Climate Change Context For An MBA

By Jamie Landi, Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise Project Manager at Cornell University

Johnson (JGSM) 2-Year MBA (2MBA) Class of 2015 students.

Jamie Landi

Why require a bunch of business students, MBAs to read the International Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 Synthesis Report, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference Agreement, the UN Millennium Development Goals, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment? It is a lot of reading, and most of the MBAs came to business school to learn hard skills – finance, accounting, economics, marketing, strategy and operations. Their common objective, generally speaking, is to develop as business leaders and learn how to apply these hard skills to evaluate and grow businesses, assess and manage risks, and maximize profits. So, why take time to read about environmental impacts, lofty sustainability goals and ethical and moral positions?

The short answer is that these reports, goals, and letters provide important context into the landscape that the MBAs, our future business leaders, will operate in. Take for example a student interested in a career working on supply chain. In the twenty-first century we’ve experienced a significant number of both natural and man-made disasters, and although these disasters may be on the other side of the world, our global supply networks have become increasingly complicated and intertwined. A fire, for example in a garment factory may be located halfway around the world, but the impacts are felt locally. These impacts come both in the form of disruption to materials or products needed for conducting business, and also in the form of a challenge to the business’s ‘license to operate’ as media now brings the realities of disaster and any negligence or responsibility to consumers mobile devices and living rooms who can then vote with their dollars. Further more, even if a clothing firm’s garment supply chain isn’t directly disrupted by the factory fire, questions will be asked about the controls every company in the sector has in place to avoid potential for similar disasters in factories that are part of its own supply chain. In order to navigate these complexities, managers must be prepared to understand the traditional supply chain, use their hard skills to meet performance goals, and also anticipate risks and execute mitigation strategies that historically wouldn’t have been considered.

Anticipating risks and identifying opportunities that would traditionally fall outside of a company or manager’s scope is the rub. It is why MBAs at a few select business programs are reading detailed reports about sustainability and climate change. In this way, business education is adapting to the changing operating landscapes that their students will be entering upon graduation. Similarly, many of the companies that will be hiring them are looking at a broader set of environmental and social factors when evaluating business risks and opportunities and adapting to the changing operating landscape as well.

Organizations such as the Carbon Disclosure Project, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, B-Corps, as well as the risk section in company SEC Filings can help paint a better picture of how businesses are confronting and adapting to the sustainability and climate change challenges and opportunities. Reading about these actions and evolving strategies is exciting – check them out!

James Landi graduated from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University in 2015. He now works as a Project Manager for the graduate school’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise.

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Research: Finger Lakes Native Makes Discovery On Impacts Of Climate Change

By Roxanne Razavi Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher at the Finger Lakes Institute

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Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

Finger Lakes native Patrice Kurnath, now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Utah, has made an important discovery about the possible implications of warming temperatures on animals that eat plant toxins.

Patrice, a Rochester native and graduate of Ithaca College, now studies the desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida) in the Mojave Desert. The woodrat eats the creosote bush, a plant that contains potent toxins, as part of their natural diet. The creosote bush makes up 75% of the woodrat’s diet, which this rodent is particularly well adapted to tolerate.

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Patrice Kurnath weighing her study organism, the desert woodrat (Neotoma lepida). Photo credit: KP Luong.

Patrice wanted to know what would happen to the tolerance of the woodrat to the toxins in their diet under a scenario of rising temperatures with climate change.

Using a laboratory experiment where she could control the temperature exposure of the woodrat while it was feeding, she recorded an important behavioral change. The woodrats simply would no longer eat the creosote bush at elevated temperatures of 29C/84F. She was able to show that at lower temperatures the woodrat had no problems eating a diet that included the creosote toxins.

So what changed?

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The creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) is a primary food item for the woodrat, but contains toxins which the woodrat do not tolerate at higher temperatures. Photo credit: KP Luong.

Patrice studies a phenomenon called temperature-dependent toxicity (TDT). Basically, at higher temperatures, toxins become more potent.

It appears that Patrice’s woodrats cannot tolerate the creosote bush toxins at higher temperatures because their livers may not metabolize the toxins without causing the animal to overheat. This is cause for concern in a mammal who lives in a desert environment and has limited resources to choose from.

Hear more about Patrice’s work on her interview with the radio science show Quirks and Quarks here. Congratulations Patrice and keep up the good research!

Warmer temperatures and toxicity in the Finger Lakes

What effects could rising temperatures have on Finger Lakes food webs?

While not a toxin (i.e., a poison or venom from a plant or animal), the toxicant mercury (Hg) is an example of a pollutant that may also become more toxic to aquatic life with increased temperatures expected with climate change.

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Sampling periphyton, a community that includes algae, bacteria, and particulate matter. Photo credit: lakesuperiorstreams.org.

Researchers in Spain published a paper earlier this year assessing the effects of a 5C/41F increase in temperature on the toxicity of Hg to periphyton (Val et al. 2016). Periphyton communities are complex benthic structures that include algae, bacteria, and particulate matter that grow on substrates.

Previous research by the Finger Lakes Institute Director, Lisa Cleckner, showed that periphyton were active sites of Hg methylation (Cleckner et al. 1999), the process that produces the neurotoxic and bioaccumulative methylmercury.

