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Master gardeners, McDaniel team up on Westminster wetlands project

Posted by Don West on April 6, 2012 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Caroline HaileyTimes Staff Writer 

Every week for the last two months, McDaniel College students have been teaming up with Carroll County master gardeners and neighbors near Westminster’s King Park to help transform an eyesore in the park into a thriving wetland.

Coming to the site, located near Kings Drive and Chase Street, every week has been a great way to take what he’s been learning in this environmental problem solving class and put it to use, said Drew Garrison, a junior at the college.

“It’s fine to read about this, but it’s much better to experience it first-hand,” Garrison said. “It’s given me the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the environment and learn a lot more about gardening in general.”

The partnership was first organized by Steve Allgeier, home horticulture specialist at the University of Maryland Extension, Carroll County Office, said Mona Becker, who teaches the class.

Debby Davis, a Carroll County master gardener who lives in front of the site, said she kept asking Allgeier to help with the area, which is near the basketball courts and playground and had become overgrown.

Becker said she was contacted about the project and thought it would make for a great service learning project.

For a class assignment, Becker gave her students the option of writing a research paper or partaking in various service learning projects. Six students decided to help with this project, which she said has many benefits.

“This is a way the students can connect what they’re learning in the classroom with the environment,” Becker said. “It also helps the community here so it’s a win-win.”

Students met with master gardeners to learn how to identify native and invasive species and how to clear a wetland, Becker said.

They keep track of their work with a weekly journal and will present a poster about their experience at the end of the semester.

Terry Heinard, one of the master gardeners, said the first step to the project has been getting rid of the invasive species that have grown in the wetlands, including garlic mustard and Canada thistle, which is hard to eradicate because of its extensive root system.

“It’s just the beginning,” Heinard said. “We’re actually finding out what’s there and what we need to address.”

When the invasive species are taken care of, the area has the potential to be a really good wildlife habitat, Heinard said.

“There is a very lovely spring that’s the beginning of the waters that go into the Chesapeake Bay,” Heinard said. “I don’t think many people are aware of that, so it’s extremely important to try to take care of the area.”

Kay Sedlak, another master gardener, said the project will likely take a long time, though she is reminded of the progress already made when people walking through the park tell the group how much better the area is already looking.

Working with and teaching the students about gardening and the environment has been a great experience, she said.

“It’s always rewarding to interact with young people,” Sedlak said. “They’re the ones who will be in charge of taking care of issues like this in the future.”

Reach staff writer Caroline Hailey at 410-751-5908 or [email protected]

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

Carroll County Times

Posted by Karly Rhea Ziegler on March 25, 2012 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

By Carrie Ann Knauer Times Staff Writer | 0 comments

A collaborative group in Carroll is planning a week of Earth Day-related events in April to educate the public on environmental issues.

The group is calling the event “Planet Carroll: Our Environmental Future?” and combines some previously existing Earth Day activities with some new ones that are being introduced.

“I’m very proud of what everybody’s done,” said Don West, co-founder of Waste Not! Carroll and one of the coordinators of Planet Carroll.

The week will start with an environmental business and career day at McDaniel College on April 16. Monda Becker, an assistant professor in the environmental studies department at the college, said the idea came from student Joe Wright in her environmental problem solving class. The business fair will be open to the public, she said, and will be followed by a Recycling Art Show that evening sponsored by the campus’s Environmental Action Club.

The following day, Carroll Community College will have its annual Earth Day Activities in the Great Hall. Mainly an informational fair with some hands-on activities available, the day is open to the public as well as students.

On April 18, Carroll Community College will host an energy fair with BGE, followed by a screening of the film “Cool It,” based on a book of the same name about climate change.

Carroll Hospital Center will have its annual Earth Day event April 19, with a community fair in the main lobby of the hospital. Also that day, Carroll Community College is scheduled to have a film screening and discussion on “No Impact Man,” a documentary following a Manhattanite who strives to have no environmental impact for a year.

Plans are still in the works for a concert April 20, West said, but details will be forthcoming.

The main attraction of the week is a panel discussion with some big name speakers from the environmental world to be hosted at McDaniel College April 21.

