ENVS core faculty Scott Bridgham has recently been featured in The Oregonian. The article discusses research he and his team are conducting which investigates the impact that climate change will likely have on the Northwest’s native prairie plants. The study involves three sites spanning the coasts of Oregon and Washington; predictions “suggest that the Washington plot’s site will become more like Southern Oregon and that Southern Oregon will be more like California come the turn of the century.” How will native plants cope with these changing conditions? Dr. Bridgham is using infrared lamps and irrigation to simulate the future, and his results may well offer a glimpse into what we can expect from the next 100 years.
To read the full article, please click here.
We are delighted to announce that a paper co-authored by ENVS core faculty Trudy Ann Cameron has been awarded “Best JEEM Paper” of 2014 by the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. The Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is widely considered the best field journal of its field, so this award is quite the honor!
Cameron’s paper, co-authored by J.R. DeShazo of UCLA, is entitled “Demand for health risk reductions.” It presents a new model for measuring individuals’ willingness to pay for health risk reduction measures (for example: expenditures on medical research or environmental regulation). “Understanding the value people place on health risk reductions,” the authors write, “can help us decide upon appropriate levels of regulations for road, workplace, and household safety, or how much we should spend on publicly supported health care.” They argue that their model can help gauge that value by providing one estimate for subjects’ response to varied illness risks, rather than forcing researchers to focus on a single risk of death at a time.
A complete copy of “Demand for health risk reductions” can be found here.
ENVS alumni Wen Lee and Chris Stratton are getting married, and they’re doing it in an unusual way: by train. The couple is no stranger to the rails, having travelled 60,000 miles over the past five years, and as they began planning their wedding and honeymoon, they decided to combine the two in an epic cross-country train trip. Instead of asking relatives to travel for them, they are doing it the other way around. Over 30 days, they are holding four receptions in four far-flung locations: Lawrenceburg, KY, Boston, MA, Los Angeles, CA, and Oakland, CA. The journey has not only saved on airfare and carbon emissions, but has allowed them to include relatives who would otherwise not be able to attend a reception in California, including Chris’ 90 year old grandfather and 96 year old grandmother.
Wen and Chris’ adventure is currently being featured on Amtrak’s blog, which you can access here. Reading through their interviews, it’s clear that the train is more than their means of getting from place to place, but an experience in its own right. They enjoy being “unplugged” while they travel, and between games of backgammon and conversations with fellow travelers, they have been enjoying spectacular views of the Sierras, the Rockies, the plains, and the Appalachians cruise past their window.
ReNews, the newsletter of the Environmental Studies Program, was established in 2013 when faculty, staff, and graduate students decided to separate out the two main functions of the program’s journal, The Ecotone: that of a journal and that of a newsletter. While initially a short bulletin, The Ecotone has matured into a journal that serves as a space for interdisciplinary academic dialogue and creative expression. ReNews was created to provide an annual report to alumni, donors, prospective students, and general supporters and friends about the Environmental Studies Program, people, and accomplishments.
To view ReNews, please click here for an easy-to-read online magazine format.
ENVS doctoral student Sierra Deutsch has been selected to receive a Graduate Fellowship for International Research through and endowment to the Oregon University System by the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff). Sylff Fellows demonstrate a sustained commitment to international concerns and pursuits, exemplify broad vision as well as a focus on a specific issue, and exhibit leadership in collaborating with others in cross-cultural contexts. The fellowship of $12,000 is given for one academic year of full-time pursuit of a graduate degree in an Oregon University System institution. Dependent upon the individual fellow’s status within the graduate program, fellowship monies may be applied to tuition and fees, living expenses, research costs and travel associated with the conduct of research, and other expenses related to graduate study.
The 2014 issue of The Ecotone has arrived! The Ecotone is the journal of the Environmental Studies Program and is created by graduate students at the University of Oregon. It provides a venue for communication and exchange within and beyond the Environmental Studies Program among undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and facilitates cross-campus dialogue between disciplines and departments.
The Environmental Studies Program is excited to welcome Sarah Wald as our first joint hire with the department of English. She is set to begin teaching in both departments this fall, and is also excited to engage with the new ENVS-affiliated Food Studies Specialization.
Dr. Wald’s interest in environmental studies began when she herself was an undergraduate, during the global justice protests against the WTO in Seattle in 1999. The rhetoric of the movement intrigued her: “‘Teamsters and Turtles, together at last,’ was one of the slogans,” she recalls. “I wanted to know why it was so strange to imagine environmentalists and labor activists working together. Why weren’t mainstream environmentalists more engaged with the issues facing working people and people of color?” This sort of questioning triggered her involvement in the field, and she also believes that it sustains her current research, which strives to link Race and Ethnic Studies with environmental cultural studies.
