EnviroThursday Fall 2007

Presentations take place at 12 noon, Olin-Rice Room 250

September 13, 2007

"Private Revolutions: Political Ecologies of Private Cattle Ranching in Northern Mexico"
Speaker: Eric Perramond, Assistant Professor of Geography, Departments of Southwest Studies & Environmental Science, Colorado College

Private ranchers, alternatively threatened or protected by the various administrations in recent Mexican history, fared well as a group. But what is, exactly, a private ranch? The complexity of land tenure in Mexico is legendary, and has never held firm footing, even in historiography. Terms for land tenure or practices, adopted or modified from their Iberian or indigenous contexts, have changed in almost every century. Yet the enduring image of the private rancher is one of a despotic, land-hoarder, perhaps still reflecting our “Black Legend” view of past hacienda and estancia owners in their treatment of indigenous peoples and New World landscapes. This presentation will round out this set of ranchers, the struggles they face and the solutions found, paying special attention to the variety of ranches existing in contemporary Mexico

This visit is sponsored by a grant from the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)

September 20, 2007

"Rock Tenn: A Burner in the Neighborhood?"
Introduction: Tom Welna, High Winds Fund
Speaker: John Schatz, Macalester Class of 1999, Citizen Organizer

The Rock-Tenn plant in St. Paul, located 2.5 miles northwest of Macalester College, processes half of all paper recycled in Minnesota, about one thousand tons daily. Rock-Tenn is an international recycling and manufacturing firm, with about 10,000 employees in plants in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Chile. They employee 500 people at their St. Paul plant.

The Rock-Tenn recycling plant in the past relied on coal-generated steam from Xcel's High Bridge plant to power its facility. Rock-Tenn must now find a new source for its power. It is currently proposing to build an incinerator. Their decision poses major concerns for a wide variety of stakeholders throughout the metro area and beyond. Many community members are attempting to negotiate the conflicting data and expertise that is emerging on the human health impacts of incineration technology. Our presenter will discuss how city residents are being mobilized to participate in the decision-making around the plant and the different ways of characterizing renewable energy.

September 27, 2007

"From Toilets to Human Rights in Haiti: Adventures in Sustainable Development"
Speakers: Sasha Kramer Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the University of Miami and Co-Founder of SOIL, and Lisius Orel, National Coordinator for SOL

SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) is a non-profit organization with a mission to support research and implementation of community-based approaches to soil fertility, erosion control, and water source protection in Haiti. SOIL promotes integrated approaches to the problems of poverty, public health, agricultural productivity, and environmental destruction by developing collaborative relationships between community organizations in Haiti and academics and community leaders internationally. Building communities, building the soil, building the grassroots. SOIL works in collaboration with the Haitian non-profit organization SOL (Sosyete Oganize pou Lanati). The two organizations share a mission and were developed in partnership to simultaneously promote international exchange of knowledge and resources, and local grassroots organizing and administration.

Join Sasha Kramer Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the University of Miami and Co-Founder of SOIL, and Lisius Orel, National Coordinator for SOL, to hear more about the work of SOIL and SOL. The talk will focus SOIL-SOL’s first project, an ecological sanitation project in northern Haiti. Ecological sanitation is an integrated approach to sanitation and soil fertility where human wastes are treated, composted, and recycled for use in agriculture. This approach has been successfully adopted in communities throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and can have significant impacts on the environment, public health, nutrition and livelihood. This talk will explore the idea of service-based research and the potential role of students in the US, discussing opportunities for student involvement and collaboration.

October 4, 2007

"Perturbations in a Chronic Disaster: Consequences of the August 2006 Eruption of Mount Tungurahua, Ecuador"

The talk will discuss the social, economic and health impacts of a chronic disaster in several communities around the active volcano, Tungurahua in Ecuador, using the vulnerability models of hazards research. The research has been ongoing for seven years and will be illustrated with photographs of volcanic activity.

October 11, 2007

"The Steel Dragon Across My Land: The Railway and its Impact on the Land, Water and People in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau"
Speaker: Wang Ping, Associate Professor, English Department, Macalester College

Qinghai-Tibetan railway is hailed as a steel dragon flying across the roof of the world, a wonder of the 21st century technology that will bring prosperity to Tibet. What lie in the shadow of the steel dragon? What economic, cultural and ecological impacts will it have over the highest plateau on earth, the last “pure” land for the natives and non-natives alike? And how will it affect the extremely fragile eco-system of the land that serves as the water-tower for China and part of Asia?

Wang Ping received her Ph.D. from New York University. She is the acclaimed author of the short story collection American Visa (1994), the novel Foreign Devil (1996), two poetry collections Of Flesh & Spirit (1998) and The Magic Whip (2003), the cultural study Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China (2000), and most recently Emperor Dragon (2006), a traditional Chinese folk tale, and The Last Communist Virgin (April 2007), a second collection of stories. Wang Ping is also the editor and co-translator of the anthology New Generation: Poetry from China Today (1999), and her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

October 18, 2007

"The Ecology of Vector-borne Diseases in Minnesota"
Speaker: Melissa M. Kemperman, MPH Vector-borne Disease Epidemiologist, Minnesota Department of Health

Ticks and mosquitoes in Minnesota transmit, or "vector," several disease agents that cause human illness. Well-known examples of these illnesses include West Nile virus disease and Lyme disease. This talk will describe the natural disease cycle among arthropod vectors and host vertebrates, why and how humans become exposed, and the effects of habitat modification on disease risk.