The workshop will include two main themes, “Water Quality and Sustainability” and “Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events and Ecosystems.”

Confirmed speakers to take part in panel discussions include Richard Josephson, director of the Maryland Department of Planning; Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland; Ned Tillman, co-founder of Sustainable Growth, LLC; Nelson Widell, co-founder of the Peninsula Compost Group, LLC; and Michael Barbour, director of ecological sciences for Tetra Tech.

Robert Summers, director of the Maryland Department of the Environment, has also been invited to speak, West said, but has not been confirmed, as well as a few other speakers. Overall though, Planet Carroll feels that the speakers will give a strong representation of the scientific work in these areas.

“This is these folks’ lives and they are respected for their work in environmental science and water quality,” West said.

The idea for a panel discussion like the one planned Planet Carroll has organized for April 21 arose after West and some other coordinators attended the county commissioner’s PlanMaryland forum in Pikesville Oct. 31. West said the group wanted to further the discussion on some of the issues raised at that event, including climate change and water quality.

While these may seem like worldwide issues, West said the speakers are going to make these topics relevant to average person. Amd there will be plenty of time allowed for questions of the speakers, he said, but the coordinators are asking that audience members submit their questions in writing to be read by the moderator.

Barbour, who is also one of the coordinators for Planet Carroll, said the group is inviting all of the county commissioners, municipal government leaders and legislators. They’ve also made it a priority to include students, he said, from both McDaniel and Carroll Community College, as well as the high school-aged youths in Venturing Crew 202, who will set up sustainability displays in the foyer leading into Decker Auditorium where the panel discussions will be held.

“We’re trying to engage the students,” Barbour said, and have enjoyed working with their student interns to coordinate the events and develop the Planet Carroll website at planetcarroll.webs.com.

Venturing Crew 202, part of an off-shoot of the Boy Scouts of America, and Boy Scout Troop 395 will also be hosting a tree planting April 22, Earth Day, at Freedom Park in Sykesville. Paul Kazyak, an advisor to the crew, said the tree planting was made possible through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and will allow the youths to continue its multi-year effort of planting trees at this park.

Environmentally Conscious Teens And College Students On The Decline, Study Says

Posted by Don West on March 17, 2012 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Updated: 03/16/2012 5:03 pm

CHICAGO (AP) — They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young.

The findings go against the widespread belief that environmental issues have hit home with today's young adults, known as Millennials, who have grown up amid climate change discussion and the mantra "reduce, reuse, recycle." The environment is often listed among top concerns of young voters.

"I was shocked," said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University who is one of the study's authors. "We have the perception that we're getting through to people. But at least compared to previous eras, we're not."

Twenge, author of the book "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before," has spent much of her career publishing work that challenges or attempts to explain commonly held beliefs about young people.

This study, published online this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, looked at the life goals, concern for others and civic orientation of three young generations — baby boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials.

Based on two longstanding national surveys of high school seniors and college freshmen, Twenge and her colleagues found a decline, over the last four decades, in young people's trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.

Steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment, and taking personal action to save it.

Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers — and 21 percent of Millennials — said the same.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.

Millennials also were the least likely to say they'd made an effort to conserve electricity and fuel used to heat their homes.

In the case of heating fuel, 78 percent of young baby boomers and 71 percent of young Gen Xers said they cut back, compared with 56 percent of Millennials.

It is important to note that most of the survey data available for Millennials was collected before the country's most recent recession hit.

Even so, those working in the environmental field — including some Millennials themselves — aren't that surprised by the findings.

Emily Stokes, a 20-year-old geography student at Western Washington University, grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She thinks people there are more likely to take environmental issues more seriously because of the natural beauty that surrounds them.

"But I still find myself pretty frustrated a lot of the time," said Stokes, who wants to go into marine resource management. "I just think our generation seems fairly narcissistic — and we seem to have the shortest attention span."

Kelly Benoit, a 20-year-old political science student at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, went as far as calling her peers "lazy."

"I think it can be due to our upbringing. We want what we want when we want it," said Benoit, who has worked with lawmakers in her state to try to ban the use of plastic bags in stores.

She thinks members of her generation, like a lot of people, simply don't want to give up conveniences.

