Friday, February 29, 2008

What are the ethics of "rewilding?"

A very good question.

Rewilding and other ecological restoration advocates use a variety of arguments. Some are utilitarian, and relate to the economic benefits of healthier and arguably more productive ecosystems, with more provision of the goods ecological economists call "ecosytem services," such as clean water, pollution control by wetlands, and so on.

Some motivations are extension theories, whereby we decide that ecosystems have intrinsic rights to exist, "untrammelled," as it says in the 1964 Wilderness Act, by the hand of man. They become, in a sense, individuals before the law, and as Christopher Stone said, they have "standing."

I think the best arguments for restoration are deontological (but I would, since I already know myself to be a dutiful deontologist).

We decide to restore ecosystems because we have duties to the planet, to God if we believe in one, and to human posterity. We have duties to not entirely destroy every beautiful and living thing on this earth, not to chop up every wilderness and feed it as raw material into the ever-open maw of commerce, not to alienate very kind of creature, including humans, from some relatively safe spot on this earth where they can do their best to live out a free life, as nature intended.

I find this last entirely believable, good, and true. This short piece is therefore a polemic, if a socratic one. But this is only my opinion, not my teaching.

Ethics students, discuss!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Highland Regeneration

Very soon, UC Wildlife Care and Education professor Amy Darcangelo, her graduate student husband Joe (who before he was a graduate student was an expert zoo display and captive wildlife habitat designer, and has a UC BA in Environmental Writing), my wife Aimee Phillippi, a PhD marine biologist and Conservation Biology professor, and myself, your sustainability blogmeister and tame environmental policy wonk and economist, will visit the 24,000 acre Scottish Highland estate of British millionaire Paul Lister.

Alladale, as the estate is known, is a traditional Highland country seat dating back to the Victorian era, when famous British industrialists and aristocrats followed the lead of the Queen herself, by setting themselves up as Highland "Lairds." One Highland historian called this process "Balmoralization" and the ethics that drove it "Balmorality."

Mr. Lister has a very different proposition, which, since I'm teaching ethics this spring, deserves at least an analytical note or two here. He proposes "rewilding" the Highlands, regenerating the Caledonian forest, re-equipping the highland ecological community with the predators that would police that forest, keeping herbivores in check, and to boot, demonstrating that this scheme is actually a more profitable land use than others for the landowner and community.

This is quite a tall order. But not impossible or out of the question, given the various regulations on wildlife and land use in effect in the UK and the Highland region.

I have a little personal experience with the "re-wilding" proposition. It turns out to be a combination of older ideas, from various sources. In the Highlands, the proposition that regenerating the native forest would prove more economically sound than other forms of land use dates back to the 1980s. I was “there” when it first became popular, and knew some of the protagonists, interesting back-to-the-landers and activists such as Bernard and Emma Planterose, Andrew Wightman, Donald McPhillemmy, Jonathan Caddy and Alan Watson of the Findhorn community. In the US, this idea came out of the radical environmental movements, and out of academic ecological restoration movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and was taken up by protagonists like Michael Soule, David Foreman, Patagonia clothing entrepreneur Doug Tompkins, and so on.

Some of the Scots "rewilders" were forestry and other graduates associated with the radical Centre for Human Ecology, then at Edinburgh University (soon to be sacked from there by a Thatcherite administration) and now at Strathclyde University. One of the founders of CHE, the eminent Dr Ulrich Loening, had sponsored much student discussion and interest in forestry. I remember he also had a sawmill, and had some of his students work in small-scale forest product harvesting and milling, centered around Edinburgh town, using over-mature ornamental trees as feedstock. So I think the root idea of regenerating the Caledonian Forest on a large scale can be loosely traced back to Loening and his students and graduate students at the Centre. Caddy, one of Loening’s students, was the Findhorn connection.

Two lasting programs emerged from the endeavors of this loosely affiliated group, the NGO Reforesting Scotland, which with its magazine of the same name, continues to be interesting and influential, and the Findhorn-based charity Trees for Life, which, although closely associated with the New Age commune, has also been influential, particularly on the Glen Affric estate. I've always liked the Reforesting Scotland ethos because it emphasizes people and wildlife in a native forest, which seems to me to be more pragmatic and less romantic.

As a partial result of this activism, in the mid 1990s, the official government-run Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural heritage both became interested in native forest plantings, and the emphasis on regeneration began to spread. Because former plantings of non-native conifers were proving uneconomical, this was partly a response to public sentiment, but also partly pragmatic. In the face of competition from "liquidation harvesting" from other global fiber and pulp producers, what form of Highland forestry would have been economical? At least in the short term? My take is that Highland foresters, who for years had depended on economic arguments for employment, switched to native forestry as a way to keep forestry alive in the Highlands.

As a result, a good deal of forest regeneration work has been attempted since then, on private reserves and on government land of different types. An earlier, and quite successful regeneration effort on the Isle of Rum, begun in the 1950s and 60s, offered lessons in "how-to" but was never intended to be anything more than an adjunct of the nature preserve there. The new ideal of Highland native forest regeneration is intended by its advocates to cover a good deal of the landscape. Very often economic arguments are invoked, as when the Planterose's set up a demonstration working private forest economy near Ullapool. I would love to know if this experiment still exists.

