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UC Regents: Listen to Your Community. Be True Climate Leaders.

September 10th, 2014 @ 1:11 pm by Camille Kirk

The Regents of the University of California are being asked to consider divestment from fossil fuels at the upcoming September meeting. In advance of that meeting, the Sustainable 2nd Century blog is hosting two guest posts this week about the fossil fuel divestment effort. This post is an excerpt of a longer essay about the Fossil Free UC movement written by UC Davis student Emili Abdel-Ghany, a Community and Regional Development senior, California Student Sustainability Coalition Field Organizer for the Fossil Freedom Solidarity Organizing Program and former Senior Field Organizer for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign.

Fossil Free UC rally at the May 2014 University of California Regents meeting in Sacramento, California. Photo credit: Becca Rast.

Fossil Free UC rally at the May 2014 University of California Regents meeting in Sacramento, California. Photo credit: Becca Rast.

Over the past three years I have seen communities rise up together across UC Davis, the entire UC, and reaching out into California and beyond, even reaching the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s Money and Investing segment. The campaign to divest our communities from the fossil fuel industry is one that resonates with folks from every part of society. I have had the opportunity to help shape the campaign on the local (Davis) level and statewide, coordinating multiple actions at the Sacramento UC Regents meetings and others. I have personally dedicated a majority of my undergraduate career to this campaign and to the education of the broader campus and California community (UC Davis and beyond). Faith communities, those fighting for racial or gender equity, scientific communities, campus departments, educators and countless students have thanked the campaign leaders for enlightening them about what UC investments are doing. I have seen how galvanizing the issue of unsustainable investments can be for students, faculty, staff, and the community. Almost every time I’ve told someone about this campaign their reaction is the same: They did not know that the UC invests donations in fossil fuel industries which constitutes a lack of transparency from the UC, and they do not want the UC to be investing in or even using fossil fuels. Further, they want to have a say in the process given that UC is a public institution of research and higher education, and are strongly opposed to the direction the UC is going in its relationship to the industry fueling climate change. Although the UC has just made significant strides to advance solar, it is a moral contradiction to invest in the companies driving the climate crisis while investing in those attempting to halt it.

Our movement for climate justice is reaching a tipping point this September, and here in California we must act to hold our flagship public institution accountable for financing climate chaos.  UC Regents on the Committee on Investments will be voting on fossil fuel divestment at their meeting September 17th meeting at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. We need as many voices from community, students, faculty, administration present. The Chief Investment Officer (CIO) recently altered his original recommendation to the Committee on Investments (COI), which would have advocated for a loose ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) framework for investing and explicitly stated recommending a “No” vote on divestment. In my opinion, this recommendation would completely disregard and even misconstrue the meaning of the work of students and the community, since it does not take immediate action to halt all new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies, drop the current holdings, and begin to reinvest in our communities. However, because of student and community pressure (by countless phone calls to the CIO) the Task Force recommended that the decision on Fossil Fuel Divestment be assigned to the COI, ending the Task Force. This minor concession is thanks to the people power generated by Fossil Free UC.

Any recommendation that the CIO makes to the Task Force will be taken very seriously by the Committee on Investments and voted on at their Friday September 12th meeting happening via teleconference in Oakland, LA, and Santa Barbara. If you would like to be involved in the momentum around this please email CSSC Field Organizer Jake Soiffer or Madeline Oliver. Most Regents will likely defend his position. We need to keep up the public pressure on decision makers. The Regents will likely still vote yes on whatever the CIO recommends to the COI. It will be incredibly important to have as many people at this meeting supporting our campaign as possible. If you are faculty we have a template letter that we would love for you sign onto/adapt and send you may contact CSSC Campaign Director, Emily Williams for this letter. Otherwise (for non-faculty), you can send your input to the UC Regents via email  regentsoffice@ucop.edu, mail: Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents 1111 Franklin St.,12th floor Oakland, CA 94607 with attention to the Committee on Investments. The regent who chairs this committee is Paul Wachter, it would be good to address concerns to him since the decision is in the hands of the COI as of now. If you will be sending a letter after Friday please email it to CSSC Field Organizer Alyssa Lee and she will circulate it appropriately.

The UC has to lead. We have to act now. The Regents have the opportunity of a lifetime to listen to the outcry of the people and divest NOW!

