Teach About U.S. Blog

Teach About U.S. Blog

A window on what's happening in the U.S.

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Teach About U.S. BLOG

Authors


Howdy! These are the authors contributing to the Teach About U.S. Blog:



Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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Former bloggers:


Edgar Barrios

Edgar Barrios

Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.

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Clara del Rey

Clara del Rey

Clara del Rey, the winner of the travel well MAGAZINE’s #WasteNot 30-day challenge , was invited to share her favorite ideas on reducing trash. Clara, a Spanish native, taught in St. Joseph, Missouri (USA), and is now living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Not only does she know both the U.S. and the European perspective on sustainability, but her ideas are creative, unconventional, and yet easy to follow.

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Brandon Greenblat

Brandon Greenblatt

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.

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Tobias Luthe

Tobias Luthe

Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

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Alexandra Magaard

Alexandra Magaard

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 U.S. 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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Marilena Peters

Marilena Peters

Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

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Janina Schmidt

Janina Schmidt

Janina Schmidt obtained her B.A. in teaching Economics and English as a Second Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg in 2014. After earning the Master's degree (expected 09/2017), Janina intends to teach English as a Second Language as well as English for Specific Purposes with an economic focus at vocational schools. As a Fulbright Scholar for the academic year of 2015/2016, she enriched her Master's studies in second language teaching with intensive and invaluable teaching experiences. Janina worked as a one of the German instructors in the Department for World Languages and Cultures at the University of Scranton, PA.

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Liz Subrin

Liz Subrin

My name is Liz Subrin. I am 22 years old and from Indianapolis in the state of Indiana. It is the 12th largest city in the United States. I am currently studying Chemistry and Education at a small private university called Butler University. I will be graduating with these degrees this December. I am looking forward to working on this project. I love learning about new cultures and am open to many ideas and perspectives. I have experience in working as a teacher as well as a student so I am excited to begin this journey as both! I have a passion for science and would love to share my passion with other curious minds. I hope to learn as much if not more as I can teach.

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Julianne Troiano

Julianne Troiano

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.

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Felix Wortmann

Felix Wortmann

Felix Wortmann is a high school student from Berlin and currently as an exchange student in Michigan exploring high school life there. Felix participated in Going Green together with his school class (and won an award). He will provide the "one step removed" perspective on the elections.

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Emily Young

Emily Young

Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

Emily's profile View posts

Teach About U.S. BLOG

About


Welcome to the Teach About U.S. Blog Your window on what's happening in the U.S.

Besides both school projects on the U.S. Election and Going Green, the Blog is the third component on the Teach About US platform. It is run by a distinguished team of U.S. and German university and high school students who take us along exploring issues of transatlantic relations. Reporting on current events on their campuses and their communities, they provide a peer perspective on transatlantic issues to project participants in both countries.

Reflecting new publication and reading trends among teenagers, this blog is intended to allow for fresh, creative, yet sometimes unexpected insights into U.S. politics and culture specifically to our student participants.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog to receive email notifications whenever there is new content online. Want to react to a blog post? Then use the comment function below each post to add your thoughts.

Breaking News: Students Become Scientists

by Mallory King -

Last school year was certainly different than most others, with the COVID-related school closures and the new experience of distance learning being new aspects many of us experienced for the very first time. But for some schools in Baden-Württemberg and their partner state of California, 2020 also brought about new opportunities for collaboration in spite of the pandemic. 

The “Going Green – Baden- Württemberg Meets California”, organized by the German American Institutes in Baden-Württemberg, sponsored by the Baden-Württemberg Staatsministerium and with support by Teach About U.S., set out to engage students in environmental and intercultural project work and those classes who bravely participated against all obstacles did exactly that – and let our Moodle platform work in their favor. 

Two 9th-grade English classes at Hans-Thoma Gymnasium in Lörrach participated in the project together with their teacher John Gärtig. One of the students, Philipp, lets us peek into their experience through his impressive news article, about how his class went about the project. If Philip’s projects sound familiar to you, that’s probably because his school’s efforts were recognized in a blog post earlier this year, when the winners of the final projects were announced. 

Going Green has been tried and tested by thousands of students and their teachers over the past years. The curriculum was originally designed for use in the classroom, but can be implemented fully online. It is a perfect way to start a sustainability club at your school, meet students across the globe and actively apply your knowledge to make positive change in your community. If you are interested in learning more about this project, take a look at the project website or information sheet.


The Students Who Became the Scientists 

By Philipp from Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium in Lörrach

Though the Covid-19 virus has caused all schools to shut down, throughout the past few months, students in the 9th grade of the “Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium” have worked on a project called “Going Green” online. 

Going Green at Hans Thoma Gymnasium Lörrach
The students at Hans Thoma Gymnasium are among the prize winners of the first round of Going Green - Baden-Württemberg Meets California. They won a sequoia seed planting kit and reusable water bottles.

In the past few centuries, the yearly average temperature has been rising due to climate change, while there are many things being done to stop climate change, some people still are uninformed regarding climate change. 

The “Going Green” project is a school project spread throughout Germany and the United States of America to, on one side, teach the students about sustainability, the importance of sustainability and how we can maintain a sustainable environment, and also to have students learn how other countries, in this case the U.S.A, contribute to a sustainable environment.

The “Going Green” project started with the students filling out questionnaires about what your attitude towards sustainability is, and what in your opinion sustainability is or means. The students would post their answers in forums where they could discuss their findings. Next, students read an article on environmental policies in the United States, which on one side improved their knowledge on how the U.S contribute to a sustainable environment, and also improved their reading comprehension skill. In the next session, the students learned what their ecological footprint is, and what the importance of an individual is when contributing to stop climate change. During the next session, the students went a bit off topic to create a “Corona Audio Diary” in which they talked about how their life in the times of corona looks like. 

In the next class, the students did a self-reflection on what they had learned during the past few days.

Next up, the students analyzed different cartoons which demonstrate different topics. For example Plastic and Recycling, or City and Transport etc. The students then selected one out of 4 topics, which they were interested in the most. For a warm up, people in the topic “City and Transport” had to discuss in forums how they imagine a green city. Some ideas that were come up with were for example the usage of only electric cars, smart energy usage and much more.

After this, the 6 different students were divided into 2 groups with each 3 students. The task was to create a poster or a presentation that would be presented to class. Group 1 focused on what makes a city green, and group 2 focused on whether Portland, Oregon is a sustainable city. Students were supposed to communicate with each other however they wanted to, and do their own part in this presentation.

In conclusion, the “Going Green” project helped a lot in understanding how the individual, but also the group can help create a sustainable environment. I recommend it to any other schools who want their students to be well educated concerning the topic sustainability.

2019/2020 Going Green Winners Annouced

by Mallory King -

When we started Going Green six years ago in 2014, we came up with a slogan that we never would have expected could be so accurate as it turned out this spring: When the going gets tough, the tough go green! And yet, faced with the unprecedented situation of a global pandemic, nationwide school closures, and this situation’s repercussions on our daily lives, this year’s project participants impressively demonstrated that building a better, greener future starts at our own doorsteps. 

As the sixth cycle of the Going Green project is coming to an end, we are incredibly proud of everyone who submitted something to our competition! We recognize how difficult it must have been given the current circumstances. It must have taken a lot of effort from every student and teacher’s end to “come together” for this year’s project.

So hats off to you and we thank you for your devotion to the environment and this project through this difficult time! We received a variety of creative submissions from a cookbook to a logo encouraging people to be greener.

Over seven hundred students and their teachers registered on Teach About U.S. for the 2019/2020 Going Green cycle, but many more engaged in the project ‘offline’ with overall 47 participating courses in almost all parts of Germany and some in the U.S. They spent many weeks learning about sustainable activities. Students focused on a variety of topics, from researching biodiversity and micro-plastics, to fair fashion options in their local community to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the environment. Learning about all the things you have been working on in the last several months was inspiring to us as well!

The Teach About U.S. team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2020 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the winning projects:


Going Green Award goes to: Small Steps- Big Impact 

by the biology and global citizenship courses at Schuldorf Bergstraße and East Bay German International School.


cookbook

Schuldorf Bergstraße and East Bay German International School wrote a bilingual cookbook, and it is incredible. We are excited to try some of the recipes ourselves. The cookbook doesn’t just have great green recipes, but it touches on why the recipes are green. Some of the hardest parts of being green in the kitchen is not knowing where to begin. Each individual recipe has a comment explaining how it reduces our impact on the environment, which helps someone trying to be a greener cook get a better idea of what to look out for when shopping. The cookbook is a delicious collection of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas. I know I am going to start cooking some of these myself. 

Something that makes this project so special is what it must have taken to assemble. With over 20 recipes, each one including photos of the students cooking and   their finished cookbook, it really is a page turner. We really appreciated seeing each student being active not just in the classroom, but in the kitchen too. The students have initiated a project in which each of us can participate now that we have a green cookbook. 

The cookbook includes English and German recipes and even translates the calculations of measurement for each ingredient.


Going Green Award goes to: GoingGreenTogether: One Day Without Plastic

by the English course at Louise-Henriette Gymnasium and Odyssey Charter School.

Louise-Henriette Gymnasium and Odyssey Charter School produced a video that highlights not only problems for the environment, but also gives tips to help us be green in and out of the supermarket. And the best part for us is: the video also provides a review of a well known green product. Well done!

The video starts with a series of powerful photos reminding us just how destructive plastic is to the environment. It then provides several useful ways in which we could try to use less plastic in our daily lives.

After studying the harmful repercussions of our “Throw Away Society”, the students decided to take check out what it means to make plastic free purchases.

They showed how much plastic we passively buy, but also how much less plastic we purchase when we consciously look for an alternative. The visual depiction is impressive. 

One interesting find during their shopping trip led to a product review of a bamboo toothbrush. Students looked at the fine details of a green product and researched many aspects of the product: the material of the brush, the packaging, as well as the place of production. They even “brushed” on how a product we think of as a green alternative can have negative effects on the environment. At the same time, they considered the other side of the debate, the difficulty of creating a 100% green product.

It was also wonderful to read the comments in response to their video. They provide us with insight into their collaboration with their American partner school.

Two thumbs up for even responding to questions in the comment section of the video, which required further research to adequately answer.


Going Green Award goes to: Clothes Swap - Reused Fashion

by the English course at Schuldorf Bergstraße 

clothingswap

A clothing swap, what a wonderful idea! It is a great social activity and can help spread the word about the importance of thinking about the products we purchase. Everyone wins, just as the students pointed out, and it is an easy way to make change, while not having to give anything up… with the exception of your old clothes. 

This initiative is a great way to start important conversations regarding our consumer habits and how they affect the environment and our communities. Supporting the event with research on the production and shipping of our clothes was a great way to help all of us better understand where every individual can make a difference.  A map of where over a hundred pieces of clothing came from in addition to looking at what clothing material is used, is a great way to get to know your own buying trends. In addition, we appreciated and enjoyed reading about how much you grew together and learned throughout the project. The photos show how much fun you had during the event and of course how great you looked in your new clothes!


Going Green Award goes to: Sustainable Living in Future Lüneburg

By the English course at Herderschule Lüneburg 

Three very different projects in one collaboration show us how creative Herderschule looked at being green locally. One group designed a powerful logo for a campaign for better bike paths in the area and even included specific suggestions of how and where to put their plan into action. A second group engaged in extensive research on where to buy fair fashion. And lastly and perhaps most impressively a massive undertaking by a single student who turned the entire backyard lawn into a bountiful garden with a little help by the mother.

This student was not named in their submission; who, we believe, deserves an extra special shout out. We have never seen such a massive undertaking from a single student. It even came with an explanation on they turned a large overgrown backyard into a massive garden. The garden they planted included, but was not limited to: cucumbers, carrots, radishes, onions, turnips, leek, kale, potatoes, various spices, and berry plants as well as apple, cherry and plum trees. We find your efforts jaw dropping spectacular and wish you an extra bountiful harvest. 

We applaud your creativity and hope that Luneburg continues to “grow” greener in the near future with your efforts!


Going Green Award goes to: Can Facade Greening Reduce the Effects of Urban Heat Islands? by the E-Phase Biology course at Goethe Gymnasium

facade greening

This project is an insightful example of how students joined forces to produce an action plan despite the complications of the current school closures. The students at Goethe Gymnasium Frankfurt did in-depth research on the role of facade greening and how it impacts city climates. Along with their research report, the students of the bilingual biology course produced a video to communicate their idea. 

The video editing for this project was incredible! This must have been very challenging with the pandemic. In addition the amount of research you did to come up for this video is nothing less than impressive. You touched on many interesting ideas of how beneficial facade greening is. We particularly liked how you talked about the cooling effects of plants on buildings! You highlighted some very “cool” ways your local community could be greener. Don’t think it went unnoticed how almost every one of the students used a green background for their part in the video. Well done!


While these five projects stand out, others are close runner-ups and deserve our recognition for their creativity and hard work. 


Honorable Mention

What Makes a City Green 

by the English course at Hans-Thoma- Gymnasium

greencitylogo

Your poster was well thought out. It was very visually appealing and we appreciated how many different aspects you considered. There are many ways to be a greener society and you really highlighted who can help and how we can work toward a greener society!


Honorable Mention

Corona Crisis Lessons for the Environment 

by the English course at LernZeitRäume

Focusing on an issue so current is always difficult. We applaud you for focusing on something so important today. It is difficult to see the positives in a pandemic and we appreciate your positive thinking during this difficult time! You reflected on some important areas that could be positively changed in response to the pandemic.  We hope to see some of the changes you mentioned. In addition the formats you used to show your project was slick, fun and modern. A combination of different formats including a Padlet, a fun alternative to Powerpoint as well as an Explain Video.


Honorable Mention

Portland as Role Model for Other Cities

By the Going Green course at Hans-Thoma-Gymnasium 

Looking at a city such as Portland, as a role model to others is a good way of learning more about the action we should be taking, the measures that work, the difficulties of keeping a city green and lastly knowing what the next steps are to help our city. The research you did was great and showed the city from a variety of perspectives!  Keep up the good work!


Thank you again to all those who participated. Stay safe and healthy!

Keep calm and follow the news (from the American Studies Blog)

by Joannis Kaliampos -

This week I was invited to contribute to the American Studies Blog's current series on digital learning tools and was happy to share some of my experiences from Teach About U.S.


As American studies and foreign language education scholars, we sometimes tend to overlook the vast demand for teachable online resources outside of academia. My work in the transatlantic blended-learning education initiative Teach About U.S. has helped me to establish long-standing relationships with high school teachers and educators in Germany and the United States. Amid the current global health crisis, these teachers are stepping up to support their students and find novel ways to engage them in educational activities while they struggle with ‘the new normal’ during the pandemic.

Keep calm and follow the news

As schools have been shut down for weeks, many of these colleagues have reached out to us, seeking advice on educational technology and its implementation. All too often, they are pushed to create makeshift solutions as their school servers are overwhelmed with the sudden spike in user demand. Many colleagues have shared their experience of setting up private chat and social media groups to share assignments and educational resources, unsure whether this may violate school and state rules.

With misinformation about the coronavirus on the rise, a historic presidential election campaign in the United States, and the press under attack from different sides, I would like to share some of my favorite student-friendly news media as well as resources on media literacy for primary and secondary school students.

» Read on in the American Studies Blog...

Celebrating Earth Day's 50th anniversary: The Profoundly Radical Message of Earth Day's First Organizer

by Mallory King -

 

With COVID-19 on everyone’s mind, it can be easy to forget about other issues or current events, or even what day it is. Today is Earth Day. Founded by Denis Hayes fifty years ago, Hayes continues to burn with passion for his message, protect the environment. He feels, “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year. So let’s make Election Day Earth Day… This November 3, vote for the Earth.”

Working on the top floor of the world’s greenest building, he asks people to put political differences aside, to focus on our shared values and work together for the good of the earth. He has been spreading messages about global warming since January 1980, when he announced to the American Association for the Advancement of Science “the continued use of fossil fuels would lead to warming of the Earth’s atmosphere."

Although Hayes says “Covid-19 robbed us of Earth Day this year,” many have said social distancing has had positive effects for the environment including cleaner air in China and Europe. However these changes could be short lived. What is important is that together we work toward a more sustainable way of life not just for planet, but the people too. What can we learn from Mr. Hayes passion and commitment to the environment? 

Learn more and get inspired by reading about Mr. Hayes in the New York Times article, "The ‘Profoundly Radical’ Message of Earth Day’s First Organizer".

For more information about Earth Day, visit its official website: https://www.earthday.org/

Meet the Morgans’ Role Models

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This is the last blog post in our series #MeetTheMorgans. Throughout the last couple of weeks, they have given us insights into the American way of life and how an upper middle-class family tries to consider sustainable options in their everyday life. 

In this final interview, we talk about the biggest climate change problems they personally encounter* in the United States, how we could tackle them, and which role models still give them hope that we can save our planet. In addition, they revealed* their favorite green books and movies as an inspiration for our German readers (and listeners).


Lea: What do you think are the biggest problems that we’ll face in regard to climate change?

Carla (14): I feel like people not knowing. I feel like our generation is doing things, at least here, and our President doesn’t even believe that climate change is a real thing. But I feel like whenever it is our turn, our generation does come up.

Bane (42): This is the greatest void* – I think – that’s ever been in any grouping. So, at one point, it’d be women vote different than men, minorities vote different, okay? Now, generation forty and under vote 38 % differently than forty and over.1 It’s the greatest gap ever in American politics for voting. And it’s all based on… A lot of people think it’s based on sustainability, what’s happened environmentally… but isn’t that crazy? 

“The current voters’ disparity is caused by biased media coverage. Because news agencies in the U.S. no longer have to represent a neutral position.”

“In a throw-away economy it’s a non-thought to get things repaired.”

“The real problem lies in the ignorance of not recognizing climate change is a real thing. But also lack of education and the need for jobs blind people. Even tourism contributes to it. For example, in the Arctic, where they use the ice breakers to make room for oil drillings.” 

Lea: What would be the first tiny step towards change?

Carla: I think everyone doing solar panels. I think it is really a good thing because by that we’re gonna have 100 percent clean energy, which is really cool. And I feel like that is something everyone can do. 

Bane: I don’t even think that it’s on the radar that people think, “I need to be sustainable.”  So, the first thing will be to get people to think, “What can I do to lessen* my footprint?” 

Sheryl (48): Law. You would have to be required. 

»Right now, people buy gasoline cars because they are cheaper. If you made electric cars ten thousand dollars cheaper than gasoline cars, guess what everybody would buy.«

Bane: The cost and the savings. Right now, people buy gasoline cars because they are cheaper. If you made electric cars ten thousand dollars cheaper than gasoline cars, guess what everybody would buy. You would buy it. 

Sheryl: And if you said by 2025 every car has to be that. Oh well, then I would have to buy one.

Bane: That’s what everybody would do. 

Sheryl: But there is no law. My car is half. That was the best I could do. But they didn’t have it in electro. 

 

“We need western world leaders stating that climate change is real and making substantial commitments.”

Bane: And I think when people are out in the environment, then they appreciate* it more and they preserve it more. 

Lea: Do you have a green role model?

Carla: I think my dad is pretty green. He tries his hardest.

Bane: Elon Musk is a rock star. And he’s a rock star because he’s the guy, too, that started solar city. And he wants solar panels on every roof tile*. And he’s the guys who’s saying, “Hey, why, when you have a space program, why don’t you reuse all the rockets?” Why wouldn’t ya? And he does! I think those kind of guys … And internationally, I think, it’s cool right now to wear a NASA shirt. That’s cool! And now that people are saying, “Hey, what’s NASA doing? Wait a minute. They are GPS landing these rockets in the same place and reusing them? And who’s the guy who did that?” And I think kids could be like that. And the good thing about Elon Musk is, he’s first generation*. I mean, he’s the American dream! I would want all our kids to read his book and understand from there.

Sophie (41): In general, people in the spotlight inspiring our kids. They make saving the world trendy. It’s trendy to save the world, now. So, that’s what we’re going to do. 

Lea: Can you recommend a green book or a movie?

Carla: I don’t know if this counts but I am Malala

Julia (12): Or even – I know these are animated movies – but Ice Age is actually serious. 

Bane: The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendevouz with Destiny (William Strauss and Neil Howe) à It states his theory of recurring* generation cycles in America.

A walk in the woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (Bill Bryson) à It is about a guy who walked on this trail from Georgia to Maine completely sustainably. 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ashlee Vance) à Elon Musk’s biography.

Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (Theodore Roosevelt) à It tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt starting the National Parks.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon (Kevin Fedarko) à They are going down the Colorado river and the back story is about how you can control rivers and the history of the middle west but it also deals with the green movement and fighting the dams.


This final interview concludes our mini-series about Bane and Sophie and their four kids – the Morgans, a family in western Pennsylvania. I hope that you have enjoyed learning about this family’s approach to a greener lifestyle and their everyday struggles to translate their ambitions into real-life actions. Perhaps it has taught you some new things about sustainability measures in the U.S. I myself am very grateful for all the insights the Morgans have given me into their American way of life and thinking. 

I interviewed this family, because I wanted to get an authentic insight into a real American middle-class family’s views on sustainability and whether they can represent general trends in society. My original questions focused on their actual behavior and consumer choices – their housing situation, travel, eating, and shopping habits. But I was also interested in how they view the bigger picture: How do they perceive climate change in the U.S., the problems and challenges it creates, and the most promising solutions that are available. The Morgans’ statements made me wonder more than once how “typical” of an American family they actually are and how much I personally would agree, or disagree, with their statements.

In the end, it was through their detailed answers, and Sheryl’s and Mary’s additional comments that I have learned so much more: choosing a sustainable lifestyle is not just a matter of your own personal commitment. You don’t just commit to a completely green life and it all just falls into place the next day. To go green, you often need to consider so many aspects: costs, infrastructure, laws, attitudes, geography, and the list goes on and on. What is more, not all of the considerations can be influenced by you. In fact, one thing I learned from the Morgans is that it can be pretty hard to live a greener lifestyle in some parts of the United States: In Gibsonia, for example, public transportation and bike lanes are far from being available everywhere. Solar energy and e-mobility seem to be the Morgans’ preferred solutions to global warming, but can everyone actually afford these technologies? Also, the electricity for e-cars has to come from somewhere, too. And then, Sophie and Bane made it clear that, in their view, the U.S. won’t go green without appropriate laws and environmentally sustainable business solutions. 

All in all, it seems that projects like Going Green are essential in learning from each other and sharing ideas and innovations across borders in order to move our society as a whole towards a greener future.


For statistics on voter demographics please go to https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/08/the-2018-midterm-vote-divisions-by-race-gender-education/.


to encounter: to experience something, especially something unpleasant or difficult, while you are trying to do something else

void: a large empty space

to reveal: to make something known to somebody

to lessen: to become or make something become smaller, weaker, less important, etc.

to appreciate: to recognize the good qualities of somebody/something

roof tile: a flat, usually square, piece of baked clay, carpet or other material that is used in rows for covering the top of a building

first generation: people who have left their country to go and live in a new country; the children of these people

to recur: to happen again or a number of times

  1. Go online and check the facts about American voting behavior, oil drilling plans in the Arctic, and NASA’s SpaceX program stated in this interview. Keep in mind that the Morgans’ statements are not necessarily accurate but based upon their understanding.
  2. What drivers for sustainable development are mentioned in the interview? How do they differ?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts

#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans and their most ambitious climate change solutions

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

Sustainability is the buzzword right now. Everyone talks about it, and the news are full of Fridays-for-Future demonstrations – at least in Germany. Even though this movement has not received the same amount of attention in the States, I have been interviewing one American family about their aspirations to live greener for several weeks now.

The Morgans, a family of six from western Pennsylvania, opened up about their eating, shopping, and travel habits as well as the sustainable options they considered while building their house. But actions speak louder than words and so I wanted to know what are actual changes they have observed in the U.S. during the last years. For this interview, Bane’s sister Sheryl joined us again. Her job at a large American retail corporation offers another, different perspective about American ambitions to go green.


Lea: What are changes that you have seen over the last years that have happened here in the U.S. in order to go green?

Carla (14): There are a lot of social-media-based campaigns going on about saving the oceans and demonstrations.

Julia (12): It feels like people are trying to get the word out about it. 

Carla: I feel like there are some demonstrations in bigger cities, but it is mainly social-media-based. 

Bane (42): I think, for the first time, it’s a discussion. And for the first time, it’s looked at and thought about: What’s the sustainability of this? And I think, that never was a discussion. So, I think, that’s the first step in it, having the discussion.


And I think, something that Europe is way ahead of the United States on is recognizing everything from straws to all these things. They are just ahead of it. And simple things that I always think of when I come back from Europe like in the 90s you’d have a bag of milk that you would put in a multi-use plastic pitcher* and that’s how you’d use your milk. Now, when it’s gone, you have this little empty bag that would compress* down to nothing. Why doesn’t that happen in the States? I have no idea. The States have to have this big, thick plastic thing!


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Typical milk jug found in U.S. grocery stores (Risheehan/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sophie (41): We used to get milk delivered in glass containers, and you had to set the glass container back out.

Bane: But that’s awesome, because they are taking them, washing them, and reusing them. 

Sheryl (48): You can still do that at Marburger*. 

Bane: So, I think you create change by making the globe smaller and having kids travel and see this!

Sophie: And then they’re like, “Let’s do this!” And they’ll do it.

»So, I think you create change by making the globe smaller and having kids travel and see this!«

Bane: I think the most recent* change in the last year is single-use plastics. Truly, within the last calendar year, it went from “they’re everywhere” to “you’re a bad person if you use them”. And really, I think within a year. Which is so cool. It’s straws, lids*, water bottles. You’re using, you know, corn-based forks. And this is recent, and everyone is on with it. This is super cool! 


 

Sheryl: At work, we have to do it. We have no choice. They removed all plastic from our building. Gone - one day – gone. They gave us all reusable coffee cups. Now, there is aluminum. So, if you forget, and you need to buy water, and you don’t have your cup, there’s aluminum bottles you can buy. But they made them super expensive. And then they turned all of our silverware and all of our to-go containers to the plant-based ones. So, don’t put it in the microwave! But it doesn’t taste bad. Then you don’t feel guilty taking your salad to go.

Sophie: If every company starts doing that… I feel like it’s just gonna happen. It’s gonna start changing. 

Sheryl: Yeah, we didn’t have an option. And refillable water stations… But that cost the company money. We put asignificant* investment in. Pretty soon, we’re gonna get rid of* all plastic bags. But what happens when you come in and you have four balls that you are buying and your hockey thing and this and that ,and you don’t have your bags? So that’s what we’re trying to figure out* right now. 

Bane: But I think the first step in that is: Less people, even in the last five years, will grab a bag. “Oh, I’m buying one thing, leave the bag. I don’t want it!” 

Sophie: I say that.


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Plastic ban legislation in the United States (green = ban; yellow = charge; purple = partial charge or ban on municipal or regional levels) (Delusion23/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

»Millennials won't work for companies that aren't good corporate citizens. So, it's your generation that's driving it.«

Sheryl: It’s starting with companies. Companies are starting to get there. And sustainability is really becoming a buzz with this election cycle. We weren’t quite there, yet. But corporate social responsibility* (CSR) as a whole… millennials* won’t work for companies that aren’t good corporate citizens. So, it is your generation that’s driving it. We are asked a lot about our CSR. We put out our first CSR report. And sustainability is just one pillar* of it. But that has really changed it a lot.

Bane: But a Fortune 500 company* that has a president that is strongly democratic is pushing that agenda. 

Sheryl: Oh yeah.

Bane: Now, in a small business people buy… we don’t do it. Right now, I guarantee if you try to find paper vs.styrofoam* coffee cups, styrofoam ones are so much cheaper. So, economics still drives it. Most people are gonna buy the cheap one. Picture the guy that is making 10 bucks* an hour trying to feed his kid. He’s gonna go into the gas station* to get his 99-cent coffee in whatever they put it in. And that is what he’s gonna take. And that is most of America. 

Sophie: And that doesn’t make him a bad person. It’s just hard.

Bane: No, he just came by*.

Lea: What climate change solutions are you most excited about?

Carla: Solar panels. That is the biggest one we are exposed to, at least.

Bane: Electric cars. ‘Cause I think it is a no-brainer. I think they’re there, and as soon as they get easier… My goal is for Clara to not drive gasoline*.

Lea: Do you know if the power you use is green?

Bane: No. But … and Elon Musk said this, too, You have to believe that a power plant* is more efficient than the power plant under your hood*. Cause all a combustion engine* is a small power plant. It has to be less efficient than what a company gets paid to produce. And if you can get green energy, even better. 


pitcher: jug

to compress: to press or squeeze something together or into a smaller space; to be pressed or squeezed in this way

Marburger: a dairy business in western Pennsylvania

recent: that happened or began only a short time ago

lid: a cover over a container that can be removed or opened by turning it or lifting it

significant: large or important enough to have an effect or to be noticed

to get rid of: to do something so as to no longer have or be affected or bothered by (something or someone that is unwanted)

to figure out: to think about somebody/something until you understand them/it

corporate social responsibility: the idea that a large company has a duty to treat people fairly and to play a positive part in society

millennial: generation of people who were born in the years right before 2000 and are now adults, over 21 years of age

pillar: a large round stone, metal or wooden post that is used to support a bridge, the roof of a building, etc., especially when it is also decorative

Fortune 500 company: annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks 500 of the largest United States corporations by total revenue for their respective fiscal years

styrofoam: used for an expanded rigid polystyrene plastic

buck: money

gas station: a retail station for servicing motor vehicles especially with gasoline and oil

to come by: to make a short visit to a place; to gain or obtain

gasoline: a volatile flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture used as a fuel especially for internal combustion engines and usually blended from several products of natural gas and petroleum

power plant: a building or group of buildings where electricity is produced

hood: the movable metal covering over the engine of an automobile

combustion engine: a type of engine used in most cars that produces power by burning petrol/gas or other fuel inside

  1. The most recent change is cutting out single-use plastics. In your opinion, how far are we in avoiding the use of plastic in Europe?
  2. Keep a diary for a day, and note down how many single-use plastic products you use.
  3. Brainstorm with a partner. In your opinion, what are the most recent sustainability changes in Germany?
  4. What are some sustainability tricks you have learned from other countries (through travels, the news, friends)?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts

#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans - What does it mean to live a sustainable life for you?

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

During the last weeks, we have learned a lot about the reality of trying to live sustainably in America. Towards the end of our series, I now want to know whether the Morgans consider their own lifestyle sustainable and what that exactly means to them.

Apart from the Morgans, I also reached out to Bane’s older sister Sheryl (46) for an opinion. They stressed that in a country as big as the U.S. how much money you make and where you live heavily influences your options to truly live a green lifestyle. We also talked about how the younger and the older generation can contribute to stop global warming, and what message they want to send out to young people like you.

Lea: Would you consider your own lifestyle sustainable? 

Julia (12): I really try to be.

Clara (14): I think so, yeah. I feel like we try. 

Sophie (41): I would say we’re good at some things and bad at others. I don’t know.

Sheryl (46): No! Look at the cars you drive.

Sophie: Mathematically, the footprint of our cars is erased by our solar panels.

Bane (42): Yeah, we’re neutralizing it.

Bane: Our kids, they don’t like plastic, single-use plastics. As a family, we use metal straws, or we don’t use straws. I think those kinds of choices are the first step in having their generation realize that: “Wait a minute. This is not acceptable. This is no good.” Now… it’s not cheap to be sustainable. Especially, not in this country. 

Sophie: Yeah, it’s not the easy path.

»We are well-educated people that have the ability to be somewhat sustainable. If you're scraping to get by, it is the last thing you're thinking of.«

Bane: We are well-educated people that have the ability to be somewhat sustainable. If you’re scraping to get by*, it is the last thing you’re thinking of. When you’re worried about feeding the kids you’re gonna find the cheapest, easiest way to make that happen. Once you know that they’re gonna eat and they’re gonna be able to go to college, now, you’re like: “Okay, what else can we do to help?” We have the ability to have that discussion. And 90 % of the country or world don’t have that ability to have that discussion.

Sophie: Also, the kids recycle, all the time. It’s absurd if we don’t recycle. It’s absolutely a way of life for us.

Bane: With the changes in the Chinese economy… we would sell most of our recyclables to China. They don’t want it anymore.

Sheryl: They don’t recycle it, anymore.

Bane: They don’t want to take it. And now we have people that are recycling – or think they are – and everyone’s putting in the same thing and putting it in a landfill*. We’re thinking we are being sustainable but the global economy shifts it in such a way that it doesn’t matter.  

