Technology: What do We Lose?
Smith’s Sustainability & Climate Action Management Plan: How will it be done?
The Value of Dirt: Insights from Town Farm
• WAST (ED) • SOIL (ED) • SUSTAIN (ED)•
Photo credit: CEEDS
WAST(ED) 7 The Beehive Design Collective 9 How much waste for our Waste? 10 Technology: What do We Lose?
SOIL(ED) 13 Town Farm: Seven Tips for Soil 15 Cleanliness 16 More Potatoes for more People 18 Weâ€™ve got it Covered: Ground Cover on Campus
SUSTAIN(ED) 20 We Have A Plan! 21 Keep Farming Northampton 23 Sustaining our Endowment
26 Ego-system to Eco-system Economies
Extras 6 Waste on Smith College campus 12 April Showers: Choosing Not to Take the Plunge 19 Trends in Energy Use on Smith College Campus CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 3
[CEEDS] magazine is produced by: The Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability
A special thanks to all those students, faculty, and staff who contributed to this issue.
Cover photo by Savannah Holden
Image of dill flower courtesy of Joanne Benkley, taken at our very own Smith Community Garden
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Impact (ED) As we brainstormed themes for our current issue, we started to think about the complex interaction between humans and our natural world. So often what is highlighted is the impact we have as major drivers of ecological change. Our physical mark on our planet can be seen everywhere- from the great pyramids and looming skyscrapers to the extensive underground transportation systems and groomed lawnscapes. We humans have shaped our planet and continue to do so every day, yet we often fail to recognize the reciprocity of this relationship. The dynamic nature of our world is a driving force in our development as well. Every day we are shaped by the air we breathe, sights we see, and food we eat. We are products of our natural world, taking in sustenance from the earth and expending it back outward through our own creations. The impact of our Earth is a vital force in who we are and what we have done. With every impact we have, we, ourselves, are impacted in return. This issue looks to further reveal the dynamic relationship between humans and their environment through exploring truths behind a number of constructs. To do this, we examine the terms “waste,” “soil,” and “sustain” through a variety of lenses. Contributions from students, faculty, and staff illuminate the meaning behind these terms. From student led projects to campus wide-initiates, this issue challenges us to rethink our relationship with nature. We welcome you to come along with us as we explore our own power and vulnerability as both the sources and subjects of impact.
Savannah Holden ’16, CEEDS Intern Hanna Mogensen ‘14, CEEDS Intern Sara Kirk, CEEDS Administrative Assistant
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1. Act of wasting: a failure to use something wisely, properly, fully, or to good effect. 2. Unwanted material: unwanted or unusable items, remains, or byproducts, or household garbage. 3. Loss of something valuable that occurs because too much of it is being used or because it is being used in a way that is not necessary or effective. 4. Refuse from places of human or animal habitation: as (1): Rubbish (2) : excrement —often used in plural (3): sewage.
Purchases 36 acres of paper napkins and 6,300 miles of bathroom tissue (60,000 rolls) each year. Purchases an average of 11 million sheets of paper per year. Generates an average of 900 short tons of routine trash or 500-600 lbs of waste per student per year. Recycles an average of 290 tons of material or 195 lbs per student per year.
(Information provided by the Smith College Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan) 6 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
Poster of the True Cost of Coal produced by the Beehive Design Collective During the summer of 2011 I spent the month of August in Machias, ME, a small town near the coast that I had never heard of before. My friends had all been talking about the Beehive Collective, and the Blackfly Ball, and that it would be an amazing opportunity to help, learn from, and create a community of volunteers. All I knew was that I had to bring a tent and sturdy shoes, and I was told that there would be lots of blueberries because, after all, we were driving to Maine in August. It definitely seemed pretty cryptic, because I knew that there weren’t actually any bees involved. Rather, the bees were a metaphor for something larger, but I couldn’t have known the extent to which this was true until I arrived. The Beehive Design Collective is a grassroots activist organization made up of graphic illustrators, teachers, activists, and most of all, storytellers. They create intricately designed posters, and lead educational workshops focusing on the material they represent visually. The posters are black and white detailed cartoon drawings of fantastical scenes that depict complex global stories of injustice. The first time I saw a Beehive poster, I was taken aback by the detail, the scope, and the imagination. I didn’t understand it, and I was somehow scared to, because I didn’t want to misinterpret it. Through the month that I spent in Machias, however, with no traffic lights and one grocery store, living out of my tent in the spearmint patch in their backyard, I soon discovered who the people behind those posters really were. I befriended illustrators, narrators, public speakers, storytellers, and peace seekers, and I gained confidence to ask questions and interpret the posters on my own.
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[WAST(ED)] The Beehive combines visual art and storytelling to explain complex webs of injustice in our industrialized, globalized world. The posters are symbols and catalysts for dialogue and conversation. The Bees, as they call themselves, encourage questions, comments, input from all sides, a back and forth participation. During their workshops, the Bees unravel their stories to explain the beautiful visual metaphors.
autocorrect every text message. There is little room for improvisation in this kind of world, and the Beehive, by practicing the art of storytelling, encourages creative participation and problem solving. Through their workshops and their art, the Beehive challenges those ways in which we have grown accustomed to passively receiving our information- through television, the internet, and even reading. In their workshops, the Bees engage people in dialogue and facilitate learning from all who are participating. Everyone has something to teach from their own experiences.
