Thursday, September 21, 2017

Climate readings for EII

I wasn't planning to assign these readings so early, but this hurricane season kinda requires we get thinking about this sooner rather than later:

You have three readings:

  1. Maine's Climate Future, the 2015 update
  2. Hansen et al 2016. This is, as I mentioned, a difficult read. We'll discuss in class how this and associated work establishes the "models versus analogs" issue in current climate science and policy
  3. Related, two brief news articles on hurricanes, one here, another here

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Assignment: Common Ground Country Fair

The fair is an all-around good time, so you should need no incentive to go; however, the following notes are added to help you along:

Assignment instructions:
  1. You are assigned to go to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Country Fair held Friday through Sunday September 22-24 right here in Unity, and then to complete the response paper detailed below
  2. You may get into the fair for free if you volunteer. Be sure to do so well ahead of time. See the MOFGA webpage for details
  3. If you are a MOFGA member you already get in for free. Check to see if your parents have a family membership
  4. For those of you who were planning to go home, or who cannot attend the fair for any other valid reason, such as work or a medical appointment, your alternative assignment is to visit a local or organic food outlet, such as a farmer's market or food cooperative, private kitchen garden, or any other food source that seems likely to be able to give you the provenance information that will be needed, and complete the same assignment as the fair-goers (below). Be careful to actually get the information. Most non fair-goers who fail this assignment do so because they don't get the proper information.
The fair/local/organic food response paper:
  1. Obtain food for a meal at the fair, at some local food outlet, or from a friend's or relative's kitchen garden. Be sure to find out where each ingredient comes from
  2. Make and eat the meal. (If you live in the residence halls and otherwise eat on the meal plan, the meal can just be a snack.)
  3. Describe the meal and track the ingredients geographically and ecologically in a short informal essay. Focus on the food chain. Explain why this was (or was not) a good meal. Humor and/or pathos are optional
  4. Due Wednesday October 4th in class or via email
  5. This is the first check-in opportunity for me to evaluate your writing and critical thinking skills. Be sure to do your best, or you may find yourself getting unexpected remedial attention!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

NASA photos of Irma damage to tree cover on the islands

Click to enlarge.

Captives on the farm

Aimee, Edana, and I hosted two van-loads of first year "Captive" students to our farm in Jackson, ME to learn some sheep care skills. As per the regular protocol for this event, which has been happening for almost a decade now, we added some animal scientist boot-camp and general attitude adjustment material.

You may think you're there to learn how to care for fuzzy sheep, which are admittedly cute. But when the sheep whose hooves you need to trim and whose eyeballs you need to check for signs of parasites turns out to weigh twice what you do, has an attitude of his own, and decidedly negative opinions about you and what you plan to do, a little internal adjustment may just possibly be required.

This may indeed be the moment when you discover whether or not you are really cut out for a career in Captive Wildlife Care and Education.

It is also perhaps the moment when you realize that, in order to properly understand what you are doing, it is necessary to actually use some of that oh-so-boring high school and early college biological science.

Let's face it, if you don't actually care what Haemonchus contortus is, or what causes anemia, or if you can't be bothered to study the physiology of nematodes, life indeed might be a little easier on you and possibly more pleasant. Classes, books, slideshows, the teacher droning on... blah, blah, blah...

But, if that is the case, if that is the person you are, and there's nothing you care to change about that, do you have any business looking after animals?

File all this under "How to change someone's mind."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

We'll be talking about this disaster in appropriate classes later this semester and likely for years to come. Our hearts and sympathy go out to all those who have lost homes and loved ones. Here for the sake of climate education is a digital "souvenir" of this emerging human disaster that the National Weather Service has called "unprecedented. Although we're used to weather warnings and alerts here in Maine, I've never seen this many layered weather warnings on a single NWS forecast page. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A new semester begins

Check your canvas page to see about syllabi and books.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vehicle safety report

Eleven students and one instructor from Physics: Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism ran the twice-yearly Vehicle Safety Day today between 12.30 and 4.00 pm. Twenty vehicles were examined, about half of what would be expected if there had not been rain, and if the activity were held at the SAC. However, it was useful to have the shop and vehicle lift available.

If you planned to get your vehicle checked and were not able to because of the change of venue or some other reason, email and ask for an appointment.

