Spring 2013 No. 02
PENN SUSTAINABILITY REVIEW | PUBLISHED BY UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA STUDENTS
INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW WINSTON Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies, Co-Author of Green to Gold Also Inside
WATER REALITY: Human Health vs. Industry in the Olifants River Basin
ANTARCTICA AND THE POWER OF LOVE NUCLEAR 2.0 Thorium: Upgraded and Extended
PSR TEAM Editor-in-Chief: James Teng Managing Editor: Lucas Siegmund Business Manager: Sung-Ho Park Assistant Business Manager: Annie Liu External Director: Jerry Hsu Layout Editor: Emily Wei Online Editor: Joshua Ng Contributing Writers: Hannah Bucklin Leah Davidson Danny Ritt Yaowen Ma
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PENN SUSTAINABILITY REVIEW The Penn Sustainability Review (PSR) is a student-run online and print publication featuring sustainability-related opinion editorials, leadership interviews, and academic papers. We aim to provide a platform for all members of the Penn community to exchange knowledge, ideas, and perspectives on wide-ranging sustainability issues. Over the course of every academic year, the PSR team will publish a print publication and maintain regular online editorial updates that incorporate relevant thought-provoking articles. Both the print and online editions of the PSR will cover a number of topics including: climate change, green architecture, corporate strategic sustainability, resource and energy conservation, public policy, and sustainable technology to name a few. Undergraduate editors and authors will have unique opportunities to be involved with the production process of the online editorial, print publication, and conduct 1-on-1 interviews with outstanding professionals in the industry! To find out more, visit us online at:
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear Penn Sustainability Review readers, In our second year of publication, I’m proud to say that PSR has been able to expand its operation to encompass a broader range of activities and issue areas. At the same time, much progress remains to be made. Issues surrounding sustainability will carry significant weight into the future, and we will soon have to make a decision about what this country and the international community can do to preserve our planet for later generations. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough awareness outside of the circle that delves deep into environmental research and advocacy. PSR is here to bridge that gap. This year, just as last year, we’ve brought together a number of student publications to feature in our magazine. It is our hope that our efforts will be continued for a long time to come, and we invite you to visit our website at psrmagazine.org for additional content. We look forward to hearing from you and we hope you enjoy reading PSR! James N. Teng, Editor-in-Chief email@example.com
NUCLEAR ENERGY 2.0
Thorium: Upgraded and Extended
INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW WINSTON Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies, Co-Author of Green to Gold
ANTARCTICA AND THE POWER OF LOVE
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Human Health vs. Industry in the Olifants River Basin
NUCLEAR ENERGY 2.0
Thorium: Upgraded and Extended BY DANNY RITT, CLASS OF 2013
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Even though nuclear energy provides the United States with around twenty percent of its national electricity, no new nuclear construction has broken ground since 1977. While U.S. nuclear energy industry is seemingly at a standstill, India has created a plan based off of nuclear-produced electricity that utilizes domestic resources to supply a great majority of its increasing energy demand. What gives? It turns out that nuclear development in using the element thorium is what has allowed India to set their sights on energy independence. In turn, this pioneering effort should set an example for countries looking to improve their domestic energy production. As a matter of background, there are three nuclear isotopes that are “fissile,” which essentially means that they are capable of sustaining a nuclear reaction – uranium-233 (U233), uranium-235 (U235), and plutonium-239 (Pu239). In a nuclear fission reactor where U235 is often used, it absorbs an extra neutron into its nucleus and produces
an unstable compound that quickly decays to a more stable form by splitting apart and producing ionizing particles. The resulting particles carry an immense amount of kinetic energy to the atoms with which they interact, causing ionizations and a chain of subsequent nuclear reactions. Eventually, the transferred energy would appear in the form of heat in surrounding materials. In the reactor complex, this heat is used to then steam power turbines that ultimately produce electricity. Nuclear fission is appealing in that it is a self-sustaining method of producing huge amounts of energy. Ordinary chemical reactions involve energy levels on the order of single electron volts, but on the other hand, nuclear reactions involve energy levels on the order of millions of electron volts. One can thus see why nuclear reactions have an important place in energy production. Unfortunately, even while nuclear energy is utilized globally because of its potential, the current production capacity of nuclear reactors is limited by the fact that they only run on only uranium or plutonium for its energy producing fuel. Enter thorium. It would seem counterintuitive at first to consider thorium as a solution to uranium and plutonium shortages since thorium is a “fertile” material, meaning that it has to be used with a nuclear driver isotope to kick-start the nuclear reaction. So why bother with it? The main reason is that thorium is capable of producing U233, a very efficient fissile material, when reacted with nuclear drivers. This process is called transmuting and is accomplished by adding neutrons to an element and creating a new element in the process. In addition, thermal reactors are able to produce more U233 than the U235 and Pu239 material they