Sheryl: And also, there’s an excess* of what China had recycled, and what you can produce from it. So, China is like: “Well, we’re not going to recycle, anymore, until you use the by-products* of what we recycled. That’s another reason why they stopped. And it’s all sick… When we were growing up, we went to the store, and we used the paper bags. Then, they were saying, we were killing all the trees, so, we stopped using paper bags and switched to plastic. And now, we’re killing the oceans. So, we’re not using plastic bags, anymore. There’s always something, right? And the bags that they are using to make the reusable bags have oil in them. I think, it’s like Bane’s put it: You can try, and you have to do your best, but I don’t know that we are solving it here in America.

Out of sight, out of mind?

For three decades, rich counties like the U.S. and Germany shipped their plastic trash to poorer Asian countries, many of them developing nations lacking the capacity to manage such waste. China took the lion’s share—45 percent of the world’s plastic waste imports. Then at the start of last year, it refused to take more because of local environmental concerns. China’s move threw the recycling industry in western countries into turmoil as they scrambled to find new buyers and expand their own recycling programs. (adapted from National Geographic)

Take a listen to how the city of Nogales, Arizona, is struggling with recycling its trash:

Bane: Grandpa has no problem burning leaves. There’s nobody on earth… I shouldn’t say nobody… most people our generation would never burn leaves. And no one in their generation will. That’s good. 

Sophie: It’s coming!

Bane: So, people try, but economics still have to work with it, or they won’t do it. 

»Will it come? I think to some extent, but again it's gonna be finances.«

Lea: What does it mean to live a sustainable life for you? What are some examples?

Julia: Plastic straws are a big thing that I’m trying to cut out*. And especially energy, too. I leave my light on a lot. So, I’m really trying to work on that. 

Clara: Eating healthy, saving energy, and things like that. Things like shutting off your lights when you leave home. I feel like I don’t use that much energy personally. I definitely encourage* my dad to get solar panels. 

Sheryl: I think it’s more so the people that live in areas that are sunny and use the solar panels or can use the hydro-electric. I think, people that live off the grid* can tap into* those things. They’re on that path, but the general population doesn’t have that accessible to them. Like, if you’re gonna live in a cul-de-sac* and work in the city and commute*, that’s not gonna happen for you. But those how many percent that have figured it out, they do it like soup to nuts*. So, I think there is the extreme… do you know what I’m talking about?

Bane: I do. But the only thing I have problems with about the so-called off-the-gridders is that their sewage* system is terrible. They’re burning everything. If they can burn it, they’re gonna burn it. It’s off the grid, but I don’t think they do it as a sustainability thing. They do it because of the isolational thing. I don’t think they’re doing it because there is this grandiose idea that I’m gonna save the world. 

Sheryl: Yeah, they’re not the people in Arizona that use all solar… that’s different. 

Bane: What I think what’s been impressive is that the coasts… well, I should say the West Coast especially has been very much forward. We went to California last year, and every Uber we got in was an electric car. 

Sheryl: And there’s already no straws there. 

Bane: Yeah, they are way ahead of that stuff. And now, the East Coast. Well, face it: Americans in general are selfish. They are the country of excess. Now, the East Coast is ten times worse than here with self-centered selfishness. They don’t care. My friends in New Jersey, if it doesn’t help them today, they don’t care. So, you get to these different parts of the country where people care more. And my friend said when I told him, “Hey, we’re putting solar panels on.” He lives in L.A. He goes, “Dude, that is so West Coast!” But it’s real. They care more. They are the ones that have the e-bikes. You know, everything they are doing is trying to be that. So, it’s good. Will it come? I think to some extent*,but again it’s gonna be finances.

»And they knew so much more than I thought they did. But they can't do anything about it, yet.«

Lea: What is your generation in general doing?

Clara: Our grandparents won’t even understand it or want to think about it. Our parents know, but then our generation is doing things and demonstrating. There is a lot of change happening. 

Bane: I think the habits*, just like with everything, change slowly. Growing up, when we were going on a trip, there would never be a recycling garbage can.

Sheryl: I don’t even remember recycling at home. 

Bane: No, we didn’t.  It changes over time, but it does change. And I think that’s really important. And the kids see it, and it’s not uncool to do those things. Right now, sustainability-wise it’s cool to have a reusable water bottle. It’s not cool to use single-uses. And supporting and doing those kinds of things, I think, is big. And when I said to the kids, “Hey, guys what do you think about us getting solar panels?” They’re like, “That is awesome!” They were super excited to do it. And I said, “Well, why are you so excited?” And they knew so much more than I thought they did. But they can’t do anything about it, yet.

Lea: What message do you want to give to the young generation?

»Don't listen to everyone else. You know what's right. Do it.«

Bane: Don’t listen to everyone else. You know what’s right. Do it. All what the grown-ups are going to do is mess it up. So, don’t listen to them. You know what’s right. Don’t listen to us. And don’t accept it unless it’s what you think is right. Because, again, economics drives it all. If these guys say, “I’m never gonna buy gasoline!”… Guess what? It won’t happen, and oil will go away.

Julia: And our parents’ generation would say, “Oh, it’s just one person; who could do that much?” But the kids are saying:, “It’s one person that is willing to do this much.”

Clara: I want to push my parent’s generation to do more, and I want my kids to do more than my generation, because I feel like we have to get started. So, when big things happen, it takes people to get started, so I feel like that’s what our generation is doing, and they are starting this and they are talking about it. And I feel like our parents are supporting it, and they are behind it. 


to scrape by: to live with barely enough money

landfill: an area of land where large amounts of waste material are buried under the earth

excess: more than is necessary, reasonable or acceptable

by-product: a substance that is produced during the process of making or destroying something else

decomposition: the process of being destroyed gradually by natural chemical processes

debris: rubbish/garbage or pieces of material that are left somewhere and are not wanted

to cut out: to put an end to; to eliminate

to encourage: to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope

off the grid: not using the public supplies of electricity, gas, water, etc.

to tap into: to make a strong or advantageous connection with

cul-de-sac: a street or passage closed at one end

to commute: to travel back and forth regularly

soup to nuts: covering every detail or part of something

sewage: used water and waste substances that are produced by human bodies, that are carried away from houses and factories through special pipes

to ... extent: used to show how far something is true or how great an effect it has

habit: a thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing

  1. Can you set off (neutralize) your ecological footprint by installing solar panels?
  2. Go online and make up your own mind about off-the-grid living. Would you say it is more sustainable?
  3. What views does Bane express about people living in the east vs. west of the U.S.? Do you think these are truths or stereotypes?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans - Amazon vs. Sustainability

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

In times of consumerism*, most people purchase at least one new item per day. So naturally, I was curious to learn more about the shopping behavior of Americans.

From my interview with the Morgans and my own experiences, I see a lot of changes happening in this area currently. The family I stayed with received at least one Amazon packet a day even though they complained about some of their favorite stores having to close down due to big online competitors like Amazon. My interview with the Morgans helped me to understand their reasons for buying online. 

  

Lea: What are your average monthly purchases…?

Clara (14): We don’t shop for clothes that much. We only do like a big “back-to-school-shopping*" or when we need new clothes.

Julia (12): My mom, every Monday, goes out and runs errands*.

Clara: I’d say, probably Giant Eagle* and Target* are where we find everyday things. Well, obviously, food. But whenever we need mom’s make-up or batteries…

Bane (42): Amazon. 

Sophie (41): I buy something from Amazon, every day. Literally*. I went up to the bathroom; Bane had left his gel out so I could see it was empty. I scanned the barcode, and it’s on its way. Because I don’t have to pay for shipping I can order without thinking about that. It’s just that it’s out of my mind then.

Bane: I think, Amazon, it’s also made it worse sustainability-wise because…

Sophie: They killed the planet.

Bane: Yeah. Because, now, we have a guy drive to our house for everything that we want, delivered in separate boxes. And we are not going one time to the grocery store. 


»It's like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?« 


Sophie: And the packaging is one-time-use, and no one recycles it. They are trying to start an Amazon day. That was their way of saying, “Oh, we don’t ship every time to you. We only ship once a week.” But everyone wants it right now. I ordered something on Amazon, and it was at my house the next day. It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not? For example, Clara and I, we went shopping to buy a homecoming dress – we actually went shopping. And we bought a dress, but it is cut down in a way that she needs to wear a special bra. I could go to seven stores trying to find that bra, or in thirty seconds it’s on its way to my house. 

Bane: And most times I go to a store and they don’t have what I want. I think, “Why was I so dumb to even come here?” I could have ordered exactly what I wanted, and by the time I actually got there it would have been delivered to my house.


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Amazon fulfillment center, Spain. (Álvaro Ibáñez/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Sophie: Because of Amazon I go to Giant Eagle once a week, and I go to Target, once a week, sometimes twice a week. That’s it. If Giant Eagle and Target don’t sell it, and I can’t get it on Amazon, then we don’t own it. And only on special occasions*, like once a year, do I take the girls “back-to-school-clothes-shopping”.  We actually go to the outlets, and they try on stuff. At Christmas time, back-to-school, and rare occasions like when she wanted a homecoming dress and we went homecoming-dress-shopping. But other than that, we don’t shop. 

Bane: And you know, with Amazon Prime it’s 99 bucks* a year. So with that one-time price, they get to bring it to your house the next day. And I do that for the office. I bet I have a dozens of addresses that I ship stuff from our amazon account to. And they’ll deliver it anywhere. So, I can buy it right now, and I can send it to my office 50 miles from my house. 

Sophie: And another thing is… I know, we are like cheerleading for Amazon right now, and it’s not the best thing, but it’s so convenient. I said: “Julia, the birthday party next weekend; what do you want to get her?” Twenty minutes later she goes,” Mom, it’s all in your Amazon cart, what I want. Look at it to make sure it’s okay.” So, I look, I saw what she put in. I was like “click” and all the stuff came. They had wrapped it all up. 

Bane: I don’t have to carry it, I don’t have to put it together. 

Lea: Do you go grocery shopping or do you get that delivered, too?

Sophie: I order it online, I drive up, and they put it in the back of my car. They pick the food for me. You can elect to have a delivery, but I don’t, I drive to pick it up. 

Lea: And whenever you buy those things, do you look for organic food or fair trade or social labels?

Sophie: I don’t.  The farm-shared produce are not necessarily organic either but they’re local. 

Julia: No.

Clara: I think just kind of what’s there.


A short explanation of the so-called curbside express at Giant Eagle. (Giant Eagle on YouTube)


consumerism: the buying and using of goods and services; the belief that it is good for a society or an individual person to buy and use a large quantity of goods and services

back-to-school-shopping: period in which students and their parents purchase school supplies and apparel for the upcoming school year

to run errands: a job that you do for somebody that involves going somewhere to take a message, to buy something, deliver goods, etc.

Giant Eagle: an American supermarket chain

Target: an American department store chain

literally: in a way that uses the ordinary or primary meaning of a term or expression; used to emphasize the truth and accuracy of a statement or description; precisely

occasion: a favorable opportunity or circumstance

buck: money

  1. Sophie says, “It’s like Amazon provided crack cocaine and now they have addicts. I’m an addict, too. They are killing so many things because of it. I mean, I buy it on there, too. But at some point, how do you not?” What does she mean by that? Can you think of examples? Discuss.
  2. How often do you (or your family) shop online? What items do you typically buy online and why?
  3. Discuss with a partner or in a group the pros and cons of buying online or in person. Keep in mind that to go shopping in America almost always involves driving at least 20 minutes by car.

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans - The real American diet

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This week, I want to know about the Morgans’ diet. By living with Bane’s parents for three months, I have been able to observe their eating behavior, which is very different from my own.  

They eat out in a restaurant once or twice a day. They always order rather unhealthy meals like pancakes, ham with eggs, and baked beans, burgers, sandwiches, or mac-and-cheese, and drinks like iced tea or coke. But they never finish their ordered food and throw about half of it away. Either they don’t even take it home, or they do, but leave it in the fridge until it starts to mold*. I was puzzled to see that whenever they ate at home, they didn’t cook but only reheated take-away food from fast food drive-throughs and added a small pack of chips to it. Then, they ate in front of their TVs on so-called TV tables. At home they usually eat from paper plates even though the real plates are in the same cupboard. But they find it more convenient to throw the dirty plates away instead of cleaning them. They rarely go grocery shopping, and when they do, cashiers* use one plastic bag for every three items. (In many stores there is an extra employee just to pack up your groceries into plastic bags.) So, you end up leaving the store with a shopping cart full of plastic bags.

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Plastic bags in a shopping cart. (photo credit: Peteruetz/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The interesting thing is that Bane’s parents have a beautiful garden where they grow zucchinis, beans, cucumbers, and strawberries. They eat them occasionally, but most of it is given to neighbors or thrown away, because it is left in the fridge for too long. So, after these experiences, I am really curious to learn more about eating behaviors and choices in other American families.

Just as last week,  I've included audio snippets from some parts of the interview.


Lea: What does your family’s diet look like? What do you eat, usually?

Julia (12): All across the board, pretty much. We’ll have really healthy nights and then we…

Carla (14): Yeah, we’ll have a night, where we’ll have chicken salads, but then we’ll have fatty hamburgers, pasta, and stuff like that.


»Yeah, we'll have a night, where we'll have chicken salads  but then we'll have fatty hamburgers, pasta, and stuff like that.«


Sophie (41): Convenience*. We could be healthier, but we are not …

Bane (42): I’m impressed with the kids’ knowledge of dietary* things. Our kids will know if it’s a smart thing to eat or not. Doesn’t mean that they are not going to eat it. Fair enough, they will. We try to sit down as a family at least once or twice a week. And those meals will be completely balanced. Usually, with a white meat and then vegetables. We are eating out somewhere two or three times a week. 

Sophie: Depending upon what season we are in. During the throes* of baseball season, we eat out two or three times a week, because the game starts at six and we’re coming from here.

Bane: We are part of a farm share which we really like.1 April through November, we go to a farm, once a week, every other week, every other Monday, and we pick stuff there. That’s all locally grown. The really neat thing about that is: the kids love it. They’ll be like: “Oh man, farm shared carrots!” And they’ll crush them. And the fruit that comes off of there; that day it’s gone. But we shop almost exclusively at Giant Eagle*. And we do it for ease. But also, Giant Eagle prides itself on being local purchasers* of produce* when they can. So, we try to do that when we can. We’ve tried, in the past, things like buying a side of beef, but for a family it just didn’t work for us. 

Sophie: Nothing was in the right proportion for us. You would have four steaks and two pounds of ground meat*. I can’t do anything with that. I need six steaks and I need three pounds of ground meat in order to make a meal for us.

Lea: What about fast food?

Carla: No! That makes us sick. I mean, unless we have to eat fast food, we won’t eat it. We normally cook, if we can. We don’t eat a lot of junk food but not that healthy either. Something in the middle, probably. My lunch is always healthy, when I pack for school. And for breakfast, I have an apple.

Julia: I feel like that’s the same for me, too.

Bane: The kids really don’t like the fast food. So, we’ll be going to a sandwich place. 

Sophie: You know, Subway, Panera, those kinds of things. Or order pizza, and they just eat it in the car. 

Bane: Because they just don’t like fast food. And if one kid wants to go to a Wendy’s, the other one’s like: “Ugh!” They just don’t like it. So, that’s a good thing but there is still processed food*.


Bane’s aunt Mary (65) gave me another completely different perspective on the topic by explaining her eating and shopping habits in a single household. 


I find as a single person household (with my two parents eating with me 2-3 times a week) that it is much, much easier to eat healthy. I have my own insulated shopping bags, shop at farmers' markets, and about 10 years ago, I made a huge effort to eliminate wasting food. If I eat out at a restaurant, it is always to socialize, not to just buy food or a meal. I am not on any specialized diet, but I love vegetables and fruit, avoid starchy* foods and breads, and make homemade green smoothies for any snack and for one meal a day. The main snack that I indulge in buying and eating would be pretzels.” 

Mary Morgan 

1 Read the lexicon entry on community supported agriculture for further information.


mold: a fine soft green, grey or black substance like fur that grows on old food or on objects that are left in warm wet air

cashier: an employee in a store who handles monetary transactions

convenience: designed for quick and easy preparation or use

dietary: relating to food and drinks regularly consumed

throes of: a hard struggle

Giant Eagle: an American supermarket chain

to purchase: to buy

produce: agricultural products and especially fresh fruits and vegetables

ground meat: meat that has been finely chopped with a knife or a meat grinder

processed food: a food item that has had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed in it to change or preserve it

starch: a white odorless tasteless granular or powdery complex carbohydrate (C6H10O5)x that is the chief storage form of carbohydrate in plants

  1. What aspects do you consider when buying food? (Convenience, price, taste, health …) Do you also think about sustainability?
  2. Bane and Sophie mention that his kids don’t like fast food: “So, we’ll be going to a sandwich place. You know, Subway, Panera, those kinds of things. Or order pizza, and they just eat it in the car.” What is their understanding of “fast food”? Do you agree? What would you consider “fast food” and why?
  3. Are their any CSR projects near your hometown? Do a web-research.

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans - The truth about traveling in the U.S.

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

This week’s post is all about transportation. One of the first things I noticed during my stay in the U.S. was the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes. Around Bane’s parents’ house, where I stayed, the road consisted of nothing more than a strip of pavement just wide enough for two cars to pass each other.

For me, this meant a drastic change in my daily life. In Lüneburg, I am used to take my bike or walk, but in the States, I spent more time in cars, already within the first three weeks, than I did during the last 3 years back home. So, I asked the Morgan family how often they use a bike, car, train, or plane to get to places.

In order to understand their answers better, I should explain what the infrastructure around their neighborhood looks like. The Morgans live in a rather rural area of Gibsonia, a very small community in Richland Township, Allegheny County, with a population of 2,733. They live in a new housing plan with lots and lots of villas. There are sidewalks within their plan and a path to get to Carla’s school but there are neither bike lanes nor sidewalks outside of this small area. If they want to go shopping they have to drive 20 minutes by car to get to Cranberry. Here, you have to drive from one parking lot to the other because there are no sidewalks and even within one plaza you can’t always walk from store to store, safely. The only real public transportation available is the school bus system. Apart from that, there is only one bus station for travelling to Pittsburgh.

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A shopping plaza, in Cranberry, with different stores located around a vast parking lot. (photo credit: Google Maps)

This week, I've included audio snippets from some parts of the interview.

Lea: How often do you travel by bike?

Carla (14): Never. But as a family we’ll go on bike rides. But not as a transportation, though, more as a trip.

Julia (12): I don’t like bikes.

Sophie (41):  Never. It’s not conducive* where we live. You can’t get anywhere. We are too rural. We just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t get anywhere fast. 

Bane (42): When I was a resident* in Pittsburgh for dental school, we would bike every day. I lived near the University of Pittsburgh, and we’d bike two or three miles to school every day, eleven months out of the year. But where we live, it’s just not there.

Lea: … and by car?

Julia: Every time. 

Bane: 99+%.

Sophie: Nothing is more than 20 minutes, though. 

»Americans are so dependent upon cars, because they're so independent. You want to go exactly now, where you wanna go, when you wanna go.«

Bane: For me, my furthest drive is 53 miles (85 kilometers) from my house. I don’t have access to public transportation to do it. So, I have to drive to it. The only thing we use public transportation-wise is the school bus. The other options are just not available to us. And it’s something we would try to use, but the other part to it is: Americans are so dependent upon cars, because they’re so independent. You want to go exactly now, where you wanna go, when you wanna go. Public transportation just wouldn’t work as well. I don’t know that it’s right but… 

Lea: … and by train?

Julia: Never ever. 

Carla: We’ve been on a train in Europe. We’ve been on a train a couple times but just as a fun thing to do. Whenever we were in Europe, that was the only time we used it as transportation.

Sophie:  Never. When we were in college, I’d take the train to visit Bane, between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. But again, the train is definitely not convenient* or cost effective. 

Bane: Other places commute*, closer to major metropolitan areas and the Northeast Corridor and Northeast Direct. That is a really big train path that goes from DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston. In that area, it’s used a lot. 

Sophie: But, again, from where we are, it’s not useful for us.

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Passenger trains in North America. (photo credit: Jkan997/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Lea: … and by plane? 

Carla: When you are going somewhere far away. We probably use the plane two or three times a year. Maybe more. With a round trip*, that’d be six times. 

Sophie: Maybe six times a year. 

Bane: Because of the way the country is set up that isn’t direct. 

Sophie: No, I meant times we get on a plane to go somewhere. 

Bane: I know. We travel a lot; so, six round trips is probably true. But the crappy* thing about it is: you are using more fuel sustainability-wise because you’re not on a direct flight. You may fly from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and then continue to Denver. It’s not the best, but post-9-11* there isn’t an empty airplane, anymore. Pre-9-11 you’d get on airplanes, and sometimes there’d be 30 people on there. Now, every seat is full, because there are so many additional security costs, post-9-11.

Sophie: We never had all that security. 

Bane: I flew back from Paris, by myself, in 1996, after I spent an extra week with my German host brother and his family. When I flew back, they questioned me at machine guns at the Paris airport, because I was a single guy flying back by myself. That was the first time I had actually seen security at an airport. In Pittsburgh, you went through a metal detector and kept on walking. That was it.


conducive: tending to promote or assist

resident: a person who lives in a particular place or who has their home there

convenient: suited to personal comfort

to commute: to travel back and forth regularly

round trip: a trip to a place and back

crappy: lousy

9-11: the abbreviation for the date September 11, 2001, when terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania, killing thousands of people

Bike Culture: Europe vs America https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/biking-usa-europe#gref

Why US Public Transportation Is So Bad https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/26/17903146/mass-transit-public-transit-rail-subway-bus-car

9 Ways Security Has Changed Since 9/11 https://www.farecompare.com/travel-advice/9-ways-security-has-changed-since-911/

Biking in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis- Saint Paul https://www.teachaboutus.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=2211

Wind, Hydrogen and Bio-Fuel Oh My! Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany in Public Transportation https://www.teachaboutus.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=2165

Podcast with Elon Musk on The Future of Energy and Transportation https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/the-future-of-energy-and-transport/id610290348?i=1000410391676

  1. How much do you travel by bike/car/train/plane?
  2. What do you consider when choosing a means of transportation? Do you think about its environmental impact?
  3. How convenient is travelling by train in the U.S. vs. Germany? Do a web-research, e.g. compare the networks of train lines, timetables, ticket prices, customer experiences etc. (Take a look at the website of the Deutsche Bahn & Amtrak.)

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans - How to build a sustainable home

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

In our current mini series, we get to meet the Morgans, a typical American family, who tell us about their life in the suburbia* of the United States. After last week’s introduction to the Morgans’ busy life, this week, we will talk about their living situation and their house. I wanted to know if the Morgans considered sustainable options when building their house in 2011.

Their mansion doesn’t look like the typical sustainable home, which I imagine would be built smaller and simpler in order to reduce its ecological footprint. But as Bane tells me, they did focus on eco-friendly elements like insulation, energy efficiency, and solar panels. Here is is part of my interview with the family about their house.


Lea: And tell me a little bit about your house.

Carla: So, I feel, we have a pretty big house. We each have our own bedroom, and there are two guest bedrooms. And we got a pool, which is nice.

Julia: And the entire basement is like an extra apartment.

Lea: Do you know if there is anything about your house that is sustainable or that your parents did specially to make the house more sustainable?

Julia: We are getting solar panels.

Carla: Yeah, we are getting solar panels, and we already use all clean power from wind mills. And we’re putting in a bee hive.

Bane: So, I think, the first thing that was really big when we built the home was thorough insulation. So, attic* insulation was huge. We have zippers* on all the attic accesses to keep that down. It’s a sprayed insulation, so it’s actually wider. And actually, the crazy thing is, with our home, it’s so energy efficient … There was a rating when we built the home, and it’s a rating based upon energy efficiency; our builder made sure it was the premium one, which is important to us. But with that energy rating, one of the things you notice, the snow will already have been off the grass and it’s still on our roof. That’s really interesting, because that shows me, we don’t lose any heat through the roof.

»There was a rating when we built the home, and it’s a rating based upon energy efficiency; our builder made sure it was the premium one, which is important to us.«

Sophie: One year, we came home from Nana*’s house, and there was a power line down. There had been an accident, and all the electricity was out for the whole night, and it was freezing. In our old house, when the electricity would go out in the winter, it was terrible. I remember we were in our blankets, and I ran around getting all our stuff. We got into the car and went to my mom’s home, because it was so cold we couldn’t be in our house. So, this time, I thought: “Oh my god Bane, what are we going to do?” It was like 1:30 a.m. We had just arrived at home. There was no electricity. Bane was like: “Well, let’s just put everyone in blankets. We’ll go to sleep, and it’ll be fine.” And we woke up the next day and our house was still warm. We thought: “Oh my gosh, we didn’t do anything.” I mean, it wasn’t super cozy, but we were definitely not hightailing* to anyone’s house. The power came back on 24 hours later, and we didn’t leave because of the snow.

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The pilot light in a gas fireplace. (photo credit: George Shuklin/ Wikimedia Commons)

Bane: And obviously we have double pane* windows and that kind of stuff. One thing that I jumped all over, this year, is: We have three different gas fireplaces. And we use them a lot for heat, in the wintertime. We like the ambience* of it, but we also use it to heat. We have chosen fireplaces that are furnace* capable. So, they actually can heat the home if we need to. And there is a pilot light*that burns on the gas stove, all the time. And even the people that come to maintain the fireplace, they’re like: “Oh, leave that on, all the time.” I was like: “No.” They’re like: “Well, you should do that. It keeps the dust and spiders down, inside.” But I’m like: “No, I’m not doing it.” To me, it’s not acceptable to burn that and have the gas constantly running.And the final one for us would be the solar panels. Our solar panels are going to cover 61% of our output. It won’t be a 100% but 61%. And what we are not using will actually be sold back to the grid*. So, all the people in that grid will use that power if we’re not using it. It is never wasted that way. We also do a thing right now called Green Mountain Energy. We pay – I think – 20 % more for our power and it only comes from wind or solar, right now.1 And we’ve chosen to do that as a way to help eliminate the fossil fuels. And then my electric car. It’s a hybrid, but we still try to decrease that output.


1 This is surprisingly more expensive than in Germany! Read this newspaper article from the “Welt” for further information: “Grüner Strom ist kaum teurer als herkömmlicher”.

suburbia: an area where people live that is outside the centre of a city

attic: a room or a space immediately below the roof of a building

zipper: a thing that you use to fasten clothes, bags, etc.

Nana: grandmother

to hightail: to move at full speed

pane: a framed sheet of glass in a window or door

ambience: atmosphere

furnace: an enclosed structure in which heat is produced (as for heating a house)

pilot light: a small permanent flame used to ignite gas at a burner

grid: a network of conductors for distribution of electric power

  1. Would you consider the Morgans a middle-class family? Why or why not?
  2. What positive/negative aspects do you see in installing solar panels? Does that reduce your environmental footprint? What aspects must be considered?
  3. Discuss with a partner what other options the Morgans could have considered to make their house even greener?
  4. What steps are you and your family taking to make your house or apartment greener?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

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#Goinggreen 

Meet the Morgans—How one American family is going green

by Lea Meimerstorf -

Gibsonia, Pennsylvania (Google Maps)

It’s a busy morning at the Morgans’ house. Sophie has been up since 6 a.m. waking up her four kids Clara, Julia, Ben, and Tom. Her husband Bane has already left for work. It gets a little hectic at times, but that's not unusual, explains Sophie:


Everyone is getting ready, in the morning, at different stages. My alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I start waking up the kids. It is a 3-hour process. By the time Tom gets onto the bus, it’s 9 a.m. because their schools start at different times. And then they’re at school all day and Bane’s at work and I am either home or not home depending upon what’s going happening. Then the whole crazy routing starts again. At 2:30 p.m., the girls come home. At 3:30 p.m., Ben comes home. And then at 4:15 p.m., Tom comes home. And then activities … we go in a million different directions; no two days are the same. So, from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. is insanely busy. It’s all their activities, deciding where we’re going - like dance, drum lessons, guitar lessons, lacrosse games, and baseball games.” 

Sophie Morgan 

This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring sustainable choices and everyday green habits of a modern American family, the Morgans. Bane Morgan is my former host brother and during my recent stay in the States, I visited him and his family for quite some time during which we talked a lot about sustainability. Sophie and Bane as well as their oldest daughters Carla and Julia told me a lot about how they try to incorporate green choices into their lives. Throughout the next five blog posts, I will give an account of what they revealed to me in regard to topics like housing, transportation, food, shopping, and sustainable lifestyle, in general. 

But before the series starts, you should get to know the family and their living situation. So, let me introduce them to you: meet the Morgans. There are seven of them in total: Sophie (41) and Bane (42), their four children:  Carla (14), Julia (12), Ben (11), and Tom (9), and their dog Bella. They live in the small community of Gibsonia, Allegheny County, in western Pennsylvania. They are a rather typical upper middle-class family who owns a spacious mansion in a suburban neighborhood. Bane is an oral surgeon* and owns his own company. Sophie stays at home and cares for the kids and the dog. Their schedules are extremely busy with school, dance, cheerleading, fencing, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. 


The Morgans' house in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania

The Morgans' house in Gibsonia in western Pennsylvania. (photo credit: Lea Meimerstorf)

oral surgeon: a doctor or dentist who is trained to deal with diseases and problems of the mouth, jaw, face, and neck

Average American vs. Average European https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuWOoQU0aKw A purely statistics-based comparison between both countries. Remember that this average person only exists in theory. 

  1. Does the Morgans' morning routine differ from yours? How?
  2. What is the family's socio-economic status? What indicators does the text mention?
  3. Based on what you learn about the family in this first blog post, what do you think are the Morgans doing, or not doing, to 'go green'?

Meet the Morgans How one American family is going green

In Going Green, you come across different cases of sustainable lifestyles on both sides of the Atlantic. And in times of globalization—easy mobility between nations, expanding trade relations, communication through social media in real-time—we're led to believe that we already know exactly what life in another country looks like. But is that really so? Luckily, Lea Meimerstorf was able to visit and interview a family of six from western Pennsylvania during the past few weeks and she got an interesting glimpse into their daily life. The Morgans welcome us into their home and along their daily routines. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to explore what steps this American family takes—or doesn't take—to go green, including the areas of housing, transportation, food, shopping, and more. What do you do to go green? And how do your family's efforts compare to those of the Morgans? Stay tuned and find out in this mini-series. 

The views and opinions expressed in these interviews are not necessarily reflective of Teach About U.S.'s mission.

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


 #Goinggreen   

Greta Thunberg arrives in the United States

by Lea Meimerstorf -
Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament building in 2018

Greta Thunberg protesting in front of the Swedish parliament building in 2018. (photo credit: Anders Hellberg/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish activist who started the worldwide youth climate demonstrations known as “Fridays for Future”, just arrived in the USA to participate in the upcoming Climate Summit in New York on the 23rdof September 2019.

In August 2018, 15-year-old Greta was so disappointed with her government not acting upon the pressing climate threats visible in increasing global emissions, rising sea levels, biodiversity loss, global warming, air pollution and a countless amount of natural catastrophes that she decided to skip school and demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament. Other students joined her, starting an international movement organizing worldwide school strikes, every Friday, ever since Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2018. Even in the US, where many people haven’t heard of neither Great Thunberg nor her “Fridays for Future” movement, school strikes were held in over 500 places, last Friday alone. The young generation demands actions instead of hopeful words. As Greta Thunberg said in her recent TEDx talk in Stockholm: “Everything needs to change and it has to start today!”. 

U.S. House Representative Kathy Castor talks with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in the Congress

U.S. House Representative Kathy Castor talks with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg in the Congress (Photo credit: Rep. Kathy Castor on Twitter, public domain)


In order to participate in the upcoming United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York as well as the COP 25 climate change conference in Santiago de Chile, later this year, Greta sailed all the way over the Atlantic Ocean from Plymouth, UK. The 60 ft racing yacht “The Malizia II” allowed her an emission-free journey due to solar panels and underwater turbines. Greta and the crew set off on August the 14thand arrived in New York City on the 28th. The 16-year-old Greta has used her time since the arrival well and spoke in front of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis as well as the Congress, met with former President Barack Obama, received an Amnesty International’s award, and lead a major climate change demonstration in New York City on Friday the 20thof September. 1.1 million students were excused to join the strike by the city’s public schools. (To see other locations that participated in this strike as well as find cities near you where you can join the demonstrations visit the Global Climate Strikes website.)

On Monday, when the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit is being held, Greta Thunberg will be striking again. She and the countless other young strikers demand for immediate actions and concrete plans to drastically reduce CO2 emissions. On Saturday, September 21st, before the summit, the UN Youth Climate Summit enables young leaders and activists to discuss their concerns and solutions and present them to international politicians and world leaders. Following the summit, a second worldwide “Fridays for Future” strike is planned for the 27thof September. 


