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Julianne Troiano // 04 October 2015 // #Experts #GoingGreen 

Fran Ulmer, Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research CommissionEarly last month over 30 high school teachers of English as a foreign language had the chance to discuss current challenges concerning sustainable development in the U.S. with Hon. Fran Ulmer, the chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. Fran Ulmer was in Germany to participate in the Polartagung Conference and to speak in Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Berlin about the Arctic Council’s work on
a network of marine protected areas and
prevention of oil pollution and ocean acidification. She took the time out of a very busy schedule to discuss sustainability in the U.S. with high school teachers from the Going Green program at the U.S. Embassy Teacher Training Seminar in Berlin. The Teacher Training Seminar followed an exciting event for the U.S. – President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska where he put climate change in the spotlight and became the first U.S. president to visit the Arctic Circle (more on this in a future post).

We had a chance to ask Fran Ulmer a couple of questions about her opinion of President Obama’s visit to Alaska and how individuals can play a role in combatting climate change.

President Obama visited Alaska in August to, as the White House put it, “shine a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: Climate change.” How would you assess the impact of this visit nationally and globally?

“President Obamas visit to Alaska was very significant for many reasons. He focused attention on how rapid changes in climate are impacting communities in the Arctic, today, not in the distant future. Over two hundred journalists from around the world came to listen and to learn. They took their stories to the world and helped increase the understanding of many people about why it is important to work together and take action to slow the warming of the planet.“


You recently took time out of a very busy schedule to address high school teachers engaged in the U.S. Embassy Going Green school project in Berlin. Combatting climate change requires an enormous global effort on behalf of government and industry. Can individuals really make a difference?

Everyone can make a difference by reducing their consumption of fossil fuels, and helping friends and neighbors understand and appreciate what can be done locally and globally. In addition, we can encourage elected leaders to prioritize action steps nationally and internationally; for example, supporting more renewable energy development, putting a price on carbon, increasing energy efficiency of homes and cars, and reducing waste of the resources, like water, on which on life depends.“

More on Hon. Fran Ulmer’s trip to Germany: An interview she gave for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.


Julianne Troiano is a graduate student at the Center for Chemical Innovation on Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Julianne is interested in environmental science and has experience as a blogger (www.sustainable-nano.com). She recently travelled to Iceland to study glaciers and alternative energy and will share her experiences with us.
 
Brandon Greenblatt // 15 October 2015 //  #Experts #GoingGreen

Aaron Silberman

Aaron Silberman, a fellow student at Georgetown University with a strong interest in environmental and energy issues, currently serves as both a director of Georgetown Environmental Leaders and as the Deputy Secretary of Sustainability for the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA).  Aaron, originally from Austin, Texas, is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service considering a major in Science, Technology, and International Affairs with a concentration in Environment & Energy.  I asked him about his work with Georgetown Environmental Leaders and his perception of sustainability movements across the country.

Aaron, thank you for taking the time to share some of your experiences related to environmental activism with the Going Green community!

Tell us about Georgetown Environmental Leaders (GEL).  What is its purpose on Georgetown University’s campus, who are its student leaders, and how does it interact with the university and student administrations?
GEL was formed approximately four years ago to provide a framework that would allow different environmental organizations on campus to unite with each other.  Our goal is to communicate both with each other and the Georgetown University community in a cohesive manner.  GEL is led by four Student Directors who help organize events each semester such as a “Meet and Greet” hosted for new students, as well as a student evaluation of the university’s new Sustainability Plan.  It’s important to realize that GEL is non-hierarchical, so our intention is to unify Georgetown’s different environmental advocacy groups and not favor a single organization or policy over another.  Right now, we’re interacting with the administration to generate student input on the university’s Sustainability Plan, but our future work will be focused mainly on making sure that student, faculty, and staff voices are inherent in all aspects of university planning.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge with regard to coordinating environmental advocacy efforts on a university campus?
First, I must say that the benefits of uniting many of Georgetown University’s environmental groups under one framework outweigh any potential drawbacks.  Membership in GEL is entirely optional, and individual organizations always have the choice to include or exclude GEL from their work.  In this sense, there’s very little tension among the environmental groups at Georgetown because membership in GEL is entirely non-binding.
Second, university students’ focus on environmentalism has undoubtedly increased in the last four years, and this is a national trend not specific to Georgetown.  This means that, in general, university administrations have become increasingly receptive to organizations such as GEL and its constituent members.  Much of our work is a conversation about the nature of student involvement in the discussions regarding sustainability on Georgetown’s campus.  That is, we don’t advocate that the university adopt specific sustainability policies.  Rather, we focus on emphasizing the need for student input while discussing those policies.  Overall, throughout my time with GEL, I’ve found the university administration to be incredibly responsive to this approach, and I must say that we haven’t encountered any significant challenges thus far.