consume when thorium is used An example of such can be shown from the inspections of the closed Light Water Breeder Reactor in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. When the reactor was shut down in 1982 after 7 years of production, it was revealed that there had been 1.39 % more fissile fuel at the end of core life than when it began. Other factors should also come into consideration in terms of thorium usage. In May 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report on thorium and its potential benefits and challenges. Among other things, it outlined several advantages that the element has over uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear reactions. For one, thorium is three to four times
of current nuclear proliferation concerns. With the advantages of thorium made obvious, it is clear why India has decided to go with it as its domestic electricity demand has increased dramatically. Although its 830 billion kilowatt hour (kWh) production in 2008 was triple that of the 1990 output, there loomed transmission losses of 28.8 percent, which meant only 591 billion kWh could be consumed. 68% of its domesticallyproduced electricity currently comes from coal, and coal reserves are limited in the region. Meanwhile, its per capita electricity consumption is expected to double by 2020 to 1400 kWh, with 6.3 percent annual growth, reaching 5000-6000 kWh by 2050. To put it simply, India needs an alternative energy source. In response, it has conceived a program
“In May 2005, the International Atomic Energy (IAEA) published a report on thorium and its potential benefits and challenges. Among other things, it outlined several advantages that the element has over uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear reactions.” that would maximize energy production from domestic reserves of thorium. This program was outlined in a report by Dr. S.K. Jain, the Chairman and Managing Director of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), a governmentowned entity, consisting of three stages. The first of three stages utilizes natural uranium powered by pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). Since only 0.7% of natural uranium is U235 and the rest is U238, the latter is often used instead. When reacted in PHWRs, uranium produces Pu239, which will later be the fuel for the second stage of electricity production. The second stage of the program is comprised of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) that are fuelled by a mixed oxide of U238 and Pu239, both recovered by reprocessing of the spent fuel of the first stage. Over a period of time, these breeder reactors will build up an inventory of Pu239 by the transmutation of U238. Once sufficient stores of Pu239 have been built up, thorium will be introduced to the reactor as a “blanket material” to be converted to U233. There
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more abundant in nature than uranium, and it is easily exploitable. Thorium can also be converted to U233 more efficiently than U235 or Pu239. Another advantage with regards to nuclear storage is that thorium dioxide, a by-product of the nuclear reaction, is relatively inert and does not oxidize, unlike uranium oxide. In simple terms, it means that long-term storage and permanent disposal will be easier. Regarding short-term application in the U.S., there are currently five nuclear reactors in the United States that are utilizing thorium as a fuel. To take it a step further, the IAEA report says that thorium cycles are feasible in all existing thermal and fast reactors. Not only does the U.S. have the technology, but it could also be applied to many more reactors without major modifications in engineering systems or reactor controls. According to the IAEA report, one of the biggest advantages that thorium has is that the conversion of thorium could be done though the incineration of weapons grade plutonium. The potential reduction of weapon making material is all the more significant in light
will be two main products of these reactors, Pu239 and U233. The plutonium will be recycled back into the reactor to continue feeding the transmutation of uranium. The produced U233 will be the bridge to the third and final step, which will utilize U233 breeder reactors that will use U233from stage two as “drivers” for a reaction with thorium, breeding more U233 to be used in nuclear reactions. The program is moving along well and according to plan. While the first stage has already reached a commercially mature state, construction of stage two is expected to be completed in FY 2011-2012 and the development of stage three has begun. There are twenty nuclear plants generating 4,780 megawatt electrical (MWe) currently under operation, with 2,000 MWe projected to come online by 2013 and an additional 2,800 MWe in 2015 and 2016 combined. In all, Indian nuclear production is set to double in the next three years. It is also learning as it builds, evidenced by the 14% and 5% rise in capacity factors (actual energy output / optimal output) and availability factors (time able to produce energy within a period / period).