Building on research by Lisa and others on Hg dynamics in periphyton, the Spanish scientists found that tolerance to Hg changed with the species composition of the periphyton communities. Val et al. (2016) also showed that changes to the inputs of dissolved and particulate matter from the land could affect the toxicity of Hg to the benthic algal communities in addition to rising temperatures.

This is one example of the complex ways that increasing temperatures may alter the exposure of key food web components of aquatic communities to ubiquitous pollutants such as Hg.

Mercury dynamics in Finger Lakes food webs is the focus of the Finger Lakes Hg Project. Keep up-to-date about project developments here.

References

Cleckner LB, Gilmour CC, Hurley JP, and DP Krabbenhoft (1999) Mercury methylation in periphyton of the Florida Everglades. Limnology and Oceanography 44:1815-1825.

Val J, Muñiz S, Gomà J, and E Navarro (2016) Influence of global change-related impacts on the mercury toxicity of freshwater algal communities. Science of the Total Environment 540:53-62.

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

This Changes Everything- An Intimate Conversation On Climate Change With Social Justice Activist And Prolific Author Naomi Klein

By George “Casey” Payne, M.A., M.T.S., Visiting Adjunct Professor at Finger Lakes Community College and Founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International

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George Payne

If there was one message that resonated loud and clear at this years annual FLCC George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum with author and social activist Naomi Klein, it was that we must stop pretending that we have non-radical options left. The air is in crisis. The water is in crisis.

The soil is in crisis. The entire climate of our planet is in crisis. We are in crisis.

But so is the old paradigm of corporate exploitation and natural domination. If there is a silver lining in Klein’s otherwise bleak assessment of the world’s economic, social and spiritual condition, it is her hope that the climate crisis will lead to transformative social change. In her groundbreaking book This Changes Everything, Klein argues that “climate change pits what the planet needs to maintain stability against what our economic model needs to maintain itself…but since that economic model is failing the vast majority of people on multiple fronts that might not be such a bad thing.”

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Michael Winship and Naomi Klein. Photo credit: George Payne.

Wearing a blue scarf in solidarity with the local “We are Seneca Lake”movement (and admitting that she spent 5 years of her early life living in Rochester), the prolific writer, of such seminal texts as No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, suggested that we think about global warming as a celebration of limits. Now that we have brought so many of the earth’s vital systems to the precipice of collapse, we have ironically set ourselves up for a phenomenal opportunity. We are now in a position to fundamental alter the ways in which we exist on this planet. Her charge was nothing less than to change the way we build houses, grow food, consume water, drive cars, design urban communities, raise children, seek out entertainment, and even govern ourselves. Everything must change if we are to survive through this century.

Klein is hardly utopian. She acknowledged how immense this cultural paradigm shift truly is. But the chance to recreate community is a deeply moving prospect which inspires her to keep working in spite of the challenges. As terrible as the climate crisis has already been for millions of impoverished peoples from all over the world, this crisis is an invitation to press reset. In other words we can start over with a brand new infrastructure based on renewable energy, sustainable practices, and people centered economies. Now is the time to rethink and redesign everything! Under this new emerging paradigm, there can no longer exist insurmountable gaps between rich and poor nations; uninhibited free market trade policies that destroy the biology of our planet; frenetic consumption rates which strangle the life force of individuals; and mean spirited mindlessness that leads to the disenfranchisement of countless global citizens. If we choose to re-calibrate and start afresh, the end of corporate rule will finally arrive, and for Klein, a self- described “secular Jewish socialist feminist,” this is good news indeed. But the situation is much too dire to do anything gradually. “We must swerve from the path we are on” she says, and “we must invest massively in the public sphere… Our one way relationship with the natural world is over. The masters of the universe have been given a demotion.”

Watching and listening to Ms. Klein, it became evident that her most impressive ability as a spokesperson for the burgeoning climate justice movement is how she combines a wry wit with a profound sensitivity to injustice. No one is immune to her scathing indictments. She freely credited Michael Bloomberg for making positive contributions to the climate movement while simultaneously exposing his investments in big oil. Regarding the Paris Accords, she claimed that the mainstream media was far too deferential to corporations such as Exxon, and that the agreement lacked any policies to make it a reality. She also spoke convincingly about the crackdown on public dissent during the conference. Only at the end of the summit were protesters allowed to assemble on the streets in Paris. From Klein’s perspective, the entire conversation about climate change was shifted to a conversation about security after the horrific terrorist attacks just three weeks before.

She also had choice words for President Obama. Although he has been more progressive in his final year in office, she argued that Copenhagen was a disaster and that he missed several key opportunities to reverse climate change when he had the political capital to do so.

These are surely probing and necessary accusations, but throughout the evening Klein was at her best when she made the links between what is happening to our climate and what is happening to our civilization. She pointed out that thinking and acting on climate change is not about showing how this issue eclipses all other priorities such as racism, poverty and hunger. That approach will always be a losing proposition.