If you had to name one activity or campaign that an individual should support to encourage sustainability, what would that be?  Divestment, organic agriculture, using electric cars, etc.?  Why?   
This is a tough question, but I would have to say divestment from fossil fuels, both individually and at the corporate or university level.  In my opinion, divestment is a rather timely mechanism for causing environmental change.  Additionally, I think the notion of divestment raises broader and important questions about our society’s values and what has developed as the building blocks of the United States economy.  Divestment is predominantly a moral argument, but it’s also interesting to see how financial systems interact with the fossil fuel industry.  Most businesses promote fossil fuels as a cheap and easily accessible form of energy, but I firmly believe that it is possible to align morals with financials and have a return to investment.
As a public awareness issue, divestment is particularly interesting.  University students who campaign for their schools to divest from fossil fuels truly help to raise awareness about the danger of a reliance on fossil fuels.  If institutions are complicit with the fossil fuel industry and a citizen is unaware of such an arrangement, then change cannot occur.  On the international level, we already see that such change has happened.  At a recent G-8 summit in Germany, the United States pledged to cease the usage of fossil fuels by 2100, a decision I wholeheartedly support.
At the university level, I think divestment is a great mechanism for students to promote environmental sustainability.  I firmly believe that the motto of environmentalism should be “Do what you can!” and divestment is a clear avenue for students to lobby their university administrations.  As we saw with GU Fossil Free’s efforts lobbying Georgetown University just last semester, divestment is an opportunity uniquely available to college students.

How would you characterize the sense of environmental stewardship on Georgetown University’s campus and on other college campuses across the United States?
I’m immensely proud of both the work that Georgetown University students and students at other American colleges have done to protect the environment.  Our generation is keenly aware that our lives will be impacted by climate change; we’re unique in that we keep one eye on the future and one eye on the present.  I feel very lucky to be a part of this movement, and I’m eager to promote environmental awareness to all of my colleagues and peers.  “If you are interested in X, the environment is relevant and will affect X,” I like to say.  Climate change truly is the great equalizer, but at any age you are capable of making a positive change.

If you are interested in learning more about Georgetown Environmental Leaders, please visit their website or find their page on Facebook.


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

 

 
Brandon Greenblatt // 20 October 2015 // #Experts #GoingGreen 

One of my recent posts on this blog included an interview with Aaron Silberman, the student director of Georgetown Environmental Leaders (GEL), a sustainability and environmentalist advocacy group at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Aaron spoke with me about the value of divestment as a tool for college students to advocate for greener energy resources.  To follow up on the topic of divestment, I spoke with Grady Willard, a fellow student at Georgetown University and a member of GU Fossil Free, Georgetown’s divestment organization. 

Hi Grady, thank you for letting us peek into your work.

During the Spring 2015 semester, GU Fossil Free began petitioning the Georgetown University administration to divest from fossil fuels. What exactly is divestment?  Moreover, what are the ethical and moral principles that guide individuals advocating for divestment, and what environmental studies substantiate your mission?

From gofossilfree.org, divestment is the opposite of an investment - it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil fuel investments are clearly unethical - when you invest in fossil fuels, you are perpetuating a system that leads to global climate change, human rights abuses, health problems, and poverty that disproportionately affects politically disenfranchised communities.  New research also shows that investing in the fossil fuel industry is also not financially sustainable.

Please describe GU Fossil Free's divestment campaign at Georgetown.  More specifically, what are your ultimate goals and what has been achieved thus far?  

GU Fossil Free’s goal is that Georgetown University will divest from the top 200 coal, oil, and gas companies (in terms of proven carbon reserves.) So far, we have received a commitment from the university administration to divest from direct investments in coal ONLY. Yet, as far as I know, the actual divestment process has not begun.

What are some of the biggest benefits in working with a university administration to achieve divestment on such a large scale, and what are some of the struggles you have faced?

One of the hardest parts of the campaign has been trying to get the university to listen to students and to be more transparent about who is making decisions and where our money is going. One of the best parts of working with the administration has been the fact that many administrators are excited about how they can make Georgetown more environmentally friendly.

Georgetown University was founded in 1789 as the first Jesuit university in the United States. How do Georgetown University's Jesuit values and/or its position as a prominent university in Washington, DC influence your campaign for divestment?

Jesuit values teach that we should not be harming others - think "Faith and Justice" and "Women and Men for Others." GU Fossil Free argues that we should align our investments with our morals and not be complicit in a system of oppression.

What do collegiate divestment campaigns look like around the country?  Are other university students petitioning their administrations to divest, or do most hope to promote environmental awareness through different mechanisms?  

Some schools have declined to consider any divestment, while others have divested from all fossil fuels entirely.  Additionally, other universities have done a "half measure" like Georgetown has. And still, other schools have yet to consider the issue of divestment entirely. You can find a full list of commitments here.

Unrelated to university-level divestment, what advice would you have for high school students, in the US and Germany, to reduce their carbon footprint and help protect the environment?

Don't just try to reduce your own carbon impact, try to make an impact on a larger scale - whether in your community, at your university, at your workplace or at your state level.