Most safety checks were routine. The following specific problems were noted and are reported here so other vehicle owners can learn from them:
  1. Several vehicles had trouble codes, which were "pulled" and recorded for the owners to seek further help. Some trouble codes can be more or less safely ignored, but not all or even most. Even if you choose to ignore one, it's best to check it periodically to make sure a second code has not been triggered.
  2. One vehicle had uneven wear on the rear tires, down to the canvas on both inside edges. The same had also been in a recent front-ender, making a twisted chassis a real possibility. The owner was advised to get new tires, not to exceed 50 mph until he had done so, then to get an alignment, and not exceed 70 mph until he had done that.
  3. One vehicle was running rough and consuming large amounts of oil, as determined from low oil measured on the dipstick and the owner's knowledge of the last oil added or oil change. More than a quart of oil consumption between fillings of your gas tank is too much, and it is time to consider getting a different vehicle or a new engine. The exception is if the oil consumption is due to a leak, in which case the leak should be fixed.
  4. One vehicle had a loose dipstick mount, requiring a new 6mm set screw.
  5. One vehicle had a loose heat shield above the catalytic converter. This was easily and permanently repaired using self-tapping screws, thanks to our new vehicle lift.
  6. One vehicle had a loose hood gasket. This was refitted using pop rivets.
  7. One vehicle was consuming coolant. Using the check engine code reader we were able to narrow the fault to a lean fuel mixture, likely the cause of overheating, boiling away coolant. A visit to a competent vehicle diagnostician was recommended, to correct the lean mixture. If a vehicle is made to run with consistently lean fuel mixture, overheating will cause premature engine wear.
  8. One vehicle's wipers required adjustment.
  9. Three vehicles had lights out, requiring new bulbs. In future we will begin to keep a range of standard bulbs in stock. This generally won't cover headlights, which are specialized to vehicle make and often even to model, but it will cover some, if not most, reverse, brake, tail, side, and turn signal lights.
Thanks to all the students who assisted with this activity, as well as the Student Affairs and Maintenance Departments.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Climate change quiz for EII

The quiz will be given in class on Tuesday, April 25th. It is worth 10 points. There will be ten multiple choice questions (60%) and a short essay (40%).

The multiple choice questions will be based on our class discussion, as well as on the booklet Maine's Climate Future (2009) and the 2015 update, both available at this website:

The essay question prompt will be "Describe your own climate philosophy." You should prepare this essay ahead of time, and will be allowed to use one ordinary flash card of notes (three by five inches) for the purpose.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

EII third and fourth assignments

Note: Your EII grade will consist of the four assignments (20%), a climate change quiz (10%), and participation (10%).

Assignment #3:

Create a script or storyboard for your final digital storytelling assignment.

  1. Choose a group, or chose to work alone. 

  2. Chose the environmental leader or issue you wish to highlight with a presentation. Remember, presentations may be audio, video, narrated slideshow or any of the choices listed below. The only requirement is that the presentation play itself (or be staged, if a traditional play or sketch)

  3. Prepare a storyboard and/or script

  4. Each individual or group member must hand in their own storyboard or script. In the next assignment you will come together to make only one final submission, but for now, you work alone. This is so I can be sure that each of you learns the basic techniques

  5. If making a video, study the You-Tube how-to below, and prepare a storyboard

  6. If making audio or a narrated slideshow, prepare a script

  7. Produce an introduction to your storyboard or script that explains your project, including thesis statement, evidence, and conclusion

  8. Hand in the introduction, plus the storyboard or script

  9. Due either Friday April 28th.

Assignment 4:
  1. Research an environmental leader or issue of your choice. You may work in groups or alone. Identify a thesis related to the issue and supporting evidence, as well as the environmental or conservation organizations that are working on the issue. Prepare a video, audio, narrated slideshow, or other media production built around the thesis, providing supporting evidence, highlighting the work of the leader and their organization

  2. Due either the last day of the semester (Wednesday May 10th) or in time for the student conference (Monday May 8th -- but there's an earlier deadline to apply) -- your choice. Student conference participation is optional, but may be
    recommended for the best products. Note: You have to register!