The forestry work is not unlike some of the ideas we have for the few acres of the Great Farm Aimee and I own and lease. Cutting to waste of non-natives. Husbandry of native seed stock. Managed grazing.

The there's the wildlife aspects, which is why Amy and Joe are involved. Both are expert in captive wildlife care. The introduction of two previously extirpated animal species have taken place already in Scotland, the sea eagle, and the osprey. The European beaver has been released, although not to the wild. Mr. Lister has introduced moose and boar to large enclosures, although not to the wild, and intends to add lynx, brown bear, gray wolf, and other extirpated species.

This intent has led local antagonists to call his estate "Jurassic Park," which seems unfair, but, believe it or not, political discourse in the UK can be even more prone to hyperbole that in the US. (if you don't believe me, listen to the UK House of Parliament's Prime Minister's Question Time on C-Span! You'll get the idea quickly.) I was exposed to a good deal of this kind of vitriolic and scathing criticism when I did my Master's thesis research. Highlanders would scathingly abuse the government agency I was studying and it's operations.

Anyway, that’s all for now, but watch this space for more to come on our Alladale experiences.

Night and Light

Night & Light
Where: Unity Centre for the Performing Arts
What: Opening of Night & Light Display
Free Food Courtesy of Master Chef Knipper
When: This Friday the 29th 5:30-7:00

Photographers Clayton Kern and Jake Harr

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Unity Alumni who came to the Career Fair

Unity College has always been jobs-related. From this photograph, you can see how well we do at getting students started in uniformed and other conservation service work. These are all alumni who came to host tables for their respective organizations at the career fair.

Now, as to how good some of them were as students, my lips are sealed.

Names, from Kate Grenier:

Group Photo: First row, left to right: Jared Smith ’05, Justin Ferland ’02, Angela Ebert ’06 Jamie-Lynn Sheehy ’04, Steve Couture ’96, Nicole Collins ’00, Scott Maddox ’04, Jen Stow ’93, Derek Liimatainen ’01
Second row, left to right: Noah Tucker ’05, Sarah Ogden ’07, Denise Buckley ’94, Robin Dyer ’95, Scott Davis ’89, Steve Sherman ’97, Daniel Bowker ’00, David Yates ’99, Chris Wiebusch ’89, Jen Noonan ’01, Jason Dejackome ’96, Matt Curtis ’98
Third Row, left to right: James Perez ’05, Dave Clark ’03, Zachary Koziol ’02, Jon Dumais ’03, Pete Ruksznis ’94, Larry Dvorsky ’95, Paul Sannicandro ’96, Joe Saltamachia ’94, Chris Schoppmeyer ’77, Lucas Savoy ’99, Jeff McCabe ’00, Greg Linsmeyer ’04, Thomas Hogman ’85, Peter Deane ’00, Bill Waite ’98

Missing from photo: Cristin Bailey ’98, Shawn Biello ’93, Jason Bosco ’03, Joe Dionne, Leland Griffith ’70, Casey Mealey ’06, Craig Morrocco ’88, Nancy Romanik ’03, John Sherman ’95, Thomas Stern ’00

Blogging the Mitch

President of Unity College Mitch Thomashow just went on-line with his own blog. Very cool. Check it out.

They'll all want one now.

Compact Fluorescents, savings and clean up

This report is a collection of information provided by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

According to the US Department of Energy, if we all switched our five most-highly used light bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs), we would save enough electricity to shut down 21 power plants—about 800 billion kilowatt-hours. That means a lot less carbon dioxide, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides going into the air and causing problems like climate change, acid rain, ozone and contaminated fish. Ultimately the mercury in the light bulbs is far less than the mercury that would be emitted using conventional light bulbs. Not to mention the money we’d save on our monthly electric bills. Try Efficiency Maine's savings calculator to see how much you might save. And find more information about the ENERGY STAR® Residential Lighting Program.

Maine law does not allow fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, to be disposed of in the trash because they contain a small amount of mercury. You can recycle them at participating retail stores at no charge or where your municipality has made lamp recycling arrangements; there may be a small charge for recycling the bulb at a municipal recycling facility. To determine where your municipality has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your municipal office or check the Maine Department of Environmental Protection website for a list of municipal collection sites (MS Excel format) (pdf format) - White blocks mean those municipal offices could not be reached. Blue means the facility will take from anyone in the state not just the residents in their town. If anyone finds any errors or changes, please contact the Hazardous Waste Program DEP staff at 207-287-2651.

February 2008, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection released their study report on compact fluorescent lamps/light bulbs. The purpose of the study was to determine the amount of mercury that would be released from breaking a lamp and how best to clean up broken lamps. Based on the study, they modified their clean up guidelines. The guidelines are as follows:

First, ventilate the area by opening windows, and leave the area for 15 minutes before returning to begin the cleanup. Mercury vapor levels will lower dramatically by then. Continue ventilating the area during and after clean up for several hours.

Keep people and pets away from the breakage area until the cleanup is complete. Foot traffic will agitate the area and kick up mercury.

Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and could potentially contaminate the vacuum.

Next, Carefully remove the larger pieces, wearing rubber gloves if possible, and place them in a secure closed container, preferably a glass container with a metal screw top lid and seal like a canning jar. (Other jars that can be made of glass and also work are pickle, peanut butter and applesauce jars. Not ideal but also a good choice for containing breakage is a heavy duty #2 plastic container with either a screw lid or push-on lid such as a joint compound bucket or certain kitty litter-type containers.) A glass jar with a good seal works best to contain any mercury vapors inside.

