Northerner Greenbeat stumbles upon People’s Climate March 2014 in NYC

I stumbled upon thousands of shouting marchers while I was walking to my hotel in New York City (where I was attending a press junket for The Northerner) last weekend.

The crowds of people were a part of the 2014 People’s Climate March that took place Sept. 21, 2014, and was the largest climate demonstration in history with over 300,000 people in attendance, according to event organizers.

While I know the event was taking place, I wasn’t quite sure of its exact location (and I was pretty tired from all the transportation and jet lag). So, the march caught me off guard.

Anyway, I was able to snap a few photos with my phone (sorry for the poor quality) before the parade passed by completely.

While I know firsthand that New York City is always a dense and busy place (I lived there over the summer), I still have never seen the city quite like this. The streets were filled with seas of people yelling, chanting, marching and clapping to raise awareness for climate change. The streets were blocked off at some sections toa llow pedestrians to cross or vehicular traffic to pass by.

To see it for yourself, check out video; more, higher quality photos; and additional information at the People’s Climate March website.

Recap of recent, local environmental news coverage

Whether for great or disastrous reasons, the environment has been a relatively hot topic in local media coverage in the past few months (at least compared to coverage in the past).

From the restoration of a 19th century farm reported on by The Cincinnati Enquirer, to an in-depth, multimedia look at the aftermath of the Queen City barrel fire from WCPO.com, it’s clear the environment is becoming more of a priority for news coverage.

Even in unfortunate cases such as the Duke Energy diesel spill that sent a slurry of fuel down the Ohio river, the event also sparked a slurry of news coverage across newspapers, computer and television screens both locally and even nationwide.

And while no one would ever wish an environmental disaster such as this, to some extent it is relieving to see that at least when it does happen, the media is there to open up a discussion on the impacts of the event, how it came to happen, future avoidance, etc.

Still, many social media users, bloggers and coffee shop talkers have argued that coverage should be greater or (for those who don’t believe in the importance of environmental reporting) even less.

Below is a recap of some of this local environmental coverage from the past few months. Be sure to check back to The Northerner Green Beat’s #northernergreenbeat Twitter feed or simply follow the hashtag on Twitter for a curated list of environmental stories that affect you locally, nationally and globally.

In the meantime, I’ll work on producing more environmental coverage of issues taking place here at Northern Kentucky University.

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NKU’s Center for Environmental Restoration, Kentucky State Parks, the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  purchased the Piner Family Farm in Union, Kentucky last year. They paid a little over $1 million for the farm with the goal of restoring the farm environmentally. The majority of the work will be done by NKU’s CER and students from the university.

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As thousands of gallons of fuel spilled out into the Ohio river near Cincinnati, Ohio on Aug. 25, local media rushed to the scene to cover the incident, its cause, cleanup endeavors, future means of prevention and more. Media outlets such as WCPO followed up on the story, updating as more information became available.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 6.58.48 PMThe Enquirer featured the Enright Ridge Urban Eco-village, giving the tristate a deeper look into the Price Hill community’s daily, sustainable lives. Many community members weren’t aware that this community thrived just minutes from downtown. Members of the Eco-Village work together to live their lives in a more sustainable fashion by doing things such as growing their own foods, composting, using solar power, building rain gardens and more.

In 2004 Queen City Barrel burnt to the ground. Ten years later, WCPO tracked the effectsScreen Shot 2014-09-20 at 6.59.10 PM the industrial-container recycling business had on its neighborhood and surrounding areas—including various health effects that have been linked to the industrial air pollution.

Students channel passion to save local urban forest

A student’s passion for nature and saving the wilderness recently landed him in the most unlikely of places: the city of Cincinnati’s urban Price Hill neighborhood.

Just across the Ohio River, nestled between bustling streets and historic houses, senior sociology major Luke Freeman’s latest endeavor has him measuring trees and drilling up soil in an area some community members didn’t even know existed.

Freeman works at Imago Earth Center,a 36-year-old environmental education organization interested in getting people who live in urban areas to be as sustainable as possible.

 

 

His mission is to track and reestablish the health of the center’s urban forest, and in turn, help the community surrounding it.

