Category Archives: Environment

Op-Ed: The Middlebury Dilemma

(An environmental perspective)

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A middbeat contributor weighs in on the People’s Climate March from a few weeks ago where more than 130 students travelled to New York to protest the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and speaks to the culture of environmentalism at Midd.  Feel free to share your thoughts below and join in on the conversation.

“Shoulda, Coulda, Didn’t”, was the call to arms for the 400,000 other people marching across New York City in arms against the global climate change crisis at the People’s Climate March two Sundays ago. Mass demonstrations like the PCM are often points of conflict in our generation—radicals want to burn down all industrial institutions while the opposition continues to lobby in favor of fracking, fossil fuel excavation and emissions. Efforts to change the culture of our current energy investments and security are numerous and strong, but bureaucracy for change is slow and often painfully ineffective.

Middlebury College has branded itself as a big leader on the environment nestled away in an idyllic Green Mountain setting. The decorous history of our institution seems to speak for itself: in 1965 we were the first college to offer an environmental studies major, more recently in 2007 we pledged to go carbon neutral by 2016, and we were the cradle of the international climate change movement 350.org.  At the PCM, 130 Midd students turned out to put pressure on the 2014 UN climate summit. The issue of global warming isn’t a new item on Middlebury’s agenda. A few weeks ago Middlebury scholar and leading environmentalist Bill McKibben, Middlebury Physics Professor Richard Wolfson, and student activists stood in front of a standing audience in St. Stephen’s chapel, exposing the dangers of rising temperatures: acidification of the seas, drier and more frequent droughts and the increased intensity of hurricanes—we all can think back to Hurricane Irene that swept chaos across Vermont in 2011.

Yet there is a kind of darkness that breeds a strong sense of discomfort in Middlebury’s current environmental agenda. The college’s support for the Vermont Gas Pipeline, which will be used to transport fracked gas across Vermont, having fossil fuel firms in our endowment portfolio, and the obstinate lack of transparency in the administrative rings exposes a destructive inconsistency between Middlebury and its green mission – or rather, its pseudo-green one. The Middlebury mission statement reads:

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MONDAY: Saha Global Info Session, Global Leadership Program in Ghana

Did you know: 
780 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water.

 Water-related diseases, like diarrhea, dysentery and cholera, kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
The most vulnerable population are children under the age of five.
Globally, 1.3 billion people, over 18% of the world’s population, live without electricity.

That’s where Saha Global comes in:

38,108 people served
100% sustainability rate

If you’re passionate about international social justice, environmental sustainability and public health, you should absolutely attend the Saha Global information session tonight at 6pm in Hillcrest 103, led by Kate Clopeck, Saha’s Co-Founder and Executive Director (there will be FREE PIZZA)! Previously known as Community Water Solutions, Saha Global is an incredible non-profit providing innovative and sustainable water purification and solar electricity services in Northern Ghana, and they’ve got an outstanding 3-week Global Leadership Program (offered over J-term and summer), which various Midd students have participated in. Having been a summer Saha Global fellow myself (Leah Fessler ’15), I can vouch for this non-profit’s fantastic reputation. Here’s the basics:

Saha Global empowers women in rural communities in northern Ghana to solve their village’s need for clean water and electricity by providing business opportunities. They do this by bringing leaders from around the world to Ghana through our Global Leadership Program where they train local women to launch profitable social enterprises such as sustainable pure water and solar energy businesses. All of the revenue from these businesses stays in the community and is managed by the women entrepreneurs. To date, Saha Global has launched 71 clean water businesses and 5 solar electricity businesses, which empower 164 women entrepreneurs who serve 38,108 people. 100% of these businesses are still in operation today.

The three week Saha Global Leadership Program in Ghana has run successfully since the Summer of 2010, and over 10 Midd students have participated. The Saha site explains the program as follows:

Young leaders who participate in Saha’s three-week Global Leadership Program will be trained to become Saha Field Representatives. Before traveling abroad, they will fundraise to cover the start-up materials needed for each community business, as well as their in-country travel expenses. Once in Ghana, they will participate in a vigorous and comprehensive training program designed and led by our Saha Global team. Groups of four will be partnered with a rural community in which they will first introduce the business concept and its particular health, social and economic benefits, and then train local women to launch either a clean water or solar business.

