California Wildfires


Kasey Dresser | January 5, 2018

Hello everybody!

I’m Kasey and I’m a student at the University of Iowa. I’m currently visiting home during winter break in beautiful San Diego, California. And as I’m sure you seen on the news I came home after an extremely destructive fire season.  Luckily I live closer to the coast so my home was not affected but my grandma and several of my friends were evacuated.  All of the local high schools, including my sisters, were closed. Last weekend, My dad and I headed inland to film the damage.

 

Iowan cities reducing pollution to fulfill Paris Climate Change Agreement


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Wind Power (Ian Hill/ flickr) 
Kasey Dresser | December 29,  2017

Since Trump has officially pulled support from the Paris Climate Change Accord, mayors within the U.S. are pledging for their cities to help meet the goals. 50 plus mayors signed the Chicago Climate Charter to meet Paris Climate Agreement’s pollution reduction goals during the North American Climate Summit. Des Moines, Dubuque, Fairfield, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and several other Iowan mayors have now stepped up to do the same.

There are 3 main goals to reduce pollution:

  1. Utilizing Iowa’s wind power, achieve 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022.
  2. Buying Electric Vehicles (EV) to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Replacing buildings with incandescent bulbs to LEDS and getting rid of any old appliances or softwares.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is excited that cities are stepping up and plans to make arrangement that will tailor to Iowa’s benefit.

Sustainability volunteers needed for University of Iowa Dance Marathon


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Recycle (Erin’s Rainbow, flickr)
Kasey Dresser | December 22,  2017

Dance Marathon is a student-run philanthropy dedicated to supporting oncology patients being treated at The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. It is a year-round fundraising  organization that culminates with a 24 hour long big event in February.

The organization is currently looking for volunteers to help with recycling, food waste, and more. The event is February 3rd- 4th.

For questions contact David Strabala, DM operations coordinator or Michael Marchione DM volunteer coordinator.

Sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0c49a5ae2caafb6-dance15

Iowa airports becoming more environmentally efficient


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Photo by Travelin’ Librarian, Flickr.
Kasey Dresser | December 20,  2017

The Eastern Iowa Airport is making important steps towards going green and saving energy costs. The next step in their $55 million remodel is adding 738 solar panels to the roof. A $579,870 grant from U.S. Department of Transportation will cover 90 percent of the solar panel installation.

The Eastern Iowa Airport recently installed 2 electronic car charging stations in short term parking and two more in long term parking.

The airport also plans on adding new heated pavement technology developed at Iowa State University that will save the cost of plowing, de-icing chemicals, and wastewater treatment for the chemical runoff.

In 2015 the airport partnered with the University of Iowa to grow and burn miscanthus in the UI power plant. The planting of miscanthus in the 2,000 acres of farmland and leasing out farmland for farmers to plant soybeans has also improved water quality. “We have found, through our partnership with ISU, that those prairie grasses really help improve water quality in terms of runoff and soil erosion,” Airport Director Marty Lenss said. “With our parking lot expansion that we just completed, we modified our stormwater detention basins and they will be planted with pollinators this summer.”

Another step towards more a more environmentally efficient airport is their lights. In February 2011, all halide lights installed in 1985 were replaced with LEDs. This project reduced energy by around 80 percent.

A rise in Bitcoin’s value could lead to an energy crisis


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m00n (John Smith/ flickr)
Kasey Dresser | December 13,  2017

Bitcoin is a type of digital currency or “digital wallet.” It is used like regular money to transfer funds and generate currency but without a central bank. Over the last week, Bitcoin’s value has gone from less than $1,000 to $17,000. 1 Bitcoin is currently equal to 17,793 U.S. dollars. The money was originally viewed as “dirty,” being used for black market items. However this recent surge has sparked interest from mainline investors and bitcoin is looking to be worth millions more in the next month.

Bitcoin is run through data mines which are essentially large rooms of computers running an algorithm to code each transaction. The problem is the 32 terawatts of energy bitcoin will use every year. That much energy has the ability to power 3 million U.S. households; compared to Visa transactions, that only uses enough energy to power 50,000 American homes. According to the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, bitcoin could use enough energy to power all of the U.S. by 2019.

More than half of the Bitcoin “mining pools” are run out of China. Most the energy produced in China comes from coal firepower plants which has the potential to increase smog and pollution in the near by areas. 

