Tag Archive for environmental studies

Yohe Joins Conn. Governor to Oppose Environmental Program Cuts

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Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, joined Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy at a press conference March 22 at the Connecticut Science Center to speak out against major cuts to environmental programs proposed by President Donald Trump.

“As a scholar with more than three decades of experience studying climate change, I fear our new president is on a course to reverse this progress with extremely dangerous consequences,” Yohe said at the event, according to The Hartford Courant.

Yohe was a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—which received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize—from the early 1990s through 2014. He is past-vice chair of the National Climate Assessment Development and Advisory Committee for the Obama Administration; the Assessment was released by the White House in 2014.

Yohe contrasted progress made against climate change by former President Barack Obama to the approach taken by Trump.

“By way of stark contrast, President Trump does not even have a science advisor,” Yohe said. “His administration has attacked climate science, and it has announced its intention to abandon any initiative designed to ameliorate climate risk in any way.”

Yohe also was interviewed by Fox CT, and his comments were featured in stories on WTNH and CT News Junkie.

Yohe Talks Climate Change and Politics on ‘Where We Live’

Gary-YoheGary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was a guest on WNPR’s “Where We Live” recently to discuss climate change and politics. President Donald Trump’s newly released budget proposal substantially cuts the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce and other agencies that conduct research and do work on climate change. (Yohe begins speaking around 2 minutes into the program).

Since the election, Yohe explains, he and others in the scientific community “have been concerned that part of the attack on science will be the eradication of scientific data scattered around all of the federal agencies. A lot of us have been spending an enormous amount of time trying to protect that data” by posting it to public websites outside the country.

Yohe says that for the next four years, most of the action against the effects of climate change is going to be at the local and state levels.

“That’s where people have the ability to tell their leaders that they want to be protected from the risks of climate change and want them to do something to reduce the sources of growth in the temperatures that they’re seeing,” he said.

Yohe also spoke about a recent visit by former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin ’79 to his class at Wesleyan. Shumlin’s message: “You can’t just sit here and study this stuff and be convinced that it’s happening. You have to go out and do something which means, in this environment, run for office,”

Tucker Comments on Victorian Pseudoscience, Romance

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

The pseudoscientific myths about love and sexuality that abounded in the Victorian era, many of which seem “cruel and oppressive” by today’s standards, could also offer women relief from the era’s “rigid gender politics,” according to Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker, who comments on the topic for a Broadly article.

For much of the 19th century, the Western world was fascinated with a variety of pseudosciences, or theories that lack a basis in the scientific method.

“Definitions of science were malleable and hotly contested in the 19th century,” said Tucker, who is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and associate professor of environmental studies. “Far from being on the sidelines of intellectual life, spiritualism and other unconventional forms of knowledge often provided a means for Victorians from a variety of different social backgrounds to question scientific authority and to ask what counted as a proper science, or as a ‘scientific practice.'”

“One of the great myths about the Victorian age [was] that it was sexually repressive; on the contrary, Victorian society was obsessed with sexual reform, heterosexual and homosexual love, lust, and sex (as well as of the policing of sexual desires),” added Tucker. “Love and sex were both controversial and politicized.”

Pseudoscientific theories included phrenology (which was used to explain the different propensities of men and women toward love and sexual desire); the use of love potions made of dangerous ingredients such as arsenic and belladonna; beauty face masks made of raw beef; cures for low libido such as bull testicles; and vibrators used to treat “hysteria” in sexually frustrated women.

According to the story, “Victorians were also surprisingly progressive on what would eventually evolve into more enlightened views on gender.

“Theosophists [occult philosophers] believed that life in male and female bodies taught different lessons; for some, this meant that it was necessary for the Ego to incarnate many times as both female and male,” Tucker explains. “Many theosophists believed, for example, that in their evolutionary progress men reincarnated as women, and women as men. Therefore at any given time, as one believer in this theory said in 1892: ‘We have… men in women’s bodies, and women in men’s bodies.'”

Grabel Warns of Threat to Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Op-ed

Laura Grabel

Laura Grabel

Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, warns in a new op-ed that the progress of embryonic stem cell research in this country, always subject to the ups and down of politics, is currently under threat.

Co-authored with Diane Krause of Yale University, the op-ed in The Hartford Courant notes that Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, is on record opposing embryonic stem cell research. They write:

As stem cell researchers, we fear that this appointment would endanger human embryonic stem cell research in the United States and reverse the substantial progress made in recent years. There are promising clinical trials underway for macular degeneration, spinal cord injury and diabetes with more possible, including for Parkinson’s disease.

The authors explain what has made this research so controversial, and argue why it is singularly valuable in its potential to treat life-threatening diseases and injuries.

Grabel also is professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Yohe Brings “Rap Guide to Climate Chaos” to Campus

On Feb. 2, the Wesleyan community will be treated to a performance of “The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos,” a one-man show written and performed by Baba Brinkman on the politics, economics and science of global warming.

The performance will begin at 7 p.m. in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall. The event is free of charge.