For further information, please visit: 



Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


  #GoingGreen  

We proudly present the Going Green School Competition Winners of 2018/19

by Lea Meimerstorf -

The fifth cycle of the Going Green project is coming to an end and we are proud to present the winners of our annual student competition. We received very thoughtful project outcomes dealing with a variety of topics linked to sustainability. All in all, 18 courses from four Bundesländer and one U.S. state registered on our platform. Over three hundred students and their teachers spent many weeks learning about sustainable activities as well as challenges in Germany and the U.S., finding out about sustainability topics such as waste, food, transport, and fashion. They analyzed how their own behavior impacts the sensitive system of our planet and developed different projects to go greener.

The Teach About U.S. team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2019 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the six winning projects:

 

Best Educational Video:

Save the Coral Reefs! An Educational Video about the Effect of Climate Change on the Ecosystem

by the English course (grade 10) at Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium in Montabaur, with teacher Nina Allgaier.

 

Best Student Entrepreneurship Project:

Sustainable Cooking – How Does that Work?!

by the course Geography /CAS IB (grade 11) at Leonardo da Vinci Campus in Nauen, with teacher Bärbel Baatz.

 

Best Social media Engagement Campaign:

soe_fii

by the English course 11 GK at Martin-Luther-Gymnasium in Frankenberg, with teacher Lisa Müller.

 

Most Creative Video: 

“Climate Change is here: act now”

by the English courses 10 GK and 11 GK & LK at Marie Curie Gymnasium in Bönen, with teacher Karsten Brill

 

Best Research:

Our Biodiversity Gets Lost

by the course 11BG-G at Saalburgschule in Usingen, with teacher Gisela Wildermuth.

 

Most Thought-provoking Video:

Our Sustainable Shared Flat

by the English course LK 12 at Friderico-Francisceum in Bad Doberan, with teacher Daniela Weihs.

 

The runner-ups include: 

Environmental Pollution by the English course grade 11 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner

Dream Big, Dream Green by the English course grade 12 at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösener

Action Plan 2019 by the English course 11G at max-Beckmann-Schule with teacher Therese Hartmann

Cross-Atlantic Workshop / Seminarkurs - Environmental Justice and urban Sustainability by grade 11 students at Kepler Gymnasium Freiburg and Lincoln High School in Portland, OR and teachers Jörg Dopfer and Tim Swinehart

Going Green Blog by the English courses grades 10, 11, and 12 at Marie-Curie-Gymnasium Bönen with teacher Karsten Brill

Easy Regional Cooking - Local, Fast and Healthy by the English course grade 12 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner

The Power of the Sun by the English course grade 10 at Gymnasium Lüneburger Heide with teacher Sol Velasquez

Take a look at the 60+ action plans from previous years showcased on Teach About U.S. Read more...

 

Congratulations to all participants and competition winners! 

 

In lieu of a final student conference, we invite all project participants, regardless if you upload a final product or not, to join us for the Sommerfest at Humboldt Universität Berlin on August 29, 2019, 14-15:30h. During the event, student groups will have the opportunity to report about their experiences with the project in a casual atmosphere and discuss their action plans with peers and experts on sustainability. Prof. Marcel Robischon, Humboldt University, will moderate the session, and Prof. Torben Schmidt, Leuphana University, a member of the Teach About U.S. team, will give a brief introduction. 


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'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in BerlinLeuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 60 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

» More information on Going Green

» Database of green action plans since 2014


Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf

Lea Meimerstorf is a primary school teacher student in the 2nd Master's semester at Leuphana University Lüneburg. Her subjects are English and German. She has been supporting Teach About U.S. as a project assistant since 2019.

Lea's profile View posts


 #Competition  #GoingGreen 

And the winners are... Going Green Awards 2018

by Joannis Kaliampos -

Bild1.pngWith the student competition, our fourth installment of the Going Green project comes to a conclusion. Overall, 43 courses from nine Bundesländer and four U.S. states registered on our platform. Over five hundred students and their teachers spent many weeks exploring sustainable activities Germany and the U.S., discovering how their behavior can impact the environment, and figuring out innovative ways to create positive change in their communities.

The Teach About US team and our partners are delighted to announce the following student projects as winners of the Going Green 2018 Awards! Congratulations to all students and teachers!

These are the nine winning projects:

 
 
Going Green Together – A German-American Sustainability School Project

by the Project Week Course (grades 7-12) at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösener, and the Social Studies course at Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington, Del., with teacher Melissa Tracy.

 

Life for Skins

by the English course (grade 12) at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in Neubrandenburg, with teacher Petra Wittner.

 

BK Halle Goes Green

by the course Gesellschaftslehre mit Geschichte bilingual at Berufskolleg in Halle (Westf.), with teacher Carla Merschhaus.

 

Leinwig's Lasting Lead – the Road to Sustainability

by the English course (grade 12) at Gymnasium Essen-Werden, with teacher Karsten Brill.

 

Our Sustainability Zone

by the English course 17/5 at Oberstufenzentrum Landkreis Teltow-Fläming in Ludwigsfelde, with teacher Patrick Emmelmann.

 

MTG Goes Green – Introducing the Green Break

by the English course (grade 9) at Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium in Montabaur, with teacher Nina Allgaier.

 

Small Steps for a Big Change

by the English course Q1 at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises in Sprockhövel, with teacher Martina Westermann, and the current events course at Berrien Springs High School in Berrien Springs, Mich., with teacher John Vitek.

 

Blackout – Wake Up and See the Truth

by the English course 10B at Humboldt-Gymnasium in Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.

 

We Make the Environment Great Again!

by the English course 11 BG-W at Saalburgschule in Usingen, with teacher Gisela Wildermuth.

 

The first of these awards were presented on April 19, 2018 at the concluding event in Düsseldorf organized by our friends at the U.S. Consulate and the Nordrhein-Westfalen Education Ministry . Representatives of the five participating schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen were invited to present their project ideas to the public at the Education Ministry. Vice-Consul General Benjamin Chapman and Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer emphasized the creativity and the sense of individual responsibility reflected by all projects and congratulated the students on their success in the competition.

Going Green Winners 2018 in Düsseldorf with Education Minister Gebauer and Vice Consul Chapman

NRW School Minister Yvonne Gebauer and U.S. Vice-Consul Benjamin B. Chapman presented the Going Green 2018 awards to participants from North Rhine-Westphalia: Berufskolleg Halle (Westf.), Friedrich-Bährens-Gymnasium, Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule, Schule am See Sekundarschule Wetter, and Gymnasium Essen-Werden.

Participants from Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen, and Baden-Württemberg met on Monday, April 22, 2018 at the invitation of the U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt, the German Earth Day Committee, and IHK Frankfurt. Participants from Berlin and Brandenburg will either be invited to a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin or an Embassy representative will visit them at their school. Dr. Martina Kohl will contact award recipients shortly to set dates before the summer break.

 Going Green winners 2018 from Montabaur

Participants from Mons-Tabor-Gymnasium Montabaur with their teacher Nina Allgaier receive their award at the Earth Day Celebration in Frankfurt.

Going Green winners 2018 from Usingen

Participants from Saalburgschule in Usingen with their teacher Gisela Wildermuth receive their award at the Earth Day Celebration in Frankfurt.

Congratulations to all participants and competition winners!

 


Joannis Kaliampos is the educational project manager for the U.S. Embassy's Teach About US platform. He is a research assistant at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and holds a Staatsexamen degree in teaching English and History at the Gymnasium from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. Joannis has developed teaching materials and has been leading teacher workshops for the U.S. Embassy's school projects since 2012.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

 #Competition  #GoingGreen

Going Green Awards 2017: And the awards go to...

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngThe third cycle of the Going Green project concluded in June 2017. After an intensive election season and a school election project that was just as exciting, we anticipated a smaller but not less dedicated group of participants this spring for Going Green. And yet, 23 courses from Germany and the U.S. registered their own Moodle courses and some more participated with our offline materials collection.

The Going Green jury met in early June 2017 to review the student competition entries and awards prizes to seven green action plans in four categories. We are grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for supporting these student projects once again with monetary prizes intended to kickstart and continue these green projects. These projects all propose unique approaches to promoting sustainability, but they also highlight individual agency and the contributions that each and every one of us can make to combat climate change. In so doing, these students embrace the concept of environmental stewardship aimed at making changes in their communities.

 

Here are the award winning projects from 2017:

 

“INNOVATIVE DIGITAL LEARNING TOOL” (PRIZE MONEY: 500€)

QR-Code-Ralley: LHG Goes Green

Class 12 English at Luise Henriette Gymnasium Oranienburg, Brandenburg, with their teacher Jens Rösener.

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We created an app which includes 10 stations with QR-Codes, which all deal with sustainability at our school. Our class tried to identify how 'green' our school actually is. We set the priority to raise students' awareness of green issues and wanted to create something that future generations of students could benefit from. Therefore, we developed a QR-Code Rallye that students from class 8 have already put into practice. From the next school year onwards, new students in class 7 will get the chance to use our app as well.

 

“COMPREHENSIVE SUSTAINAINABILITY SCHOOL PROJECT” (PRIZE MONEY 500€)

Hands-on: Saalburgschule goes Green

Class 11 BG-W at Saalburschule Usingen, Hessen, with their teacher Gisela Wildermuth.

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The focus of our school’s “Going Green” project was to reduce our community’s environmental footprint through hands-on activities:
  • We raised awareness of the detriments of using plastic in and around our school and took the responsibility of advising and teaching about recycling points in our buildings.
  • Another activity to going green was planting bee-friendly flowers around the school. We created posters to inform other students about the purpose of our activity.
  • We researched and came up with solutions on how our school could save money and reduce the waste of natural resources by slightly modernizing the school’s heating system.
  • We looked at the impact that transportation has on the local environment and pointed out strategies to reduce air pollution.
Through all these activities and supplemental reading, we developed a better understanding of the impact our own behavior has on the environment, and took action to reduce our ecological footprints.

“SCHOOL-BASED RECYCLING CONCEPT” (PRIZE MONEY 500€)

Reusable Bottles at our School

Class FOSP1B at Berufskolleg Höxter, Nordrhein-Westfalen, with their teacher Dagmar Knies.

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We set up a container to collect one-way deposit and refilling containers and designed a poster with relevant information.
Problem. At our school, many students simply leave their drink containers in classrooms or even throw them into the bins for general garbage. This means that the deposit for these containers is lost and that they cannot be reused or recycled, which means environmental harm.
Solution. We put up a container for reusable and recyclable drink containers at a central point in the building. We designed a poster showing how to dispose of bottles and cans. It also describes the German deposit system and environmental effects. We also designed a short informational text for other students to raise additional awareness and explain our idea. If this container is a success, we plan to put up more containers in central areas.
Practice. We need to raise awareness and acceptance. People shouldn't throw their garbage into our container, for example. We also need to talk to the cleaning staff, because they are the ones who collect all the drink containers from all over the building.

 

“SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND ENGAGEMENT PRIZE” (PRIZE MONEY: 1,000€)

Owls and Pillows, Reusing Old Plastic Bottles & It’s going on: Sustainability Ambassadors

Classes 5c, 8a, 8b, and 9a at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen, Baden-Württemberg, with their teachers Eva Gold, Sarah Garman, Sabine Kroiss, Sonja Sachs, Bettina Schönherr, Stefanie Schulze, and Michael Widinger.

This year marked the third time that students from Schubart-Gymnasium in Aalen participated in our Going Green competition. Four courses developed three different action plans to ‘go green.’ All of them are integrated into a school-wide curriculum focusing on education for sustainable development that is currently being developed by teachers representing different school subjects as well as external partners like Aalen Technical University. The jury applauds this integrative approach and decided to award these groups a joint prize for their collective efforts.

Project 1: Students of classes 8a and 5c joined forces for their upcycling project. They collected old clothes at their school and used these materials to create ‘owl pillows’ that they are planning to present and sell at their upcoming school festival. Grade 8 students also visited their younger partners during class and gave presentations on climate change.

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Project 2: Class 8b focused on the issue of recycling plastic and reached out to their art teacher to create sculptures made from plastic trash. They identified plastic bottles as one major type of trash on their school campus and created a poster campaign to educate their fellow students about the consequences of plastic pollution – and ways to combat this development.

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Project 3: Class 9a, like their fellow students, realized that change for sustainability requires creative and educational approaches. Participating in our competition for the third time, the students have developed a program to train student sustainability ambassadors. One component of this ambassador program is that older students reach out to local primary schools and educate them about green issues.

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Certificate of appreciation

Green Transport Rap

Class 10c at Humboldt Gymnasium Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.

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It´s a rap-song about why you should use your bike or public transport instead of your car.
We divided our class in four groups, every group worked on one of the four Going Green Projects. The group that treated transportation was chosen as the best group, so their final result was uploaded here.
The problem that the group identified was that many young people are too lazy to go by bike or public transport, so they let their parents drive them by car. That is a big problem, because it causes much air pollution. And often the distance could easily be driven by bike or public transit.
To approach this, the group wrote a song. Many young people like rap music and also the beat of the song is a instrumental version of a really popular rap-song. Our intention was that many people would remember the song's melody. With the lyrcis of the song, the group wants to motivate teenagers to go by bike or use public transport. It´s necessary that this song gets popular, so that many people hear it and think about the meaning of its lyrics. (The music of the song is the instrumental version of "Palmen aus Plastik" made by "Bonez MC" and "RAF Camora".)
 

Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

The students of class FOSP1B, together with their teacher Dagmar Knies, were invited to the Northrhine-Westphalia Landtag where they received their prize money of EUR 500 from U.S. Consul General Keller and member of parliament Matthias Goeken MdL.

 

Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Congratulations to the students at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen on their 1st prize in this year's Going Green school competition. U.S. Consul General Herman handed the award of EUR 1,000 to the students and held a town hall meeting with over 200 students about German-American relations.

 

The Teach About US team and our partners congratulate all participants and competition winners!

 


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Here are the winners of the Going Green Awards 2016

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngIn 2016, we were able to award 13 first prizes for student projects that exhibited outstanding creativity and innovative thinking, applicability in local communities, and a high quality of presentation – all done in the students' foreign language English.

The Teach About US team and our partners want to thank everyone who participated and helped make this contest a success. Congratulations to all students and teachers!

 


Video: Going Green project finale at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin, April 2016.

The award-winning Going Green action plans are:

 

Best Video

Going Green video ideas

by course  5e at Gymnasium Essen-Werden with teacher Karsten Brill.

 

Best Bulletin Board

Our food – local, healthy, sustainable

by the Biology bilingual course (grade 10) at Städtisches Gymnasium Gevelsberg with teacher Birgit Klöber.

 

Best Website

How much water do we eat?

by the project group English at Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.

 

Community Engagement Award

Act locally: Our Bike Day, our Donation to the Peace Village in Oberhausen and Teaching Refugees

by the course Q1 and Schülervertretung at Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.

 

Transatlantic Reward

SG Goes Green

by the course 8a at Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen, with teachers Bettina Schönherr and Ilona Ackermann.

 

Most Comprehensive Award to Save the Environment

Small Steps for a Big Change

by the English course Q1 at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises and Berrien Springs High School, with teachers Martina Westermann and John Vitek.

 

Most Artistic Project

Plastic is everywhere!

by the course 7e at Goethe Gymnasium Frankfurt am Main with teacher Anne von Rekowski.

 

Best Powerpoint Presentation

Einstein Goes Green!

by the grade 11 at Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium Maintal, with teacher Jil Behr.

 

Most Innovative Product Idea (Print)

Green World - all about plastic!

by the grade 10a at Humboldt-Gymnasium Potsdam, with teacher Silke Meyfarth.

 

Best Presentation

Life Cycle of Clothes

by the grade 10a at Gymnasium Hittfeld Seevetal, with teacher Philipp Schmidt.

 

Most Innovative Product Idea

Slow Down Fast Fashion

by the English course grade 11 at BIP-Kreativitätsgymnasium Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.

 

Most Creative Contribution

Greenefying Our Scholl School

by grade 11 at Geschwister-Scholl-Schule Zossen, with teacher Patrick Emmelmann.

 

As you all know, for such projects to succeed, it takes more than a learning platform and the prospect of presenting your idea to a large audience. In fact, what all of these student projects have in common is a teacher who sparked enthusiasm and inspired creativity among their students. This is why we decided to make this engagement visible by creating the Most Engaged Teacher Award. Four teachers share this award:

 

  • Anissa Schiffer (Dalton-Gymnasium Alsdorf)
     
  • Chiara Catalano (Georg-Herwegh-Gymnasium Berlin)
     
  • Bettina Schönherr and Ilona Ackermann (Schubart-Gymnasium Aalen)

 

They all impressed us with their meticulous work on the Moodle plattform and the fact that they all succeeded in truly engaging their students in community outreach activities. They helped build partnerships with elected officials, local businesses, or institutions of higher education as part of their Going Green participation. With this award, we want to honor the commitment of these colleagues and shine a light on outstanding teacher engagement – which all too often is not being recognized the way it should be.

Our competition winners were invited to present their action plans to fellow project participants at concluding events in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Düsseldorf. If you couldn't make it to these events or want to relive the experience, here are some impressions from these
events.

 Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Going Green Award Winners at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin.

 

Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Going Green 2016 Final Event in Frankfurt.

Here are some more impressions from the final event in Berlin at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung:

Once again, the entire Teach About US team and our partners would like to congratulate all students and teachers who participated in Going Green and made this project such a  sustainable success!

 


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Election Project 2016 - The award winning student contributions

by Marilena Peters -

On November 7, 160 students representing 34 schools from Berlin (18), Brandenburg (9), Saxony (4), Saxony Anhalt (1) Niedersachsen (1), and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (1) declared their election forecasts for the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Ambassador Emerson discussed the students' results together with Bill Chandler at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Berlin.

At the same time, another group of participants from North Rhine-Westphalia met at the NRW Schulministerium in Düsseldorf together with Consul General Michael R. Keller and Schulministerin Sylvia Löhrmann.

This is the project outcome produced by our participants:

Project Prediction

Created with the CNN Electoral College Map Maker.

This year, our participants' prediction did not turn out correct. Here are the actual election results from November 8, 2016. Republican candidate Donald Trump won with 279 to 228 electoral college votes over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Screenshot from The New York Times.

 

As part of the U.S. Election Project, participants submitted learner products in a competition for creative project outcomes. Below are the winning student contributions. Awards were given in ten categories plus five transatlantic cooperation awards for outstanding efforts to facilitate transatlantic cooperation within the project.

 

Best Campaign Video:

Washington State Goes Blue

Sebastian-Münster-Gymnasium Ingelheim (Rhl.-Pf.)

 

Best Newspaper:

The Salem General in Oregon

BSZ Schwarzenberg (Sachsen)

 

Best Collage:

Hillary vs. Donald – Who will strengthen the American economy?

Humboldtschule Bad Homburg (Hessen)

 

Best Creative Video:

Hillarylarious!

Max-Planck-Gymnasium Gelsenkirchen (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

 

 

Best Poster:

8 Reasons Why Wyoming Will Vote Republican

Herder-Gymnasium Berlin

 

Best Creative Song:

Rhode Island Rap

Katholische Schule Salvator Berlin

 

 

Best Website:

Presidential Election in Missouri

Friderico-Francisceum Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

 

Best Educational Video:

U.S. Embassy School Election Project: Washington

Mataré-Gymnasium Meerbusch (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

 

 

Best Blog:

My Life in Pennsylvania

Mons-Tabor Gymnasium Montabaur (Rheinland-Pfalz)

 

Most Creative Contribution:

Get Votes – The Game

Friderico-Francisceum Bad Doberan (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

 

Transatlantic Award

It is with great pride and pleasure that the Teach About US team awards a transatlantic cooperation prize to five of our German-American tandems, who share the fact that students and teachers alike have done a tremendous job making the election project a truly binational encounter.

The Teach About US team would like to recognize for their achievements for transatlantic understanding:

  • Oranienburg/Washington, MO: Jens Rösener with his class at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium, Oranienburg, and Allison Graves and her students at Washington High School in Washington, Missouri;
  • Gransee/Clemmons, NC: Heike Grützmacher and students at Strittmatter-Gymnasium in Gransee together with Amber Alford and students at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina;
  • Berlin/Fayetteville, AR: Christina Kurzmann and her class at Goethe Gymnasium Lichterfelde in Berlin, together with Amber Pinter at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville Arkansas, who have been maintaining their school partnership for 30 years now;
  • Soest/Bloomington, MN: Dr. Markus Schröder with his class at Hubertus-Schwartz-Berufskolleg in Soest, and their U.S. partner Brian Trusinsky and his class at Thomas Jefferson Senior High School in Bloomington, Minnesota;
  • Sprockhövel/Oronoko Township, MI: Martina Westermann and her students at Wilhelm-Kraft-Gesamtschule des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises in Sprockhövel, who collaborated with John Vitek and his class at Berrien Springs High School in Oronoko Township, Michigan.

 

Congratulations again to all winners!

 

Take a look at some impressions from the concluding events that took place a day before the elections in Berlin and Düsseldorf:

Berlin, Nov. 7, 2016 at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

 

 Düsseldorf, Nov. 7, 2016 at the Schulministerium NRW

 

Summary of Press and media coverage

The project was also featured in a number of regional and national media reports. 

 

ZDF 02.11.2016

US-Wahl als Schulprojekt: Schüler lernen über Swing States und das amerikanische Wahlsystem

 

Lüneburger Landeszeitung 03.11.2016

Schüler sagen Ergebnis der US-Wahl voraus

 

Berliner Zeitung 07.11.2016

Schulprojekt: Hillary siegt mit großem Vorsprung

 

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg 07.11.2016

Trump oder Clinton - Können deutsche Schüler wirklich das Ergebnis der US-Wahl vorhersagen?

 

Der Tagesspiegel 07.11.2016

Schülerprognose zur US-Wahl: Clinton gewinnt


Siegerland Kurier 08.11.2016

Clinton oder Trump - Gymnasium Stift Keppel Hilchenbach nahm am „U.S. Election Project“ teil

 

WAZ 08.11.2016

US-Wahl: Stift Keppel tippt auf Clinton


Märkische Online Zeitung 08.11.2016

Schüler würden Clinton wählen

 

Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung 09.11.2016

Gymnasiasten zur US-Wahlnacht im ZDF-Studio

 

Soester Anzeiger 09.11.2016

"Jetzt geht die Welt unter"

 

Münster Journal 10.11.2016

„Annette-Gymnasium“ stellt Analyse der „US-Wahl“ in Düsseldorf vor


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

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The US Embassy School Election project attracted over 1,500 participants 2012 and more than 3,000 participants in 2016, including students in over 40 courses in the U.S. German students adopted one U.S. state and became its virtual citizens, reviewed local and social media critically and evaluated the political debates in the weeks leading to the presidential elections. Many German students reached out to their U.S. partners to learn first-hand how the election campaign was perceived by U.S. citizens in urbans centers and rural regions alike. They predicted the election outcome in their state. In 2012, these students' predictions were more accurate than many nationally broadcast polls. Four years later, as most pundits and pollsters failed to predict the stunning electoral college win by the Republican party's candidate Donald J. Trump, our German students didn't have a crystal-ball either.

The U.S. Embassy School Election Project was awarded the renowned Hans-Eberhard-Piepho Prize for Ideas in Communicative Language Teaching in 2013.

>>More information on the U.S. Embassy School Election Project

>>Demo course (log-in required)

#Competition #Election2016

Going Green Awards 2014 – The winning projects

by Marilena Peters -

Bild1.pngOver 900 participants in 58 online courses registered for the Going Green 2014 school projects. We received many motivating news from different parts of the country – students who organized a flash mob, others who designed a mobile app, individuals and groups who reached out to local businesses, scholars, and policy makers, and an entire course that interviewed NGO representatives on Skype.

The Teach About US team and our partners want to thank everyone who participated and helped make this contest a success. Congratulations to all students and teachers!

Video: Going Green 2014 finale at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Berlin with project participants and U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson.

 

These are the winning projects of the Going Green 2014 Awards:

 


Presentation

First Prize: Plastic and Trash

by the English Course (grade 12) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Schwerin with teacher Susanne Herbrand-Escher.

 

1st Runner-up: Humboldt Goes Green

by the English Course (grade 11) at Humboldt-Gymnasium in Potsdam with teachers Patrick Emmelmann and Carola Gnadt.

 

2nd Runner-up: If you save the world, you can save yourself

by the English Course (grade 8a) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn with teacher Melanie Shriner.

 

2nd Runner-up: Get going, go green!

by the English Course (grade 12) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Schwerin with teacher Susanne Herbrand-Escher.


Blog/Website

First Prize: Alsdorf goes Green

by the bilingual project course (grade 12) with American exchange students at Dalton-Gymnasium in Alsdorf, with teacher Anissa Schiffer.

 

1st Runner-up: Think Globally, Act Locally

by the English Course (grade 11) at Louise-Henriette-Gymnasium in Oranienburg with teacher Jens Rösner.

 

Video

First Prize: Wake up! Go green!

by the English course (grade 9b) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn, with teacher Melanie Shriner.

 

1st Runner-up: Philantrophs are going green!

by the English Course (grade 12d) at Gymnasium Philanthropinum in Potsdam with teacher Heike Piornak-Sommerweiß.

 

2nd Runner-up: More culture and nature instead of smartphone failure

by the English Course (grade 8b) at Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium in Bonn with teacher Melanie Shriner.

 

Most innovative product

First Prize: Superstainable – The Board Game to go Green

by the bilingual Biology course (grade Q1) at Schuldorf Bergstraße in Seeheim-Jugenheim, with teacher Kerstin Oldenburg.

 

1st Runner-up: Sustainable Cosmetics

by the English Course (grade 12) at Albert-Einstein Gymnasium in Neubrandenburg with teacher Petra Wittner.

 

2nd Runner-up: Bag to the roots

by the English course (grade 11) at BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium in Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.

 

Most creative contribution

First Prize: Greenate – A blog, campaign, and an app

by the bilingual Biology course (grade 10) at Goethe-Gymnasium in Frankfurt, with teacher Anne Schröter

 

1st Runner-up: Regional Food

by the bilingual Biology Course (grade 6a) at Schubert-Gymnasium in Aalen with teacher Bettina Schönherr.

 

Community Engagement Award

First Prize: Going Green – A Campaign, Workshops, and an Art Festival

by the Key Club at Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut in Nürnberg, with program coordinator Kathleen Röber.

Going Green Action Plan Nuremberg from DAI Nuernberg on Vimeo.

 

1st Runner-up: Aska Awareness Day

by the English Course (grade 11) at Askanisches Gymnasium in Berlin with teacher Matthias Klaudius.

 

2nd Runner-up: Food for Thought

by the English course (grade 11) at Strittmatter-Gymnasium in Gransee, with teacher Heike Grützmacher.

 

Transatlantic Award

Goethe goes green

by the LK English 1st term at Goethe Oberschule in Berlin, with teacher Christina Kurzmann, and the Green Team at Fayetteville High School in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

 

Most Popular Award

Bag to the roots

by the English course (grade 11) at BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium in Leipzig, with teacher Madlen Naumann.

 

We concluded the Going Green project and student competition with events in Düsseldorf (December 4) and Berlin (December 5). In Düsseldorf, participating courses and teachers were welcomed at the Nordrhein-Westfalen Schulministerium. Our Going Green participants presented their green action plans and discussed their ideas with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte. Consul General, Steve Hubler, and Staatssekretär Ludwig Hecke congratulated the students on their commitment to German-American cooperation and awarded prizes for some of their outstanding green action plans.


Going Green Winners 2014 in Düsseldorf with Prof. David Goldfield from the University North Carolina at Charlotte and Consul General Steve Hubler

Our friends at the U.S. Consulate General Duesseldorf and Schulministerium NRW hosted a meeting with students from Nicolaus Cusanus Gymnasium Bonn, Gymnasium Alsdorf, and Gymnasium Essen-Werden in Düsseldorf.

 

In Berlin, U.S. Ambassador John B. Emerson and the Going Green team welcomed students from eight Bundesländer at our national concluding event that was generously hosted by our friends at Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Prof. Goldfield joined us again for this event and discussed the green action plans with the students. Ambassador Emerson awarded prizes for excellent student contributions and underlined the importance of civic engagement for sustainable development.


 

Congratulations to all participants and competition winners!

 


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

Bild1.png'Going Green – Education for Sustainability' is an intercultural blended-learning project that engages students on both sides of the Atlantic in interdisciplinary project work on English as a foreign language, American studies, environmental and political science. The annual project is part of the Teach About US platform developed by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Leuphana University Lüneburg, and LIFE e.V. Since the pilot project in 2014, over 2,500 participants in Germany and the U.S. have participated in four project cycles and have produced over 50 green action plans to implement sustainable development in their local communities. Going Green is a proud recipient of the Germany – Land of Ideas Award 2015.

>>More information on Going Green

>>Database of all green action plans since 2014

#Competition #GoingGreen

Hope for Life in the Great Lakes (guest post by Elizabeth LaPensée)

by Marilena Peters -
16128737644_e7970bf2e7_m.jpgAnishinaabeg (Anishinaabe people) understand that we are all connected. Impact on one eco-system echoes to another. As climate change creates shifts in our communities in Gichigamiin (the Great Lakes), we offer good thoughts for the healing of those most affected recently, including nibi (water), wiigwaas (birch bark), mooz (moose), namegos (trout), and manoomin (wild rice).
Photo caption: Elizabeth LaPensée speaking at the #1ReasonToBe Conference in March 2015 (photo credit: Official GDC on Flickr)

Wiigwaas (birch bark) is fused with water in the landscape. Wiigwaasaatigoog (birch trees) grow in many ways across many eco-systems. Birch is used for many things including makakoon (baskets), jiimaanan (canoes), and mashkiki (medicine). Wiigwaasaatigoog are disappearing so fast that some jiimaanan need to be made from wiigwaas (birch bark) from other territories (even as far as other countries). Properly gathering wiigwaas so as to not kill wiigwaasaatigoog and planting wiigwaasaatigoog in places that still have deep winters can help.

The ones who seek healing

Nenda-noojimojig - The Ones Who Seek Healing. Elizabeth LaPensée, Anishaabe & Métis. Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, 2016.

Made of wiigwaas is a flower with five petals, the floral representing women, sitting within Nookomis Giizis (Grandmother Moon). We are grateful for our Anishinaabekweg (Anishinaabe women) who walk and sing for the water. Sharing water teachings and songs is vital for us all. Nookomis Giizis influences the movements of the waters, which rise each day from melting land ice and expanding sea water. In turn, all movements on and around Nookomis Giizis can change the direction and motion of the waters.

»Anishinaabeg (Anishinaabe people) understand that we are all connected. Impact on one eco-system echoes to another.«

In the stars beside Nookomis Giizis is the Mooz (moose) constellation, who returns in the fall and watches over the ones who walk, swim, crawl, and fly below. Mooz represents ongoing survival. Yet, mooz on the land are disappearing rapidly due to climate change. We hope for mooz to continue on with endurance.

Mooz looks down at namegos (trout), who swims and leaps. Namegos has long provided nourishment to our people and for this we honor them today through restoration efforts and climate change research. Namegos thrive best in cool/cold water.

»Namegos has long provided nourishment to our people and for this we honor them today through restoration efforts and climate change research.«

Namegos swims towards shallower water where manoomin (wild rice) grows. Manoomin is essential as food and medicine for our people. We are here at these waters thanks to this sacred nourishment. We respect manoomin by caring for the waters, removing invasive plants to allow the stalks to grow, and being gentle when we knock the stalks for rice.

While there is change, there is also hope for healing.

Nenda-noojimojig. The ones who seek healing.


Elizabeth LaPensée, Ph.D. (http://www.elizabethlapensee.com/) is an award-winning designer, writer, artist, and researcher who creates and studies Indigenous-led media such as games and comics. She is Anishinaabe from Baawaating with relations at Bay Mills Indian Community and Métis. She is an Assistant Professor of Media & Information and Writing, Rhetoric & American Cultures at Michigan State University.

 #GoingGreen

Germany and U.S. Climate and Energy Policies at the Local Level: Common Puzzles

by Marilena Peters -

Participating in the U.S. Embassy’s Speakers’ Program, Nilda Mesa travelled to different cities in Germany to talk about the status quo concerning the climate and energy policies in the U.S. and Germany at the local and federal government levels. In her article she is providing insights into climate and energy policymaking in both countries and introduces initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Since in Germany the authorities of the Länder (states) are deduced from the federal government, unlike in the U.S. where the Constitution grants a significant extent of authority directly to states, Mesa's German colleagues were surprised at how decentralized the policymaking in the U.S. can be:

  

As their system is so centralized, they assumed ours is much the same, which led them to believe that the pronouncements coming from our federal government meant that all states and cities had no choice or flexibility to create their own policies on climate and energy."