Then, begin collecting the smaller pieces and dust. You can use two stiff pieces of paper such as index cards or playing cards to scoop up pieces.

Next, pat the area with the sticky side of duct tape, packing tape or masking tape to pick up fine particles. Wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel to pick up even finer particles.
Put all waste and materials into the glass container, including all material used in the cleanup that may have been contaminated with mercury. Label the container as “Universal Waste - broken lamp.”

Next, remove the container with the breakage and cleanup materials from your home. This is particularly important if you do not have a glass container.

Then, wash your hands and face.

Finally, take the glass container with the waste material to a facility that accepts “universal waste” for recycling. To determine where your municipality has made arrangements for recycling of this type of waste, call your municipal office.

When a break happens on carpeting, homeowners may consider removing throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly if the rug is in an area frequented by infants, small children or pregnant women.

If the carpet is not removed, open the window to the room during the next several times you vacuum the carpet to provide good ventilation.

The next time you replace a lamp, consider putting a drop cloth on the floor so that any accidental breakage can be easily cleaned up. If consumers remain concerned regarding safety, they may consider not utilizing fluorescent lamps in situations where they could easily be broken. Consumers may also consider avoiding CFL usage in bedrooms or carpeted areas frequented by infants, small children, or pregnant women. Finally, consider not storing too many used/spent lamps before recycling as that may increase your chances of breakage. Don’t forget to properly recycle your used fluorescent bulbs so they don’t break and put mercury into our environment.

In Our Backyard

(We get this newsletter to circulate through Stef McGarvey '06 at the Maine DEP)

Clear The Indoor Air, In Our Back Yard

Sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head. It's not a cold. It's not the flu. Maybe you're suffering from the effects of indoor air pollution.

Modern Mainers spend most of our time indoors--especially in winter--breathing air that may contain levels of pollution several times greater than outdoor air.

Indoor air pollution comes from a variety of sources and can potentially produce a number of health problems, from allergy-like symptoms, to asthma, nerve damage or even cancer. Some common sources of pollution in the home include:

radon, asbestos, lead paint and pressed wood building materials and furniture

permanent press drapes, upholstery and mattress ticking

gas stoves and furnaces, wood stoves and fireplaces

pet hair and dander, pollen, molds and dust mites

smoking, hobbies and use of chemicals
The first step in reducing indoor air quality problems is to identify and eliminate the sources of pollution. Certain pollutants, such as asbestos-containing materials and lead paint, are better left alone if intact. Removal of these products could introduce pollutants into the air and should only be done by a qualified professional.

Homeowners can test for radon using an easy and inexpensive test. A professional can help reduce levels of radon by sealing cracks in foundations or venting radon gas to the outside. Regular maintenance and cleaning can remove or control other pollutant sources. A utility representative or other professional can inspect and tune up gas- and oil-burning appliances. Periodically cleaning wood stoves, fireplaces and chimneys and inspecting them for leaks and back-drafting ensures that wood smoke doesn't linger indoors.

Indoor humidity levels kept below 50% can help prevent the growth of molds and bacteria. Regularly vacuuming carpets and upholstery, washing bedding and wet mopping hard surfaces reduces mites, dust and other contaminants.

Changes in lifestyles and activities can also improve air quality inside the home. Smoking introduces over 4,000 chemical contaminants into the air and causes numerous health problems, especially in children, and is best kept outdoors.

Other products that cause indoor air problems include solder, paints, varnish, paint stripper, pesticides, solvents, fragrances, disinfectants and chemical cleaners. Minimizing the use of these products and restricting them to the outdoors or well-ventilated areas can be a big help in cleaning up indoor air.

Once pollution sources have been eliminated as far as possible, providing adequate ventilation can further improve air quality. The easiest way to ventilate is to open windows and doors when weather permits. Installing ventilation fans in the kitchen and bathroom removes moisture and combustion pollutants from those areas. Tighter houses may require a ventilation system to supply a continuous flow of fresh outdoor air.

If indoor air pollution continues to be a problem after the sources have been controlled and ventilation supplied, an air cleaner can provide further relief. Proven methods include air filters, electronic particle air cleaners and ionizers.

We don't have to accept the symptoms of indoor air pollution as just another side effect of our indoor lifestyles. Some little changes around the home can be the prescription for breathing easier.

This column was submitted Andrea Lani, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Bureau of Air Quality.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monarchs of the Glen

A Highland breed steer at the Alladale reserve. Photo by the Reserve.

Five days to go before Unity College professors Aimee Phillippi, Amy Darcangelo, alumni Joe Darcangelo '07, and myself fly off together to Scotland to visit the Alladale Wilderness Reserve.

There's lots of interesting things to learn about the Highland landscape and ecology, some of which I know because I did my MS thesis there, writing a history of development issues in the region. The Maine landscape and the Highland one have much in common, although at 12 degrees of latitude further north, you would be surprised to learn the weather is warmer there than here.

Watch this space for more information and thoughts, possibly even as we travel, and photographs too. I hope to take a few good hikes with my camera. Aimee, who is a better photographer, will have hers.

