Middlebury

MiddLab

Sustainability

The isolated Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia currently sits at the front lines of a heated national discussion regarding Chile’s energy future. The massive HidroAysén dam proposal seeks to develop the region’s hydroelectric potential through the creation of five mega-dams across two rivers, the Baker and the Pascua. While the project would provide substantial energy to the mines and cities of the north, it would also irrevocably change the river ecology and alter the lifestyles of local populations. During J-term, I used Mellon Grant funding to travel to Chile and conduct field research on the social and environmental impacts of the proposed dam project. I visited several of the proposed dam sites in Aysén and conducted interviews in both Aysén and Santiago with local residents, HidroAysén employees, politicians, and anti-dam campaigners. My project examines how competing claims over land use and development are addressed in the Chilean post-transitional political system.

Katie Siegner (author) and Kemi Fuentes-George (advisor)

 

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amaxwell/

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Today, the Aysén region of Chilean Patagonia remains rooted to the land and its traditional ways of life. However, the HidroAysén dam proposal threatens the local ecology, landscapes, and lifestyles of this remote rural outpost, launching the region to the forefront of a heated debate over national development priorities. Formally announced in 2007, the transnationally owned project would consist of five large dams across two fast-flowing rivers in the northern Patagonia region, the Baker and the Pascua, and would be Chile’s leading domestic source of energy. Additionally, the proposal includes the construction of a 2,000-plus km transmission line in order to deliver the electricity generated by the hydroelectric power stations to the centers of consumption in the north-central regions. While a low-carbon solution to the country’s energy needs, the dams have engendered intense controversy regarding the environmental and social impacts of such a large-scale development project, illustrating the tension between competing visions of “sustainable” development.

Given Chile’s development trend, the highly concentrated urban centers in the Santiago area, and the extensive mining operations to the north, HidroAysén proponents claim that the project is essential to combat the country’s alleged energy crisis. At the same time, a strong and well-organized national resistance movement –– Patagonia Sin Represas –– has emerged, and has succeeded in reframing the debate around the dams in order to draw attention to the costs of the mega-project, as well as the more sustainable development alternatives that exist.

The HidroAysén controversy has broader implications than its immediate local and national contexts, as it highlights a central concern of the international environmental justice movement: often isolated or marginalized regions and communities are asked to pay the costs of development plans purported to benefit “the nation as a whole.” HidroAysén is most likely to benefit the powerful economic interests that control the energy and mining sectors, rather than the average Chilean citizen, an all-too-common trend in the history of neoliberalism and its relationship with resource-rich Latin American countries. Furthermore, the post-transitional Chilean political system lacks the institutional infrastructure to adequately address the concerns of the anti-dam campaign, as governmental decision-makers persistently undervalue citizen voice.

While the project remains stalled by political stalemate and the inexperienced court system attempts to deal with the competing claims of the two parties, HidroAysén has become an issue of international significance, as NGOs and environmental groups have rallied to protect the renowned Patagonian landscape and the bucolic lifestyle it supports. Global environmental movements are increasingly contesting the hegemony of the dominant, capitalist-driven development path and emphasizing the local impacts of its environmentally destructive practices: HidroAysén is a case in point. This paper seeks to analyze the dam proposal in all of its divisive dimensions, including the contrast between localized costs and purported national benefits, the power inequalities present between dam proponents and the opposition, and finally the choice between such mega-projects and development alternatives that are sustainable, low-impact, and socially just.

 

Jason Scorse discusses the theoretical underpinnings of economic thought that support very strong government intervention in the environmental realm, as well as the politics and messaging that the environmental community needs to win the major battles ahead.

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Jason Scorse
Associate Professor and Program Chair, International Environmental Policy

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Professor Scorse received his PhD in agricultural and resource economics from UC-Berkeley in 2005. He is currently associate professor and chair of the International Environmental Policy Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Dr. Scorse has consulted for numerous environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club, and he is currently the lead non-market economist for the National Ocean Economics Program. Professor Scorse is also the director of the new Center for the Blue Economy, whose goal is to educate the next generation of leaders by making the Monterey Bay Region the premier location for graduate education and research in international marine policy.

Dr. Scorse has published articles in American Economic Review, California Management Review, and for books published by the Brookings Institution and Routledge Press. His book What Environmentalists Need to Know about Economics was released in 2010. Professor Scorse also sits on the board of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Research Activities Panel and the Otter Project. In addition to his scholarly work and consulting, he is a guest contributor for Grist, Environmental Economics, and Progressive Fix.