Both inform a manuscript she is currently completing, entitled ‘To the Farmer in all of us’: Race, Nature, and Citizenship in Representations of Californian Farmers and Farmworkers. In it Wald mines newspaper articles, pamphlets, novels, and short stories for twentieth and twenty-first century Asian American and Latina/o voices, asking the questions: what have been the representations of Californian agricultural laborers, how do cultural understandings of nature “shape the racial gate-keeping of the nation,” and “what do these works tell us about the ways we imagine nature and landscape in relation to nation and the ways we racialize that relationship?”
Wald is excited about the opportunity to continue this scholarship at the University of Oregon, and as a professor affiliated with the Food Studies Specialization, she is interested in how a focus on producers of food, rather than consumers, might help develop the sustainable food movement. “Documentaries like Food, Inc.,” she explains, “tell us that we can vote with our dollars. Promoting consumer citizenship has all sorts of ideological consequences that we don’t often consider, though. Emphasizing consumption as the primary way to exercise political power privileges those with more money. If you vote with your dollar, those with the most dollars have the most votes. It also suggests that privatization (rather than federal regulation) is the solution to environmental ills, worker exploitation, and food safety.”
As a result, Wald wants to find a way to prioritize producers’ voices, and she believes that the UO’s focus on collaborative engagement with the food communities of Eugene and Springfield is a valuable tool for getting there. Not only do such partnerships pair activism with academics, they prompt important questions: do we best reduce pesticides by buying organic, or by increasing regulation? What issues are important to consumers, and are they different than those important to producers? Which voices are currently prioritized? “There’s a lot of inspiring scholarship and teaching happening in the program around issues of race and ethnicity and environmental justice,” Wald explains. She expects that this focus meshed with community engagement can be a powerful mix.
Such perspectives will inform her teaching next year, including a graduate course entitled Ecocritical Approaches to Race and Ethnicity and Food Matters. In the mean time, she is currently settling in to the city and is looking for recommendations for hiking and biking close to town. Please join us in welcoming her to Eugene!
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
ENVS major Francesca Varela hasn’t even graduated college yet, but she has already published her first novel. Call of the Sun Child became available March 7 through Homebound Publications—a work of young-adult fiction whose protagonist, Sempra, comes of age within a post apocalyptic society that has shut her and her community within a sealed, sustainable dome. In this world, the sun has grown so intense as to force the dome-bound humans to become nocturnal, and the most horrible punishment is to be cast out in exile. Nevertheless, Sempra begins to wonder: what is outside the dome? “When she and her childhood friend, Alden, discover a forbidden book, she begins to question the facility, and, with it, everything she has ever known.”
Call of the Sun Child draws on environmental themes, so it comes as no surprise that Varela engages with the environmental studies community here at the UO. She originally intended to be an English major, but has found that a concentration in ENVS, paired with creative writing, has allowed for broader interests: she has taken classes in geology and restoration ecology, and particularly enjoyed a two week-long class during the summer when she got on-the-ground field research experience.
“I really like to be out in the field, but I also like writing,” Varela explains. “I don’t see the two as separate, and I think literature is important as it gets people interested in environmental issues.” What’s more, she often gets her best creative ideas while she’s outdoors. In the case of Call of the Sun Child, she thought up the first nugget that would become her story about a year before she began writing, while she was looking at the moon. She began thinking about the possibility of a nocturnal society, and the rest of her apocalyptic adventure followed. All in all the book took about six months to write, including one summer vacation.
Moving forward, Varela intends to continue her engagement with both fieldwork and literature. She already has ideas for another book, and after graduation, hopes to find a job with an environmental nonprofit, or perhaps even at a National Park. In the meantime she’s looking forward to her last year of school, her interests in figure skating and violin, and trips to Opal Creek, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier.
The New York Times recently held a discussion regarding why Americans are less concerned about climate change than people in other countries, and ENVS core faculty Kari Norgaard participated as a guest blogger. She offered the opinion, informed by her research at the University of Oregon, that “this is not because climate skeptics reject climate science, but because people who say they are concerned about climate change ignore it. Thinking seriously about climate change brings up disturbing emotions, including fear about the future, a sense of helplessness, and for many Americans – guilt.”
To read more, please visit the full discussion here.
On May 6, the White House released Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA). For the first time, a dedicated chapter on the impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples, lands and resources was included, with ENVS-affiliated faculty Kathy Lynn serving as a lead author.