A nation almost four times the size of the United States, 34 years behind in the global nuclear market, and possessing a smaller concentration of thorium is basing their energy future on it. The IAEA report shows that the use of thorium diminishes proliferation concerns, extends fuel cycles, increases burn-up, and improves waste characteristics. The United States needs to reopen the thorium file and follow the lead of India – not to completely base energy production on nuclear, but also to “balance the portfolio” of U.S. energy production and thus diminish foreign dependence. The U.S. holds about 15% of the world’s total known thorium supply, the second largest in the world, and development in the area is paving the way for R&D. The question now is what is preventing America from taking India’s hint and moving forward.
Three Stages of Indian Nuclear Power Programme
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Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies, Co-Author of Green to Gold INTERVIEWED BY YAOWEN MA, CLASS OF 2013
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Andrew Winston is the founder of Winston Eco-Strategies. He is also the author of Green Recovery, a strategic plan for using environmental thinking to survive hard economic times, and a co-author of Green to Gold, a best-selling guide to what works â€“ and what does not â€“ when companies go green. Mr. Winston is a globally recognized expert on green business, appearing regularly in major media such as the Wall Street Journal, Time, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Times, and CNBC. Andrew is dedicated to helping companies both large and small use environmental strategy to grow, create enduring value, and build stronger relationships with employees, customers, and other stakeholders. His clients have included Bank of America, Bayer, Boeing, Hewlett- Packard, IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, and Pepsi. Andrew also serves on the Sustainability Advisory Board of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the Executive Environmental Advisory Council for HP, and as a Sustainability Advisor to PwC. In the academic year of 2012-2013, PSR had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Winston and discuss the development of corporate sustainability. Below is an edited transcript of our discussion.
How did you begin your career in green business consulting? Did you graduate from undergraduate college with a specific interest in green business or did it develop overtime through professional experience? AW: Well, I didn’t know I was going to be doing this when I graduated from college in 1991. I came out with an economics major and politics minor at Princeton University. I wanted to explore other things and started asking around on how to combine business and environment – I had an interest in the environment and thought it was something I cared about. I started reading more about sustainability while I was in-between jobs and read the canon of green business such as Paul Hawkens, Amory Lovins, and Ray Anderson and it just kind of changed my life. I realized the system was broken and I had my MBA from Columbia University by then but in business school we never talked about sustainability or carbon and I thought it was kind of ridiculous. So I started to figure out a different path and went back to school at Yale to try and get a degree in Environmental Management to marry that with my business degree. While I was there I started working with a professor, Dan Esty, who had a policy and government academic background with some consulting experience and I had a pure business background so we meshed really well and we decided to work together and started doing a research project. I agreed to stay on as a kind of advisor-consultant with the university after I graduated to write Green to Gold. It was a hugely eye-opening experience and I learned an awful lot about what companies were doing. Then people started asking me to come and speak about the greening of business and they started paying me to speak and consult which led to the business that I have today which is really very flexible. I have my own practice which works with some large companies like Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and I do a lot of research, writing, and public speaking. It kind of evolved and came off the book mainly, that was kind of the core of it, but it’s kind of built from there.
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Today you are an online editor at Harvard Business Review and Founder at Winston Eco-Consulting. What is your typical week and day-to-day lifestyle and responsibilities? AW: I don’t know if I have a typical week but I have a mix of speaking. A typical week might have a speech somewhere for an industry event or the senior management for a large company so I might be doing some preparation for that. I will be doing some research and speaking to people in the field, researching different stories, preparing ideas and writing my next blog for Harvard Business Review, and editing or writing. I will probably also have some consulting in there and working with a client or doing some business development and trying to sell projects. It’s kind of a mix of everything that I do. Every week I will also conduct some media discussion such as an online interview or with a radio or on television such as this one with the Penn Sustainability
How do you see the field of environmental consulting developing over time? Will it merge with mainstream management consulting firms? AW: In terms of where I see the environmental consulting field going, we are experiencing interesting times right now. Merges are happening at the big firms. I have a partnership with PwC. All of the big four accounting firms have substantial sustainability practices that they have invested in. A couple of them have been buying some of the niche environmental consulting firms pretty aggressively including PwC. They are kind of rolling out some of the niche firms and you’ve got McKinsey, Monitor, Bain, all working on this as well so there is quite a bit of supply in sustainability consulting. I think the future for it is much like the future for corporations where the sustainability needs to be integrated to the core business. I think that is starting to happen at the consulting firms, just as it is starting to happen in businesses.