By the end of the three-week program, these businesses will be up and running and the women entrepreneurs will be fully in charge of all operations. Our Saha Global team will then monitor the business for the next 5 years to ensure long-term success.

For more information about Saha Global, read their story hereSaha is currently accepting applications for 2015 Winter Global Leadership Program, which takes place in Ghana from December 28th – January 20th (J-TERM).

The CWS Summer Fellowship is an incredible opportunity, and if you’re at all interested please come learn more this afternoon. All years are welcome!

What: Saha Global Leadership Program info session
Date: Monday, September 29
TIme: 6-7pm
Place: Hillcrest 103 (the big classroom in Hillcrest)
Cost: None, but there will be FREE PIZZA!

Grape Harvest Party at Lincoln Peak Vineyard

unnamedIf you’re not slammed by work today, we highly suggest you make the quick drive to Lincoln Peak Vineyard for the Grape Harvest Party. Picking grapes and crushing them with your feet, live music, bubbly wine, VT cheese and sausage, and it’s free… what’s not to like? If you’ve never been, Lincoln Peak Vineyard is just three miles north of Middlebury, right off Route 7.

And, if you’ve got no time for anything but reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic today, just watch this and be happy.

Date: Today, September 28
Time: 12-5pm
Place: Lincoln Peak Vineyard

Yellowjacket Traps

It is Fall—and the Yellowjackets (Vespula maculifrons) are here. (Though they’ve already been here since late spring.) So what’s the college doing to combat these aggressive, stingy pests? Traps, most noticeabley seen outside of Proctor Dining Hall.

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According to Professor of Biology Tom Root, the wasps are attracted to the sugar water or pheromones in traps, fly up into the trap, and indulge in the sugar water or pheromones. Because the wasps don’t know how to fly down once trapped, they fly around aimlessly until they die of dehydration (the former trap) or eventually drown in water (the latter trap).

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Yellowjackets flying around aimlessly. (click to zoom)

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             Drowned Yellowjackets and other insects.

So what exactly is a Yellowjacket? Let us compare them to the humble Honey Bee.

  • One is a bee and the other is a wasp.
  • They’re both about the same size: 1/2 inch. 
  • Honey bees have amber/brown and black alternating stripes and appear fuzzy. Yellow jackets have bright yellow and black stripes.
  • Honey bees die when they use they’re stingers. Yellow jackets do not (their stinger is retractable!)
  • The honey bees behavior towards humans is generally gentle—unless its hive is threatened. Yellow Jackets are notoriously aggressive.
  • Honey bees like nectar and pollen. Yellow jackets like to consume other insects, sugary drinks, and human food (especially meat). (Hellllllo Proctor!) Yellowjackets also live on/in the ground (Helllllo again Proctor!).

Before you turn those traps upside down—they’ll be gone in the winter. But this really begs an important question. Why aren’t these traps outside of Atwater Dining Hall?

Middlebury’s First Running Club!

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Do you love to run but get tired of running the same trails alone? Want to meet more recreational Midd runners, and explore new trails? This year Middlebury’s first running group is tearing up the TAM! The group meets Tuesdays and Thursdays on the track at 4:30 pm. Tuesdays are long runs and Thursdays are a variety of track workouts. Check it out no matter what your fitness level is! The mission of the club is to connect runners around Middlebury and give runners the opportunity to switch up their routines with some fun workouts! If you are interested in joining you can email kblodgett@middlebury.edu or come out on Tuesday or Thursday!

Neva Hassanein Lecture: “Cultivating Food Democracy”

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Tomorrow afternoon in Axinn 229, Neva Hassanein will speak on how local, sustainable alternatives to the food system are developed, and how they are examples of democracy and resistance in action. Hassanein, a professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, will share her experiences getting the University of Montana’s student farm up and running, as well as her community-based research on local food systems and infrastructure in Montana. Whether you’re a regular volunteer at the Middlebury College Organic Farm or have never been to a Farmer’s Market in your life, this is a great talk to attend if you’re interested in learning more about how and why our decisions about food matter.