– Nilda Mesa

So what does this mean in times of retrenchment from Washington and the U.S.’ federal governments' withdrawal from the Paris climate goals?

 

Little news reaches them through their media about U.S. local and state climate and energy policy, and thus they had the impression that Washington pulling out of the Paris climate agreement prohibited states and local entities as well as the private sector from following their own course."

– Nilda Mesa

 

Since this is not the case, the article shows that there are innovative initiatives under way such as “We’re Still In” (check out our recent blog post about the UN climate conference) and that U.S. states like New York are moving forward to meet the Paris climate goals:

  

New York’s policy levers to meet 80x50 greenhouse gas emissions targets, such as REV and OneNYC (…) ."

– Nilda Mesa

 

If you are interested in learning more about the U.S. and Germany’s climate and energy policies, click on this link to read the rest of Nilda Mesa’s blog post for the Sallan foundation.

 


Marilena Peters has been pursuing her B.A. in teaching Social Studies with a geographical focus and English as a Foreign Language at Leuphana University Lüneburg since 2015. After finishing her studies with a Master’s degree, Marilena intends to teach at an elementary school.

#GoingGreen

All Politics Is Local: Localities and Regions at the COP 23 in Bonn

by Joannis Kaliampos -
From the very beginning, our Going Green project curriculum has been focusing on environmental action driven by the state and local level. How this works when these non-federal actors come together is currently on display at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany. 20 U.S. states, 110 U.S. cities, and over 1,400 businesses have adopted quantified emissions reduction targets. Not only do they represent USD $25 trillion in market capitalization and nearly 1.0 gigatons of GHG emissions per year. Their economy would be the third largest in the world. “In America’s federal system and market economy, these subnational leaders are critically important. Businesses, cities and US states not only drive regional economies, they are powering our national transformation to a zero-carbon economy,” responded Lou Leonard, World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) senior vice president of climate change and energy. COP 23 under the Fiji Presidency hosts diplomats, politicians and representatives of civil society from all over the world in Bonn.
Here is more information on this initiative: "We are still in"


Teach About US invites teachers and students interested in up-to-date teaching content about U.S. culture to participate in two award-winning projects. Check out “Going Green – Education for Sustainability”: The project will start its fourth year in the school year 2017/18. In addition, every four years, the U.S. Embassy School Election Projects calls German students to predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. In 2016, the “U.S. Embassy School Election Project 2016" attracted over 3,000 participants.  The platform is primarily geared towards the English as a foreign language and CLIL classrooms, but we also encourage social science teachers to use our materials on both sides of the Atlantic.  Invite your U.S. or Germany based partner school to participate in a 'transatlantic tandem' or start a partnership via our platform!

#GoingGreen

Visions for more Water Sustainability in the State of 10,000 Lakes

by Tobias Luthe -

In Minnesota water has always played a central role not only for recreation but also industry. Not only is Minnesota home to more than 11,800 lakes but also huge rivers like the Mississippi, the Minnesota River and the Saint Croix River. This allows Minnesota to be the fifth largest producer of agricultural goods in the United States. But this part of the economy also accounts for a significant share of the water used in Minnesota. In total, 34 percent (87.9 billion gallons in absolute numbers) of the state´s water is just used for irrigation purposes. This is unsustainable!

 

Relying too much on groundwater

Since the end of World War II, Minnesota has shifted its water supply from surface water sources like the Mississippi River to groundwater pumping. Especially over the last 25 years, there has been a steep increase of 35 percent in the usage of groundwater. Although not solely responsible for this increase (an increasing population as well), farming is regarded as one of the key areas to tackle an unsustainable use of water, groundwater in particular. According to Professor Deb Swackhamer, former director of the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center, groundwater can be compared to a saving´s account for times of droughts. In contrast to surface water, which can be refilled through rain, groundwater, is replenished on a geological time scale that might take up to 10,000 years. Thus, it is clearly not sustainable to mostly rely on groundwater. If the groundwater reservoirs decline, it might take generations until they can be used again. In parts of South-West and Central-Minnesota, people have already witnessed a lowering of the groundwater level, which can cause serious water supply problems for communities, industries, and wildlife. Low groundwater in Little Rock Creek in Central-Minnesota has led to decreasing oxygen and increasing water temperatures that harm the brown trout population there. Though a regional issue, the Little Rock Creek case amplifies the importance of a more sustainable use of groundwater.

 

Cleaning up surface water sources

But why is it not possible to just switch back to surface water sources, which were used in the past? Today, more than 40 percent (more than 4100) lakes and streams in the state of Minnesota do not meet the federal quality standards for water, often caused by the side-effects of agriculture like nitrate and phosphorous contamination from fertilizers and animal manure. By infiltrating the ground or running into rivers, streams and lakes, these substances can negatively impact the overall water quality and foster the growth of toxic blue-green algae. Hence, it is not possible to use the contaminated water for irrigation or even drinking. Drinking contaminated water can cause serious illnesses such as the Blue Baby Syndrome, which is a blood disorder that can even be even be fatal in infants. 

 


Proximity to pollution sources can negatively impact the quality of water.
©http://www.takepart.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/AgRunoffIowa.jpg

 

Thus the state, companies, as well as advocacy groups have taken steps to tackle the problems of future groundwater shortages and water contamination in the state. To reduce water consumption in industries and agriculture (together accounting for about 42 percent of the freshwater used in Minnesota), businesses are encouraged to use more conservation-based processes and equipment. A common problem in this context are leaky water pipes and other related equipment. Even a very small leak of one drop of water per minute accounts for more than 10 gallons of lost water per year. Multiplied with the remaining leaks from a farm or plant this already accounts for significant amount of water loss. In fact, both companies and nature can benefit from simple steps like fixing leaking pipes since people save money and nature suffers less from an unsustainable usage of its precious natural resource.

 


Leaky water pipes account for a significant amount of water loss.
©https://d16ee5lo1src82.cloudfront.net/media/default/Import-Home-BlogPosts/home%20insurance%20coverage%20on%20pipe%20bursts.jpg

 

Modernizing water supply and treatment

Modern efficient irrigation technology in agriculture also saves water such as low-pressure irrigation. In general, extracting water from streams, lakes or the ground is a highly energy intensive process. Today, still most irrigation systems rely on high-pressure impact sprinklers that release a large amount of water at high pressure to water fields. Thus, these systems require pumps that push large amounts of water through pipes at a very high velocity. But low-pressure systems reduce the pumping demands significantly since pumps extract less water to create the pressure necessary to supply the sprinklers. Moreover, these systems also save water by using larger droplets that are more resistant to wind and evaporation. In contrast, high-pressure rely on small fine droplets, which can spread and be carried away by wind or evaporate in dry atmospheric conditions. Consequently, these systems have to run longer every day in order to achieve the same level of irrigation as the low-pressure systems. Moreover, the short intervals of “light rain” by the low-pressure system are also not disruptive to the soil and help to maintain its infiltration capabilities.

 

 

Low pressure irrigation system
©https://www.tlirr.com/wp-content/uploads/sprinkler.jpg

 

How do we tackle not only water waste but water pollution caused by industries and farming? An effective way to diminish the effect of runoff water is the creation of a living cover around ditches, rivers, streams and lakes. This living barrier holds water on the landscape, filters contaminants like nitrate, and allows water to reach aquifers while simultaneously reducing runoff. Living cover can consist off perennial crops, cover crops, prairie and grasses, wetlands as well as forests. The plants´ root systems hold the soil in place, build organic matter and keep the water clean. In 2015, Minnesota enacted a buffer law which designated about 110,000 acres of land to living cover along its rivers, streams and ditches. From now on, the law requires perennial vegetation of up to 50 feet along public waters and 16.5 feet along public ditches.

All in all these ideas area just small steps. But with the help of such efforts to reduce water consumption and enhance the quality of water, people can protect the world´s most precious resource.

 


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
 #GoingGreen

Lessons not Learned

by Janina Schmidt -

There is a wonderful spot west of the city of Frankfurt in Germany. It’s in an area well known for its excellent white wine, its charming hilly landscape, and its welcoming people. It’s called The Rheingau.

Photo caption: The city of Rüdesheim is located by the river Rhine (photo credit: JeLuF on Wikimedia)

Once you make your way up a hill from Rüdesheim, maybe comfortably using the cable car, a fantastic view over the river Rhine opens up. From there, the Niederwald landscape park, you can see for miles to the West, overlooking the tranquil Rhine valley and even have the illusion that you actually see France.

"Germania", Markus Ziener

“Germania” | photo credit: Markus Ziener

When I was there not long ago my daughter asked me about the statue named Germania that is hovering over the platform where people are gathering for the view. The 34-foot figure is called Germania. In her right hand the lady holds the emperor’s recovered crown; in her other she displays the Imperial Sword. I explained that the monument’s message was not a peaceful one. Only a few years before the inauguration of the statue in 1883, Prussia had just fought another war with France, uniting the German principals for the first time into a single nation state. The Germania was nothing else but a warning to the French: Stay where you are, don’t even think about coming here. This is ours.

My daughter was bewildered. War with France? Of all countries? War with our best neighbor, friend, and closest ally in the European Union? I had to smile – and thought that maybe those historians are wrong who believe that nations always fall into the same trap. After so many bloody wars between Germany and France, both countries finally did the right thing after the carnage of the Second World War. They learned from history – thanks to the prevailing of reason and thanks to Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer. The French President and the German Chancellor turned from arch enemies into friends. This seems to have worked so well that even a 17-year old today could not believe that a little more than 70 years ago things were just the opposite.

Nations time and again reach certain milestones, and their leaders have to make far-reaching decisions. Luckily, they are not always about war and peace. Mostly making choices whether to turn left or right at a historic junction are much more profane – or at least they look profane. Nonetheless they often have a lasting impact, and it takes some wisdom to do the right thing.

»He  (Donald Trump) follows the pattern après moi, le déluge’In other words: I don’t care what happens once I am gone.«

Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord is such an example. The U.S. under its President Donald J. Trump has decided to make a turn, to exit the road the nation was on. Trump probably truly thinks that this decision is good for business, for employment, for his job approval, for his re-election. He thinks of the short-term benefits this move may produce – for him, his administration, and his electoral base. He does not bother about what one or two generations ahead a 17-year old may think of it. He follows the pattern après moi, le déluge’. In other words: I don’t care what happens once I am gone.

Trump, of course, is not the only politician to act that selfishly. Our democratic systems with elections every four or five years makes it difficult for political leaders to withstand the temptations of reaping the low hanging fruits. Although in this case, the decision is particularly hard to comprehend. Committing to stop global warming is a win-win situation – even if you think that climate change is a hoax. Why? If climate change were man-made, reducing CO2 emissions obviously is the right thing. And if global warming, in fact, is the fate of the earth no matter what, then we all might find out too late to reverse course.

Two of my favorite books are Why Nations Fail and Collapse, written by Daron Acemoglu/James A. Robinson and Jared Diamond respectively. The authors collected examples of historical crossroads at which leaders took the wrong turn eventually brought about catastrophes even though they knew better. One case study is the demise of the Easter Islands in the South Pacific. According to Diamond, the tree-covered island was destroyed by Polynesian colonists. They cut down the trees to worship their religious cult by putting up massive statues. As deforestation worsened, the islanders tried to appease their gods by erecting even more statues. In the end, the vicious cycle of human stupidity led to catastrophe.

Jared Diamond finally writes: “I have often asked myself, ‘What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?” Like modern loggers, did he shout “Jobs, not trees!”? Or: “Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we’ll find a substitute for wood”?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?


Markus Ziener //  02 July 2017 //

Markus Ziener is an author and professor of journalism at the University for Media, Communications and Economics (HMKW) in Berlin. Prior to that he was the head of the op-ed section of Handelsblatt, Germany’s leading business daily. From 2006 to 2012, he served as head of the Washington bureau of Handelsblatt.

We'd like to give a shout-out to our colleagues at the American Studies Blog who featured this story on June 21, 2017. We repost Markus Ziener's text with permission by the author and blog editors.

#GoingGreen

Environment and Education: “Going Green” expert Shari Wilson on environmental education

by Janina Schmidt -

Shari WilsonEducation for sustainable development one of the core goals of Going Green, but what does this mean? And what factors are involved in the process? During the 2014 “Going Green” project, our expert Shari Wilson gave us an overview of what environmental education can be.Shari is an ecologist and environmental educator as well as owner and principal of Project Central, LLC, a consulting firm that works with schools, neighborhood organizations, government agencies, and others on projects related to education, the environment, and healthy communities. Here's our interview with her:

  

  

Apart from the interview at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Going Green participants had further questions for Shari Wilson: 

  

What do you think is one of the best ways to start sustainability projects at the local level? 

Shari Wilson:

In my experience, the best way to begin is to start small and involve as many people as possible. Persistence is also important. For example, if you see that a park has a lot of litter in it, a campaign to get people to throw away their trash instead of leaving it on the ground might be a good idea. I worked with a school in Armenia on this sort of project. The students did a one-day event at the park where they handed out fliers about littering. Many people said they agreed with the students, that littering was not a good thing to do. The students were disappointed, however, when they found many of their fliers on the ground, and no real improvement in littering in the weeks after their event. After they talked with their city government and asked for more trash and recycling containers, and signs reminding people not to litter, they noticed an improvement. The students also returned to the park frequently and talked to people about littering. When people saw that the students cared about the park enough to keep coming back, their attitudes began to change.

With sustainability projects, we are essentially asking people to change their behavior, often for reasons that are not easily seen and for results that may be abstract. All of the trash on the ground goes somewhere, right? Either someone picks it up or somehow it goes away. What difference does it make whether my trash goes into the water system or is properly recycled or taken to a landfill? Those are questions you have to keep trying to answer, while making it easy for people to change their behavior by locating plenty of trash cans and recycling container nearby, in our littering example."

  

How did your 14 years of NGO experience change your ideas about community or grassroots initiatives? Did your experience re-shape the way you view grassroots organizing?

Again, Shari Wilson: 

"Probably the biggest lesson I learned was that partnerships make the difference between successful projects and unsuccessful ones. Developing relationships and listening to what others think takes time and patience. Finding agreement on how to approach a problem is not always easy, but it is important to get as many people and organizations involved as possible, even those that are not in agreement with how you think a project should proceed.

One example I recall is when I was leading an effort to develop a park in my community. The land was owned by the city, but there were many competing views regarding how the property should be used. I had heard a lot of rumors about how difficult the park opponents were to work with, but they were keeping the project from moving forward so I had to meet with them. I learned that some of them had concerns about security and others wanted the area used for a boat ramp so they could fish on the river. Once they were invited to join the group, we were able to work out their issues and accommodate everyone. To alleviate the security concerns, park rules do not allow camping overnight. And we were able to find room for a boat ramp that now receives a tremendous amount of use."

   

What is one of the best examples you have seen of sustainability projects in the schools?

Shari Wilson's answer to this:

"Schools that have the most successful projects are those where sustainability is part of the school culture, meaning that following sustainable practices is part of the normal way the school always works. I have often seen successful recycling or gardening projects begin at schools, only to disappear when an enthusiastic teacher or parent leaves or loses interest.


Starside Elementary School in De Soto, Kansas is a great example of a school that started small, with a recycling program, and has now incorporated sustainability into its character education program. Starside has a school culture that promotes consideration of the environment and provides students with opportunities to learn how to take care of plants, animals, and the earth. Besides recycling, Starside now has lunchroom waste recycling, compostable lunch trays, landscape composting, worm composting, a small solar turbine, gardens (both vegetable and wildlife habitat), and school policies stating that these programs will continue and are part of the school’s curriculum. The policies ensure that the programs will outlive the administrators and teachers that began them."

http://usd232.org/education/school/school.php?sectiondetailid=814&

   

You mentioned in your interview with 'Going Green' that you encourage students to 'dig deeper' and be more skeptical. Where and how does that begin?

Shari Wilson:

“Anyone who has been around young children knows they are full of questions and curiosity about the world around them. Somehow that ability to question and desire to learn more disappears once they progress in school. The United States is returning to a more inquiry-based method of teaching through the implementation of new education standards. This means students will direct more of their learning, and teachers will serve more as facilitators than lecturers and experts. This is a big change for most teachers and all students, but it will provide in-depth learning that is more relevant for the students. The way most teachers begin the process is to ask an “essential question” that the students will answer. The answer will require research by the students, and often they will come up with different answers to the same question.”

Our former blogger, Alex Magaard, asked:

My younger sister is interested in potentially starting a community garden in our hometown of Wayzata, Minnesota. Do you have any advice for her with where/how to implement her project?

Shari Wilson responded:

“That’s wonderful news! Gardens are a great way to get different community members together, and to teach younger people how to grow their own vegetables. The skills you learn through gardening are like those you learn to ride a bike: once you’ve done it, you always remember how, no matter how much time passes between experiences. Gardening, like bike riding, is empowering; you can grow a vegetable plant anywhere, as long as you have a pot and some sun.

I see from the City of Wayzata’s website that they already have a Gardens Initiative, where volunteers help take care of the city’s gardens. Why not contact the people in charge of that project, and ask if they would help start a community vegetable garden? The City may even have some land that it would be willing to contribute for the garden. I also noticed on the website that Wayzata has curbside leaf pick-up, so there is probably a composting site somewhere.

http://www.wayzata.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={77D44144-7C45-4FA1-9E5C-78ED6C891387}

Another great group to get involved with gardening is the Master Gardeners organization. These are volunteers who have taken a considerable amount of training and offer help and advice to people with gardening questions. Often they are older people who have a lot of experience gardening and love to help others, especially kids, learn to garden. Why not see if there is a Master Gardeners program or something similar in Wayzata?

A local school may also be interested in starting a gardening program. In my experience, school gardens almost always turn into community gardens because people in the community want to help. A wonderful book on how to start a school garden is “How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers” by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle. It has all kinds of examples and guides for starting a garden. Even if you don’t involve a school, this book would probably be helpful to anyone starting a community garden. Another good resource is the Kansas Garden Gate website, http://www.kansasgreenschools.org/green-schools-garden-gate.

Good luck—let me know how it goes!

   

We are very grateful to Shari Wilson for her willingness to participate as an expert in the "Going Green" project and her detailed answers and explanations to our students' questions!


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 supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.

#GoingGreen #Experts

Pursuing a “green” agenda – Interview with the former State Senator of Kansas Chris Steineger

by Janina Schmidt -

Chris SteinegerWhat is the role of local and state governments in combating climate change in the U.S.? And what does a “green” agenda of a State Senator look like? Tricky questions, but we were able to reach out to Chris Steineger, a former State Senator in Kansas, to give us some first-hand impressions on these issues. His involvement with the green movement in the U.S. goes all the way back to his university days when he first discovered photovoltaic cells and solar energy and also recycling. While serving the 6th Senate District as State Senator in Wyandotte County, Kansas, for 13 years, Chris Steineger pursued a “green” agenda – not an easy feat in a conservative state. Chris’s public policy focuses included apart from early childhood education, health care, efficient local government especially sustainable energy resources. In 2013, when Chris was teaching students at Humboldt Universität in Berlin, Germany, about the American government and contemporary politics, we got the change to interview him and get to know more about his personal insights in environmental politics in the U.S. Watch the whole interview here: 

 

   

During the 2014 "Going Green" project, students took the chance and addressed further questions to our expert Chris Steineger, which he kindly answered in great detail. 

 

You recently taught at Humboldt Uni in Berlin. Was there anything you saw or experienced in Germany concerning environmentalism that you would like to take back to the U.S.?

On the other hand, were you missing anything from the U.S.? Is there something you would like to see being introduced in Germany? 

Here is Chris Steineger's take on this:

Germans are more committed at the individual level to a more sustainable Earth. Germans, Scandinavians, and a few others truly "walk the talk." As individuals, they live a life with a smaller environmental "footprint". Smaller homes, cars, food portions, less energy consumption. Germans also practice trash separation & recycling very thoroughly. My own country has millions of very committed environmentalists as well, but the vast majority of Americans really don't practice living sustainably; reducing material possessions; eating less, driving smaller fuel efficient cars; living in smaller homes, etc. Most Americans "talk the talk" but don't live it.

I would like for Americans to adopt the German people's commitment at the individual level to living with less stuff."

  

What does sustainability mean to you? 

Again, Chris Steineger: 

"I use a very broad and liberal definition for sustainability which includes economics, not just environment. Similarly, the phrase; “living within ones means” includes environment, not just economics. For me, they are one and the same. Certainly the human race as a whole is consuming the Earth’s resources faster than they can be naturally replenished. Air, water, organics, then soil are the most important. The human population is growing to 8 billion soon, yet the amount of air, water, and good soil remains the same. You can gain early insight about what will someday come by looking at today’s events in parts of North Africa. Water and food shortages. The trees have all been cut. Even the jungle animals being hunted to extinction. Some parts of the Earth which are quite dry, are already over-populated and so the people there must emigrate. Some make it across the Mediterranean or come through the east to Europe.

Sustainability includes economics. You can “borrow & spend” only so much money. This is true of an individual; a country; and a generation. The Economic bust of 2007-9 is a direct result of too much borrowing in the previous decade. The older generation gets to enjoy the spending and consumption. The future generations must pay off the debt!"

   

The plastic bag ban in L.A. and other Californian towns in one of the case studies in Going Green. Is there something comparable in Kansas? Any other interesting or curious examples of local policies for green development? 

Chris Steineger's answer to this:

"Different regions of the US are better and faster at different things. For environmental issues, the leaders are often found in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. The people that live in areas with much natural beauty always want to keep it that way. Kansas and the Midwest States generally lag behind in environmental commitment, and the southern States typically are the most behind on environmental issues. Kansas does very well with wind energy production. We are blessed with high, average wind speeds, which is what's needed to power any wind farm. Also, the Land Institute in Salina, KS has been doing advanced pioneering development for 40 years of "perennial" wheat which would never need to be replanted, fertilized, or artificially watered. They have now a few test fields of this wheat. WHEN it proves commercially viable, it will make wheat production 50% more economical!"

   

Complete the following sentence: Eco-tourists in the state of Kansas definitely should… 

Chris Steineger:

“…enjoy great beef and pork barbeque while they admire the scenic Flint Hills, are inspired by the Land Institute, and enjoy canoeing on the Kansas River.”

  

Thank you, State Senator Chris Steineger for engaging in our project and sharing your experience with us!


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 supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.

#GoingGreen #Experts

Christianna Stavroudis on Political Cartoons - Interview Part II

by Janina Schmidt -

David GoldfieldA couple of days ago we posted a Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis discussing sustainability. This week in part 2, we dive deeper into how environmentalism is portrayed in political cartoons. Her special expertise and research on that topic in Germany and the U.S. makes Christianna Stavroudis a distinguished interview partner on the issue. Read more about her takes on that in the following.

  

"What do you think are some of the biggest differences between political cartoons in Germany and the United States?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

German and American cartoons actually have more in common than not: they generally follow a one-panel format (that means the image is not cut up into several panels, like in a comic strip), are often featured on the opinion pages (“Meinungsseiten”), and employ similar metaphorical tools and symbols to communicate their messages. There are a few noteworthy differences, however:

 

1. German cartoons are less focused on the “nation” (both the physical country and the people who inhabit it) than American cartoons are. Just think of how often you see Uncle Sam in cartoons vs. the Deutscher Michel in German cartoons. In the cartoon below, the US stands as a microcosm for the world. I’ve yet to see a German-centric cartoon when it comes to the environment:

 

 

2. American cartoons exploit far more pop cultural references than German cartoons do. The caption to this cartoon below refers to a popular children’s TV science show from the 1990’s, Bill Nye: The Science Guy:

 

 

3. In my experience, German cartoons depict more individual politicians than American cartoons do. This is particularly apparent in environmental cartoons as Germany has a minister for the environment who plays a public role in the debate whereas the US secretary of energy does not make many televised appearances and is not a household name:

 

 

4. German cartoons on the environment are often tongue-in-cheek. Germany has a relatively good reputation worldwide for its environmental policy, so it can “afford” to be tongue-in-cheek about it. The environmental debate in the States is a much heated one and therefore the tone is much more serious in the cartoons. 

 

    

"How, do you believe, environmental political cartoons differ from other types of political cartoons -- is there a significant difference?"

Christianna Stavroudis: 

"Political cartoons that cover specific topics will often have conventions, references, metaphors and symbols that recur (e.g. sports are often referenced/visualized in election cartoons as the candidates are considered to be participating in a kind of “race”). So in this respect, environmental cartoons are just a thematic subset of political cartoons in general. The issue of the environment, however, is a perennial one, meaning that it shows up year after year. Elements of and foci in the debate will change, but the main problem of “saving our environment” remains. This makes the subset of environmental cartoons unique, as I can’t think of another issue that has had the same longevity and scale. This of course presents a challenge to cartoonists as well in terms of presenting a new take or perspective on this much-covered issue."

   

"What is personally one of your favorite political cartoons and why?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

"I am writing my dissertation on idioms, so I like cartoons that successfully visually embed idioms into the image. I really like how this Austrian cartoonist plays with the expression “alles nur heiße Luft”:

 

    

"What are some of the best ways that you recommend for a student to begin environmental activism at the community or aggregate level?"

Christianna Stavroudis responded:

"I think the best way to enact any kind of change is to start with very small, doable goals. Perhaps this can begin at school by putting up posters to encourage fellow students to put their plastics in recycling bins for plastics instead of throwing them into general bins (such posters would be a great showcase for cartoons, by the way!). Or, if the school doesn’t have recycling for plastics, putting pressure on the school board to place these throughout the school. If your favorite Imbiss serves everything on and in Styrofoam, you might talk to the owner about switching to paper. Good environmental practice also relies on the individual taking an audit of his/her habits and seeking to be more respectful with his/her resources every day. And it certainly never hurts to get in touch with local representatives to express to them just how important environmental issues are for you and your community. Remember: you put these guys in power!"

   

Thanks you, Christianna, for sharing your expertise with us and the Going Green community!


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.
#GoingGreen #Experts

Green Ink: Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis on cartoons and the environment

by Janina Schmidt -

Christianna Stavroudis

Sustainability can mean different things to different people. One interesting medium that shapes our views and attitudes towards sustainability are political cartoons. To learn more about this, we reached out to Christianna Stavroudis, who teaches linguistics at the University of Bonn. She has supported Going Green since its start in 2014 and her article on this topic appeared in the American Studies Journal. (Also, check out part 1 and part 2 of our interview with her during the U.S. Embassy School Election Project.) Christianna was so kind as to answer some of our students' questions during the 2014 Going Green project. 

 

Our participant Marc Bernhard submitted the following three questions:

"Is a completely sustainable world possible?"

Christianna Stavroudis:

"I believe that a more sustainable world is possible, but not a completely sustainable one. The use of resources and the increase in standard of living implies an unavoidable unsustainability. Through unsustainable development (past and present) there is damage and abuse that we have inflicted on the environment that is irreversible. 
What I think is necessary is for citizens (not just politicians at big conferences) to take this problem seriously and discuss solutions together that will enhance quality of life for them and for their future generations. Take the example of the travel industry. With cheap flights and decreasing wages in this sector, more people have 
been able to travel than ever before. This is a good thing, on the one hand, because it opens travel up to more people. "Seeing the world" is not just a middle class luxury anymore. However, the very natural 
wonders and cultures that we leave our homes to see are at risk through our reckless environmental practices, both on a small and large scale. We need to remember that we are the ones who both put 
politicians into office through our votes and make business run though our purchasing power. Only through putting pressure on both of these sectors can we affect change."

  

"How does a completely sustainable world look to you?"

Christianna Stavroudis: 

“A sustainable world for me would be one that would exploit globalization for the purposes of making the world more sustainable on a micro level. This would include the ability for citizens to connect with one another (both nationally and internationally) to exchange knowledge and resources. Internet infrastructures such as forums and skyping can play a big role in this. One of the greatest problems I see with our societies is that they are divided by class. The rich and the poor are growing further and further apart but sustainability is a great equalizer. If we are true to our democratic ideals, we should be able to agree that everyone has the right to a healthy environ. So I would hope that global politics would make the following a priority: instituting policies that lend themselves to more egalitarian socio-economic structures as well as ones that prioritize access to 

literacy, education, mobility, and connectivity.”

  

How is it that the American government is so slow in acting towards sustainability?

Christianna Stavroudis:

"As I am no expert on public policy, I can only answer this question as an American citizen. I believe the main problem here is a lack of political will. The US has a binary political system: you can basically pick either the Republicans or the Democrats. (On the municipal and, sometimes, state level there are more parties (such as 
the libertarians or greens), but on the federal level it is basically either/or. I admire the diversity of parties that you have in the German Bundestag.) So it's no surprise that these two parties are 
often at loggerheads with each other concerning a multitude of issues, one of the most exemplary being that of environmental policy. This is particularly problematic in these times of recession and the global economic crisis as the discussion of sustainability subsequently takes a back seat to the government creating jobs (or at least the discussion thereof). 
There are two other points that might contribute to a less environmentally-aware populace (we would of course need numbers on this, but my subjective experience of living in both the US and Germany is that being "environmentally friendly" plays a bigger role in my daily life in Germany than it did in the States): 
1) Americans are individualistic. "Freedom" for some people means that no one is going to tell them what to do. This can lead unfortunately to people being reckless with their resources. There are often no immediate consequences to unsustainable practices: there is neither punishment nor does one see the immediate effects of one's behavior. This is a big problem for making policies that encourage people on the micro and macro levels to practice sustainability. I recycle and I want others to, too, but do I really want to live in a society in which we're all checking each other's trash and pointing fingers? That would creep me out. 
2) The States is geographically huge, is rich in natural resources, and has only two neighbors. This contributes to its view of being "exceptional," viewing itself as singular, and, subsequently, sometimes not cooperating with global protocol. The States is still the strongest economy in the world and much of the 
world's economic success depends on that of the States. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) challenges for the 21st century will be making sustainability and economic development/success compatible. (Think of rising middle classes in developing countries like India, China, and Brazil.)"

   

Could you give me some tips for the cartoon?

Svetlana Ginter from Alsdorf (near Aachen) wanted to know: "I am working on a project about sustainability and my topic is traffic. Now I have to draft a cartoon which has to draw attention on the emissions on the way to school. My question to you is: Could you give me some tips for the cartoon and how can I represent the emission problem well?" 

Christianna Stavroudis responded:

"Traffic cartoon: It is a little bit difficult for me to help you draft this cartoon as I don't understand what the concrete issue is that you'd like to draw attention to. But all cartoonists first make a point of making their issue very clear visually. Your reader must be able to within seconds recognize what issue about emissions you're referring to (is it traffic jams, lack of bicycle paths?). The humor component then comes in when you insert something like a pun, play on words, witty/ironic remark, or idiom into the image. Perhaps school 
children are sitting on a school bus and commenting about the bottlenecked traffic scene they see outside the windows. Perhaps a child is being seen off to school by his/her parent and the child asks the parent a question that the parent can't answer about the environmental issue you wish to critique. Or perhaps you present the reader with a dramatic scene with a compelling caption. Spend some time brainstorming these "ingredients" and see how you can synthesize them together to create an effective one-panel image. Have a look at other cartoons on the web to get inspiration. Break them down into their component parts to see what makes them "work" (or what doesn't). 
  
UN climate summit cartoon: this is my favorite, top of the page

(Photo credit: Joel Pett / USA Today, 12/07/2009. All rights reserved.)

  

Thanks again to Christianna Stavroudis for the time to answer all our students' questions. We appreciate your willingness to participate as an expert in the "Going Green" project!


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.

Friday Mail: David Goldfield answered important questions

by Janina Schmidt -

David Goldfield

Discussing environmentalism can be a tricky thing to do, especially in an intercultural project like Going Green. Over the last years, we've had several experts help us understand some of the difficult questions surrounding the field of sustainable development. Experts like David Goldfield, who was invited to Germany by the U.S. Embassy to give lectures and teach workshops on sustainable development in the U.S. He is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Some of our participants from previous Going Green cycles reached out to Professor Goldfield with their questions, inquiring about the Republican/Democrat divide regarding climate change, the rise of pollution in the past, and the significance of bike cities:

 

Is there still a considerable difference in attitude toward climate change between Democrats and Republicans?

Mr. Ulrich Kempkens and his students at Bettina-von-Arnim-Schule in Berlin asked:

“Is there still a considerable difference in attitude toward climate change between Democrats and Republicans?”

