Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"Garbage" - This American Life Podcast

Black + White = GREEN

The authors of this article have presented you the reader with three provocative questions. The authors then suggest that "clean, livable spaces are a necessity for all humans and we shouldn't have to go far to enjoy them."
Do you think that "our city is divided by race, [ethnicity], and social class?" How does this suggested racial and ethnic divide affect minorities and their living spaces?

You could write an article highlighting some of the differences between upper-class and lower class neighborhoods in the city. Included in your article could be ways to improve the living spaces in the lower-class neighborhoods.
One could also create a photo-essay that documents the cleanliness of contrasting neighborhoods, and accompany the photographs with an innovative solution(s) or idea(s) about how everyone could collaborate to make all living spaces "clean, livable spaces."

D.C. Area Sees Spike in Rate of Emissions

The Washington DC area, including the surrounding suburban and rural communities, is producing and expelling carbon dioxide emissions at a rate that is more than two times the national average. The rise in emission levels is due to a culmination of factors including increased energy demand and consumption, regional population growth, increased use of cars and increased travel distances. Statistics suggest that the Virginia suburbs are leading the pack in the consumption and atmospheric destruction race. The author notes that in "the District" (Washington DC), residents are "changing [their] behavior; ...leaving their cars at home and walking, biking, or taking public transportation." The author also notes that some Virginia residents are beginning to take advantage of employer and state supported eco-friendly policies and initiatives including bike lanes and the increased availability of bike racks and showers for cyclists at their place of work.

You could create an audio recording (or several) in which you describe your observations of such things like traffic, road congestion, tail-pipe emissions, number of SUVs and large trucks, etc... Then suggest ways for people in the community to cut-back on their driving and discuss why this would be a benefit to the community and the environment.
You could also interview people that you observe walking or biking to work, school, or to some other destination and record your results. You could then discuss ways in which more people could be encouraged to walk, bike, or take public transportation...

A Green Star for Sidwell Friends School

The new addition to the Sidwell Friends Middle School is at the forefront of environmentally conscious architecture and environmental responsibility. Located off of Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC, the newly renovated school has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the "top ten green projects in 2007." The school's environmentally sound infrastructure uses "93 percent less water, ...60 percent less energy, ...[and] 78 percent of its building materials were manufactured regionally (within a 500 mile radius of the site) ." The school itself will be used as a model and/ or a tool to teach students about science and the environment.

After reading about the ways the Sidwell Friends School has developed an environmentally friendly design you could research ways in which our school could adopt similar programs.
You could research and design your own environmentally friendly building and discuss how and why this type of building would be a benefit to both the environment and the community...

Parents Demand New Tests of School Water

Parents and environmentalist groups want the EPA to conduct new tests on the water in Washington DC public schools. Parents argue that the school system and local government organizations, including the DC Water and Sewer Authority who distributes DC city water, have been using faulty testing methods in order to produce test results that misleadingly reflect low lead levels.

Past tests of the water in some DC schools have found that "30 to 80 percent of the water fountains and taps in five schools had elevated lead levels, ...[including] one kindergarten class [that] had a lead reading of 1200 ppb."

The EPA recommends that schools' drinking water should contain lead levels near 0 ppb, and these levels should not exceed 20 ppb.

Do you know what chemicals or contaminants are in your drinking water? Have you seen any evidence of water contamination? Can you think of any ways in which water sources can be contaminated?

You could write an article in which you present data about local drinking water contaminants, and include ways in which we can clean up our water sources or ways in which the community can prevent further contamination of these sources.
You could also record an interview with a principal or other school official in an effort to investigate the quality of the school's water. Along with your interview you could present possible ways in which the school can protect students from contaminated water.

Illeagal Dumping Along Maryland Pepco. Lines

Illegal dumping within a Montgomery County land purchase, as well as on Pepco property has been a serious problem affecting this DC suburb community. The dumping is occurring in at least two separate locations on land which Pepco owns; one of which being next to the 258-acre Serpentine Barrens Conservation Park. The park is home to a rare ecosystem of pockmarked bedrock and supports 20 rare species of plants. Local residents and some county officials are concerned that the dumping will "[smother] the habitat for the native plants and animals that the land [purchase] was intended to preserve." Frustration among residents and some county officials is building because of the county's failure to act in order to preserve the park and stop the dumping.