For students, it may be interesting to know that we hope to set up a program whereby wildlife students visit the estate for internships and possibly short travel courses. Again, watch this space for more details.

Editorial by Jeffrey Sachs, sustainability economist

Joined-up technology

The world is used to working together on finance and weapons: now we need a global response to the challenges of the future
Jeffrey Sachs

In early February, the United States National Academy of Engineering released a report on the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. The goal is to focus attention on the potential of technology to help the world address poverty and environmental threats. The list includes potential breakthroughs such as low-cost solar power, safe disposal of CO2 from power plants, nuclear fusion, new educational technologies, and the control of environmental side-effects from nitrogen fertilisers. The report, like the Gates foundation's similar list of grand challenges in global health, highlights a new global priority: promoting advanced technologies for sustainable development.

We are used to thinking about global cooperation in fields such as monetary policy, disease control, or nuclear weapons proliferation. We are less accustomed to thinking of global cooperation to promote new technologies, such as clean energy, a malaria vaccine, or drought-resistant crops to help poor African farmers. By and large, we regard new technologies as something to be developed by businesses for the marketplace, not as opportunities for global problem-solving.

Bicycle Power!

In the age of space travel, wireless communication, and nanotechnology, any claim to the title for 'greatest invention of all time' faces formidable competition. A single device, however, stands far above the rest. Space shuttle? No. Automobile? Sorry. Computer? Guess not. Cell phone? Nope. According to a national survey in the UK, the winner is clearly (drum roll....) the bicycle.

Bicycles may be the ultimate sustainable machines. Their ability to transfer human muscle power into motion efficiently is unsurpassed. They are also adaptable to a wide range of cargo-hauling, people-moving, and other work-accomplishing applications ranging from clothes-washing to television-viewing.

Recognizing this potential, bicycle manufacturer Specialized and Google co-sponsored and organized the Innovate or Die pedal-powered machine contest. The result: 102 design innovations that use nothing but human power to do something useful.

The photo above shows Kevin Blake, who designed an ingenious and timely pedal-powered snowplow using parts from a bike and a discarded riding lawnmower. The design was a runner-up award winner. View video of Blake's plow in action is here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Smart Meters work by wattage "shock?"

Shock tactics
Plans to install smart meters in homes to let consumers see how much power they are using should help reduce emissions, but the government and energy companies can't agree on strategy, says Terry Slavin
Terry Slavin
The Guardian,
Wednesday February 20 2008

Switching the kettle on for a nice cuppa used to be a soothing experience, bu that all changed for Clive Bowman when he began to use a display unit t show the electricity his appliances were gobbling up in his Perthshire house "Your electricity consumption is running along at a steady 200 to 300 watts an hour, he says, "but when you put the kettle on, there is a horrific jump to 2,000 kilowatts That's scary.

In Our Backyard

(From Stef McGarvey 06 at the DEP)



Many Maine residents will never look at a rubber ducky quite in the same way after seeing them in TV ads morph into pollutants, such as oil, cigarette butts, or pet waste. The concept is "if stormwater pollution were rubber duckies, we wouldn't have a problem, but it's not". One reason the ducky ads have been so successful is because they catch your attention and allow you to visualize what stormwater pollution is.

Let's take a closer look at the 'innocent' little yellow ducks. First of all it's important to know the basics about stormwater. Stormwater is simply water that is produced during a storm or through snowmelt that does not soak into the ground – it runs over the ground. Depending on where you are, stormwater may flow into a storm drain, down the curb or ditch, or directly into a waterway, for example a river. The path it takes to the river is where the rubber ducks come into play because they represent what the stormwater comes in contact with along its journey. As each piece of trash, drip of oil, cigarette butt, and pet waste from here and there morphs into a rubber duck, they come together to create a massive yellow plume that flows down the river and out to sea. The rubber ducks splash in the waves with the children playing at the beach while the person surfing is alarmed by all the rubber ducks floating around him.

Stormwater pollution arises from our everyday activities, and is one of the largest sources of water quality problems in the United States. We may unintentionally contribute to stormwater pollution, but we can voluntarily help protect Maine's waters. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that between 40 and 70 percent of rain that falls on the average Maine residential lot runs off.

The best way to reduce the effects of stormwater is to reduce the amount of stormwater leaving your property. This can be done by redirecting roof and driveway runoff onto your lawn or flowerbeds or collecting roof runoff in rain barrels. If you cannot reduce the quantity of stormwater leaving your property, you can reduce or eliminate sources of pollution that it comes in contact with. There are many ways to do this for example repairing cars and snowmobiles that leak fluids or storing leaking vehicles inside.

For other ways you can help keep Maine's waters clean, visit

The ads are a part of a statewide mass media campaign by the Think Blue Maine Partnership. The Partnership was formed in 2004 in response to federal Clean Water Act requirements and consists of Maine's 36 regulated municipalities and other entities, state agencies and not-for-profit groups. The Partnership is a collaborative approach to the public education portion of the stormwater requirements, which helps the communities save money while at the same time creating a stronger more unified message.

Think blue because clean water starts with you!

