August 2013


BGnews_logoBy Alison Wentzell

Climate Panel Warns Human Activity is the Cause for Warming

Recently, a draft of the International Panel of Climate Change’s “Fifth Assessment Report” has been leaked and the report looks bleak, according to an article in the New York Times.  The International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is a team of several hundred scientists that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, along with Al Gore. Although the team does not conduct any of their own research, it is their duty to analyze work done by other scientists and publish the most important findings regarding climate change.  Many governments rely on these findings to create policies and prepare for the future impacts climate change will have.

This year’s assessment report, which will be finalized in September, strengthened many scientists’ beliefs regarding the future of climate change.  The assessment’s first major finding is that human activity is the cause of the increase in global temperature.  In the past climate skeptics have dismissed the idea that global warming was the adverse effects of human activity, but something that happened naturally.  But now, scientists are about 95% certain that the rapid increase in global temperature since the industrial revolution is the cause of carbon emissions produced from human activities.  Scientists have also dismissed the recent notion of a slowdown in the pace of warming.

The draft also elaborates on how strongly correlated carbon emissions and global temperatures are.  The report states that the lowest possible increase would be 2.7 degrees Celsius, down from 3.6 degrees published in the “Fourth Assessment Report”.  However, the IPCC was quick to point out that just because 2.7 degrees is possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely.  If we continue with a business as usual mindset, then carbon emission will double in the next few decades, increasing the global temperature by approximately 5 degrees.  This will cause extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food, mass extinctions and changes in plant and animal life, and land ice to melt.  The melting of ice is one of the biggest concerns for scientists, since it will displace many communities and many of the world’s major cities.

The report will be finalized in September, but until then check out this article in the New York Times.

Students Succeed in Building Electric Vehicle

A group of 7 students in Sandy Spring Friends School’s Advance Placement environmental science class won fourth place in the 2013 DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix this summer, which was open to high school students in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.  In addition to placing fourth in the competition, the students’ car won Best Technical Innovation and Best Graphic, and the team won Best Team Photo.   The team started working in December, when they were inspired to create a battery powered vehicle as a class project.  In March they started to build the vehicle to make their idea a reality.  The students hit many roadblocks while working on the project, but they believe that they learned more from the overall experience because of these roadblocks than if the project had ran smoothly.

These students are the future innovators and designers of our country, and have proven that they have the potential to change the world.  Competitions like the DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix help to foster and motivate students to take action and prove that they can do something remarkable, not only for them but for the world.  I can only hope that these students will continue on the path of brilliance and someday change our society’s infrastructure, to create a greener, healthier world.

For the full article, check out the Gazette here.

Events

  • 4th Annual Bake Bethesda A Pie Contest, September 1st, 9am-12pm, Bethesda Central Farm Market, located at the Bethesda Elementary School parking lot

Come out to the annual “Bake Bethesda a Pie” contest and help raise money for Mana Food Center!  Last year over 200 people attended for the judging of more than 45 different pies.

  •  Happy Hour, September 5, 5pm-8pm, The Courtyard by Marriott Chevy Chase, 5220 Wisconsin Avenue

 Join Bethesda Green for their First Thursday Happy Hour at The Courtyard and have a chance to win a raffle, get discounts on wine, beer, and cocktails, and delicious appetizers.  Also, meet the people protecting the local watershed—Cabin John, Little Falls and Rock Creek.  There is a $10 entrance fee and the proceeds are shared with local watershed groups.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

By Alison Wentzell

BGnews_logoSolar Panels Make a Comeback at the White House

Fulfilling a promise made in 2010, the Obama Administration is installing solar panels at the White House as a sign of its commitment to renewable energy.  According to an article in the Washington Post, quoting a White House official, the installation is “a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.”   It’s nice to know that the President is catching the energy efficiency wave.

Solar panels were originally installed at the White House over 30 years ago by Jimmy Carter.  Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1986; George W. Bush had a solar photovoltaic system installed in 2003 to heat the White House swimming pool.

See the Washington Post article here about solar energy at the White House.

Virginia Mountain Lion Sighting: Real or Not Real

A mountain lion was allegedly spotted at Prince William Forest Park outside the dining hall by a young woman.  The woman frantically called the police and park rangers to report the sighting, but by the time officials arrived the animal was gone.

Based on the woman’s description of the animal, wildlife biologists and state officials believe that the animal was more likely to be a bobcat or a fox.  Many of the people who come to the park are not used to the outdoors, which, in return, can lead to over exaggerations or the mistaken identities of animals.  In 2006, Paul Peterson conducted a survey of all carnivorous animals in Prince William Forest Park and found evidence of black bears, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes; but no mountain lions.  In addition, the Eastern Puma—the type of mountain lion native to Virginia—has been declared extinct since 2011.

However, I wouldn’t be so quick to entirely rule out the possibility of a mountain lion at the park.  Peterson’s study was conducted over 5 years ago, and since then times have changed.  The changing of global temperatures and strain for natural resource leaves animals with two options: die off and become extinct, or adapt to the situation.  It is entirely possible that mountain lion species are relocating in search for the resources necessary for their survival.