Or are they just overwhelmed?

Mark Potosnak, an environmental science professor at DePaul University in Chicago, has noticed an increase in skepticism — or confusion — about climate change among his students as the national debate has heightened. That leads to fatigue, he said.

"It's not so much that they don't think it's important. They're just worn out," Potosnak said. "It's like poverty in a foreign country. You see the picture so many times, you become inured to it."

A lot of young people also simply don't spend that much time exploring nature, said Beth Christensen, a professor who heads the environmental studies program at Adelphi University on New York's Long Island.

When she attended Rutgers University in the 1980s, she said it was unusual to find a fellow student who hadn't hiked and spent time in the woods.

"Now a lot of these students have very little experience with the unpaved world," Christensen said.

So one of her goals is to get her students out into marshes and onto beaches — and even coral reefs in Australia — to help them connect with a natural world many have only seen on television.

Some of her students also volunteer with a group that cleans up trash in the bays that surround the island — one of many examples of young people who are taking environmental issues seriously.

At Babson College in Massachusetts, for instance, there is student housing called the "Green Tower," where residents focus on conserving resources. It is a growing housing trend on many college campuses.

At Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania students are running a biodiesel plant on campus and building "permaculture," or indefinitely sustainable, gardens in their back yards.

They're less likely to write a letter to their member of Congress or to try to change things on a global level, said Richard Niesenbaum, a biology professor at Muhlenberg. They also don't like to label themselves as "environmentalists."

"In a lot of ways, they're more pragmatic," he said, roughly dividing his student body this way:

— 5 to 10 percent "committed environmentalists"

— 5 percent "anti-environment" (These are the students who purposely avoid putting their trash in campus recycling bins, for instance.)

— 85 to 90 percent "open to protecting the environment and natural resources, but not leaders and not interested in being seriously inconvenienced or paying a cost to do so"

"The last group is obviously the environmental educators' potential gold mine," said Niesenbaum, who directs the college's sustainability studies program.

Twenge, the study's lead author, is sometimes pegged as a critic of this generation because of her work about them. But the numbers speak for themselves, she said.

"I hope that young people see these findings as a challenge rather than a criticism," she said, adding that the lack of interest in environmental issues isn't exclusive to young people.

"This is a change in overall culture," she said, "and young people reflect the changes in culture."

The analysis was based on two long-term surveys of the nation's youth. The first, the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future project, is an annual survey of thousands of high school seniors, from which data from 1976 through 2008 was used.

Other data came from the American Freshman project, another large annual national survey, administered by the Higher Education Research Institute. Those responses came from thousands of first-year college students, from the years 1966 through 2009. Because of the large sample sizes, the margin of error was less than plus-or-minus half a percentage point.

Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or via http://twitter.com/irvineap .


 

Group coordinates weeklong celebration of Earth Day

Posted by Don West on March 14, 2012 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

By Carrie Ann KnauerTimes Staff Writer

A collaborative group in Carroll is planning a week of Earth Day-related events in April to educate the public on environmental issues.

The group is calling the event “Planet Carroll: Our Environmental Future?” and combines some previously existing Earth Day activities with some new ones that are being introduced.

“I’m very proud of what everybody’s done,” said Don West, co-founder of Waste Not! Carroll and one of the coordinators of Planet Carroll.

The week will start with an environmental business and career day at McDaniel College on April 16. Mona Becker, an assistant professor in the environmental studies department at the college, said the idea came from student Joe Wright in her environmental problem solving class. The business fair will be open to the public, she said, and will be followed by a Recycling Art Show that evening sponsored by the campus’s Environmental Action Club.

The following day, Carroll Community College will have its annual Earth Day Activities in the Great Hall. Mainly an informational fair with some hands-on activities available, the day is open to the public as well as students.

On April 18, Carroll Community College will host an energy fair with BGE, followed by a screening of the film “Cool It,” based on a book of the same name about climate change.

Carroll Hospital Center will have its annual Earth Day event April 19, with a community fair in the main lobby of the hospital. Also that day, Sustainable Living Maryland is scheduled to have a film screening and discussion on “No Impact Man,” a documentary following a Manhattanite who strives to have no environmental impact for a year at Carroll Community College.

