Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Hew MN House of Representatives Committee

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

On Tuesday, January 15, there was a Minnesota House of Representatives committee meeting.

So? What's new, committees meet all the time.

This though was a first.

A big first

The committee just happened to be the newly named House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division (bold added).

The Committee Chair is Representative Jean Wagenius (65B)
The Vice Chair is Representative Jamie Long (61B)

Here is the link to the Committee's home page where you will find a list of members, schedule, referred legislation, meeting minutes and subscribe to the mailing list.



Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

Mary Oliver died Thursday, age 83.

Here is one of her poems.

This story about her is from NPR and includes another poem.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Natural Climate Solutions: United States

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

Decisions about fossil fuel energy use now and into the future must be consciously informed by accounting for carbon--what happens to it as fossil fuel energy is used. I hadn't thought much about the use of land stewardship options that increase the storage of carbon while avoiding the release of carbon into the atmosphere. Fortunately, others have.

Joseph W. Fargione, and 37 other authors recently "quantified the potential of natural climate solutions (NCS)--21 conservation, restoration, and improved land management interventions on natural and agricultural lands--to increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse gas emissions in the United States."

Their findings, reported in Natural Climate Solutions for the United States, published in Science Advances (November 2018) is that standard land stewardship/management practices have a maximum potential "of 21% of current net annual emissions of the United States (in 2015)." This includes an assumption, zero cost. The authors constrained this estimate by taking into account societal goals, i.e., our needs for both food and fiber. 

Of course the estimate is a best case scenario but it provides targets of opportunity...aims that are within reach. There are co-benefits as well: air filtration,  biological diversity (habitat protectoin or restoration), soil (enrichment) and water (filtration and flood control). The land management practices were grouped into three categories.

For forests, six practices were examined; These ree reforestation, natural forest management, avoided forest conversion, urban reforestation, fire management, and improved plantations.

For agriculture and grasslands, eleven practices were analyzed: avoided grassland conversion, cover crops, biochar, alley cropping, cropland nutrient management, improved manure management, windbreaks, grazing optimization, grassland restoration, legumes in pastures, and improved rice. Biochar is charcoal added to agricultural soils to store carbon.

For wetlands, four practices were studied: tidal wetland restoration, peatland restoration, avoided seagrass loss, and seagrass restoration. The carbon in three of these are often referred to as blue carbon or the carbon stored in coastal ecosystems.

The researchers estimated the potential of these practices in mitigating greenhouse gases that could be accomplished for $10, $50, and $100 (all U. S.) measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. At these price points, "25 percent, 76 percent, and 91 percent, respectively, of the maximum mitigation would be achieved." This economic analysis is based on carbon markets and I'm not going to attempt to explain their workings but the authors write that "a price of $100 is thought to be needed to keep the 100-year average temperature from warming more than 2.5 degrees C."  They note that to achieve the Paris Agreement of 2 degrees C would be higher. The idea is to pay in the cost of carbon units and then to reward those who do with financial credits. For a thorough discussion of carbon markets see here.

Star Tribune reporter Josephine Marcotty noted that according to the study of NCS, Minnesota "ranks 8th overall with the potential to reduce net carbon emissions by up to a third."  She also wrote that "a significant portion of the benefit in Minnesota would come from planting cover crops." However, "Paul Porter, a U of M agronomy professor," noted that this practice would be "a steep climb," one unlikely in the near term. Porter further observed that "it has to be economical for farmers, and right now its not."

The Nature Conservancy press release announcing the publication describes the findings from several perspectives at the scale of the study, the United States.

NCS are not the answer (is anything?) but these practices can help in ways that surprised me. Increments add up over time. Importantly the practices are doable on a variety of scales from individuals to governmental policies. In their summary, the authors said this about this ambitious research study. Reducing carbon-intensive energy consumption is necessary but insufficient to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. Comprehensive mitigation efforts that include fossil fuel emission reductions coupled with NCS hold promise for keeping warming below 2°C.

 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Data Points

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Education
Edward Hessler

Occasionally I wonder how many K-12 public schools, districts, teachers, administrators and students are there in the United States? What are the top ten largest school districts? How long do administrators serve? Etc.

Maya Riser-Kositsky who writes for Education Week, American Education's Newspaper of Record, has spent some time and labor finding these kinds of data using sources from the U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Eduction Statistics; U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau; The Broad Center; Education Week Research Center, 2018.

