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Inside Table of Contents 2

Upcoming Events



Poem: Una Coalición Como Agua

Cover Story: Water


Article: The Challenges of Water


Article: An Interview with Christina Owens



Article: Professor's Perspective with David Sabatini Article: Sea Level Rise and the Maldives

Article: A Collegiate Guide to Social Responsibility: An Interview with Green Week Vice Chair Trevor Thomas


Article: Vanishing Regions: The Specter of Climate Change

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Article: Professor's Perspective with Robert Nairn

Our Team Editors-in-Chief

Lucy Mahaffey Eddy Mee Managing Editors Alexandra Goodman Moriah Hayes Student Section Editors Kelsey Morris Nayyifa Nihad Alumni Section Editors Ashley Jeffalone Olan Field Professors Section Editor Miranda Koutahi Arts Section Editors

Director of Media Director of Marketing Advisory Board

Amanda Awad Erin Tabberer Rachel Whitfield Dr. Brian Johnson Dr. Joy Pendley Dr. Meg Sibbett Professor Mel Odom Professor Mary Anna Evans Dr. Linda Kelly

Danielle Wierenga Shulie Son Cassie Watson

Mission Statement: To serve as OU’s central sounding board, bringing together different voices and disciplines to inform, inspire, and encourage interaction on campus.

Disclaimer: FORUM is an independent student organization, and the views and opinions expressed in it are the personal views of the contributors and FORUM Team and do not represent views of the University of Oklahoma. Quotes and contributions have been edited for grammar, typos, and length.

Upcoming Events People's Climate March OKC

When: April 29th                           Where: Harkins Plaza, Bricktown On April 29th, People’s Climate March will take place in over 200 cities across the nation, including OKC. "We will come together in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people to reject the proposed cuts in the EPA and other federal agencies which will decimate programs that are critical to addressing climate change, protecting our air, water quality wildlife habitat, promoting energy efficiency, green jobs, and environmental justice initiatives that protect low income communities." 

Earth Month at OU

Benefit Concert When: Monday, May 8th @ 8:00 pm Tickets: $15 (purchase at Fine Arts Box Office)

Our aim is to bring the OU campus, the greater Oklahoma community, and leading professionals and experts in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities together to discuss locally and globally timely and important environmental issues, particularly as they relate to global sustainability.

Where: Sharp Concert Hall, Catlett Music Center The OU School of Music is in partnership with the College of International Studies for "A Benefit Concert." It features OU’s New Horizons Band with performances by faculty and students, all in order to raise emergency funding and financial support for OU’s international student community.


Cover Story: Water by Emily "Eddy" Mee  

This issue was inspired by the many events, movements, and dialogue formed by the OU community. During this year’s Green Week, we recognize #NoDAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), the water protectors at Oka Lawa, and other pipeline protests, as well as the award-winning WaTER Center here at the University of Oklahoma. One of the most impactful conversations we had as a team when considering this issue’s topic came from our Student Section Editor, Nayyifa Nihad. Nayyifa spoke about her experiences as a Maldivian, expressing concern for the safety of her people and her home, which is threatened by rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean. This sparked further discussion on the experiences of climate change refugees. Additionally, we drew inspiration from the groundbreaking and 

revolutionary work of indigenous communities in Oklahoma in the fight to protect their homelands from colonization and the water supply from contamination. Several members of the FORUM team attended the grand opening ceremony at the Oka Lawa water protector camp in southeastern Oklahoma (watch for our video coverage of the event). Finally, we decided that this issue is not only timely but also extremely relevant to OU students, due to our dependence on Lake Thunderbird for our drinking water. We wanted to explore existing initiatives in the Norman community to protect and improve the quality of our water, and learn how these efforts can be expanded and improved upon. We hope this issue encourages others to do the same. 3

An Interview with Christina Owen by Emily "Eddy" Mee Christina Owen is a former OU student, local businesswoman, cofounder of Yes All Daughters, and advocate on issues including Education, Sexual Assault Prevention, Environmental Concerns, and Human Rights. She has helped write and pass Oklahoma state legislation within education and has advocated for and helped pass federal legislation through the Teach Safe Relationships Act. Owen has been active in city and county concerns since 2013 when the County Commissioners voted to defund the Emergency Youth Shelter. Owen organized a protest for what became the most widely attended County Commissioner meeting in Cleveland County history.   Yes All Daughters passed their first legislation months after their successful Nov. 2014 protest at Norman High School, which trended internationally with thousands of participants. Most recently, she was the Democratic Nominee for Oklahoma Congressional District 4 against Rep. Tom Cole in 2016. Christina still remains very active in her community, speaking to several organizations and groups on topics ranging from involvement efforts to end human trafficking to water quality in Norman. Norman residents are concerned about the declining water quality of Lake Thunderbird. Have you heard such concerns from your constituency? What kind of impact does this have on the Norman community? Norman has always had a struggle with its water quality concerns, from higher arsenic levels in well water and some of the highest Chromium-6 levels in the nation. However our water has always been safe to drink, and with the exception of when the lake 'turns' every year, there isn't normally a discernible taste to Norman's water. The City of Norman has always made water quality a priority and continually tests and improves our systems. While we are always in a struggle to eliminate naturally-occurring elements and metals in the water, we are well below EPA regulations for safety. I grew up drinking Norman tap water and still do today.