UN Environment calls for action regarding mining pollution


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Pollution (eltpics/ flickr)
Kasey Dresser | November 17, 2017

On November 5th 2015, Germano mine, an iron-ore mine in southeast Brazil, collapsed killing 19 people and destroying 650 kilometers of fertile valley before spilling into the ocean. More than 33 cubic meters of tailing was released. This disaster was detrimental to the economy as the local fishing community was practically eliminated; meaning no fish for food and tourists became scarce as the water was no longer swimmable.

Joca Thome, a local resident who works for Brazil’s Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, describes how these kind of incidences are too physically and psychologically severe for the victims. They need to be eliminated.  “As well as monitoring the impact in the estuary and the ocean, I am trying to help the community and the fishermen to understand what has happened to them,” Thomé says. “They are getting compensation from the mining company to keep them going. But thousands of people have had their lives upended and they do not know what their future will be.”

Mine tailing is a sludgy- mud like material leftover from mining facilities. There have been 40 tailing failures in the last decade alone. There is no exact statistic for the number of tailing dams in the world or the volume of each but there are 30,000 industrial mines worldwide. More mining failings could lead to long-term damage to the environment while destroying the surrounding cities.

The new Rapid Response Assessment was released a few days ago by UN Environment and GRID-Arenal. It calls for international action and a “safety-first” methodin regards to management and on the ground procedure. The report states, “safety attributes should be evaluated separately from economic considerations, and cost should not be the determining factor.”  This could create a mining database to develop the best technical methods for stopping failure completely. If regulations expand this might create an independent monitoring system of waste dams that could result in financial or criminal punishment for non-compliance. The report also mentions developing cleaner processes with new technology and re-using materials to reduce waste.

December 4-6, the UN Environmental Assembly will meet to discuss more effects of pollution on the environment. The report also recommends a specific stakeholder forum to put international policy in place to regulate mining tailings dams.

 

 

UI scientists and Iowa teachers work together to create 8th grade curriculum


Kasey Dresser & Jenna Ladd | November 3, 2017

Eighth grade teachers from around the state came to the University of Iowa’s Lindquist Center for a special kind of professional development last weekend.

The twenty-one participants worked with University of Iowa faculty and graduate students to design new eighth-grade science curriculum as a part of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) development. A large step away from traditional rote memorization, NGSS allows students to engage in self-guided inquiry about phenomena occurring in their local environment.

Chelsea Salba is a high school science teacher at Dike-New Hartford. She said, “I love it all because the old way of doing things was ‘know and understand.’ Well, science is not memorizing facts and figures. It never has been. NGSS challenges teachers to make science actually happen in their classrooms. What I mean by that is [the students] are investigating, reading, creating a claim, doing something, getting feedback and then doing it again.”

Ted Neal, clinical associate professor in the College of Education and project lead, explained that eighth grade NGSS curriculum requires education about the natural systems and climate science. During morning and afternoon breakout sessions, teachers were asked to provide feedback about lesson plans related to how and why Iowans have changed the land and how climate change has affected local landscapes. These lesson plans, bundles five and six, are a part of a six bundle curriculum required by NGSS for eighth grade students. CGRER researchers Scott Spak and Charles Stanier developed their content as a part of the College of Education and CGRER’s effort to connect Iowa educators with local climate science in realtime.

Approved by the Iowa Board of Education in 2015, the bulk of the 8th grade NGSS curriculum will be implemented in Iowa schools next semester. The Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative team has recently developed a free and public online pressbook where Iowa teachers can access course-related climate science data from CGRER researchers, as well as lesson plans and suggestions from other Iowa teachers.

Ted Neal explained, “This whole curriculum is free. Use it how you want, where you want, how you want, we’re just trying to compile this together for school districts in a time when budgeting is so tight.”

The NGSS standards require students of all ages to understand Earth’s systems. Scott Spak, assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning, said, “Of the dozens of standards, there are 36 that from kindergarten through high school that are required to be able to understand how the climate system works.”

Spak and his fellow CGRER researchers will provide data that is relevant to learners specifically in the Hawkeye State.

Drew Ayrit is high school teacher from Waco that participated in last weekend’s workshop. He said, “I really believe in the standards because it’s very student-centered, students doing real science, students engaging in discussion based on evidence.”