His lecture is sponsored by the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest, Program in Environmental Studies, Department of Economics, Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, and the Graduate School of Translation, Interpretation, and Language Education at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

A MiddLab Project

Sustainable Television 2011

In Spring 2011, nine students enrolled in FMMC 285 Sustainable Television: Producing Environmental Media, collaborating to produce a 50-minute television program on environmental issues. Watch the entire episode below, or scroll down for individual segments:

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Full Episode: (expand to full screen to fully enjoy)

Selected Stories:

A group of students capture the activist energy of Power Shift 2011 in Washington, DC:

Can a group of kids teach you about the science of climate change?

A profile of Vergennes farmer Erik Andrus and his sustainable agriculture and energy strategies:

Where does food in Middlebury dining halls come from?

Emeritus Professor John Elder reflects on his relationship to nature and place through the words of poets:

What happens when the oil party comes to an end?

Learn how two Vermont business people installing solar panels changes their environmental impact:

How do small choices you make everyday impact your carbon footprint?

A student takes a challenge to go vegetarian for a month to learn about the environmental impact of dietary choices:

Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz proposes some sweeping changes to reach carbon neutrality:

 

A MiddLab Project

Arsenic Contamination in Vermont’s Private Wells

Learn more about Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.

The Environmental Studies Senior Seminar (ENVS 401) is the capstone course for the Environmental Studies major. The goal of this course is to bring seniors from the various foci within the Environmental Studies major together to examine a specific topic in depth from an interdisciplinary perspective. The course follows a service-learning teaching model, which combines collaborative work with a community organization, scholarly reading, classroom discussions, and reflective writing. Topics of ENVS 401 vary from semester to semester, but focus on issues with relevance to the local region as well as the global environment. Our theme for this semester was “The Groundwater Resource: Global Concerns, Local Perspectives.”

The class split into three groups: the survey group, partnering with the Vermont Department of Health; the spatial group, partnering with the Vermont Geological Survey; and the policy group, partnering with State Senator Virginia Lyons. The goal of the survey group was to evaluate the public’s knowledge of their well water and testing recommendations in a study area in Rutland County. The goal of the spatial group was to investigate the incidence of high arsenic well test results and the relationship between bedrock and high arsenic to locate areas of concern in Vermont. The goal of the policy group was to provide our community partner with information pertinent to advancing the policy discussion regarding private well testing regulations in Vermont. We used our research to create a policy framework that the legislature worked off of in the 2010-2011 legislative season.

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As Levels in Groundwater Wells from Southwestern Vermont

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Pier LaFarge ‘11 offers policy recommendations to the Vermont Senate's committee on natural resources and energy in Montpelier on Feb. 9.

Project Timeline

Sept.-Dec. 2010
Class research culminating in final report and presentation.
February 7, 2011
Testify before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee in support of their policy proposal
March 18, 2011
Policy unanimously passes the Senate Natural Resources Committee and is referred to the full Senate
April 6, 2011
Policy passes the full Senate and is referred to the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources
April 14, 2011
Testify by phone for the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources
April 29, 2011
Policy unanimously passes the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife, and Water Resources and is referred to the full House
May 3, 2011
Policy passes House with an amendment that sends it back to the Senate
May 4, 2011
Senate concurs with amendment
May 5, 2011
Bill passes both Senate and House and is awaiting signature by the Governor
May 26, 2011
Governor Shumlin vetoes the bill.
Intensive herbivory by white-tailed deer has plagued Valley Forge National Historical Park’s forests since the early 1980s. A deer management plan was enacted to reduce the size of the herd by at least 1000 deer over the next two years. The goal of my research was to model the impacts of changing levels of deer herbivory on the forests. I developed a forest model using data from a large deer exclosure erected in the park in the late 1980s. I am using the model to simulate how changes in herbivory and disturbance may affect forest composition over the next 120 years. My results suggest that changes in herbivory may be a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for restoring forests to their historical state. The finished model will serve as a tool for the park’s resource managers to use in developing long-term restoration plans.