What is the city of Norman doing to combat this issue? How could these efforts be improved upon? Over the past few years we have made several improvements to our Water Treatment Facility as well as our Water Reclamation Facility, which is an award winning site. The next step for Norman is to treat our storm water run-off. Part of the proposed SWU (Storm Water Utility) would help with these future plans as well as help alleviate Norman's historic flooding problems. Christina Owen with members of the OU Student Congress Sustainability Committee, 2016, discussing the proposed State Question 777 and its implications on Oklahoma Water.

While most of our storm water run-off flows into the Canadian River, this is still an issue for towns downstream who do utilize the Canadian River for their drinking water. It is important that the water leaving Norman is as clean as possible, without extra contaminants and pesticides, for our southern neighbors. Some of our storm water runoff does still run into Lake Thunderbird where we draw the majority of our drinking water. We do not want to add contaminated water to our drinking source for obvious reasons. Treatment of storm water must be our next step toward a better system overall. It is my belief that as Norman grows, we will need to look to our Water Reclamation Facility for future water needs. The water leaving their facility is cleaner than the water in Lake Thunderbird. If we piped the filtered and processed water from the Reclamation Facility directly to our Water Treatment Plant, we would have even cleaner water as well as a larger quantity. Currently, the water processed at the Water Reclamation Facility is deposited into the Canadian River. Since Lake Thunderbird is halfway through its 100-year shelf life as a man-made lake, we need to be looking to the future immediately. Utilizing reclamation water would have lower costs and higher quality water, and we would be able to recycle our water safely instead of sending it downstream. Do you have any additional comments about our community’s relationship with Lake Thunderbird? Recently, the mortgage of Lake Thunderbird was paid in full by the cities who have held partial ownership: Norman, Midwest City, and Del City. Now that the lake is paid for, the ownership can be renegotiated. Some say Norman should own a larger portion due to the lake's location within city limits and to the larger population. As it is, they currently pay other cities for additional water from Lake Thunderbird as their current share is not enough to sustain their water needs. If Norman held a larger ownership of the lake, they may be able to have the water supply they need without paying other cities for their portion of the water. Owning more of the lake could save a tremendous amount as they currently pay the overage by the gallon. However, we must remember that we are in year 50 of the lake's 100-year projected lifespan. 5

If we do not find ways to lengthen the longevity of Lake Thunderbird, we will need another large source of drinking water for many cities, not just Norman. What do you know about the recent law, House Bill 1123, and its impact on the environmental activist community? Currently, if you are charged with trespassing, you are asked to leave and escorted by police with no further ramifications unless you have destroyed property. If so, you may be fined $250500 and/or serve 30 days-6 months imprisonment on top of paying the cost of any damages. If you do not damage anything there is no fine nor imprisonment time, just removal. This bill makes protesting of any 'critical infrastructure facility' to the point of 'impeding or inhibiting the operation of the facility' a felony of no less than a $10,000 fine and/or no less than one-year imprisonment. The bill also allows law enforcement to charge this felony merely for intent of impeding the operation of a facility. You may be charged without actually causing any issue, just the intent itself is punishable. Even if you enter a site without protesting or vandalism you can face a misdemeanor, a fine of no less than $1,000, and/or six months imprisonment. This bill is an aggressive leap forward in trespassing laws created to specifically hinder protests against new infrastructure while being constructed, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and Plains All American Pipeline. In many cases these pipelines are on private land, including sovereign Native American territory, that has been legally stolen through eminent domain. Land owners who don't want pipelines in their literal backyard can now be arrested on felony charges for protesting on their land that the government has forced the use of to a private company. While eminent domain is to be used for 'public use' on private property, the vast majority of pipelines are bringing in oil and gas products from other states/countries that are going to other states, usually coastal. Oklahoma land may be used by a private corporation for profit on products that neither come from nor go to Oklahoma locations for Oklahomans' benefit nor economic growth. However, if the pipeline leaks, which they all do eventually, it is the Oklahomans that have lasting negative effects to soil, wildlife, and water quality for decades to come. With no benefits and all of the potential losses, it is no wonder we see protests. Oklahoma currently has one of the largest prison populations in the country and the highest prison population of women in the world. This bill would increase our prison population by incarcerating people practicing their First Amendment rights of peaceful assembly. In passing this bill, Oklahoma sends a clear statement that non-Oklahoma corporations have more rights than Oklahoma citizens, and their right to our privately-owned land is more important than our land rights, the right to clean water and soil, the right to farm safely (in some cases), and the right to peacefully assemble in protest.


Professor's Perspective with David Sabatini by Miranda Koutahi

David Sabatini visits Cambodia along with OU students to study arsenic in groundwater.