“The biggest thing we are doing is we preserve 36 acres of urban green space. Sixteen acres is free and open to the public,” said Chris Clements, executive director of Imago. “So anybody, regardless of where they live or what they make, can ride a bus, they can walk, they can bike or they can drive and they can have a place to be in nature.”

This green space and organization is even more vital to the area due to its location just three miles from downtown Cincinnati in a low income neighborhood, according to Clements.

The Project

The research Freeman is currently working on is called the Permanent Forest Plot Project, which was started to acquire a large set of data about the different forest types in the United States.

“So in this forest, an urban forest, we are trying to look at how big the trees are growing in the area, the species compositions, soil characteristics such as PH and organic matter, and moisture to look at the bare minerals they have to work with and grow,” Freeman said.

Freeman also uses tools such as calipers to measure and track tree growth.

Environmental science major Katie Ollier records data with fellow researcher Freeman.

Environmental science major Katie Ollier records data with fellow researcher Freeman.

“This measurement allows us to track the tree’s growth, which tells us the biomass of these plots,” he said. “You can use it to detect growth rates, how certain species are doing in different areas.”

All of these findings can be used to help predict the forest health and ways that may improve it in the future.

“Our big plan with the land is something we call the vibrant forest project,” Clements said. “What we want to demonstrate is how urban forests can be these happy, healthy places where people can get out to, but also where wildlife and plants are happy and healthy as well.”

NKU environmental science major Katie Ollier is also working working on the project.

“I just started onto Imago here this semester and so far it has been just a fantastic experience,” Ollier said. “I really wouldn’t change it for anything.”

The researchers for this project record all data to an online database, so they will be able to make analyses with the additional information that other people doing similar projects have gathered.

Tucked into the corner of Freeman and Ollier’s first plot was an old and decrepit looking tree, so big they had to pull out a measuring tape to collect data instead of using their calipers.

“This tree is the biggest tree on our plot and one of the oldest in the forest,” Freeman said. “Over the next couple of years, we will come back and track this tree’s growth and make predictions about its health from the numbers we’re collecting.”

Why this urban forest?

Freeman first ventured to Imago for a sociology project to see how the forest area affects the community around it.

From there, he tried working with the center in any way he could, eventually getting the opportunity to start working out in the forest.

Clements said the effect of this project could be great for the community and that he is really trying to get everyone outdoors and in nature, specifically the area’s youth.

“All the science is telling us that kids who spend time outdoors are happier, healthier and do better in school,” Clements said. “We are also training tomorrow’s environmental leaders in this process.”

Senior sociology major Luke Freeman.

Senior sociology major Luke Freeman.

Clements said Imago is doing everything from holding workshops for adults, to summer camps for children, to teaching urban community members how to plant and grow their own vegetables indoors.

Freeman and Clements hope tracking and assessing the health of the forest will provide the community with a natural place to visit so they can be more in touch with sustainability and nature.

“This is just us doing our part to protect the natural world,” Freeman said. “Especially right here in Cincinnati. Urban forests just aren’t everywhere. So I think they are important. Plus the impact I think this could have on the community is limitless.”

While Ollier isn’t from this area, she said the project is still of the utmost importance to her as well.

“I am actually from farther down south and we have more land down there,” she said. “Not everyone gets to have that feeling of ‘oh, let’s go out and play in the woods, let’s go experience nature, let’s hear the birds sing.’ No one in these cities and urban areas really get that experience, so this is definitely important, not just for the community, but for the future of this area.”

Why Freeman?

As a sociology major, Freeman stands out due to his dual passion for both the environment and the people within it.

“I feel sorry for everyone who is locked in an office all day, staring at a computer, typing,” he said. “I’m out here with the birds, they are singing to me and the trees are blowing in the wind. I just feel like this is where I have to be.”

He said finding Imago has really been a blessing, and Clements agrees.

Freeman uses a caliper to measure a tree in Imago Earth Center’s urban forest.

Freeman uses a caliper to measure a tree in Imago Earth Center’s urban forest.