What needs to happen is “a connecting of the dots.” We need to see how all of these issues are interconnected and how they require systemic solutions. For example, Klein contended that Syria’s society fell apart so quickly because of a historic drought which destroyed the nation’s food supply prior to the outbreak of civil war. At home, incredible tragedies like Hurricane Katrina stress how climate change exacerbates social realities including sexism, racism and economic inequality. Klein stated that “Katrina was so shocking we can’t metabolize it. Blackwater on the streets…large scale dislocation of black residents… efforts to end public housing…I thought to myself how the science fiction story Children of Men is happening now.” She then went on to say that class struggles like The Fight for $15 is in no way separate from the vast potential we have to reconstruct a different economy based on renewable jobs, community supported agriculture, and energy democratization. It’s all the same fight.

On several occasions Ms. Klein reiterated her main thesis that shocks to the system can be positive. For her, this is one of those rare moments where we can not only avoid the worst of what is possible but we can re-engineer a new ‘possible’ all together. Here it is important to keep in mind that Klein is not talking about stopping climate change. She is talking about preventing the most catastrophic effects of climate change and promising that if we are successful we will undergo a radical cultural transformation. Unfortunately, dramatic change to the biochemistry of our planet’s ecosystems is inevitable. But what matters now is how we adapt to these radical changes. If we choose to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like the world is doing just fine, we will face a future of inconceivable sadness, wickedness, and waste. This is dystopic future where people and other living things will be made bankrupt by blind forces of insatiable greed and malice. It is a world where vigilante violence will become an everyday affair, and where private security forces work for billionaires to keep the masses sedated, sequestered and sent off “their” land. It is a world where the tensions between the public sphere and the private sphere will evaporate due to the total obliteration of civil freedom. In short, it is a world where all of the traditional social ills will be made incurable by the existential diseases of mistrust, envy and delusion. As Klein sees it, “It’s not just about things getting hotter and wetter, it’s about things getting meaner.”

All in all, this was a tremendous event. The Finger Lakes Community College community should be proud for hosting such a remarkable intellect, teacher, and communicator.

She is not without controversy. That being said, I do have one critique which is not uncommon in this line of work. The audience was 95% white, 18-80 in age, middle to upper class, liberal/progressive minded, and basically from the Finger Lakes region. That means people of color were primarily absent from conversation; it means that children and young adults were mostly at home on their computers or in front of their television rather than soaking up this wisdom; and it means that the poor and marginalized were left outside to be talked about rather than conversed with. It also means that the true disciples of industry and corporatism missed a great opportunity to hear a fascinating public intellectual explain her progressive meta-narrative in a relaxed and cerebral setting. Although Klein herself doubts the efficacy of trying to convince these type of people, I do not see how we can rebuild a new economy without them. In many cases they are our engineers, architects, mathematicians, explorers, governors, administrators, artists, and more.

We need them.

This criticism aside, I am sure that most everyone who was in attendance came away with a more comprehensive understanding of the world. What more can you ask for from a speaker?

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Green Hand: Climate Justice At HWS

By Adam Maurer, Sustainability Manager at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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Adam Maurer

On Sunday January 24, 2016, more than 25 Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ (HWS) students, three professors, and three staff persons joined an audience of nearly 450 people at the Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, NY.

The large Finger Lakes crowd gathered with enthusiasm for the chance to meet and listen to a conversation with esteemed environmentalist and author Naomi Klein, who was joined by award winning journalist Michael Winship, a Canandaigua native. It was the first ever sold out lecture of the George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum; one that unapologetically claimed that climate justice is really a war between the global north and global south, or developed vs. developing countries.

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Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ students, faculty, and staff pose for a photo outside the Finger Lakes Community College auditorium after author and environmentalist Naomi Klein’s discussion with Michael Winship. The conversation was titled, “Capitalism vs. the Climate” and referenced her newest book, “This Changes Everything.” Photo credit: George Payne, Gandhi Earth Keepers International

When anyone learns about the desperate state of our climate and earth systems, it can be easy to feel depressed, overwhelmed, and/or possibly insignificant in the shadows of a monumental predicament and forecast. But, some of us are motivated to ask, “what can I do?” Hobart and William Smith Colleges have asked, “what can we do to be part of the solution?” In fall 2007, President Mark Gearan made HWS a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), pledging that HWS will meet climate neutrality (i.e. net zero greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions) by 2025.

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Photo credit: American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, http://www2.presidentsclimatecommitment.org/html/chartersignatories.php.

Since then, HWS has hired a full-time Sustainability Coordinator; established the Climate Task Force; created a Climate Action Plan; and worked to reduce campus GHG emissions through improved management of energy, waste, water, food, and transportation. Through HWS’ various greenhouse gas mitigation efforts and climate neutrality commitment of 2025, the Colleges have made a public commitment to work toward climate change mitigation.

Colleges and universities across the United States and globe are taking leadership in the mitigation of climate change. However, there is still a misunderstanding, or at least an incomplete understanding, on many campuses between our climate mitigation efforts and those most impacted by climate change itself. Returning to Klein’s claim that international negotiations like the UN Climate Conferences are creating a division between the global north and the global south, campuses must engage students, faculty, and staff in the realities of climate change on a global scale. Climate change will undoubtedly impact all people, but it will also more negatively impact those with limited resources, those in poverty, in coastal cities, and other more vulnerable groups.