The posters are collaborative works of art, intended for use as educational and organizing tools. All of the Beehive Collective’s work is licensed under At my house here at Creative Commons Smith, we have the anti-copyright, both True Cost of Coal to encourage poster hanging in our educators and hallway. I brought out activists from all over a container of colored the world to use and pencils and it now sits share them and to next to the poster on enable the posters to the window sill. It felt take on lives of their impulsive and daring own. The Bees see to decide to make our themselves as wordown mark on this to-image translators Close up of the frog miners in the True Cost of Coal intricately crafted of these global drawing, but the Bees stories that have encourage it, and I been shared with them through conversations thought, why not? So, if I’m feeling like reflecting with affected communities. They hope to “crossfor a moment or two, I stop what I’m doing and pollinate” grassroots organizations from across pick out a pencil to color an animal or plant or the globe and evoke positive change through the machine in the poster. It’s been exciting to see it active sharing of their work. They are also evolve, and each time I color a specifc part of the involved in local revitalization projects in drawing I notice something new. Through sharing Machias, throughout the U.S., and around the the poster with my housemates, friends, and world. guests, I connect to the artists who drew the miniscule dots to shade in the landscape, and One of the things that struck me most about the also to the Bees who explained the history of Beehive Collective was their art of storytelling. coal mining to me through this drawing, and They challenge a world where people have even farther back to the people who told them sometimes forgotten how to speak to one their stories of experiencing the effects of another. People have fallen into a pattern of mountain-top removal coal mining in their relying on technology to mediate every homes. experience, to spell-check every email, and -Ellena Baum ‘14 8 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
One issue that doesn’t get much attention is septic waste. It is not too often that one talks about what goes on behind the closed door of the bathroom. Instead, an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality comes into play as the flush handle drops and our waste is carried miles away from us never to be seen or thought of again. Yet, as a necessity of daily survival, we need to start asking the question: How much do we waste for our waste? An average home uses 350 gallons of water per day in the United States. An average flushing toilet accounts for one third of that total. While installation of more water efficient models has decreased our total gallon per flush usage over the past few years, flush toilets still use the most water and are the most common type found in the United States. There are flush toilet alternatives which offer increased water and energy conservation
SCORE Per Flush
The dual flush toilet is unique because it allows users to select a low or high volume of water based on the type of waste being flushed. In addition to its base efficiency (1.6 gallons per flush maximum versus 3.5+ gallons in standard flush toilets) the capacity to select the appropriate amount of water lowers overall water usage significantly. Grey water toilets, such as those used in Ford Hall on campus, rely on recycled water called “ grey” water. This is water that has been used previously in sinks, tubs, washing machines and for other non-septic functions. Because 65% of all domestic wastewater is grey water, this allows recycling of water sources and reduces the amount of potable water being used for septic services. Because water treatment and processing is such an expensive and costly processes, utilizing grey water for septic purposes helps to lower environmental and energy costs. Of the alternative options, composting toilets offer the highest efficiency. Composting toilets use no water at all! Instead, they use the power of microbes to transform human waste into a valuable resource. Compositing toilets use a filler substance, such as sawdust or wood chips to facilitate the breakdown of human waste into usable compost. One individual using a composting toilet for one year can produce as much as 680 lbs of humus (organic matter that can be used for fertilizer) and leave 6,600 gallons of water in the reservoir. Composting toilets are incorporated into the Bechtel Living Building at the MacLeish Field Station. -Hanna Mogensen ‘14
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Technology: What do We Lose? During the month of March I interviewed eight students about technology use and how they believe personal technology (phones, smartphones, computers) has affected the relationships we have with others, the environment, and ourselves. Throughout the discussions, there were a surprising number of recurring themes: though everyone appreciated the important role that technology plays in increasing communication, providing entertainment, and optimizing convenience, we all agreed that technology also wasted time, contributed to lackluster conversations among peers, and a general sense of disconnect. Everyone also agreed that because personal technology plays such a vital role in modern life, there is a great need for public education to teach youth how to manage how they use it. Almost everyone I interviewed had a laptop and a smartphone, and a few also had tablets. This speaks strongly to just how commonplace personal technology is. Many students discussed the fact that today, if you don’t have a smartphone or if you aren’t consistently available via technology, you are “out of the loop”. This relatively new phenomena of personal technology and the expectation of instant communication has changed the social, professional, and personal relationship landscape drastically in a matter of years. One student commented that she even noticed a difference in communication between friends “from when (I) first came to Smith three years ago and now” because of the rise of iPhones and the reliance on group texting for making plans. Another student pointed out, “I know so much about my friends because we’re always in communication that [when we get together] there isn’t much to actually talk about.” This was a widespread theme among all of the interviews. There are now so many electronic ways of communicating- from texting, to
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Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and even simple email- that it is commonplace to know details about someone’s entire week without having to actually say a word to them. There was a certain malaise expressed with this communication trap, students noting “it’s hard at our age, at this cusp, where we know what it’s like without it, but we also can’t live without it anymore. Whereas people five years younger than us have only ever had it.” Each of the individuals I interviewed noted how quickly people become used to, addicted to, and reliant on technology, even people who didn’t use it two or three years ago. Each of them also expressed concern about the effect personal technology use would have on younger generations, people who don’t remember making plans without the possibility of receiving a last minute text cancellation, or needing to speak to someone face-to -face to get to know them. On a positive note, the facility of communication, particularly overseas, is highly appreciated. Two of the international students I spoke with discussed at length the way in which technology has made their abroad experience much more enjoyable, particularly in moments of homesickness. One student, reflecting on the impact personal technology has had on peer relationships, inquired, “Are we losing our communication skills, or are we gaining them? I don’t really know where we’ll end up.” Indeed, no one does. The question of personal technology becomes even more complicated when one considers how it affects not only our relationships with others, but with the bigger world—with the natural, or “real”, world. Personal technology, particularly smartphones, make it so that, as one student put it, “people’s minds are everywhere else, far away from what’s going on in nature and what
Photo Credits: Hanna Mogensen ‘14
truly affects us”. Almost everyone I spoke to could easily make the distinction between the “real” world and the world of “technology,” noting that spending too much time in the tech world makes them feel lethargic, heady, anxious, and in a “tech fog”. Yet, we don’t really know any way out of it. Though most of us feel that we should be spending more time in the “real” world, life is now structured so that time spent that way feels a luxury instead of a given. Many people feel that they simply don’t have time to spend away from their schoolwork, email, and texts, and when they do they Photo credit: Savannah Holden ‘16 often “waste” it playing around on blogs, Facebook, and games. The “tech fog” that so many of us now operate in also seems to block us from being truly affected by the constant news stream that bombards us online. We don’t care as much about one natural disaster because we’ll probably hear about another one next week. This information-overload often seems to lead to a state of apathy: we have become so inundated with how many issues there are in the world that we have turned down our impact dial. The fact is that people simply don’t spend time outside like they used to, and oftentimes we are more likely to look at photos of nature on a screen than to go and experience it firsthand. This has led to a disconnect between people’s daily lives and the importance of nature and ecosystems, and has led to even greater misunderstandings of critical issues such as climate change. It was widely agreed upon by all interviewees that general technology combined with human ignorance is one of the main creators of the current climate crisis. They also all agreed, however, that it is the only place in which a solution now lies.
