COP25 First Impressions

December 4, 2019

Editor’s note: UConn@COP25 Fellows were asked to share their first impressions of their experience at the COP after the first two days of the conference. Here’s what they had to say:

42 Hours in Madrid – Louanne Cooley
Approaching Environmental Issues on an Individual Level
– Sarah Schechter
The Impacts of Climate Change on Moana and Pacific Island Nations – Lauren Pawlowski
Thinking Beyond Borders & Labels – The Reality of Climate Migration – Megan Ferris
Commonalities across Cultures: Injustice for Identity Minorities – Xinyu Lin
Additionality a Must for Carbon Offsets – Hope Dymond

 

42 Hours in Madrid
Louanne Cooley – JD, School of Law

As I write this, it’s 1 AM and we’ve been in Spain for about 42 hours. Every minute here reveals greater depth and texture as I come to know more about this remarkable group of students, faculty and staff, all learning together about the complex issues around climate change, and all committed to expanding our role as citizens working for solutions.

European Union panel.
European Union panel on legislative response to Climate Change
Oisin Coghan- Friends of Earth Ireland
Lola Vallejo- IDDRI
Malta Hentschke- Klima Allinz
Yvon Slingenberg, EU DG-Climate Action (Photo: Louanne Cooley).

That we are here at all speaks to that commitment. UNFCC COP25 was originally to be hosted by Brazil, but with the election of a populist president a year ago, they withdrew. Chile stepped into the gap so the conference could still be held in South America, but the civil unrest in October of this year caused Chile to pull out too. With a month to go before the conference, Spain worked with Chile to provide a venue, and people worldwide scrambled to change travel plans to make it work. It’s a testament to how important these issues are that we are all here, eager to talk, listen, learn and take action, but many could not travel to Spain, and it is important to recognize that their voices won’t be heard this year.

The staff at UConn’s Office of Sustainability made a heroic effort to get us here, changing flights, finding new accommodations, making sure we would still have access. We arrived excited and grateful for the opportunity.  After taking in the artistic treasures of Spain at the Prado and wandering the rainy streets of Madrid sampling tapas and churros yesterday, today was all business. We arrived at IFEMA Feria de Madrid early Monday having picked up our passes yesterday evening. The COP25 organizers have pulled off a real coup managing to move the venue from Chile to Madrid with a little over four weeks to completely revamp and reorganize. We jumped right in to attend side events, visit pavilions, and most importantly, meet people and learn about their ideas.

I’m a law student at UConn Law working at the Center for Energy & Environmental Law so I was eager to learn about legal frameworks for implementing climate action. The EU pavilion hosted a side event, Fighting Climate Change: The Legislative Response addressing a proposed EU Climate Change Law. Yvon Slingenberg, Director of International, Mainstreaming and Policy Coordination at the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) in the European Commission, talked about a proposal to implement a system of tariffs on goods coming from countries that have failed to make their emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. That would be real change in policy to put a financial penalty on countries doing business in Europe to force climate accountability. I’m eager to learn more about the EU Climate Change Law and watch how it is debated and what provisions are enacted in the weeks to come.

In addition to the law surrounding climate change, I am also interested in how climate issues are communicated, especially to people without a science or technical background. One way to do this is through art. I’m a knitter and I’ve been involved with a global project originating in the US called the Tempestry Project. Conceived by Emily McNeil, Justin and Marissa Connelly of Anacortes, Washington, a Tempestry is created using climate data to make a visual representation of temperature change as fiber art. For the last month, I’ve been working on a “Global New Normal” Tempestry using annual deviation from average temperature from 1880 to the present and inspired by Dr. Ed Hawkin’s warming stripes climate visualization work.  Working on the project is a way to engage with the process of temperature rise which isn’t really perceptible on a day to day basis. Watching the years of progress as I knit, the darker blues dropping out to be replaced by lighter colors, then darker and darker reds, it is impossible to ignore how our planet has changed. I had a chance to talk to Rahul Bansal of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat at the UNFCCC Pavilion about the project and showed him my work. Seeing and touching the Tempestry is a very powerful way to connect with what can be an abstract process. Rahul was so taken with the project that he thought the UN might be interested in displaying Tempestry next year at COP26 in Glasgow.  Being able to connect to people is one of the huge benefits of being here at COP25. Many of the speakers I heard today made the point over and over that climate change is about people. Solutions need to be people focused and need to reach everyone. Everyone has a role to play, whether as a scientist, policy maker, educator or citizen in accepting responsibility and working for change.

UConn COP25 Fellows
UConn COP25 Fellows with Rahul Bansal, UNFCCC (Photo: Louanne Cooley).

It’s now Tuesday and after a few brief hours of rest, we are back at COP25. Today there are more pavilions to visit, events to attend, and people to talk to. So many people to talk to with ideas and hopes and fears, willing to listen to each other and work together. That really is the most hopeful part of being here, surrounded by people, all in it together. It is time for action!

New Normal Global Tempestry
New Normal Global Tempestry (Photo: Louanne Cooley).

Louanne Cooley is a third-year student at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She is a research assistant at the Center for Energy and Environmental Law at UConn Law and is pursuing a Certificate in Energy and Environmental Law. Follow Louanne on Twitter @louanne_cooley and on Instagram @louanne.at.cop25


Approaching Environmental Issues on an Individual Level
Sarah Schechter – BA Environmental Studies and Anthropology

We constantly hear the phrase “think globally, act locally,” but how do we actually put that into practice? When we act on a local level we are trying to benefit the town or municipality that we are working with, but what if that’s still too large of a scope?

Walking into Day 1 of COP25 I was unsure of what to expect, in awe of the bright lights and intricate booths. One was made from cardboard, another had a wall of plants, and still another had a giant Earth sitting in a dish of ice.

I made my way to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) booth, prepared to discuss volunteering with them later in the week. I was then introduced to the Vice-Chair of the IPCC, Dr. Youba Sokona, who asked the group “What are you doing on an individual level?” We started to answer with what was being done in our communities, but he adamantly asked again, “But what are you doing?”