There is a large temporal and spatial scale to climate change. That is, the impacts of climate change are not necessarily immediate nor are the impacts felt in the exact location where the greenhouse gases were originally released. That may be one of the harshest realities about climate change for those of us in developed countries. Our actions in Geneva, in New York State, in the United States, will produce a much more desperate life for those living in communities and countries ill-equipped to adapt to the changes that will occur as a result of climate change. It is worth noting here that the major concern with climate change is NOT the increase in global average temperatures, but what David Orr and others call “climate disruption or destablizatoin.”

Here in the United States, there will be human, ecological, and economic turmoil, think Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy, but our nation also has disaster relief funds and resources to deploy when necessary. Although, as Hurricane Katrina proved, not even the United States is completely prepared for increased frequency and intensity of storms and their destruction to our infrastructure, social systems, and people’s lives. Now imagine more frequent storms like Hurricane Katrina hitting coastal cities and countries like Mumbai, India (pop. 12 million); Singapore (pop. 5.4 million); Dhaka, Bangladesh (pop. 7 million); Guangzhou, China (pop. 8.5 million); Rangoon, Myanmar (pop. 5.2 million); and so on. “Over the next half century, urban coastal communities around the world will face a new reality of dangerously amplified security risks, loss of life, and economic destruction from climate-change-induced flooding and storm surges.”[1] Not to mention non-coastal cities impacted by increased storms, droughts, and other more frequent severe weather. How then, do countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Thailand, etc. civically adapt to climate change and deal with he challenges these new conditions will bring about? (insert image “Vulnerable_Countries”)

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Global north vs. global south. Developed countries are emitting more greenhouse gases, which are causing the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, but the developing countries are more vulnerable due to location and lack of resources to adapt. Photo credit: Samson, J., Berteaux, D., McGill, B. J. and Humphries, M. M. (2011), Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts of climate change on human populations. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20: 532–544. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00632.x

Klein and many scholars, activists, policy-makers, etc. are trying to frame climate change into a dire concern for humanity, now also known as climate justice. While environmentalists do want to save trees, biodiversity, even the famous polar bear, it has become increasingly important to recognize that climate change is also about human kind, civic society as we know it and what we want it to become.

Here at HWS, several offices have been working together for several years now as The Justice League. This intentional collaboration between the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL), Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL), Intercultural Affairs, Finger Lakes Institute (FLI), and Office of Sustainability (OS) seeks to better communicate the inherent impact climate change will have on humans, especially those in developing countries and with lower socio-economic status. Last semester we partnered to host a screening of the documentary, Trouble the Water. For Earth Week this spring we are working toward an interfaith panel in response to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, and arguably, the state of humanity, Laudato si’. Here’s one excerpt from the Pope’s message, which captures its relevance to climate justice.

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.[2]

Here on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we hope to continue to speak truth to the impact that climate change will have on the poor, the disenfranchised, and all those who may not have the resources to adapt to the ecological, social, economic, and political destruction were are already witnessing. Climate justice is about a just, tolerant, empathetic, and loving world that acknowledges we have a moral duty to mitigate climate change, and furthermore, assist those people and communities who do not have the resources to adapt to a changing world themselves.

[1] Tsay, Shin-Pei and Herrmann ,Victori. “Protecting Coastal Cities from Rising Seas. http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/05/16/protecting-coastal-cities-from-rising-seas

[2] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Education and Exploration: HWS On “Awesome Planet” Available On Hulu

By Hobart and William Smith Colleges Office of Communications

An episode of the Emmy-nominated series “Xploration Awesome Planet,” hosted by Philippe Cousteau Jr., features the Colleges’ Science on Seneca program. The show recently aired on Fox stations around the country and is now available on Hulu. The episode, “Exciting Waterways,” highlights a trip with Pittsford Mendon High School students and teachers to test the water quality of Seneca Lake.

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A production crew from the television show, “Awesome Planet,” hosted by Philippe Cousteau Jr., the grandson of legendary marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, interview participants of the Science on Seneca program on board the HWS William Scandling research vessel. Photo credit: HWS Communications.

Science on Seneca, a partnership between the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) and the Geoscience Department at HWS, is an educational outreach program geared for middle and high school science teachers and their students, providing an outdoor classroom experience on Seneca Lake aboard the William Scandling, the Colleges’ research vessel. The episode features field work conducted on Seneca Lake during which students analyzed lake sediments, collected plankton samples and tested lake water for factors such as salinity, dissolved oxygen and acidity, to determine the water quality of Seneca Lake.

After the students tested the samples on the vessel, the plankton samples were taken to one of HWS’ biology labs where Associate Professor of Biology Meghan Brown explained different types of plankton and viewed them under a microscope.

With Seneca Lake providing fresh water to more than 100,000 residents, the episode stresses the importance of testing water quality for pollution, and also of giving students the opportunity to experience scientific research firsthand – calling the field trip an “invaluable experience.”

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Nadia Harvieux being interviewed for the Xploration Awesome Planet episode. Photo credit: Awesome Planet.

In addition to Brown, FLI Education Program Coordinator Nadia Harvieux, FLI’s post-doctoral research scientist Roxanne Razavi, and Pittsford Mendon High School Science Teacher Karen Smith were interviewed in the segment.

“Xploration Awesome Planet” is a nationally syndicated educational earth sciences television series, hosted and executive produced by Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau and a past guest of The President’s Forum Series.

High School teachers interested in participating in SOS can visit http://www.hws.edu/fli/sos.aspx for more information.