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Meghan Blumstein
Researcher

Andrea Lloyd
Sponsor & Professor of Biology

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Although early literature of Maryland and Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay reflected the first settlers’ unbridled consumption of resources, as the twentieth centuries due to habitat loss, overfishing, and pollution, literature, specifically an emergent genre of children’s and young adult literature, demonstrated a shift from entitlement towards stewardship of the Bay’s resources. Authors of children’s and young adult literature increasingly encouraged youth, either didactically or through metaphor, to value the Bay’s resources, protect the health of the Bay, and persuade others to become stewards of a healthy Chesapeake for future generations. This presentation will examine the transformation of Chesapeake Bay literature, and explore how these children’s and young adult works color the growing environmental education movement in the Bay region.

People

Laura Williams
Researcher

Daniel Brayton
Sponsor & Assistant Professor of English & American Literature

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A MiddLab Project

Millborne Farms: A Case Study of Modern Dairy Farming in Vermont

Learn more about Economics at Middlebury College.

As times and consumer preferences change, how is a traditional Vermont dairy farmer to make a decent living? Is it worth their time to simply continue producing traditional products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter) in a heavily saturated market, or should they branch out into kefirs, smoothies, or probiotic shots? Should they stay local and maintain the integrity of the farm or ship products around the country in order to avoid financial ruin? Gert and Arda Schute of Millborne Farms in Shoreham, VT deal with these concerns on a daily basis. This presentation will be the culmination of my personal research on profitability and dairy farming. It will also critically analyze the business issues currently facing Gert and Arda and offer solutions that will maintain the vitality and increase the profitability of their farm.

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Anne Bogert
Researcher

Jessica Holmes
Sponsor & Associate Professor of Economics

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A MiddLab Project

Monitoring Carbon Uptake on College Lands

Learn more about Biology and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.

Middlebury College has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2016. As the largest private landowner in Addison County, there is tremendous potential for land management practices to contribute to the goal of carbon neutrality. As part of an effort to understand how carbon sequestration varies among the different forest types on College-owned lands, we monitored carbon uptake in the Battell Research Forest, an old-growth hemlock forest in East Middleury, VT. As expected for an old-growth forest, the Battell Research Forest contains substantial pools of carbon in live and dead biomass. The size of the woody debris pool was substantially larger at the Battell Research Forest than in secondary forests at Breadloaf. We conclude our presentation with a proposal for how to implement an ongoing carbon monitoring protocol on College-owned forest lands.

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Team Middlebury College has earned the opportunity to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011, a competition which challenges students from around the world to design and build 100% solar-powered homes. In September 2011, our student-led team will be one of 20 finalists to erect a complete, fully-functioning, net zero-energy home on the National Mall in Washington D.C., facing competitors like Team China and Team California. The competition is a chance for our team to redefine the future of residential energy use and home design, and to educate large audiences about sustainable living. It is also an opportunity for students studying different disciplines to come together, work as a team, and gain real life experience that will prove invaluable when entering the job market. Currently, our team is comprised of more than 80 students from 20 different majors. We tackle challenges from how to use computer modeling to optimize a home’s energy system to how to educate the Middlebury community about green building. At the end of March, we began constructing our vision of the New England farmhouse, Self-Reliance, which is designed for a Vermont family of four. It features a green wall and ample public living space, as well as locally sources, environmentally friendly materials.

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Spring Symposium Presenters

Benjamin Brown
Chester Curme
Astrid Schanz-Garbassi

Melissa Segil
Presenters

Faculty Advisors

Andrea Murray
Architecture Faculty Advisor & Visiting Lecturer in Architecture, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Ashar Nelson
Construction Faculty Advisor & Visiting Asst. Professor of Architecture

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Solar Decathlon Project Team

Students

RJ Adler, MEP Team
Benjamin Brown, Project Safety
Jesse Catalano, Graphic Design Lead
Alex Colucci, Interiors Team
Gwendolyn Cook, Interiors Team Lead
Carson Cornbrooks, Construction Team
Charlie Cotton, Site and Architecture Design Lead
Hilary Cunningham, Design Coordinator
Chester Curme, Student Engineering Lead
Evan Deutsch, Construction Team
John Dinning, Design Team
John Diebold, Scheduling Team
Peter DiPrinzio, Foundations Fundraising Lead
Emma Drucker, Communications
Mark Esposito, Materials Research Team
Erik Fendik, Revit Lead and Fire Watch Captain
Melake Getabecha, PV/Electrical Team
Addison Godine, Student Project Lead
Hilary Hall, Communications Team
Christine Hsieh, Schematic Designs
Alex Jopek, Construction Lead
Aaron Kelly, Electrical Lead
Jack Kerby-Miller, REVIT Team
James Knelman, Construction Skills Team
Wyatt Komarin, Architecture Co-Lead
Yen Le, Cost Estimation Co-Lead
Yangli Lenard Lim, Cost Estimation Lead
Afsana Liza, Logistics Team
Gillian Lui, Education Outreach
Bente Madson, Construction Team