I chimed in with what I try to do on a regular basis and he seemed satisfied. However, this spurred my mind in the direction of how we go about solving daunting environmental issues. Perhaps we aren’t breaking them down enough, clouded by the anxiety of the terrifying concepts.

UConn@COP25 Group
Members of the UConn@COP25 delegation and Vice-chair Professor Dr. Youba Sokona of the IPCC (Photo: Miriah Russo Kelly).

Later I attended a side event titled, “Global climate action: Indigenous rights, territories and resources” in which the Director of Energy 2050 posed a similar question. He looked at the room full of international individuals, all with diverse backgrounds spurred by different interests, and he asked, “What are you doing?” He followed this with encouragement to go out and educate the world, echoing with the idea to “Do your part.”  

There it was again, a reminder for individual action and that everyone’s contribution matters when combating climate change.

Panelists from Global Climate Action Side Event
Panelists from Global Climate Action side event at COP25. (Photo: Sarah Schechter).

Another side event, “Transformative Climate Resilient Pathways for Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems, Diets, and Landscapes” focused on the production and consumption of food around the world. Plant-based diets were heavily discussed by the panelists, who supported the act of becoming vegan or vegetarian for health and environmental purposes. Deputy Director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Zitouni Ould-Dada, said that the responsibility is on the people. He made it clear that he was not there to force anyone to switch to a plant based diet, but he reminded the room that each person decides what they choose to eat. While there was some controversy regarding this statement, due to socioeconomic factors that can take away choices, he still brought up the idea of individual action.

Panelists from “Transformative Climate Resilient Pathways for Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems, Diets, and Landscapes” COP25 side event.
Panelists from “Transformative Climate Resilient Pathways for Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems, Diets, and Landscapes” COP25 side event. (Photo: Sarah Schechter).

In one day, I heard about approaching environmental issues on an individual level three times. Clearly, there is the desire to break down problems surrounding climate change into more manageable tasks. While I personally think that acting on a larger scale is still valid and important, because it allows for a broader response, I do see why individual action must still be present in the conversation. I look forward to the rest of my time at COP25 and I wonder when the call for individual action will be mentioned again.

Sarah Schechter is a junior from Danbury, CT, double majoring in Environmental Studies and Anthropology.


The Impacts of Climate Change on Moana and Pacific Island Nations
Lauren Pawlowski – BA Environmental Studies and BS Economics

In the first hour I spent at COP25, I felt lost. This is my first time at a conference this huge and important; I didn’t want to miss out on any chance to listen to world leaders, talk to representatives of international organizations, and see all of the exhibits. There were so many events happening all at once — I couldn’t decide where to head first. However, I quickly figured out where to go to see each country’s exhibit space or “pavilion” and where to listen to panel speakers at the side events.

Part of the magic of COP is finding out about little happenings from talking to different people you meet. Towards the end of the day, a group of the UConn@COP25 Fellows and I were tired, hungry, and mentally drained, but we met a funny man from the Himalayas who convinced us to stay longer.

He told us about his work in planting millions of mangrove trees in the Pacific Islands region and why this was so important to restoring coastal ecosystems and maintaining indigenous communities. His passion for the oceans drew us to stay and participate in the ceremonial welcome event at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, which was happening in 10 minutes. It started out with the island natives performing songs and saying blessings in their indigenous languages. They also taught us traditional greetings in these languages as well. I quickly learned that the term “moana” is used to describe the sea or the ocean and that these island communities from countries like Fiji, New Zealand, and Tuvalu are very proud to be presenting a unified front focused on the importance of oceans at COP25.

Cook Islands President Puna
Cook Islands President Henry Puna helped to kickoff the opening of the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion. Rising sea levels jeopardize island nations and threaten to shrink their land and sea boundaries. (Photo: Patrick McKee)

In a collective communal prayer, they were thankful for having representation from the island countries, for being in a space to talk and share experiences, and for the opportunity to connect with as many people as they could at this event. It surprised me how welcoming they were to all, even though their island nations and tribal communities are facing the worst effects of climate change, including sea level rise and collapse of coastal ecosystems. They were insistent on having everyone try the kava drink, which is a tea-like beverage often used for medicinal purposes in Fiji, and on taking a group photo with flowers in our hair.

Moana Signs
UConn students pose with signs at Moana booth at COP25. (Photo: Emma MacDonald)

While this welcoming ceremony was peaceful and sweet, the UConn Fellows and I learned more about the issues the islands face when talking to the delegate from Fiji. He told us how frustrated his community was with the conversations at COP; he believed they were too focused on emissions reductions and energy. He told us that his goal for this conference was to add the topic of oceans to the mix, because he said that without protecting aquatic animals, plants, and the coastal ecosystems, indigenous communities could lose their livelihoods. Everyone around the world relies on the ocean for fish, other food products, recreation, and ecosystem services. He said even if we prevent emissions we must also prevent ocean pollution and degradation. Without this, the world will face legal challenges to deal with climate migration of island communities. One of the closing remarks at the ceremony was from the Fiji representative, who spoke about how we are all in a collective canoe, which “takes the message of our people, of our life, of our ancestors” and how we must join in this canoe together and share experiences to tackle the climate issues along this journey.

We cannot forget the voices of indigenous communities and the sinking islands around the world. We must not only prevent climate change, but also protect existing aquatic and coastal ecosystems for a socially and environmentally sustainable future.

Lauren Pawlowski is a sophomore from Shelton, CT. She is pursuing a BA in Environmental Studies and a BS in Economics as part of the UConn Honors Program. Follow her on Twitter for the latest COP25 updates @laurepawlowski


Thinking Beyond Borders & Labels – The Reality of Climate Migration
Megan Ferris – BS Environmental Science

What I was most excited about seeing at COP was the involvement and discussions of climate migrants. During previous years at the COP, the term “climate migrant” wasn’t mentioned quite as much as it already has been in several of the opening panel discussions at COP25.  The concept of environmental migration — a very politically — and socioeconomically-charged issue  has been swept under the rug. But as our seas rise, more people from island nations and coastal communities are being forced to move inland or to mainland countries to look for new homes -two examples of this displacement are the Carteret Islanders and the people of Bangladesh.