Here is Dr. Goldfield’s take on this:

“Hi, Uli. Good to hear from you. The answer is yes and no (helpful, right?). Actually, a number of Republican senators and congressmen believe climate change, particularly human-induced climate change, is a scientific fact and not one theory out of many theories. Some evangelical Protestant ministers also believe in climate change, and they are traditional supporters of the Republican Party. The problem is that the Republican base, particularly the very active Tea Party, and major donors such as the Koch Brothers, believe, at best, that the jury is still out on climate change, and that scientific evidence of human-induced climate change is dubious at best. The practical political result of these views is that Republicans running for office can rarely divulge their true views on climate change (a great example of this was the unanimous denial of the Republican candidates for president during their 2012 debates). Also, this makes legislation addressing climate change very difficult to achieve at the federal level, which is why many of the current innovations occur at the state level. It is another example of the growing divide between the Democratic and Republican Parties in the U.S.

  

Do you think it's possible that the world could ever change in a positive way?

We received further questions from a class of 10th graders at the Goethe Gymnasium in Frankfurt. They were wondering about these aspects:

1. “Do you think it's possible that the world could ever change in a positive way?”

2. “How can people, for instance in Germany or Australia etc. (in countries where people consume a lot) do something for our ecological footprint without cutting down their spending?”

Again, David Goldfield: 

“Dear Victor, Moritz, and Valeriia,

Thanks for your questions. I am basically an optimist, so I think we can solve these environmental problems, hopefully, before it’s too late. My optimism is based on what has happened here in the U.S. over the past 50 years. In many cities, including mine (Charlotte, North Carolina), the air is cleaner, the rivers and streams are more supportive of life, and there has been growth in the use of renewable energy. But, your question asks about the “world,” not about developed economies such as Germany and the U.S. The efforts to create a world-wide pact or agreement on the environment have been disappointing. Developing nations complain that the developed nations attained their status by polluting the environment, and now they want to impose restraints on poorer nations. We need to do a better job demonstrating to poorer nations that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive

Which brings me to your second question. We have a saying in the U.S.: “You can pay now, or pay a lot more later.” As climate change begins, increasingly, to have a monetary impact on the U.S. (and on other countries as well), particularly with respect to disappearing shorelines, increased flooding, and serious weather events, as time goes buy the expense for addressing these issues will increase dramatically. But, politicians rarely think in the long-term, even, say, next month, particularly at the national level in the U.S. Fortunately, many of our states have been pro-active. They have demonstrated that alternative energy sources, pollution control, and recycling will result in monetary savings for both consumers and governments. The costs of alternative energy such as wind power and solar power are continuing to come down and are increasingly competitive with conventional energy sources.”

  

How do you evaluate the development of pollution (caused by humans) in the past 50 years or so?

Natalie from Leipzig, Germany raised the following issues:

“Based your background in history, how do you evaluate the development of pollution (caused by humans) in the past 50 years or so? Is there any chance that we can lower the negative impact effectively?”

David Goldfields answer to this:

“Hi, Natalie. I have wonderful memories of Leipzig, particularly its heritage as a center for great classical music. It proves that humans can create things of great beauty. Which brings me to your question. Here in the U.S., we have made significant strides in attacking air and water pollution over the past 50 years. A major reason for this is that many more people in the U.S. are aware of pollution and the problems caused by pollution. Let me give you a specific example. In 1952, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire because of all the chemical pollutants in the water. The event scarcely made the news. In 1969, the river caught fire again and there was national outrage and concern. What happened in the meantime was that we were made aware of polluting industries and the health and environmental havoc they were visiting upon humans and the natural environment. Soon after, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Act and subsequently established the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result of federal and state policies over the past 50 years, our water and air are cleaner and we are developing (slowly, to be sure) alternative energy sources.

We still have a long way to go. The major problem is not technology; it’s the political will. The momentum has slowed in the U.S. over the past 15 years. Hopefully, we will not have to wait for another disaster to move federal policy forward.”

  

How is it that cities like Portland encourage people to leave their cars at home and ride their bikes instead – and thereby even create revenues of many million dollars?

A final question came from Jacques, BIP Kreativitätsgymnasium Leipzig. He wanted to know:

“While we worked on the topic City/Transport (Portland, Oregon - A sustainable city?), a question came into our mind. People pay taxes on cars and gas, which can create profits for communities. But how is it that cities like Portland encourage people to leave their cars at home and ride their bikes instead – and thereby even create revenues of many million dollars? In my opinion this is impossible, because the car holder should have to pay taxes for the car and insurance. So, wouldn’t the city lose money if there were no people paying these taxes?”

Here is David Goldfield's response:

“Good question, Jacques. If everyone rode bikes in Portland, the city would benefit tremendously. First, most of those taxes are state and federal taxes, so the city of Portland benefits little from those revenues except in the maintenance and building of roads, which only encourages more automobiles. Second, the savings in road maintenance, parking spaces, and the health benefits derived from cleaner air would more than make up for any lost revenues as a result of the diminished presence of the automobile. This is why cities across the U.S., including my own (Charlotte, NC) are pushing to extend public transportation – we are extending our light rail (trolley) system here in Charlotte and extending our network of bike paths. We believe that these policies are all part of making cities more “livable,” and, therefore, attracting bright, energetic, and well-educated young people to make our cities interesting and economically vital.”

 

Once again we would like to thank the students for sending in these interesting questions and also David Goldfield for sharing his expertise with us. Remember, it is you who make Going Green a bi-national project, so keep the good work going!

  


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 supports the educational management of the Teach About US initiative.
#Experts #GoingGreen 

Green Roofs in Minneapolis

by Tobias Luthe -
Green roofs are not only an aesthetic benefit for the city of Minneapolis but they help to reduce the city’s ecological footprint.

“Green isn´t just a concept in Minneapolis; it´s a lifestyle.”[1] This slogan by the city of Minneapolis (MN) summarizes the spirit of many people here perfectly. In general, Minneapolis always aims at being a forerunner when it comes to the issues of environmental-friendliness and sustainability. But the development is not only limited to significant investments in a bike friendly infrastructure or the provision of an environmentally-friendly public transportation network. Over the last couple of years Minneapolis has also introduced a number of green initiatives that are meant to improve the lives of the city´s residents. Many different local actors take part in these community activities making the city even greener. One such example is  the “Green Roofs” initiative of the city of Minneapolis in cooperation with other local actors.

 

Structure of a Green Roof
©.https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/2f/f5/c7/2ff5c70a96a933ff4ebfe7d568e1f3b9.jpg

 

The “Green Roofs” initiative is exactly what it sounds like: replacing the traditional roof with living plants. Thereby, buildings become more environmentally-friendly by adopting many advantages of the natural landscape like plants’ ability to absorb large quantities of stormwater. In contrast to green roofs, normal roofs often have the disadvantage of accumulating heat and pollution. On rainy days, this can have severe effects on the water quality of rivers and lakes in Minneapolis. As rain pours down on ordinary roofs, the water washes out dust and pollution and transports it into rivers and lakes. But green roofs feature the ability to hold on much more rain water through the vegetation as well as the growing media and hence play an important part in the efforts to reduce water pollution. This also reduces the needs and costs for any additional expensive stormwater treatment infrastructure in the Twin Cities. The durability of green roofs is another important advantage. The waterproof membrane is below a green layer, which protects the roof from damaging outside factors such as heat, UV radiation or thermal swings. As a result, green roofs can last three times longer than the majority of normal roofs. But green roofs also serve as natural habitats for many different flowers and animals in cities. With the help of these roofs many birds as well as beneficial insects find better living conditions in the urban jungle, which allows their populations to prosper. In general, the overall living conditions for any animal and human being further improves since flowers ensure a better air quality through photosynthesis, which transforms carbon dioxides into fresh oxygen. Finally, those green roofs have positive aesthetic side-effect by beautifying Minneapolis neighborhoods as well.

 

Rooftop of the Target Center with the skyline of Minneapolis in the background

© http://www.greenroofs.com/projects/target_center/target_center10.gif

 

Different case studies around Minneapolis have demonstrated the positive effects of green roofs. Minneapolis’ basketball and event arena, the Target Center, is a stunning example of the green roof initiative. The Target Center has 2.5 acres (113,000 square feet) of greens on its roof and was the first sports arena in North America to install such a roof surface in 2009. Since its construction, the  roof has created a number of unique advantages for the city’s climate. The green roof can absorb 0.9 inches of rainfall per foot without any runoff of polluted water. Thereby, 1,000,000 gallons of stormwater are prevented from flowing into the Mississippi River each year. Furthermore, the roof’s waterproofing membrane is expected to last for 40 years. Another advantage of the Target Center´s green roof is its ability to absorb heat in the summer and hence reduce energy costs because it alleviates the consequences of the ‘urban heat island’ effect in downtown Minneapolis. This heat island effect leads to higher temperatures in cities and is caused by dark surfaces like roads or conventional buildings, which are highly concentrated in urban environments and absorb more solar radiation than natural landscapes. But with the help of green roofs cities cannot only become greener in their appearance but also in their way of tackling many of the man-made ecological problems.      


[1] http://www.minneapolis.org/things-to-do/green-minneapolis/

Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#GoingGreen

American Universities Turning – "Green"!

by Edgar Barrios -

Across many university campuses in the United States students have begun to rely less on the government for action on climate change. Instead, they seek to work on a smaller scale to influence what they can control, their own neighborhoods and campuses, to achieve plausible and realistic change. (For example, in 2015 we reported about student activism at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where the ‘Georgetown Environmental Leaders’ gives student activists a more powerful voice and where university students petitioned their university administration to divest from fossil fuels.)

Photo caption: Exciting activities for sustainable development are emerging on college campuses across the U.S. One such example is Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where our blogger Edgar Barrios lives and studies. The photo shows a green space near Landis and Gilchrist residence halls, on the FSU main campus. These oak trees were planted by students in 1932. (Photo credit: Sirberus/Wikimedia)

In Florida we experience, first hand, the effects of climate change. With record breaking levels of heat and rising tides, students statewide have directed their efforts to making their universities sustainable. At Florida State University, my own university, and within our Student Government Association we have a bureau (a subsection of the government) called “The Office of Student Sustainability”. The office works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. Resulting sustainable projects on campus have overall been successful and of much utility. Let me give you a few examples.

At Florida State University, the Office of Student Sustainability works to make the campus more sustainable and encourage students to make sustainable decisions. The Seminole Organic Garden and the Re-Cycle Bike Program are two such examples of sustainable student action. (Photo credit: Florida State University, Office of Student Sustainability)

The “Seminole Organic Garden” project allows students to adopt garden beds and grow what they please (usually fruits and vegetables). Gardening tools as well as seeds for an initial bed are provided by the Office of Student Sustainability. Another popular project is the “Re-Cycle bike program”, where bikes are rented out to students for either a semester or a year for a fairly low price. The bikes even come with a helmet, lock and chain. Both programs encourage students to change their everyday routine and lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

In working with the student government and the state government, the Office of Student Sustainability has secured a $50,000 “Green Fund” for sustainable student lead projects.

The Office of Student Sustainability engages Florida State University students in sustainable campus and community development. (Photo credit: Edgar Barrios)

Initiatives like these have been popping up all over the state. For example, Florida Gulf Coast University has installed 2-megawatt solar panels in a 16-acre field with the intention of making the university reliable on clean energy. The University of Florida created a compost collecting pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste for their compost from the university’s two dining halls. At Florida Atlantic University they have installed 5-minutes timers within the showers to urge to conservation of water.

The Office of Student Sustainability here at FSU also works with the Office of Governmental Affairs (another Student Government Association bureau) to lobbying the state government on further climate change and sustainability legislation. With the state capital within less than two miles from the university, they have been successful in that endeavor. Other than creating sustainable organizations in the United States, especially in Florida, universities are looking for long term solutions to the problem of climate change. They have since created courses and degree majors to qualify students for an increasing job market in sustainability. At Florida State students can pursue a degree in Environmental Sciences and at the University of Florida students can major in Sustainability studies. This is not happening just in the State of Florida, but rather all across the U.S. Universities such as Yale and U.C. Berkley are taking inventories of how much carbon they emit.

It seems that this generation of students has taken action into their own hands, in terms of climate change. They are initiating change in the realms they can control.  It was only last week that the Florida State University Student Senate (which I am apart of) passed a resolution calling upon the university and the state government to commit to further action in combating climate change and making the university more reliable on renewable resources.


Edgar Barrios Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics, as well as other things.
#Election2016

 

Strong Independent Cities

by Emily Young -

How would you feel if you were riding a bus powered by the leftover scraps you threw away from dinner last night? If the heating in your house was produced within the house itself? If you didn’t have to pay an electric bill because your city is creating your electricity? Maybe you feel like none of that would be possible? Think again because renewable initiatives such as these are taking place in cities across Europe.

»How would you feel if you were riding a bus powered by the leftover scraps you threw away from dinner last night?«

Växjö, Sweden (the potato peel city, as I like to call it) has been a frontrunner in sustaining itself since the 1990s. Motivated by the pollution in their lakes caused by fossil fuel emitting industrial complexes, local Swedish government officials decided it was time to make a change.  They chose to abandon fossil fuels and half their carbon emissions. Today carbon emissions are historically low at 2.7 tons per person (nothing compared to the 19.78 tons emitted by Americans, or the 6.36 Swedish national average!).

Global Carbon Footprint  

Total carbon emissions by nation and region. The image of a footprint is composed of circles sized relative to the carbon emissions of each nation and color coded according to region. (Photo credit: Stanford Kay)

Växjö governs its own energy policy and resources independently. They manage their own biomass plants, produce electricity heating and cooling. The source of their heating? Leftovers from the forest industry such as twigs, leaves, and branches.  The plant supplies energy to 90% of the city’s 60,000 inhabitants. The plant also supplies 40% of the electricity needs. Recycling in Växjö has reached high levels as compost and organic waste is not only separated by the residents but is taken and re-used to make bio-gas that fuels public transport. Sewage is also used to power the green bio-gas busses.

Ann-Arbor_Emily.pngCities in Germany are also making progress independently, and decentralizing the energy sector. Heidelberg, Germany, a city renowned for Science and the acclaimed Universität Heidelberg, boasts numerous scientific institutions. It’s no surprise that 56 Nobel Prize winners have worked and lived in this research hub. The city at large has its own energy company, as many other German towns and communities do, and manages its gas, heating, water and sewage systems.  By 2050 they aspire to be free of fossil fuels motivating their fast switch over to renewable energy.

Heidelberg’s largest step towards reducing emissions is their 116 hector Bahnstadt district.  Originally a freight train terminal, this plot of land has truly been transformed. The district is 100% free of CO2 emissions and is entirely constructed of passive houses. These structures are anything but passive when it comes to saving energy. They allow for heating and cooling and use less than 1.5 liters of heating oil per square meter per year. The heating comes from internal sources such as solar heat or body heat and the ventilation system is what allows for the transmission of energy throughout the building. Surprisingly affordable the passive houses’ higher quality is mitigated by eliminating expensive heating and cooling systems.

Science of the Passive House

Passive houses harness the energy of the sun light and the enrvironment to drastically reduce the energy consumption of home owners.(Photo credit: primex)

(This database lists over 4,000 passive houses around the world.)

Vertical garden buildings are set to open in Bahnstadt this year, an architectural product of eco-friendly Wolfgang Frey. Based on his ‘five finger principle’ buildings must be ecological, affordable, innovative, integrative and profitable.  These garden structures create oxygen in the atmosphere and have facades covered in solar modules to generate energy. Frey has also established vertical gardens in Freiburg. In countries like the US and China vertical farm buildings are popping up as well!

Feldheim, Germany, located in the province of Brandenburg provides its own power 100%. Creating their own bio-gas from corn, manure and rye produced by the city they power the electricity and water systems. Heating comes from the woodchip plant, electricity is produced by the wind park, and an energy storage plant stores what is produced extra in times of low power supply.

Feldheim, Germany, (pop. 660) is an “Energieautarker Ortsteil,” or an energy self-sufficient district. In 2010, Feldheim became one of the first villages in Germany to supply all of its own electricity and heat. (Photo credit: Andrew Dey/snapshotsofberlin)

Although Feldheim is small, with a population of 660, their initiative has inspired people from many different countries and their ability to provide entirely for themselves based on what they already produce shows how little it takes to be sustainable. Although decentralization of large sectors in the economy is difficult these cities show it is possible and efficient on many levels. Moving towards solar panels and using recyclable material instead of fossil fuels, cities could power the electric grid, reduce emissions, and decrease costs to large electric companies. In America especially, I believe local initiatives could be implemented faster and more effectively than federal initiatives.

 


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and  has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
 #GoingGreen 

Where Is Solar Energy Headed?

by Brandon Greenblatt -

On January 26, 2017 the German Solar Association released its estimates that global installed photovoltaic capacity has reached 300 gigawatts. The Association celebrated this announcement, heralding solar energy as a promising form of renewable energy. In fact, CEO of the German Solar Association Carsten Körnig remarked that “The utilization of solar power has really picked up momentum in many countries around the world. As the global thirst for energy increases, more and more governments and investors are committing to clean forms of energy.”

Photo caption: Germany is committing to extending the renewable energy sector. Yet, solar power plants like the power plant Leipziger Land in Espenhain, Germany, are also prone to seasonal variation in their energy production capacity. (Photo credit: GEOSOL Gesellschaft für Solaranergie mbH / Wikimedia)

Yet, according to a study by Agora Energiewende (a German think tank focused on energy policy), much of Germany’s electricity supply still comes from fossil fuels and nuclear energy, especially during the winter months when there is minimal sunlight coupled with increased electricity demand as families heat their homes. In fact, nonrenewable energy sources provided for roughly 90% of Germany’s national electricity use on January 24, 2017 -- just two days before the German Solar Association published its optimistic press release!

So where exactly does the potential of solar energy stand, in Germany, the United States, and worldwide? On the one hand, we have a report from the German Solar Association proclaiming that solar energy is our energy source of the future. On the other hand, seasonal variation seems to be a real obstacle to the viability of solar energy in Germany -- barring innovations that allow long-term storage of energy in photovoltaic panels. With all of this in mind, how much hope for solar energy is there?

This post is a follow up to my article on the solar industry from March 2016. Check it out here!

In my opinion, there are a number of promising developments that point to a great deal of potential in solar energy.

First is an awesome invention out of Albuquerque, New Mexico called Dragon SCALEs. When you think of solar panels today, you probably imagine a bunch of huge panels somewhere in the middle of a desert.

Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is developing flexible, miniature solar cells that could present a portable and versatile solution for different applications. (Photo credit: National Nuclear Security Administration via Flickr)

However, Sandia National Laboratories (pictured above) and mPower Technology Inc. have teamed up to create flexible, miniature solar cells so portable and versatile that they can be used by consumers for camping and emergency response equipment, in addition to deployment on spacecraft and vehicles. The product has been nicknamed ‘solar glitter,’ possibly an homage to its sleek and trendy design. While the partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and mPower Technology Inc. is still in early stages and the product has not yet been brought to market, mPower Technology Inc. has invested $1 million in the project. It will be particularly exciting to see how Dragon SCALEs, if successfully developed, might straddle consumer and utility uses.»I like pizza. I really do.«

»The product has been nicknamed 'solar glitter,' possibly an homage to its sleek and trendy design.«

A second exciting innovation comes from Elon Musk, renowned technology entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. In November 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity; shortly thereafter, Musk announced the invention of a new solar roof product -- photovoltaic panels constructed of textured glass that he says will eventually replace traditional roof shingles. While Tesla estimated that its new panels currently cost 20 times as much as inexpensive asphalt shingles, Musk has stated that lower shipping and logistics costs for his invention will quickly make them affordable at mass scale. Like the Dragon SCALEs product out of New Mexico, Tesla’s solar shingles seem promising in that they can break into the household/individual consumer market, hopefully bringing awareness to the value of green power and solar energy.

Ultimately, it’s important to realize that the deployment of any time of renewable energy relies on a number of factors: governmental support, reliable and continuous financing, invention and ingenuity, and public optimism. Over the past decade or so, solar energy has evolved to be a prominent component of the global energy pie, yet there is still more work to be done. Hopefully, future technological innovations by bright young minds devoted to making widespread solar energy a reality will allow this progress to continue!


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

Biking in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis - Saint Paul

by Tobias Luthe -

When people from outside the U.S. think about mobility in the United States, they often just have the picture of big cars in mind. The reality looks so much more different, especially in urban areas. Over the last twenty years, new environmentally friendly mobility trends such as biking or public transportation networks have become more and more popular in many cities across the U.S. Both of these trends can be observed in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MN) where I am spending a year abroad at the University of Minnesota. I will focus on the bike friendly infrastructure of the Twin Cities, which encourages people to change their mobility behavior.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the second largest urban area in the Midwest of the United States after Chicago. According to the census of 2010, Minneapolis (382,587) and Saint Paul (285,068) have a combined population of 667,655 people. By including the surrounding suburbs the population of the Twin Cities´ metropolitan area increases to more than 3.1 million. What makes this area so special in comparison to many other American cities, particularly here in the Midwest, is its well-designed bike infrastructure. Minneapolis is especially regarded as one of the most bike friendly cities in the country alongside Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. But what factors have contributed to this development?

Bike Map of Minneapolis (see here).

In the past Minneapolis was a center of the American milling industry. Therefore, the city was connected to an extensive railway network in order to transport goods all over the country. The decline of the industrial sector over the course of time lead to the fact that large parts of the network were abandoned. But in the 1990s and early 2000s the city council of Minneapolis made a couple of landmark decisions which were supposed to promote biking as an alternative, environmentally friendly, form of mobility. Back then the city´s government decided to transform old abandoned railways into a large network of off-street bike paths. Additionally, Minneapolis was chosen as one of four US cities to receive $25 million from a federal government's pilot project to improve pedestrian and bike infrastructures within cities. Today, Minneapolis has 118 miles of on-street bike lanes and 92 miles of off-street bike paths (as of 2014). The city´s goal is to further improve the existing system until 2020 in order to make sure that every resident lives within 1 mile of off-street and ½ mile of on-street bike lanes. Due to this development, the city already has one of the highest rates of urban cycling in the entire country since nearly 5 percent of commuters use their bike every day to go to work.

 

On-Street Bike Lane on N Washington Ave; North Loop, Minneapolis. © Tobias Luthe

Minneapolis has an incredibly vibrant bike culture. Many biking exhibitions and festivals happen throughout the year and introduce people to the advantages of biking mobility. All over the Twin Cities, bike sharing stations (Nice Ride MN) give people the chance to rent a bike for a small amount of money. On campus, the University of Minnesota even actively promotes biking. The university´s recreation and wellness center (Rec Center) gives students the chance to rent bikes for little money. Furthermore, on-campus bike stores as well the Rec Center offer students technical support and advice with all bike related issues. Generally, bikes are not only very popular but also extremely useful because they allow students and professors to easily navigate around campus. In many on-campus areas cars are prohibited because streets are reserved for bikes and the Twin Cities´ Metro Transit (bus and light rail service). Even during the cold and snowy winter days bikes are a frequently used means of transportation. By constantly clearing the bike lanes of mud and snow the city ensures that bikers do not have to fear the winter. The Metro Transit´s buses and light rails are also equipped with bicycle racks, which allows people to take their bike with them no matter where they want to go within the limits of the Twin Cities. Due to these fantastic opportunities, I have also become one of the many bike commuters here.

Bike Path on SE Washington Ave; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, Minneapolis. © Tobias Luthe

Minneapolis' positive experiences with biking have also inspired the city of Saint Paul to further improve their existing bikeway network. In the next couple of years, the city wants to add more than 190 miles of new bikeways, which would more than double the existing network. Thereby, the city would create another incentive for people to switch from rather environmentally unfriendly cars to environmentally friendly bikes. This could help Saint Paul  achieve its goal of increasing the bicycle mode share from 2 percent to 5 percent until 2025. Studies conducted by the city show that four out of five Millennials are interested in having more alternatives when it comes to mobility. Therefore, Saint Paul is eager to catch up with its Twin City and provide its residents with a modern bike-friendly infrastructure.

The significance of biking culture in the Twin Cities is a small but insightful example showing how many environmental initiatives in the U.S. are rather 'bottom-up' than 'top-down' in the sense that not only the States are considered 'laboratories of change' but that these developments very often rely on civic engagement by activist groups (like the "critical mass" movement), local institutions (the University of Minnesota), and the initiative of communities and their mayors.


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#GoingGreen 

 

Wind, Hydrogen and Bio-Fuel Oh My! Lessons from The Netherlands and Germany in Public Transportation

by Emily Young -

I opened Facebook on my computer last week expecting to find more news articles regarding changes in government over the past few months, and videos claiming their opinions as fact. I ended up watching a strange and amusing video of a man strapped to a windmill, riding it in amusement park fashion. Who was this guy riding a windmill and why?

It was easy to tell that the video was from the Netherlands, as it was in Dutch and shared by my former neighbor living in Limburg. I learned that the man riding the windmill, Roger van Boxtel, is well known in the Netherlands for his career as a Parliamentarian. These days however, Roger van Boxtel is the interim president of the Dutch Railways and this past month he has been celebrating that all the Dutch electric passenger trains are 100% wind-powered!

Ann-Arbor_Emily.png

The Dutch case  is a particularly interesting one in regards to the role of transportation, and much of it has to do with the country's geography. The Netherlands is a comparatively small and flat country. Consider this: It is less than twice the size of the state of New Jersey and only about 50% of its land exceeds one meter above sea level; you will only find some hilly areas in the south, with the highest elevation of only 321 meters.

The Netherlands

Photo caption: Only about 50% of the Netherlands exceeds one meter above sea level, making the country predestined for an effective mass transportation system. (c) AHN, www.ahn.nl

At the same time, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with a population of almost 17 million. In addition, the country is located in central Europe, sharing land borders with Belgium and Germany, and maritime borders with the UK. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe.  It seems that the country is predestined for a close meshed and highly efficient system of public transportation due to the absence of natural barriers, its dense population, and the high demand for transport of goods. This is evident in their early history.
The Netherlands has set the standard for public transportation since the 17th century, beginning with their establishment of a network of waterways. In more recent decades the NL became the first country with a symmetric rail service in 1970, and in 1980 the first country with a ticket system for transport. In 1991 they developed a system to provide cheaper transport for students, and in 1992 were the first European public transportation system to create a national telephone number to receive travel information. Although there is efficiency, comfort, and ease of access afforded by public transportation, 25% of the Dutch population travel by cycling. Depending on the region, as many as 50% of the journeys made in the Netherlands are made by transport or bicycles. Dutch Railway systems are organized entirely by the government authorities in their region and (NS) or Dutch Railways is the largest passenger carrier in the country, linking out internationally as far as Belgium, France and Germany. The policy goal of the NS is to shift movement from cars to public transportation. As the costs of owning cars continue to rise, the railways plan on phasing away from fossil fuels through the implementation of environmental zones where there would be restrictions on driving cars. The movement to natural gas and biofuels has gained momentum in public transportation and as such will continue to play an influence in increasing the number of stations that would fuel electric or bio powered cars.

Electric Locomotive from 1992 from Railway news.com

Two current Dutch Railways InterCity trains: a refurbished ICM train in the foreground, and the front of a VIRM double decker behind it, at Rotterdam Central Station. © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

The NS set a goal in 2015 to switch over entirely to wind power, expecting to realize it in 2018. Due to the addition of more wind farms off coast, inland, and in Denmark they were able to make the switch a year early. Partnering with the energy company Enesco the NS can cater to 600,000 passengers daily, using wind turbines to generate electricity. One windmill running for an hour can power a train for 200 km, or 120 miles. Although trains (even without wind power) seem like they are energy efficient, the Dutch fleet alone consumes 1.2 billion kWh of wind energy a year (equivalent to all the electricity powering the houses in Amsterdam for a year) and 20% of CO2 emissions are caused by modes of transport, whether it be train, car, or bus. Wind energy also contributes to the electricity supplied approximately 473,000 households in the Netherlands. The use of wind for energy isn’t unique to the Netherlands.

How a Hydrogen Powered Train Works from EcoWatch.com

Alstom's 'Coradia iLint' train is the world’s first zero-emissions hydrogen train. It is using fuel cells which produce electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen to water and is set to go into service in northern Germany in December 2017. © Alstom

Countries like Denmark receive 42% of their electricity from wind power. Germany produced more electricity from wind turbines than from power plants for the first time ever in 2015, producing 11.98 Terawatt hours of electricity (a terawatt is millions of megawatts). In recent months German Railways has begun experimentation with hydrogen powered trains. In December of 2017 the country plans on launching the first ever passenger rail service powered by hydrogen. The motor will gain power from the hydrogen tank, and the hydrogen energy will be converted with a fuel cell that could move the train at speeds up to 87 mph. The only by-product of the hydrogen train would be steam and the source for the hydrogen is the waste product of various chemical industries (which is normally burned anyway). A supporter of this initiative is Energiewende, a German government sponsored program seeking to transform the energy system and phase out nuclear power and fossil fuel.


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
#GoingGreen

Welcome Back to Going Green!

by Brandon Greenblatt -

Following a great conclusion to our Elections 2016 blog series, we are very excited to announce the relaunch of our Going Green blog!

For the next few months, Teach About Us will pivot away from US politics and instead towards issues of sustainability, environmentalism, and green living. This semester, our intern-bloggers are attending universities all across the United States, meaning that we will focus on Going Green at a local and state level! Each week, we plan to share with you uniquely German and American perspectives, highlighting the ways we ‘go green’ in our daily lives and how we can all seize innovative opportunities to support and protect our planet. With a great team of bloggers and experts assembled, we look forward to publishing pieces on a variety of topics, including sustainable agriculture, clean transportation, renewable energy policy, and college-campus activism.

It is our hope that the Going Green blog will serve as an engaging complement to the curriculum you all will be exploring in class over the next semester. As you learn about fashion, plastic waste, transportation, and urban living, please look to our blog for some real-life examples of how Germans and Americans are learning as you are while making a positive impact on their world.

As always, please feel free to reach out to anyone on the Teach About Us Going Green team with your feedback and questions. We’re all looking forward to a great semester together!


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

And So It Ends: Reflections on the 2016 Presidential Election

by Brandon Greenblatt -

Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States after a lengthy, historic, and momentous contest with Hillary Clinton that culminated on Tuesday, November 8. One week after the election and the conclusion of a campaign season which occupied much of the collective American consciousness over the past two years, many Americans are still processing the election’s results. Millions appear reinvigorated by the prospect of a Trump presidency, yet just as many are visibly dejected and emotionally drained by Clinton’s loss. And after a campaign season ripe with fiery rhetoric and plenty of controversy, I can also confidently say that many of Americans are thankful that this particular election is over.

Of course, the objective of any political election is to select a new government, and now begins the process of preparing the Trump administration to assume the White House after the presidential inauguration on Friday, January 20. What is interesting about this process is that, while the United States Constitution requires no particular procedure to be followed, there are a series of norms and expectations that will guide how the Obama administration welcomes the Trump administration into the White House.

What exactly does a smooth presidential transition process entail? Check out this useful Fact Sheet from the White House!

This process began in the early morning hours of November 9 when Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump to concede the election and congratulate him as the winner. Shortly thereafter, Trump delivered an acceptance speech to his supporters in New York City. Clinton addressed the nation with a concession speech on November 9, midday. The notion that two opposing candidates speak to one another and only then diplomatically convey election results to the nation highlights an important tenet of the democratic process in the United States. Elections are won and lost with grace, dignity, and an eye towards uniting the country going forward.

  While many of Clinton’s most passionate supporters have lambasted the election’s results and openly protested on city streets over the past few days, Clinton herself conceded the election to Trump and implored liberals to channel their political activism into public service. Many Americans, especially young women, reacted quite strongly to Clinton’s address -- both thanking her for an admirable endeavor to shatter the glass ceiling and bemoaning her inability to do so. Reactions to Trump’s acceptance speech were similarly passionate, as many Americans expressed excitement about the prospect for a return to conservative values and Washington-outsider politics.

  The next phase of the transition process occurred on Thursday, November 10 as President Obama and President-elect Trump met at the White House. According to press reports, the two discussed a variety of topics ranging from presidential demeanor to foreign policy to installing a capable staff in the West Wing. This tradition, of the outgoing president meeting with his incoming successor, has a rich history in the United States. In explaining his willingness to meet with Trump, Obama has frequently cited the decorum and grace which former President George W. Bush displayed when he assumed office in January 2009. The spirit of cooperation which defines these meetings - often between leaders of opposing political parties and occasionally between former campaign opponents (though not in this instance) - is hallmark of American democracy and one of the critical facets of the peaceful transition of power.