The NCA, which delivers on USGCRP’s legal mandate and the President’s Climate Action Plan, is the most comprehensive, authoritative, transparent scientific report ever generated on U.S. climate impacts, both as currently observed and as projected for the future. The Third NCA documents climate change-related impacts and responses across key sectors and all regions of the U.S. with the goal of better informing public and private decision-making at all levels. An important feature of this interactivity is the traceability of the data and other information in the report, giving users the means to refer back to these data for their analyses and decision support. The site is mobile-compatible and every piece of the report—from highlights to chapters to key messages to graphics—has its own unique URL for social network sharing. Please find below links that will help you navigate the Third NCA:
- Full Report: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/
- Highlights: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/highlights
- Chapter 12: ”Indigenous Peoples, Lands and Resources”: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/sectors/indigenous-peoples
The Joint Campus Conference (JCC) is an annual event that brings together graduate students and faculty from three programs: the Environmental Sciences Program at Oregon State University, the Environmental Sciences and Management Program at Portland State University, and the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Oregon.
The JCC creates an opportunity for graduate students and faculty from each of the three programs to present their diverse research interests to a larger community of environmental scholars. Presentations and posters given at the JCC generate discussions that span the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
The JCC, which typically takes place during spring term, has been held each year since 1998. Prospective students are welcome to attend this event and learn more about the kind of research students are conducting at OSU, PSU, and UO.
This year, the University of Oregon is delighted to be hosting the 17th annual JCC on May 30. At 11:40 am, the conference will feature a keynote address by Mary Wood, Philip H. Knight Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the University of Oregon’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. For more information please visit the JCC website here.
On April 7, an audience of over 300 people at Cosmic Pizza in Eugene were treatedto a presentation by the River Stories Team–part of the Environmental Leadership Program–who took the podium to present a collection of narratives at the McKenzie River Trust’s annual McKenzie Memories event. As the presentation drew to a close, the audience grew quiet as they listened to the words of McKenzie river guide Jon Payne: “Take the bluest sky, add it to the bluest water, then add as many shades of green as you can imagine on the border, and you’ll look at the McKenzie River.”
Since the start of Winter Term, the River Stories team has been listening hard to stories about the McKenzie River – stories of crossing the McKenzie River in a rowboat to get to school, stories of lodges burning down, stories of learning how to fish for the first time, stories of teaching others how to read, listen, even speak to the river – which, it turns out, is not unlike life.
Over the course of Winter and Spring Terms, students have been thinking critically about the ways stories impact the way we feel about place, how they bring us into community with the more than human world, and how they move us to act. Students received training in media ethics and interviewing before hitting the ground to do fieldwork using array of media techniques – including audio, video and photography. The River Stories team is in the process of implementing an interactive public art project throughout Eugene and the McKenzie and curating an installation at the Lane County Historical Museum that will go up June 7 and run through January 2015.Working with community partners, including the McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum, the Lane County Historical Museum and the Oregon Folklife Network, the team is focused on gathering stories in an effort to inspire stewardship for the McKenzie River, Eugene’s sole water source.
ENVS student Matt Keeler and ENVS alum Aaron Rourke have both contributed to the development of a “Mobile Repair Trike” which has debuted on campus in collaboration with the University of Oregon’s Bike Program, the Center for Appropriate Transportation (CAT), and Student Sustainability Coalition.
For the past six years, UO students have funded projects that aim to make bicycling a convenient, fun, and affordable way to get to and around campus. The creation of the UO Bike Program, the Pedal power generation system, and installation of eight do-it-yourself repair stations around campus are just a few of the investments made by students to encourage bicycling. The Mobile Repair Trike has been in development since 2013, when the Student Sustainability Fund granted the UO Bike Program $3,700 for building costs.
Rourke, the former Bike Program Operations Coordinator and Mobile Repair Trike grant writer says that “I feel like this cargo bike encompasses everything that is at the core of the Bike Program…and in the forefront, student empowerment.”
The project started when UO Bike Program staff recognized a need to be able to do repairs in the field and bring their services out into the community more often. The tricycle is a comfortable ride, but it carries a metal box that, when opened and extended, delivers a pegboard full of tools and a worktable. Students designed the tricycle themselves, which allowed them to customize the machine for their needs. However, the freedom of design also presented a few challenges.
“There’s no right way to do this,” explains Keeler (who serves as the UO Bike Program Lead Mechanic). “There’s no guidebook. Seeing some things not work – small things like having a [bike repair] stand mounted to the bike – was very frustrating. I think it was good that we didn’t know how to make it, though. We didn’t have any preconceived idea of what it should look like; we just tried to make it the best. There was a lot of critical thinking and problem solving.”