Subway Sign
Signage in the Madrid Metro calls attention to alarming statistics about climate change and its impacts on society. (Photo: Megan Ferris)

After just the first day at COP, and with a hopeful mindset, I attended two side events revolving around issues of environmental migration. At one of the events, the speakers brought up a new potential solution called the Nansen Climate passport, which would secure migrants’ access to Germany and remarked, “at least the kinks start the discussion.”   This acknowledges the importance of beginning the conversation about new solutions and getting past the hurdle of inaction, despite the challenges and issues that will inevitably occur.

Another aspect of this issue I found interesting was the notion of clear and unambiguous terminology.  Referring to “climate-induced migrants” directly assigns responsibility and raises awareness about the consequences of climate change, especially as they affect populations that have had so little to do with causation. I find that accepting responsibility is something many countries fail to do.

With this in mind, it would help to observe the inter-sectional realities of a country’s citizens, including environmental migrants, who were forced to leave their homeland, and shouldn’t be penalized or criminalized for doing so.

Climate Migration
COP25 delegates filled a meeting room and discussed climate-induced migration issues. (Photo: Megan Ferris).

The panel brought up a point that I appreciated, which was to “think beyond borders, beyond labels, and as a global community.” No one wants to leave their own home, and as the number of climate-induced migrants increases each year, we need to start raising awareness and motivating more solutions to this complex interdisciplinary issue. We need to make sure that climate-induced migrants of the world are protected. As I continue my experience at COP25, I hope to see more discussion and solutions proposed!

Megan Ferris is a senior from Danbury, CT and class of 2020 Environmental Science Major/ Animal Science Minor


Commonalities Across Cultures: Injustice for Identity Minorities
Xinyu Lin – BS Civil Engineering

The American environmental movement is not secretive about its lack of diversity in leadership. Despite recent pushes to increase representation for identity minorities in decision-making positions, the gender and racial gap is undeniable. Women of color are left unheard while suffering the heaviest effects from the climate crisis.

As my third day at COP25 ends, I’m left reflecting on how diversity & representation issues appear across different cultures. It might seem obvious that there are marginalized groups in every country, but I’m well-aware that my understanding of equitable participation is heavily rooted in the uniquely diverse makeup of America. These past few days at COP have provided me with a privileged opportunity to interact with people in other countries experiencing climate injustice first-handedly, and to thoughtfully process these ideas in conversations with other UConn@COP Fellows.

 IASS Co-Creative Dialogue
UConn students engaging in the IASS Co-Creative Dialogue & Reflection Space. (Photo: Anji Seth)

A side event I attended titled “Indigenous Women: Frontline Defenders in the Fight Against Climate Change,” featured women with origins ranging from Tanzania to Myanmar sharing their experiences as leaders at the front lines of the climate emergency. Even in these countries with racial homogeneity and defining cultural identity, indigenous women are the pillars of community and hold sacred knowledge on medicinal practices, ecology, and food production. As Pirawan Wongnithisathaporn of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact said, “we are the ones who protect the land, and who have been doing it for a long time.” Her voice is a reminder of the knowledgeable female leaders who are well-informed on the problems and solutions facing their own peoples.

IASS Co-Creative Dialogue
Panel of Indigenous women discussing female empowerment and leadership within Indigenous community climate action efforts. (Photo: Xinyu Lin)

A powerful theme amongst identity minorities is amplifying across national boundaries. Despite the Global North’s attempts to propose market-based solutions and technological fixes to the climate emergency, efforts must be concentrated towards funding projects at the community level. We need our decision-makers to reflect the people being most directly affected.

Xinyu Lin is a senior studying Civil Engineering with minors in Environmental Engineering and Math.


Additionality a Must for Carbon Offsets
Hope Dymond – BS Environmental Engineering, Minor Human Rights

I  assumed I would know most of the buzzwords here at the Conference of the Parties. For example, you will hear about the Paris Agreement, signed in 2016 as a treaty among many of the world’s countries. In the agreement they committed to reducing emissions, adapting to climate change and financing these shifts. NDC’s, another important term, are Nationally Determined Contributions, made by each country to define the amount it will “contribute” to the global effort to reduce emissions; a country by country target required by the Paris Agreement.

However, if you walk around this ye

The third person to speak was a slender French man with glasses. I sat down with my tiny notebook open, and just like I had done for the other two speakers, I wrote down his name and started jotting in bullets of what he was saying. Soon this name, Guilles Dufrasne, was surrounded by stars denoting real importance.

Guilles Dufrasne
Guilles Dufrasne, France, discusses rules for carbon markets on panel presentation on Article 6 of the Paris Climate Agreement at COP25. (Photo: Hope Dymond)

What was he saying? That we need to “finalize the rules for carbon markets.” Ok, cool. He continued, “There are 19,000,000,000 carbon credits crushing the Paris Agreement from the inside.” Dramatic! I was intrigued. “Article 6 is where this will be discussed.” Now I had to learn more about this Article 6, whatever it was. Turns out it is part of the Paris Agreement, a part they are working on finalizing this year at COP in negotiation halls.

A visualization came next. Guilles said picture a huge bathtub, one with many little holes in it. The point of carbon markets here is simple. Emissions of greenhouse gasses that warm the planet are assigned a price per unit. If I am a country, say Spain, and I want to reach my Nationally Determined Contribution target, I can lower my own emissions. But that might not get me all the way there, and I still emit. So I can “buy” carbon credits from another country, say Costa Rica, which is basically me investing in a carbon reduction project there. There are many examples of projects that take greenhouse gasses out of the air, and the result of these market efforts should be an eventual lowering of overall carbon emissions. Back to the bathtub. Carbon pricing has been tried many times before, and failed many times before. All of the little holes in the tub are places where the policy is “leaky”.

One hole in the tub is extra carbon credits from previous projects. If there are trillions of them they will flood the market and crash the prices. Countries will just use these “credits” from the past to trade, and no real reductions project will take place. I am no economist, but this made dire sense to me.