If you would like to learn more about GU Fossil Free, please visit their website.  In particular, I would encourage students interested in collegiate divestment campaigns to read the full divestment proposal released by GU Fossil Free in August 2014.


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

 

 
Brandon Greenblatt // 15 December 2015 //  #Experts #GoingGreen
 

Film director Jared P. Scott

In my most recent post, I reviewed Disruption, a film released in September 2014 that described the organization of the People’s Climate March in New York City.  I had the chance to interview Jared Scott, one of the film’s producers, to talk about Disruption and his thoughts on citizen protest and environmentalism.  Jared spoke with me via Skype from Paris, where he’s currently attending the COP21 climate summit.

 

Mr. Scott, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Tell us, what was the initial inspiration for producing Disruption, your latest film about climate change?

Climate change has always been a particular area of focus for my producing & directing partner Kelly Nyks and myself.  In 2013, we released a film called Do the Math that followed Bill McKibben, who is arguably America’s most renowned environmentalist and also the founder of 350.org, a grassroots global movement rising up to keep emissions down.  In Do the Math, we explored the movement as it played defense against proposals to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline and offense as it promoted divestment from fossil fuels. That film became a catalyst for discussions about climate change, KXL, and Divestment in over 10,000+ member-led house party screenings, high schools, and universities worldwide.  The film also made its US broadcast premiere on Al-Jazeera America and was aired internationally in over 10 territories.

While directing and producing Do the Math, I got involved with the movement's campaign – seeing filmmaking and the reciprocal nature of content and campaigns from a front row seat.  At the film's premiere in New York, Bill told the audience that we had become “the chroniclers of the movement.”

»We saw the opportunity to make a film that would cornerstone the one prevailing action: get off the couch and take to the streets.«

After making several more short films to rally the movement, Kelly and I heard that the UN Climate Summit was taking place in September 2014 in New York, and that organizers were in the nascent stages of planning the largest climate march the world had ever seen.  As the People's Climate March campaign started taking shape, we saw the opportunity to make a film that would cornerstone the one prevailing action: get off the couch and take to the streets. Disruption was born. We had an incredibly ambitious film and an even more ambitious timeline, but the support from the 350.org, Jon Warnow, the People’s Climate March organizers and the filmmaking community provided the right tools and talents to create a beautiful film.  The stars really aligned. Looking back, I really don't think we could replicate that intensity again. 100 days before the march, we filmed our first organizers meeting.  We spent time with environmentalists, religious groups, climate scientists, social justice campaigners, and a whole array of diverse people. We wanted to include all of these people in the film - it was important to bring everyone under the tent on this one – truly make it a kitchen table issue for people who don't consider themselves self-identified environmentalists and activists. We wanted to reach a broader audience.

 

Disruption emphasizes the power of citizen activism and people vocalizing their opinions, but how do you view your own profession, filmmaking, as a mechanism for social change?

We want you to watch these films because it strikes some kind of chord which allows you to want to be a better citizen.  These films answer a question, one that I ask myself every day.  “What can I try to do to make the world a better place?”  These films become primers, starting points, jumping off points for those dialogues and personal endeavors of civic activity, policy engagement and activism.  Member organizations, universities, and communities organize around our films and lead discussions afterwards.  We hope to make action accessible for the viewer.  We use film as a tool for social change.

»Filmmaking extends beyond just having a camera, going out, and cutting footage. It's an immersive process, where you have to think about how you're going to inform, inspire, and entertain.«

Filmmaking extends beyond just having a camera, going out, and cutting footage.  It’s an immersive process, where you have to think about how you’re going to inform, inspire, and entertain - you have to make the facts interesting, have more ideas than information, and tell a good story.  Making a quality film – not just the broccoli of entertainment - is the cornerstone of any social action continuum, if you want to have a social reverberation.  You want the film to go viral.

I started making these films because I wanted to tell stories about the critical issues I’m passionate about.  I wouldn’t call myself an activist, because I’m a storyteller and filmmaker first. I sometimes refer to myself as a messenger.  In fact, I don’t know what to do at a rally when I’m not filming or thinking about filming.  It’s my way of getting a front row seat to the action.  A filmmaker’s hunger, drive, and passion all goes into making the film the best it can be – and you have to care about the issue you are covering.  Documentary filmmaking is essentially a nonprofit industry – the rewards come in other forms of currency.  The best currency is change – when someone comes up to you and says they made a change in their life because they watched your film. That's what it is all about.

 

You actually released Disruption two weeks before the People’s Climate March was set to occur in late September 2014.  Could you explain the rationale behind that decision?  Why not follow the movement through until its end?

Disruption was the ultimate example of using film as a tool for social change and giving people a direct action on which they could follow through – on September 21st, we need you to march. We need you to be a part of history. This is our moment. 