In fact, a mountain lion was hit by a car in Connecticut in 2011.  It was the first one to be seen in the state in 100 years.  After scientists conducted DNA tests, they found that the animal had belonged to the mountain lions in the Black Hills of South Dakota and presumably walked all the way to Connecticut.

Check out Inside Nova’s article here.

Weekly Fun Rides Gaining Popularity in DC

In recent years, legislation in the DC metro area has made it easier for cyclists to get from point A to point B.  Even more recently, we are noticing a spike in the number of cyclists, and an overall increase in popularity.  We can thank programs such as Capital Bikeshare and many new bike shops for this surge in popularity.  But now, bike shops are taking it to the next level by organizing social bike rides.

Shops, such as BicycleSpace, have started sponsoring a plethora of weekly bike rides including “Seventh Street Social”, “Cupcake Rambles”, “City Explorers”, and moonlight rides on the full moon.  Although BicycleSpace isn’t the first shop to sponsor bike rides, they are one of the first to make the rides more casual and open to less hardcore cyclists.

Bike rides are a growing trend both in DC and big cities across America.  With any hope, biking will become such a popular trend that it will move out of the fad stage and become the social norm.  Also, the more demand we have for biking, the more likely we are to have safer bike lanes and fewer cars on the road.  This would significantly improve our nation’s health, since people would be more active and the amount of hazardous chemicals produced by cars would be greatly reduced.

For more information on these casual bike rides, read the Washington Post article here.

Events

  •  Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

  • BG 101, August 28, 4-5:30 PM, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

Join Bethesda Green for our regular session of BG 101, where we will provide an orientation about our organization, history and upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Builders, County Disagree on Tree Canopy Legislation

BGnews_logoLegislation passed by Montgomery County Council last week requires builders to provide 50 percent tree canopy coverage on lots they develop.  The new law essentially triples the amount of trees builders had proposed providing and applies to all lots in Montgomery County, not just developing lots.

County data suggests that only one in three trees planted would be able to survive into adulthood.  However, builders argue that approximately 85% of trees planted survive into adulthood and even more trees survive when they are being cared for on private property.

Read the full article from the Gazette here.

Individual Action Encouraged at Climate Change Town Hall

A town hall meeting held in Silver Spring by Organization For Action encouraged residents to start taking a more active role in addressing climate change.  About 500 residents attended the four-hour meeting.

Leaders from organizations such as the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and the Maryland Clean Energy Center encouraged action on the individual, communal, and national levels to push the United States into becoming a leader in environmental action.

Presenters discussed way to push for policy change in Congress by showing the linkage between health issues and environmental stewardship.  CCAN Director Mike Tidwell said, “We don’t need to invent anything; all we need is more policy.  The fossil-fuel industry is allowed to treat our atmosphere as a sewer.”

Check out the full story from the Gazette here.

Upcoming Events

  • Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24th, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Montgomery County Interest in School Gardens GrowsBGnews_logo

Montgomery County fosters 202 different schools, 35 of which have gardens where students can observe, ask questions, and take control of their health as part of a local food and advocacy project, according to an article in the Washington Post.  But, interest in gardens is growing throughout the entire school district.

The Montgomery County school district mandates that students pass three different sciences in order to graduate.  Historically, horticulture has been an easy class to pass and draws in students that don’t have much interest in other science fields.  Elizabeth Levien, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, is excited to see that the students taking horticulture are now excited by the gardens and their class.

Students’ interest in horticulture classes is also growing in Clarksburg, Damascus, and Springbrook high schools.  Teachers from these schools are working together to make gardens a part of the horticulture curriculum throughout the district.  They have already structured a three-year program allowing students to become certified horticulturists.  But students enrolled in the program aren’t the only ones showing interest in the gardens.  Teacher Jill Couts from Sherwood High School has approximately 30 students who go to the green house each week that aren’t even in the program.

Montgomery Victory Gardens’ project director Gordon Clark is ecstatic about the impact gardens are having on schools.  He’s now working with other PTAs and schools in the district to give them the knowledge and resources to help them get started on their own gardens.

For more information, read the Washington Post article here.

North Dakota Flare Ups, Crude Oil Transportation, and the Rise of Solar Energy

Between an 18,000 square mile flare up, the increase in shipping crude oil by rail, and a third growing phase for solar energy; saying there’s a lot going on in the energy sector is a bit of an understatement.  One third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is being burned off in the air.  The effects of the burning are so big they can be seen from space and produces the carbon equivalent of an extra 1 million cars.  Even though oil drillers are burning $1 billion worth every year, low prices, the remote location, and cost of developing pipelines prevent the gas from being utilized.

In fact, leaders in the oil industry are becoming wary of pipeline projects all together, and more shipments are being made by railroad.  However, the Obama administration’s efforts to boost safety standards are making it a bit more difficult to ship crude oil.  To fight this, the oil industry and U.S. railroads are fighting these efforts by pointing out the technical challenges and economic costs.

While the United States is still focusing on natural gas and crude oil, other countries are investing more in solar energy.  In a recent study the Deutsche Bank found that solar energy is entering a third growing phase.  Even oil producing countries are increasing their investment in solar energy, finally allowing it to become a competitive source of energy rather than just an alternative.  The solar energy industry can now start the process of weaning itself off of subsidies and become a self-sustaining industry.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.