Saturday, April 11, 2009

Senior Thesis Proposal

So, I'm applying to write a senior thesis, and below is what I turned in today. Its a really competitive process, so there is no telling whether or not I'm going to be accepted, but I figured that I'd at least like the opportunity for people to read what I proposed. Let me know what you think random blog surfer checking out dead blogs :-).

The effectiveness of the current youth movement at influencing federal environmental policy

Throughout modern history youth activists have amplified their voices in protest. Beginning in 1908, when Marry Harris marched 100,000 child coal miners into our nation’s capitol, moving through the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s, and now to a new generation of activists today, students have continually been a prominent force in the ongoing struggle to improve the state of our union. Now, we are in the midst of arguably the most active group of young people in our nation’s history. We are a generation that is mobilized and ready for a fight, but the question is; are we winning? That is of course, yet to be determined. Currently there are many movements, but I contend that the attempt to save our Earth through environmental conservation is the most prominent. That is why I am proposing an in-depth analysis of the effectiveness of the current student activism in influencing federal environmental policy.

The student environmental movement of today does not just stand in front of the capitol marching in protest; they are organizing and reaching out at conferences, canvassing their local communities, and lobbying their representatives. They are also effectively using new media as the thread that ties all the individuals and all these different tactics together in a cohesive movement. With these strategies they have become an informed group, with an acute understanding of what it takes to change the policies of the federal government. My question is whether this high level of internal organization, the abundance of shared knowledge, and a cohesive campaign strategy actually translates into an effective influence on federal policy?

To determine this, I would like to follow the most recent piece of environmental legislation proposed in the house,
the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” introduced by Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, by contacting the individuals pushing, proposing, and voting for the bill. The individuals pushing for the legislation would be in my case, the members of youth environmental organizations, the people proposing it would be Representatives Waxman and Markey, and the people voting for it would be the individual members of congress. I am curious to see how and why the bill is being advocated for, and why or why not an individual member would vote for the legislation. Also, I think it is important to us a bill being introduced in this session because I will be able to follow the direct impact of the movement on the bill in each of its stages, from committee to implementation. As a control, I will compare the current piece of legislation and its outcome to a bill that has had minimal or no student activism in the legislative process.

When completed, I will have a concrete grasp on the strategy of the student environmental movement whether or not that strategy was a success, and why or why not they were able to succeed. Thus answering the question; does the intense organizational effort of the student environmental movement make a difference in federal policy?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coal Gets a Beating

This week has been a tough one for the coal industry, from lawsuits, to activists, to state-wide moratoriums, coal has definitely taken it’s lumps.

8 coal companies in West Virginia are being sued by 250 local residents that say the orange and black water coming from their faucets is caused by the coal plants right down the road. The lawsuit claims that underground cracks allowed for the waste pumped back into coal mines to contaminate underground waterways.

Also in West Virginia, activists chained themselves to bulldozing equipment to protest the blasting of Coal River Mountain for a mountaintop removal operation. The actions by the groups Climate Ground Zero and Appalachian Mountain Justice are an attempt to block Massey Energy's project and promote a wind farm at the site instead.

In Georgia state legislatures introduced House Bill 276 that would prevent the consumption of coal mined by use of mountain top removal, and would suspend permits filed before July 2009 to build new coal-fired generation.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in her State of the State address this past Tuesday, called for a move away from coal-fired power plants as an energy source. As a result her new policies will delay the 8 plants that have been proposed in her state. The Governor also hopes to rejuvenate the state’s struggling economy by “nurturing a ‘Green Energy’ industry.”

Across the nation coal is literally becoming a dirty word. It’s no longer just the “hippy dippy granola eaters” up in arms about saving our environment, but it’s now the suburbanites, landowners, and even politicians leading the fight. The nation is slowly waking up to the future that coal has in store for us, and is realizing that it’s not as pretty as once projected.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama Unwilling to Dump Coal

Last week President Obama unveiled his new energy bill, boasting 5 million new green collar jobs, a cap and trade emissions system, commitment to renewable energy, and of course “clean coal technology.” The Obama administration, staying true to his campaign promises, is moving America into a new energy future, but unfortunately, just as he promised in his campaign, he is not willing to leave coal in the past.

The corner stone of the Obama stance on “clean coal” is carbon sequestration; claiming that eventually we can achieve “zero admission” coal firing power plants with the development of this technology. Carbon sequestration is long-term storage of carbon dioxide from power plants underground or in the ocean rather than releasing it into the air. The only problem is the sequestration of carbon itself. Aside from the fact that using it with current coal plants will increase the fuel needs for those plants by 25-40%, thus off-setting a good portion of the initially reduced emissions, the actual storage of the carbon is a tricky and potentially unsafe way of dealing with CO2. Too little is known about the potential long term effects of storing the large amounts of emissions that are created by plants everyday. It’s a great idea until one day all of that carbon begins to leak, or until it contaminates our ground water, or until it begins to raise the acidicity of our oceans. It seems that the more logical solution is not how to we contain the carbon we emit, but how to reduce it. Why not transfer all the time, energy, and money we are going to spend to attempt to safely pump pollution into the earth, and use it to develop safe, renewable energy? Energy that we can use without our grandchildren having to worry about what to do with all this CO2 suddenly leaking out from underneath them.