»We made an educated guess with organizers that 14 days would be the sweet spot.«

We released the film 14 days before the march because we had to have enough lead time to get people fired up to go out to the streets in New York or join a solidarity march somewhere else in the US or around the world.  We thought that releasing the film too early would lead to people's excitement dissipating, but releasing it too late might not allow the film to spread fast enough.  We made an educated guess with organizers that 14 days would be the sweet spot.  Over 1 million people watched Disruption within the first six days online, at house parties, at community screenings and in larger venues around the world.  Vimeo made us a staff pick, Upworthy posted us, everyone from Al Roker, Chris Hayes, Huff Post, New York Times – and celebrities on Twitter – shared the film. We ended up making history - 400,000 people marched in New York City and thousands more in 162 countries around the world.

 

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge when producing a documentary that distills complex scientific information into something other people can understand?  You might have a burning passion to protect the environment, but maybe the public doesn’t.  How do you spark that passion in them?

It’s tough.  In filmmaking, you have to be able to take a lot of information and keep enough of it so that you’re doing justice to the facts, yet you also have to realize that there’s only so much data people can take.  We want to inspire and educate people, but we also need to entertain them.  If you’re not entertained for 54 minutes watching Disruption, it’s not going to have the impact that it needs to have.  We had to find the right balance between facts, figures, and emotional content.

Facts alone don’t move people; it has to be emotionally resonant content.  Ideas trump information, but there has to be enough information there so that the ideas and insights stick.

 

The COP21 is currently taking place in Paris – a city still recovering from the insidious terrorist attacks of November 13 and the capital of a country which has declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of those attacks.  What impact do you think the absence of citizen activism in this particular situation will have at the UN summit right now?  As somebody who is currently in Paris, what contrasts do you see with the People’s Climate March from last year?

The People’s Climate March truly was a huge victory.  400,000 people protested in New York City and thousands of people protested in 162 different countries.  It was peaceful, large, diverse, and exciting.  There were far more people there than even the organizers expected. Van Jones said that “1/3 of the people in New York were there because they watched Disruption,” which was a really incredible thing to hear.  Last September, you felt this collective effervescence: watching the film, going to the march, and seeing leaders respond.

»Today, Paris is a little different.«

Today, Paris is a little different.  Unfortunately due to the savage attacks on November 13, Paris is still in a state of emergency.  From what I’ve experienced here, there are more police out, and you get the sense that it’s a city still recovering from those horrific attacks.  That has cast a shadow, unfortunately, over the ability to organize and march in a way that calls attention to climate issues in a peaceful way that is disruptive on a scale but tolerant to the people still reeling from the attacks.  The march scheduled here for November 29was cancelled.  That was a big blow to organizers who had worked on it for a long time.  Having the Champs-Élysées filled with 300,000 people would have sent a message to world leaders that the people are demanding they need to do more. 
But being here in Europe, I would say that there is a lot of mainstream attention around COP21. It’s definitely visible – there are windmills placed around the city, art (like a giant whale cut-down on the Seine), exhibits, kiosks - not to mention it is all over the news.
There is a lot more to the climate change conversation than just taking to the streets – there is a penumbra of ways to get involved.


 

 

What advice would you have for students in the US, Germany, and around the world who still want to protest but may not be able to attend a big rally like the People’s Climate March and make an impact?

I think it’s interesting that you say “protest” because protesting isn’t the only way to make an impact.  As a filmmaker, I go out and make films.  If I was an economist, I might go out and try to write some kind of treatise or a paper.  If I was a dancer, I might dance.  If I was a playwright, I might write a play about climate change.  What I mean to say is, try to harness your passion and figure out how to get involved.  That might be through art, policy, or organizing.  Your passion will guide you.

»Try to harness your passion and figure out how to get involved.«

I also think it’s helpful to get involved with larger organizations and see what they’re doing.  You might find that work inspiring, or you might find it stifling – in which case you’ll go out and do something else.  Being involved in your local community always helps, because you’re always able to connect with people in your own backyard. That sense of community and solidarity is incredibly important.

There are many different levels of engagement across a variety of different areas.  As long as you find what works best for you, you can’t go wrong.

 

Mr. Scott, thank you so much for speaking with me today.

 


 

Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.

 

 
Brandon GreenblattJulianne Troiano // 23 December 2015 // #Experts #GoingGreen

experts_cop21.pngLast week, world leaders attending the COP21 climate summit in Paris announced that they had reached a historical agreement in the global effort to combat climate change.  The Paris Agreement, drafted by representatives of nearly 200 countries, includes pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global temperatures from rising 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.  Many have lauded the agreement as a monumental step towards worldwide cooperation, while critics have claimed that it does not do enough to protect the environment.  Julianne and I spoke with Mark Giordano, a professor at Georgetown University, and Dr. Daniel Horton, of Northwestern University, to hear their thoughts on the agreement.

Mark-Giordano.jpgMark Giordano is the Director of the Program in Science, Technology and International Affairs at Georgetown University.  He serves as the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environment and International Affairs and is an Associate Professor of Environment and Energy in the School of Foreign Service.  Professor Giordano’s research focuses on cooperation and conflict over natural resources, particularly water.