David Sabatini is David Ross Boyd Professor and Sun Oil Company Endowed Chair of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma. He joined OU in 1989 and is currently Director of the Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center and Associate Director of The Institute for Applied Surfactant Research. His research focuses on sustainable drinking water systems for developing countries, surfactant-based environmental and biofuel technologies, and understanding/characterizing contaminant transport and remediation in the subsurface.

As the first director of the WaTER Center, can you tell us about its origins? About 12 years ago, I was working on superfund toxic waste sites, on cleaning those up, and I visited developing countries to talk about our work. I saw drastic mortality rates, 10-15% of the local children dying before the age of five, because of unclean water. It caught my attention; I realized we needed university programs to prepare students and conduct research to assess these challenges. I met with some of my colleagues with similar viewpoints and we founded the WaTER Center. The WaTER Center is also a natural outgrowth of my faith. It's an opportunity for my faith and my career to overlap, and for me to help those less fortunate than me. Can you tell us about these photos you provided? The Ethiopia picture was part of our graduate-level research. There were three OU personnel who went, and Teshome Lemma, he was my Ph.D. student who's from Ethiopia. I recruited him to come to OU for his doctorate, and his research was on helping solve the water quality challenge in Ethiopia, which focuses on fluoride. Fluoride's an interesting compound. We add it to our drinking water at low levels to prevent cavities, or to our toothpaste. At low levels, it's good for our teeth. At high levels, it damages our teeth and later our bones. It can be incapacitating to the point where people can't do manual labor. We're developing technologies based on in-country materials to try and remove agents like fluoride from the water. In the other picture, I was in Cambodia with some OU students addressing levels of arsenic in groundwater. 7

What are the opportunities for student involvement at the WaTER Center? We have undergraduate and graduate opportunities. We have a student organization called Sooners Without Borders. Those students will do things locally, reaching out to local needs, and taking weeklong trips once or twice a year to international locations. At the beginning of the semester, our students went to the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Sooners Without Borders is From left to right: Teshome Lemma, OU professor Jim available to any major. We've got a Chamberlain, and Sabatini pose with children in Ethiopia. water minor. Anyone from any major who wants to learn about water and sanitation can get this minor. It also promotes interdisciplinary collaboration, as you've got engineering and business and education majors and so on all taking this challenge on together. There's also graduate research within the center, so there's room for involvement at many levels. What water issues affect Oklahomans and the OU community? Arsenic and fluoride affect water in Oklahoma just like in Ethiopia or Cambodia. The research we do there can help us approach challenges at home, and vice versa. We kinda mentioned that before, the research Teshome lead in Ethiopia. Teshome has also developed materials that can help remove phosphorus from water. Phosphorus is a limiting chemical that can cause algae growth, which negatively impacts the quality of the water. Lake Thunderbird has had problems with high phosphorus levels. Lake Thunderbird was originally built as a water supply 50 years ago, as a way to build a water resource close to the metro area. They either had to move water or use groundwater. Moving water is expensive and takes time. Before that, Norman relied solely on groundwater. Without Lake Thunderbird, Norman wouldn't have grown into the city we know it as today. In that way, Norman was kind of a pioneer. Maybe 30 or 40 years down the road, if we don't find more water, Norman will be stuck at its current size. Do you have any final comments about water? We take it for granted. There's over seven billion people in the world, and one-seventh of the world's population doesn't have access to a safe or improved source of water. A third of the 8

world's population doesn't have adequate sanitation. The impacts of those facts are that every 40 seconds a child dies because of a water- or sanitation-related challenge. And these have easy solutions. This isn't rocket science. It's a challenge we have to address globally. It's not a new issue, either. In the late 1800s, the US was in that situation. There was an outbreak of typhoid fever and water-borne diseases. One of my hobbies is reading Abraham Lincoln biographies, and only one of his sons survived into adulthood. One died of typhoid fever, and he contracted it while living in the White House, drinking water from the Potomac River. In fact, it was considered safer for European envoys to visit and stay in Calcutta, India, or modern-day Kolkata, than for them to visit Washington, D.C. We were once there, we were once a developing country. We've faced severe challenges, but we've had the benefits of a good economy that helped us address some of these challenges. I think it behooves us to look at ourselves and make sure we're addressing future challenges and our neighbors who need to come out of that place where we were not so long ago. It's one way to make an impact in the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. It reminds us of what we take for granted.