So if you are interested in what she found here you go

Ms. Riser-Kositsky has made this an easy read.

And if you are interested in some similar data points for Minnesota, this summary from the Minnesota Department of Education should help.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Death In The Family

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Biodiversity
Biological Evolution
Extinction
Nature of Science
History of Science
Edward Hessler

--I love Cerion with all my heart and mind.--Stephen Jay Gould*

On January 4, 2019, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources announced a significant death. Another species has disappeared from the planet. The last known Achatinella apexfulva in the Hawaiian Islands, 'George,' died on New Year’s Day, 2019. George was approximately 14 years old and his name was derived from the Pinta Island Galapagos tortoise, 'Lonesome George,' also the last of its species.

George died in captivity, the last of ten who it was hoped would produce offspring so that a small population would grow.

The news release also notes that Achatinella apexfulva was the first of over 750 species of land snails from the Hawaiian Islands described in western science. The first mention dates back to at least 1787 when Captain George Dixon was docked on O‘ahu and was given a shell on a lei.  These snails were once common on O‘ahu in the Ko‘olau Mountains and were used heavily for lei making as access to them was much easier at lower elevations. (my emphasis)

Land snails have contributed to our understanding of biological evolution, namely the importance of geographical separation in speciation. Much is owed to the pioneering work of missionary and evolutionist, John Thomas Gulick (13 March 1832 - 14 April 1923), who was born in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai. He was the first to  note the role of geographic isolation in species formation. 

Gulick can be credited with discovering 'intra-island endemism,' i.e., the ecological state of being unique to a particular place. In this case, on an island with the endemic (unique) species being found in the valleys separated by ridges.

Rebecca Rundell wrote a splendid review of Gulick, including his life, and his work which was published in the American Malacological Bulletin (2011). This paper provides insights into the nature of science (e.g., naturalists v. experimentalists, the fortuitous nature of discovery, being in the right place, taking advantage of a general interest in shells) and the history of science (how ideas change and reasons for those changes). In her article, Rundell discusses an early debate on mechanisms for evolutionary change. In this particular case it was natural selection or geographic isolation (now both are regarded as mechanisms). The paper includes an interesting map.  

*Cerion was a genus of tropical land snails from Bermuda and islands of the Caribbean that the late paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould studied.


 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Morning Commute

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Engineering
Sustainability Energy & Transportation
Poverty
Edward Hessler

I've watched a short video from the BBC a couple of times and can't shake it.

It is about how people find a way of making a living under conditions that are nearly unimaginable

One obvious contrast is Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business and this one, two ways of making the morning commute..

We live in a wealthy world with more poverty than I will ever know. Our comfort allows us to think about and experience that world so differently.

Friday, January 11, 2019

A Change In The Climate of Climate Education

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Climate Change
Edward Hessler

From Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education comes some news about climate change education and schools.

Many states already require the teaching of climate change in effect, through its inclusion in their state science standards, but not as a matter of statute. A bill, HB 5011 introduced in Connecticut would amend the Connecticut General Statutes to require "that the science curriculum of the prescribed courses of study for public schools include the teaching of climate change and that such teaching begin in elementary school."  HB 5011 is not the first such bill in Connecticut.
Read about it here.

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

A poem for January by Donald Revell.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Winner Is Announced

Environmental & Science Education
Poetry
Art and Environment
Edward Hessler

On December 8, 2018 I posted an announcement from the American Academy of Poets about the first-ever National Poetry Contest for Students.

The winner was announced a few days ago. Julia Wang is in tenth grade at Lynbrook High School, San Jose, California.

You may read about the contest, Wang's artistic statement about the poster, the judges and also see the poster here. You can request one, too.

As I said before, I think this was a difficult choice or at least it would have been for me.

I ordered one but my past experience with poster offers from the American Academy of Poets for National Poetry Month is mixed. Sometimes I get one; most often I don't. Still I think it is always worth the try--envelope and stamp free although there is an environmental cost.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Doodle for Google 2018: Behind The Art With The Artists and Winner

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Art and Environment
Children
Edward Hessler

Here is the story behind the new Google Doodle, the one featuring dinosaurs.

This was the 10th year of googling and doodling.