 

Professor%20Daniel%20Horton.jpgDr. Daniel Horton is a climate scientist and assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern University. His research group investigates how to detect and elucidate the cause of extreme weather events and studies how the Earth’s climate has changed over time.

 

The Paris Agreement, finalized last week at COP21, has been met with both praise and criticism.  What is your initial reaction to the new plan to fight global climate change?

Horton: I’m excited! It’s not a perfect agreement, and it doesn’t necessarily ensure a low-carbon future, but if we take a step back and realize that we’ve unsuccessfully been trying to forge a global agreement to combat climate change for a couple decades, the fact that we’ve gotten everyone on board this time round is rather monumental. It’s a hopeful moment.

»It's a hopeful moment.«

Dr. Daniel Horton
Northwestern University

Giordano: The general direction of what came out of the agreement is a reflection of the mood outside of Paris. Change is happening in public attitudes and private companies. The agreement might not be as strong as some would like, but it reflects that the tide has turned. Whether it turned early enough is another question, but the signal that it has turned is powerful.

 

One of the aims of the Paris Agreement is to keep the increase in the global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.  What consequences of a rise in global temperatures have we experienced already, and what could happen if we approach this 2°C limit?

Horton: To date, our climate has changed quite a bit due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Perhaps the most acute change is the increase in heat extremes. Increases in the global average temperature have shifted the distribution of temperatures that we experience. Our coldest days are warmer than they used to be and our hottest days are hotter. There’s also evidence that precipitation characteristics have changed. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. The increase in global average temperatures means that when it does rain there’s more moisture in the air that can fall out as rain or snow. Due to this increase in moisture we’ve seen an increase in the frequency of high impact rainfall and flooding events.

»Our coldest days are warmer than they used to be and our hottest days are hotter.«

Dr. Daniel Horton
Northwestern University

Further warming beyond what we’ve already experienced, will continue to exacerbate the temperature and precipitation changes, but it also has the potential to substantially raise sea levels, melt glaciers and ice sheets, and alter our food supply. These are the sorts of changes we either need to prevent from happening or plan to overcome through adaptation and human ingenuity.

 

How do scientists investigate the consequences of climate change and predict future issues?

Horton: To predict how future climate might change scientists use multiple approaches. One approach is to examine conditions during periods in the geologic past when greenhouse gas concentrations were similar to those of today. Those periods all occurred before humans, so much of that research relies of geologic analysis. A second approach is the use of climate models. Climate models simulate the physics of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. We can use these models to test what happens when heat trapping greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, and then make projections about how our climate might change.

 

Limiting greenhouse gas emissions to halt the rise in the average global temperature will involve moving away from nonrenewable resources.  Is the science and technology necessary to accomplish this goal available?

Horton: There are definitely some options available for moving away from fossil fuels. As nations go, Germany is at the forefront of the renewable revolution. Wind and solar power are rapidly growing options, and their use and efficiency continue to expand. Outside of changing energy sources, one of the most beneficial options moving forward is to increase conservation. Creating energy efficient (or retrofitting preexisting) homes, factories, and automobiles can reduce the energy burden, and reduces our consumption of fossil fuels without relying on new energy creation innovation.

»As nations go, Germany is at the forefront of the renewable revolution.«

Dr. Daniel Horton
Northwestern University

Giordano: I work mostly on water myself and people talk constantly about a water crisis. But actually there are many options to solving our water problems ranging from technology to finance and from better management to new incentive structures for users. We just have to make the political decisions to act. There is no question in my mind that we are foolish not to invest more in science and technology for an energy transition because of climate change, but even leaving that aside, because it is economically and ethically the right thing to do. Revolutions are about to happen in bio-technology and materials science that will help with the climate goals because of that kind of investment. But we could do a lot with what we already have if we decide to.

 

What do you see as the greatest hurdle in implementing changes in the US to live up to the Paris Agreement and cut greenhouse gas emissions?

Horton: Our largest hurdle in the U.S. is ideological. There are those that believe action should be government mandated, those that believe action should spring from the free market economy, and those that believe no action should be taken. Each of these factions in the U.S. is maneuvering to win the day and it’s largely playing out in the arena of politics.

»The politics are changing.«

Dr. Mark Giordano
Georgetown University

Giordano: Politics. But the politics are changing. You can sense it globally from this agreement but also from rhetoric in the US and the changing actions of the private sector. Finance is already moving in different directions than it used to. People whose primary concern is profit are moving away from the status quo because of the investment risks associated with the old ways of doing business and the opportunity from the new.

 

What can students in the US, Germany, and around the world do to help in mitigating climate change and protecting our environment?

Horton: As individuals, we can turn the lights out, take public transport, reuse a plastic bag, think about where the food we eat comes from, support sustainably minded companies, teach our parents the science of climate change, consider the future when making decisions, and most important of all, register to vote and then vote for who and what you believe in.