Plans are still in the works for a concert April 20, West said, but details will be forthcoming.

The main attraction of the week is a panel discussion with some big name speakers from the environmental world to be hosted at McDaniel College April 21.

The workshop will include two main themes, “Water Quality and Sustainability” and “Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events and Ecosystems.”

Confirmed speakers to take part in panel discussions include Richard Josephson, director of the Maryland Department of Planning; Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland; Ned Tillman, co-founder of Sustainable Growth, LLC; Nelson Widell, co-founder of the Peninsula Compost Group, LLC; and Michael Barbour, director of ecological sciences for Tetra Tech.

Robert Summers, director of the Maryland Department of the Environment, has also been invited to speak, West said, but has not been confirmed, as well as a few other speakers. Overall though, Planet Carroll feels that the speakers will give a strong representation of the scientific work in these areas.

“This is these folks’ lives and they are respected for their work in environmental science and water quality,” West said.

The idea for a panel discussion like the one planned Planet Carroll has organized for April 21 arose after West and some other coordinators attended the county commissioner’s PlanMaryland forum in Pikesville Oct. 31. West said the group wanted to further the discussion on some of the issues raised at that event, including climate change and water quality.

While these may seem like worldwide issues, West said the speakers are going to make these topics relevant to average person. Amd there will be plenty of time allowed for questions of the speakers, he said, but the coordinators are asking that audience members submit their questions in writing to be read by the moderator.

Barbour, who is also one of the coordinators for Planet Carroll, said the group is inviting all of the county commissioners, municipal government leaders and legislators. They’ve also made it a priority to include students, he said, from both McDaniel and Carroll Community College, as well as the high school-aged youths in Venturing Crew 202, who will set up sustainability displays in the foyer leading into Decker Auditorium where the panel discussions will be held.

“We’re trying to engage the students,” Barbour said, and have enjoyed working with their student interns to coordinate the events and develop the Planet Carroll website at planetcarroll.webs.com.

Venturing Crew 202, part of an off-shoot of the Boy Scouts of America, and Boy Scout Troop 395 will also be hosting a tree planting April 22, Earth Day, at Freedom Park in Sykesville. Paul Kazyak, an advisor to the crew, said the tree planting was made possible through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and will allow the youths to continue its multi-year effort of planting trees at this park.

Reach staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer at 410-857-7874 or [email protected]

© 2012 Carroll County Times.

Come to our Tree Planting!

Posted by Don West on March 9, 2012 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

We invite you to make a difference on Earth Day by joining our group ofdedicated youth in helping to improve our environment for futuregenerations by planting a new forest! Families and friends arewelcome!!!

 

 

Date: Sunday, April 22nd [Rainor shine]

Time: 11am to ~ 2 pm

Location:Freedom Park, 100 Raincliffe Rd., Sykesville, MD.

 

 

Directions to Freedom Park

 

 

FROM WESTMINSTER

From Rt. 140 East turn right onto Rt. 97 South approx 3 miles to Rt. 32. Turn leftonto Rt. 32 (20 Miles) turn left at Raincliffe Rd. Park entrance is at the top of the hill on the right (about ½ mile).

 

 

FROM FINKSBURG From Rt. 91(Gamber Road) and Deer Park Road, go southwest on Gamber Road. TurnLeft onto Rt. 32 (8 Miles) and turn left at Raincliffe Road. Parkentrance is at the top of the hill on the right (about ½ mile).

 

 

FROM I-695 BELTWAY

Beltway Exit16 (I-70 West). Follow I-70 West to Exit 80 (Route 32 North). At end of exit, bear right and head north on Route 32 approximately 4.4miles to light at Raincliffe Road. Turn right on Raincliffe Road.Park entrance is at the top of the hill on the right (about ½ mile).

 

 

Follow asphalt road all the way to the back to the tree planting signs near the back of park.

 

 

What to bring: Lunch, water bottle (water provided)

Optional: workgloves, shovel

Formore information: Paul Kazyak [email protected]

 

 

Hosted by Boy Scout Troop 395 and Venturing Crew 202

 

Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate

Posted by Don West on March 9, 2012 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations.