  3. The options are deliberately wide. Don't get lost in your choices! Pick an issue and format for your presentation that you or your group feel confident you can finalize, and then stick to it.

  4. Use "backwards design" to help structure and outline your presentation, and also to organize your schedule: Start with your topic, and decide on a thesis. Then decide what your want to achieve with this topic and thesis. What is the story that you want to tell, and to whom do you wish to tell it? From that, pick a media format that will best reach your audience, and then organize your schedule so you can deliver a product using this format.

  5. Workshop time will be made available during class hours and by appointment with the
    instructor so that you can get help with this project. The Quimby Library Media Technician is standing by to help you with video and other formats.

  6. Here is a winning example from a previous year

Examples of allowable media:

Video storytelling
Stage plays
Sketch comedy
Traditional video documentary
Narrated slideshows and presentations
Others, after timely negotiation with the instructor

Monday, April 3, 2017

ESS second take-home exam

Environmental Scenarios and Solutions
Second Midterm (Take Home) Exam
Professor Womersley
(Worth 20% of final grade)
Due Friday April 22nd by email or hard copy. Do not submit via Canvas. I will not grade examinations submitted via Canvas.

Answer all questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know.
You may research answers. Give diagrams if needed. Cite important research other than material given in class or in the texts for the class. You must work alone.

You are an environmental social scientist working as an informal advisor in conservation policy for a moderate New Vermaineshire state legislator. A more radical legislator has proposed a policy to begin privatizing state conservation lands. It seems to be gathering support with your colleagues. One attractive facet of the proposal is the reduced cost in taxation, once lands that do not produce tax, access fees, or logging revenue are off the state books. You are asked for help in countering these arguments.
Applying social insight
What social and psychological insight can you give your legislator as to how to pitch the status quo (non-privatization) to the public. What general social understandings should she use to build and sustain support among her constituency and the state residents as a whole. Can you, for instance, apply cognitive dissonance or Maslow's hierarchy of needs? Hint: Consider how the public typically uses conservation lands of different kinds, including state parks, forest, and wildlife management areas and how this will change after privatization.

Applying cultural cognition 
How can you apply the findings of Kahan et al, 2011 to this problem? How are constituents and residents likely to feel about the proposal to privatize, if they respond as did the subjects of the cultural cognition study? How might your legislator respond using insights gained from the study? Hint: Be sure to consider the different responses based on the cultural axis diagram (below)
Which is more sustainable, privatization or public ownership? Explain why in detail.


1) A similar, less far-reaching, but real proposal:

2) Kahan et al,

Material on the executive order for GL 4003 and ESS

President Trump's executive order on energy independence and economics:

Massachusetts vs. EPA:

OMB Circular A4:

Friday, March 17, 2017

GL 4003 second take-home exam

GL4003 Global Change
Second Midterm Exam
Professor Womersley
Due Wednesday April 19th in class or by email

This is a take-home exam. Answer all questions, showing work where necessary to demonstrate skills or learning, diagrams if asked or if it helps. If you don’t know or can’t work out an answer, put down what you do know. You may research answers.  You may discuss them with the instructor. You may not confer with other students. Submit electronically, multiple files allowed including statistical files in JMP, Excel, or Smith’s.

Exam is 20% of grade for class, 10% given for each problem below

  1. Test the hypotheses that change in average annual temperature is a function of the phase of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, the level of deposition of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere, the amount of solar energy hitting the top of the atmosphere, and the combined effect of anthropogenic influences, following the method pioneered by Judith Lean and David Rind (2008). Timelag manipulation is no longer required. Report the results, with all statistical parameters explained. Provide a discussion of the meaning of the results.

  1. Using the model or estimator produced by the above method (i.e., using the full equation), and Microsoft Excel, compare the predicted time series to the actual (HadCRU 3) using a graph. How accurate is your model? To what use might it be put?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

EII second response paper

This assignment is an exercise in research, critical thinking and informal writing.