Green to Gold is your seminal work on corporate sustainability and it presents a
business case for going green. What was the impact of the economic Q4 well-argued downturn since 2008 on the corporate sustainability movement?
AW: Well, that is an interesting question and that’s why I wrote a second book, Green Recovery, which came out in 2009. It was a quickly written book, a short manifesto about the benefits of going green even in hard economic times. The logic that I was putting out there, and I do believe this, is that green is not expensive – that is always the myth perceptions – that green is actually one of the ways out of hard economic times because green fundamentally is about doing more with less so it is about saving money. In a large part there are very quick ways to save money and companies are finding ways to save billions in things like upgrades in facilities for heating and cooling and lighting and waste and IT systems. There’s all this work being done to help you save a lot of money and this helps you get out of hard times.
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That said I think what’s happened in the recession is that there’s almost been a kind of longer postrecession hang-over where there’s the sense that companies are very, very tight on money. It’s kind of strange because corporate profits have actually risen quite fast since the federal stimulus. If you look at all the numbers of corporate profits, jobs, farm payroll, non-farm payroll...etc., all were going down precipitously during 2008 and 2009 and then the federal stimulus started and all of them started to turn up – it’s pretty classic Keynesian economics. And so companies are more profitable than ever yet I always hear that companies budgets are very tight for everything including sustainability and that they’re trying to hit their Wall Street driven growth targets. I think sustainability in particular often faces this big burden of having to prove its worth. It’s what I call “guilty until proven innocent” within companies. Unfortunately, while sustainability can prove itself on a whole host of things that create values quickly, there are many aspects that have intangible values or longer term values that we don’t have very good systems for measuring. That makes it difficult sometimes to try and prove the case and as a result sustainability is not given a lot of resources. That was true before and it is even more true today.
That leads us straight into the next point. The benefits of eco-efficiency are quite self-explanatory and straight forward. Transparency is a big area of emphasis in sustainability but the metrics are difficult to develop. What are the big trends that might become more relevant in the next few years and what would you like to see happen to make that progress? AW: We are going to see much more emphasis on data and metrics and that’s just true across business. This is the era of big data as they say and that’s going to continue no doubt. I think we’re going to see more focus on the supply chain, on the value chain as a whole, but also in particular supply chain pressures and efforts to measure and reduce the footprint on the supply chain. I think we will also see continued concern on resources and commodities and price of inputs. That’s part of the reason the supply chain is such a focus. We will also see over the next few years rising concern over water as well as rising concern and acceptance of climate change as a massive problem. The debate going on in this country on climate change is surreal and will subdue as the evidence becomes more real. There will always be people denying it but it’s just getting more and more ridiculous to deny it at this point with the changing weather. And it is getting more different at a quicker rate. This is something that companies are just going to have to deal with and they are being asked to measure and disclose risks of things like climate change. I guess what I hope for is that the pace of change towards renewable energy and a clean economy will continue. I think that’s developing very quickly and capital is gathering very quickly and I hope that continues. I hope that people around the world will continue to support the growth of renewable technologies through smart regulations and subsidies.