Credit: Creative Commons


Sea Level Rise and the Maldives by Nayyifa Nihad and Azyan Hameed Maldives is located southwest of India. It is a low-lying chain of islands that consists of 26 atolls and about 1,200 islands. The country’s population is approximately 400,000 people and the official language is Dhivehi–a derivative of Sanskrit with Indo-Aryan roots. The highest point in the Maldives is 1.2 meters, and 99 percent of the geographical area is covered by water. Due to sea level rise, the sustenance of the Maldivian population is at risk, as their access to clean drinking water and what helps them strive in their daily lives would be endangered. The Maldivian islands are both unique and fragile, as they are formed from broken-down coral. They are formed as the result of underwater volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. This lead to the formation of coral reefs; due to tides, currents, and wave patterns, broken-down coral gathered at parts of the coral reefs to form an island. These islands developed a fresh water lens with the accumulation of rainfall. With time, vegetation formed; about 4,000 years ago these islands were inhabited by maritime explorers and sailors from the neighboring countries of India and Sri Lanka. It is tides, currents, and waves that form these islands, and it is not difficult for these forces of nature to wipe them out. This became reality with the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.  Agriculture is not an industry that could sustain the needs of the Maldivian population. This is why the economy sustains mainly on the tourism sector and partially on the fishing industry, which is highly dependent on the oceans and its treasures. Global warming and sea level rise threaten these industries, as it has been proven catastrophic to the coral reefs and in turn, the fish populations of the Maldives. Not only does it affect the Credit: Creative Commons Maldivians economically, but also  threatens their mere existence. As we know, access to clean drinking water is essential to human life. With sea level rise, the fresh water lens that makes clean drinking water available to the local population deteriorates. In addition, climate change due to the global warming affects the weather patterns and the monsoon rains, their durations, and intensity, jeopardizing the supply of clean drinking water.


What can the people of the Maldives do? The former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was hailed as a climate champion for his efforts in the COP15 Summit in Copenhagen, 2009 to bring the matter of global warming, climate change, and sea level rise to the concern of leaders of the world. Mr. Nasheed set the target of the Maldives becoming the first carbon-neutral country by 2020. Apart from this, he actively made contributions to this movement, leading by example up until his government was overthrown by a coup d’état. With the later Credit: Creative Commons governments and their policies, they are back to square one as far as carbon-neutrality goes. The current government gives little regard to sustainable development. While the rest of the world is still arguing whether climate change, global warming, and sea level rise is real, the people of the Maldives are arguing where they would settle down if the sea levels rose by one meter. It would mean that about 90 percent of the population would be displaced, and the people of the Maldives would become climate refugees. It then becomes a loss of identity, nationality, and a sense of belonging, and also a question of human rights. Maldives is just one example of this. If there must be a reason for one to reduce their carbon footprint and urge their leaders to reduce emissions, let the loss of a population, culture, language, and a race be one.  


Professor's Perspective with Robert Nairn by Miranda Koutahi

Bob Nairn is the Sam K. Viersen Family Presidential Professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma. He is the Director of the Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds (CREW), Associate Director of the Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center, and Adjunct Professor of Biology. Professor Nairn is affiliated with several other campus programs at OU. He holds a BS from Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (1989) and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University (1996), both in Environmental Science.

Why is water conservation important? There are a couple of ways to answer this. To make it as simple as possible, all the water that is on the planet is all the water that ever was on the planet and will ever be on the planet. It's continually recycled. We're not making any more, but we're making more people. Everything we do uses water, so the only way we can continue to do that is be efficient and conserve both the quality and quantity of water to sustain us for a long time. The other way to answer this is that good clean water is important to us individually, locally, and as a society. It's critical not only to your physical but also to your mental and emotional well-being. It's a basic human right to have clean water. What kind of work did your team perform in Tar Creek, OK? This goes way back. I grew up in Pennsylvania. My dad's side of the family were coal-miners, so I was around mining growing up. When I finished my bachelor's degree, my first job was with the United States Bureau of Mines, which has been defunded, and they were a research group for mining-related problems. I got involved on the reclamation side, cleaning up polluted land and water. I came to Oklahoma thinking it's an agricultural state where I could work on similar issues. I wasn't in the state six months when someone approached me about this big lead-zinc mining district in northeast Oklahoma that, quite honestly, I didn't even know existed. It had 12

been the largest lead-zinc mining district in the world in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, it was polluted with elevated concentrations of iron, zinc, cadmium, and arsenic. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates superfund sites, hazardous waste clean-up sites, and Tar Creek had been on the list since 1983 when the list was invented. The waters were "irreversibly damaged." The waters were supposedly too bad to treat, but they were still flowing. As a university professor, I thought, "Hey, there's a challenge we can tackle." We developed passive treatment systems which don't use greenhouse gases or complex mechanics. You build functioning ecosystems that utilize natural processes that active systems use, that take a longer time but have a larger footprint. We built two systems in Tar Creek. We treated about 400 gallons of polluted water per minute. Turns out, the waters weren't irreversibly damaged.

Tar Creek, Oklahoma

What's your main area of research and involvement with the WaTER Center? My main research is for the Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds (CREW). We focus on finding solutions for very polluted bodies of water in Oklahoma. One of them was at Tar Creek. Because of my team's work through CREW in the US, we started doing similar work in Potosi, Bolivia. The water sources they have in the area we're working in are contaminated due to Potosi's history as a mining region. When we began working in South America, the WaTER Center combined efforts with us to reach that region of the world. We also work with St. Francis University and Pennsylvania State's College of Medicine; they do more of the human health side, we do more of the planting and water research. It's not very often you have the opportunity to do something at your job that also fulfills you personally. It's nice to have that tie-in with the WaTER Center, where you get to really make a difference both at home and in other parts of the world. What are some campus initiatives for water conservation and preservation? There's the Environmental Science Student Association (ESSA), OUr Earth, Green Week, Earth Week, and so on. One of the exciting things is that there are a lot of students on campus interested in environmental issues, and it would be cool if those people got together on these issues. When I came to OU in 1997, ESSA was the driving force for campus recycling; there weren't any recycling programs on campus before that. It transformed from a student initiative to a university one. We have to remember that if you really want to get things done at the 13