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FL-PRISM Update: Be On The Lookout For Starry Stonewort

By Emily Staychock, Aquatic Invasive Species Education Coordinator at the Finger Lakes Institute

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Emily Staychock

Residents of the Finger Lakes region are becoming increasingly aware of the threat that aquatic invasive species pose to our beautiful lakes and the water recreation-based tourism that supports our local economies. The Finger Lakes Institute and the Finger Lakes PRISM work to engage citizens in invasive species monitoring and management in order to enhance the region’s capacity to respond to this threat. We’d like to introduce a high-profile aquatic invasive species to add to the radar in the hopes that community members can assist in identifying new infestations: starry stonewort, or Nitellopsis obtusa. Interest in this species has been growing over the past several years as partners have become aware of its presence in New York and have identified it in water bodies across the state.

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Starry stonewart. Photo credit: Paul Skawinski, University of Wisconsin Extension, dnr.wi.gov.

Starry stonewort is a macroalgae that has stem-like and leaf-like structures, giving it the appearance of a plant. It’s bright green and has branchlets that are arranged in whorls of 4-6 growing around the stem. Starry stonewort is anchored to the substrate by hair-like filaments, or rhyzoids, that contain several dozen 4-5 mm star-shaped bulbils which inspired its name. All documented starry stonewort in the U.S. are male, so there is no known sexual reproduction by seed. All known reproduction in the U.S. occurs by sprouts from the bulbils or by fragmentation. Nodes located along the stem can turn into bulbils in late autumn. Starry stonewort can grow to several feet long at depths of 3-20 feet in lakes or slow moving rivers.

Starry stonewort was most likely introduced to North America in the ballast waters of ships coming from its native waters in Europe and Asia. It was first discovered in the St. Lawrence River in 1978 and has since spread throughout the upper Midwest and New York. It is similar in appearance to the native macroaglae Chara, also known as muskgrass, which may cause it to be initially overlooked and prevent early detection. The easiest way to tell these species apart is the rough texture and musky smell associated with Chara, and the white star-shaped bulbils on starry stonewort. Since 2005, different agencies and organizations have confirmed starry stonewort at locations around Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes region, including Canandaigua, Keuka, Owasco, Cayuga, Oneida, Duck, Tully, and Upper Little York Lakes, as well as Lake Como.

Starry stonewort presents an ecological concern because it grows in dense stands and crowds out native vegetation and interferes with the habitat needs of native animal species, including fish spawning. Dense stands can foul boat motors and can impede swimming and fishing. It fragments easily and can be spread by boats and trailers.

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Starry stonewart. Photo credit: Paul Skawinski, University of Wisconsin Extension, dnr.wi.gov

The upper Midwest has been studying and attempting to manage starry stonewort for years and there is valuable information that we can gain from efforts in the states of WI, MI, IN and MN. Management of starry stonewort in the US has shown that common algaecides containing copper and endothall based compounds can be effective when the infestations are low in height. Once the starry stonewort grow taller the algaecides typically kill only the top part, while the lower part survives. There is no known biological control, and mechanical treatments are difficult due to population density and its ability to reproduce by fragmentation. In addition, mechanical treatments must be sure to remove the bulbils that are rooted in the substrate as well.

The Finger Lakes Institute and the Finger Lakes PRISM will work with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and partners in New York State as well as contacts in the upper Midwest to better understand this species’ range in the region, impacts, and management. You can help! Learn how to identify starry stonewort and report any identifications in new locations to the Finger Lakes PRISM: 315-781-4385. Visit the PRISM website http://fingerlakesinvasives.org/ for information about starry stonewort and other invasive species, and to find out how to get involved in invasive species initiatives and events in the Finger Lakes region.

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Food and Field Notes: Buy Me, I’m Ugly- Restoring Healthy Beauty Standards to Fruits and Veggies

By Mekala, Bertocci, William Smith ’14

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Mekala Bertocci

They’re flawless — with perfect, blemish-free skin. If they’re too big or too small, they won’t make the cut. We nitpick their flaws, and scrutinize their appearance in spite of what might be hiding beneath their skin. I’m not talking about supermodels – I’m talking about the produce we buy in supermarkets. Beyonce has it right —“Perfection is the disease of a nation,” and it runs rampant in many, often unexamined, facets of our personal choices, including the foods we cherry pick at the grocery store.

In recent years, unhealthy and unrealistic body standards depicted in the media have come under much scrutiny. The message is simple: beauty extends far beyond the molds of what we see on magazine covers and in movies. But we rarely stop to apply the same notion to the foods we eat. Although the unrealistic cosmetic standards we expect from produce may not result in low veggie self-esteem, it does have severe negative impacts on our food system.

The pursuit of “perfect produce” (the culinary equivalent of those airbrushed celebs grinning at you from magazine covers in the checkout lane), comes at a surprising social and environmental cost. In the real world of food production, there are natural variations in size, color, and shape so that no two apples are quite alike. Yet we hold our fruits and vegetables to unrealistic cosmetic standards that have very little to do with flavor or quality. There are many key players along the food supply chain that play a hand in this, from the farmers who abide by government regulations and the standards of grocers, to the consumers who cherry pick only the prettiest produce for their market baskets. Some countries are trying to change this. In response to low harvest yields, the European Union has minimized their rules on the cosmetic standards of produce, now only regulating 10 fruits and vegetables instead of 36. Grocers, however, may still hold higher expectations, which are largely a result of consumer demands.

