September 9, 2019
Introducing the Sustainable Environment Institute
West LA College Offers Nation's First AA Degree in Climate and Environmental Studies
Valley EcoAdvocates Working through the Summer
LA Harbor Opportunity for LACCD Students
The Revitalization of the LA River
Introducing the Sustainable Environment Institute
For many of you, this newsletter will be your first contact with the SEI. You’re likely to wonder who we are and what we’re all about.
We are LACCD educators deeply concerned with the state of the environment and passionate about the need to raise the level of environmental awareness among our students. We began meeting informally a long time ago, in 2007, under the auspices of the District Academic Senate, and in 2011 became an official DAS committee. In recent years we have put out a newsletter, maintained a website, occasionally sponsored speakers, and developed ties to outside environmental organizations.
That there should be more discussion in the district about the environment is for us a given, as the magnitude of the problems the world faces could not be clearer. The climate emergency stares us baldly in the face, witnessed by this summer's heat waves in the Arctic and fires in the Amazon. Air pollution, water scarcity, endangered ecosystems, and the prospect of widespread species extinction are additional enormous challenges. A broad understanding of the environment and the human impact upon it has never been more vital, and the district community should be more deeply involved in that pursuit.
Our immediate goal is to communicate environmental news. We will do so through a more frequent and much more widely distributed newsletter, an expanded website, and a new speaker series. We are especially interested in presenting local and statewide environmental news, which is often underreported in the media. Meanwhile, UCLA, CSUN, and other local universities have created important sustainable environment programs, and we will report on the crucial issues they raise for the future of Los Angeles. Needless to say, we will share news about environmental programs at our colleges.
SEI is about more than communication, however. We also encourage and support the expansion of district environmental studies/sciences classes and programs and coordinate district participation in the Southern California Marine Institute at the Los Angeles Harbor. We are in the process of installing air quality/weather stations at some of our colleges, and we participate in various local environmental conferences and meetings. We’d like to see all these programs grow substantially.
Our primary task right now, however, is the communication within the district of environmental news. We urge you to visit our website, which includes a wide range of relevant articles from both national and international sources, as well as links to numerous environmental organizations. We have a blog on the site and welcome your comments.
If you would like to help in any of our projects, please contact us. We welcome the participation of administrators and staff, and faculty from all disciplines. Broad public education is essential to the health of our beleaguered planet, and we all have a role to play. Join us.
On Sept. 20th youth strikers around the world will walk out of school and work to join marches and rallies on behalf of climate action. Activities will continue through Sept. 27, coinciding with the UN Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York. Organizers, including the Sunrise Movement and Friday’s For Future USA, say the week will mark the largest-ever global mobilization for climate action, with over 6,000 events in 150 countries planned. Large numbers of adults are expected to participate, which will be a first since the strikes began last November.
The campaign for the University of California to divest from fossil fuels received a big boost in July when 77% of the faculty statewide voted to ask the Board of Regents to end all investments in “the 200 publicly traded companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves.” Students have been petitioning the regents for such a divestment since 2013. Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, which started the international campaign, said such a step would be “one of the biggest moments in the seven-year history of the fossil fuel divestment movement."
A group of STEM researchers based at Carleton College and Illinois State University, et al, have created a collection of environmental education projects using “large, publicly available datasets to engage students in STEM and improve their quantitative reasoning." The suite is called Project EDDIE (for Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration), and the teaching modules cover such topics as ecology, limnology, geology, and hydrology. The researchers also provide guidance on the best utilization of the modules. Project EDDIE is a branch of SERC, the Science Education Research Center at Carleton.
Two new climate change studies released this summer have debunked the history argument of climate deniers. Even though 97% of scientists believe that human agency is causing the planet to warm, skeptics have continued to argue that the temperature change of recent decades is a naturally occurring phenomenon, similar to the warming that took place in the North Atlantic region during the Middle Ages. The studies show that there is no evidence, going all the way back to the Roman Empire, for any event that compares in degree and extent to the warming that is now occurring.