Another layer to the issue is the reality of e-waste. One student pointed out, “no one thinks about the e-waste, contamination, and pollution that comes from producing one phone… there is a really big disconnect between the product in your hand and where it came from and that connection to what’s happening in the environment.” She continued on to observe that “it’s ironic that something that is being marketed as a tool for connection and the mesh of cultures can also tear cultures apart in places in which it is produced,” referring to the pollution and unfair labor practices of many places in the world where electronic devices are produced. In many ways, we are stuck in a vicious cycle: we create technology, causing environmental and social damage, then attempt to use this technology to resolve environmental and social damage. What is the solution to all of this confusion and disconnect? Though no one had a direct answer, it was widely agreed upon that the first step was to educate people. Technology has an incredible ability to connect people, and the proper usage of this technology could lead to projects, initiatives, and solutions that we cannot yet imagine. Most of the students I interviewed spoke of having mandatory media literacy courses in schools, teaching young children the importance of efficient technology use, conscious consumption, environmental impacts, its effects on the brain and the body, utilizing it for productive, active endeavors instead of passive ones, and the importance of face to face connection. Given personal technology’s prevalence in our lives and its impact on the world, it is absolutely necessary to educate young minds about it. We’re never going to go back to a time before instant communication, so we should instead focus on using it consciously and productively while minimizing its negative environmental impact. -Savannah Holden ‘16 CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 11
\ˈsȯi(-ə)l\ (n) (v) 1. Top layer of land: the top layer of most of the Earth's land surface, consisting of the unconsolidated products of rock erosion and organic decay, along with bacteria and fungi. The upper layer of earth that may be dug or plowed and in which plants grow. 2. To make unclean especially superficially. To become soiled or dirty. 3. A medium in which something takes hold and develops. 4. Moral defilement : corruption
April Showers is a campus-wide house competition hosted by the House Sustainability Representatives with the goal of reducing water consumption in the residential houses by reducing shower length and/or frequency. This year, the competition started on April 7th and ended on April 18th. The goal was for students to reduce their shower time to under 7.5 minutes or simply shower less frequently. Charts were hung up in all of the bathrooms so that students could check off what days they did not shower or showered under 7.5 minutes. Reps for each house calculated their house participation percentages; at the end of two weeks, the house with the greatest percent of participation was Sessions House! They chose a prize of Herrell’s ice cream! We hope this competition inspired students to think critically and instill a more conscious culture around water use. -Devin McFadden & Julia Graham Participants who took on the challenge commented on their experiences: “My friends and I challenged ourselves to shower as little as possible during April showers. After this week I have found that my skin and my hair actually feel healthier than they did when I was showering every day. Moving forward I am definitely changing my shower habits . -Mary Badger ‘16 “Living in the desert last year while I was abroad really gave me perspective on how unnecessary our cleanly routine in America really is. In Jordan, everyone showered once a week and it was completely normal. Our idea of what is "clean" in America is skewed.” -Lucie March ‘14 “There's no need to shower every day. Our bodies have natural oils that regulate themselves. Showering every day is a waste of time and water.” -Baillie Vensel ‘16
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Photo credit: Ben James, Town Farm
Managing a small, diverse vegetable farm requires a wide range of skills. Farmers like to joke that growing the vegetables is the easy part and that the marketing and selling and running a successful farm-based business is the hard part. I understand the challenge of those pieces, but I also find that building and improving the soil with an eye for long term health requires a fair amount of thinking and balancing. I would never claim to be an agricultural scientist -- although as an undergraduate at Hampshire College, I did take Plant Biology and, at UMass, a soil science class. My approach to managing soil fertility is instead part farmer, part artist, and part intuitive thinker. Iâ€™m grateful for the scientists, though, and believe that we need more and more scientists who are studying the ins and outs of organic agricultural systems and who are not under the thumb of corporate donors.
My husband Ben and I run Town Farm, growing on close to 10 acres in the Meadows neighborhood of Northampton -- some of our land is
leased, and some we own. We sell almost exclusively at Tuesday Market, a farmers market in downtown Northampton. Here are some of the things weâ€™ve learned to do and not to do in terms of soil health on our farm over the past seven years -- they are in no particular order. Every one of these lessons can apply to any size garden or farm.
Till as little as possible. This means, for us, having the right equipment and not heading into our fields every week to pulverize the soil with our rototiller. We try to turn the soil 2-3 times at the most in any given growing season. Let the fields rest. We are working towards planting all of our fields in a combination of oats or rye and a nitrogen fixing legume (peas, clovers, or vetch) every other year so that the fields get to rest, build up organic matter and increase the populations of worms and soil microbes. In several of our fields, weâ€™ve reached this goal. CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 13
[SOIL(ED)] Get soil tests. Find a lab that you trust and every year or twice a year (if you can manage it), test your soils and assess the pH and the other nutrient levels so that you can accurately decide what to add to the soil to help your plants thrive without contributing to the proliferation of nitrogen and phosphorus in our waterways.
compels me to keep figuring out ways to feed and support the complex system of soil microbes by adding enzymes and other foods to my soils. Sometimes this feels like snake charming, but I do believe there’s a lot that science can’t explain yet and that experimentation and farmer-science is a key way to evolve our agricultural systems.
Rotate your crops. There are some mixed opinions about this, but organic standards recommend having a 3-5 year rotation of crops in any given location on your farm. When you rotate, you interrupt insect pests and diseases that can build up and overwinter in plant debris or in the soil.