university, and it comes from the students, you can convince the administration that these are things that need to get done. They're going to get done. The more people you have behind an issue, the more you can get done. What are some actions OU could take to preserve more water? As a water person, one of the things I find frustrating is when the sprinklers kick on, and a lot of it is run-off. It's not going toward landscaping because it's just lying on the sidewalk and not going anywhere. I applaud that OU uses well water for landscaping and not drinking water. Water run-off is something I'd like to see fixed. What's something important to keep in mind when considering environmental changes? One of the things we learned early on is that our ability to develop this research and these solutions is all about working with the community. You have to earn the trust of the people you're working with. Just like anyone else, water is critically important to this community. But they've had this orange river running through their backyard for years, and they've been told there's nothing they can do about it. Imagine coming in and saying, "We have an idea about how to fix that!" Their response is, "Yeah, right." It took a decade of community building, especially with the various Indigenous tribes in that area. There's a different cultural perspective on water for those folks. That was a learning experience for me and my students. You understand the importance of water as a necessity, but also as something more, something spiritual that people have with water. In science and engineering, you can get so caught up in, "Here's the problem. Let's try to fix the problem, then move on to something else." You can come up with a great idea or a great solution, but if you can't work with the people in the community, you can't do anything worthwhile.

Water treatment Facility. Credit: Creative Commons


Una Coalición Como Agua by Taylor Sanchez

Water is before us. We are only those on the back of a serpent in the middle of the vast wonder that is the possibility to be. Oh, Tlaloc. How you bless us. How could we ever honor that which you give us— Life. I hear the echoes of “Mni Wiconi” to the rhythm of the heartbeat of those of us who were here before. Not before water but those of us who bear the golden mark of the hummingbird on our flesh. It is the mark of maíz. It is the mark of the sun. What could be more sacred than to take up your honor as warriors? We turned to the darkness of the north. Unafraid, we said that water is life. Three simple words that carry your divinity. Los indígenas. We know that you will bless us or that we shall vanish. 15

The Challenges of Water by Nayyifa Nihad Earth Month is celebrated with the aim of helping the University of Oklahoma become more sustainable, and is organized by various student groups, sponsors, and departments on campus. “The Challenges of Water Availability” was the last event featuring a distinguished speaker, Dr. Danny Reible, followed by a panel discussion with OU professors Robert Nairn, Kyle Murray, and Cindy Simon Rosenthal. According to Dr. Reible, the biggest mistake we are making as far as water is concerned is by not valuing water as much as we should. He believes in reducing the water crisis, despite the disruptions in supply due to climate variability and market instability. He focused on how all water problems and solutions are local by giving the example of the differences in how the southern states approach the water crisis when compared with the issues and solutions faced by the third world countries. Dr. Reible also highlighted the circumstance of being more concerned with small rural communities who do not have access and resources to combat the issue of water. Dr. Reible explained various technologies for “new” water such as reusing municipal effluents, employing brackish waters, and reusing back and produced water. This will improve our ability to use produced water from oil and gas activities, trend in hydraulic fracturing towards simple fracturing fluid, increase recognition of “fit for use” water which is using water appropriate for a particular application, and adapt the use to the water instead of adapting the water to the use. This lecture concluded with the understanding that there are challenges, but there are also opportunities and solutions. Dr. Reible addressed the fact that water consumption is low in conventional power plants and most sources of energy, improving with natural gas and natural power. Therefore, even though there are growing challenges to quality that increase the vulnerability of the water supply system, he addressed some of the ways we can overcome the issue.


A Collegiate Guide to Social Responsibility: An Interview with Green Week Vice Chair Trevor Thomas by Miranda Koutahi Trevor Thomas is a senior Environmental Sustainability major from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the vice chair of Green Week. What organization are you here with? I'm here with Green Week, which is a group on campus that promotes green living and awareness about the impact we have on the world around us. As part of Green Week, we have activities in the morning and afternoon. Here, I'm taking part in the Social Responsibility Fair, where different organizations come out and promote green living. What is social responsibility? Being socially responsible means taking care of society. In order to take care of the people we have to take care of the environment we live in as well, or else we won't exist. In terms of this event, this is the collective of society trying to do right by the environment. All these organizations here today are trying to do that. That's why we're featuring them today. How does social responsibility change with age? That's a great question, because it's all about the little habits we change or improve that make a difference in the long run. Kids or anyone younger than college age have it different, because unless the institutions they grow up in or are influenced by care about the environment, they aren't going to know how to change or research how to change their habits. College students, though, are starting to build habits that last throughout their adult lives. That's very important. The diversity you're exposed to, from groups like Green Week or any of these organizations, provides a way to understand how you can do better by the environment. As an adult, you can be more influential on environmental policy and your community. Getting involved in local or state government can help enact legislation that promotes environmental sustainability. You can even make a difference at your job by making little positive changes. 17

What are some good water habits OU students can develop? That's the grandest question. Water is such an important resource, and it's only going to get more and more important in the future. Obviously, decrease your shower time. This was actually a trivia question from Green Week's trivia event yesterday: if you take three minutes off your showering time, you can save almost 6.5 gallons of water per shower. There are also things we don't consider, like meat. Agriculture is a big producer of greenhouse gases and uses up a lot of water, because you continuously need to water the crops that you use to feed the animals. Processing that meat uses a lot of water, too. You can limit the amount of meat, especially red meat, you eat. Also, things like knowing what to recycle, or how to recycle properly, can make a big difference on your environmental footprint. How can someone contact you? My email is I'd love to hear from your readers!