Giordano: Live what you believe, especially before you ask others to change.

 

The Paris Agreement offers a ray of hope in recent efforts to combat global climate change, but this is still much work to be done.  As Professors Giordano and Horton emphasized, a global agreement still requires the active participation of citizens and governments.  With the Paris Agreement in the back of our minds, it’s now more important than ever to remain committed to Going Green!

 


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.
Julianne Troiano is a graduate student at the Center for Chemical Innovation on Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Julianne is interested in environmental science and has experience as a blogger (www.sustainable-nano.com). She recently travelled to Iceland to study glaciers and alternative energy and will share her experiences with us.

 

 

experts.png

Our team of U.S. election experts: Goldfield, Thoet, McCuan, Johnson, Stavroudis, Riley, Sickinger, Garrett.

Have you been wondering recently what demographic will decide the election (hint: keep an eye on single women voters in swing state suburbs on Election Day), what the 2016 trends in political cartoons are, or how social media have become such an important aspect of political campaigning? Then look no farther, because Teach About US is featuring a distinguished team of experts on the 2016 election – and they are ready to answer your questions!

»Do you or your class have a question that’s too tricky for Google or too personal for Wikipedia?«

All of our experts happily agreed to get in touch with you, our project participants, and answer your questions on this upcoming election. Do you or your class have a question that’s too tricky for Google or too personal for Wikipedia? Then look up our experts in the Virtual Town Hall and post your questions directly under the profile of your expert of choice. The Teach About US team will bundle your questions and forward them to our experts. Their answers will be posted here on our blog.

And here they are…

  

Amanda ThoetAmanda Thoet graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in May 2015 where she studied English, German and Communication Arts and Sciences. After working in the Public Affairs sector as an intern at the U.S Embassy in Berlin, she will start a Master’s program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where she will be concentrating in Diplomatic Studies this fall. Amanda will serve as an expert about the state of Pennsylvania and presidential elections in general. Read more about Amanda Thoet here.

  

As a U.S. native Christianna Stavroudis  received a B.A. in Applied Linguistics from the Christianna StavroudisUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County and an M.Sc. in Clinical Linguistics from the University of Groningen / University of Eastern Finland / University of Potsdam. She teaches a variety of courses at Bonn University’s English and American Studies Department and frequently lectures in "Green Ink: German and American Political Cartoons on the Environment." Therefore, her special expertise rests in political cartoons on the election in Germany and the U.S., Maryland, and Texas. More information about Ms. Stavroudis will be provided here.

  

Christina SickingerChristina Sickinger is pursuing majors in Economics and German Studies and a certificate in International Relations. This summer, she interned in Florida with Congresswoman Gwen Graham as well as with her county government, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about both federal and local government.  She will serve as an expert on the state of Florida. Read more in her profile here.

  

Christer GarrettAs a Professor for American History and Culture, Professor Crister Garrett is currently working on a research project exploring the politics of transatlantic environmental governance. His special expertise focuses on U.S. politics and society in general, understanding cultural difference in an international context, and electoral affairs in California and Michigan. Click here for more information about Professor Garrett.

  

David GoldfieldDavid Goldfield, PhD, is a native of Memphis, grew up in Brooklyn and attended the University of Maryland. He is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is the author/editor of numerous books and textbooks, serves as Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and is former President of the Southern Historical Association. Check his profile here.

  

Dr. David McCuanDr. David McCuan is a Professor of American Politics, International Relations, and Public Administration at Sonoma State University. His expertise rests in two broad areas – American politics and International Relations. He does research in two areas – state and local elections; and the study of terrorism. His teaching responsibilities include courses in both international and national politics, international security and terrorism, state and local politics, campaigns and elections, and political behavior. Read more about Dr. David McCuan here.

  

Dr. Jason JohnsonDr. Jason Johnson is Associate Professor of Political Science and Scholar in Residence at Hiram College in Northeast Ohio. He is the author the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell, which has been featured in Campaigns and Elections magazine and on National Public Radio. Dr. Johnson frequently appears on U.S. television and radio as a political analyst as well as public speaker, offering his expertise on political campaigning, social and digital media. For information about Dr. Johnson click here.

  

Matt RileyLast but not least, Matt Riley currently studies Public Policy, German and Policy Journalism at Duke University in North Carolina. At Duke, Matt writes as a journalist and investigative reporter at The Chronicle, the student paper, and has covered political stories ranging from Virginia congressional campaigns, North Carolina state politics, and a profile of lead U.S. negotiator in the Iran nuclear negotiations. Thus, his expertise is the presidential election with the focus on the U.S. states Virginia and North Carolina. Check his profile here.

   

Again, we appreciate the willingness of our 8 experts to work with us in this project and answer all of your questions about the presidential election system.

AND now it’s your turn… Please don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the database. They will be forwarded to the experts and we will post their answers in the blog.