Keep good records. Okay, I’m not always super good at this one. The perfect iPhone app for documenting what you’ve done everywhere on your diverse farm is still in the beta phase of development, I believe. That said, whatever records I do keep, I go back to the next winter and use them every step of the way to planning the current year. I love spreadsheets.
Plant a diverse set of crops. Monocultures (the planting Think to the future. I of only one crop believe strongly in the year after year in the principles of permasame field) require culture (literally the lots of inputs and idea of a permanent ultimately deplete agriculture that the soil in multiple doesn’t require the ways. Additionally, re-planting of crops as an article by Jim every year). There are Robbins in the NY beginning to be Times last Novem- Photo Credit: Ben James, Town farm farmers and not just ber examined, the gardeners that are persistent use of herbicides throughout our transforming even their large scale (e.g. 300 country has led to a decline of the monarch acre) farms into more perennial and holistic butterfly because there are literally not enough agricultural systems. I’m not a permaculture milkweed plants in or around the fields for farmer at all yet, but I am working right now them to feed on now. How many other brilliant towards having less grass around our house and essential insects are suffering the same and more herbs and trees and other interesting fate? In response to this information, we are edible and medicinal plants. Keeping carbon in now growing plants that are food for insects the soil by farming this way seems like an and bees alongside our cash crops. essential piece of our future. We need to be off -setting climate change in whatever ways we Feed the soil microbes. John Kempf, a young can, and how we plow and till and grow our Amish farmer in Ohio and owner of Advancing plants is a critical piece of the puzzle. Eco-Agriculture, writes about the soil being the -Oona Coy, Town Farm digestive system of plants. This analysis 14 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
“Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday dear Sara, happy birthday to me. … Happy birthday…” I wash my hands with soap, making sure I sing ‘Happy Birthday’ three times (which is supposed to help you wash for the proper amount of time to take care of germs) or some song in my head that feels just as long. I do the shake and one paper towel fold trick that I learned from a TED talk, trying to be clean but also eco-conscious. In the United States, people seem to be more and more interested in being ‘clean’. However, this idea of ‘clean’ doesn’t seem to revolve as much around being free from dirt as being totally sterilized of all foreign matter. To this end, I know people who are very much on the antibacterial bandwagon: antibacterial lotion on the desk at work, hand sanitizer in the handbag, antibacterial soap by the sink. Perhaps you have heard that the FDA recently decided to make the companies that produce antibacterial soaps that contain the ingredient triclosan prove that they are, in fact, effective. This is not a ban on triclosan, but more of a challenge for companies to prove its safety and effectiveness. Both the EPA and the FDA are working to reassess this chemical. The EPA currently regulates the use of triclosan as a pesticide. One of the problems with antibacterial products is that they claim to kill 99% of germs, but the germs that survive may then become antibiotic resistant, which is a problem for all of the rest of us. The rise of bacteria superbugs seems to be aided by our overuse of antibacterial products! It is also the case that many illnesses, like colds and flus, are viral in nature, not bacterial at all, so we aren’t even protecting ourselves as much as we think we are. Another problem this creates is the lack of a healthy immune system; if everyone is keeping bacteria at bay, they are not exposing themselves to small doses and
Photo credit: Hanna Mogensen ‘14
familiarizing their body with less harmful bacteria. I am not advocating not washing your hands, or saying that antibacterial products have no use. I am just concerned that our mindset that everything should be sparkling ‘clean’ may actually be making this world more dangerously dirty. On the personal health level, there is a hypothesis that has taken on some traction called the ‘hygiene hypothesis’. It posits the relationship between overly clean environments scrubbed sterile and a rise in childhood illnesses and allergies. Quoting the FDA website, “the problem with extremely clean environments is that they fail to provide the necessary exposure to germs required to “educate” the immune system so it can learn to launch its defense responses to infectious organisms.” The EPA also determined that “more research on the potential health consequences of endocrine effects of triclosan is warranted.” Do we think about what we are washing down the drain, and where the products that ‘clean us’ end up? On the broader environmental scale, triclosan has been noted as negatively impacting fluvial ecosystems. There are studies that have found tricloCEEDS IMPACT(ED) 15
[SOIL(ED)] san in streams and other bodies of water, even after the water has passed through a waste water treatment plant. Triclosan “can disrupt algae's ability to perform photosynthesis.” Another study noted, “microbial diversity after exposure to triclosan was profoundly affected.” While much of the research I looked at focused on the plant side of things, it seemed clear that there are significant impacts of triclosan in the environment, and an increasing number of people are researching what the long term consequences could be for a number of different organisms and systemts.