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One day’s waste from a banana plantation in Ecuador. Although perfectly nutritious, these bananas had the wrong curvature. Photo credit: http://berc.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/bananas.png.

So where do the stubby cucumbers and knobby carrots go? Most of the time, nowhere – they go to waste. Our unnecessarily stringent standards throughout the supply chain have led to exorbitant amounts of food waste on farms and during distribution. Feeding America estimates more than 6 billion pounds of fresh produce go unharvested or unsold each year, which represents an enormous loss of water and energy that goes into growing that food. The USDA points out that one quarter of all fresh water is used to grow food we never eat, and food is also the number one item in U.S. landfills (37 million tons) and accounts for 34 percent of all human-caused emissions of methane.

While donating excess crop left in the fields may seem like an obvious solution, most farmers can’t afford to simply donate all of the produce they can’t sell. Most farms need to at least cover the pick and pack out labor or “PPO” costs (usually a modest 10-25 cents per pound). So although I’m sure many small-scale farmers would love to donate more, they have to ensure their own standard of living, too. Now, farm-to-food-bank programs are finding creative ways to pay farmers for their seconds. Thanks to these organizations, on the farm end of the equation, some farmers are more willing to diversify and plant more produce now that there are farm-to-food bank programs in place to buy their seconds.

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Posters by Intermarché’s Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables campaign that celebrate imperfect produce. Photo credit: http://berc.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Ugly-vegetables-and-fruits.jpg.

Many organizations are hoping to help farmers make money off of seconds by applying the “ugly is beautiful” campaign to foods. Intermarché, one of the largest supermarkets in France, has begun selling a line of imperfect produce called “The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables”. With a 30% cheaper price tag and an ardent marketing campaign showing that their ugly produce makes soups and juices that are just as tasty, Intermarché has been very successful, and a pioneer for other grocers. Many non-profits have also taken a stance. One such non-profit, Feedback, hosts educational campaigns called “Feeding the 5000”. These events are free communal feasts produced using food that would have otherwise been wasted.

In the Finger Lakes Region, the Cornell Gleaning Project works to support farmers in finding outlets for produce they might not be able to sell to supermarkets or at farmers markets. There is certainly more that can be done to salvage the inglorious apples of the Finger Lakes, however.

This is a call to embrace the two-legged carrot, the extra-curvy zucchini, the unfortunate onion, and the misshapen eggplant. Don’t discriminate in the produce aisle – boycott the fruit and veggie pageant culture! Find the beauty in imperfection. Encourage your local markets to sell their less-than-perfect fruits and veggies, and discover the pun possibilities!

mekala3

“After stewing in his emotions, emo veg comes to the conclusion that the root of the world’s problems is that all people seem to care about is the way they look.” Photo credit: http://tumblr.tastefullyoffensive.com/post/98284211728/after-stewing-in-his-emotions-emo-veg-comes-to.

Author’s Note:
Mekala graduated from William Smith Colleges in May 2014 with a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies. After spending the summer of her junior year interning with a small USDA Organic family farm in Sheffield, MA, she was hooked on growing food. Soon she became engulfed in the deep and complicated world that is our food system. She’s now the ‘permanent intern’ at the same farm she started out at in Sheffield, and is working with Berkshire Grown, an organization that links farmers in the Berkshires with the surrounding community 
through events, workshops, promotions, advocacy and education highlighting locally-grown and produced food. She plans to attend graduate school in the near future, and in the more distant future — to ease into the life of a second generation farmer in the Berkshires of MA. Contact Mekala at mekala.bertocci@gmail.com.

Posted in February 2016: Climate Adaptations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Farmer’s Perspective On Stewardship

By Kurt Forman, Clearview Farm

Kurt sans glasses SDIM0577

Kurt Forman

What is a good steward? According to Wikipedia, stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, among other things. On my farm, stewardship is critical for its success and well being. I think it boils down to having enough respect for the environment and beings on the farm, so that they are cared for properly. I believe that the root of it is that a good steward needs to possess good self-respect or self-esteem.

Kurt and Mr Wilson SDIM0551

Kurt and Mr. Wilson, the cow.

Some examples of stewardship on a farm are maintaining buildings and machinery, caring for livestock and crops and minimizing soil erosion and environmental pollution. It can even include more “micro” activities, like turning off the tractor after letting it sit idle for a few minutes, rather than leaving it running, to avoid unneeded fuel consumption and wear on the tractor engine and air pollution. This is not to imply that I have a natural knack for stewardship, in spite of the many years I have been farming. The farmer, who previously owned the farm where I am now, once read me the riot act for leaving a tractor running for 15 or 20 minutes while not using it. I witnessed that this summer by another farmer, who left his tractor running for an extended period; but I didn’t read the same riot act to that farmer. I suppose that I would have been a better steward if I had insisted that he do the same.

A good farmer steward takes care to minimize water and air pollution. He or she avoids spraying herbicides and insecticides on windy days and near bodies of water and only when they are really necessary. He or she spreads animal wastes on fields in such a manner as to avoid water pollution.