So stay tuned and grasp at the unique chance of getting your questions answered by U.S. election experts. 

  


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

 

 
Alexandra Magaard // 05 November 2014 // #Experts #GoingGreen 

Shari Wilson

 

Shari Wilson

Hi everyone!

I hope that you are having a lovely week. I thought I would spice things up in the blog.  Since this week’s expert, Shari Wilson, has already been introduced, I would like to provide a bit of information about some great environmental activism taking place in Shari’s home base of Kansas City!

One of the most prominent environmental organizations in Kansas City is called, “Bridging the Gap”.

Photo Source: www.bridgingthegap.org

Bridging the Gap works to connect the “environment, economy and community” of Kansas City. Since the organization’s beginning in 1992, it has established 20 recycling centers, won the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Air Excellence Award for Give Green Things” (for sustainable education and outreach) and planted thousands of trees throughout the Kansas City area.  Bridging the Gap also carries out specific programs like, “Green business Network KC” (a network for sustainability in the workplace), “Keep KansasCity Beautiful” and a water conservation program called, “WaterWorks!”

Here is a link to Bridging the Gap’s website:

https://www.bridgingthegap.org/

I think that Bridging the Gap is a great example of grassroots environmentalism, and I hope that Shari will echo my thoughts that that sustainability should always start local.

Have a great week, everyone! Viel Erfolg :)

When the going gets tough, the tough go green.


Alexandra Magaard is a native of Wayzata, Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and German Language from James Madison University. In 2014-15, Alex served as a virtual intern for the U.S. Embassy and the Teach About US blog’s first author. A passionate supporter of environmentalism and green topics, Alex says that her activism began when she built a replica of the Cathedral of Notre Dame out of re-used egg cartons for her art class at age eight. She is now working for a German company based in Washington D.C.

 

 

Dr. Jason Johnson

Earlier this year, our expert on political campaigning and social media, Dr. Jason Johnson, travelled to Germany for a speaker tour that included discussions with high school students and teachers in Hamburg and Berlin. We were lucky to ask him about his take on the evolving election campaign.

One thing is already clear: The presidential election 2016 will be of historical significance. Not only did the campaign reveal a split between some party representatives and Trump supporters within the Republican party, but also Hillary Clinton had a hard time to overcome Bernie Sanders‘ criticism of the electoral system and his grassroots campaign.

Jason Johnson summarized the presidential election campaign for us like this:

 

Social media have played a major role throughout the campaign thus far. But this is in itself is not a novelty in 2016.  Digital Campaigning has been an important part of the U.S. elections since 1996. It was in the mid and late 1990s that candidates running for the highest political office in the United States began integrating campaign websites into their campaigns. Today social media are a major component of those campaigns and their success. Not surprisingly, Barack Obama‘s first presidential bid in 2008 famously relied on Facebook, his re-election campaign made heavy use of Twitter. In this year’s election, these networks count as important instruments to mobilize voters and volunteers on both sides, the Democrats and the Republicans. And other social networks like Snapchat are about to follow with growing importance.

U.S. political analyst Jason Johnson told us more about the evolving role of social media for the November election:  

 

Jason Johnson is one of our experts on U.S. elections and politics. Until the November elections, we will be forwarding student questions to our experts and post their answers in this blog. To learn more about this, visit the Virtual Town Hall in the U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016.  


Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning her Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach ESL as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a student assistant she currently supports the development of the U.S. Elections Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

 

 
Alexandra Magaard // 20 October 2014 // #Experts #GoingGreen 

Hallo liebe Schülerinnen und Schüler!

I hope you have a great week. Today’s blog post is extra special. The expert of the week this week, Christianna Stavroudis, has already been introduced. Today’s post will be a guest post.

(Here is a link to the original post about Christianna.)

Sarah, a student from the Goethe Gymnasium in Saxony, Germany had an interesting exchange with our Dr. Crister Garrett, the expert of the week of October 6 – 11th. Dr. Garrett’s answer will be the main contributor to this week’s post.

The location of Sarah’s school in Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany.

 

Sarah asked Dr. Garrett about sustainable fashion. She wondered: How sustainable are my clothes? What working conditions or safety standards threaded my jeans or laced my shoes – and why are the majority of my clothes made in developing countries, rather than in Germany or even the U.S.? Is there anything I can do to help the people producing my clothes?

Dr. Garrett had an interesting answer for her. He answered Sarah by telling the story of our T-shirts:

Dr. Crister Garrett, University of Leipzig
 
Let us do the math. The store selling you the t-shirt has to pay rent, electricity, and its staff to sell you the t-shirt. So let us say that costs 2 euros per t-shirt. The owner of the fashion store in Leipzig wants to make some profit, so let us say that is about 1.5 euros per shirt. We now have 3.5 euros left for the worker. Then the t-shirt needs to be shipped all the way from say Laos to Leipzig. Let us say that costs 1.50 euros. We now have 2.0 euros left. The owner of the factory in Laos also want to make a profit, and that after having paid for the production of the t-shirt. The production — cheapest cotton possible (not organic!), factory, the dyes, electricity — all come to about 1.5 euro per shirt. We now have 50 cents left over. That is not much profit for the local factory owner, but he or she will take it. We now have zero cents left over for the factory worker. And we have zero cents left over to raise wages, to improve factory conditions, to hire people to supervise safety, to buy organic cotton. We might have some extra money for these things if we could charge 10 euros or even 13 euros for each and every t-shirt.