From our own personal health to the health of the planet, the negative impacts of triclosan are well enough understood that we should all pause before using “antibacterial” products. I’d recommend that the next time you are feeling dirty
or germy, get yourself to a sink, grab some ecofriendly soap, and sing yourself a little ditty to take care of it. It might make you smile, and it will definitely make the planet happier in the long run. -Sara Kirk, CEEDS Administrative Assistant Sources: 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FMBSblpcrc, 2) http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ ucm378393.htm, 3) http://www.fda.gov/biologicsbloodvaccines/ resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm167471.htm, 4) http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/ triclosan_fs.htm, 5) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/fivereasons-why-you-should-probably-stop-using-antibacterialsoap-180948078/#pfDH0YUjtMB1rWUV.99, 6) http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/ opinions_layman/triclosan/en/l-3/3-environment.htm
More Potatoes for More People: Understanding Scab Disease Pathology Since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago, humans have grappled with feeding everincreasing populations. Potatoes, an ancient South American tuber, have become a global food staple because they are a nutritious annual crop. Two of the most economically significant potato diseases that claim 4% of worldwide crops are common and powdery scab.1 Uncomely lesions form on the skins of infected potatoes, rendering them unsellable on the food market. Though researchers have made progress in disease management by employing high moisture, low soil pH, and resistant varieties,2,3 a full understanding of the pathogenic mechanisms by which potatoes contract scabs remains elusive. Yet, disease management and increasing crop yields is a critical component of meeting global food needs.4 According to USDA scientists, global food production levels will need to equal the amount of food produced in the entire history of human agriculture to adequately address presentday world hunger and malnutrition.4 Sciencebased environmental management is critical so that we meet ongoing food demands and account for present-day disparities in food justice that 16 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
face our generation. Consequently, significant issues relating to the agricultural chemistry field include disease pathology and management of crucial food crops. This past summer, I found myself on a plane overlooking pristine farmland of the remote island state of Tasmania, Australia. Iron-rich red soils, roadless landscapes, and green patchworks of farmland filled my window seat view. The bucolic Tasmanian scenery captivated me. E.O. Wilson calls this “biophilia”, the innate bond we have to nature. I had been awarded a Praxis grant from Smith College to pursue a research opportunity with Dr. Calum Wilson at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA), University of Tasmania, Australia (UTAS). Dr. Wilson, a plant pathologist, researches potatoes, a crop susceptible to many diseases. Tasmania’s climate and soils make it an ideal location for agricultural research, and I engaged in two separate studies to learn about common and powdery scab diseases, respectively. First I worked in the TIA laboratory with Dr. Wilson and Dr. Robert Tegg on the application of novel foliar sprays on potatoes
Tasmania, Australia. Photo credit Clarke Knight
infected with common scab disease, caused by pathogenic Streptomyces spp. bacterial infection.1 In this study, five chemicals were sprayed on potato crops, and I assessed the potatoes to see which sprays were effective at reducing disease. Scab diseases are cosmetic, so visual analysis was used for the majority of the assessment. I also performed polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – a technique used in molecular biology to amplify DNA sequences – to quantify disease levels in each trial. Our findings indicated that potatoes are more susceptible to disease at an early stage of their development; thus, prompt herbicide application is necessary. We also identified one chemical (the identity of which is proprietary) that successfully reduced disease. This chemical interacts with thaxtomin A, the bacterially -released phytotoxin that causes common scab.1 It is currently being marketed in the agricultural industry so it can be mass-produced and used by farmers in an effort to recover potato crops, boost economies, and feed more people.2 With greater understanding of economically significant crop diseases, better designed biocides can be developed and employed on agricultural land. Protecting vital crops prevents disasters like the Irish potato famine, saves resources, reduces environmental pollution, and furthers our scientific understanding of plant diseases. With almost one billion people chronically undernourished, 4 guarding and maximizing food resources remains one of our top global priorities. - Clarke Knight ‘14 References: 1. Molesworth, P.P.; Gardiner, M. G.; Jones, R. C.; Smith, J. A.; Tegg, R. S.; Wilson, C. Aust. J. Chem. 2010, 63, 813–820. 2. Tegg, R.S.; Gill, W. M.; Thompson, H.K.; Davies, N. W.; Ross, J. J.; Wilson, C. R. Plant Disease. 2008, 92,1321-1328. 3. Waterer, D. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 2002, 82, 583-586. 4 Conley, M. United States Department of Agriculture. “Global Challenges Facing Food and Agriculture.” Press Release: September 24, 2012. CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 17
We’ve Got it Covered: Groundcover on Smith College Campus Photo credit: Savannah Holden
It is my first year on the Smith Committee on Sustainability, and while I have been told that many committees see little action and much discussion, this committee was certainly not one of them. As a member of the French department with only a personal, though very pronounced, interest in sustainability, I was happy to be entrusted with somewhat significant responsibilities in my second year at Smith. After reading through the College’s Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan to refocus on our goals, we divided ourselves into subcommittees and began brainstorming new initiatives. In our mini-group, groundcovers quickly emerged as a popular, sustainable response to green spaces on campus that are difficult to manage for a number of reasons. Especially useful for slopes, groundcovers counter soil erosion and make it possible to reduce the amount of hours spent using manual lawnmowers, the only type of machine adapted to slopes. While some species can be invasive, if bordered by walkways or sidewalk their spread can be mitigated. Additional benefits of alternative groundcovers include attracting pollinators, when flowering types are planted, and reducing water usage, when less ‘thirsty’ varieties are used. As a next step, I researched groundcovers that would adapt well to the special site conditions at Smith, perusing websites like the very helpful
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and non-creepy JeepersCreepersUSA.com for spreading plants, as well as many botanical garden sites. In a meeting at CEEDS with Deirdre Manning (Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability), Jay Girard (Landscape Manager), Gary Hartwell (Project Manager in Facilities), and Bob Dombkowski (Grounds Supervisor), we discussed various species and narrowed down our favorites. These included Wild Ginger, which we plan to try out in the space between McConnell and Bass Halls, as well as Periwinkle and Sedum Dazzleberry for the prominent slope below College Hall at the intersection of West and Elm streets. We looked at Blue Star Creeper as an alternative to mulch under trees, and the quirkily-named Rupturewort--Harry Potter’s favorite ground cover --hailed as an “indestructible” lawn alternative that can handle heavy foot traffic. At our spring semester meeting, the groundcover initiative attracted two more interested team members, Ann Finley of Dining Services, and student Alex Julius, who has done research on this and other sustainability issues. We hope to meet with the Alumni Association soon to go over our ideas, and hope they turn out to be as excited as we are to bring beauty and greater efficiency to our campus. -Mehammed Mack, Assistant Professor
\sə-ˈstān\ (n) (v) 1. Nourish someone: to provide somebody with nourishment or the necessities of life. 2. To provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, keep up, prolong. 3. Of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. 4. Of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods.