In the end, their effort paid off. Now that the project is complete, Keeler is excited that “it will allow us to work on a lot of bikes where they are, so we don’t have to move them.” Mobile repairs are now available to a mobile student body.
ENVS Master’s student Andrew Dutterer has recently been named as a 2014 Oregon Fellow, and has accepted a summer fellowship with Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. As Andrew is also pursuing a Master of Community and Regional Planning, this exciting opportunity in focused investments (partnerships) complements his studies in both environmental studies and planning.
The Oregon Fellows program is highly competitive and attracts students throughout the country. The program offers a paid 10-week summer fellowship, a training institute in Portland, and networking events.
ENVS major Adrian Robins has been invited to present at the UO Study Abroad Program’s fifth annual International Projects Fair. The fair features UO students who have studied or interned abroad, and Adrian will be speaking about a project that he developed during his term abroad in India.
The Fair being held on Tuesday, April 22 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm in the EMU Concourse. It is open to everyone and refreshments will be served. We hope to see you there!
Chet Bowers, former ENVS faculty at the U of O, has published a new book entitled The False Promises of the Digital Revolution: How Computers Transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways that Are Ecologically Unsustainable.
The False Promises of the Digital Revolution ”examines what currently goes largely unnoticed because of the many important uses of digital technologies. While many people interpret digital technologies as accelerating the global rate of progress, C. A. Bowers focuses attention on how they reinforce the deep and ecologically problematic cultural assumptions of the West: the myth of progress, the substitution of data for different cultural traditions of wisdom, the connections between print and abstract thinking, the myth of individual autonomy, the conduit view of language that hides how words (metaphors) reproduce earlier misconceptions, and a Social Darwinian justification for colonizing other cultures that is now leading to armed resistance – which, in turn, strengthens the ties between corporations, the military, and the computer science industry. The book also investigates how to understand the cultural non-neutrality of digital technologies; how print and the emphasis on data undermine awareness of the tacit information pathways between cultural and natural ecologies; and how to identify educational reforms that will contribute to a more informed public about the uses of digital technologies.”
ENVS affiliated faculty Stephanie LeMenager‘s course “The Cultures of Climate Change,” which examines climate change through literature, has been recently featured in the New York Times:
“University courses on global warming have become common, and Prof. Stephanie LeMenager’s new class here at the University of Oregon has all the expected, alarming elements: rising oceans, displaced populations, political conflict, endangered animals.
The goal of this class, however, is not to marshal evidence for climate change as a human-caused crisis, or to measure its effects — the reality and severity of it are taken as given — but how to think about it, prepare for it and respond to it. Instead of scientific texts, the class, “The Cultures of Climate Change,” focuses on films, poetry, photography, essays and a heavy dose of the mushrooming subgenre of speculative fiction known as climate fiction, or cli-fi, novels like “Odds Against Tomorrow,” by Nathaniel Rich, and “Solar,” by Ian McEwan.” Read more…
ENVS core faculty Brook Muller has recently published a book entitled Ecology and the Architectural Imagination. In it, he “offers a series of speculations on architectural possibility when ecology is embedded from conceptual phases onward, how notions of function and structure of ecosystems can inspire ideas of architectural space making and order, and how the architect’s role and contribution can shift through this engagement. Ecological architects working in increasingly dense urban environments can create diverse spaces of inhabitation and connect project scale living systems with those at neighborhood and region scales. Equipped with ecological literacy, critical thinking and collaboration skills, designers are empowered to play important roles in the remaking of our cities.” For more information, please visit the A&AA website.
Professor Muller is also offering a lecture as part of the 20th annual Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability Conference (HOPES). Please join us on April 2nd! Learn more about the conference on the HOPES website.
Megan Gleason wasn’t sure what to expect when she showed up at her first meeting with the University of Oregon’s Climate Justice League. She was a freshman new to campus, and attended because an old high school friend took her along; she admits that “I was nervous about going because I didn’t really know anyone there.”
A Junior now, she has been involved with Climate Justice League for three years and credits it with providing not only a means of getting active with environmental issues, but also a community of like-minded peers. Almost immediately, she recalls, “I got to be really good friends with a lot of the more active members of CJL.”
Gleason has since served as Campaign Coordinator for projects with the Climate Justice League, including a project that helped make recycling and composting more accessible on campus. This year, she decided to make a further commitment and take on the role of Co-Director—meaning “instead of organizing campaign events, or what I call ‘on the ground’ work, I do a lot of behind the scenes work, meeting with Coordinators one on one and making sure things go smoothly.” The job has helped her develop practical leadership skills, as she must devote herself to understanding “the nuts and bolts of what it takes to keep a group together, happy, and on the right track.”