This column was submitted by Christine Rinehart, a Project Engineer with Wright-Pierce in Topsham, Maine. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

Monday, February 18, 2008

New rooftop turbine design from Oz

This video link was sent in by the parent of a prospective student. I thought it was interesting enough for me to learn how to post u-tube video, which I didn't know how to do.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Important news on CO2 emissions and the market

We've known for some time now that a market driven emissions-control campaign was inevitable, but wasn't sure how it might get going. In particular, UC sustainability folks like myself, Advancement Director Rob Constantine, and President Mitch Thomashow have had interesting conversations over the last few years with some of the leading players, investors and industry types who we meet at conferences or who come to visit college.

This article from the Guardian shows how much momentum and pressure is building for climate controls in capital markets. My take is that this pressure is waiting, more or less, for the results of the presidential election.

Investment fund giants demand 90% reduction in carbon emissions

· Institutions try to seize control of green agenda
· Listed firms would have to disclose climate cost

* Terry Macalister
* The Guardian,
* Friday February 15 2008

Some of the largest institutional investors in the world yesterday called on the US Congress to introduce a mandatory national policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% below 1990 levels by 2050.

It is the latest move that underlines the way business leaders have dramatically seized the environmental agenda and are now pushing politicians to tackle global warming.

The group of 40 investors, which includes F&C Asset Management in London and controls $1.5tr (£760bn) worth of funds, also wants the financial regulator, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to insist that companies listed in New York and elsewhere disclose their exposure to climate change risk.

The investment houses are demanding that equity analysts and ratings agencies calculate the potential carbon costs for companies such as Shell, BP and electricity utilities which are involved in polluting activities such as producing oil from tar sands and operating coal-fired power stations.

The initiative was unveiled at the Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted in New York by the United Nations Foundation and the Ceres investor coalition. It would boost investment in energy efficiency programmes and clean energy technologies as well as leaving investors better informed if not less exposed to carbon-intensive activities, the investors argue.

Friday, February 15, 2008

UC "places" on Recyclemania competition, week 2

Thanks to the efforts of our awesome CRAP Crew, our magnificent Maintenance Custodians, and to everyone who's recycling, we were able to "place" this week in the national Recyclemania competition.

We scored fourth in the nation for the amount of recycled paper we collected per capita! You can see the results at

A very well done to all those involved!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Recyclemania update

Week Two of Recyclemania is just getting done. We will be entering our numbers soon.

Remember, we only have 8 weeks more to do this after this. Please continue to work on your recycling efforts.

BTW, I now have a much better estimate of our trash weights, got by estimating the dumpster levels on Tuesday, just before they're emptied, as a percentage of full, and multiplying that by the yards in the dumpster and the average weight of the yards.

The number I got for last week using this system is 17,800 pounds of trash, which is much better than the 69,000/week I got from using Bolster's invoice numbers of 180 yards/month and 200 pounds a yard.

I did ask Roger to check to make sure Bolster's wasn't actually charging us for the trash they say we have. Aimee Sawyer looked into it and the billing system is more reasonable than that. We get charged per yard for the capacity of dumpsters we rent, and they give us a different charge for emptying them.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From the Beeb: Compressed air cars

BBC Photo

I've been going to the MDI website now for a year, waiting for a press release on these new combined compressed-air/fuel engines. The car itself has been designed now for several years, with a plain compressed air engine. It was the fuel booster for long distance travel that got my attention. Tata, the Indian motor company, will get the technology, it seems. I wonder if waht even offered to the "Big 3?"

Question: Why can't a compressed-air piston engine be designed to run backwards as a compressor? That would reduced weight.

Five-seat concept car runs on air
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

The Aircar can be filled with air in just three minutes
An engineer has promised that within a year he will start selling a car that runs on compressed air, producing no emissions at all in town.

The OneCAT will be a five-seater with a glass fibre body, weighing just 350kg and could cost just over £2,500.

It will be driven by compressed air stored in carbon-fibre tanks built into the chassis.

The tanks can be filled with air from a compressor in just three minutes - much quicker than a battery car.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Darwin Day!

From Aimee P.

Darwin Day is an international celebration of science and humanity held on or around February 12, the day that Charles Darwin was born on in 1809. Specifically, it celebrates the discoveries and life of Charles Darwin -- the man who first described biological evolution via natural selection with scientific rigor. More generally, Darwin Day expresses gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity. - for more info about Darwin Day - for some of Darwin's complete manuscripts online - National Center for Science Education

State GHG update from Stef

Stephenie, a very famous Unity College alum, sent in a comprehensive state GHG initiative report for us to post. Useful for students who need to know what's going on in the great State O' Maine for class projects, etc, but also useful for regular visitors from off campus. Thanks, Stef.

I posted the entire document itself as it was sent to me, so Stef's interesting links would all work. Click on the link below if you want to see the whole thing.

Maine moves forward in reaching reductions of greenhouse gases

By Stephenie J.M. McGarvey

The Department of Environmental Protection recently released their Second Biennial Report on Maine’s progress toward Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals to the Natural Resources Committee.
The report includes how options under the state’s Climate Action Plan are being implemented and how the state is progressing in reaching its goals of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020. Excerpts are taken directly from the release of the report.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Great newspaper article on the new degree programs

Unity offering sustainability degrees

By Morning Sentinel staff, 02/09/2008
from the Morning Sentinel

UNITY -- Search for the term "sustainability" and Google will spit out 16 million Web references, all presumably revolving around practices that can be continued indefinitely without adversely impacting the environment.
Fortune 500 companies looking to save energy, homeowners hoping to curb their carbon footprints and presidential candidates on both sides of the political spectrum all have started preaching and practicing sustainability.