Trends in Energy Usage Provided by Gary Hartwell CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 19
We Have A Plan! Photo credit: Gary Hartwell
Sustainability can be overwhelming. Where do we even begin trying to find solutions to problems of global proportions, created through millions of interconnected actions, affecting every individual on earth? That is the great challenge, but also the great allure, of environmental studies. No current environmental issue better exemplifies this than Global Climate Change. In the early 2000â€™s the Smith community, aware of the magnitude of this issue, knew that the answer was simply to begin somewhere, anywhere, and see where it would lead. The college took a deep breath and jumped in. Smith pledged itself to reductions in its greenhouse gas emissions, to promoting the importance of environmental stewardship among students, faculty and staff, and to integrating sustainability into the curriculum. To fulfill these pledges, Smith first had to take inventory of its current greenhouse gas emissions and compare them to its past emissions. To do this, students used the Campus Carbon Calculator, a massive excel spreadsheet of the College's operational data that is converted to Metric Tons of CO2 emissions. Once the College had a greenhouse gas inventory, it needed a roadmap to carbon neutrality. This roadmap is SCAMP, the Sustainability and Climate Action Management Plan. This plan was created by the Office of Environmental Sustainability and the Committee 20 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
on Sustainability in 2010, with input from each sector of Smith: faculty, staff and students. The strength and integrity of the plan is in its multi-disciplinary approach. In essence, SCAMP provides a summary of the College's effects on the environment and offers ways to begin to improve our environmental performance. Its goal is institutional culture change, resulting in carbon neutrality by 2030. Almost all of our greenhouse gas emissions are the byproduct of creating heat and hot water, using electricity, and transportation. In 2009 these categories comprised 99% of Smith's greenhouse gas emissions. The College's water use, purchasing, solid waste and landscape management also have great effects on environmental sustainability but do not contribute directly to its greenhouse gas emissions. The plan is to create efficiency and promote conservation in all areas of campus operations, replace fossil fuel use with renewable fuels, and purchase offsets. In addition, SCAMP outlines steps towards integrating environmental sustainability into the classroom and co-curricular activities. Each section of the plan includes a list of ways that students can be involved, providing a database of potential projects. It is a great resource for any student interested in the environment who is asking: "Where do we even begin?"
While still a work in progress as ideas of sustainability change, SCAMP offers a glimpse of the answer to tackling tough environmental challenges. Current Smith students may not know the magnitude of change at Smith since the College signed its first emissions reduction pledge in 2004. Here is why we should be optimistic (and this is the shortlist version). Since 2004, Smith has: created an Environmental Science and Policy major, an Office of Environmental Sustainability and a Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability, invested in a new way of making electricity, heating and cooling on campus that drastically reduces our emissions, invested in the retrofitting of buildings campus-wide for energy efficiency, installed an interactive technology that displays resource use in campus buildings, built the self-sufficient Bechtel Environmental Classroom at the MacLeish Field Station (the fifth such Living Building in the world), adopted sustainable purchasing, paper and bottled water policies, begun purchasing 22% or more of its food locally each year, created a student Community Garden and supported car-sharing and bicycle programs and their infrastructure on campus. SCAMP puts Smith College in a position to fulfill the mission of the climate reduction pledge it made in the early 2000â€™s: to become a role model to its community and its students and educate graduates who will become leaders in the environmental world. -By Elisabeth Wolfe '10
Keep Farming Northampton This Fall the Sustainable Food Concentration capstone students had the opportunity to work on a community project started by Keep Farming Northampton (KFN), a local citizens group dedicated to strengthening Northampton agriculture in ways that are good for farmers, good for businesses and good for area communities. This project included four years of survey research on the production and consumption of local food in Northampton that had been undertaken with the support and guidance of the Glynwood Institute, a New York-based non-profit organization that developed the Keep FarmingÂŽ methodology. Students in the capstone were invited to conduct a survey of institutional food Photo Credit: Ben James, Town Farm buyers in order to better understand some of the barriers and opportunities they face with regards to the purchase and consumption of local food. As a class we synthesized these findings together with three previous surveys of Northampton farmers, residents, and restaurants, in order to identify common barriers and opportunities for local food. Our goal was to submit a report and recommendations to the Northampton Agricultural Commission. After analyzing the results of all four surveys, we identified a number of findings regarding the role of local food in the Northampton food system. Northampton consumers, restaurants and institutions exhibit a high level of interest in local food. The surveys also revealed that Northampton institutions, which serve more than 9,900 meals each day and spend more than 3 million dollars on food annually, represent a relatively untapped market for local food producers. Northampton is at the center of an active farming CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 21
[SUSTAIN(ED)] community rich with natural resources. While just 11% of the municipality’s land is in crop production (as of 2009), the Pioneer Valley’s rich riverbed soils support nearly 2,000 farms, with 14% of all land in agricultural production, constituting 33% of the Commonwealth’s farmland (Pioneer Planning Commission, 2013). Thirty percent of the farmers surveyed were interested in permanently protecting their land, 60% sold half or more of their produce in Northampton and 30% sold some or all of that produce at farmers markets or farm stands. These findings suggest that Northampton has incredible potential to become a regional destination for local food that nourishes the agricultural community throughout the Pioneer Valley.
development of a streamlined electronic ordering system designed to facilitate direct sales between local farmers and buyers. Our report and recommendations were met with considerable feedback from the City and its residents, especially the idea of establishing a permanent home for the city’s farmers’ markets. This semester a small group of students (including myself) are working with the Northampton Department of Sustainability and Planning to create a report exploring successful examples of permanent farmers’ market structures across the U.S. with the goal of assisting the City as they further consider this recommendation.