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, has worked with Brinkman in the past and was responsible for bringing his performance to Wesleyan. In May 2016, Brinkman invited Yohe to serve as the climate expert during an off-Broadway performance of the show at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City. Yohe spent 25 minutes on stage taking questions from the audience, which provided material for the closing raps.

Now, Yohe has sponsored the creation of a new rap, titled “Erosion,” that has been produced by Brinkman on climate change and the election of President Donald Trump. Yohe provided peer review to ensure the scientific accuracy of all climate science statements made in the rap. Watch the new rap online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEx-F-pSdXA, or below.

During the Wesleyan performance on Feb. 2, Yohe will reprise his role as the climate expert on stage and Baba will offer the world premier performance of “Erosion.”

Yohe also has used “The Rap Guide to Climate Change” in a class he taught in the fall semester, ECON 212/ ENVS 310: The Economics of Sustainable Development, Vulnerability and Resilience.

“I taught my students how to apply IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and Department of Defense standards for confidence to statements in the show. Each student was assigned to research and provide literature on two tracks, then assess where the lyrics may have overstated confidence,” Yohe explained. “I shared the students’ work with Baba, and he was very appreciative; only a few sources of concern were detected.”

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NSF Supports Singer’s Research on Habitat Fragmentation in Connecticut

Mike Singer.

Mike Singer.

Mike Singer, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation this month to support a study on habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation occurs when contiguous habitats become separated into smaller, isolated areas often caused by human activities (new roads, housing developments) or natural processes (flooding, drought).

Singer and his colleagues will study the effect of anthropogenic forest fragmentation on the food web of plants, herbivores, and carnivores (tri-trophic interactions) in Connecticut. The project will focus on relationships among deer, trees, caterpillars, and songbirds.

The grant, which will be awarded over three years, is shared with Robert Bagchi, David Wagner, and Christopher Elphick in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Wesleyan’s part of the award totals $258,933 and UConn’s part totals approximately $573,000.

As part of the grant, Singer will recruit a new PhD student to work on the study.

The research team will test several possible reasons for the loss of caterpillars, which are important food for songbirds, in highly fragmented forests. For example, some of their preliminary evidence suggests that forest fragmentation creates better habitat for deer, which browse out some of the best food plant species for caterpillars.

The PhD student will be tasked with testing the hypothesis that caterpillars grow more poorly on the plants in highly fragmented versus large forest tracts.

At Wesleyan, Singer teaches courses on conservation biology, ecology, plant-animal interactions and evolutionary biology.

Gruen Weighs in on Killing of Gorilla at Zoo

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

Writing in The Washington PostLori Gruen, the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, argues that fingers are being pointed in the wrong direction after Harambe, an endangered lowland gorilla, was shot and killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 4-year-old child entered his enclosure. “The real culprits are zoos,” she writes.

Many in the animal protection community contend that the gorilla didn’t pose a real threat to the boy, and are questioning if zoo staff did enough to try to separate Harambe from the child. Others are blaming the boy’s mother for not properly supervising him.

Gruen writes:

For me, the real question is not who to blame, but why anyone was in a situation in which they had to make a choice between the life of a human child and the life of an endangered teenage gorilla in the first place. Keeping wild animals in captivity is fraught with problems. This tragic choice arose only because we keep animals in zoos.

Though killing is less common at U.S. zoos compared with the regular practice of “culling” at European ones, zoos are nonetheless places that cause death. Harambe’s life was cut short intentionally and directly, but for many zoo animals, simply being in captivity shortens their lives. We know this is true for whales in SeaWorld. Elephants, too, die prematurely in zoos. So why have zoos?

One of the reasons often given is that zoos protect and conserve endangered wild animals. A few zoos do fund conservation efforts — the Cincinnati Zoo is one of them. These efforts are laudable, and I would hope that in light of the tragedy the Cincinnati Zoo will spend more to help protect lowland gorillas. Their habitat, as is true for so many wild animals, is under threat.

But captive animals, especially large mammals born in captivity, like Harambe, cannot be “returned to the wild.” These sensitive, smart, long-lived gorillas are destined to remain confined, never to experience the freedom of the wild. They are, at best, symbols meant to represent their wild counterparts. But these symbols are distortions, created in an effort to amuse zoo-goers. Zoos warp our understanding of these wonderful beings and perpetuate the notion that they are here for our purposes.

If we really need someone to blame, maybe we should look at our society, which supports these types of institutions of captivity. If zoos were more like sanctuaries, places where captive animals can live out their lives free from screaming crowds and dangers not of their own making, no one would have had to decide to kill Harambe. Sanctuaries are places where the well-being of animals is of primary concern and animals are treated with respect. Four-year-olds and their families could see gorillas in Imax theaters, where their curiosity could be safely satisfied and gorillas could live with dignity, in peace.

Gruen also is chair of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She also commented in The Christian Science Monitor’s coverage of the gorilla’s killing, and wrote this piece for the Center for Humans & Nature.