Having started organic farming in 2004, I have found that in some respects, it is more difficult to be what I think it means to be a good steward at Clearview Farm now, as opposed to when I was a “conventional” farmer. By conventional farmer, I mean one who follows the dominant paradigm in today’s agriculture; one which uses synthetic chemical fertilizers, insecticides and weed killers and follows a limited, simple crop rotation. Those practices can make it easier to farm, but are not necessarily beneficial to the whole farm system (think resistant weeds and insects) and the rest of the ecosystem (consider silting of the Mississippi River delta, due to soil erosion in Iowa and other states). That said, in some ways, I believe it is actually easier to be a good farm steward as an organic farmer than a conventional one.

I have found most organic farms follow a more complex sequence of crops (crop rotation). Although doing that can help to reduce insect and some weed pressures, it can also make things more difficult, such as weed control in spring planted grain crops, like oats. Without the convenience of weed killers (herbicides), weeds can easily gain the upper hand and get out of control, especially in wet years like we’ve had in 2014 and 2015. Copious amounts of frequent rain can make tilling the soil in a timely fashion and cultivating weeds while the crop is growing, more difficult. Mother Nature can also complicate good stewardship with hail, which can physically damage plants and hasten insect and disease damage, and late spring and early fall frosts which may potentially injure young seedlings or maturing crops. Try as we might, it can be nearly impossible to be good stewards if the world around us doesn’t allow it.

On a broader scale, there are local, regional, and national organizations that exist to foster farm stewardship. Examples are Animal Welfare Approved, which assists livestock farmers in the proper care of their farm animals and the Agricultural Stewardship Association in the upper Hudson River Valley of New York State, which helps farmland owners to conserve farmland. Sometimes local governments get involved and purchase development rights from farmers, with the agreement that the land involved will always stay in agricultural production. Even consumers and other friends of agriculture can have a hand in fostering farm stewardship. CSA, or community supported agriculture, involves not only the farmer, but the people who ultimately benefit from the food that is produced from the farm. In most cases, the CSA members not only share in the food produced, but often in some of the risks involved in growing healthful, nutritious food. CSA members share in bountiful years, as well as times when the food produced is not so plentiful. This system allows farmers to stay in business when times are not so good, but rewards the CSA members when crops and livestock do really well.

If we are to maintain and possibly grow the current world human population, we need to not only continue our present stewardship efforts, but do we can to improve on them. Many of our resources are finite. We need to do better with what we have to help ensure the survival and prospering of our descendants.

Posted in January 2016: Environmental Stewardship | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Steward Since A Musician

By Dan Budmen, Hobart College ’15

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Daniel Budmen

I am currently in a state of flux. I have moved home to Syracuse, New York from Napa Valley, California, briefly, before I depart for my new job in Marlborough, New Zealand. It is interesting to return to a place you’ve been your whole life after being gone for a while. It’s like being able to see something old with new eyes. Since I’ve been home, I have found myself with a bit of free time, something you typically don’t find too much of when farming, and have decided to feed my creative side and begin to play music again. I grew up playing guitar and more recently have taught myself to play banjo. However, the first instrument I learned to play was violin which I played throughout my childhood and into high school.

The violin always freaked me out. I didn’t like playing in front of anyone, and I especially disliked preforming. I remember being forced to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” in my great grandmother’s nursing home when I had just started to learn to play, per my parent’s request. While I dreaded it then, today I really appreciate my parents pushing me to do that. My great grandmother was a violin player and this was one of the ways we were able to connect – a 93 year old to a 10 year old. Upon reflection, this was my earliest idea of stewardship. As my grandparents now are reaching an older age, I am reminded of these early lessons of caretaking. All to often, we are taught that stewardship is about giving. However, in the very act of caring/giving, we ourselves are taking valuable lessons. Our oldest generation has stories, lessons, mantras, folktales and songs that cannot be found via a Google search. If we are to carry these gems of history with us, and pass them on to a next generation, we must offer a listening ear.

Fast forward a few years and I learned more about stewardship through community service. In high school I would regularly pick up leftovers at Panera and deliver them to food pantries, I coached my high school’s Special Olympics team, and each summer I would clean up the creek that ran through my neighborhood. These activities ultimately grounded me in my community, and in doing so, they taught me lessons about myself that could not have been learned via any other medium.

During my four years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I learned a different type of stewardship. I quickly found myself immersed in the Geneva community via the Roots & Shoots program led by Geoscience Professor Nan Arens. The Roots & Shoots Program, with Nan as my mentor, forced me to think critically about how to better a community, quite literally from the ground up.

Roots and Shoots, held at the Geneva Community Center, aims to improve children’s literacy, promote environmental stewardship, define what it means to be a community member, and foster individuality. While volunteering, I realized each week we were making little positive impacts. We would dump the trash and sort it for recycling. We would spread milkweed around the community to create a habitat for monarchs. We would walk around the community to pick up trash. These activities were beneficial, however the children needed something that they could call their own. Something that they could look forward to doing each week that would build upon the lessons from previous gatherings. As Nan and I began to think about a project that would allow us to accomplish these goals, I started to do research about the Finger Lake’s agricultural history. That research led me to a plethora of information about William Smith, founder of the all Women’s College, and a former tree nurseryman in Geneva, NY.