One hole in the tub is lack of additionality — where projects that can be invested in for carbon credits are not sucking in any more carbon from the air than they would have in the first place. Forestry projects are a good example of this. Pretend I am Spain again. I buy some carbon credits from my pal Costa Rica, paying them to protect 1000 acres of trees to offset a certain amount of CO2. We all know trees are good for that! But the trees were already going to be protected. We had no plans of cutting them down! In fact, my carbon offset has created no additional reduction in atmospheric carbon, while I am polluting to add additional carbon into the air.

These failures in policy are grave. One tiny hole in the tub and all the water — every drop — will come flowing out.

Bathtub
Amateur sketch demonstrates the “Bathtub” model for greenhouse gas emissions. (Drawing: Hope Dymond)

If carbon markets are done incorrectly they will add carbon to the air in vast quantities; according to a World Resources Institute report the amount of carbon added through faulty implementation of Article 6 could be more than all the reductions proposed by every country’s NDC combined! Before this policy could even begin to be implemented on a worldwide scale, it has to be airtight. No leaks.

This is not an easy thing to do. In reality, it is a momentous task, and there is a diversity of opinion on every aspect of carbon pricing. In my subsequent days at COP the knowledge and controversy on Article 6 just kept coming in. Some people I listened to at COP say it is all pointless, some say it will always have negative consequences. I have talked to other experts that insist it can be done to great benefit, and understand the intricacies of involving human rights into the conversation. These are all topics for my next blog post. I hope I have left you more informed and a little more intrigued.

Hope is studying Environmental Engineering with a minor in Human Rights.

7 Steps to Planning a Green Event

November 25, 2019

Hosting a sustainable event is a tough goal to realize, but with careful planning, you can make adjustments that significantly reduce its overall environmental impacts. With an abundance of programs and activities happening each week on campus, organizing a green event is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint and encourage others to follow suit! Here are 7 easy steps to follow to get started:

  1. Go Paperless – Going paperless is an easy and productive first step in hosting a green event. This may include replacing paper agendas with a projection of the agenda on a TV or projector screen in the room, taking notes on a computer, and sending online invitations. In the advertising process of events, paper can be reduced by reusing the backs of used papers to print advertising flyers and printing a limited number of flyers to strategically place around campus. Social media is also a highly effective tool for event promotion.
  2. Reduce Transportation Needs – Choosing a central location for all of the attendees is a crucial step in reducing the transportation footprint of any event. Knowing the locations of departments and people who are attending and finding a space in between all of them can make walking or biking to the event more practical. Hopping on one of UConn’s buses or carpooling are also great solutions to reducing the carbon footprint of transportation to the event.  Providing a way to attend the meeting or event virtually or to view it digitally afterwards is especially useful for large conferences that may have guests traveling by plane or longer distances. Fortunately, UConn events can be live-streamed and recorded/uploaded for free by the completely student-run organization, UCTV, by filling out an Events Filming Requests Form.
  3. Choose an Energy Efficient Building – Another item to consider when choosing a space for an event is the energy efficiency and environmental performance of the building space being utilized. UConn is home to many LEED certified buildings, but there are many other buildings that have undergone LED lighting retrofits and other energy efficiency improvements. Choosing one of these buildings over less efficient buildings will reduce the energy intensity of any event. Even better than choosing a LEED building, meet outside! There are many outdoor spaces on campus that can bring you closer to nature. Try a walking meeting to Horsebarn Hill or the Hillside Environmental Education Park!
  4. Select Eco-Friendly Catering – If an event is going to be catered, it makes sense to think about the impact of the food and dining supplies. In the U.S. alone, more than 100 million plastic utensils are used every day according to National Geographic. These plastics, as many of us know, do not break down in the environment. UConn Catering offers sustainable food options as well as biodegradable and recycled content single use dining ware. An even better step in reducing plastic waste related to dining would be investing in group-owned reusable utensils and/or plates to wash and reuse at every meeting or catered event. Additionally, always encourage guests to bring reusable containers to take home leftovers. The chance to bring Tupperware for leftover food will boost morale and improve meeting attendance! Be sure to choose food options that are lower on the food chain to make the greatest environmental impact. Ordering less meat (especially beef) eliminates the extra resources required to raise animals as opposed to growing produce. Spreading awareness on food sourcing is also a great way to encourage sustainable decision-making let amongst your attendees. Let them know if their food is local, vegan, or sustainably sourced!
  5. Recycle! – Making sure that any waste generated by an event is properly disposed of is fundamental to a green event. This can be ensured by checking in advance to see if the meeting space has clearly marked and paired trash and recycling bins (they should be side by side!). All meeting spaces at UConn should have recycling infrastructure, but if a room doesn’t happen to have a recycling bin in it, please contact the Office of Sustainability to address the issue.
  6. Buy Carbon Offsets – After an event is made as low impact as possible, there still is the matter of all the energy and carbon associated with lighting the space, powering projectors and laptops, and even embedded in the manufacturing of these products!  In order to help address unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions, carbon offsets can be purchased to negate the carbon footprint of the event. One such company providing carbon offsets for easy purchase online is TerraPass. These carbon offsets don’t erase the usage of fossil fuels, but they support projects that offset emissions like reforestation or landfill gas recovery which reduces the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
  7.  Educate Guests – Last, but certainly not least, is the opportunity to educate your coworkers and attendees on sustainable practices. For most people, sustainability isn’t the first thing they think about at work. Many of us have grown up never worrying about where our waste goes, or where our food comes from. As events are used to gather people together to share ideas and time, they are also a great opportunity to collectively learn how to live more sustainably.

All in all, it can be relatively simple to host a green event on the UConn Storrs campus. It just takes a little bit of planning, prior knowledge, and willpower. To better spread awareness about sustainability in your office on a more continual basis, be sure participate in the Green Office Certification Program!

President announces new student working group on climate change!

November 4, 2019

Photo by Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant

This Tuesday, President Katsouleas announced the creation of a joint student-faculty working group to create “coordinated analysis, policy formulation and strategic planning on issues of sustainability, particularly reducing emissions.” In the announcement, which came via a campus-wide email, Katsouleas made an open call for applications from the student body, stressing that “diversity, including with respect to academic background, will be an important consideration.” The group will work for the remainder of the Fall semester and into the Spring to create a detailed action plan for the University.