»The transition of power is not a calm period between two storms -- it is a multimillion dollar endeavor, a highly complex and intensive phase of government art. The biggest and most powerful government of our time is changing direction in full speed, and in the process, changes its entire crew; many, many more posts are redistributed than in Germany. Every remotely important position is now being filled with new personnel. 4,000 members of staff must be selected, mustered (according to the Trump administration's policies), and trained within only a few weeks. This includes policy experts for all parts of the world. In all governmental departments, entire wings have been cleared, making room for preliminary offices for incoming staffers to learn from the more experienced members of staff of the Obama administration
Claus Kleber, moderator of the German TV news journal "heute journal" on ZDF

Over the past couple of days, Donald Trump has been assembling his Cabinet and speaking with domestic and world leaders as he seeks to foster relationships that will allow the successful implementation of his policy objectives over the coming years. In this respect, the peaceful transition of power is grounded in United States domestic politics, but its use extends beyond our national borders and influences the deployment of US foreign policy worldwide. In some respects, it seems as though our presidential transition process in the United States is being played out not only here at home, but also on a global stage as world leaders comment on the prospects of a Trump presidency.

To be sure, this peaceful transition of power is characteristic of many democratic political systems across the world, Germany included. Yet, after what has been an admittedly divisive and contentious campaign season, that Americans can rely on a peaceful power transition is all the more welcome today.

This post concludes our blog series for the Elections 2016 project. We hope you all have enjoyed learning about the United States’ political system, and we look forward to resuming our work with the Going Green project in January 2017!


Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from 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.
#Election2016

U.S. Election Expert Matt Riley on the Election in North Carolina

by Janina Schmidt -

Matt Riley

North Carolina was for many years a Republican stronghold, but Barack Obama won the state by a slim margin in 2008. It is said that his success can partly be attributed to the demographic changes the state has seen in recent decades. But how do the state's demographics influence the voter's behavior in North Carolina? Only one out of a wide range of tricky questions on the election outcome.

group of students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee, Germany, are currently focusing on the election in the state of North Carolina and came up with some interesting questions. Who else if not our U.S. election expert Matt Riley could help us out here? Matt if a former intern with the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, a student in Public Policy, German and Policy Journalism at Duke University in North Carolina, and currently on an exchange semester in Berlin. At Duke, Matt writes as a journalist and investigative reporter at The Chronicle, the university's 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.

This is what the students from Gransee wanted to know from Matt:

 

How is North Carolina most likely going to vote and what influences do media have in this case?

“Hi Matt, we are students from the Strittmatter-Gymnasium-Gransee in Germany. We are working on the project "US Election". Every school got one state. We got North Carolina, so you are the best expert for us. We have to decide whether North Carolina will vote for Trump or Clinton, but it is very difficult for us. First we thought Trump would win but now, after reading the opinions of some North Carolina students we aren’t sure any longer if our first opinion was right. There are some questions we would like to ask you.

  • How do you think are the TV debates going to influence the people's attitudes and (social) media?
  • And how do you think the media influences the people?
  • Most importantly, what's your prediction for the North Carolina vote? And why?

  

We look forward to your answer. Thanks for helping us.

Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, Carolin”

     

Here is Matt what replied to them:

“Dear Jennifer, Lena, Jolanthe, and Carolin, recent polling by fivethirtyeight suggests that Clinton is ahead of trump by 2 to 6 percent in the traditionally red state. These numbers are close, but still disappointing for Trump as North Carolina (despite its balanced electorate) went Republican in three of the last four presidential elections. 

  

Trump may be holding out for a late comeback, Nate Silver writes, but because of the way North Carolinians vote, the picture is a bit more complicated. North Carolina is unique because it has high rates of early and absentee voting. While most of these early voters are dedicated partisan voters and not swing voters, this still means that many voters have already cast their ballots in favor of Clinton.

  

North Carolina is vital for a second reason Silver notes. He writes that, "because of the state's demographics, it acts as a hedge for Clinton in the event of a collapse in her support among white voters without college degrees, especially in the Midwest." Silver rates North Carolina as the fourth most important state in the election, ahead of traditionally prominent states like Ohio and Colorado, because of these two factors. 

  

On the media/campaign/debate: 

  

North Carolina is the only state with the elections for Governor, U.S. Senate, and President rated as a "toss-up" by the Cook report. This gives it political importance beyond that of the presidential election, as any increased investment in TV ads and more traditionally door-to-door campaigns could tip the scales in these three important elections one way. 

  

Presidential debates are often deemed more important than they actually are. They rarely act as a polling turning point as many people think. But they do move the polls a few points. The last presidential debate, however, had an important impact on the polling for Clinton, who experienced a 5.5 percent bump, as noted in the News and Observer. These are impressive numbers for Clinton, especially because the effect of the debate is more muted in North Carolina due to high early voting participation."

  

Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to address our students' questions on the state of North Carolina. I would also like to thank the students from the Strittmatter Gymnasium in Gransee for your interest in the exchange with our U.S. election experts and for your interesting questions. 

  


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. Embassy School Election Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

Bernie Sanders at the University of Minnesota

by Tobias Luthe -

Recently, Hillary Clinton´s “Stronger Together” campaign trail stopped by at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis which gave me the chance to attend my first rally in the U.S. Clinton herself was not present during that event and campaigned elsewhere in the country. Instead Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, who was her biggest challenger during the Democratic primaries, campaigned for her and was highly anticipated by students.

Although the event took place on a Tuesday afternoon in our beautiful auditorium, the event location was sold out. It seems that all politically interested students found some time in their schedules to see that candidate who had captivated the enthusiasm of young voters like no other candidate during the long primary season and who has inspired political engagement and participation with his grassroots campaign.

In addition to Senator Sanders, politicians of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) ‒ the branch of the Democratic Party here in Minnesota – gave speeches to promote their races for the Minnesota State House. This year's State House election in Minnesota, which also takes place on November 8, 2016, is even regarded as one of 20 battleground chambers in the country with the Republican Party currently holding a majority of 73 to 61 seats in the State House of Representatives. The Democrats control the State Senate instead. Thus, the DFL aims at winning the majority in the House of Representatives which would give the party the control over both branches of government since Governor Mark Dayton is also a Democrat.

The most fascinating speaker of that day was Ilhan Omar, an American woman born in Somalia, who runs for district 60B in the Minnesota House of Representatives, which includes the University of Minnesota and some neighborhoods around campus.

IlhanOmarPhoto.jpg

Ilhan Omar, a Somali American politician (DFL) from Minnesota. If elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in November, she could become the first Somali-American legislator in the United States and the first Muslim woman to hold office in her state. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Omar and her family fled the country’s devastating civil war at the beginning of the 1990s and immigrated like many other Somalis to Minnesota. Today, around 25,000 Somalis live in the Twin Cities’ metro-area. After Omar’s victory over the long-serving representative Phyllis Kahn in the extremely competitive DFL primary for the seat in the State House, she now has the historic chance to become the first Somali legislator in the U.S. Especially, the support among students in the neighborhoods around campus have given her the decisive advantage over her opponents to win the nomination and possibly the race. Omar’s Republican opponent in the General Election Abdimalik Askar, who was born in Somalia as well, just announced that he is suspending his campaign, which gives Omar a huge advantage. Nonetheless, he will remain on the ballot since the Republican base in my electoral district is rather small and has not been able to find an alternate candidate. Although the race is more or less already decided, both candidates have had an important impact in energizing the large Somali community of the Twin Cities, especially in district 60B, where many of them live. Omar´s campaign reported that 5,868 people casted their vote in the primary, which is an increase of 37 percent compared to 2014.

However, the speech most students anticipated was given by Senator Bernie Sanders. Since the primaries of the Democratic Party for the presidential nomination, Sanders has become an idol for many young Americans. Therefore, I was really looking forward to seeing him in order to get an idea why my fellow students were so passionately supporting him.

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to young voters in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign at the University of Minnesota on October 4, 2016.

 

When Sanders entered the stage, he received an incredibly warm welcome from the students. He delivered an energetic speech about social issues like debt-free college, a fairer distribution of the tax burden among U.S. citizens, and an expansion of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), which has given millions of Americans access to health care. The audience did not stop applauding and cheering  for Sanders. It was impressive to see how he inspired just about everybody in the room. Thus, this rally confirmed my assumption that social questions are highly important for young Americans and cannot be ignored by any party with ambitions for the highest office in the United States. In order to benefit from Sanders’ strong support among millennials, Hillary Clinton has already adopted many of his points and included him in her election team. But despite their cooperation, Clinton remains unpopular among Sanders’ young supporters. Clinton, it seems, has been unable to inspire the same excitement and passion among this growing and increasingly important voter group. While young voters are 'fired up' for politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), their relationship to Clinton is 'lukewarm', at best.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if Sanders is able to convince his supporters to cast their vote for Clinton and not another third-party candidate like Gary Johnson (Presidential Nominee of the Libertarian Party) on Election Day.

 


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#Election2016 #GoingGreen 

Presidential Debates Influence on The Polls

by Emily Young -

https://tribwpmt.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/s060774058.jpg?quality=85&strip=all&w=770

Last week the third and final presidential debate between Secretary Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump took place at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was also viewed on the screens of millions of homes across the country. Citizens awaited the final words of the two candidates in a debate that continues to make waves in a sea of predictable responses.

You missed the debate? Watch the most talked-about moments in this 3-minute summary.

Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace moderated, and according to viewers has arguably done the best in upholding unbiased (or at least equal) dialogue with the two candidates. The debate focused on issues like debt, entitlement reform, immigration, economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and fitness to be president. Differences in opinion on issues such as abortion came through as Trump claimed “I am pro life, I am going to defend pro life” while Clinton stated that she would defend Roe v. Wade, supported a woman’s right to an abortion and Planned Parenthood.  Other topics of dissidence consisted of the US’s relationship with Russia and how that would be affected by a presidency by either candidate. Although the effects were arbitrary, Clinton noted Trumps affiliation with a toxic and ruthless Putin (to her) as Trump proclaimed that an allegiance with Russia would contribute to the defeat of ISIS.

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At my university, the University of Michigan, students gathered in Angell Hall and attended different watch parties hosted by College Democrats, College Republicans and Students for Hillary.  The College Republican party hosted republican candidate for state representative in Michigan’s 52nd district Randy Clark who encouraged students to vote. “Everybody wants to run and hide under a rock because they can’t stand this mess that’s going on, but you really have to get involved, you have to make a difference,” he explained.

As for making a difference, the effect of presidential debates on voter opinion is a debatable point, depending on where you get your information. The Washington Monthly for example, asserts that presidential debates are game changers in the opinions of strategists. According to Political Scientists researching data on electoral changes after the debates however, presidential debates have “rarely if ever, mattered”.  The Washington Monthly goes on to say that in very close elections, new information is not likely to change the minds of voters.  Because debates do occur late in the campaign of the candidates, decisions are usually reached by a majority of voters before the debates occur. The demographic of debate watchers typically consists of those who have an interest in politics and/or already have loyalties to a party.  Rather than focusing on how the debate will affect whom they vote for, it atypically aligns voters more closely with the candidate they believe won (and usually that is the member of their party).

Due to the improbability of the election and indecision of voters however, this election year could be different in regards to the influence of debates on voter opinion; especially in the face of Trump’s allegations entailing the corruption of the polls.

According to a poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, one third of Clinton’s and Trump’s supporters were undecided as to whether they were definitely voting for their candidate. Clinton’s evident rise in percentage points, going from three in the first debate to ten in the last week, show how the debate can have a polarizing effect. An argument for this is that Clinton has also not been in the spotlight of mass media for the past few weeks. Due to scandals involving Trump and his mistreatment of women, Clinton’s scandalous emails have moved away from the limelight, allowing for more media outlets to call Trump’s character into question (especially as women come forth and attest to his alleged abuse). Trump's decline in the polls can also be attributed to his perceived performance in the debates.

In a poll by ABC News, Clinton was found to have reached her highest percentage of support while Trump had sunk to his lowest the day after the debate. Other interesting voting trends show Trump’s popularity among white voters, men, non-whites, and women, declining. Clinton on the other hand has reached her highest percentage of male voters ever.  The poll also found that the number of registered republicans likely to vote has dropped in response to Trump’s campaign against the media.

SurveyMonkey's chief research officer Jon Cohen contributed his thoughts on the efficacy of polls and surveys such as those that are conducted by his company. While explaining the difficulty in predicting an election across fifty states, Cohen affirmed that the polls have stayed relatively stable within the past five weeks and that according to their predictions and data, there is more than a ninety percent chance that Clinton will take the election. He supports his argument by referring to the 307 electoral votes Clinton has already ‘locked up’.

Real Clear Politics show Clinton leading by eleven percentage points in Michigan, but voters supporting Trump strongly believe in his victory and continue to point to his “understanding of how trade deals affect Michigan’s economy negatively and his fight against voter fraud”. Whether the 90% chance likelihood will come to fruition is not clear, as many voters remain undecided. In less than fourteen days we will find out if Cohen was right.

 

Useful resources

If you missed the third and last debate, you can watch the entire video below:

Now, one question that remains is how much of what both candidates said on stage last week was actually true and factual. Several media outlets focused on this and produced 'fact checks' on both candidates' performances. One interesting example comes from the staff at National Public Radio who annotated the entire script of the debate.

 
Finally, how much did the debate impact on voters? USA Today undertook an interesting experiment and interviewed students across swing states on their perception of the debate.

USA Today: What college students in 5 swing states thought of the 3rd debate

 


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
#Election2016

Laughter and satire - friend or foe? Q and A with Christianna Stavroudis

by Janina Schmidt -

Christianna StavroudisIs there a 'satire paradox' in political cartoons? Are laughter and social protest friends or foes? When a politician is being satirized, does this make the audience more critical of the politician because his or her shortcomings and weaknesses are being exposed and ridiculed publicly? Or does satire unintentionally 'whitewash' such criticism: When you laugh about something or someone, it can't be that bad, right?!

This week, we had a chance to ask our expert on political cartoons, Christianna Stavroudis, a native of Baltimore and lecturer in English linguistics at the University of Bonn. She's been an avid supporter of Teach About US right from its start and has instructed several seminars to teachers all over Germany on using political cartoons in the classroom.

I explained to Christianna that I recently had listened to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast 'Revisionist History' and in one recent episode he talks about political satire. He introduces it with this 2008 piece from Saturday Night Live starring Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, who was then running as vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket:

https://youtu.be/8HsyEvr5Pnw

Gladwell says that in newspapers and magazines (he is a staff writer for The New Yorker), you have to write in somber, reasonable tones; but in satire, you're allowed to say almost anything: "When you sugar-coat a bitter truth with humor," he says, "it makes the medicine go down." Yet, Gladwell also says that in SNL, the parody of Palin was "toothless", that is "comedy without any courage at all". Why? Because Tina Fey was too busy being funny. This eventually became evident when Sarah Palin herself appeared next to Fey in one episode – she was let in on the joke. Gladwell argues that "nothing of consequence gets accomplished without courage."

A catchier example from this year's campaign is Jimmy Fallon's interview with Donald Trump, which Fallon ended by messing up Trump's hair. It sure was entertaining and made viewers laugh. But does it also challenge the audience's political views?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0BYqzdiuJc

So, I guess you could ask whether this could also be applied to the genre of political cartoons: Should cartoons rather entertain or challenge the reader? Do you have an example or two?

I think it's important to define satire and distinguish it from political entertainment. True satire involves an element of ridicule (not to be confused with teasing, not synonymous with caricature). Unfortunately, this is not evident in a lot of the U.S. political entertainment this election season, including the examples you cited and many cartoons as well. The fact that presidential candidates and even the president appear on talk shows and in comedy sketches already shows that this platform has morphed from an outsider domain (in which there was a clear division between artist and ruling elite) to a hybrid one in which politicians can prove that they can take a joke at their own expense. As it appears, this is a requirement to be successful with a U.S. audience today.

 

A very interesting example of this is the Funny or Die "Between Two Ferns" interview between Zach Galifianakis and Barack Obama:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnW3xkHxIEQ

 

Obama went onto this platform in order to reach out to young people to get them registered for healthcare, but Galifianakis maintained the tone of his "insulting" talk show even in this context. When Obama gives the phone number that people can call to get signed up for healthcare, Galifianakis says, "Oh, I don't have a phone; I'm off the grid. I don't want you people, like, looking at my texts, if you know what I mean." To this Obama replies, "First of all, Zach, nobody's interested in your texts."

 

This is an example of "cooperative ridicule," and it's becoming the norm in shows in which the politicians and candidates can participate by interacting (and even performing) with the artists.

 

Coming back to your question, this is where political cartoons differ in that they generally derive from one cartoonist alone (minus editorial input from the publisher of the cartoon) and therefore don't allow for input by politicians. But they, too, can range from innocuous (Cartoon 1) to harsh (Cartoon 2).

 

The satire created by political cartoons can range from innocuous...
(Photo credit: 'Hillary Rattled', by Nate Beeler / The Columbus Dispatch, 09/28/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

...to harsh. This cartoon by Mr. Fish was published on Memorial Day 2009. In the U.S., Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces.

(Photo credit: 'Real One', by Mr. Fish (Dwayne Booth), 5/24/2009. All rights reserved.)

The courage factor rests on both the artist and the audience if real change is to take place. (If that is even desired! Let's not forget that some people just like to complain, that the job of the satirist is to criticize, and that the title "satirist" does not a good person make. There is also a fine line between a satirist and a bully.)

 

Cartoons and video clips of these shows are passively and ever-more privately consumed, which in turn can have the effect of lulling audiences into feeling that they have "done something" merely because they have consumed what they perceive is satire. (Which do think sounds more sophisticated: "I'm watching a comedy show." vs. "I'm watching political satire.") Thus, labelling things satire that are in fact political entertainment can be a brilliant tool for manipulation for the politician clever enough to see it as something at his/her disposal and amiable enough to be watched by audiences. Satire in a U.S. context is often one of the first examples named in support of the First Amendment (Freedom of the Press; Free Speech). But the problem is: When you can say anything, you risk not saying anything at all.

 

True satire involves putting something on the line (reputation, status, etc.) and is therefore by definition something that does not easily fit into the mainstream. Just as a test, try to find a satirist who is willing to attack his audience as much as "the elite". Satirists who simply pander to their audience, lulling them into an "us vs. them/we're the little guy" mood are not taking many risks at all.

 

This is also not to say that artists can never commune with the subjects of their attacks (although it does make things easier). The interviews between Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart, for example, are quite revealing as are the roundtable discussions between Democrats and Republicans on Bill Maher's Real Talk program. Note also the criticism that both Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon have received (esp. from minority groups) as a result of their cooperations with Trump. A desire for consistency in politics and political media is being voiced in this campaign season (see Bernie Sanders supporters) as well as diversity of views and representation (#OscarsSoWhite and its effect on the industry; the role of #BlackLivesMatter in the election; the introduction of new political satire shows hosted by non-Americans like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and the new host of the Daily Show Trevor Noah).

 

It remains to be seen whether these trends will result in new approaches to satire, but, as always, the courage is a two-way street.

Thank you so much, Christianna.

We will be posting more from our U.S. election experts, our 'explainers-in-chief' soon on the blog, so stay tuned!

 


Joannis Kaliampos is the educational project manager for the U.S. Embassy's Teach About US platform. He is a research assistant at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and holds a Staatsexamen degree in teaching English and History at the Gymnasium from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. Joannis has developed teaching materials and has been leading teacher workshops for the U.S. Embassy's school projects since 2012.
#Election2016 #Experts

Monday Mail: Christina Sickinger Explains the Election in Florida

by Janina Schmidt -

Christina SickingerAs you might remember from my last blog post, I just completed my teaching practicum at the Berufsbildungszentrum in Schleswig in northern Germany. During this practicum my group of 12th graders in our English course researched the importance of archetypal swing states for this year’s election and what campaign issues could possibly influence people’s voting behavior in these states (among other things).

The group focusing on Florida came up with some general questions about the state, but what they were really interested in was to get a personal evaluation of the situation in Florida from someone who is familiar with that context. This was the perfect occasion to connect them with our U.S. election expert for the state of Florida, Christina Sickinger, who kindly agreed to give our students an insight into the campaign in her state. As a native of Tallahassee, Florida, Christina interned in Florida with Congresswoman Gwen Graham as well as with her county government this last summer, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about both federal and local government. The students wanted to know from her:

 
What makes Florida the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992?

"Dear Christina," they asked, "what political issues influence the state of Florida the most and make it the archetypal swing state that it has been since 1992? How does political campaigning differ in Florida compared to other swing states?”

 

Here is Christina’s take on this:

“The main reason that Florida is the most important swing state to watch is pretty simple: With 29 electoral votes, Florida has more electoral votes at stake than any of the other states that are typically considered “swing states.” Although the state has about 4.8 million registered Republicans and 4.5 registered Democrats, it also has around 3 million independent voters who could go to either party, according to the Florida Department of State. These independent voters can decide who wins the state, so influencing their opinions is an important goal for both candidates.
 
Florida also includes two important populations: it has a reputation as the home for many retirees, but the state is also home to many Hispanic voters, who tend to be younger. Florida is a fairly large state with a population of almost 20 million, and I think that the variety of different demographic groups in different areas of Florida makes it difficult to predict how the state will vote as a whole.    
 
Florida’s history in presidential elections also makes it unique. Florida voted for the election winner in almost all presidential elections since WWII, with the notable exception of the 1992 election. The state went to the Democratic candidate (Barack Obama) in 2012 and 2008, but to the Republican candidate (George W. Bush) in 2004 and 2000. In 2000, the vote in Florida between candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush was so close that it had to be recounted. Bush finally won by a little over 500 votes, ensuring that he would be the next president. The election in Florida is normally quite close, and this history makes elections here even more interesting to observe!"

 

Thank you, Christina, for taking the time to address my students' questions on the swing state of Florida, and let me also thank my 12th-grade English students in Schleswig for contributing these questions.

We will be posting more from our experts in the two weeks until the election on November 8, so stay tuned.

 


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. Embassy School Election Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

U.S. Election Expert Amanda Thoet Answers Your Questions

by Janina Schmidt -

Amanda Thoet

As a student in education at Lueneburg University, I completed a teaching practicum at the Berufsbildungszentrum Schleswig, a vocational school, in the northern German town of Schleswig this month. During this practicum, I personally got the chance to teach a class of 12th graders in English over the last couple of weeks. As I realized that part of this course's curriculum was supposed to cover the United States' political system, I was excited to connect this to my work here at Teach About US – I decided to expand the topic of my teaching unit to give my students the opportunity to discuss the 2016 election campaign in more detail in class.

Let's face it: One question that fascinates people during every general election is the role of the swing states, and my students weren't an exception here. My students were especially intriguied by the importance of archetypal swing states for this year’s election and what campaign issues could possibly influence people’s voting behavior in these states.

One group in my class researched the state of Pennsylvania and stumbled upon some tricky questions. What a great occasion to interview our distinguished U.S. student expert, Amanda Thoet, I thought. Amanda is a Pennsylvanian native and graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in May 2015, where she studied English, German and Communication Arts and Sciences. This is what my students were interested in:

 
Pennsylvania and the partisan divide

The first question focuses on the partisan divide in the state of Pennsylvania. The students wanted to know:

“Dear Amanda, Pennsylvania is an important swing sate in 2016 and both Trump and Clinton will need its electoral votes for the Presidency. The partisan divide seems to be running right through your state – industrial centers in the east and west lean Democratic while many Republican voters can be found in the rural heartland of your state. Is this also how you perceive the campaign in your home state?”

Here is Amanda’s take on this:

“Dear 12th graders in Schleswig, Pennsylvania is indeed an important swing state in the 2016 Presidential Election, especially as we near voting day on November 8th.  As someone who grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and attended University in central Pennsylvania, I saw first-hand the exact differences you are talking about. For example, this past weekend I was driving to State College, Pennsylvania, which is located in the heartland of the state.  As I was driving, I saw a lot of  ‘Vote for Trump’ signs on lawns and bumper stickers on backs of cars. Central Pennsylvania is populated largely by people who support the National Rifle Association (the NRA) and participate in hunting as a recreational sport. The NRA is more aligned with the more conservative Republicans. Even though my family and friends are from Pennsylvania, we do not carry guns and are not involved in the NRA. In east and west Pennsylvania, there are two major cities, Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west. These urban centers are home to younger people such as University students and working professionals and therefore they lean more Democratic.”

   

What’s the role of the economy in the campaign in Pennsylvania?

Another question the same students were wondering about:

“Also, what’s the role of the economy in the campaign in Pennsylvania? That is, what are some economy-related issues in your state and what arguments do both sides offer?”

Again, Amanda:

“In terms of the economy in Pennsylvania, it has a large role in who Pennsylvanians vote for. Since Pennsylvania has a large number of blue-collar workers in the heartland (working in manufacturing) and because the economy is perceived to not be doing so well, these Pennsylvania citizens are dissatisfied with the current leadership in the White House and they want a change. On the other hand, the cities are prospering where white-collar workers are predominant, and the majority of people are content with the current leadership of our nation. Therefore as you already know, Pennsylvania is going to be a state to watch as the big day approaches”.

 

Thank you, Amanda, for taking the time to address my students' questions on the election in Pennsylvania, and let me also thank my 12th-grade English students in Schleswig for contributing these questions.

Do you also have question on the 2016 election? Grasp at the unique chance of getting your questions answered by U.S. election experts. Don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the expert database.

  


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. Embassy School Election Project 2016.
#Election2016 #Experts

Mike Pence: Governor of Indiana, Republican vice presidential candidate, and fellow Hoosier

by Elizabeth Subrin -

Trump_Pence_RNC_2016.jpg

As a university student and lifetime resident of Indiana, the buzz of the election has been primarily of Donald Trump's vice presidential candidate, Mike Pence, who is the state's current governor.

(Photo caption: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, left, gives his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a thumbs up after Pence addressed the Republican National Convention. Photo credit: A. Shaker, Voice of America)

Indiana is located in the Midwest of the United States. It is shaped similar to a boot. The capital of Indiana is Indianapolis, which is located in the middle of the state. Indiana has a population of about 6.5 million people. This is nearly double the population of the city of Berlin. Indiana is just barely bigger in size to Bavaria. It is nicknamed "The Hoosier State" and the "Crossroads of America" due to the many interstate highways.

Indianapolis_Liz_small.png

Indiana is one of the midwestern states and although it is about as big as Bavaria geographically, is has only double the population than the city of Berlin.

Butler University (the college in which I attend) is a small private university located in the city of Indianapolis. There are about 6,000 students and it was recently ranked second among Midwest Universities. Based on student polls conducted by Niche, Butler students’ political beliefs are about equally 20% Liberal and Conservative with a majority amount of 30% being Moderate. The majority of students are from out of state and fall in love with the school due to its beautiful and historic campus. If you are interested, here is a link to a virtual tour of my campus.

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The Bell Tower is located within Holcomb Gardens on the Butler University Campus in Indianapolis, IN (Photo credit: Peetlesnumber1, Wikipedia)

 

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Butler is located in the center of the state of Indiana, also known as 'Crossroads of America' due to the many interstate highways that criss-cross the state, connecting Hoosiers to the rest of the country. (Photo credit: Butler University)

Learn more about Governor Mike Pence here.

Related to Butler University, Governor Mike Pence’s wife, Karen, graduated from there with a Bachelor and Masters degree in Elementary Education. She was a school teacher for more than 25 years. Governor Mike Pence and her have been together for over 30 years and have three children together. Governor Mike Pence was born in a small city of Indiana called Columbus and is 57 years old. He associates himself with the Republican Party and became the 50th Governor of Indiana in 2013. He is most widely known for signing a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This bill was criticized by numerous organizations and groups due to its perceived original language that allowed business to discriminate against the LGBT community. It was quickly revised in order to officially prevent discrimination of sexual orientation of any kind. This bill is thought to be the reason behind Governor Pence’s low approval ratings which plummeted from 62% in 2014 to currently about 40%.

Mike Pence - Everything you need to know about the Republican VP nominee. (bio./YouTube)

I have designed a basic timeline of Mike Pence’s career to help give you an idea about his life. I will be following up this blog with more information on Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidate and their views on climate change!

dj9t_7RT3fdrBsXgJmVDAaJVKbKNmM5VB-oP5e42UOoZEbi74LnyTPb9CV8jKvVlykUurceCNa2b9-YNSAUQ4Oy4W6VSimIHAkOAxp32Cn8EHY9798wW4SBD0ogUaPQmQ4DJ_uAUTimeline of Republican VP candidate Mike Pence.

 


Liz Subrin is a native of Indianapolis and currently studying Chemistry and Education at Butler University. She has experience in working as a teacher. She has a passion for science and is thrilled to share it with other curious minds and especially our blog readers. I can teach Make sure your name is set in bold print.
#Election2016

 

A Cartoonist's Wonderland: Christianna Stavroudis on Political Cartoon Trends of the 2016 Election Campaign

by Joannis Kaliampos -

As bizarre as the recent turns of the presidential campaign may be (let's just name the key words here: Wikileaks, lewd hot-mic conversations and alleged sexual assault, literally all TV debates so far), I can't help but thinking that one group of professionals must be weirdly excited about the mudslinging and breaches of political protocol that we have witnessed over the last few weeks: comedians and satirists.

(Photo caption: Christianna Stavroudis is native of Baltimore and a lecturer and researcher in English linguistics at the University of Bonn. She is our expert on political cartoons. Photo credit: Christianna Stavroudis.)

While discussing the second TV debate between the two nominees with a colleague of mine, she said that, "truly, this must be the golden age of political comedy". And I believe there is some truth to this. Recently, the Washington Post ran an article by the title "Late-night TV hosts have a field day with the Donald Trump-Billy Bush video". Here is a short summary of how late-night hosts addressed the turbulent news of the 'Trump tape' the weekend before the second TV debate:

Late-night TV hosts roasted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's defense of the leaked video that recorded him making lewd comments about women in 2005. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

But apart from late-night TV comedy, how are political cartoonists reacting to the 2016 campaign? What are some of the current trends in political cartoons? Luckily, we had a chance to ask our expert on this topic, Christianna Stavroudis, a native of Baltimore and lecturer in English linguistics at the University of Bonn. She's been a avid supporter of Teach About US from the beginning and has instructed a number of seminars to teachers on using political cartoons in the classroom.

I asked Christianna what she thinks are some interesting trends in political cartooning that have emerged in 2016. Or if there are any general trends that she sees being confirmed in this current election cycle. And what should we look for in particular this fall?

This is what she had to say:

Since presidential elections only occur every four years, political cartoonists follow a pretty standardized drill:

 

They retreat to their respective camps (either Democrat or Republican), develop their signature caricature of the two candidates, and attack the Achilles' heels of the opposing side. Trump, however, has provided more 'quote' fodder for cartoons than we have seen in previous elections and this is manifesting in interesting imagery.

 

Since the leak of Trump's "hot mic lockerroom" comments about women, we are seeing the use of Lady Liberty as a representation of American women (cartoon 1). She is not used nearly as much as Uncle Sam (who, interestingly, represents the entire nation whereas Lady Liberty is used to represent women alone, see cartoon 2).

 

In response to Donald Trump's lewd remarks on women in a video recorded in 2005, Lady Liberty is used as a motive to represent American women. (Photo credit: Nate Beeler/The Columbus Dispatch, 10/11/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

Uncle Sam, however, is being used more frequently than Lady Liberty. He represents the entire nation whereas Lady Liberty is mainly used to refer to American women or the value of liberty. Photo credit: Kevin 'Kal' Kallaugher, The Economist/The Baltimore Sun. All rights reserved.)

 

Steve Sack's transformation of the entire nation into a metaphorical locker room in Trump's campaign is an interesting new metaphor that has emerged since last week (and the "wet towel snapping" hazing an interesting example of invoking folk knowledge):

 

(Photo credit: Steve Sack/Star Tribune, 10/11/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

Because Trump's words are the focus of so many cartoons, playing with words is also a strategy that is employed:

 

(Photo credit: Adam Zyglis/The Buffalo News, 10/11/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

Trump's outrageous statements are, however, also used by Republican cartoonists to reveal perceived hypocracy from Hillary Clinton. In the cartoon below, Trump's 'Miss Piggy' comments about former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, are being referenced:

 

(Photo credit: Steve Breen/San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/10/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

The idea that a lot of voters feel that they have to vote for the "lesser of two evils" has perhaps never been more palpable than in this election as both major party nominiees have historically low approval ratings among the American electorate. Of course, cartoonists pick on this motive as well:

 

(Photo credit: Walt Handelsman/The New Orleans Advocate, 04/03/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

Quite striking is that fact that the cartoons featured on Cagle Post under the topic heading "Democratic National Convention" depict "Bernie or Bust" and Russian hacking more than the historic nomination of a first female Democratic candidate for the presidency. Cartoons like this one are the exception:

 

(Photo credit: Steve Sack/Star Tribune, 07/28/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

The contrast between the reaction to Hillary Clinton's historic nomination (potential first female president) and Barack Obama's historic election (first African American president) in terms of imagery is particularly stark, manifesting in cartoons representing the sentiment that Clinton is "playing the female card":

 

(Photo credit: A. F. Branco, 2015. All rights reserved.)

