J500 Media and the Environment

Love your Mother Earth by Kelly

In grade school we sang a song called, “Love Your Mother Earth.”  In my mind, I was singing about an ethereal woman who soared through the skies on the wings of eagles.  She spoke the language of the ocean and her hair was made of ferns.

Mother Earth photo: flickr.com

We also sang about Santa Claus and the Headless Horseman.*

Over time these childhood characters fade away, only resurfacing as nostalgia or a great Halloween costume.  Such was the fate of Mother Earth.  Sure she is one of my favorite childhood memories, but Mother Earth, like the Headless Horseman, is kind of a weirdo.  I mean come on, she’s made of plants.

It really is too bad because these images can make people see environmentalism as strange and inhuman.  People generally aren’t comfortable with a woman who has the whole world in her womb and they are afraid that environmentalism will force them to honor an ideal akin to this weird plant lady.

I am here to clear the air.** I want to assure you that taking care of the earth does not turn you into one of “those people” who look, and smell, like compost.  You will still be allowed to bathe, and you don’t have to weave your own clothes out of last night’s leftovers.  It’s going to be okay.  In fact, it’s going to be better.

Environmentalism speaks directly to what we need as people.  It gives us healthy food, clean water, and breathable air.  Adopting an environmentally friendly lifestyle won’t ruin our lives. It will make our lives better. It can strengthen our communities, power our homes, and restore balance to our backyards.

Environmentalism is all about quality of life and reconnecting to what really sustains us.  It starts with acknowledging the intrinsic connection between us and the earth.  I realize that sounds dramatic, but it’s just true. Everything we need to survive is provided by the earth. We grow our food in it, we drink its water, and we build our homes on it from materials that come out of it.

Being an environmentalist means you acknowledge this connection between us and the earth, and you’re willing to respect it.  It means you are committed to improving our quality of life. You want healthier food, clearer air, and cleaner water. You understand that your actions today can ensure that the earth will be able to provide for us tomorrow.

And there is nothing weird and inhuman about that.


*In retrospect, I realize it’s odd that we sang about the Headless Horseman.

**environmental pun intended.

Winds of Change by matthewtb

It is said that “everything is bigger in Texas.”  Being the second largest state in the nation, it is a small country unto itself.  The state has been renowned for it’s oil production and refinement, but that maybe about to change.  Texas is helping to lead the country with green energy solutions in a big way.  By 2020 the state hopes to supply 20% of it’s energy needs with renewable resources.  


The people who are leading the way for these renewables are former oil tycoons, like T. Boone Pickens.  He has been promoting plans to rebuild the countries energy infrastructure, using energy from solar, wind, and natural gas.  Oil companies are also looking at ways to stay afloat in today’s ‘sea of green’.  They are adapting their business strategies to fit better with the times, investing in these renewables and turning a profit.  Soon enough Texas will be a global leader in using renewable energies.  Plans are even in the making to install the first off-coast wind turbines in the country, near Galveston.

Peak oil in this country was reached in the seventies.  Global peak oil is right around the bend.  Even though the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, these renewable energies hold the key to our future.  I am excited about the development of cleaner, renewable energies.  However,  I am not excited to think that our state of Kansas is still sitting on it’s head over the coal issue, when we too could be reaping the wind.

-Matt Bristow

Thanks to siemens.com for the photo.

Thanks to youtube.com for the video.

down-to-earth energy by jessicasb

For two years, I lived in what Treehugger calls “a well-kept secret.”

That is, a home or building that uses geothermal energy.

My decision to live in Dennis E. Rieger Scholarship Hall on the University of Kansas campus didn’t have anything to do with their use of geothermal energy. But it did teach me that even organizations as large and notable as the University can make good choices about energy use.

Geothermal energy works by pumping water into the Earth. Whereas surface temperatures change dramatically throughout the seasons, the temperature underground doesn’t. Water comes back “cool” in the hot summer days, cooling your home. Water comes back “hot” in the winter, warming your home.

More than 1 million homes in the United States use geo-exchange systems, according to Treehugger, and for every million homes like it, CO2 emissions are reduced by 9 billion pounds. Geothermal energy emits little to no greenhouse gases.

Ken Stoner, director of student housing at the time, said the geothermal energy system cost about $70,000 to $90,000 more than a standard energy system. But the University expected the energy-efficient system to pay for itself in about seven years.

All of these positives are leading to more and more buildings using geothermal energy.

Instead of avoiding talking about renewable energy, be it solar, wind or geothermal, more people and organizations should “try it before they knock it.”

Living in a scholarship hall run by an energy efficient heating and cooling system didn’t even faze me. Yes, our energy was reliable. Yes, the heating and cooling worked great.

‘Green’ living doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or strange — it can just be a matter of using what Mother Nature has given you and using it to your advantage. And that doesn’t need to be a secret.

— Jessica Sain-Baird

Thanks to YouTube for the video.

Reflections on Taking the Road Less Traveled (for me at least) by shawng
November 5, 2008, 8:15 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

For me, this class and our work with CEP has been like taking the road less traveled.  It’s like nothing I ever did in college.  Sure, I’ve done volunteer work, been active in our church, and the like, but this has been different.  Those felt familiar and comfortable.  In this, I’ve been forced to crawl outside my comfort zone, which is good for me.