Jake Manoukian, Construction & Security
Onelissa Martinez, Scheduling Team
Stanis Moody-Roberts, Architecture Team
Hannah Orcutt, Alumni & Parent Relations
John Portman, Interiors Team
Amanda Powers, Construction Team
Danny Powers, Logistics
Mathew Rojas, Landscape Team
Jay Saper, Creative Writing & Expression Lead
Astrid Schanz-Garbassi, Communications
Shane Scranton, Revit Lead
Melissa Segil, Team Manager
Camille Seyler, Education Lead
Ben Silton, PV/Electrical Team
Sarah Simonds, Landscape Design Team Lead
Martin Sweeney, Student Controller/Budget Manager
Chelsea Ward-Waller, Landscaping Team
Harrison Watkins, Scheduling Team
Ben Wessel, Policy & Activism
Daisy Zhuo, Energy Modeling Lead 

 

Faculty, Staff & Community Members

Abe Bendheim, Architecture Co-Lead and Construction Documentation Lead
Andrea Kerz-Murray, Lead Architecture Faculty Advisor
Ashar Nelson, Lead Construction Faculty Advisor
Lindsay Selin, Videographer
Sarah Franco, Special Projects Coordinator for the Vice President for Administration
Karen Maxon, Revit Maven

In a January 2011 Winter Term Class, “Twenty-First Century Global Challenges,”  21 Middlebury students studied great challenges of our time – including wide-scale poverty, climate change, and the struggle for human rights. They then analyzed how social entrepreneurs – individuals and groups who are developing new ways to attack systematic problems – are taking on these challenges.  For example, Nina Cameron ’12 studied how the Global Network is trying to reduce the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases; Erin Kelly ’13 studied how the University of the Peopleis providing tuition-free higher-education throughout the developing world.  The students also spend much of the course developing a vision for a new center for social entrepreneurship based at Middlebury College.  On this MiddLab, we report the ongoing results of this work.

People

Jonathan Isham, Jr.
Professor of Economics

Wahid Ahmed
Catherine Brown
Nina Cameron
Brian Clow
Thomas Crocker
Matthew Engel
Stuart Fram
Allison Grant
Mark Hannah
Paul Hildebrand
Aaron Kelly
Claire McIlvennie
Olivia Noble
Bradley Osborn
Devin Perkins
Hilary Platt
Jeronimo Riefkohl
Martin Sweeney
Rhidaya Trivedi
Kenneth Williams
Nicole Williams

The Ripple Effect in India

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It is important to understand how crops will respond to climate change. Temperature, water availability, and insect predation influence crop yield and may also affect crop nutrients. Camelina sativa (camelina), an oilseed crop high in omega-3 fatty acids (FAs), grows best in the cold climates of Canada and northwestern US. In this study, camelina seeds and leaf tissue were grown at different temperatures and analyzed for FAs; glucosinolate levels were also studied in leaf tissues. This study’s findings suggest that higher temperatures significantly reduce omega-3 FAs and glucosinates in camelina.

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Anne Runkel
Researcher

Helen Young
Professor of Biology and Advisor

Dr. David Sands and Dr. Alice Pilgeram
Montana State University Advisors

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A MiddLab Project

Mapping the Islands of Old Providence and Santa Catalina, Colombia

Learn more about Geography at Middlebury College.

For this project I returned to Old Providence for almost a month over J-term with a Garmin GPS to ground-truth information I had acquired from CORALINA (the government-sponsored Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina) and to create my own more accurate dataset. I recorded data for all of the roads, dirt roads, sidewalks and trails on the island, as well as important waypoints, and compiled a map of this information, populated areas, the biosphere reserve, and English nomenclature—which I fact-checked with native islanders.

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Alison DeGraff
Cartographer and Researcher

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Sites DOT Middlebury: the Middlebury site network.