Vanishing Regions: The Specter of Climate Change by Jamalje Bassue Endless research has been done to affirm the causal relationship between mankind and climate change, more specifically global warming. Irrefutable evidence now exists that confirms a significant deviation in global phenomenon from expected annular cycles. Rigorous debate is ongoing regarding the mitigation of climate change. As a result of these debates, there was the birth of the Kyoto Protocol: mankind’s initiative to reduce global warming on a global scale. Despite the promising research being conducted and with so much statistical evidence being presented, a large population, both globally and nationally, refuse to believe in global warming and the urgency of the situation. Most surprising were the results from Gallup Surveys conducted in 2010 compared to a similar Survey of 2008. There was an approximate ten percent decrease in American respondents who believed that climate change was a serious threat to them and their family, falling from sixty-three percent to fifty-three percent within that two-year period (Gallup 1). Rob Nixon in his book Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor, coined the term “slow violence” to illustrate the passive nature of climate change and the ignorance that exists by those who are not directly impacted by it (Nixon 1). Perhaps the lack of burning buildings, explosions, and bloodied streets removes the sense of urgency in combating climate change by the first world population. Certainly different types of atrocities carry an unequal sense of threat. The fact is that climate change is real, and global warming partnered with other ecological atrocities will eventually contribute to mankind’s demise on an expedited scale. However, the effects of global warming are already apparent. The debate of climate change must no longer be argued by raw data or trend-lines, but by observable and apparent evidence elsewhere, such as in the Caribbean region. The Caribbean, because of its isolated nature, is not usually considered as a focal point of global warming. However, an analysis of the region’s observable physical features and their changes over a few decades of “slow violence” will provide concrete evidence of the effects of climate change and global warming. Apparently, a centralized theme is developing within this region where time and time again, the innocent pays for the guilty. Slow violence is nonexistent in this region; it was rapidly replaced by its much more obvious and devastating counterpart: fast violence. An analysis of the region reveals exactly what is at stake for the Caribbean due to this fast violence. Inhabited by approximately 40 million people, the West Indies is illustrious for not only its culture and practices, but most importantly its physical features, including but not limited to, rich volcanic soil, sandy coastlines, and complete limestone islands. The region has also been admired for its biodiversity with a fragile network that exists between terrestrial, coastal, and aquatic ecosystems that thrive on the resources provided by their habitats. Imbalance within any of these ecosystems leads to deleterious effects in any of the others, for example, temperature. Temperature alone has a direct impact on biological mechanisms (and by extension, the ecosystem they are a part of) by its influence on kinetic energy of particles alone. For example, the Maxwell-Boltzmann energy distribution curve predicts the rate of molecular interactions such as simple diffusion, membrane transport, and enzymecatalyzed reactions. Alterations in ambient temperature lead to fluctuations in metabolic rates, which has direct implications on organismal function within its ecosystem.


To some extent, organisms are able to acclimatize to change in temperature through homeostatic mechanisms. However, for a large population of species, alterations in climate change parameters such as temperature affects their fundamental biological operations. This has been observed in research that focused primarily on key stone predators within ecosystems. “Animal metabolism is temperature-dependent, and consequently ecological processes such as predator-prey interactions are likely to be altered as warming occurs.” (Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno 108) These predator-prey interactions comprise the vast majority of relationships that exist within Caribbean food chains. It is obvious how disruptions within one food chain can affect the larger ecosystem that it belongs to, often leading to the demise of that particular ecosystem. “On a local scale, communities may undergo gradual changes in composition as species with affinities for warmer temperatures become more abundant. However, temperature changes may have more immediate effects on local populations by altering the interaction between a species and its competitors, mutualists, predators, prey, or pathogens.” (Sanford 1). Anthropogenic climate change may cause changes that are too severe to be reversed. This may result in complete extinction events with disastrous consequences especially for the region. With all the biological terminology and with all the statistical data presented hitherto, one may ponder, “So what?” A more appropriate question is “So what, for who?” The out-of-sight out-of-mind mentality ends here. An example of the delicate balance between organisms in their ecosystem and the temperature is observed with coral reefs and the food chains they host. The living part of coral reefs is comprised of coral polyps. These coral polyps secrete the calcium carbonate structures that we see as the elaborate coral reef. A special type of algae known as zooxanthellae have formed a mutualistic relationship with these polyps. “These zooxanthellae are vital to the existence of corals as they provide up to 95% of the energy requirements of the coral hosts.” (Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno 55). However, these algae are extremely temperature sensitive, and variations in temperature outside of their optimal range prove detrimental to their survival. Temperature exchange occurs at the surface of the ocean, thus causing expedited warming. The surface is coincidentally where coral reefs are located, and continuation of this warming will result in an increased frequency of coral bleaching events leading to increased coral mortality. This is disastrous for many species that rely on the reefs for survival. Many fish species use the rigid structures of coral reefs as protection, and some even consume the plant species that use coral reef structures for growth. A delicate food chain has been established within these “tropical rainforests of the ocean” and are threatened when the integrity of a reef is compromised. In the book Disappearing Destinations: Climate Change and Future Challenges for Coastal Tourism, Andrew Jones and Michael Phillips describe some possibilities of total coral reef destruction backed by statistical evidence.  Body of water in Alaska. Credit: Creative Commons