He then related our T-Shirts to Germany, the U.S. and the low-wage workers:
The Bowler Editions T-shirt factory. Photo: Ryan Speth, Flickr

 

Many Germans and Americans cannot afford such an expensive but perhaps more fair t-shirt. A lot of Germans and Americans are not even making 8.50 an hour. It is hard to afford fair clothes. It sounds strange, but for millions of Germans and Americans struggling to make a living, the cheap t-shirt helps their families a lot to be able to clothe themselves.

The low-wage jobs in places like Laos or Bangladesh or Romania allow families there to often buy the food to prevent family members from going hungry. Wages are often terrible, but a terrible wage for a family is often better than no wage, if it means food on the table. So why don’t governments demand higher wages? Sometimes they do, but that can often mean a factory get closed and moves elsewhere. That is not fair perhaps, but it is economics.

Street seamstress, Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Mark Fischer, Flickr
 
Dr. Garrett then provided Sarah with two group examples of activism.

Dr. Garrett ended his answer with a challenge for Sarah and for the rest of the Going-Green Project participants. If we can, we should play detectives. We should venture to our favorites stores, find where the t-shirts are made and what the employees’ wages are like. Then write about it.

He also provided a link to a cool organization providing loans to citizens in developing countries around the world. It is one easy way to help others in need!

www.kiva.org

I hope (and am sure) this answers your question, Sarah.

Vielen Dank Dr. Garrett for the helpful information, and I wish everyone and their clothing a sustainable week!

When the going gets tough, the tough go green.

Alex


Alexandra Magaard is a native of Wayzata, Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and German Language from James Madison University. In 2014-15, Alex served as a virtual intern for the U.S. Embassy and the Teach About US blog’s first author. A passionate supporter of environmentalism and green topics, Alex says that her activism began when she built a replica of the Cathedral of Notre Dame out of re-used egg cartons for her art class at age eight. She is now working for a German company based in Washington D.C.

 

 
Alexandra Magaard // 13 October 2014 //  #Experts #GoingGreen 

Jeff WattersJeff Watters, The Ocean Conservancy

Hi everyone! I hope you had a pleasant weekend. The project features two experts this week and without further ado, I would like to introduce Jeff Watters and Dr. Kevin Krizek.

Jeff Watters is the current Acting Director of Government Relations for the Ocean Conservancy.  Find a link below to his writings for the Ocean Conservancy. He will be your specific guide to ocean wildlife protection and NGO & State initiatives on environmental policy.

http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/author/jwatters/

Before joining the Ocean Conservancy, Jeff served as lead legislative assistant to Senator Maria Cantwell (Washington state), working specifically on the Senate Subcommittee for Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard. He has extensive experience with the policy-process, environmental legislation and surfing (just kidding, I meant Ocean legislation ☺ ).

Here is a link to his video interview with the U.S. Embassy’s Going-Green team.

Dr. Kevin Krizek, University of Colorado
 

Your second expert this week is Dr. Kevin Krizek, Professor of Environmental Design and Transport at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In Boulder, he serves as the Outreach and Education Coordinator for Sustainability initiatives.  He will be your specific expert of travel behavior, cycling, healthy communities, land-use, transportation planning and also, environmental policy.

For the year 2013-2014, he received the U.S.-Italy Fulbright Scholarship.  He has been appointed to the bicycle transportation committee of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies and has lectured for the Going-Green project throughout Germany on “From Car Culture to Bike Culture? Planning for Sustainable Transportation in the U.S.”

Here is a link to Dr. Krizek’s blog, and I am sure he would be happy to address any questions or concerns.

http://vehicleforasmallplanet.com/

As well, I would like to give a special shout out to Kirsten Oldenburg and her Course at the Bergstraße! You guys have been doing great work: keep it up! Check out two of her students’ wonderful blog posts on food and sustainability (you need to be logged in on Moodle to view them).

Bianca’s blog post about the eco-challenge

OMG − GMO?

I wish you a great week, and after reading about our experts today, I encourage you to bike or swim!

When the going gets tough, the tough go green.

Alex


Alexandra Magaard is a native of Wayzata, Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and German Language from James Madison University. In 2014-15, Alex served as a virtual intern for the U.S. Embassy and the Teach About US blog’s first author. A passionate supporter of environmentalism and green topics, Alex says that her activism began when she built a replica of the Cathedral of Notre Dame out of re-used egg cartons for her art class at age eight. She is now working for a German company based in Washington D.C.

 

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