The Guardian today recalls comments Maathai made in 1988:

Her fierce denunciation of the rich north, that day, was shocking: “The top of the pyramid is blinded by insatiable appetites backed by scientific knowledge, industrial advancement, the need to acquire, accumulate and over-consume. The rights of those at the bottom are violated every day by those at the top.”

By ANDREW C. REVKIN  September 26, 2011, 9:12 AM

NYT: Making Headway in the Movement to Protect the World’s Sharks

Sep. 11, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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For sharks, life at the top of the ocean food chain is becoming safer — at least from human predators.The last 12 months have seen a flurry of laws, regulations and industry actions to end the international trade in the age-old delicacy, including bans on shark fin sales in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and parts of Canada.

Last week, the California Senate also voted to ban the sale or possession of shark fins — a billion-dollar global trade that has led to the brutal deaths of tens of millions of sharks a year and resulted in many open-ocean shark species being threatened with extinction. The Bahamas and Honduras have prohibited shark fishing in the last two years.

“We’re really enthusiastic to see good things finally starting to happen for sharks,” said Elizabeth Wilson, a marine wildlife expert at Oceana, a nonprofit conservation group that has long campaigned against the trade.

Shark fins are used to make a coveted Chinese banquet soup that can sell for over $100 a bowl. It has the ceremonial mystique of benefiting health and virility, and serving it to guests is considered to be a sign of great honor and respect.

For the full story, click here.

MHC student activists attend Powershift 2011

Apr. 22, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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cross-post from MHNews By Meaghan Collins '13

Last weekend, 23 Mount Holyoke students joined ten thousand other youth activists in attending the Powershift Conference 2011 in Washington D.C.

Emma Puka-Beals ’12, Bliss Parsons ’13 and Julia Frankenbach ’13 began organizing the trip to the conference at the beginning of this semester and quickly initiated outreach efforts to recruit fellow students to attend the April conference. The organizers put up recruiting posters around the campus, sent informative emails to the student body and tabled in Blanchard to encourage people to sign up to attend the conference.


Along with recruiting, the organizers also asked students to sign a petition demanding a national shift from dirty coal and oil to clean energy alternatives such as wind and solar power, collecting over several hundred signatures. On Friday, April 15, students from all five colleges used personal cars and busses as transportation to the conference. Fifteen students from Mount Holyoke carpooled to and from the conference via personal cars while remaining student went by a bus secured through Amherst College. “The trip to and from DC was a great opportunity to get to know other Mount Holyoke women who shared some of my interests. The ride was a collective effort as the drivers rotated and we helped each other with navigation,” said Rita Kerbaj ’14.

Upon arriving at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, students caught the last segment of Al Gore’s keynote speech as a kickoff for the conference. Both Friday and Saturday evenings, students stayed at the Riverside Community Center, a two-room facility with no showers and wooden floors available to sleep on. The center operates mainly to assist in finding employment opportunities in GreenCorps for D.C. residents and has received funding from the most recent federal stimulus bill.

The following day, students attended a variety of workshops that taught and confronted environmental issues facing the world today. Workshop topic titles included, Time for the American Clean Energy Party and Moving Campuses Beyond Coal.


“I went to learn for myself about how to be a better and more effective leader and organizer and for the Eco-Reps.” said Eco-Reps Coordinator Ariel Russ ’13. founder, Bill McKibben and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson also delivered keynote addresses at the conference. “The conference also educated me on some of the rising issues that I might never have known about, and helped me to balance my understanding of the consequences of climate change—not only will it threaten the wilderness that I love, but it also will have devastating consequences for communities of people around the world,” said Frankenbach.

On the last day, thousands of the conference attendees convened on the streets of Washington D.C., including in front of the White House and the BP Energy Headquarters and marched to demand a shift away from dirty energy. “I finally felt like our voices were being heard,” said Frankenbach. “This experience has made me rethink what exactly I want to do with my Mount Holyoke education, and I most definitely plan to attend Power Shift 2013.”

Image courtesy of Willsteger Foundation



Totally missed the biggest story this weekend...Obama met with Powershift?

Apr. 17, 2011

Posted by Yiting Wang under In the News
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Nearly 30 Mount Holyoke students took a trip down to D.C. this Friday and are now in the midst of high energy for the bi-annual event organized and gathered by over 10,000 young people from the U.S. and other parts of the world.  It's an urgent call to the government to embrace clean energy for all and an event for young people to learn from and inspire each other. And perhaps neither have they thought the organizers of the event got an unexpected meeting with President Obama himself.

A dozen young climate change activists expecting a discussion with White House staffers Friday instead got a meeting with President Obama himself.

The surprise meeting came hours ahead of the April 15-18 Power Shift 2011 conference, which is slated to include criticism of a White House that some activists allege has not been aggressive enough on climate change. “We went thinking we would meet with senior staff and in walked Barack Obama,” said Courtney Hight, co-director of the Energy Action Coalition that organized the conference, which opened Friday night.

“Young people got to sit down at a table in the West Wing and have a meeting with the president and share what our priorities are and talk about solutions, and we talked about the impact of fossil fuels in our communities, and how they can wreak havoc,” Hight said onstage at the conference of largely collegiate activists.



By Ben Geman - 04/16/11 08:16 AM ET Full Story from The Hill...