In this class, I’ve learned a great deal about energy, clean and renewable energy, sustainability, environmental protection, and the list goes on.  Second, I’ve learned about CEP, GPACE, and many other organizations that do such admirable work.  It has been a privilege to contribute (in a small way) toward the efforts of CEP.

Third, I’ve gotten to meet many more new people.  Most of whom, I, otherwise, would likely not have met.  After spending 16 hours in this class together, I feel that I know everyone better than I know most of my other classmates.  The intimate and personal setting of this class is essential to making it work.  Plus, Simran is the only person I’ve met that’s been on Oprah.

I also wanted to share my favorite book, which is called “Hope for the Flowers” by Trina Paulus.  It is also, in a way, about taking the road less traveled.  If you feel like you need to break out of a rut or need some prodding to do something different, check it out.  Thanks to Simran, Susan, and my classmates for a great experience.


Part 2: Lawrence: We give a dam by Lauren Keith

Bowersock Power’s hydroelectric plant on the Kansas River provides an alternative for customers looking for carbon-free energy.
Photo by Lauren Keith

Tucked away in a non-imposing brick building near Sixth and New Hampshire, the quiet beast hums away, fed by the waters of the Kansas River. Inside the facility that passers-by may think is abandoned, lies Kansas’ only hydroelectric plant.

The hydroelectric plant, which is owned by the Bowersock Mills & Power Co., produces 2.5 megawatts of energy, or enough electricity to power about 2,000 homes and businesses, Nicholas Herndon, a worker at the plant, said.

The thought of a dam in the middle of the Great Plains is somewhat strange because many think a drastic change in elevation is needed to take the energy from the water.

“What we don’t have in height, we make up for in quantity,” explains co-owner Sarah Hill-Nelson.

Although this is one of the oldest hydroelectric plants west of the Mississippi River, the changing flux of Lawrence residents doesn’t know that the plant even exists or that they have the option to buy environmentally friendly energy.

To have green energy in your home, you can buy “green tags.”

Mark Maxwell, a worker at the dam, said Bowersock sells its power to Westar, and then Westar sends out the electricity on the grid that connects homes and businesses.

“You can’t really buy what we produce because you’re just buying energy off the grid,” Maxwell said. “Most of the energy is going to be produced by Westar, but for the tags you buy, Westar doesn’t produce that amount of energy, which lessens the amount of coal burned, the pollution and the environmental impact.”
The green tags cost about $20 per month. Tags can be purchased at greentagsusa.org.

Although some people think that buying green tags is a scam because green energy is supplied to the same electrical grid as non-renewable energy, it’s easy to see that green energy is being generated in Lawrence. We can see the hydroelectric plant in action.

“The more environmentally friendly energy we have, the better,” Maxwell said.

You’re dam right.

—Lauren Keith

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NAFTA: Only If We Absolutely Hafta by rarab

Editor’s note: The following is part of the Tangled Up In Green series put together by yours truly and Adam. This was originally published last week. Our current topic addresses the environmental concerns linked to the Iraq War.nafta-flag.jpg

I don’t know if you caught it, but the whole Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama flap over NAFTA exposed a dirty little secret: The North American Free Trade Agreement isn’t about American jobs or cheap Mexican labor—it’s about Canadian oil.

Think as far back as three weeks ago. I know you can do it. Remember, Britney’s dad started taking control of her life… everyone you know bugged the hell out of you by constantly saying: “I drink your milkshake…”

Anyway, back then, Hillary and Obama were campaigning among blue-collar crowds in Ohio when news broke out that someone from the Obama camp called the Canadian government and reassured them that the tough talk on NAFTA was all just an act. Later, it was revealed that Hillary probably made a similar call.

All of which begged the question: Why would they care so much about Canada if this was about NAFTA? Hasn’t Uncle Lou told us time and time again that NAFTA is all about Mexico: its cheap labor, and its non-existent regulations, which entice American factories to relocate south of the border?

Well, the dirty little secret is that without NAFTA America would no longer have a special deal with Canadian oil, which currently makes up roughly eight percent of annual U.S. oil consumption.

So — as sad as it is — breaking off the deal is itself a deal-breaker for both Democratic candidates, and, of course, for John McCain too. And, once again, our dependence on oil has led us into unsound policy.

Still, at least the Democratic candidates insist they will call for a restructuring of NAFTA—for both labor and environmental reasons.

We need to hold them to that promise.

It might provide a great opportunity to emphasize green practices. That means getting all three nations on board to create stricter—and enforceable—regulations; it means setting up a carbon-credit program between the three countries to help offset emissions of greenhouse gases; it means requiring all three nations to invest a substantial amount toward the development of renewable energy sources.

In other words use NAFTA to help put the three countries on the cutting-edge of the green movement. Make something positive out of a negative.

It looks like we’ll be stuck with NAFTA for the near future and that’s certainly bad news the way the agreement is currently structured. Any treaty that prolongs the short-sighted need to maintain our current levels of oil consumption, while neglecting to use the best alternative resources at the disposal of all three nations, is not just drinking our milkshake — it’s throwing it down the drain!

You get my point.


Flag artwork courtesy of illegalillegals