Yohe Speaks at the ‘Rap Guide to Climate Chaos’

Gary Yohe answered audience questions about climate change during the off-Broadway production, "Rap Guide to Climate Change" on May 29.

Gary Yohe answered audience questions about climate change during the off-Broadway production, “Rap Guide to Climate Change” on May 29.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, made his off-Broadway debut in the TED-talk segment of “Rap Guide to Climate Change,” written and performed by Baba Brinkman and directed by Darren Lee Cole, at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City on May 29. In this one-man show, running from February through July, Brinkman breaks down the politics, economics, and science of global warming, following its surprising twists from the carbon cycle to the global energy economy.

Yohe was invited to be the climate expert for the TED-talk segment in the middle of the show. He spent 25 minutes on stage with Brinkman taking questions from the audience, which provided material for the closing raps.

Kolcio, Students Attend Ukraine in Washington Forum

Students spoke with former Ambassador from Georgia Temuri Yakobashvili at the Ukraine in Washington forum. From left, James Reston '18, Misha Iakovenko '18 and Molly Jane Zuckerman '16.

Students spoke with former Ambassador from Georgia Temuri Yakobashvili at the Ukraine in Washington forum. From left, James Reston ’18, Misha Iakovenko ’18 and Molly Jane Zuckerman ’16.

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies, and a group of students attended the Ukraine in Washington forum at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on March 30, where Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko delivered the keynote address. Poroshenko was in Washington for President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Summit.

The trip was funded by the Dean of Social Sciences and the Dean of Arts and Humanities. According to Kolcio, the highlight of the trip occurred when Poroshenko responded to a question posed by Misha Iakovenko ’18 about the president’s efforts to deal with corruption, and a recent article that appeared in the Kyiv Post by gas company CEO and anti-corruption advocate Oleg Prokhorenko. The group also heard panels on Humanitarian Crisis, Economic Reform, and Political Context: Budapest to Minsk Agreements.

Eiko Otake to Present Major Platform at Danspace in NYC, March 11

Eiko performing at Wesleyan's Alsop House.

Visiting Instructor in Dance Eiko Otake performed at Wesleyan’s Alsop House.

Building off research she did for her work “Body in Places” at Wesleyan in fall 2015, Visiting Instructor in Dance Eiko Otake will present a major platform at Danspace Project in New York City on March 11. The free talks include those by Wesleyan faculty members William Johnson, professor of history, professor of East Asian Studies, professor of science in society, professor of environmental studies, and Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies.

March 11 marks the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. A photo collective by Eiko and Johnston will be on display in the St. Mark’s Church sanctuary for 24 hours. Singers and poets will mark each hour with a song and poem.

Johnston will speak at 4 p.m., together with Marilyn Ivy of Columbia University. Kolcio will speak at 6 p.m. together with Yoshiko Chuma, artistic director and choreographer of The School of Hard Knocks and Daghdha Dance Company.

Admission is free, and attendees are encouraged to RSVP here.

Learn more about Eiko’s month-long, multi-disciplinary program here. Read recent coverage of the project in The New York Times here and here. (All photos by William Johnston).

Eiko at Governors Island.

Eiko at Governors Island.

Eiko in Manhattan.

Eiko in Manhattan.

Eiko on Governors Island ferry.

Eiko on Governors Island ferry.

Sultan Authors Organism and Environment

Book by Sonia SultanSonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, is the author of Organism and Environment: Ecological Development, Niche Construction, and Adaptationpublished by Oxford University Press (London and New York) in November 2015.

Organism and Environment is an authoritative graduate textbook of ecological development (‘eco-devo’) set in the context of diverse natural systems. The book explores how niche construction contributes to ecological interactions and evolutionary dynamics and includes detailed case studies showing how regulatory mechanisms lead to plastic eco-devo responses.

Sultan worked on the book for the past six years, including a year spent on a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, Germany.

 

Yohe Writes: Climate Change Pact Good for Economy

Gary-YoheThe historic global deal on climate change reached by 190 countries in Paris will help the economy, not hurt it as critics argue, writes Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe in an op-ed in The Hartford Courant.

“The evidence in the peer-reviewed economic literature, as well as real experience around the world and in the United States, shows that climate action not only protects public health by reducing pollution, but also protects the economy from extreme weather shocks and other complications that have and will arise from a changing climate. The sooner we act, the more money we save,” he writes. Moreover, “Doing nothing, as those pushing inaction propose, means having to react more quickly at far greater cost in the future.”

So how to achieve the necessary reduction in carbon emissions? “Economists widely agree that reducing carbon emissions is most efficiently accomplished by placing a price on them. The price should start small, but rise over time to send a steady signal to businesses. It the price of carbon is clear, businesses can plan and make smart decisions to usher in the clean energy economy required to avoid climate calamity,” writes Yohe. “Economists know that exhaustible resources become more valuable over time. In this case, the resource is the atmosphere, and its ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The more we emit, the less the atmosphere can take before triggering changes that are devastating and irreversible.”

Yohe also spoke to WNPR about the climate deal.