November 1 , 2007 - No EnviroThursday

November 6, 2007 - 7 p.m. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel

Environmental Studies 2007 Distinguished Lectureship on Water Rights Issues in the Middle East

"Water Wars or Water Peace? How Scarcity of Our Most Vital Resource Can Shape the 21st Century"
Speaker: Fred Pearce, Freelance Journalist

A freelance journalist and author based in London, UK, Fred Pearce has reported on environment, science and development issues from 64 countries over the past 15 years. He speaks regularly to citizens groups, academics, NGOs, business and regulatory agencies on water and climate change issues, as well as more generally on environmental sciences. His books have been translated into eight languages.

Fred is an environment consultant for New Scientist magazine and a regular contributor to the London Daily Telegraph, Times Higher Education Supplement, Manchester Guardian and the BBC. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Audubon magazine, Popular Science and Time, among many other multi-media outlets.

Fred has published more than a dozen books including, most recently, When the Rivers Run Dry and With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change. He has also authored reports for the World Bank, WWF International, the UN Environment Programme, Red Cross, UNESCO, European Environment Agency and the UK Environment Agency.

November 8, 2007

"Abrupt Climate Change During the Last Glacial Period"
Speaker: Heather Hill, Environmental Studies Climate Scientist Candidate

The Greenland ice core record, long thought to be a reflection of Northern Hemisphere climate, shows numerous large air temperature fluctuations (>10°C) that occurred within decades during the past 100,000 years of the last glacial cycle. However, the mechanisms responsible for this abrupt climate variability remain a matter of debate. A leading hypothesis to explain abrupt climate change during this time period calls on fluctuations in the margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which covered much of the North American continent during the last glacial period. Depending on the ice extent, meltwater from the ice sheet may have been routed either east to the North Atlantic Ocean or south to the Gulf of Mexico. It has been suggested that the switching of meltwater flow had a significant impact on deep water circulation in the North Atlantic. Here, we use the geochemistry of the shells of planktonic foraminifera from Gulf of Mexico sediments to test this hypothesis by documenting Laurentide Ice Sheet meltwater flow down the Mississippi River from 28-45 thousand years before present. We show that intervals of meltwater input to the Gulf of Mexico do not coincide with air temperature warmings over Greenland. This suggests that the Greenland ice core record may not be a good representation of Northern Hemisphere climate change, and that a new mechanism may be necessary to explain abrupt climate variability during the last glacial period.

November 15, 2007

"Did Ocean Nutrients Affect Glacial CO2?"
Speaker: Louisa Bradtmiller, Environmental Studies Climate Scientist Candidate

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere varied with temperature during the past few glacial cycles, but the cause of these changes is unknown. Understanding the causes of natural carbon dioxide variability is crucial to accurately predicting the effects of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide on modern climate. Using the geochemistry of sediment cores from the equatorial oceans, I will explore whether the ocean's nutrient cycles may have played a role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 25,000 years.

November 29, 2007

"Global Change in Local Places: Climate Change and the Future of the California Wine Industry"
Speaker: Kimberly Nicholas Cahill, Environmental Studies Climate Scientist Candidate

Human activities are contributing to climate warming. This warming causes important impacts on the natural ecosystems that provide us with materials such as food and services such as carbon storage. Climate change also presents challenges to ecosystem managers and policymakers.

Kimberly will report on work in California, using the wine industry as a model to demonstrate the vulnerability of important systems to climate change. She will show that this vulnerability is a function of both the degree of climate warming (which, in turn, depends on policy choices about development and energy use) and features of the social system governing the industry. She uses modeling to demonstrate that both winegrape yields and quality ratings are vulnerable to climate change at the state level, and demonstrate a method for using observational and laboratory approaches to examine the effect of climate on winegrapes at the vineyard scale. Kimberly also presents findings from interviews with growers and wine industry leaders, from which she developed different possible scenarios of the future of the wine industry. These scenarios are developed in collaboration with and are meant to be used by leaders in the industry to chart a more sustainable future.

December 4, 2007 - EnviroTuesday

"The Interdisciplinary Nature and Inherent Complexities of Hazards, with Two Local Examples"
Speaker: Kenny Blumenfeld, Ph.D. Candidate in Geography at the University of Minnesota

Hazards constitute a seemingly straightforward sub-area of intense study in many disciplines: meteorology, geography, geology, sociology, anthropology, ecology, climatology, epidemiology, political science, economics, statistics, public health, among numerous others. Unsurprisingly, however, disciplinary nuances lead to vastly different ideas of exactly what a hazard is. In this talk, we will explore a few conflicting viewpoints on hazard definition and rhetoric, while also illustrating how a top-down bureaucracy and a potentially disastrous "urban legend" can exacerbate vulnerability to floods and tornado outbreaks, respectively. This talk will also introduce a simple and flexible conceptual model that will serve as the basis for further investigations in a geography course being offered spring 2008.

Kenny Blumenfeld studies extreme and hazardous weather. In Spring 2008 he will be teaching GEOG 294-01: Geography of Environmental Hazards.