Are there any areas in and around your community that have become over-run with trash? Can you think of any ways in which dumping can affect the environment and the surrounding community?

You could create a blog, similar to this one, and post pictures and journal entries that address and/or document dumping, littering, etc... in your community. You could write a community action newsletter to encourage others to help combat this issue. Be sure to include how/ why dumping and/ or littering is a problem, as well as discuss possible solutions to this environmental atrocity.

"Trashy Art"

"Trashy Art" introduces us to Steve Bradley, a resident of a Baltimore suburb, who has taken an innovative approach to trash collecting, recycling, and art. In the article Bradley discusses the differences between the Korean and United States' cultures and lifestyles in regards to how each uses, re-uses, and recycles materials. He notes that in Korea "nothing is wasted" (67).

Can you think of any solutions to the growing trash problem that Bradley discusses in the article?
Can you think of any innovative ways to promote recycling in your community, or ways in which we can re-use products or materials that we generally throw away?

You could create an informative pamphlet about the environmental benefits of recycling, also including ways in which people can re-use some common household items.
You could also write a feature article about another country/ culture, discussing the ways in which they approach recycling and/ or re-use materials. You could suggest ways in which we could learn from these other cultures or countries and adopt some of their solutions/ practices.

"The Changing Face of Environmentalism"

"The Changing Face of Environmentalism" is one of the magazine articles we read and discussed in class. This article illustrates many images of polluted landscapes in an urban setting (Baltimore City). We learn about one of Baltimore's urban evironmentalists Glenn Ross, and his innovative "Toxic Tours," in which he "showcases" the environmental problems one can observe in his community. The article goes on to suggest that poor minority neighborhoods are, far more often than their white upper-class counterparts, the victims of environmentally hazardous facilities and dirty, unsustainable living conditions. We also learn about the new wave of African American environmentalists, like Glenn Ross, who want to empower and engage the community to take action to create change city-wide and combat issues like public health, public space, and "environmental discrimination."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Environment, You, and the Community Assignment

This past unit has been focused on environmental change, how we affect the environment, the recent wave of environmentalism ("the green revolution"), and how all these topics/ issues affect you and our area. It is now your turn to take action!

Think about the radio broadcasts/ podcasts that we've listened to as well as the newspaper and periodical articles that we've read. Do any of the themes and topics in these podcasts and articles interest you? How so? How do any of these articles or podcasts relate to you and our area/ community?

Your task is to create a publication or multimedia sample that addresses an environmental issue or has an environmental theme that is in someway related to you and/ or the local community. You can choose to focus on one of the themes from the articles and podcasts we covered in class or you can choose your own.

You are free to choose the format and style of your publication. For example, you may choose to write a short feature article for a newspaper or periodical, create a blog with several posts discussing your environmental issue/ theme and your observations, or you could write and record/create a radio broadcast or podcast to present to the class. Other ideas include informative pamphlets, a power-point photo essay accompanied by a narrative, or maybe a newsletter.

All publications must include a cover-page that in someway illustrates the theme or topic that your publication addresses. This could be a provocative picture or collage; you are encouraged to be creative because these will be posted around the classroom.
-Your publication must be focused on a specific topic/ theme/ environmental issue.
-Your publication must illustrate three ways in which your chosen topic/ theme/ environmental issue is related to, or affects you and the community.
-Your publication should contain an argument/ opinion regarding your central theme/ topic/ environmental issue. *For Example: Litter and roadside trash are a growing problem in our community. Litter and roadside trash poorly affect the local community because...(your three ways/ reasons).
-You should also include one or two possible solutions or ways in which you or the community could address your environmental issue.

*You will be evaluated on your ability to clearly focus on a central theme/ topic/ issue in your publication, your inclusion of the items outlined in the guidelines, and creativity.
*Please feel free to ask/ post your questions on the blog or ask me in class. I will post answers to questions, suggestions, as well as other clarifications on the blog so that everyone can benefit and have access to them.