This semester’s special studies project represents the In addition to these findings, several common barriers continuation of a truly dynamic community that serve to limit the role of local food came to light. collaboration rich with unique learning opportunities These barriers included challenges associated with that grew out of our Sustainable Food Concentration distribution, processing and storage, changes in the capstone course and our work with Keep Farming availability of regional Northampton. produce throughout The capstone the year, building and project as well as maintaining business this special connections between studies have consumers and local challenged a farmers, limitations group of students set by state and from diverse federal regulations, academic backthe perceived grounds to work expense of local food, together on longand an overarching term projects that lack of information required research, Julia Jones ‘14 and Julia Whiting ‘14 present project findings. sharing regarding coordination, and Photo credit: Joanne Benkley. local food. In order to collaboration with a variety understand these barriers more completely and make of community members and leaders. For me, these realistic recommendations to address them, we took courses, and the concentration as a whole, have to the fields, dining halls and phone lines to interview presented valuable opportunities to link my academic businesses owners, farmers, food service directors, interests in economics with my background in agriculand cooperatives. ture all while strengthening my problem solving, teamwork and leadership skills in an applied, meaningful While a number of local organizations are working context. I am grateful to be a part of the Sustainable hard to decrease these and other barriers to local food Food Concentration and for the support I have use in Northampton, we worked together (with input received from Paul Wetzel and the staff at CEEDS. As a from KFN volunteers) to deliver a number of solid senior I look forward to seeing the program grow in recommendations designed to promote a more the years to come. vibrant, resilient and economically viable agricultural -Julia Jones ‘14 economy. These recommendations included (but are not limited to) the construction of a Permanent Farmers’ Market & Processing Facility, the introduction Sources: Pioneer Planning Commission. Pioneer Valley of a Northampton Local Food Week, and the Food Security Plan. September 2013 Print. 22 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
Sustaining our Endowment Over the past two years, colleges and universities around the country have witnessed a growing divestment movement targeting the harmful practices of the fossil fuel industry. This movement has recently expanded to cities, religious institutions, and organizations around the country, and has been experiencing rapid success with nearly 600 (about 500 in the United States) individual campaigns around the world. Here at Smith, a network of students called Divest Smith College has been campaigning for the past two years for Smith to pull our endowment investments from the fossil fuel industry. They have asked that the Board of Trustees:
(1) freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies (2) commit now to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds As defined by the Responsible Endowments Coalition, â€œdivestment is the act of selling all of oneâ€™s shares of a given company or type of asset for an explicit social or political reason.â€? Divestment is not a new concept. Cities, companies, colleges, and individuals have been using the power of divestment to take a stand on important issues for decades. These include, most notably, resistance to the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s and a campaign against the tobacco industry in the 1990s. Smith has a 1.7 billion dollar endowment that has been managed by an investment firm called Investure for the past 10 years. Our endowment investments are currently pooled with 12 other institutions (including Middlebury College, Barnard College, and the Commonwealth Fund), and invested in a wide variety of commingled funds, hedge funds, and markets. This pooled investment structure makes divesting from any single market particularly complicated, but certainly not impossible. How do endowments work?
Image credit: http://www.wearepowershift.org/ CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 23
Photo credit: Divest Smith College
Why divest from the fossil fuel industry? Fossil fuels are nonrenewable combustible materials like coal, oil, and natural gas. The extraction, transportation, and use of fossil fuels are destructive to communities worldwide. Extreme extraction techniques like mountaintop removal and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) disrupt entire ecosystems and make vast swaths of land unlivableâ€“ for humans and wildlife. Extreme extraction techniques force people off of their land, and they also create hazardous byproducts that find their way into the air and water supplies of surrounding communities, effectively poisoning the inhabitants of those communities. This is a social justice issue. Fossil fuels not only threaten the health and safety of communities around the world through their harmful extraction methods, but they also threaten all humans on earth by contributing to global climate change. Many people speak of the practicality of using fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, while searching for sustainable energy alternatives. The fact is that sustainable solutions (wind, solar, and more) already exist, but proper invest24 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
ment has not been made in these technologies. The fossil fuel industry is a powerful actor with a huge financial stake in people continuing to exploit the planet. By Smith remaining invested in this industry, we are giving our implicit political support, and our explicit financial support to the judgment that short term gains for a few is worth long term suffering by many. By publicly pulling our financial support from these industries, we hope to stigmatize their harmful practices and turn both social and political attention to the sustainable solutions on which our lives depend. Currently 6.5% of Smithâ€™s 1.7 billion endowment is in some way connected to the fossil fuel industry. Our investments in the fossil fuel industry both finance and condone its actions, when we could instead send a powerful message that we support socially responsible investment practices to politicians, institutions, and society. As an institution with a history of pioneering work in social justice movements, and immense political clout, it is now our responsibility to stigmatize this industry with which our values are not aligned, instead of continuing to
In 2012, Unity College became the first to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Since then, a number of universities, cities, and institutions have divested from fossil fuels, including the Schmidt Family Foundation, the United Church of Christ, Hampshire College, the cities of San Francisco, Amherst, and Northampton. Through petitions, letters, and referendums, schools around the country have sent the message that they support taking environmental cost into consideration during investment. At Smith, Divest Smith College has built substantial campus presence since its inception in the fall of 2012. Through panels, events, petitioning, and conversation the group has mobilized broad support from students, alumni, faculty, and staff. This spring, Divest Smith College worked with the Student Government Association to put a student referendum on the 2014 election ballot, allowing students to voice their opinion on this incredibly important issue. On April 22nd, 84% of the students voted in support of Smith divesting from the fossil fuel industry.
Smith College pledges to prepare students for their “responsibilities to the local, national and global communities in which they live and to steward the resources that sustain them.” If the College wishes to instill these values in students, it must act in a manner that exemplifies these sustainable, responsible behaviors. Divestment provides an opportunity for the College to translate its goals into tangible action. By divesting from fossil fuels, Smith will be living up to its reputation as a progressive leader, both on environmental issues and in the wider arena of social justice. When President Christ signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, Smith College committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Divesting from the fossil fuel industry on a five-year timeline is an attainable step that the College can implement towards this larger goal. This action is an important benchmark on the path towards achieving sustainability and equality. As a college with a reputation of leadership, Smith is a pioneer by tradition. By withdrawing financial support from the fossil fuel industry we will uphold this legacy.
-Savannah Holden ‘16
Photo credit: Divest Smith College
profit from it. Smith has done this before. The College divested its endowment investments from Apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s and from oil companies operating in Sudan in the early 2000’s.