Follow all instructions. Due Friday April 7th by email or hard copy.
  1. Identify two extant US environmental organizations, one you generally agree with and support, and one you don't
  2. Research their missions, goals and methods carefully, using online and print resources, as well as any other social science case study methods you like. Be sure to ask the instructor ahead of time if you choose to interview human subjects
  3. Identify some of the different types of careers that are possible within both institutions, and determine the qualifications and experience required
  4. In an informal essay, compare and contrast the two organizations and summarize these career pathways
  5. Conclude with your own considered viewpoint of each organization
  6. Cite your research sources. No particular citation format is required, but your citations should be consistent and give complete information to the reader in case they wish to review your sources.

Mick's 2004 article for ULSF

Today's question (for ESS, and perhaps posterity)

Ruling on the second travel ban

Friday, March 3, 2017


           TOADS   by Phillip Larkin
Why should I let the toad work
 Squat on my life?
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork
 And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
 With its sickening poison -
Just for paying a few bills!
 That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
 Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
 They don't end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
 With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
 they seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
 Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets - and yet
 No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
 To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that's the stuff
 That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
 Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
 And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
 My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
 All at one sitting.

I don't say, one bodies the other
 One's spiritual truth;
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
 When you have both.

Videos for EII: The sixties and seventies in the American Zeitgeist

Vostok Ice Core video for GL4003

BBC - Horizon - 2000 - The Lost World of Lake... by DocumentaryHD2014

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Thomas Moran, for EII

"Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone"
Smithsonian Institution

ESS first take-home exam

Environmental Scenarios and Solutions
First Midterm (Take Home) Exam
Professor Womersley
(Worth 20% of final grade)
Due Friday March 3rd by email or hard copy. Do not submit via Canvas. I will not grade examinations submitted via Canvas.

Answer both questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know.
You may research answers. Give diagrams if needed. Cite important research other than material given in class or in the texts for the class. You must work alone.

Microeconomic applications
You are a policy staffer working for New Vermaineshire state government in the Fish and Wildlife Division. You are asked to prepare an analysis of a proposal in the legislature to regulate moose permits using an online bidding system (similar to eBay) instead of the existing lottery. The same number of permits will be issued, only via open bidding. The only requirement to bid is that the bidder be a US resident and have taken a certified hunter safety course. The proposal is conceptually comparable to others advocating the privatization of natural resources and use of competitive bidding.

Specify in plain English, using diagrams if necessary, the effects on state revenue, on the price of permits, and which sections of the public will be either winners or losers as a result. State whether or not, in your own opinion as an experienced staffer, this policy is likely to be successful, reasoning from the available evidence and what you know of the local culture.

Macroeconomic applications
If the legislature of the state of New Vermaineshire chooses to implement the above policy, what would be the general macroeconomic effects to the state’s economy? List and detail these. Use diagrams if necessary.

Which is more sustainable, the lottery or the open bidding system? Explain why.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Physics first lab report

  1. Prepare a lab report detailing any of our experiments so far, including any of today's.
  2. Use the descriptions and data in your lab notebook.
  3. Use a typical lab report outline (introduction, methods, results, conclusions discussion)
  4. The grading rubric below applies
  5. Ask the laboratory instructor if you have any questions or concerns
  6. Due by hard copy in lab or by email before lab March 1st 2017
  7. No Canvas reminder will be made

Item/Level of Achievement
Does not meet
Is there a research question?
No question or wrong question
Logical question, not narrow enough
Logical, well-stated and narrow question
Identifies materials and quantities?
No/inadequate materials list, incorrectly I.D. of materials
Adequate but minimal details
Expanded, complete, relevant details
Drawing or sketch?
No/poor sketch
Labeled, clear, concise
Labeled, clear, concise, neat and organized
Procedures (narrative)
Missing steps or no procedure
All steps present, could be better explained, more specific
Complete, relevant, well-worded explanation

EII first assignment

Write a short essay (of four to five pages, double-spaced) tracking the food chain for two comparable items of food, and comparing these food chains. Be sure to pick items whose provenance that you can easily track, for instance, a loaf of bread from a local bakery whose proprietors give such information, versus one from a major national company whose website also provides such information. If you come up with blanks, make reasonable assumptions based on what you know of our food system.

Compare the two food chains. How do they rate, in terms of social and environmental impact? Can you find any ecosystems or communities that are affected? How are the ecosystems and communities affected?

This class is about logic and rhetoric. In particular, we need to work to make sure students improve their rhetoric. I want to see a lot of work done on sentences in these papers. Be sure to either 1) provide a final copy free of sentence errors, or 2) go through a drafting process to fix or remove sentence errors.