NKU is really looking for these partnerships and really wants their students engaged, according to Clements, who also thinks that Freeman is setting a really good foundation for future students to get involved with this kind of work.

Besides his work for Imago, Luke also works for NKU’s Center or Environmental Restoration and is the Campus Recruitment Leader for NKU’s Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students.

“Being the liaison between the organization and the rest of campus means I am the active face of the organization,” Freeman said. “That’s good because I could talk about fracking and mountaintop removal mining, or this kind of stuff all day.”

Freeman plans to graduate in 2014, with hopes to one day work for the US Forest Service, because overall, this kind of work is really what he is passionate about.

“Forest conservation, forest restoration is like I guess fixing this mess that we’ve been left with and looking for solutions,” Freeman said. “That is really what I’m about.”

Click here to see the full story at TheNortherner.com

NKU’s student government looks to plumbing to promote a greener campus

What do the Student Government Association and the university’s restrooms have in common?

Senior BFA drawing major Denise Wellbrock refills her water bottle at a filling station in the Student Union. One SGA senator thinks water filling stations such as this could help make NKU a greener campus.

Last week, they shared a lot more than one may think, as a SGA senator asked the university to place more filling stations on water fountains across campus, as well as dual flush valves on the university’s toilets, in order to make campus a more environmentally friendly place.

“When I’m walking across campus, I’m always looking for ways to help improve the university,” said Jarrod West, the SGA senator and sophomore undeclared major. “And, I see that those get used a lot… So, I thought that was a good way to make the university more green.”

West asked the university to make these changes in a SGA resolution, which passed March 24.

He hopes the water bottle filling purifications system will help cut down on the amount of plastic bottles used across campus, by offering a place to refill and reuse bottles.

He also hopes the addition of dual flush valves to toilets across campus will help conserve the amount of water the university uses.

NKU’s Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management Larry Blake worked with West in devising the resolution.

“This is a good idea,” Blake said. “But there is always a hesitation with the costs.”

The price to retrofit a water station to include one of these water bottle filling purification systems costs around $1,200, according to Blake, with the filters costing $400-$1,600 per station.

While Blake said he fully supports this latest SGA initiative, due to the relatively high fee, he said working toward this goal could be a somewhat slow and gradual process.

Blake said these new water bottle filling purification systems will be used on all water fountains that are replaced in the future, as deemed appropriate due to things such as usage and proximity to other fountains. Blake said that each water bottle filling station could save about 13,000-39,000 bottles from being thrown away annually.

As far as the dual flush valves for toilets are concerned, Blake explained that the university recently replaced their toilet plumbing systems in the past few years with a low flow system. Due to this, Blake said replacements with dual flush valves would be made on a case-by-case basis and would occur over a longer period of time.

However, Blake said that if NKU were to change all of the valves right now, the university could save a total of 20,000-30,000 gallons of water per year.

“Overall, for the university, the payback is the fact that we’re being more environmentally friendly here,” Blake said. “There is really no dollar payback here.”

Senior political science and economics major and Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students leader Lauren Gabbard thinks this is a great move for SGA.

“I think this is good for the university to direct their funds toward more sustainable practices,” Gabbard said. “I hope this enthusiasm and urge to be more sustainable is acted upon and doesn’t just die away.”

To West, it just came down to little things he see’s he has the ability to change on campus, as a SGA senator, to help better the university.

“As a university, I think you want to hold yourself to a higher standard,” West said. “It’s just a small thing we can do that can have a really big impact.”

The resolution passed unanimously at the March 24 SGA meeting. The next step for the resolution is to go through Faculty Senate.

 

Click here to check out the full story at TheNortherner.com

 

Multimedia NKU Recycling package now published

It’s finally here! After half of a semester spent reporting and working with The Northerner’s multimedia team, The Northerner Green beat is happy to announce that its interactive recycling package has finally been published at TheNortherner.com.

Whether you’re looking to test your ‘green IQ’ or read about ‘the underground world’ of recycling at NKU, make sure to click the photo or link below to be taken to the package at The Northerner’s website.

Oh, and be sure to let us know what you think!

 

Tunnel_Walking

 

Explore our interactive, behind the scenes guide to the university’s recycling initiatives