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Excerpt: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies We live in an age of profound disruptions. Global crises in finance, food, fuel, water, resource scarcity and poverty challenge every aspect of our societies. These disruptions also open up the possibilities for personal and societal renewal. To seize these possibilities we need to stop and ask ourselves some basic questions: why do our actions collectively create results that so few people want? What keeps us locked into old ways of operating? And what can we do to transform the root problems that keep us trapped in the patterns of the past? Here’s a clue to the answers to these questions: the root causes of today’s global crises originate between our ears, in our outdated paradigms of economic thought. The symptoms of these crises can be summarized in three divides that disconnect us from each primary source of life: ecological, social, and spiritual. The ecological divide manifests in symptoms like environmental destruction. We currently use one and a half times the regeneration capacity of planet earth in our economic activities. The social divide manifests in increasing rates of poverty, inequity, fragmentation and polarization. And the spiritual divide shows up in increased rates of burnout and depression, and in an increasing disconnect between GDP and people’s actual well being. These structural disconnects indicate a broken system. But what is the root cause that produces them? I believe it originates directly from the ways in which we currently think about economics. The main shortcomings of conventional economic theory can be summarized in two words: externalities and consciousness. Economic externalities - the costs of economic activity - have been discussed at length by policy-makers and researchers. They have been dealt with, at least in part, through successive attempts to regulate and 26 CEEDS IMPACT(ED)
incentivize corporate behavior in order to reduce pollution and the exploitation of human beings small first steps, though much remains to be done. By contrast, consciousness is completely ignored, not even registering as a legitimate category in economic thought. Why is it so important? The current capitalist economy is fundamentally ego-centered: it is structured to satisfy my wants as an individual and to privatize or even atomize decision-making. Most attempts to deal with this problem (like corporate social responsibility) do so by extending the awareness of consumers and producers beyond themselves to take in the welfare of other stakeholders. But this process is inadequate to deal with the size and complexity of the crises that we face. What’s really needed is a deeper shift in consciousness so that we begin to care and act, not just for ourselves and other stakeholders but in the interests of the entire ecosystem in which economic activities take place. Otherwise, there is a danger that these externalities will be mitigated while the consciousness that creates them is left untouched, allowing the same costs and inefficiencies to re-appear in a different guise. There is little point, for example, in arguing for commons-based property rights and shared ownership if people’s consciousness is still stuck at the individualist, self-interested, ego-driven level. Therefore, the economic imperatives of our time call for an evolution of our consciousness from an ego-based system to an eco-based system, from one state of awareness to another. To paraphrase Einstein, the problem with today’s capitalism is that we are trying to solve problems with the same consciousness that created them. How can we construct pioneering pathways into a co-creative, eco-system economy? The shift from ego- to eco-system awareness requires a journey that involves walking in the shoes of other stakeholders, and fine-tuning the instruments through which consciousness is created: namely an open mind, an open heart, and an open will.
An open mind represents the capacity to see the world with fresh eyes and to suspend old habits of thought. An open heart means the capacity to empathize, to see any situation through the eyes of someone else. And an open will is the capacity of letting-go and “letting-come:” letting-go of old identities (like “us versus them”), and letting-come a new sense of self and what that shift can make possible.
- “co-sensing,” or going to places that allow us to see the system from the edges - if listened to with one’s mind and heart wide open, they hold the golden keys to the future; - “co-inspiring,” or creating channels for connecting to the sources of creativity; “prototyping,” or exploring the future by doing things in the present in very different ways; and “co-shaping” the spaces in which these prototypes can be embodied and scaled-up.
Moving the economic system to an eco-centered model is impossible without this shift in consciousness, but on its own it will not be enough. What’s really required is a threefold revolution: an individual, relational, and institutional process of inversion, or turning current practice inside-out and outside-in.
Of these various infrastructures, those for co-sensing and co-inspiring are particularly underdeveloped in society today. Trying to advance societal innovation through prototyping and scaling-up alone is like building a house without foundations. That’s why so many current efforts fail, because they ignore the deeper conditions of the social field (the mindsets, attitudes and intentions), and focus only on the superstructure of incentives and institutions. Without a fundamental shift in consciousness it will be impossible to sustain an eco-centered economy.
Individual inversion means opening up our thinking, feeling, and will so that we can act as instruments for the future that already wants to emerge. Relational inversion means opening up our communicative capacities, and shifting from a focus on conformity and defensiveness to generative dialogue, so that groups can enter a space of thinking together, of collective creativity and flow. Institutional inversion means opening up traditional geometries of power that are characterized by centralized hierarchies and decentralized competition, and re-focusing institutions around co-creative stakeholder relationships in eco-systems that can generate wellbeing for all. Fostering these inversions requires new types of innovation infrastructures that can build collective leadership capacities on a massive scale. Many people think that what’s missing in order to move societies towards a new economy is just a set of ideas and policy proposals that are better than those we have already. But that’s not the case. We also need new structures and technologies that enable groups to move from their habitual thinking and practices to co-create an eco-centered economy. These infrastructures include spaces for convening stakeholders in efforts to co-initiate new systems, and also:
A profound renewal of this kind at the personal, societal and global levels is crucial for our planetary future. What’s needed to underpin these renewals are change-makers who are willing to lead from the emerging future: leaders who are willing to open up to, learn about and practice the journey from ego-system to eco-system thinking. We already have much of what we need to hand in the form of living examples, tools and frameworks. What’s missing is the co-creative vision and the common will to make this revolution a reality.
-Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT, and founding chair of the Presencing Institute. Scharmer co-founded the Global Wellbeing and GNH Lab and is Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Leadership. He is the author of Leading From the Emerging Future: From Egosystem to Eco-system Economies. This article is republished with permission of the author. It was originally published on Sept. 23 2013: http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ottoscharmer/from-ego-system-to-eco-system-economies CEEDS IMPACT(ED) 27
There are many ways to get involved with environment, design, and sustainability issues here at Smith. Stop by CEEDS and talk with us about how you can take part in the growing movement. We are happy to answer questions about what is going on and how you can get connected - to relevant classes within the Five Colleges, student orgs, faculty resources, research opportunities, community organizations, and moreâ€Ś CEEDS is open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 4:00pm Wright Hall garden-level, room 005 OR visit our website at www.smith.edu/ceeds
Photo credit: Savannah Holden