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There are many industry terms used such as “resilient” and “future-proof,” can we actually ever predict the future and be totally “sustainable”? Is the end goal to be 100% sustainable or simply to be less unsustainable and more aware of the way we are consuming the earth’s natural resources? AW: The idea of what is fully sustainable is a weird one. It’s not the same as saying zero impact - I don’t think anybody thinks there is such a thing. It comes back to some of the core theories and frameworks that were developed such as natural step that says there are some boundaries to the world and we have to live within them. I don’t think we have an option – we have to figure out a way to have an economy that the impacts that we have are basically recoverable and we can come back from those and we can fix the things that do cause impact. It will be about closing loops and having a circular economy: having a cradle-to-cradle as a technical cycle and a biological cycle. We are going to have to do that. I mean it is the only way for us to sustain and support a decent quality life for the 9 billion people. That sounds like there is big world of limits and there is. But the one thing that is unlimited is renewable energy. There is basically infinite sun coming in, more than we could ever use. That means that we have one part of this equation in a closed system that we can keep increasing in input. So it doesn’t mean just restricting everything, it means we should be moving to technologies and inputs that are limitless. And I kind of see that as our only path. We don’t have any other way.
What role do international forums such as the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum and UNEP Sustainable Consumption and Production conference play in pushing for green business? AW: The leading businesses are ahead of most governments. The U.S. government is kind of broken – we can’t really get anything done. We’re so dysfunctional and that effects the governments of the rest of the world who are trying to do global agreements so it’s going to be very tough for us to get any kind of global agreement, especially on really tough issues such as a global price for carbon or paying for an appropriate price for water that actually reflects the supply and demand circumstances. The government is going to trail behind companies and increasingly companies are going to ask for help and an even playing field and some of these restrictions as the leaders are able to meet them its good business to raise the stakes. I think we will see more of the push coming from corporations and I don’t think we can count on government to lead the way. Not with the way the U.S. government is functioning today.
Finally, what would your advice be for undergraduate students who are interested in corporate sustainability? AW: here are a few different paths for people who want to get into corporate sustainability. There is going to work in a sustainability role within a large company and that’s certainly a path but keep in mind that there are not a lot of jobs – while fortune 500 companies may all have someone assigned with sustainability, most companies have very few people in sustainability. They may have a leading officer of some kind and they might have a couple of staff members and often these people come from within the company in some senior role so they won’t be hiring people right out of college for that. There aren’t a lot of jobs in that path. But there’s also going towards the consulting route pathway and there’s going to NGOs that work with companies on this and there are often some roles there.
For more information on Andrew Winston, visit www.andrewwinston.com. Mr. Winston blogs biweekly on corporate sustainability issues such as renewable energy and other strategies/technologies that corporations are implementing. You can sign up for an email feed on his blog as well as follow him on twitter, @AndrewWinston.
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I think the largest kind of pathway is really just going to a corporation that you think is doing the right thing or offering products that are more sustainable and finding a job that you like in a specific department and function. But do it in a company that is clearly focused on sustainability such as B-Corporations or just even big companies that seem to be doing the right thing and be someone who has a business degree and environmental management knowledge and understands these issues. That’s going to be a high demand over time. There is going to be a lack of people in roles with functional expertise whom also understand sustainability pressures. That’s going to be the big gap for students to take advantage of.
Human Health VS. Industry in the Olifants River Basin BY HANNAH BUCKLIN, CLASS OF 2016 The Olifants River Basin is one of the largest basins in South Africa. Nearly 3.4 million people live within the basin and the industrial activities are a major contributor to South Africa’s annual gross domestic product. The mining and agricultural industries found there are necessary for the economic stability in the region. However, concerns are being raised because these activities use huge quantities of water and rapidly pollute the basin waters. Water allocation is a huge issue within the region because there is a struggle between those without access to basic sanitation and companies seeking to maximize their production. Still, the region does not depend on industrial growth alone. If the government fails to develop effective methods of allocating water between human and industrial needs and improving the monitoring of water quality, the Olifants River Basin region will not be able to sustain its current growth and support the South African economy. The Olifants River Basin is located
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How is it that millions of tons of water are delegated to mining, ag- at the southern end of Africa, crossricultural, and energy sectors when a huge portion of the population ing into countries such as South struggles to find enough water to sustain life? The answer to this Africa and Mozambique question seems to lie deep in the history of the region. The population in the basin is racially segregated and is reflective of racial separation that existed during Apartheid. Nearly 94% of the basin’s population is black while the other 6% is white. In total, 67% of the basin’s population lives in rural areas. Additionally, the poorest blacks are densely populated within the Homeland region where 60% of the population lives on only 26% of the total land.