I am available during office hours or by appointment to coach you through an approach to sentence-level proof-reading techniques.

This paper is due in class in hard copy, or by email before class time Tuesday, February 28th.

Do NOT submit via Canvas.

Global change first exam

Global Change
First Midterm Exam

Due Wednesday March 1st

Answer all questions. If you don’t know an answer, put down what you do know. This is a take-home exam. You may research answers. You may discuss them with the instructor. You may not confer with other students. Email your exam to the instructor at when complete, or hand in a hard copy. Do not submit through Canvas.

Part 1: Questions 1-5 (10% each)
  • Explain the role of the polar jet stream in Maine's winter climate.
  • What drives the Gulf Stream? Explain.
  • What is earth's energy budget? What would happen if some climate phenomena added a watt/meter square of additional energy on the output side while leaving the input side the same?
  • Explain how a greenhouse works. Relate this to the climate "greenhouse effect."
  • Explain how a climate anomaly is calculated.

Part 2: 50%
Access climate data using one of the web sites shown in class or use this data set here. Explore the data using a data analysis package such as Excel, .jmp or Smith’s Statistical Package (Links to an external site.). Develop a hypothesis relating to the data that can be tested using the package. Perform an inferential statistical analysis to test the hypothesis. Report the results, including the exploratory statistics. Discuss

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Jimmy Carter's new solar panels

After a week in which we used the original Jimmy Carter solar panels to experiment with solar energy in my physics lab, news arrived that President Carter has gotten himself some new ones.

This made me very happy, and I'm very pleased for Mr. Carter.

Here's the news article to go along with the movie.

I don't have any pictures of us using the original panels for Wednesday's lab. Several students took pictures, though, so perhaps one of you could send some in. In the meantime, here's an older picture of the same experiment.

And here's a link to the one we sent to the Smithsonian.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Academy strikes back


And this, for debate this week in faculty meeting:

MOTION:  The faculty endorses the following resolution and requests that the administration make it known to the public.

A resolution from Unity College faculty reaffirming our shared values

Whereas the President of the United States has appointed individuals to positions of power who have denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change, promoted untruthfulness in public discourse, and endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry; and,

Whereas these appointments violate principles at the core of Unity College’s mission, regardless of our individual political values; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the Unity College faculty

1. commit ourselves to the scientific method and the principles of objective inquiry based on fact and reason. Science is essential to the ways we analyze, understand, and solve the most difficult challenges that we all face. The denial of science and reason does harm to our society, our species, and the world we depend on;

2. reject every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action. For anyone in our region who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help. We pledge to work with everyone – students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members – to defend these principles today and in the times ahead; and

3. commit ourselves to listen respectfully, empathize with others, and take actions to promote this value in our community and the wider world. As an academic institution, we have a responsibility to provide a safe and welcoming space for expressions of intellectual, political, identity, and philosophical difference. We consider our differences to be our strength. As public citizens, we believe this nation has the same responsibility.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

ESS assignment on authoritative news sources

The purpose of this assignment is to give you practice in evaluating and choosing authoritative and factual sources of news. This assignment is a make up for a class meeting I must miss (on February 7th) and worth five points extra credit for the class as a whole.
  1. Pick a recent national news story.
  2. Identify three comparable sources that cover the story around the same time period (within a day or two, more if it's a slow-moving story). 
  3. One should be from a news outlet generally considered "serious," "mainstream," and independent, the other two should be from outlets that have a partisan slant. One of the two should have a right-wing slant, the other a left-wing slant.
  4. Compare the three articles in a short essay of between two hundred and three hundred words. Explain how the different sources slant the news. What techniques do they use to spin their story to their biased audience?
  5. Talk to me if you do not know how to choose the sources. (But part of the assignment is to research whether or not the sources are indeed generally considered biased.)
  6. Submit the essay and the three sources. Submissions should be via email. Microsoft Word is probably the easiest software to write the essay in. You don't have to paste in your sources. You can use Word to "hot-link" sources and any other bibliography at the end of your essay (to hot-link, highlight, then use control-K or command-K in MS Word).
Due Friday 10th February via email