Tag Archive for environmental 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.

 

Yohe Discusses Drought and Climate Change on WNPR

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was a guest on WNPR’s “Where We Live” to discuss drought and climate change, particularly in light of the climate talks going on in Paris.

“Droughts have occurred on every continent. They have occurred certainly in North America—Texas has suffered a severe drought, California has suffered a severe drought,” said Yohe. “I’m not sure New England has suffered a severe drought but we are certainly below average in terms of rainfall. One of the things that people in Paris are worried about though, is that not only are drought conditions a source of concern, but the opposite of drought—extreme precipitation—especially when it follows a drought, when the ground is very, very hard and cannot absorb the water, and it creates enormous amounts of flooding.”

Yohe pointed to drought as among the most serious problems resulting from climate change, along with sea level rise and extreme precipitation. Drought can cause “really damaging secondary events” such as wildfires, and has significant economic ramifications for people who, for example, depend on agriculture and winemaking to earn a living.

Gruen Named Faculty Fellow at Tufts’ Center for Animals

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

This month, Lori Gruen accepted a three-year appointment as a Faculty Fellow at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animals and Public Policy. Gruen is the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and professor of environmental studies at Wesleyan. She also coordinates Wesleyan Animal Studies.

The mission of the Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy (CAPP) is to conduct and encourage scholarly evaluation and understanding of the complex societal issues and public policy dimensions of the changing role and impact of animals in society. As a Faculty Fellow, Gruen will explore human-animal relationships with Tufts students by teaching classes, mentoring student research, leading service activities, and presenting public seminars under CAPP sponsorship. She’ll continue teaching at Wesleyan during this three-year term.

The title of Faculty Fellow is awarded by the Dean of Cummings School to participants who have shown a deep and consistent commitment to the Center’s efforts in graduate and veterinary education, research, service and outreach.

Gruen’s research lies at the intersection of ethical theory and practice, with a particular focus on issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations (e.g. women, people of color, non-human animals). She has published extensively on topics in animal ethics, ecofeminism, and practical ethics more broadly, and is currently thinking about intersections of race, gender, and species and chimpanzees.

 

 

Jennifer Tucker Talks Gun Control in Boston Globe op-ed, on WNPR’s ‘Scramble’

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is the co-author of an op-ed in the Boston Globe titled, “What the Clean Air Act can teach us about reducing gun violence.” Tucker and co-author Matthew Miller of Northeastern University write, “The recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines vividly illustrates the contrast between the way Americans, and in particular elected officials, treat guns and the way we (and our elected officials) treat cars — both of which kill approximately 32,000 Americans every year.”

The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, has averted tens of thousands of premature deaths though “a systematic and scientific approach to the impact of the actors of private actors (from auto owners to power station operators) on the health of their fellow citizens. The force of the law was then used to ensure that these externalities were borne by the companies contributing to the problem.”

Tucker and Miller argue the same approach should be applied to regulating firearms. At present, legislation now exempts guns from federal consumer-safety laws and provides immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. And since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control has been effectively barred from funding research into the cause of firearm-related deaths.

Tucker also was a guest this week on WNPR’s “The Scramble” in a discussion about gun control, following the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon.

“Our nation’s lax attitude toward gun proliferation is partly the result of a Hollywood version of gun technology,” said Tucker. “There’s a 1953 movie ‘Shane,’ which has had a powerful influence. Shane is a gun fighter and in a conversation about gun control, he says ‘A gun is just a tool. It’s as good or bad as the man who uses it. We’ve heard this notion a lot, but that’s certainly not a notion… that we apply to other consumer products in America. We could take, for example, the recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines to illustrate this difference. So after Volkswagen’s recent admission that it used illegal devices to cheat on admission testing of diesel vehicles in the United States, the company faces billions of dollars of fines along with expensive recalls and class action lawsuits and criminal charges.”

Tucker describes the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 as having a major impact on public health, averting tens of thousands of premature deaths. “It succeeded because it took a scientific approach to the impacts of the activities of private actors on the health of fellow citizens. In contrast to that, while the impact of automobiles on the public’s health and safety is closely regulated, astonishingly, the firearms that are used to kill Americans are not subject to government oversight.”

Tucker is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of environmental studies. She recently authored an op-ed on the history of gun control published on Inside Sources.

While Studying Abroad, Nash ’16 Works with Rare Turtles in Australia

Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle while studying abroad in Australia. (Photo by Matt Curnock) 

During her spring semester abroad in Australia, Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle. This fall, she’s co-teaching a student forum on marine biology. (Photo by Matt Curnock)

#THISISWHY

Chloe Nash ‘16, a double major in biology and environmental studies, contributed to groundbreaking research on the mysterious Flatback sea turtle — a species with only two photographs in the wild, both of the same individual turtle. While studying abroad in Australia last spring, Nash volunteered at James Cook University for a project that involved raising 30 flatbacks from hatchlings and attaching GPS devices to their shells.

The turtles were released in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and seven are being tracked by satellite. This research is the first time Flatbacks, only found in Australia, have been monitored underwater.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

“I was with them everyday essentially for four months, so they became like my children,” Nash said.

Nash worked as a volunteer, feeding them and cleaning their tanks. Over time, she learned to give them medication and teach them how to dive, which involved luring the turtles down with a food-carrying stick. Once the turtles reached 300 grams, they were strong enough to hold the satellite tags. The research sought to learn more about the Flatbacks’ lives in between hatching and nesting adults— a blank space in the marine biology field.

“One of my favorites named Ali got ill, and we thought he was going to pass away,” Nash said. “But we persevered and he persevered and I ended up getting to release him, which was really great. It was really crazy, just watching him grow.”