The formation of this group comes in response to student demands from the Sept. 20th climate strike and subsequent sit-ins. Momentum for a student-led working group has been building since last semester, when UConn@COP24 fellows and Office of Sustainability interns discussed the idea with UConn’s Executive Vice President & CFO, months before President Katsouleas began his tenure as President on August 1st. The University Senate has played a key role, by endorsing the strikers’ demands and being continuous advocates for sustainability on campus. President Katsouleas has also agreed to convene a committee of the Board of Trustees, TAFS, to focus solely on coming up with recommendations for addressing the demands!

These are monumental steps in the right direction from the university administration. Not only is President Katsouleas committing to rapid forward momentum on the issue of sustainability, but he is also positioning students at the forefront of that effort.

All students who are interested can apply by sending a letter of interest and resume to president@uconn.edu. We strongly encourage all interested UConn students to apply!

Indigenous Peoples’ Week at UConn

October 18, 2019

Since the late 1980s, activists have been attempting to change Columbus Day — a federally recognized holiday — to Indigenous Peoples Day. Advocates argue that the historical account of Columbus obscures his record of colonization, which led to slavery, genocide, illnesses, and near extinction, of the Taino people by the mid-1500s. The Taino were the most numerous indigenous people of the Caribbean islands encountered by Columbus after his trans-Atlantic voyage in 1492.

Dozens of cities and states across the United States have recognized this holiday as Indigenous Peoples’ Day since advocacy began in the late 1980s. UConn has joined in recognizing this holiday in recent years. This year, the Office of the Provost emailed the UConn community about this recognition and the history behind it. The Native American Cultural Program hosts a week-long event series each year in celebration, dubbed Indigenous Peoples’ Week.

Indigenous people, in the United States and across the world, are on the frontlines of the fight for environmental and climate justice. In the United States, indigenous people are often associated with closeness to nature and a low-impact way of life. While this image is sometimes a caricature, in many cases, it holds true. Struggles for land rights and protection against pollution or displacement, whether caused by the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and extended droughts, or by big businesses and expanding agricultural interests, are issues of survival for many of the world’s 370 million indigenous people.

22-year old Makasa Lookinghorse of the Six Nations of the Grand River

Indigenous Ecuadorians have long-pursued legal action against Texaco and Chevron, large oil conglomerates, for pollution of their homeland from large oil spills. While these lawsuits have dragged on for years, and even decades, they serve as reminders of the determination of indigenous people.

In 2016, indigenous people of the Standing Rock reservation came together to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was slated to run through ancient burial grounds and dangerously close to the tribe’s fresh water supply. Thousands of protesters brought international attention to the issue of indigenous land rights and environmental justice.  However, in 2017, protesters were eventually dispersed and removed by state and federal authorities and the final phase of the pipeline project was swiftly approved by the Army

Helena Gualinga of Ecuador

Corps of Engineers (ACOE). Although the project was completed and oil is flowing through the pipeline, a federal judge ordered the ACOE to reconsider certain environmental impacts. The reservation is currently litigating the adequacy of that second review, which was done in 2018 – their fight is yet another example of the challenges and environmental risks faced by indigenous people.

The most recent global climate strikes are most commonly associated with Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist who started the Fridays for Future student movement. But indigenous youth have been heavily involved on the frontlines of this movement as well. Other prominent activists include the 22-year old Makasa Lookinghorse of the Six Nations of the Grand River, who is

Xiye Bastida of Mexico

fighting for Native American water rights in opposition to a permit granted by Ontario, Canada, which allows the Nestle Corporation to pump millions of gallons of water per day from a local aquifer. We must recognize Helena Gualinga, who has fought for climate justice in her homeland of Ecuador, and Xiye Bastida, who has fought against extraction culture and for environmental justice in Mexico.

Indigenous activists have been leading on environmental justice issues long before it has gained the attention of the public eye. This Indigenous Peoples’ Week, we recognize and support them in their continued struggle for environmental and climate justice.

 

 

The climate strike at UConn and beyond

October 16, 2019

On Friday, September 20th, millions of students across the world left class and took to the streets to demand climate justice. Protesters gathered in every corner of the world, from Pakistan and India to the United States and Australia. Then, on Friday, September 27th, millions of students left class again to continue the fight for climate justice. In between, Greta Thunberg, the catalyst for the global strikes, gave a blunt speech to world leaders gathered at the United Nations: 

           “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Young people no longer feel like asking politely for change to come — they are demanding it. At the end of her brief yet immensely powerful speech, Greta perfectly encapsulated the mood of the strikes: “The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.” 

At UConn, over a thousand students attended the first strike on the Student Union Lawn. On the lawn, there were art exhibits on environmental justice, hula hooping and sign making stations as well as a demands table, where interested students could learn more about the UConn-specific demands from the strike organizers.

Photo by Cameron Cantelmo

At noon, hundreds of students gathered in front of the Student Union to hear the strike’s dynamic student speakers. These students spoke on intersectionality, global climate justice, eco-anxiety and the need to act quickly. After the speeches wrapped up, over four hundred students marched to the President’s office at Gulley Hall to list their demands. A call and response chant of “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed through Fairfield Way. At Gulley Hall, strike organizers listed their demands to the raucous crowd. Then, President Katsouleas arrived and responded through the organizer’s megaphone. He promised to take the demands seriously and dedicate a special Board of Trustees committee to researching solutions to UConn’s rising carbon emissions. 

The strike was a landmark moment in UConn’s history. Actions regarding the demands, including sit-ins at the President’s office, have continued following the strike.

In an email two Wednesdays ago, the President committed to forming a student working group on climate change as well as expediting the University’s emission reduction goals. 

Photo by Harry Zehner

Meet the Interns!

October 2, 2019

Editor’s Note: Another year, another round of new interns. This year we have our largest intern team ever! Read on to learn about the amazing, passionate students we hired this semester.