 

Comparisons between Trump and Hitler are abundant in this campaign

and incorporations of new pop cultural references and trends into campaign commentary are also evident:

 

(Photo credit: Adam Zyglis/The Buffalo News, 07/26/2016. All rights reserved.)

 

One more tip: Students should pay attention to cartoons published the week of Halloween which will use this holiday's imagery and create what we call in linguistics 'cognitive blends', that is, two concepts or mental spaces that were originally perceived as unrelated or separate are now depicted in combination ("blended") because of current circumstances. This blending of holidays and political processes also shows how the understanding of cartoons can be very culture-specific: Although Halloween is now celebrated in different parts of the world, it is an American holiday and so readers from other cultures might not understand these cultural references as easily as American audiences.

Thank you, Christianna! We will feature Christianna Stavroudis soon in another post on the role of satire and laughter in political discourse, so stay tuned.

For more on the use of political cartoons in the English-as-a-Foreign-Language classroom, read Christianna's article in the American Studies Journal from 2014, titled "Political Cartoons in the EFL and American Studies Classroom".


Joannis Kaliampos is the educational project manager for the U.S. Embassy's Teach About US platform. He is a research assistant at the Institute of English Studies at Leuphana University, Lüneburg and holds a Staatsexamen degree in teaching English and History at the Gymnasium from Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. Joannis has developed teaching materials and has been leading teacher workshops for the U.S. Embassy's school projects since 2012.
#Election2016   #Experts

Monday Mail: David Goldfield answers your questions

by Janina Schmidt -

David GoldfieldElections and presidential politics sometimes turn out to be difficult matter. Luckily, at Teach About US we have a team of distinguished experts on the 2016 election who can help us solve (most) of these tough questions. This time David Goldfield, Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, took the time to address two issues that have been raised by our participants recently.

 

What happens when a candidate suddenly can't run for President anymore?

The first question comes from Susanne Aldoais, a teacher from Erlangen who is participating in the election project with her 12th-grade English class at Emmy Noether Gymnasium. She asks:

“What would happen if one the presidential candidates suddenly couldn’t run for president anymore? Would he or she be automatically replaced by his or her running mate? Would the results of the primaries / caucuses still play a role? Who decides in this case?”

Here is Dr. Goldfield’s take on this:

“Dear Susanne, there is no law or constitutional provision governing the replacement of a presidential candidate who dies prior to the general election.  In that case, it's strictly up to the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee to name a replacement.  There are no additional primaries or any other mechanism for the voters to weigh in on the decision.  Three likely scenarios would be to elevate the Vice Presidential candidate to the top slot (but then the party would have to name a new Vice Presidential candidate); the party could go to the voters' second choice in the primaries (Sanders for the Democrats; Cruz for the Republicans); or, the party could select a prominent officeholder who did not participate in the primaries but who carries significant respect and influence.  In the Democrats' case this would be Vice President Joe Biden.  I'm not sure whom the Republicans would turn to in this third scenario.”

 

Why do voters split their votes?

We received a second question from Simon Schilde. Simon’s 11th-grade course at Max-Planck-Schule in Gelsenkirchen adopted the state of Massachusetts and he and his classmates were wondering about this aspect:

“My question is why Massachusetts tends to vote for Democratic presidential candidates, despite voting for Republican governors?”

Again, David Goldfield:

“Dear Simon, if you look at some of the recent Republican governors, like Charlie Baker, Mitt Romney, and William Weld, you will see that they fall into the category of "moderate" Republicans. In the case of Baker, his Democratic opponent, Martha Coakley, ran a horrible campaign in 2014. The Republican Party in Massachusetts is very much different from the rest of the Republican Party outside New England. Equally, if not more important, the state's governors are typically elected in "off" years—that is, years when there is no presidential election.  Baker was elected in 2014, for example. Off-year elections tend to favor Republicans because the turnout among minorities and young people is generally lower than during the presidential election years.”

This phenomenon of divergent majorities in presidential vs. congressional elections in some states, like Massachusetts, is often referred to as ‘split-ticket voting’. There are various reasons for that. First off, it is the year 2016 and despite the current campaign rhetoric, one thing all pollsters can easily agree upon is that both major presidential candidates have historically low approval ratings. It isn't diffucult to imagine that some Republican-leaning voters would not give Mr. Trump their vote in November but still support the Republican candidates for Congress. The Democratic party might be facing a similar challenge, albeit to a lesser degree. As the New York Times recently described, Charles Kress (62) of York, Pennsylvania, is one such example:

“Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, has never met Charles Kress, but he desperately needs him. Mr. Kress, 62, will vote for a Democrat this November for the White House, he said, no matter what. He is also planning to vote for Mr. Toomey’s re-election. 'Sometimes you have to keep in office the ones who make the deals,' Mr. Kress said as he watered the flowers in front of York’s Unitarian church.”

(Read the article here.)

Split-ticket voting could possibly play a role in this year’s presidential election, but as the Washington Post reports, it has generally declined in recent election cycles. One major reason: “As the country gets more polarized, it would make sense that people would be less likely to split their votes between parties.”

(Read the article here.)

Thank you again to Simon and Susanne for your questions. And now it’s YOUR turn! Don’t hesitate to address any of the U.S. election experts and post your questions directly in the expert 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

Young Adults and Third Party Options

by Tobias Luthe -

gary-johnson.jpgOver the last two weeks the very emotional race for the White House has not become less intensive. But no matter what both candidates do, they remain very unpopular presidential nominees for many Americans. In a recent Huffington Post poll on the candidates' popularity scores Americans expressed their dissatisfaction for Clinton (54.1% unfavorable) and Trump (60.1% unfavorable). Neither candidate has come even close to a favorable rating of 50% or more. Back in 2008, the two major presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain enjoyed far more support from the American public. A month before the election Obama’s favorability ratings reached 61% and McCain’s 57%. But the current candidates rather polarize American society instead of being able to unite the country. Due to their unpopularity, a number of students here in Minneapolis tend to look for third party options in the race for the White House.

(Photo: Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election. He served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 as a member of the Republican party. Photo credit: Gary Johnson)

During the primaries of the Democratic Party, the self-appointed “socialist” Bernie Sanders represented a possible new chapter of American politics for younger people, in particular college students. After Sander’s defeat in the primary process and in spite of his pledged support for Secretary Clinton, his  former supporters at my university think about voting for an independent candidate. Gary Johnson, the presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party, has won support among them because he has been able to portray himself as a serious third party option. In mid-September, 8.9% of Americans expressed their support for him in ten different nationwide polls conducted from September 8 until September 21.

But this switch from Sanders to Johnson by young people is also surprising to a certain degree because both politicians only share similar opinions on a couple of social issues like marriage equality or the legal use marijuana at home. When it comes to more controversial topics like abortion, Johnson also appeals to more conservative voters by being against late-term abortions or using tax dollars for such procedures although he also wants to respect the freedom and choice of women at the same time.

Johnson also differs from Sanders on educational issues. Sanders advocated free college education which motivated many young adults to join his camp. In the U.S., college education is extremely expensive in comparison to Germany, and it is not unusual that people spend multiple $10,000 per year. Thus, students often  rely on student loans provided by the federal government, which are supposed to finance their stay at the university. After graduation, former students have to pay back substantial loans. Johnson opposes free college educatiin, but he also opposes these loans. He strongly believes  that the federal government should not pay for anyone's education. Although this seems to be not in the interest of students, a significant number of them still consider voting for Johnson. But how is this possible?

While older voters in the U.S. often care about the label of the party, which gives them a framework for what the different presidential nominees stand for, millennials don’t feel party loyalty. Since they regard both parties and their candidates skeptically, young adults have been constantly looking for alternative voting options. Hence, they also tend to overlook certain ideological contradictions between a candidate like Gary Johnson and their own position. So one gets the impression that young voters care about the candidates' policy goals only to a certain extend. What matters to them is also the candidate’s character and what each of them represents, in Johnson’s case perhaps that he is an outsider making inroads into a close race.

 


Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#Election2016

 

Act One of One: Kaine and Pence Face Off in VP Debate

by Brandon Greenblatt -
Brandon Greenblatt // 06 October 2016 // #Election2016 

kaine-pence.pngVice Presidential Candidates Tim Kaine (D) and Mike Pence (R) took the stage at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia on October 4 for this election season’s only vice presidential debate. The debate, which was moderated by CBS News’ Elaine Quijano, touched on a variety of issues, including immigration, abortion, foreign policy towards Russia and North Korea, terrorism, faith, and presidential temperament. You can view a recording of the debate here.

video

Without delving too much into the content of the debate (because we want you to watch it for yourselves and decide who won!), I’d like to highlight a couple of topical points that stood out to me:

Tim%20Kaine.jpgFirst, both Tim Kaine (right) and Mike Pence spoke at length about the role that faith plays in their governance. Senator Kaine noted that his Catholic upbringing occasionally conflicts with the liberal, progressive policies of the Democratic Party - particularly on abortion and capital punishment - but that he unequivocally supports the rule of law and Hillary Clinton’s stances on those issues. Governor Pence, meanwhile, stated that his evangelical-Catholic faith strongly guides his political beliefs on social issues such as abortion, the necessity of traditional family values, and his plan to increase opportunities for adoption.

Mike%20Pence.jpgSecond, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence (right) have radically different debating styles. After the first presidential debate, many media organizations noted Donald Trump’s aggressive style and tendency to interject, whereas Clinton was described as a more composed and calm. These styles appeared flip-flopped with regard to Kaine and Pence; Kaine strived to have a two-way dialogue with Pence, whereas Pence’s approach was more measured and reticent. This is not to say that a particular debating style is preferable to another, just that, perhaps ironically, the styles crossed partisan lines. That is, Kaine and Trump debate with similar mannerisms, as do Pence and Clinton.

Third, neckties are important! If you looked carefully, Senator Kaine wore a white shirt and red tie, while Governor Pence wore a white shirt and blue tie. This inverted the traditional colors of their respective parties (blue symbolizes Democrats and red symbolizes Republicans) -- obviously in an appeal to undecided voters affiliated with the opposite party. There’s not much else to say on this point, other that I found the calculated fashion choices a little bit funny, especially because the candidates made no effort to hide them! The same thing happened in last Monday’s presidential debate as well; Donald Trump wore a blue tie while clinton appeared in a red power suit. I wonder if this occurs in Germany as well... do candidates there factor fashion into their appeals to voters? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

With all of this said, I want to turn to my key, serious observation of the debate: It was less about the vice presidential candidate’s policies and qualifications and more about delivering a robust defense of their presidential partners.

Leading up to the debate, this was to be expected. The American public values vice presidents for their close contact and influence on the president, and because they’re the first to assume the presidency should the president become unable to serve. Yet, in an election season, vice presidential candidates, honestly, are viewed as proxies for their presidential candidate counterparts. Since Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s experiences, scandals, and policies so easily dominate the news headlines here, the debate was going to be not a contest between the vice presidential candidates themselves, but rather a fight over who could better represent Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, respectively.

The Vice President of the United States is the first person in the presidential line of succession, the second highest position in the Executive Branch, and President of the Senate.

You can decide for yourself who did a better job on this front, but I want to note just how eager the vice presidential candidates were. Both were quick to support their presidential candidate partners, both on offense and defense. Governor Pence defended what many have referred to as Donald Trump’s un-presidential temperament, and he attacked Secretary Clinton’s foreign policy as having facilitated the rise of ISIL and strengthened an Iranian nuclear power. Senator Kaine lauded Secretary Clinton’s role in what he described as President Obama’s signature foreign policy successes, such as the Iran nuclear deal and assassination of Osama bin Laden, while simultaneously criticizing Donald Trump’s recent comments on women, immigrants, and African-Americans. A back-and-forth on these issues dominated most of the evening’s debate.

To a certain extent, Kaine's and Pence’s comments on these issues seemed pre-formulated and scripted. Indeed, would anyone have expected that Trump’s temperament or Clinton’s foreign policy record wouldn’t come up in the debate? However, I was struck by the extent to which neither vice presidential candidate offered any significant, original opinions on these issues. For the most part, Pence echoed Trump’s criticisms of Clinton, and Kaine reiterated Clinton’s attacks against Trump and confronted Pence with some examples of Trump’s offensive campaign rhetoric. 

video

Many Americans view these debates as an opportunity to gauge the candidates’ speaking styles and abilities to communicate under pressure, and the debate certainly succeeded on this front. However, if you were looking for original substance in this debate, particularly any enumeration of policy ideas or critiques, you would likely be disappointed by Tuesday night. I think that Kaine and Pence, both so eager to represent their partners in the best light and avoid any significant gaffes or missteps, were a bit hesitant to deviate from script. Instead, they painted a picture of America and their opposition with broad brush strokes, sticking to generalizations and statements that could not be misunderstood or used against them.

However, these are just my opinions! I would encourage you to watch the debate for yourself and render your own conclusions on how each candidate did and whom you might vote for! Maybe also take some time to read the American and German news media for some expert (though not unbiased) commentary on the debate to see what your peers and fellow citizens think. Also, feel free to comment below and let us know your thoughts on Elections 2016 and the vice presidential debate in particular!

Finally, look out for an upcoming post profiling Governor Mike Pence from Teach About Us blogger Liz Subrin!

(Photo credit: Wikipedia, PBS NewsHour/YouTube)


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.

 

The swing state: A candidate's exciting battlefront

by Edgar Barrios -

Empty%20Podium%20%281562506441%29.jpgThere’s a lot of excitement in this upcoming election. It has been one of the most unpredictable elections in U.S. history to date. To those who are following this race and trying to anticipate an outcome, there is one factor that cannot be overlooked and that’s the importance of battleground states. Battleground states, or swing states, are states in which there is not an overwhelming majority or support for one party and/or candidate. It is hard to predict which candidate will claim the state’s electoral votes. We call this “a toss up” – the votes can go either way.

Some of these states, like my state of Florida, hold a lot of electoral votes (29) which have a high attraction and relevancy to the candidates. Often times a swing state is where candidates will spend most of their time campaigning and raising money. For example, Republican Nominee Donald Trump has visited Florida nearly 13 times within the past month. Now, these swings states also gain national attention as they’re the prime target for pollsters – those who conduct polls – to analyze.

Learn more about the Electoral Collegehere.

Non-swing states, or safe states, are the opposite. In a safe state one candidate holds enough support that he/she can make a safe assumption that he/she will win that state. For example, a safe state for Hillary Clinton is New York. New York often leans Democrat, and Hillary Clinton represented this state as a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009.

Swing states are never officially set in stone and subject to change. Every election cycle, media sources, political scientist, and pollsters speculate what state they think will be vital swing states in the upcoming election. All states can change from safe-states to swing-states, and vice versa.

These states can have a historical and monumental impact on the election. A grand example of this is the 2000 election between George W. Bush (R) and former Vice President Al Gore (D). The election was tied between the two candidates with one state, a swing state, being the tipping point. It was Florida that decided who would become President. In a close election like this one in 2016, the possibility for repetition is high.

Swing states represent pros and cons in our election process. Pro: Every individual vote sincerely matters. Con: Candidates neglect many states to specifically focus their campaign efforts more on swing states, committing more time and resources to them than to other “safer” states.

In this election cycle there are eighteen identified swing states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. These supposed swing states can be subject to change. Some of them had not been swing states in 2008 or 2012, and according to which pollster or media outlet you consult, this club of swing states will include different members.

             (Photo credits: WorldAtlas)     

(Photo credit: WorldAtlas)

In my state of Florida, our electoral votes have gone to the victor in these past five elections. Therefore, Florida is a major indicator and should be watched carefully on election night. People are aware of the crucial role the state plays in the elections and are politically very active. Signs stressing the importance of voting pop up virtually everywhere. There is a major upside to all this attention for university students like myself: We often have the opportunity to attend rallies and meet the candidates. I have gone to a few of these rallies, and it is rather uncommon to meet someone who has not.

bush.jpg

(Photo credit: Olivier Douliery, Abaca Press)

Florida is also one of these swing states where millennials are becoming a major voting block. In the primaries, our pre-presidential elections, voter turnout and voter registration was the highest in 10 years. This was a phenomenon that overtook other swing states which makes young voters another crucial factor that must be taken into account.

As the race for the White House speeds up, we mustn’t forget to look at the battles that take place in these “battleground states” as they just might be the indicator we need to forecast the next U.S. President. 

 
Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.
#Election2016

 

What Do High School Students In Michigan Think About Election 2016?

by Deleted user -

Source: TownMapUSAI’m spending this high school year as an exchange student in Vassar, Michigan. Vassar is a small town of just 2,700 residents. Ethnically, it is less diverse than the nation on average: Almost nine out of ten residents are white, almost every tenth resident is African American, and other groups (Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans) make up an extremely small percentage of the population, according to the 2010 census.

When I think about the upcoming elections and how young people my age perceive them, I can almost certainly predict that many teenagers will not make an effort to read beyond the headlines on Facebook or Twitter to learn about this race. “American politics, why is that interesting for me?”, is what you are probably asking yourself right now. Well, besides having the strongest national economy in the world, the second largest military and the third biggest population, the United States of America is Europe’s closest partner.

»American politics, why is that interesting for me?.«

American high school students learn about American politics every day in their government class. But politics is not really a topic at the lunch table or in the hallways. When some weirdo (in this case me) starts a discussion about politics, everybody starts to have a very defined and “factual” opinion. As in other parts of the world, young people often adopt their parents’ or grandparents’ political views and preferences. But it impresses me that the students listen to each other. They argue, but are open for compromise.

Jill%20Stein.jpgI actually had a really interesting conversation, with an African-American kid and a son of an ex-Marine. We actually came to a point where both were considering support for the non-mainstream candidates libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party member Jill Stein (pictured to the right). Only that the biggest reason to vote for them would be “that they’re not Hillary or Trump”.

So far, my impression is that adults follow the election campaign very closely, consulting different media and channels -- after all, adult Americans are those who will vote in November. Here in Michigan, an important swing state, where the presidential race is tight every four years, a lot of people do not make their cross in the same spot every presidential cycle, which makes it one of the most interesting states to follow. Right now, state polls show Senator Hillary Clinton slightly ahead of businessman Donald Trump.

Five more weeks to go until Election Day. I’m curious about its outcome, and so are my fellow students.

Images courtesy of TownMapsUSA and Twitter.

 


Felix Wortmann is a high school student from Berlin and currently as an exchange student in Michigan exploring high school life there. Felix participated in Going Green together with his school class (and won an award). He will provide the "one step removed" perspective on the elections.
#Election2016

 

Dialogue or Monologue? The Question of the Presidential Debate

by Emily Young -

Photocredit: CBS News

Although for the past two weeks, my German Media class has discussed Oktoberfest and the War in  Syria, the theme selected this past week was the  Presidential Debate. Not only does it play a large  role in shaping how voters view the presidential candidates; the debate is also one of the primary examples of how the media affects results of the election. The first in a series of three, this debate has racked up the largest number of TV viewers in the history of U.S. elections.  The topics of the debate included “America’s Direction”, “Achieving Prosperity”, and “Securing America”. The issues addressed included those relevant to jobs in America, minimum wage, taxation, trade and racism.

Ann-Arbor_Emily.pngThe responses leading up to and following the debate could be heard across dorm rooms, classrooms and sport venues. Yet, despite the performance and responses of the two nominees, the overwhelming majority of students don't feel more inclined towards one candidate or the other.  Students feel that instead of providing the clarification and addressing what is important for voting in this upcoming election (many for the first time), the debate has ignited more controversy than coherence on campus. Combining the three questions of competence (die Kompetenzfrage), trust (die Vertrauensfrage), and popularity (die Sympathiefrage) many watchers of the debate could not elicit a clear winner.

German-turkish author Selim Özdogen, currently residing in Ann Arbor, shared his input on the debate with German classes at U of M. Selim declared  “das ist keine Demokratie” (It is not a democracy), when a debate does not answer the question of the people, and instead becomes a platform to advance one’s own ideals. Dylan Gooch, a neuroscience major here at the U of M, stated this same problem to be true. Gooch shared that for him “there are so many dissenting opinions on U.S. issues, such as whether NAFTA was or was not a good U.S. policy, making it difficult for young adults to make decisions”.  

College Republican’s president Enrique Zalamea described how an event screening the debate to all students interested, was disrupted by protesters: “We were met with protesters who disrupted our peaceful non-partisan event with hateful comments. Everyone is entitled to their own political opinions, but it’s disappointing to see such animosity from a liberal population that ironically advocates acceptance, tolerance, and personal freedoms”.

What will happen during the next debate is controversial, but what can be predicted is that students will prioritize watching it in the hopes of becoming informed on the possible directions for America’s future.

If you missed the debate you can find a link below and other interesting articles addressing the issues and content of the debate

For articles addressing the debate and what was discussed:

Links to the Debate and other Helpful Debate Videos:

German Responses to the Debate:

 


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
#Election2016

 

From Obama to The Future: A Time for Reflection

by Brandon Greenblatt -

800px-EnvelopeFromBushtoObama.jpgWith the November 8th presidential election rapidly approaching, I’ve recently found myself looking towards the future. Caught up in a 24/7 news cycle and the constant dialogue between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (as well as Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party), I’ve been thinking more about the next presidential administration than the Obama-era policies of today.

Photo: Envelope containing message from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, Jan. 20, 2009, sitting on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office at the White House, effectively ending the Presidential transition. (Photo credit: The White House)

This idea, that an election cycle captivates the public’s attention and directs it away from the present and towards the future, recently became clear to me when I attended an event on Georgetown University’s campus. At Georgetown, we have a program in the graduate school of public policy called the Institute of Politics and Public Service, which works primarily to introduce all Georgetown students to political activities and personas at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute is notable for its speaker series and political fellows, who work with students to foster a spirit of political engagement on campus.

DC_Brandon_small.pngThis year, the Institute is hosting a series called The Exit Interview. The series is designed as a retrospective on the Obama administration, in which six prominent Cabinet and advisory officials will come to campus and share their thoughts on the Obama administration and American policies moving forward.

Last week, for the national security and foreign policy portion of the series, Susan Rice addressed a crowd of Georgetown students and faculty. Susan Rice currently serves as President Obama’s National Security Advisor and was the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the early years of the Obama administration. Ambassador Rice spoke about her professional path into the Obama administration, her accomplishments as UN Ambassador and National Security Advisor, her most frustrating moments in office, and her policy ideas for the future.

Susan Rice spoke at Georgetown on September 14.

Susan Rice is currently serving as the 24th U.S. National Security Advisor. She was formerly the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo credit: U.S. State Department)

The content of Ambassador Rice’s address was interesting, but what struck me most was her tone; she framed the upcoming presidential election as a time of monumental transition. This election, Rice stated, provides the next President of the United States with the remarkable opportunity to both capitalize on the Obama administration’s progress and learn from its mistakes, and hopefully charter an even better path forward.

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President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. (Photo credit: The White House)

Which policies the next President should adopt is a matter of opinion, but the sentiment of Ambassador Rice’s statement rings true, I believe. Regardless of whether an election is at the local, state, or national level, political contests should be viewed neither as an opportunity to completely uphold the status quo nor as a chance to disregard the previous administration entirely, but rather as a time for critical reflection and collaborative learning. Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another – discussing policy initiatives and leadership strategies – such that the government’s future is even brighter for their citizens. This strategy would be most visible at the national level, where the upcoming presidential election dominates our news, but it would certainly be beneficial at all levels of government.

»Putting partisan politics aside, consecutive administrations might do well to communicate with one another

The Exit Interview series, which will be hosted by the Georgetown University Institute for Politics and Public Service over the next few months, will offer me an opportunity to engage in such reflection. I would encourage everyone to take a step back as well and to think of these elections in the abstract: How can the next US President move forward in a positive way, informed not only by his/her own views, but also by the legacies and guidance of previous administrations?

 


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.
#Election2016

 

The question driving Floridians mad: Who Will Win the Senate?

by Edgar Barrios -

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In November, Americans will elect their new President, but did you know that there is a lot more at stake on Election Day? On that same day voters will also elect nearly half members to their national legislation -- the House of Representatives and the Senate, also known as Congress. These two houses are very important in the United States, as they represent one of the three branches that form the American Government. Both work to create and pass legislation that potentially becomes policy. American political parties value what party has the majority, or near majority, in Congress just as much as they do with what party the President is. If, say, one political party has a grand majority in Congress, they can formulate the policies the U.S. would pursue and steer the U.S. in a certain direction in terms of their party objectives. So the election of these individuals play a major role in our electoral system. 

On Election Day Americans don’t just decide about who is going to be their next President. In the U.S. presidential elections coincide with congressional elections for members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Here’s a cheat sheet for this election.

The Senate is comprised of 100 members -- two Senators from every state. The House of Representatives is comprised of 435 members -- the number from each state varies on the state’s population. While both houses are equal in power, most citizens pay attention to the Senate races. The body of the Senate is smaller, and some see these elections as more important and aim to have the Senator who aligns with their party placed in Congress. Tallahassee_Edgar.pngThe Senate races are also larger in scale, as the whole state votes for them (not just the smaller congressional districts) and are heavily contested. Specifically in my state of Florida our Senate race is boiling up as recent polls (link at the bottom) predict the race will be an extremely close and tight one. For this election cycle there is only one seat up for contest, the seat of current Senator Marco Rubio (Republican). The election for the other seat, held by Senator Bill Nelson (Democrat), will be fought for during the next election cycle in 2018 -- often referred to as the midterm elections because they take place during the middle of the sitting President's term.

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Senator Rubio campaigning (photo credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But as for this election we have two individuals vying for this the office -- incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (Republican) and current U.S. House Representative Patrick Murphy (Democrat). Thus far throughout the campaign we have had a lot of mudslinging between the candidates -- an American term for using insults or accusations with the purpose of damaging the reputation of the other opponent. Some political scientists suggest that it might cause voters to turn to a third party candidate for the seat.

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U.S. Representative Murphy campaigning. (photo credit: FXTribune)

While current Senator Rubio is slightly leading in the polls, he has faced a lot of criticism from his opponent and his own party. In 2015, Senator Rubio threw in his name for the 2016 presidential race, and while campaigning he missed 125 of Senate votes on pending legislation -- which was about 41% of the total votes -- causing him to have the worst voting record in the Senate.  He also lost a bit of his stronghold when he endorsed Donald Trump for President, receiving disconcertion from his party and constituents.

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Senator Rubio with student supporters at Florida State University (photo credit: Taylor Ney)

However, the record of Representative Murphy also invokes criticism. Murphy was formerly a Republican, donating to Republican candidates -- including Mitt Romney’s campaign for President in 2012. However, he switched to the Democratic Party four months before running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Murphy is also accused of “climbing the ladder” too quickly, i.e. for being a U.S. Representative and three years later seeking and running for a higher office. Some see him as power hungry and not paying attention to the needs of his constituents. Both candidates have sought to visit college campuses across the state, such as Florida State University (my university), University of Florida (Rubio’s former university), and the University of Miami (Murphy’s former university).  Both candidates have received endorsements from high profile individuals in their respective parties, including President Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney. As the election nears the Rubio campaign has called for six different debates, yet both sides have so far only agreed to one on October 26th at a South Florida College.

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U.S. Representative Murphy with students at Florida International University (photo credit: Taylor Ney)

As of right now no polling company or political science organization can predict who might acquire the seat. Most polls are considering it a “toss-up”, meaning it could go either way. But a little background knowledge of the seat itself: Since 2005, the seat has gone to a Republican. And the state of Florida itself usually leans Republican in a majority of its elected offices. For example, Florida has had a Republican governor since 1999. But the state has also voted for President Obama in the last two presidential elections. So while the race continually heats up, our greatest friend and indicator will be the polls; perhaps giving us slight insight to the election results. The most recent polls indicated to following: Senator Rubio 50 and Representative Murphy 43 (Rubio +7), and the other: Senator Rubio 40 and Representative Murphy 37 (Rubio +3). This page collects several polls and charts from a number of sources. There are errors in these polls which is why they differ and cannot be blindly trusted. But they are a good general indicator.

 


Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.
#Election2016

 

'A Tremendous Amount Has Changed in America Since the Last Election Cycle': Jason Johnson on Presidential Election Campaigns and Social Media

by Janina Schmidt -

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

 

Falling into order for the November Election: Political Advocacy in Ann Arbor, Michigan

by Emily Young -

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Yells of “Do you like science, even a little bit? Do you love to dance? Does translation interest you?” were echoed across the diag (or the center) of the University of Michigan’s (U of M) campus this past week. The event Festifall introduced various student organizations to new and returning students. This year’s Festifall saw the return and arrival of many of the 1300 organizations active on campus. Involvement in organizations is encouraged by staff and students alike as the university strives to develop leaders and active citizens. Students who have dedicated many hours of their time to their cause of choice are reaching out to new students so that their legacy may continue even as they become alumni.

Photo caption: University of Michigan student supporting Gretchen Driskell (D), member of the Michigan House of Representatives representing the 52nd District (photo credit: Emily Young)

As many university campuses in the United States do, U of M sponsors, hosts, and provides for a safe and open political dialogue. The First Amendment is upheld and publicity covers the surfaces of major buildings, bulletin boards, and surfaces spacious enough to be plastered with different thoughts and ideas.

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University of Michigan student assisting in voter registration and informing young voters about their civic rights at this year's Festifall (photo credit: Emily Young)

One of the most common questions raised at Festifall was “Are you registered to vote?” or “Would you like to register to vote?” Students assisting in voter registration informed prospective voters about their civic rights and passed out pamphlets from the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. The pamphlets contained information concerning ages for voting, registration, the photo ID policy and how to avoid problems when entering the polls this upcoming Election Day, November 8th.  An entire section of the space was dedicated to various political entities that deal with issues and include organizations such as Students For Life or Students for Choice. These particular organizations deal with the issue of whether abortion should or should not be legal. College Republicans, College Democrats, and Michigan Political Union (an organization dedicated to bringing about discussion between students of all political views and affiliations) were also all present boasting a slew of events to get in gear for the upcoming election.

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Poster and campaign announcement by the Green Party on the U of M campus (photo: credit: Emily Young)

What I found to be relevant to the Ann Arbor student body however, was the presence of members of a campaign under the heading Students for Gretchento supportGretchen Driskell who is running for congress.  She was even scheduled to attend the upcoming Student Democratic meeting, that would also host congresswoman Debbie Dingell, the commissioner for Ann Arbor Yousef Rabhi (who is running for state representation of Michigan), and candidate Gretchen Driskell’s campaign manager Keenan Pontoni.

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At the Student Democratic mass meeting held on Sunday September 11th, current congresswoman Debbie Dingell,the representative of the 12th district in Michigan, spoke to the college democrats about the upcoming election. She disclosed how to be present on campus and hold conversations not only about the Presidential race, but all of the races that will be present on the ballot in November that affect communities on a federal, state and local level. Congresswoman Dingell proclaimed the election as “the most important of your lifetime” for millennials. She pronounced that individuals should vote first as Americans, second as party members. More specifically she addressed the rights endowed to Americans by the U.S. Constitution such as Freedom of Speech and Religion. Dingell endeared herself to the students by discussing education and her desire to see students leaving college debt-free by 2021 (by means of Hillary Clinton’s plan for education.

»This is going to be the most important election of your lifetime.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

According to Congresswoman Dingell, the generations of students voting this year are at ‘ground 0’ (the center of change) and especially in the state of Michigan, one of the most competitive states, she urged students to mobilize and ensure the turnover of the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats.  In order for the House of Representatives to be a democratic majority for Michigan, six of the ten seats that are currently Republican would need to be won by Democrats in the upcoming election. For the entire House of Representatives to become a Democratic majority, thirty seats must turn blue nationwide come November.  As a battleground state, the elections are very competitive in the state of Michigan. The presence of young voters in the upcoming election will undoubtedly have an effect, as they make up twenty-five percent of the country and ‘100% of our future’ according to Dingell.

»Young voters make up twenty-five percent of the country and 100% of our future.«
Debbie Dingell, Representative of the 12th district in Michigan

Just as the dozens of political organizations set up on the diag this past Friday, so will Tim Kaine and student volunteers do again this upcoming week in an effort to encourage students not only to ‘go blue’ but to ‘vote blue.’ We will know by November 9 if they achieved their goal to encourage young voters to go to the polls!

 


Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She grew up in the tri-border region of Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and  has a serious interest in US and EU Relations. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.
#Election2016

 

State Talk: Minnesota and the Upcoming Elections

by Tobias Luthe -

Minnesota State Fair, Trump/Pence boothAfter the first four weeks in my new hometown of Minneapolis, where I will spent the upcoming year as an exchange student at the University of Minnesota, I can assure everyone that people here are already focused on the upcoming elections. On November 8, 2016, they will not only decide about the new president but also their congressmen and women in the House of Representatives.