You published "No Need to Panic About Global Warming" (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology. While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science. The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert. This happens in nearly every field of science. For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science.

Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter. And computer models have recently shown that during periods when there is a smaller increase of surface temperatures, warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean. Such periods are a relatively common climate phenomenon, are consistent with our physical understanding of how the climate system works, and certainly do not invalidate our understanding of human-induced warming or the models used to simulate that warming.

Thus, climate experts also know what one of us, Kevin Trenberth, actually meant by the out-of-context, misrepresented quote used in the op-ed. Mr. Trenberth was lamenting the inadequacy of observing systems to fully monitor warming trends in the deep ocean and other aspects of the short-term variations that always occur, together with the long-term human-induced warming trend.

The National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (set up by President Abraham Lincoln to advise on scientific issues), as well as major national academies of science around the world and every other authoritative body of scientists active in climate research have stated that the science is clear: The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Research shows that more than 97% of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused. It would be an act of recklessness for any political leader to disregard the weight of evidence and ignore the enormous risks that climate change clearly poses. In addition, there is very clear evidence that investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy will not only allow the world to avoid the worst risks of climate change, but could also drive decades of economic growth. Just what the doctor ordered.

Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D.

Distinguished Senior Scientist

Climate Analysis Section National Center for Atmospheric Research

La Jolla, Calif.

Kevin Trenberth, Sc.D, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Richard Somerville, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Katharine Hayhoe, Ph.D., Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University

Rasmus Benestad, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, The Norwegian Meteorological Institute

Gerald Meehl, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences; Director, Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy, Princeton University

Peter Gleick, Ph.D., co-founder and president, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, Climate Institute, Washington

Michael Mann, Ph.D., Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University

Steven Running, Ph.D., Professor, Director, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, University of Montana

Robert Corell, Ph.D., Chair, Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; Principal, Global Environment Technology Foundation

Dennis Ojima, Ph.D., Professor, Senior Research Scientist, and Head of the Dept. of Interior's Climate Science Center at Colorado State University

Josh Willis, Ph.D., Climate Scientist, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Matthew England, Ph.D., Professor, Joint Director of the Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia

Ken Caldeira, Ph.D., Atmospheric Scientist, Dept. of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution

Warren Washington, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Terry L. Root, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

David Karoly, Ph.D., ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia

Jeffrey Kiehl, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Donald Wuebbles, Ph.D., Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois

Camille Parmesan, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, University of Texas; Professor of Global Change Biology, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, UK

Simon Donner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada

Barrett N. Rock, Ph.D., Professor, Complex Systems Research Center and Department of Natural Resources, University of New Hampshire

David Griggs, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Australia

Roger N. Jones, Ph.D., Professor, Professorial Research Fellow, Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Australia

William L. Chameides, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, School of the Environment, Duke University

Gary Yohe, Ph.D., Professor, Economics and Environmental Studies, Wesleyan University, CT

Robert Watson, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Chair of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Steven Sherwood, Ph.D., Director, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Chris Rapley, Ph.D., Professor of Climate Science, University College London, UK

Joan Kleypas, Ph.D., Scientist, Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research

James J. McCarthy, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Oceanography, Harvard University

Stefan Rahmstorf, Ph.D., Professor of Physics of the Oceans, Potsdam University, Germany

Julia Cole, Ph.D., Professor, Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

William H. Schlesinger, Ph.D., President, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Jonathan Overpeck, Ph.D., Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona

Eric Rignot, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Professor of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine

Wolfgang Cramer, Professor of Global Ecology, Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology, CNRS, Aix-en-Provence, France

A version of this article appeared Feb. 1, 2012, on page A14 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate.

 

Our Bay: The moment in time

Posted by Don West on March 6, 2012 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By Donald Boesch  Published 02/11/12

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is developing a strategy to ensure that the Bay restoration goals are fully met by the 2025 deadline. It’s being called “A Moment in Time.” During discussions among CBF trustees, I made the point that we are not just facing a moment in time, but what I believe to be the moment in time, because I don’t think we will get another chance if we fail.