Hope Dymond – Sophomore, Environmental Engineering

Hope is currently a sophomore studying Environmental Engineering with a minor in Human Rights. She came to UConn as salutatorian from Common Ground, an ecologically themed high school in New Haven, and is ready to not only build her technical skillset, but also to learn about new topics.  Since joining the office, she has helped design and edit the new Sustainability Activity Book, worked on the annual Green Metric Survey, and helped with Energy Use Intensity tracking. On campus she has been part of Horticulture Club, Alternative Break’s Immokalee trip, the Student Farmworker Alliance, UConn@COP, and UConn Survivor Spring 2019 (did she win? You’ll have to watch it on YouTube to find out!). In the upcoming year, she is committed to her plans to go spelunking, camping, and climbing with Outing Club. Any activity out in the sunlight is an activity Hope wants to get in on, and she is excited to explore the HEEP. Hope values creativity and, when she makes time for it, loves to paint portraits with watercolor. She tries to see the true learning value in every task, and while it can be tough, she enjoys the moments when things change her mind.

 

 

 

Lauren Pawlowski – Sophomore, Environmental Studies and Economics

Lauren is currently a sophomore at UConn double majoring in Environmental Studies and Economics. Since arriving at UConn, she has been an active member/volunteer for EcoHusky, USG Sustainability Sub-Committee, UConn Club Track, Women and Minorities in Economics, and also secretary for UConn Club Pole Vault and the UConn Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA). Her favorite memories involving the OS so far include attending the Earth Day Spring Fling and Green Game Days and contributing to the Sustainability Student Activity Book. This past summer, she worked as a Laboratory Technician Intern for the Fairfield Water Pollution Control Facility collecting water samples and conducting chemistry analyses. For spring break 2019, she participated in the Community Outreach alternative break trip to Immokalee, FL which focused on migrant farmworker rights. Lauren is interested in green building design, renewable energy, sustainable business practices, reducing food waste, and fun plants. She looks forward to growing her windowsill collection of succulents and also attending COP25 in Santiago, Chile this winter as a UConn@COP Fellow. In her free time, you can find her hiking, biking, travelling, skiing, or running around on campus or on a UConn Outing Club trip. Lauren ran her first (and maybe last) half marathon this summer and looks forward to completing a Tough Mudder next summer. She also enjoys painting, reading, spending time with friends, seeing dogs, listening to acoustic guitar, and going to random UConn events. 

 

 

Harry Zehner – Junior, Political Science

Harry is a junior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Economics and Policy. He is dedicated to making the cities we live in more sustainable, through a focus on sustainable urban design, efficient transportation, social equity and democratized city planning processes. Harry has worked at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (a state-wide environmental advocacy group), Sustainable CT (a municipal environmental certification program) and as a policy advisor on a New Haven mayoral campaign. Through these jobs, Harry has developed a range of skills, from developing and writing housing policy to researching statewide legislation. At UConn, Harry works as the Opinion Editor at the Daily Campus, where you can find his weekly column, and as the Program Director for Nathan Hale Homework Club, a middle-school tutoring program. In his spare time, Harry enjoys reading, hanging out with his friends, playing intramural soccer and recording his love-life podcast called (name). After graduation, Harry plans to work on policy in local elections, advising candidates on the deep connections between sustainability and housing, transportation, food, planning and equity. 

 

 

 

Maizey MabrySmith – Sophomore, Environmental Studies

Maizey Mabrysmith is a sophomore Environmental Studies major here at UConn. Prior to the start of her internship, Maizey participated in multiple sustainability events and projects around campus such as organized cleanups, Green Game Day and the Hartford Marathon. She hopes to increase participation in these incredible events and better engage the student body using her new perspective as an intern. Maizey is also a returning member of the EcoHouse learning community, this year serving as a floor mentor for incoming freshmen. Through these two new roles she hopes to provide environmentally-conscious students an outlet to make change. Maizey loves anything and everything outdoors, and spends her summers lifeguarding. For the past two years, she has worked as a Marine Patrol Officer for the Town of Columbia to implement and improve strategies for invasive species protection on Columbia Lake. Maizey has always had a strong passion for volunteer work and fulfills that by spending a large part of her free time at the Windham Region No-Freeze shelter. Maizey is excited for all that this year will bring in the office and is most looking forward to trailblazing the HEEP and improving signage to make the area more accessible to all of UConn’s nature lovers.

 

Green and Blue at UConn’s Football Green Game Day

September 16, 2019

Green Game Day was a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing day for UConn football fans. The Huskies lost a close game on the field, but Mother Earth won outside the stadium where EcoHusky and EcoHouse volunteers, along with Office of Sustainability interns, took to the tailgating fields to collect cans and bottles from fans. Volunteers sporting blue Green Game Day shirts walked among the rows of cars, approaching UConn alumni, Connecticut locals and even some Illinois fans to help make their game day a bit greener. 

Some student volunteers even ventured into the spirited student lot, all in the name of recycling! Unsurprisingly, they emerged with more bags than any other tailgate area. 

In total, the volunteers collected 58 bags of recyclable bottles and cans. 

While most of the volunteers scoured the fields, others staffed the Office of Sustainability tent in the HuskyFest fan zone, quizzing fans on their environmental knowledge and giving out prizes for correct answers. One notable addition to the prize table this year was the new UConn Sustainability Activity Book. Our youngest fans (and a few older ones) jumped at the chance to color and learn. One excited young Husky was heard walking away from the tent exclaiming: “Dad look! Jonathan’s on every page!”

From baby boomers to generation Z, all ages were equal parts enthralled, enthused and stumped by the intern’s questions. At the end of their experience at the tent, all participants had learned something about the environment and UConn’s sustainability efforts. 

Once inside, fans were treated to a recycling PSA from none other than Jonathan the Husky. Likely due to the inspiring recycling video, the Huskies got off to a strong start, scoring the first 13 points. Alas, it was not to last, as Illinois came storming back to win 31-23. 

While UConn’s first loss of the season was disappointing, it can teach us a valuable lesson about recycling: Care for the environment must be sustained, or else we risk losing all our progress. And vice versa: No matter what your habits are, you can always turn it around and become an EcoWarrior.

Green Game Day was a roaring success for all involved. We hope to see you during the basketball season at Gampel, or next year at the Rent!