We thought a tree nursery would be a phenomenal project for this group. Similar to each child, each tree is unique. No two trees are ever identical. Growing trees teaches children discipline, dedication, care, stewardship, patience and responsibility: all things that are taught in the classroom but could be made concrete in nature. Through the help of a grant from the Centennial Center for Leadership, the greenhouse came to fruition in the Fall of 2013. Tasks involved finding someone to lay the concrete pad, complying with the zoning ordinances and locating volunteers to help with the construction of the greenhouse. The process taught me about the dedication of my community to support our youngest generation. This generation is now growing trees, preserving local history, and rehabilitating habitat in a place we all call home. This is environmental stewardship. I carry these lessons with me everyday as a constant source of inspiration.

I now work as a viticulturist, a word that simply means a grape farmer. I started this work in Napa Valley, California, and then continued it in the Finger Lakes during my senior year at the Colleges. After graduating, I returned to the Napa Valley and, shortly, I will be moving to the southern hemisphere to work another harvest. These lessons of stewardship and environmental stewardship translate perfectly to the way we should farm our land. We cannot take without giving. We must tread lightly, continually care for the land, and cultivate much more than just the crop we are growing. We must supply allegiance, dedication, and care to the land so the land could continually give something in return.

Looking forward, I aim to share the creativity, imagination, and innocence of our youth with everybody I encounter, and I seek to continue the work and legacies of our older and past generations. These opportunities to grow, learn, and to ensure that the generations that walk this planet many centuries after us are important for me to seek out and pursue. A sustainable future is one that will be built from the ground up by everyone. Humanity has been the source of our environmental degradation; fortunately, it is also our tool to fix it. Our environment is inherently and delicately connected, and so too are our communities. We must nurture these human-to-human and human-to-nature relationships so that we can empower each other to create effective sustainable change. May we promote a childhood spent in nature, celebrate each others accomplishments, engage in conversation about sustainable change, and ultimately hold each other responsible for acting on our dreams to make this world a better place; so that one day at a time we move towards a brighter future giving to everyone what they deserve, a promising tomorrow.

 

Posted in January 2016: Environmental Stewardship, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Research: A Scientist’s Christmas- New Equipment Arrived at the FLI!

By Roxanne Razavi Ph.D., FLI Postdoctoral Researcher

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

Roxanne Razavi, Ph.D.

January will be a busy month at the Finger Lakes Institute! In December we received a big shipment containing our brand new Brooks-Rand methylmercury analyzer. This is an expensive piece of equipment (think new car), but it will significantly improve the analytical capabilities at the FLI.

This acquisition is part of the Finger Lakes Mercury Project, a NYSERDA-funded collaborative study of mercury dynamics in lakes and tributaries of the Finger Lakes led by Finger Lakes Institute Director Dr. Lisa Cleckner. Project collaborators include Drs. John Halfman and Susan Cushman (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) and John Foust and Dr. Bruce Gilman (Finger Lakes Community College).

What is methylmercury?
Methylmercury is the organic form of mercury that bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in food webs, and has serious health consequences such as neurological impairment in humans and reproductive damage in wildlife.

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But I thought the FLI already measures mercury?
Currently the FLI has a total mercury analyzer. The difference is that the DMA-80 measures the total mercury in a sample, which includes both the amount of inorganic mercury and organic mercury (i.e., methylmercury) in a sample. Currently, the FLI uses the DMA-80 to measure mercury in fish tissues.

The Finger Lakes Institute uses a Milestone DMA-80 to measure total mercury.

The Finger Lakes Institute uses a Milestone DMA-80 to measure total mercury.

If methylmercury is the problem, why do you use the DMA-80 to report mercury concentrations in fish?
The % methylmercury in a sample is not constant – imagine how you can change the amount of sugar in a recipe. In most fish, the percent methylmercury in a sample is very high – about 90-95%. So, scientists measure total mercury as a proxy.

Why don’t scientists just always analyze for methylmercury instead if that’s what they want to measure?
It’s more expensive! And time consuming! Although the new automated methylmercury analyzers has improved the processing and analysis time considerably.

What samples will you be running on the new methylmercury analyzer?
All the lake and stream seston, zooplankton, and invertebrates we collected last summer for the Finger Lakes Mercury Project will be run on the new methylmercury analyzer. The % methylmercury in tissues of invertebrates is much more variable than for fish. For example, percent methylmercury in zooplankton can range between 15-75%! This represents a large difference in the methylmercury that will be consumed by higher trophic levels. If we want to accurately assess the biomagnification of mercury through the Finger Lakes food webs, we need to measure the methylmercury concentrations in these organisms.

.  Examples of organisms to be analyzed for methylmercury A. Genus Asterionella, a type of algae contained in suspended particulate matter B. Stoneflies (Family Perlidae) and C. A benthic invertebrate (Order Amphipoda).

. Examples of organisms to be analyzed for methylmercury Left: Genus Asterionella, a type of algae contained in suspended particulate matter. Middle: Stoneflies (Family Perlidae). and Right: A benthic invertebrate (Order Amphipoda).

Who will be running the new analyzer?
The FLI postdoc (aka me!), and also our new technician! Check out our February Research column to find out more about FLI’s new hire.

Posted in January 2016: Environmental Stewardship | Tagged , , | Leave a comment