Tuesday, December 31, 2013


2013 has been a year of environmental ups and downs. Here are 12 events that sum up the year.

January: President Obama's Second Inaugural Speech states that Americans "will respond to the threat of climate change." NPR reviews suggested that just mentioning climate change in his speech resulted in the "biggest cheers from the crowd."

February: A number of surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago finds that the degradation of the environment isn't a priority for people worldwide. The US is no exception to this rule, where the economy is #1 and the environment is #6. This is where my AP Environmental Science textbook's definition of sustainability comes into play: finding the right balance between socio-economic and environmental issues. 

March: Fertilizer runoff and human disturbance is proving to be detrimental for aquatic life in more than 55% of the US's streams. These findings were the result of the EPA's first stream and river health survey. 

April: The UK's carbon tax system is declared a leading country in its tackling of carbon emissions. The nation follows the KPMG Green Tax Index based in Switzerland, attempting to encourage corporate and individual sustainability.  

May: Danish 9th grade students discover that WiFi routers inhibit garden cress sapling growth. Could our widespread cell phone use adversely affect larger trees? The neuroscience department at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden is interested in repeating the experiment. 

June: Buttercup the duck is fitted with a silicone prosthetic foot, thanks to the merging of technology and animal care. Visit his Facebook page

July: A published report featured on CNN suggests that over two million deaths are attributed to outdoor air pollution annually. Fine particulate matter including dust, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets lodge in lungs, causing cancer and respiratory diseases. In addition, over 470,000 people die due to anthropogenic ozone pollution. 

August: 228 dolphins are found dead along the East Coast of the US. Lesions in the mammals' lungs may be due to the morbillivirus. Heavy metals, pesticides, and hydrocarbons dumped into the water are suspected to have made the respiratory infections worse. The deaths of the dolphins is worrying. As keystone and indicator species, healthy dolphins demonstrate an ecosystem of high integrity. 

September: California passes a bill regulating the fracking industry. While environmental groups were unhappy with the new law, oil and gas companies are now required to obtain permits before drilling. 

October: The government shutdown causes problems for people and the planet. Work near toxic waste sites was halted by the EPA, for example, and law suits that tried to close down polluting cement kilns were temporarily put on hold. 

November: Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines and many cite climate change as a cause of the natural disaster. The warming of the earth and ocean as well as the disruption of regular currents induces intense tropical storms. 

December: It's not usual for the breezy Bay Area air to drop to -3 degrees Celsius. Yet this year the region, along with several other cities nation wide, is experiencing a severe winter. Global climate weirding is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed.  

Happy 2014! Let's make this one our most sustainable yet. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Senior Capstone - Quick Start Guide to a Green School

For my Senior Capstone Project, I created a Quick Start Guide to a Green School; access it here.

This Quick Start Guide to Green Schools aims to inspire, encourage, and teach schools how to become more conscious of their actions and environment. Empowering students, faculty, and staff – a grassroots effort – is crucial to protecting the environment. The guide aims to foster beneficial environmental plans, proceeded by action, among schools worldwide. There are many ways to achieve sustainability but the key is to build a plan for the long term.  This guide is only one means of beginning a green school. There are so many ideas, steps, stages to follow but there is no set formula. By the end, hopefully your school will be more cognizant of energy, water, transportation, and waste issues, determined to make a difference through curricular changes, facilities management, and community involvement – the holistic approach to sustainability that involves every section of the school.

Singapore American School is used as a case study as a comprehensive example of successful environmental action across curriculum, facilities, and community support.