 

ELAs Recognize Leaders of Environmental GenEd & Metanoia

May 3, 2019

The movers and shakers of UConn’s first-ever Environmental Metanoia and new Environmental Literacy General Education requirement swept the 2017-2018 UConn Environmental Leadership Awards (ELAs). Metanoia

Co-Winners in the Faculty Category, Jack Clausen, Scott Wallace (accepting for Dave Wagner) and Carol Atkinson- Palombo, receive their ELA trophies from Rich Miller and Greg Anderson

Hosted on April, 4th at the UConn Foundation, the 6th biennial award ceremony recognized a variety of prominent environmental achievements led by faculty, staff, students, and external partners. Most notably was the successful student-faculty led push for the establishment of an Environmental Literacy GenEd requirement—which was approved by the University and will be in place for the fall 2019 semester requiring that all students take at least one course with an environmental focus. It also highlighted UConn’s first-ever Metanoia on the Environment, which featured 44 events held throughout the 2018 spring semester. While these initiatives involved dozens of individuals and groups, a handful of standout students and faculty helped lead these charges into fruition. Amongst these include several ELA award winners.

 


2017 – 2018 ELA Winners

 

Dr. John (Jack) Clausen

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Professor, Department of Natural Resources & the Environment
  • Co-Chair, Metanoia on the Environment
  • Co-Chair, Environmental Literacy Workgroup

 

 

Dr. David L. Wagner

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Director, Center for Conservation and Biodiversity and Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Co-Chair, Metanoia on the Environment
  • Co-Chair Environmental Literacy Workgroup

 

 

Dr. Carol Atkinson-Palombo

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Associate Professor, Geography & Director, Environmental Studies Program
  • Chair, General Education Environmental Literacy Task Force for UConn Senate
  • Funding Sub-Committee Chair, Environmental Metanoia

 

 

Benjamin Breslau

  • Winner, Undergraduate Student Category
  • Class of 2018, B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Student Co-Chair for the Environmental Metanoia
  • Student Chair, Environmental Literacy Workgroup and Environmental Metanoia
  • SURF Award Recipient
  • Undergraduate Researcher in the Rittenhouse Lab
  • Office of Sustainability Intern (2015-2018)
  • UConn@COP22 Fellow
  • VP, ECOalition
  • Project Lead, HEEP Signage & Trail Dedication Ceremony

 

Dr. John Volin

  • Special Recognition
  • Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Founded the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA), as NRE Department Head
  • Instrumental leader and champion among UConn’s senior administrators for the Environmental Metanoia, Environmental Literacy Gen Ed, and creation of the new UConn Institute for the Environment

 

Georgia Hernandez-Corrales

  • Winner, Graduate Student Category
  • Class of 2019, M.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Conducts research on plant physiology and global warming
  • Communicates research to rural communities in Costa Rica
  • Awarded NSF-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation – Research Fellowships
  • Founder of Brenesii – a Social Enterprise, focused on activities that combine science communication and outreach for individuals in marginalized communities

 

Len Oser

  • Winner, Staff Category
  • Instrumental in launching EcoCoin program at the Bookstore
  • 12,000 bags have been avoided and $600 was raised for various charities
  • Host to the annual Eversource Energy Efficiency Outreach Event and LED Desklamp Promotion during Move In/Week of Welcome at the UConn Bookstore
  • Expanded to regional campuses in March 2019

 

EcoHusky Student Group

  • Winner, UConn Group Category
  • Leads student sustainability engagement & outreach
  • Volunteered at Green Game Days, campus clean-ups, HEEP trail clearing, Celebrate Mansfield Festival, and the Hartford Marathon each year
  • Hosts campus environmental film screenings
  • Oversees Recycling Patrol, Stop the Drop, and plastic film/bags collection initiatives

 

Quantum Biopower

  • Winner, External Group Category
  • Partnership with UConn to send all the food waste from the dining halls, diverting thousands of pounds of food each week
  • Biogas created by the anaerobic digestion converted to electricity
  • Participates in education outreach with the community

 

 

 

Below is the complete list of all individuals and groups who were recognized at the 2017-2018 ELAs:

Recognizing Cherie Taylor for 20 Years of Service to UConn

April 24, 2019

Congratulations to Cherie Taylor for celebrating 20 years at UConn this year!  I’m fortunate that 15 of them have been in her role as my Administrative Coordinator, and as the office manager and “mater familiae” for the OEP, which was recently reconfigured and refocused as UConn’s Sustainability Office.  She’s been the perfect complement to me as Director, given my skill set and management style, and has helped our office make a positive difference, not only for the University, but also (as you can see by the testaments below) in the lives of the staff and students who have worked here over the years.  Happy Administrative Professionals Day, Cherie!  Thanks for all you do.  – Rich Miller, Director, Office of Sustainability

“Cherie is our #1 supporter, and will do anything to help us out in anyway that she can, and that does not go unnoticed. In and out of the office, Cherie always has out backs. One time, I needed to print a poster for a research presentation, and I didn’t realize I had to submit the request so far in advance. Cherie called the Print Shop and had the order rushed, and because of her I had my poster printed on time. That is just one of the ways Cherie goes above and beyond to help out the interns in the office.” – Caroline Anastasia

“Cherie is absolutely magical. If any intern comes to her with a tough problem that they have been unable to solve, she swoops in to fix it with no expectations greater than a thank you. Her care for the well-being of the people in her life is made abundantly clear every day when I walk into work and see some kind of snack or baked good ready to save me if I’ve had to skip lunch.” – Emma MacDonald

“If our office was a plant, Cherie would be the entire root system. She ultimately holds together the office, connects us with so many other departments on campus, and provides us with the information, motivation, and accountability we need. Roots grow and make new connections. Cherie makes things happen and knows exactly who, how, and when to do all that she does. I have never heard or seen anyone get things done faster than Cherie does. Roots also store energy and nutrients for the plant for future use. Cherie stores years of experience and knowledge – not just about the office and this campus community, but also about life. Thank you, Cherie, for giving your advice to us. Although roots may not be seen from an outside view, they are so vital for growth, beauty, and life of the plant. Thank you for being our roots and dedicating so much for the office, we appreciate you!” – Mara Tu

“Cherie is a force of nature and she makes things happen! She is such an important part of keeping the office running. She consistently goes above and beyond to make sure that everything is done right and that everyone in the office takes care of themselves.” – Charlotte Rhodes