“Water allocation is a huge issue within the region because there is a struggle between those without access to basic sanitation and companies seeking to maxmmze their production.” Despite the majority black population, blacks face immense political and economic disadvantages, as 70% of the population is considered to be living in poverty. This unequal distribution of resources is reflective of the great water disparities and raises many sustainability concerns for this region. If people cannot have access to basic water http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/monographs/no6/conley.html
needs, they will not be able to grow into a productive workforce or actively contribute to national development. That is why it is necessary to further investigate this water situation within the basin. The population density greatly influences the amount of available water in different regions of the basin. Within the Homelands only about 28% of the total water is distributed to 56% of the population. The whites in the upper basin have greater access to water and as a result of the overall distribution throughout the basin, 95% of the water is controlled by 0.5% of the population. Furthermore, poor blacks The Olifants Basinâ€™s water supply is have approximately 17.20 m3 of water per capita while the wealthy so strained that in 1982, the Grood- whites living in the upper regions have 66.9 m3 of water per capita. rai Dam was built on the Vaal River to support industrial production needs.
Poor water quality can be directly linked to the relatively small amount of water in regions of great population densities. 66% of the population lacks access to basic sanitation methods, which leads to a dramatic increase in diarrheal infection rates. In fact, there are ten times more diarrheal related deaths in areas without sanitation systems compared to areas with proper sanitation. The people lacking sanitation centers practice open defecation and
â€œ12 [out of 86 sites in the Olifants River] had E. coli levels exceeding those recommended for safety by the World Health Organization... [and] in the two priority areas that were identified, poor quality water co-existed with high population densities.â€?
This relationship between the people living in poverty and pollution is troublesome. The areas that are producing the greatest amounts of human waste lack the proper resources to manage these problems. http://www.dwaf.gov.za/orange/vaal/grootdra.aspx
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all the polluted effluent from these communities drains directly into the river. Open disposal of human waste in turn contributes to pollution in lower regions of the river. A study of the fecal contamination within the Olifants River quantitatively shows how the microbial levels are elevated in the areas of high population density. The study collected samples from 86 sites. Of those 86 sites, 12 had E. coli levels exceeding those recommended for safety by the World Health Organization. It noted that in the two priority areas that were identified, poor quality water co-existed with high population densities. It further suggested that the high levels posed a serious health risk to water users in this area. Furthermore, extreme levels of fecal pollution could in most instances be traced back to inadequate wastewater treatment, which again emphasizes the negative effects of a lack of sanitation and wastewater systems.
â€œAs the water demand continues to increase in the region, it becomes imperative to address the water distribution issues... The government will [be] forced to make decisions about prioritizing water either for the economic success of the region or for human potential.â€? When these populations lack adequate sanitation, they lose their incentive to stop polluting the water supply. Unless sanitation systems are put into place, human health will continue to be at risk, and untreated waste will continue to accumulate in these waters.
The battle between the blacks struggling for proper sanitation and the industrial sector consuming vast amounts of clean water places great pressures on the government and the nation as a whole. As the water demand continues to increase in the region, it becomes imperative to address the water pollution and distribution issues. If the pollution continues at the current rate, the little available water will be unsuitable for use and cause even greater water scarcity than what is currently projected. The Olifants River Basin could potentially experience a severe water crisis if changes are not implemented. The issue, however, will only be able to be addressed through making decisions about water allocation and water regulation. Resources will need to be divided between treatment for industrial wastewater and investing into implementing sanitation systems. The government will also be forced to make decisions about prioritizing water either for the economic success of the region or for human potential. A balance must be sought between the two priorities in order to achieve sustainability in the future.
Industrial and human activities in the Olifants River Basin (located in southern Africa) is projected to withdraw even more of its total available water by 2025 to more than 40%, further straining the already ineffective water allocation system in the region.
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ANTARCTICA AND THE POWER OF LOVE BY LEAH DAVIDSON, CLASS OF 2016
Another reason I came to Antarctica was to discover tangible proof of climate change that I could share with my community. During the two-week expedition, ice floes did not shrink before my eyes. The sea level did not rise noticeably, and no penguin appeared to be without food or a habitat. What I gained instead was an appreciation of natural beauty and a desire to safeguard my home at all costs.