One of our Hampshire ewes gave birth to twins on Friday. despite the cold, mother and lambs are doing well.

Photos will appear as soon as I can get some.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Baby lamb

This is the first of what should be four or possibly more UC FFA Club Farm lambs this spring. Mother and child are doing well in their lambing pen or "jug" at the Tinker Farm. For early lambs, a special pen with heat lamp and mother confined ensures survival in Maine winters. Luckily, it's relatively warm out today at around 25-28 F. The first worry the shepherd has is, is the lamb warm enough to survive? Most lambs that die shortly after birth do so from hypothermia because they're still wet and can't dry off and warm up. The mother's vigorous licking helps stimulate the lamb to move and get warm. The second question is, is it feeding? Lambs need calories to stay warm. As you can see, this one is. Lambs always wag their tail vigorously when they're getting milk.

These lambs are Hampshires and Hampshire crosses. I always think Hampshires are a too-skinny sheep. But then Aimee and I keep Corriedales, which are not only fatter, but have a good deal more fleece. Our own pregnant ewes are huge and will get even bigger by the time they're due, right around spring break.

You can time the birth of your first lamb of the season by separating the ram or "tup" in the fall. If he can't get to the ewes, he can't breed them, and the gestation period will ensure a later birth, which in Maine is very good policy. Last year at this time it was far too cold for early lambs. Cold weather and early births make for busy shepherds and sometimes a dead lamb.

Students may go visit, but are asked to go in the sheep shed only with FFA club members. There are three other pregnant mothers there, all due very shortly, so we don't need to get them running around all riled up, if we can help it.

Thanks to Aimee P for the great pictures.

Recycling announcement from Keith

I want to thank all for their help with our recycling program. The C.R.A.P. crew is doing a great job.

In an effort to help keep more items from the land fill I called Goodwill and the Salvation Army about becoming a drop off site for them. Unfortunately they no longer use drop off boxes because people were using them for trash, All donations must be taken to the stores.

So once a month starting February 20th we will be placing one of our trailers in the Eastview/Westview parking lot so people can drop off any unwanted items. Then we will deliver them to the Goodwill or Salvation Army stores. Please tell your friends and family. The more items the better. I will send a reminder on the 18th .


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Giving up carbon for Lent

Gerry sent this one in. If you buy offsets, that definitely makes it an "indulgence." Where is Martin Luther when you need him?

And if Gerry is reading the Telegraph, will he vote "Tory" in November, and if so how?

Christians told: Give up carbon for Lent

By Paul Eccleston, Daily Telegraph

Two senior Church of England Bishops have called on people to give up carbon rather than chocolate for Lent.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones and the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, will make the call before the 40 days of Lent begins on Wednesday February 6. Lent is the time when Christians traditionally give up such things as sweets, chocolate or alcohol in recognition of the 40 days Christ spent fasting in the desert to prepare for his ministry.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ultracapacitors -- better than batteries?

We're all familiar with batteries of various rechargeable and disposable varieties. The stored electrochemical potential energy in batteries allow us to start car engines, fire up laptops, take cell phone calls, and jam to music from ipods.

Batteries are clearly versatile devices for storing and delivering mobile power, but they have some drawbacks:

1) Charging can take a long time.

2) Batteries don't last forever, and they lose capacity and performance with use. Rechargeable batteries usually fail before the the devices they power rust, break, or become obsolete. This is inconvenient and not ideal from a sustainability standpoint (see 3).

3) Producing batteries requires large amounts of energy and toxic materials (which disposal safety hazards).

4) Battery performance in situations requiring large amounts of power or storage is lacking. In applications such as electric vehicles and off-grid RE homes, energy storage is still a critical limiting factor in terms of capacity and expense.

Enter ultracapacitors, technology that could potentially avoid many of batteries' drawbacks. Ultracapacitors charge fully in a matter of seconds or minutes rather than hours, take millions of charge cycles (they would likely outlast the devices that they power), and have higher power output than chemical batteries.

Capacitors are fundamentally very simple, storing energy by accumulating static electrical charges on parallel plates separated by an insulator. Capacitors have been around for a long time, and populate circuit boards of electronic devices for a variety of purposes. University researchers and a few R&D companies are now extending this technology to push the envelope of energy storage capacity, by increasing the surface area of the capacitor's plates, and by using insulators with special properties.

Are you CHARGED UP and ecSTATIC to learn more? Check this out.

Career Fair: Be there or square!

These are the organizations that are recruiting today. Many thanks to the CRC for all the great work on a great Fair.