Among the possibilities cited was a "complete loss of visual amenity" for tourists (Jones and Phillips 240). Without much surprise, aesthetic appeal is a vital ‘pull factor’ for tourism sectors throughout the Caribbean region, often described as “the most tourism-dependent region of the world”, with tourism sectors accounting for a staggering fourteen percent of the region’s total GDP. According to NOAA, the Caribbean region has already lost fifty percent of its coral, largely due to the rise in average sea temperature alone. This fifty percent statistic is unacceptable, especially since these structures take thousands of years to grow. Besides serving as a host for various ecosystems, coral reefs also serve as natural physical barriers. Their presence moderates the effects of tidal sea level variations


while also dissipating energy of wave action. These reefs serve to protect the delicate coastline that exists a few feet behind them. As delicate as sandy coasts are, coastal erosion is potentially a major problem with regard to climate change. In fact, it is already a major issue in most Caribbean countries, notably in the dual nation island of Hispaniola. Research suggests that the degradation of coral reefs around the nation of the Dominican Republic is causing an expedited case of coastal retreat (Wielgus, Cooper and Torres 1). The effects of coastal erosion within the region are extremely alarming, considering that coasts are as much of a renewable resource as oil. Coastal erosion from reef erosion is certainly a double threat, since coasts are already under major threat from sea level rise, a direct impact of rising temperatures. “As the ocean warms, the density decreases and thus even at constant mass the volume of the ocean increases, leading to sea level rise.” (Verheyen 31). According to NASA’s ongoing satellite surveys, global sea levels have risen by approximately 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) within the last century. So what? Well, while not of much concern for the majority of the American population, the issue is problematic for the majority of West Indian inhabitants who live and rely on their relationship with the coast. According to a recent report by the Quantification and Magnitude of Losses and Damages Resulting from the Impacts of Climate Change, “A one-meter rise in sea level would displace an estimated 110,000 people throughout the region”. With a region dependent largely on tourism for income generating, beaches are a critical asset. Unfortunately, many of these beaches are already completely inundated with damage to infrastructure built within proximity to the coast. With this same onemeter rise in sea level, agriculture and communication networks including roads are under great threat.

Great Barrier Reef in 2004. Credit: Creative Commons

In the Bahamas especially, a total net loss of fourteen percent of road infrastructure is possible within the near future. The report makes no mention of the mass displacement of species that rely on coastal regions to function as their habitat. This displacement is itself a positive outlook on the result of the inundated coastal regions. Complete mass extinction of certain species is a more realistic outcome in the near future. For example, many turtle species rely on beaches and marshes to facilitate breeding. The economic impact associated with repairs and relocation is disproportionately large, and could be completely detrimental to the fragile economy of the region.

In recent interviews with Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Advisor of the CCCCC (Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre), “In 50 years, if the [models] are correct, the entire [Caribbean] landscape will be changed.” “Our beaches will have disappeared, our coastal areas eroded, our infrastructure degraded. It would certainly wreak havoc on the way we live.” This is the price that these fragile nations pay due to the greed of neighboring first world mass polluters. This is the unforgivable sin, the geopolitical equivalent of getting in trouble for something you did not do. The old homage of the innocent paying for the guilty still stands. Regardless of all the changes to the environment; regardless of how merciless we have treated the very planet that is here to facilitate our existence, there is still time. There are still solutions that may help to retard the rate of climate change, solutions such as those made recently in a public statement by Ruenna Haynes on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Haynes stated that certain "provisions of support" would be provided "to developing [Caribbean] countries for the implementation of nationally appropriate mitigation action plans…” (Haynes 3). On the contrary, mitigation is no longer an option. A global effort must be made to tackle climate change at the source. It is time we become less reactive and more proactive in tackling the solution.


Regardless of our choices, the damage has already been done. Statistical data, graphs, charts, and trend-lines prove to be worthless; the observable evidence is already there. The specter isn’t a specter anymore; slow violence has violently been selectively replaced by fast violence. The mass displacements of inhabitants, the disappearing destinations, and the much colder winters will eventually be more accurately interpreted as threatening in a few years to come. By then, it may be too late.