In 1959, the world witnessed an extraordinary occurrence. Twelve nations put aside their claims on Antarctic territory and signed the Antarctic Treaty, one of the most successful international agreements. Extended in 1991 to include the Protocol on Environmental Protection, the treaty devotes Antarctica to peaceful scientific use. It is illegal to establish military bases, dispose of radioactive waste, mine commercially, hunt, and fish without permission. Today, 48 countries have ratified the treaty. Unfortunately, Canada, though a signatory, does not have a research station in Antarctica and is only a part member, meaning it has no voice in certain consultative meetings. This concerns me. What also concerns me is the treaty’s moratorium, which is set to expire in 2041. I spoke with Olle Carlsson and David Fletcher, polar experts who have each visited Antarctica over a hundred times. I asked them separately if they thought the treaty would continue past 2041. Both men smiled and I could see a cascade of images – of Adelie penguins leaping out of the water and the ice capturing the
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Why did I, a small town teenager from Quebec, Canada, travel four days by ship and plane to the coldest, windiest, driest, and most isolated continent on the planet? Quite simply, I wanted to fall in love. All my life, I have heard statistics like the average global temperature has risen 0.75 degrees Celsius in the last 50 years. When faced with photographs of endangered animals, flooded coastal cities, and deforestation, I wanted to care. And I wanted to change. But I couldn’t because the benefits of driving instead of biking and shopping with friends in the city instead of hiking alone in a forest hit closer to home than the consequences.
sun’s radiant energy, and of snowy mountain peaks blending into the white of the clouds and killer whales gliding through perfectly reflective water. In answer to my question, Olle and David said the same three words: “I hope so.” Realistically, will countries that face growing water demands because of global warming turn to Antarctica, the source of 70 percent of Earth’s fresh water? Will countries in economic turmoil try to find precious metals and minerals underground? Will we as the next generation endanger the fish that give life to so much of the Antarctic ecosystem? We really do not know.
“In 1959... twelve nations put aside their claims on Antarctic territory and signed the Antarctic Treaty, one of the most successful international agreements.”
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Although 48 countries have now ratified the Antarctic Treaty, only 7 states maintain territorial claims in Antarctica-- for scientific observation and study purposes. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antarctica.CIA.svg
They say falling in love is a choice, and to a certain extent that is true. It’s a choice to calm the butterflies in your stomach and accept an invitation on your first date. It’s a choice to propose and walk down the aisle. Conversely, the actual process of falling in love is innate, indescribable, and almost inadvertent. http://www.coolwallpapers.org/download/54447/Winter
Even if you don’t have the privilege of touring the Antarctic Peninsula and experiencing its age-old wisdom for yourself, go out into your backyard. Listen to the chirping of birds, the footsteps of squirrels, and the falling of snowflakes, each individually and exquisitely designed, and you will find yourself transformed as I have been: miraculously, automatically, and effortlessly. A time will come when we must decide whether we as an international community are willing to preserve the flora and fauna of one wilderness area in pristine condition for our children and grandchildren. Call me an idealist, but I believe that love, if it’s true enough, has the power to endure forever. It is with this love that we strengthen relationships and prevent wars. It is with this love that we pool our resources to obtain the most accurate scientific data. And it is with this love that seven continents, 193 countries, and seven billion people might work together to keep the treaty effective, Antarctica safe, and our planet alive.
15 PENN SUSTAINABILITY REVIEW
In 2041, I will be 46 years old, and all I ask is that you join me and my fellow polar ambassadors by falling in love with our planet. Don’t protect it because of charts you don’t understand that show the correlation between temperature increases and carbon dioxide emissions. Don’t protect it because you feel guilty after watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Come to Antarctica. Sit down beside a Gentoo penguin rookery. Watch parents feed, reprimand, and play with their chicks. Realize how similar humans are to the birds struggling for survival amid skuas and leopard seals. Climb to the top of a mountain, to that magical place where weather-carved icebergs and endless ice sheets surround you in every direction. Feel your heart absorb the paradise in your midst, this veritable Heaven on Earth.
SPONSORED BY STUDENT SUSTAINABILITY ASSOCIATION AT PENN