Of course, President Obama has more people to please then the environmentalists. His home state of Illinois is a big player in the coal industry, and he, I’m sure, has a sense of obligation to his former constituency and the coal industry; obligations he fervently fulfilled during his time as an Illinois senator by voting against cap and trade policies and for coal liquefaction.

Fortunately though, Obama is a marked improvement from his predecessor. After just riding ourselves of a president with one of the worst environmental records in history, having a new administrations who has as one of it’s first orders of business to put forth a plan that does, in fact, create 5 million new green collar jobs and has a strong commitment to renewables, is a definite breath of fresh air. Hopefully we’ll come to a point when we can finally leave coal behind, but until we get a president that is willing to take the political risk of dumping coal, it seems that we have to be content with what we now have; forward movement.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Election

So, My blog has been dead lately....really really dead. But I've started school again and it's hard to keep up with a political blog when your having trouble keeping up with yourself.

Anyway, so I would like to introduce to the world President Elect Barack Obama. Well, I guess I'm a little late for that boat, but I'd at least like to say a few words about our new president. I think he was the right choice, I don't think the country could have withstood another Republican term. But that does not mean that I feel easy about the future. I hope he is as great has he has promised. As a youngster of only 20, I've had very little experience with presidential promises. President Bush has been my example for the past 8 years (most of my politically aware life), and because I am not exactly a fan, any promises he made were usually contrary to anything I actually wanted to happen. But now, I have a president, that could potentially be exactly what I'd like (for the most part), and I feel as if I'm going to be let down. I don't know if it is an inherent cynicism about our political system and the politicians who make it up, or if I just don' t know if any man is capable of living up to what Obama has promised for the country.

Either way, I know our country is in economic turmoil, we are fighting an endless money pit of a war, the world itself is beginning to fall apart, and that Mr. Obama had a very very difficult job before him. I don't know if this is usual for presidential transitions, but I do feel as if there is a sense of something very important happening. It's really more of an ominous feeling though, as opposed to a hopeful one. I feel that if we aren't able to do something positive, if Obama isn't able to do something positive, then we as a country, will finally just fall apart. President Bush has begun to tear down our nation, and it is up to President Obama to rebuild it. If he doesn't, then well, I hope the rest of the world is kind, because we will be at their mercy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

“Oh What are Men Compared to Rocks and Mountains” –Jane Austen

In our modern day “take whatever we want from the land” society, man has managed to cross the line yet again. This time it’s not about endangering species, cutting down forests, or polluting our water; it’s about destroying some of the few things that we were all certain would stand tall and out last us; mountains. We are blasting off mountain tops and pushing the debris into the valley below, covering up rivers, streams, and natural habitats; while pulverizing the land into a
flat characterless pile of rocks, all in the name of finding more coal. What a noble occupation.

Mountain top removal (MTR) is literally taking the mountain off of the coal. You blast the top of the mountain off, extract the coal seams and then push the excess debris into a valley below. This is a cheaper, faster, and more efficient way of extracting the coal. It also pollutes water, destroys ecosystem and depletes the local economy. That’s right, MTR is not just bad for the cute fury little animals, but for the people around the mountain as well. Coal mining no longer means stable jobs. Jobs that would usually be reserved for local minors are now being taken by machines and dynamite. Even beyond the economy, the removal of mountain tops disrupts water patterns and makes way for possible flooding of communities and homes.

The sad part is (well, other than the general dissipation and destruction MTR causes) no one really knows that it’s happening. Aside from the well informed environmental and/or political community, the coal companies, and the towns that fall victim; most people have no clue we are pulverizing mountains. Why is this not made more of a big deal? We know all about the drilling off the Florida Coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is good, but why is it that the general media doesn’t seem concerned about blowing up our age-long symbols of strength and resilience? Why, Because it doesn’t effect the consumers pocket book, so it’s not a story.

People are riding their bikes because they can’t afford to fill their tanks, energy companies are looking into renewable resources because everything else is growing too expensive, trucks and SUV’s are being replaced by hybrids and economy cars because of miles per gallon, but when you start talking about blowing up a mountain; the up roar becomes a dual moan. The moan of the few people that actually care if their children don’t get to experience the breath taking site of those towering wonders. It’s sad to think that maybe in a few 100 years the tallest things on earth will be man-made. But even sadder is that we’re going to destroy all of these mountains, and still run out of coal. Is that really something we want to be a part of our legacy? The Millennial generation: the force that killed the mountains.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Saving the environment one blog at a time

First, I'm sorry it's taken so long to update. The trip was AMAZING. I learned so much and I feel like I'm sufficiently prepared to take over the world. I'm so pumped about the whole thing that I'm seriously considering dedicating a new blog only for environmental issues. I get into so many arguments with people about the same things over over, that I wish there was a place I could direct them to that would fully explain my position. A new blog seems like the best way to accomplish that.

Some of the issues I would cover right off the bat would be:
Mountain top removal
Nuclear Power
Environmental Justice
Renewable Energy: why it's the best choice
Electric Cars
How to properly recycle
Off shore and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (anwr) drilling
The presidential election: through the eyes of an environmentalist
How you can make a difference

I don't know, there's a lot more I can think of right now, but y'all get the gist. Is there something in particular that sounds more interesting then the others? Does this sound like something you'd like to read? I would just like to get a feel for what people in general are interested in right now.

please let me know what you think.