As Co-Director of the Climate Justice League, Gleason also found herself as a speaker at the Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. She sat on a panel of speakers with others from PSU and OSU who were working on a campaign that the Climate Justice League had also taken on, called Take Back the Tap. It was an apt time to be addressing the issue: the Climate Justice League had recently pushed a campaign through TBTT, with the support of 85% of faculty and 72% of the student body, to go bottled water-free. It looked like UO was about to become the first public university to make the switch, but just weeks before the conference, “UO President Michael Gottfredson refused not only to pass the policy, but to meet with us to negotiate policy amendments. This decision prompted our campaign to expose the biggest reason the UO said no to going bottled water-free: big money beverage contracts with Pepsi.”
It was a controversial topic, and Gleason was initially nervous to bring it up in front of a public audience. Ultimately, however, she found the presentation to be quite rewarding: “some members of our audience were surprised at our presentation, but I definitely felt a lot of support as I met with people. OHESC is a great place to network and meet people who really want to see institutions of higher education integrate sustainability.”
Moving forward, Gleason expects to graduate in spring of 2015 with a major in environmental studies and a minor in political science. She doesn’t have definite plans after graduation, but law school and graduate school in public policy are on the short list, and she wants to participate next year in the Environmental Leadership Program’s Canopy Connections to get a feel for environmental education. In the meantime she’s taking advantage of interdisciplinary course offerings within the Environmental Studies department, continuing her activism with the Climate Justice League, singing in one of the UO gospel choirs, and reading whenever she gets a spare moment.
Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.
Brook Muller has been interested in green building for a while now. “I remember back as high schooler I got a Sierra Club book called Better Homes and Garbage, which told you how to calculate heat gain and loss and how to make a solar house. I got really excited.”
Muller went on to major in Environmental Studies at Brown University and earn his Masters of Architecture at the University of Oregon, after which he worked as the director of a program in sustainable environments and as an assistant professor at California Polytechnic State University. He arrived as faculty to the University of Oregon in 2004. Through it all he has maintained a commitment to environmental thinking, and often collaborates in his design projects with both ecologists and professors in the environmental humanities. “I was also just on the Environmental Studies department’s English search committee, which was an extraordinary experience given that I’m interested in the poetics of green building. My summer reading list is now twenty summers long.”
Such interdisciplinary collaboration reflects how his interests have grown since Better Homes and Garbage. Although sustainable architecture typically evokes “performance-based propositions” highlighting issues like energy conservation, Muller pushes the concept further: “I feel like when we start engaging environmental issues more deeply it opens up a new set of possibilities for expression within architecture. Buildings have to perform well, but they are also symbolic; they communicate an ethos. I’m really interested in the poetics of environmental design.”
This interest finds expression in his new book, Ecology and the Architectural Imagination, which considers how “designers might gain some measure of ecological literacy, and the opportunities that that opens up.” Architects have always used metaphors to describe their work, and Ecology and the Architectural Imagination highlights a few like the “organism metaphor,” that buildings are bodies. Muller explains that “we are smitten with that idea today and we like evolutionary biology terms like replication and genetic switches. However, my contention is that while we use these terms to create buildings that have adaptable façades that may perform better, we can also be thinking about biology in ways that affect how species are actually going to be able to occupy human-dominated environments.”
As an example of such thinking, Muller remarks that his colleague in landscape architecture, Bart Johnson, “would say that cities from the standpoint of species are like rock outcrops—great for shelf- and cavity-nesting birds, but not necessarily for a whole lot else.” By re-examining the meaning and purpose of our buildings, we have the opportunity to design spaces that support a greater diversity of species. As such, Muller sees his book as “a rumination on how the design process would be affected in positive and exciting ways, if we started to think more ecologically.”
Muller also sees the University of Oregon as the perfect place to explore such possibilities. The university has a deep history in green design and issues of social equity: “in the ‘80s, which was sort of the ‘Ronald Reagan era’ of architecture, when one of his first acts as president was to remove all the solar panels from the White House, we hung to our green building values.” As a result, the U of O remains a leader in sustainable architecture and continues to attract architecture students who are interested in environmental issues. Many of them end up as Muller’s students, and he loves it. “I have two students who were in my architecture studio in the winter who are Environmental Studies minors, and it’s great to see smart, capable students in the department, putting together these kind of connections. They understand the significance of what we’re doing.”