I have spent nearly 30 years as a scientist doing research on the Chesapeake Bay or facilitating the research of others. I have seen science develop and mature to the point that we know more about the Chesapeake than any comparable coastal ecosystem in the world.We know why the bay has become degraded and what we need to do to restore it. While science is still needed to guide and monitor the recovery, our diagnosis and treatment regimen are as solid and reliable as they come.

But we as a society have repeatedly failed to complete the required regimen.

In 1987, the bay states and federal government formally committed to reduce nutrient pollution by 40 percent by the year 2000 in order to restore degraded water quality and the health of the bay. We failed miserably, but recommitted to achieve the goal by 2010, guided by some better numbers.

So remorseful were the states and the feds back in 2000 that they committed that if our voluntary approaches were not successful by 2010, mandatory requirements under the Clean Water Act would be forced. Fear of such tough medicine was meant to spur us on. While we made some progress, by 2010 we had not gotten much past half the way on our nutrient pollution goal.

It’s now time for the tough medicine.

We have entered the mandatory phase in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the states to develop plans to reduce pollution to total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), a determined amount that the bay can tolerate and remain healthy.

This TMDL goal — not all that different than the one set for 2010 — has been pushed back 15 years to 2025. Yet, some state and local governments are acting like this is a new and arbitrary imposition rather than a lingering deficiency that must now be addressed. Agribusiness and development groups have even gone to court to challenge the whole premise of the TMDL.

Mind you, the new goal date is 38 years after the states and federal government first committed to a goal, and 25 years after the first goal was missed and the parties committed to move to mandatory approaches if they failed to meet the second goal.

That’s why I think that this is not just a moment in time, but the only moment our society will ever have to restore the bay.

As a scientist, I am trained to rely on empirical evidence rather than wishful thinking. There is just no evidence for concluding that we will have another chance after 2025 given the record of performance and additional mounting pressures that will result from population growth and climate change.

A whole generation will have passed during the struggle for bay restoration, with most of the public and those in charge in 2025 with no recollection of a healthy bay and previous commitment. They will be more willing to accept conditions as they are.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We know what needs to be done and I believe that we can find effective and more efficient ways to accomplish them.

It starts with taking responsibility for curbing one’s own pollution, whether one is a farmer, developer, industry or family. Collective investments through the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (aka “flush fee”) are beginning to yield enormous benefits, but it will cost more to complete the job.

Sewage sludge and animal wastes can be recycled to fertilize crops, but this use must be better managed to achieve that end, rather just waste disposal on the land. We need to limit sprawling development with household wastes drained into pits in the backyard. And, we need more we need more wetlands and oysters to clean up the pollution we can’t control.

It’s that simple, really. We have less than 14 years and we — and only we — can restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Donald Boesch is professor of marine science and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Copyright © Capital Gazette Communications LLC, 2012.


Other voices: Is solar the right fit for your landfill?

Posted by Don West on March 4, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By Joe Harrison | Borrego Solar Systems Inc.

Feb. 21 -- Over the last few years landfills across the country have utilized solar photovoltaic (PV) installations to transform their brownfields into greenfields. PV installations can eliminate energy needs onsite or generate energy for power grids. Beyond helping communities reduce their energy consumption, these projects take a plot of land that was previously written off as barren and transforms it into a revenue stream.

 In my experience, the average landfill has at least five acres and often up to 80 acres of land suitable for solar. This leads to a potential of 1 to 16 megawatts (MW) of power on each landfill, of which there are about 100,000 sites (either decommissioned or operational) across the country. By installing solar power arrays on even a quarter of America´s landfills, we can produce about 212 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy, which is nearly 500 times the solar PV energy produced in the United States in 2009 (425 MW).

 While there is clearly a strong case for putting solar covers on landfills, not every site is an ideal candidate. It is important to consider the site location, project timing, land specifications, and the available financing options.

 Location

 The first step is to determine if a potential project is located near environmentally protected land parcels like wetlands or even land located within a buffer zone (usually 100 feet of protected land). This can handicap a project from day one, because these areas often require permits from state and federal environmental organizations which can take ample time and money. Some projects may still be viable, and an experienced solar consultant or developer with an understanding of the permitting costs and scheduling setbacks can help evaluate this part of the process.