“Cherie always takes the time to notice the little things that make people happy and often uses this knowledge to brighten people’s days when they need it the most, whether it’s bringing in snacks, making a pot of coffee, or complimenting someone’s outfit.  Additionally, Cherie always has everyone in the office’s best interests in mind by expecting a high standard from us, but also remaining understanding and going above and beyond to deliver whenever we need her help.  She definitely is the mother of the office, and we are all grateful for the care she takes to help make the OEP such a wonderful place to work.” – Jon Ursillo

“Cherie has been a steady presence in the office since my first day on the job, and my experience at the OEP has been made that much better for this. Cherie has always made me feel welcomed and appreciated in the office, and clearly cares about the interns and our well-being. She has so much faith in our success, and has helped me feel better on multiple stressed or sad occasions. I am also quite confident that the office would not have achieved half of what we’ve accomplished if it weren’t for Cherie keeping us all on track.” – Sophie MacDonald

“Thank you for always being our greatest advocate, for guiding us with encouragement, and for the care you have shown each of us both during and after our time at the OEP.” – Christen Bellucci (’18)

“Cherie runs a tight but loving ship. She’s always willing to lend support to anyone that needs it and if Cherie’s on the case, best believe things get done!” – Rose Croog (’17)

“Cherie treats us like we’re her own family, always has our back no matter what, and teaches us some super valuable life lessons – like pushing in your chair and not putting pictures of monkeys on your resume!” – Katie Mae Main (’18)

“Cherie is amazing! She made me feel so welcomed from our very first phone conversation during my hiring process. I’m so thankful to have been a part of the OEP group and gotten to know her. Congratulations on 20 years! ” – Jennifer Williams

“Cherie has been a rock for me at OEP through the many years and many changes. With her heart of gold she has always put others ahead of herself.  She supported me through my almost 13 years here and helped me navigate the UConn culture.  She also had the knack of finding leftover meeting food for me which is always welcomed and appreciated. – Paul Ferri, EH&S Manager

“Whether you go to Cherie for advice on department operations, the inside scoop on UConn administrative changes, or a confidential chat on a personal matter, you always know you’ll get a straight answer, the wisdom of a sage, and just enough sarcastic humor to spice things up.  Thanks for all you do Cherie.  And since I am POSITIVE we cannot convince you to stay on another 10 or 15 years, good luck wherever in the world your future takes you.” – Jim Hutton, Environmental Compliance Specialist

Cherie is undoubtedly the glue that keeps UConn’s high achieving sustainability program together. Her organization, persistence, and wealth of institutional knowledge impresses me every day!  The personal investment Cherie makes toward supporting our student interns is what truly separates her in my opinion. We rely heavily on and have high expectations of our student sustainability interns. Cherie does anything she can to ensure their success, even if that means cooking for them or providing life guidance. And I’ve been the lucky recipient of more than one baked good… sometimes daily! Cherie It’s been a pleasure learning from you in my first year at UConn. Thank you for all your support – you’ve been a great teammate! The little things you do that make our lives easier and better don’t go unnoticed, so today we thank you and celebrate your achievement at UConn. Congratulations!- Patrick McKee, Sustainability Program Manager

Greg Anderson Wins Lifetime Achievement at 2018 ELAs

April 17, 2019

Earlier this month, Greg Anderson accepted the first Lifetime Achievement Award in the 15-year history of UConn’s Environmental Leadership Awards

From 1973 and the moment he arrived in Storrs as a young assistant professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Greg Anderson has been a campus environmental leader, dedicating time and effort, above and beyond his internationally recognized research and academic pursuits, to making UConn a greener place. Four-and-a-half decades later, having been named a Board of Trustees’ Distinguished Professor, and served as an EEB department head, then a Vice Provost for Graduate Research & Education (VPGRE), Greg remains the “heart and soul” of the environmental movement at UConn.

Even as a semi-retired, emeritus faculty member, working from his lab in Torrey Life Sciences for the past few years, Greg is still as active, engaged and passionate about the environment as anyone on campus! Nearly 25 years ago, he founded and remains a leader of the committee that oversees UConn’s thought-provoking Teale Environmental Lecture Series.  Similarly, more than two decades ago, Greg established, and still co-chairs, the Campus Arboretum Committee, which has planted, identified, preserved and mapped out the locations of dozens of specimen trees across campus. In fact, just this past year, Greg has worked with the co-president of EcoHusky to begin a tradition of planting a graduating Class Gift Tree, using crowd-sourced funding by students and friends of the Arboretum, plus tools and expertise provided by UConn’s landscape architect and arborist staff.

His moral support and leadership has also been key to an environmentally-responsible campus.  In 2008, while serving as VPGRE, he was the senior administrator most responsible for convincing then-President Mike Hogan to sign UConn’s pledge for developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Greg was at the front of the room, standing proudly alongside then-state DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy (who later served eight years as head of President Obama’s EPA), when Hogan signed onto this important climate leadership commitment. And he was there four years later when Susan Herbst reaffirmed UConn’s carbon commitment upon her arrival as the University’s President.

Greg Anderson
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, John Volin (right) and Director of the Center of Biological Risk, Associate Professor (EEB), Mark Urban (left), congratulate Greg Anderson for receiving the ELA Lifetime Achievement Award
Greg Anderson also delivered an inspiring keynote address to a full house of award winners, runners up, finalists and nominators during UConn’s 6th ELAs, held at the UConn Foundation on April 4th, 2019.

That year, and for several years after, Greg helped organize an annual series of panelists and guest speakers on topics relevant to Climate Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation, and he was instrumental in bringing his longtime colleague, Gene likens, a pre-eminent ecologist and founder of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, to UConn as President Herbst’s Special Advisor on the Environment.   The CAP has since driven UConn’s rise to the top of national and international green campus lists, according to the Sierra Club’s annual “Cool Schools,” Best Colleges, and GreenMetric World University rankings, among other sources.

The inaugural UConn Environmental Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement looks great in the hands of Greg Anderson, the “heart and soul” of UConn’s Environmental movement for more than four decades.

2017-2018 ELA Honorees