· A.C. Parsons Landscaping & Garden Center
· Acadia National Park
· Adventure Links
· Appalachian Mountain Club
· Avian Haven
· Bangor YMCA Camp Jordan
· Bartlett Tree Expert Company
· Baxter State Park
· Belgrade Regional Conservation Alliance
· Belknap Landscape Co. Inc.
· Biodiversity Research Institute
· Brunswick Police Department
· Camp Arcadia
· Camp CaPella/United Cerebral Palsy of Northeastern Maine
· Camp Hazen YMCA
· Camp Susan Curtis, The Susan L. Curtis Foundation
· Cherryfield Foods
· Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery
· E.E. Just Environmental Leadership Institute
· Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery & Landscapes
· Eckerd Youth Alternatives
· Elliotsville Plantation Inc
· Expanding Opportunities - Camp Forest
· Ferry Beach Ecology School
· Fieldstone Gardens Inc
· Freedom Farm
· Friends Camp
· Good Will-Hinckley School
· Great Pond Outdoor Adventure Center
· Hart-to-Hart Farm
· Humane Society, Cape Wildlife Center
· Lake George Regional Park
· LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School
· Loki Clan Wolf Refuge
· Longacre Expeditions
· Lucas Tree Experts
· Maine Army National Guard
· Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Holbrook Island Sanctuary
· Maine Conservation School
· Maine Department of Conservation, Maine Forest Ser­vice
· Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Fisher­ies and Hatcheries Division
· Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Bureau of Resource Management
· Maine Department of Marine Resources - Aquarium
· Maine Department of Marine Resources - Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat
· Maine High Adventure, BSA
· Maine Lakes Conservancy Institute
· Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
· Maine Warden Service
· Maine Warden Service, Bangor
· Maria Mitchell Association
· Massachusetts Audubon Society-Wildwood
· Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation
· Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recrea­tion/ Bureau of Ranger Services
· Massachusetts Environmental Police
· McLaughlin Foundation Garden & Horticultural Center 1
· Medomak Camp
· Muskie School of Public Service/ University of Southern Maine
· National Marine Fisheries Service
· New England Organics
· New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development
· New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Law En­forcement Division
· New Horizons for Young Women
· New Jersey Division, Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Law En­forcement
· North Country Rivers
· Northwoods Stewardship Center
· Oswegatchie Educational Center
· Pine Tree Camp
· Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust/ Eco Venture
· Rippleffect
· Saco Parks & Recreation Department
· Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary
· Summit Achievement
· The Care of Trees
· The Summer Camp
· Thompson Island Outward Bound
· Unity College, Summer Programs, NOVA
· Unity Environmental Education Semester at Camp Susan Curtis
· University of New Hampshire 4-H Camps
· URS Corp
· US Army Corps of Engineers
· US Customs and Boarder Protection
· US Department of Agriculture, APHIS, Wildlife Services
· US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, White Mountain National Forest
· US Department of Agriculture, National Resource Con­servation Service
· US Department of Interior Fish & Wildlife Service, Rachel Carson NWR
· US Department of the Interior Fish & Wildlife Service, Maine Coastal Islands NWR, · · Petit Manan National Wild­life Refuge
· US Fish and Wildlife Service
· Vermont Youth Conservation Corps
· W. Alton Jones Environmental Education Center
· Waldo County Sheriff Department
· Waldo County Soil & Water Conservation District
· Waldo County YMCA
· Wolfe’s Neck Farm
· Zoo New England

Tipping points: conference report from the Guardian

Ice boulders left behind after a flood caused by the overflowing of a lake in Greenland. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty images

I have to say that I think Mr. Sample, normally one of the better climate science journalists out there, mis-interpreted the science in this report of a conference held last week. The Guardian makes it seem like these nine areas themselves are the ones most at risk from the tipping points. In reality, the whole planet will be affected by any one of the nine, and no-one can safely predict how any two or three or four of them will work together in the system if more than one is involved.

But here it is. Read it and weep.

Global meltdown: scientists isolate areas most at risk of climate change
ming are spelled out

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian,
Tuesday February 5 2008

Scientists have long agreed that climate change could have a profound impact on the planet; from melting ice sheets and withering rainforests, to flash floods and droughts.

Now a team of climate experts has ranked the most fragile and vulnerable regions on the planet, and warned they are in danger of sudden and catastrophic collapse before the end of the century.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Recyclemania update

I just posted our first week's data for Recyclemania. Thanks to Keith and Sarah, the CRAP Crew, Ray Stuart, the Compost Crew, Aimee Sawwyer, Marcy Rose and everyone else who helped us with our competition numbers.

You can see the results at

So far, so good. We have pretty high numbers for the per capita paper and food waste recycling, compared to other colleges. So for instance, Unity recycled 3.9 pounds per person of paper, compared to Green Mountain College's 2.7 pounds per person of paper (in 2007 -- they haven't posted a 2008 number yet). I chose this comparison school because they are the college most like us that reported a recycled paper number. Other colleges seem to do quite a bit worse. Check it out at the web site.

We still have some bugs to work out. The trash quantities are given to us monthly by Bolsters, so many yards at 200 pounds per yard, but the dates are of course a month behind, so our trash numbers will lag our recycling numbers by a month.

I'm still working with Bolster's on getting a number for the weight of cardboard recycling.

And we haven't got a number for the weight of cans and bottles. This is probably because these are deposited, and so someone takes them to the redemption center, not to the transfer station. If anyone has an idea how to get a number for this, let me know ASAP.


Update: Turns out the deposited cans and bottles are collected by two groups: The RAs, for their pizza fund no doubt, and the CRAP Crew, who fish some out of regular recycling when the RAs don't get them, and get the rest from the non-residence hall recycle stations. Sarah is going to weigh the latter. Steve has been asked to count the former, and then we will find a conversion factor.