Minnesota differs from other U.S. states. From September 23 on, Minnesotans are already allowed to cast an early vote which gives more people the chance to participate in the upcoming elections. Unlike in Germany, Election Day is not on a Sunday, but always on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. As a consequence, a lot of people might not have the time to go to the polls because they have to work. Minnesota’s early voting system instead gives people the chance to vote whenever it is convenient to them. So they can avoid the often long waiting lines at the polling stations on Election Day.

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Another difference between Minnesota and other U.S. states is the fact that Minnesotans can register for voting on Election Day. In contrast to Germany, U.S. citizens are not automatically registered to vote and have to do that at least 30 days prior to the election. Otherwise they are not eligible to cast their vote. A political science professor of mine regards this more flexible regulation as a decisive factor why the voter turnout in Minnesota is always among the nation’s highest. This can also be seen in the actual numbers. During the last Presidential Election in 2012, the turnout in Minnesota was 76.42% compared to just 54.87% on average in the entire country.

Americans constantly talk about the upcoming elections. Even before my plane touched American soil, I had a first interesting conversation with my seat neighbor, a professor from northern Minnesota. For hours we spoke about the elections, the candidates and the topics which are important to Minnesotans, especially for those living in the rural areas in the North and North-East. In these counties many people are very concerned about job security. They often work for the strong mining industry (Minnesota is the largest producer of iron ore and taconite in the U.S.) and fear that cheaper foreign imports and possible new environmental protection laws could endanger their workplace. According to my seat neighbor, such a climate of anxiety might influence some former Democrats to support the Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump and his proposed protectionist policy for the American economy. Yet, Minnesota can still be regarded as one of “bluest” states in America since Minnesotans voted for the Democrats during the past ten presidential elections. They did so even in 1984 when Minnesota was the only state (except the District of Columbia), which voted for the Democrat Walter Mondale instead of the Republican President Ronald Reagan.

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Booth of the DFL (Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) on the Minnesota State Fair 2016 (photo credit: Tobias Luthe)

Both major parties have started their campaigns here in Minnesota. On the Minnesota State Fair, for example, which is one of the biggest agricultural fairs in the entire country, Republicans as well Democrats had their own booths where they informed people about their party’s and candidate’s goals. Apart from receiving flyers and first-hand information, visitors were also able to purchase merchandise of the candidates like Donald Trump’s famous “Make America Great Again” cap or Hillary Clinton T-Shirts. In the US the candidates rely on the revenues from these merchandise sales to a certain degree in order to finance their campaigns. This is definitely a point where the U.S. differs from Germany.

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Booth of the Republican Party of Minnesota at the Minnesota State Fair 2016 (photo credit: Tobias Luthe)

All in all my first weeks have definitely been dominated by politics. It is interesting to see that not only the media but also ordinary people already discuss the presidential election in November. Without hesitating they often claim that this might be one of the most interesting and important elections in U.S. history. Therefore, I am really looking forward to observing how Americans, especially my fellow students on campus here in Minneapolis, will perceive the further development of the different election campaigns.

 
Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John-F.-Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.
#Election2016

 

Get to know our ‘Explainers-in-Chief’

by Janina Schmidt -

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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

 

Introducing Our New Interns!

by Brandon Greenblatt -

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The Teach About US Blogger Team: Liz Subrin, Janina Schmidt, Brandon Greenblatt, Tobias Luthe, Edgar Barrios, Emily Young; not pictured: Felix Wortmann.

All of us here at Teach About Us are very excited to resume work on this excellent project! We will begin to post content for the Election 2016 blog later this week, but, in the meantime, take a few minutes and get to know our new team of interns. They come from very diverse backgrounds, and we hope you'll enjoy learning from them over the next few months!

Joining the project this year are...

 

Liz Subrin (Butler University)Liz%20Subrin.png

Liz Subrin attends Butler University in Indiana and is studying Chemistry and Education. Liz is especially passionate about science and sharing her interests with other curious students, so she's very excited to work on this project!

 

 

Edgar Barrios (Florida State University)

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Edgar Barrios is a student in Political Science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. Edgar will give us great insights into State politics (e.g. close Senate races) in an important swing state, among other things.

 

 

Emily Young (University of Michigan)

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Emily Young is a student in International Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Emily loves photography and will contribute a photo series.

 

 

Tobias Luthe (Freie Universität Berlin/University of Minnesota)

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Tobias Luthe is a student in North American Studies focusing on politics and economics at the John F. Kennedy Institute of the Freie Universität Berlin. He is spending the fall and spring semester 2016/17 at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

 

Felix Wortmann

Felix Wortmann is a high school student from Berlin and currently as an exchange student in Michigan exploring high school life there. Felix participated in Going Green together with his school class (and won an award). He will provide the "one step removed" perspective on the elections.

 

Also joining the Teach About Us team is Janina Schmidt, a graduate student in Germany. Janina will be collecting questions from Teach About Us participants and posting answers from a panel of experts assembled by Teach About Us. You can read more about Janina below!

 

 

Janina Schmidt (Leuphana University)

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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.

 

Finally, Brandon Greenblatt, one of our Going Green interns from last year, will be returning to the project. You can read more about Brandon below!

 

 

Brandon Greenblatt (Georgetown University)

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Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Brandon is passionate about environmental and political issues and is excited to be working with Teach About Us again!

 

We can't wait for another great year of the Teach About Us project with you all. Stay tuned for more content to be posted on this blog!

 


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.
#Election2016 #GoingGreen

 

Following Convention (or Political Mathematics)

by Joannis Kaliampos -

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We'd like to give a shout-out to our colleagues at the American Studies Blog who featured this story on August 31, 2016. We repost Bobbie Kirkhart's text with permission by the author and blog editors.

 

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee 

The political parties spend countless hours planning their conventions. This is, after all, four nights of free advertising and their first chance to introduce their candidates to the public, who haven't been paying attention through the primary elections. Everybody works for a great start. It almost never happens. This year was no exception. Interestingly, you could say that it was the same woman who saved both conventions.

Both parties had to deal with large factions who couldn't count. For the Republicans, it was the "Never Trump" movement. Though Trump had won the primary vote decisively, and most delegates were pledged to him by party rules, some thought they could talk sense into these people. The effort was hampered by the fact that there was no alternative, as all the possibilities were more unpopular than Trump. "Never Trump" made motions and noise, and it seemed they would leave a sour note on the entire convention. Yet in the evening, the mood became much more positive with Melania Trump's excellent speech. All seemed to be well.

»Both parties had to deal with large factions who couldn't count.«

No one even commented that Kat Gates-Skipper, who had been scheduled, didn't speak. She was the first woman Marine in combat operations, and the committee was happy to have her until they found out that the Republican platform is against women serving in combat. There is an unwritten rule that you can't ignore the party platform until the convention is over.

The Democrats' problem with the people who can't count was much worse. After months of telling his followers that the election was rigged, primary contender Bernie Sanders was surprised that many of his followers believed him, even after Bernie endorsed Hillary. It didn't help that on the day the convention started, WikiLeaks released hacked e-mails that proved it was true, sort of. The Democratic National Committee, which is supposed to be an honest broker in the primaries, favored Hillary. The committee's bias was more talk than action, but it was clearly unethical, and from that day until the election, there are Bernie or Bust people who loudly proclaim that Hillary is a crook. LOUDLY.

After the first night, the Republicans limped along – no huge gaffs, no real triumphs. They suffered from the absence of many Republicans who had been alienated during the primaries and from the presence of one – Senator Ted Cruz, who spoke, urging people to vote their conscience and pointedly not endorsing Trump.

The Democratic show came together – with the exception of the Bernie or Bust people – after a parade of excellent speakers in the first evening program. The consensus was the best; most effective was Michelle Obama. This was the second convention first-night she had brought together, as some smart aleck with a computer had let it out that Melania Trump's speech included lines plagiarized from Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic convention speech.

First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC 2016

First lady Michelle Obama, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., tells the audience, 'Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great.' (Photo credit: Ali Shaker/VOA)

The hacked e-mails on the Democratic National Committee continued to be a problem.The Dems pointed out that this information was a result of Russian hacking, trying to make Russian interference in our elections the story. They were unable to, and it was a distraction to their convention until Donald Trump came to the rescue Wednesday morning by asking the Russians to release any hacked material they had on Hillary's missing e-mails. That put the issue right where the Dems wanted it: all about the Russians and their apparent relationship with Trump.

»The conventions went along parallel lines in opposite spheres: the Republican about what's wrong with America, the Democratic about what's right with America.«

The conventions went along parallel lines in opposite spheres: the Republican about what's wrong with America, the Democratic about what's right with America. Each side paraded parents who had lost children, some of whom had distinctly partisan messages. Hillary was smart enough not to fight with bereaved parents, but The Donald, as we used to call him with fondness, took on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son died a hero in the Iraq war. Kahn had asserted that Trump had "sacrificed nothing." Most infamous of Trump's responses was his defense that he had sacrificed because he had worked very hard and become successful. If historians someday chronicle Trump's loss (as now seems likely), the disaffection of so many Republicans, and the media's open criticism, they will likely cite his decision to take on the Khans as the decisive moment – although there is no shortage of plausible explanations.

Both parties paraded celebrities who had no real connection with politics. The Republicans hosted Willie Robertson, Scott Baio, Antonio Sabato, Dana White, Natalie Gulbis, Kimberlin Brown, and Brock Mealor. If you don't recognize these names, you are not alone. The Dems' list included Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, Lena Dunham, Elizabeth Banks, Lee Daniels, America Ferrera, Bradley Cooper, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sigourney Weaver, Angela Bassett, Katy Perry, and Paul Simon. Some stars were at the convention to protest on behalf of Bernie, including Susan Sarandon and Rosario Dawson.

Donald Trump at the RNC 2016

Trump promised to bring sweeping political change, to create wealth, and to make America safe again in a speech that excited delegates on the fourth and final day of the convention. (Photo credit: Ali Shaker/VOA)

While the Republicans spoke gloom and doom, Barack Obama quoted Ronald Reagan's assertion that "It's morning in America." At least one pundit called the Republican event "gothic" while several cited the optimistic patriotism the Democrats touted as "Republican."

The important contrast came on the last night, when the candidates gave their acceptance speeches. Each was introduced by their daughter, The Donald by Ivanka Trump and Hillary by Chelsea. (The country doesn't know if she changed her last name when she married. The rest of us will always call her Chelsea Clinton.)

»Trump's aides were thrilled with his performance because he stuck to the script, which is difficult for him. Hillary always sticks to the script. Her aides would be happy if she went off-script once in a while.«

Trump warned that we are at a "moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life."

He informed us that we think our economy is good because of "the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper."

He has "seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders."

He reassured us all as he told us, "I alone can fix it ... . I am your voice ... . I'm with you, I will fight for you, and I will win for you."

His aides were thrilled with his performance because he stuck to the script, which is difficult for him.

Hillary Clinton at the DNC 2016

Hillary Clinton made history at the Democratic National Convention by becoming the first female nominee of a major political party in the U.S. for the Presidency. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Television Group)

Hillary always sticks to the script. Her aides would be happy if she went off-script once in a while. As the first woman ever nominated for President by a major party, she had two distinct advantages: Her speech was viewed as history making, and she was fortunate enough to go second.

In a not-veiled reference to Trump, she warned of "powerful forces" that are trying to "pull us apart," before she emphasized a theme of the convention, "Stronger Together." She cited history and tradition when stating: "Our country's motto is e pluribus Unum, out of many, we are one. Will we stay true to that motto?"

Pointing out the contrast to the Republicans, she declared, "Americans don't say: 'I alone can fix it.' We say: 'We'll fix it together.'"

She reminded us of the history of the moment, of her strong femininity and feminism: "Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between."

It would have been a poetic ending, but she continued to tell us what was wrong with Trump. Judging by the opinion polls, most Americans already knew.

Going into the conventions, Trump was slightly behind. After the Republican convention, he was three points ahead; after the Democratic convention, Hillary was ten points ahead.

Another interesting statistic: For the first time in history, more people (50%) were less likely to vote for the nominee after the Republican convention than were more likely. If these numbers don't seem to add up, don't worry about it. Nothing else does, either.

 


Bobbie Kirkhart is vice president of the Atheist Alliance of America and serves on the board of Camp Quest, Inc., a summer camp for children of freethinking families. She is a past president of the Atheist Alliance International as well as a frequent contributor to U.S. freethought publications.
 
#Election2016
 

Just Eat It: A Discussion of Food Waste and Our Environment

by Deleted user -
Julianne Troiano  //   16 March 2016  //   #GoingGreen

Film poster 'Just Eat It' (Photo credit: Peg Leg Films, 2014)Imagine going to the food store, purchasing four bags of groceries, and then on your way home you drop one of the bags and just keep walking without going back to pick it up. This seems outrageous, right? Why would anyone just waste a whole bag of food?

Think of the cost of the food or the people who go without food! Believe it or not, this is essentially what we are doing with our groceries, given that 15-25% of the food bought by households in the United States is thrown out. Similar trends are seen around the world in developed countries.

I learned this surprising fact during a recent screening at my university of a documentary called Just Eat It. Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, the film’s director and producer, respectively, bring light to the developed worlds food waste issue by pledging to survive off of food waste for six months.

Yes, they survive off of food waste as their only source of food! What would you think if someone asked you to survive off of food waste for six months? I imagined this being extremely difficult and having to dive in a dumpster for leftovers, but as the story unfolds you discover that substantial food waste really is out there, and not just in the form of half eaten leftovers.

 

 

Just Eat It – A food waste story (Official Trailer) from GrantBaldwin on Vimeo.

 

One of the most shocking scenes shows Grant searching for discarded food in the back of a grocery store when he finds a dumpster full of unopened, prepackaged hummus that was perfectly fine to eat. At one point they also find hundreds of gourmet chocolate bars that they keep to give away on Halloween. Living off of food waste and they can still give out candy on Halloween!

 

When and where is food waste happening?

Looking at the origin of produce at farms I was surprised to find out how much produce is discarded at this early stage. There are strict guidelines from stores on the aesthetics of produce. For example, romaine lettuce that is sold in a plastic bag needs to fit in the bag, so the romaine can only be so tall and wide. And with peaches, they have to be a specific size and shape, or else they are discarded as well. You should see the dumpster of peaches in the documentary that were being discarded! The owner of the peach farm in California that participated in the film commented that they give away what they can, or try to sell to other vendors, but the reality is that a lot of perfectly good peaches are discarded because they are a weird shape, or have a bruise.

The worst for me was watching one of the farmers preparing the celery to be distributed. They cut off the bottom of the celery stalks and a few layers of celery. The amount of perfectly good celery discarded on the floor was enormous. Once the food is on display in the store even more produce is disregarded for is appearance. This definitely got me to search through the produce and choose the “ugly” fruit or vegetables. From there, we waste 15-25% of the food that makes it into our households; from food that goes bad before it is used to leftovers that you just can’t finish.

 

What does this mean for the environment?

Even if the amount of food waste bothers you, the connection to the environment isn’t always apparent. Think about all of the resources used to produce the food that we eat: fertilizer, water, food for animals, and fuel to transport the goods to name a few, and if we just discard food we are discarded these resources as well. The most interesting fact that I learned from the documentary was how food breaks down in a landfill. When food is disposed of it actually breaks down such that it produces methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and therefore this process contributes to climate change.

 

What can we do about food waste?

Although all too often overlooked, food waste is really a challenge that concerns us all and that we all can help prevent. One first and inevitable step is to raise awareness about the issue: I think that sharing knowledge about food waste, such as through watching documentaries like Just Eat It, is a great way to show people how much food waste really matters and what role everyone can play in diminishing the problem. This allows people to take food waste into their own hands and start with their own home.

Some suggestions for taking food waste into our own hands includes the following: buying the produce at the store that isn’t “picture perfect,” meal planning, and finding creative ways to use leftovers. Do you have any other ideas? Is there food waste at your school? If so, what can we do about it?

 

Fun and Educational Resources

 


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.

 

Some Exciting Developments in the Solar Industry

by Brandon Greenblatt -
 Brandon Greenblatt // 13 March 2016 // #GoingGreen

Source: WikipediaOf all the topics I blog about, one of my favorites is the global energy market.  I find the way that international actors decide between diverse energy sources – including wind, solar, hydroelectricity, nuclear power, coal, oil, and natural gas – to be absolutely fascinating!  When selecting a fuel source, there are so many different factors to consider, such as energy efficiency, carbon dioxide output, ease of accessibility, monetary cost, and long term sustainability.  Examining how different governments and companies balance all of these considerations is really interesting.

Recently, what I’ve been observing in the global solar energy industry has been especially exciting.  In this blog post, I want to share a couple of news items with you all.  I hope they’ll illustrate the enormous potential that solar power has to revolutionize our energy sector and encourage sustainable development around the world.

First, in early February, Morocco announced that it had installed one of the world’s largest solar panel plants, ever!  Located in the middle of the Sahara Desert – where there’s a lot of sun, to be sure – the Noor I power plant is expected to generate approximately 160 megawatts of power.  Even more exciting, there are two more installation stages planned, meaning that, once completed, this will be the biggest solar power production plant in the entire world!  Of course, this project is still in its early stages and not yet fully operational, but to hear that Morocco is taking such a big step to promote sustainable energy is definitely exciting and shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Secondly, the Solar Energy Industries Association announced late last month that the United States’ solar energy capacity grew by historic proportions – 17 percent – during 2015.  Led by states such as California, New York, and North Carolina (my home state!), the United States installed 7,286 megawatts of solar PV in 2015, with multiple states incorporating solar energy at faster rates than ever before.

»The United States’ solar energy capacity grew by historic proportions during 2015.«

This development in the United States’ energy market, where solar energy now accounts for just under 30% of all new electricity capacity, is enormous!  A strong transition to solar power over the past few years, and 2015 especially, offers hope that the United States is making strides in an overhaul of its energy sector.  More importantly, everyday Americans are quickly recognizing the benefits of solar power.  Solar energy is renewable, good for our environment, and affordable in the long term – all advantages that the American consumer has recognized.  In fact, Greentech Media reports, residential solar PV installations grew by 66% last year alone.

But the news doesn’t stop there!  Get this: On March 3, the United States Department of Energy released an incredible announcement about solar panel technology.  Ellen Williams, the Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa-E) at the Department of Energy, confirmed that the agency has recently discovered a “holy grail” in energy development.  She stated that Arpa-E had developed a new type of battery for solar panels, which she expects will revolutionize the way that solar companies store their energy.  Williams didn’t offer too much detail about how the new battery technology works, but she did say that these developments coming out of Arpa-E’s laboratories have the potential to transform the United States’ energy grid.

US%20DOE%20Logo.pngNow that’s a lot of information!  Solar capacity, Noor I, growth rates, battery storage…what does all that mean for us? 

Essentially, people all around the world are quickly realizing the benefits of solar power – and renewable energy in general – and are investing in the technologies to support a sustainable lifestyle.  Of course, there’s still a lot of research that can be done to make solar power even more viable and affordable for the future, but recent growth in the industry is an encouraging sign that policy makers and scientists are starting to go green!

If you are interested, you can read more about ARPA-E at this link.  You can also learn more about the Solar Energy Industries Association here.

Images are provided courtesy of Wikipedia.

 


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.

 

The Ocean Cleanup: An Exciting Project to Remove Plastic from Our Oceans

by Brandon Greenblatt -
 Brandon Greenblatt // 12 February 2016 // #GoingGreen

Image courtesy of Agalita FoundationLast month, the World Economic Forum released a report entitled The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics that described the rapid growth of plastic waste and its contribution to environmental degradation.  The report began with a startling statistic: The use of plastic has increased by twenty times within the last fifty years and is expected to double again within the next twenty years.

Based on your experience with Going Green’s classroom modules and your knowledge of environmental issues, this should appear to be a pretty frightening trend!  The chemical make-up of commercial plastics – such as the plastic water bottles, shopping bags, and packaging materials you encounter every day – ensures that plastics decompose very slowly.  This means that dangerous chemicals can leak into our ecosystem, endangering plants and animals that contribute to Earth’s biodiversity and beauty. 

A particularly dangerous problem arises when plastic packaging interferes with the natural world.  The World Economic Forum reported that plastic packaging comprises 26% of global plastic use and poses a particularly high risk for the health and safety of wildlife.  You’ve all probably seen the heart-wrenching videos of dolphins struggling to escape from plastic packaging that floated out to sea.  Many terrestrial mammals encounter plastic too, often accidentally ingesting it and falling ill.  As the World Economic Forum’s report indicated, the amount of plastic waste which humans have created is enormous and, quite simply, almost too difficult to manage.

 

»Plastic packaging comprises 26% of global plastic use and poses a particularly high risk for the health and safety of wildlife.«

The World Economic Forum

Luckily, scientists and policy makers have been working diligently to develop a series of exciting solutions to tackle this problem.  Der Spiegel, a weekly German news magazine, recently reported on one such innovative project, which I’d like to share with you.

Boyan%20Slat.jpgBoyan Slat, a 21 year-old Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, founded The Ocean Cleanup project in 2013.  The Ocean Cleanup is an engineering system which takes advantage of natural ocean currents to remove plastics from our waters efficiently.  Slat identified areas in which ocean currents converge and seem to concentrate plastic waste.  He theorized that focusing clean-up efforts at such places would be the most effective way to remove plastic waste.  Slat designed a series of V-shaped barriers that can be placed at water current convergence points, such that plastic waste will collect against the barrier.  Water currents and marine animals can pass under the barrier, yet neutrally buoyant plastic will be trapped.  Finally, plastic waste can then be removed from against the barrier, effectively eliminating harmful materials from the marine ecosystem.  You can read more about the mechanics of Slat’s invention here.

The Ocean Cleanup isn’t the only effort to remove plastic waste from the ocean, and oceans are not the only place where plastic waste can be harmful.  However, Slat’s project is particularly exciting for a few reasons.

Most remarkably, The Ocean Cleanup is the brainchild of someone who is only a few years older than most of you!  Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup while he was studying at university, and he’s now taking some time off to devote all of his time to the project.  This story illustrates that you don’t need to be an expert scientists or professional to make a difference.  You just need to have some creative ideas and the perseverance to develop them into actionable solutions.

 

»The Ocean Cleanup is the brainchild of someone who is only a few years older than most of you!«

I’m not sure if Boyan Slat participated in a project like Going Green while he was in high school, but I’m sure he would have found this program to be incredibly beneficial.  As a participant in the Going Green project, you not only have the opportunity to learn about pressing issues that threaten environmental sustainability, but you have the chance to develop your own plans and implement solutions.  Climate change and environmental degradation are problems that impact us all, yet all of us have the opportunity to make a difference.  And, as Slat and others have illustrated, the problem is most definitely not insurmountable.  Yet, the best approach all of us can take is to avoid using plastics whenever possible.

(Images courtesy of Agalita Foundation and The Ocean Cleanup, via YouTube user IAMECO.

 


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.

 

Has Sustainability Been Absent from the 2016 Presidential Election?

by Brandon Greenblatt -
 Brandon Greenblatt // 29 January 2016 //  #Election2016 #GoingGreen

Democratic%20Debate.jpgAs the 2016 Presidential Race intensifies in the United States, now is an opportune time to examine the role that the environment and sustainability have played in the election thus far. 

It’s important to recognize that this election cycle has been different from most presidential elections in the past, simply because there have been so many candidates running for office!  Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are currently seeking a nomination from the Democratic Party.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and businessman Donald Trump are all competing for the Republican Party nomination.  With just less than nine months until the general election, that’s certainly a long list of candidates to choose from!

Republican Candidates Onstage at a DebateFrom my perspective as a university student, this immense volume of candidates has had one significant impact on the election cycle thus far.  More so than other presidential elections in recent years, any candidate who considers entry into this race is immediately forced to distinguish him/herself from the rest of the field.  With such a large field of competitors, it is incumbent upon each candidate to prove to the American people why he/she is the absolute best choice for the party’s nomination and, later on, to be president.  A number of candidates have distinguished themselves well: Bernie Sanders touts his commitment to fighting income inequality, while Donald Trump focuses on combatting illegal immigration and reforming the debt crisis, while Chris Christie emphasizes his expertise on homeland security issues.

To a large extent, the political, economic, and social issues of this race have largely been those defined by the candidates’ areas of expertise.  Donald Trump frequently credits himself with sparking the discussion on illegal immigration, stating that it wouldn’t have become a centerpiece of this race unless he had called for serious reform.  Bernie Sanders has galvanized America’s young adults with calls for tax reform and regulation of Wall Street that will better protect those entering the nation’s workforce.  Unlike in previous years, candidates have actually been forced into a thoughtful discussion on issues of poverty and income inequality.  Unfortunately, by my personal perception of media attention devoted to the 2016 election and the public statements that candidates have made, no candidate has demonstrated particular expertise on – or extended engagement with – issues of environmental and energy policy, and therefore sustainability has yet to enter into the conversation. 

 

 

»Unfortunately, by my personal perception of media attention devoted to the 2016 election and the public statements that candidates have made, no candidate has demonstrated particular expertise on – or extended engagement with – issues of environmental and energy policy.«

Sure, the traditional debates have resurfaced, from concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline to a need to establish energy independence as a pivot away from Middle Eastern oil.  Candidates have expressed a general awareness that we need to reduce carbon emissions, develop alternative forms of energy, and create sustainable infrastructure that spurs economic development.  Martin O’Malley has framed the global warming debate as a moral issue and as the biggest concern for young voters, and Hilary Clinton has called for increases in solar energy capacity.  John Kasich and Carly Fiorina have exhibited moderate stances on climate change, acknowledging its anthropogenic nature but simultaneously prioritizing economic concerns over an expensive energy transition.  Ted Cruz, in contrast, has accused scientists and politicians of distorting scientific evidence and falsely inventing the concept of climate change.  You can read a brief summary of each candidate’s position on climate change here.

 

»Candidates have expressed a general awareness that we need to reduce carbon emissions, develop alternative forms of energy, and create sustainable infrastructure that spurs economic development.«

For the most part, however, climate change has not been a significant focus of this year’s presidential race.  With the exception of COP21, which sparked interest in international climate change negotiations and the United States’ role as a global power, many of this year’s news events have prompted candidates to focus on domestic issues.  Recent crises, such as the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California and a spike in gun violence, have caused the American electorate, presidential candidates, and the news media to focus more on topics such as immigration, gun control, and homeland security.  While those concerns are absolutely valid and an incredibly important part of public discourse, by my estimation this year’s presidential race has focused too little on climate change.  

Within the next few weeks, Americans will begin to cast their ballots in a series of primary elections that will help to narrow down the Democratic and Republican fields.  The Iowa Caucus will occur on Monday, February 1st while the New Hampshire primary elections are slated for Tuesday, February 9th.  Voters will use these primaries to solidify their preferences for the November presidential election, but I also think that they present a fantastic opportunity for voters to start voicing this issues that really matter to them.  If voters demand that we make environmental awareness and sustainability a centerpiece of this upcoming election, candidates will be forced to outline more comprehensive policy plans.  Voters can then develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the candidates available for election, and then they can truly make sustainability an issue of focus for the next presidential administration.  Only with a greater public impetus to start the conversation can we truly hope to go 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.

 

A Partisan Divide: Perceptions of COP21 in the United States

by Brandon Greenblatt -
Brandon Greenblatt // 21 January 2016 // #Election2016 #GoingGreen

Our last blog post contained an interview with Professor Mark Giordano of Georgetown University and Professor Daniel Horton of Northwestern University.  The two professors kindly discussed their initial reactions to the COP21 climate summit held in Paris this past December.

When asked about the greatest obstacles to combatting climate change in the United States, both professors noted the immense partisan divide between our two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  Many in the Republican Party have historically emerged as climate change skeptics, initially arguing that global warming was not occurring and then ultimately acknowledging that any changes to global temperatures are naturally caused.  Democrats, in contrast, tend to accept climate change as a man-induced phenomenon and support policies to increase energy efficiency, protect the environment, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Today, the overwhelming majority scientists agree that global warming is real, it is human-caused, it is happening now, it is a threat to our well-being – but also that it is solvable. 

Still, this partisan divide was evident not only in how individual Americans responded to the COP21 summit, but also in how it was covered by the American news media.  As I followed along with the climate negotiations, I made a few observations about this issue that I’d like to share. 

Overall, and somewhat remarkably when you think about the political climate a few years ago, most Americans and the news media were pretty receptive to the COP21 summit.  Prior to the meetings in Paris, many Americans hoped that COP21 would be an opportunity to radically alter the way we approach climate change.  COP21 was perceived as a time to step up and accept our responsibility – both for past transgressions against the environment and for the duty of improving future sustainability practices.

»COP21 was perceived as a time to step up and accept our responsibility – both for past transgressions against the environment and for the duty of improving future sustainability practices.«

In its initial coverage of the summit, the American news media largely reflected this popular sentiment.  While the reporting remained objective, factually reporting on the summit’s proceedings, the general tone of news reports remained largely hopeful and appreciative.  The Washington Post – a national and nonpartisan news agency – published an article on December 12, 2015 with the headline “196 countries approve historic climate agreement.”  Though subtle, this headline certainly showcases how the news media was undoubtedly impressed with COP21’s outcomes.  The article went on to reflect a sense of appreciation for all those parties involved and expressed optimism regarding the tenets of the agreement. The article stated, “The agreement, adopted after 13 days of intense bargaining in a Paris suburb, puts the world’s nations on a course that could fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed, gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy.” 

»196 countries approve historic climate agreement.«

washington-post-logo.jpg
December 12, 2015

Of course, many members of the American media establishment were critical of the proceedings at COP21.  Fox News, a conservative and Republican news agency, published a series of pieces decrying the negotiations in Paris.  From the very beginning of the summit, Fox News commentators and reporters expressed their displeasure.  An article published on December 1, 2015 was headlined, “In Paris, Obama worships at the altar of Europe’s real religion: Climate change.”  The article continued with an equally critical tone, stating that, “For the twenty-first time, diplomats and camp followers are gathering to bemoan the possible future effects of the four percent of Earth’s carbon cycle for which human activity is responsible.” 

 

»In Paris, Obama worships at the altar of Europe's real religion: Climate change.«

Fox%20News%20Logo.png
December 1, 2015

Other articles published by Fox News criticized the United States’ involvement in the negotiations, but not for the reasons you would probably expect.  One article began by immediately attacking not the perception of climate change as being caused by humans, but rather that, “car service, hotels, and accommodations for the president [President Obama, a Democrat] and other administration officials to attend climate change talks in Paris are costing taxpayers nearly $2 million,” implying that President Obama’s participation in the conference is too costly for the American taxpayer. 

Conservative news organizations, such as Fox News, were not the only ones to express strong political opinions.  MSNBC, a news service often characterized as left-wing and liberal, was optimistic about the deal reached at COP21.  On December 14, one day after the summit’s conclusion, MSNBC published an article claiming, “Obama’s success at climate summit puts world on a new path.” MSNBC’s article went on to reaffirm that climate change is man-made, stating that, “This [COP21 negotiations] is all very encouraging, but anyone dusting off their hands and hanging a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner is missing the point: there’s an enormous amount of hard work ahead.” 

 
»Obama’s success at climate summit puts world on a new path.«

MSNBC_2015_logo.png

December 14, 2015

These radically different responses to COP21, particularly between Fox News and MSNBC, clearly highlight the deep tensions that climate change evokes among American citizens.  In my opinion, it is almost inconceivable that Fox News would ever acknowledge climate change and that MSNBC would criticize a Democratic president such as Barack Obama. 

Of course, nothing illustrates this partisan divide more clearly than the statements of politicians themselves.  On January 12, 2016, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  During this annual speech, the President of the United States updates the American people and members of his government on issues facing the country.  Often times, the President outlines his upcoming policies and calls for cooperation between the political parties so that progress can be achieved.  This State of the Union, President Obama’s last such speech, was a little bit different.  Rather than outline policies, President Obama laid out his vision for the future of the United States – a vision that he hopes will extend far beyond his time in office. 

One of the four issues on which President Obama spoke was climate change.  He expressed optimism that many Americans have started to accept the reality of climate change, but he also levied a criticism at those who still resist.  President Obama stated, “Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.” As participants in the Going Green project, I think many of us have acknowledged the reality of climate change and have committed ourselves to pursuing a sustainable lifestyle.  And this post is not meant to praise those who agree, such as MSNBC, or criticize those who disagree, such as Fox News.  What it does show, however, is that although more and more people across the US acknowledge the fact that climate change is happening and that it is an issue that deserves increased political attention, it still continues to polarize political debates in Congress.  Ultimately, the way to move forward on the issue of climate change is to accept that Republicans and Democrats are going to disagree but that, if we want both our planet to survive and political climate to remain intact, we need to engage in these sorts of conversations in a respectful and healthy manner.

»Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.«

President Barack Obama 
January 12, 2016

 


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.