Credit: Creative Commons

Works Cited 1. "Global Climate Change: Evidence." NASA Global Climate Change and Global Warming: Vital Signs of the Planet. Jet Propulsion Laboratory / National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2015. web. <>. 2. (UNWTO). Climate change and tourism : responding to global challenges. World Tourism Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, 2008. Book. 3. Elsner, James and Thomas Jagger. Hurricanes and Climate. Springer, 2009. Book. Frieler, K. and et al. "Limiting global warming to 2 °C is unlikely to save most coral reefs." (2012). 4. Gallup. Fewer Americans, Europeans View Global Warming as a Threat. 2010. web. 5. Haynes, Ruenna, 2014 8. May, and United Nations Headquarter. Statement on Behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) by Ms. Rueanna Haynes Second Secretary Permanent Mission of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations At the 11th Session Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals on Climate Change and Sustainable Consumption and Production (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 6. Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove and John Bruno. The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems. 2010. Web. 7. Irene, Lorenzoni and Nick Pidgeon. Public Views on Climate Change: European and USA Perspectives. UK: Climate Change, 2006. 8. Jones, Andrew and Michael Phillips. Disappearing destinations : climate change and future challenges for coastal tourism. CABI, 2011. Book. 9. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University Press, 2011. Book. 10. Noyes, Pamela D., Matthew K.McElww and et. al. The toxicology of climate change: Environmental contaminants in a warming world. Durham, 2009. web. 11. Robinson, Arthur, Noah Robinson and Willie Soon. "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." (n.d.): 1-11. web. 12. Sanford, Eric. "Regulation of Keystone Predation by Small Changes in Ocean Temperature." (1999): 2095. 12. Verheyen, Roda. Climate Change Damage And International Law: Prevention Duties And State Responsibility. The Netherlands, 2005.    13. Wielgus, Jeffrey, Emily Cooper and Ruben Torres. "Coastal Capital: Dominican Republic." (2010).  


About the Contributors Jamalje Bassue is a second year Biology pre-med student at the University of Oklahoma. Born and raised in the west-Indian country of Saint Kitts and Nevis, he feels connected with his biotic and abiotic surroundings. Jamalje is currently focused on finding cost-effective methods of irrigation that maximize water retention. He hopes to deploy them in developing countries such as his own. Jamalje's hobbies include photography, general aviation, and craftsmanship.

Ahmed Azyan Hameed (goes by Azyan) is an international student from the Maldives majoring in Economics at the University of Oklahoma College of Arts & Sciences. Coming from a country threatened by sea level rise and climate change, he shows great interest in environmental issues. He is also passionate about writing, poetry, photography, politics, and policy making.  

Miranda Koutahi is a junior Education student at the University of Oklahoma and is the Professor Section Editor for FORUM. She is pursuing a dual degree in Elementary Education and World Latin Language Education. She’s an active member of the OU Women’s Chorale, Kappa Delta Pi, and the Honors College. She’s also a Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Student Ambassador. Originally from Moore, Oklahoma, Miranda aspires to teach in her “home” school district. Passionate about the arts from a young age, Miranda wants to promote youth involvement in and appreciation for visual and performing arts. Currently, she’s an editor for the Southmoore Theatre Community website. Miranda is also an avid writer-illustrator and lover of languages. She’s currently studying Farsi and German. She wants to publish a book at some point. 23

About the Contributors

Emily "Eddy" Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of FORUM. She is a sophomore Political Science major, and an aspiring politician and writer.

Robert Nairn is the Sam K. Viersen Family Presidential Professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma. He is the Director of the Center for Restoration of Ecosystems and Watersheds (CREW), Associate Director of the Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center, and Adjunct Professor of Biology. He is also affiliated with the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Aquatic Research Facility, Biological Station, and Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station programs at OU. He holds a B.S. from Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (1989) and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University (1996), both in Environmental Science.

Nayyifa Nihad is the Students Section Editor for OU Forum. Nayyifa is an international student from the Maldives who is a Davis Scholar and an alumni from the United World College of Southern Africa. She is majoring in International Studies with French and Women and Gender Studies minors. She likes travelling, reading, writing, and sharing her perspective on things she believes in through her experiences. The topic of “water” is really close to her heart, coming from a country considered to be one of the first countries to be completely submerged underwater due to the rising of sea levels. 24

About the Contributors

Christina Owen is a former OU student, local businesswoman, cofounder of Yes All Daughters, and advocate on several issues including Education, Sexual Assault Prevention, Environmental Concerns, and Human Rights. She has helped write and pass Oklahoma state legislation within education and has advocated for and helped pass federal legislation through the Teach Safe Relationships Act.

Taylor Sanchez is a young Mexicana artist from Michigan. An undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, Sanchez studies Film & Media. Much of her art, academic work, and activism are dedicated to her community and liberation from settler colonialism.

Trevor Thomas is a senior Environmental Sustainability major from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Vice Chair of Green Week.

All pictures are the property of OU FORUM or used with permission of the accompanying article's author or are under the Creative Commons License.


Water | April 25, 2017 | Volume 2, Issue 6  
Water | April 25, 2017 | Volume 2, Issue 6