From Amy Arnett: Cool Demonstration Farm

Hi Mick,
I don't know if you remember my friend Amy Seidl coming to talk a few years back about climate change (she has a book coming out soon on the topic) -- but she is Associate Director of LivingFuture, which is based on Teal Farm in Vermont.

Might be an interesting place for your students to see what money can do regarding sustainable ag/energy. The farm is meant to be a model of complete sustainable energy and a working research farm.

Thought you might be interested.

Check out the YouTube segment on the link below.


Local schools save energy, climate emissions and money

The old economic adage that you don't leave $100 bills lying on the ground has applied to energy savings for some time, but I have seen a lot that haven't been picked up because corporate and other institution managers somehow still manage to walk around thinking energy is still cheap.

Looks like the State o' Maine school system is at least beginning to pick a few up.

VASSALBORO: School takes energy steps
Efficiency upgrade investment touted

By Morning Sentinel Staff

If you are a non-profit or local government institution and need to do an energy audit, but think you can't afford it, Unity students can do it for you. Just contact me at

Monday, February 4, 2008

Opposition to windfarm on the Isle of Lewis and Highlands research

Guardian picture: Lewis wind farm

Some readers may know I did my MS research on the history of economic development programs in the Highlands and Islands (including an analysis of their ecological sustainability), so I try to stay in touch. I also served there while in the military. I've particularly been watching the wind business because it's a few years, but only a few years, ahead of Maine's. The kinds of things happening there will soon happen here. There's a lot of wind in the Western Isles, and planned development of this resource makes sense. But not everyone feels the same way. The high level of local opposition to this particular wind farm surprised me. I expected some, but not as much as this article describes.

On reflection, perhaps the Lewis wind farm and similar proposals represent another "colonial" scheme for the Highlands, in that most of the product and profit would almost certainly exit the area. This seems a reasonable prediction because the scale guarantees largely "foreign" investors will be involved. In this case the scheme drew considerable opposition even though large annual payments were guaranteed to local folk. Smaller, locally-supported and financed schemes might fare better politically.

The history of the Highlands since the mid 1700s is that they have repeatedly featured large in the economic development (and social engineering) notions of folks from "away," while the local voice has generally been politically muted (although not always, and much less so recently).

Highlanders systematically found it difficult to develop their economy without external ideas and capital; but unless programs are accepted locally, the tendency has been for them to eventually collapse, after a short and disruptive lifespan.

The area is littered with the remains of failed schemes.

Lewis, on the other hand, was insulated from this for many years by the indigenous development of a premium-market, cottage-based, tweed-weaving industry which survives to this day, and by its strict Presbyterian religious life. But those are other stories.

There are lots of interesting Highland development stories.

Mainers might well learn something from Highland development history. Maine is also quite well-sprinkled with failed industrial schemes. And it has similar ecology.

Some other Unity College academics and myself are taking a Highlands research trip soon, to visit the site of a very dramatic new scheme: a private "wilderness" reserve with huge implications for Highland ecology.

Briefly, one aspect of the current Highland land system, first detailed scientifically by the famous ecologist Sir Frank Fraser Darling, is systematic overgrazing by sheep and red deer, which has led to forest suppression. The landscape would otherwise look a lot like Maine, albeit with lower tree-line, but instead it's quite bare of trees except where they are protected by fence or steep ground. The photo above is an example. The reintroduction of predators on red deer such as wolf and brown bear, extinct for centuries, would promote regeneration of forest cover by controlling deer populations.

Such a reintroduction, however, would very threatening to Highland crofters and farmers, who don't generally keep their sheep fenced and sheltered from predators as we do here in Maine. The tendency is to believe (what Mainers know to be false) that you can't farm sheep in the presence of ursid and canid predators. But it is nevertheless, a very scary thought.

The big bad wolf. And you can see from the Lewis case how politically powerful Highlanders can be when organized and upset.

I'm quite excited about the trip as I haven't been to the Highlands for a few years. Expect some posts and pictures, and a slide lecture on our return. In the meantime, as I work a little harder to update my Highlands knowledge and research, I'll post some of the more interesting sustainability-related Highland development articles I find here.

Here's the wind farm article.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Plan B 3.0 and APM sustainability site

Here are two useful sustainability resources:

1) _Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization_, a new book by Lester Brown. The entire book is available FREE as a pdf here.

Brown is director of the Earth Policy Institute and long known as one of the world's leading environmental thinkers. This book examines the environmental threats facing our people and planet, and proposes radical changes toward sustainability. Did I mention that it's FREE?!

2) American Public Media maintains a sustainability web site.

The site includes sustainability stories gathered from the APM family of radio programs (e.g. Marketplace, Weekend America, Speaking of Faith, American RadioWorks) and other sources; web-exclusive material, including blogs, multimedia stories and interactive features like Consumer Consequences, a game where visitors can calculate their impacts on the planet.

The site "aims to become a forum for the whole range of perspectives on sustainability" and to "be a vehicle to help us find not only experts to inform our journalism, but people with practical knowledge of sustainability issues from their own lives, jobs, and families."

In particular, check out the 'Greenwash Brigade' blog. Its writers are "environmental professionals on the hunt for 'greenwash'," examining "eco-friendly claims by companies, governments and other groups," and asking "tough questions about the mainstreaming of green."