Date: Wednesday, September 24
Time: 4:30-6 pm
Place: Axinn 229

Photo Gallery: Midd Kids Join People’s Climate March in NYC

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On Sunday, Sept. 2014, an estimated 311,00 people filled the streets of mid-Manhattan to “demand action on climate change”  by participating in the People’s Climate March. According to last week’s edition of the The Campus, about 120 Middlebury students went to NYC to join in the demonstration. Here are some photos of the event and a handful of the Midd kids who took part, collected by Marney Kline ’17.5, a lovely middbeat contributor who attended this march.

MAlt October Break Service Trip Application Due September 30!

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Merck Forest and Farm Center, location of the 2014 October MAlt trip

Love community service? Trying to spend your October break productively, surrounded by the beautiful Vermont fall foliage, rather than on your parents’ couch? The Middlebury Alternative October Break (MAlt) Trip might be perfect for you! The application deadline is September 30, so be sure to read up and apply at go/malt if you’re interested (no prior service experience necessary).

For those who have never heard of MAlt, here’s some info from their site: “MAlt is Middlebury’s alternative break program. Each year, students design and plan six trips during February Break (national and international destinations) and one Vermont-based trip during Fall and Spring Breaks. The goal of the trips is to engage Middlebury students with communities across the nation and the globe in order to share an experience, provide service where service is needed, and learn about the systems that shape community realities around the world.”

MAlt Finance Chair Maya Neria ’15 writes in to tell us about the upcoming October break trip:

Join us for the seventh annual October Mini-MAlt break trip to breathtakingly beautiful Merck Forest & Farmland Center in southern Vermont at the height of the foliage season. Merck Forest’s mission is to teach and demonstrate the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland. Past work has included trail maintenance in the forest, helping with the harvest, and pruning trees. We will be sleeping in a lean-to and cooking together as a group in fall temperatures ranging from 40-60 degrees during the day and 30-50 degrees at night. It’s about a two-mile hike into the site.

We’ll depart Saturday, October 11 at 8 am and return late afternoon on Monday, Oct. 13. Camping gear can be provided!

Applications for the 2014 October Break Malt trip are available at GO/MALT. The trip will cost $30 per person, and financial aid is available if necessary. If you’ve got any questions, Contact the MAlt Exec board, middalt@middlebury.edu or Malt Advisor Ashley Laux, alaux@middlebury.edu.

Application Deadline: Tuesday, September 30th to MAlt Exec Board via email at middalt@middlebury.edu. You will be notified by October 2nd of your acceptance.

Middlebury THT’s Fabulous Flea Market on Saturday

MiddleburyFleaMarketAre your blank walls mocking you? Sick of explaining that despite bleak decorations, you really do have a personality? Looking for that last upcycled doll or taxidermied squirrel to fully “do you” in your living space this upcoming year? Well, look no further.

This Saturday from 9 AM to 2 PM is the Middlebury Flea Market. It will be held in the Town Hall Theater, which is near the ACTR Transfer Point on Merchants Row. There will be antique items, jewelry, ephemera, and collectibles. In the unlikely event that none of the 25+ vendors in attendance has anything your eyes fancy, the Flea Market is also receptive to donations to help fund events to be held there in the near future (such as plays, concerts, musicals, operas, and performances).

So, in essence, bring cash and bring crap. You won’t regret it.

Date: 9/20/2014
Time: 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM
Place: Town Hall Theater
Cost: Free entry

DJ Spooky presents of Fire and Ice

dj-spookyThe award-winning Paul Miller, also known as DJ Spooky, is the featured performer of the 2014 Clifford Symposium. Spooky is known for creating music with a combination of digital and conventional techniques and for collaborating with well known artists. He incorporates violin solos, as well as iPad-made music into his lecture and video representation of climate change and its effects of the Arctic poles. As the author of Of Water and Ice, and The Book of Ice, Miller takes a new perspective on the issues concerning climate change that many are so familier with already. His knowledge of the algorithms that make up the geometry of ice crystals are interpreted through the music he produces to create unforgettable and intellectual performances. Get hyped!

Time: 9pm
When:
September, 19 2014
Where: Wilson Hall, McCullough
Cost: $6-$15