 Another consideration for a given site is the proximity to a sufficient power line. Not all power lines have the capacity to handle a large solar installation, like some single-phase power lines, which are common in rural residential areas. Therefore, close proximity to a three-phase electric power line (13.8 kV line is common) is an important factor in determining if a landfill is the best fit for solar.

 Project timing

 Since it is essential to avoid disruption to, or penetration of, the protective capping system on a landfill, it´s often best to pursue ballasted solar technologies that will sit on top of the fill. In order for the installation to stay in place and resist wind and other environmental conditions, a certain amount of settling of the fill must first take place, and the majority of settling occurs in the first 10 years. However, the site shouldn´t be too old because older caps might require a preliminary third-party environmental assessment and updated closure measures that add more costs to the project.

 Make sure to review history of the landfill caps upfront to determine the best way to proceed.

 Land specifications

 Most landfills have large, flat areas ideal for installing at least 1 MW of solar or more. However, some dome- or bowl-shaped fills will require landscaping to terrace any sloped land, and the solar panels will have to be spaced to avoid shading from adjacent panels. In general, there should be at least five flat acres of space to utilize per MW of energy to install.

 Additionally it is critical to understand what kind of waste is in the fill for the overall permitting process. If the waste is in any way toxic, extra precautions may need to be taken during the construction phase of the project.

 Financing options

Lastly, it´s important to understand what state and federal incentives are available for the project. Some states offer upfront cash rebates based on the size of the system, while others spread rebates out over a five-year period based on your system´s actual energy production.

 With an understanding of what makes a landfill an ideal candidate, municipalities can determine if going solar is the right choice for their site.

 Joe Harrison joined Borrego Solar Systems Inc., a solar photovoltaic energy financing and contracting company specializing in commercial and governmental grid-connected systems, in 2008 as a project developer. His background includes solar systems for landfills, brownfields and waste management centers.

Climate change is focus of new UMd. center

Posted by Don West on March 4, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Posted: 3:21 pm Tue, February 28, 2012

By Daily Record Staff

Officials from the University of Maryland, College Park joined Tuesday with representatives of Beijing Normal University and the Chinese government to officially launch the new Joint Center on Global Change and Earth System Science.

The center brings together scientists from UM and the Chinese university to track and predict the impact of climate change internationally. Eventually the center will provide monitoring and predictive tools that can help, for example, forecast crop failure and changes in commodity prices, and aid in preparations for shortages, organizers said.

UM President Wallace Loh secured support for the center last year when he joined Gov. Martin O’Malley’s trade mission to the Far East.

 

WTE cost still a big question

Posted by Don West on March 4, 2012 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Posted: Sunday, March 4, 2012 1:00 am 

Editorial 

The next step for our board of county commissioners as they continue to explore remaining in a partnership with Frederick County to build a waste-to-energy plant is to delve into the numbers concerning costs and expected returns over the years.

The commissioners held a forum Tuesday which provided a lot of information concerning various options to handle our waste moving forward.

In 2010, while campaigning for office, each of the five commissioners expressed concerns about the expense of the project, which the previous three-member board had committed the county to. Some also expressed concerns about locking the county in to a 30-year commitment, and questioned whether the technology would become outdated.

Last week’s forum provided a good opportunity for the board members, as well as residents, to find out more about the various options for waste disposal that may be available. Board President Doug Howard said the next step would be for the commissioners to discuss what they had learned and where the county should go. Key in those discussions should be the costs involved, and whether it makes sense financially for the county. Board members likely will have to bring back some of those who spoke at the forum, or ask for additional details in order to get a better understanding of the costs.

The project is currently waiting for permits. Once they are received, the next step would be to issue bonds for the construction. The permits are expected to be approved this summer. If they are contested, it could delay the project, but in any case Carroll owes it to Frederick to come to a decision prior to the last possible minute since we have already previously committed to the partnership.

The board took an important first step last week in putting on the forum. Now, it is essential that board members keep moving forward. The time is just around the corner when we will have to commit to the bonds to fund the project, and if we are going to change direction and get out of the partnership, we need to give officials in Frederick County enough time so that they can alter their plans accordingly.

© 2012 Carroll County Times.


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