For more information follow:
www.fossilfreeuc.org
www.facebook.com/FossilFreeUC
www.sustainabilitycoalition.org
www.twitter.com/FossilFreeUC
To be added to list serves email Alyssa Lee.

Read Emili’s essay, from which this post was excerpted, to learn more about what has compelled her to become active in divestment efforts.

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It’s Time to Divest from Fossil Fuels

September 8th, 2014 @ 4:19 pm by Camille Kirk

The Regents of the University of California are being asked to consider divestment from fossil fuels at the upcoming September meeting. In advance of that meeting, the Sustainable 2nd Century blog is hosting two guest posts this week about the fossil fuel divestment effort. This post is written by Stephen M. Wheeler, Associate Professor, Department of Human Ecology.

Fossil fuel companies play a major role in promoting carbon-intensive societies. Should UC be investing in them? Photo and caption by Stephen M. Wheeler.

Photo of Valero refinery in Benicia, California. Fossil fuel companies play a major role in promoting carbon-intensive societies. Should UC be investing in them? Photo and caption by Stephen M. Wheeler.

At universities across the country the subject of fossil fuel divestment is in the news. Students, alumni, faculty, and staff are pressing trustees to drop schools’ investments in corporations threatening our future through global warming emissions. Already last spring Stanford gained a lead on the University of California by agreeing not to invest in coal stocks. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for UC to regain the moral lead by divesting from fossil fuels across the board?

Global warming is the largest sustainability challenge of our time. UC plays a positive role through research into climate change and renewable energy technologies, and through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from UC campuses. However, an issue of this sort calls for moral leadership as well. California as a state has already adopted strong policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By divesting from fossil fuel stocks UC can take a stand as well, and further build its reputation as a worldwide leader on sustainability topics.

As a student I was active in the late-1970s and 1980s movement to get colleges to divest from corporations doing business in South Africa, at a time when South Africa rigidly separated blacks and whites and Nelson Mandela was in prison. The University of California took a lead in countering racism back then by divesting some $3 billion in South-African-related stocks. Mandela later credited UC’s action with significantly helping to abolish apartheid.

Please do whatever you can—as a student, faculty member, staff person, or alumni—to encourage the UC Regents to vote for divestiture during 2014-15. Regents will first take up the issue on September 17, but additional consideration is likely throughout the year.

Information about how to contact the Regents is at http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/contact/index.html. The best form of contact may be a written comment sent by email on “Divestment from fossil fuels” prior to any Regents meeting at which this topic is on the agenda. You can review agendas at http://regents.universityofcalifornia.edu/meetings/index.html.

Let’s see our University on the cutting edge of social change once more.

 

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Entering the 2015 Solar Decathlon!

December 3rd, 2013 @ 11:02 am by Camille Kirk

This guest post comes from William Abernathy, a staff writer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. UC Davis is applying to enter the Solar Decathlon, a prestigious competition. We hope you will help us successfully enter! Read more about the competition application and how to get involved:

The UC Davis community has set in motion an effort to enter the 2015 Solar Decathlon, the US Department of Energy’s ZNE_One_Solar_Decintercollegiate challenge to design and build a zero-net-energy home. We’ve had our first meeting and are madly scrambling to get our application together in time. Though time is short and the odds are long, we have an amazing entry: a marketable zero-net-energy residence for migrant laborers. We hope that the Davis entry will form the basis for more sustainable housing to contribute to the Domes site, and that our experiments with green living will contribute to new opportunities, both for interdisciplinary study and for product commercialization.

To get there, we need people with an interest and expertise in design, engineering, market analysis, agricultural economics, social justice and migrant issues, and project management. A good attitude and a willingness to do good work will be a big help as well.

To join us, students should fill out the student participation form (a Google form), which tells us who you are, what you can do, and how we can reach you. Faculty or staff should fill out the faculty/staff participation form (also a Google form).

Thanks very much to all who wish to contribute!

- William Abernathy (wabernat@ucdavis.edu)

 

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Cool Davis Festival: Getting Cooler all the Time!

October 1st, 2013 @ 10:14 am by Camille Kirk

The following is a guest post from Lynne Nittler, a member of the City of Davis citizen climate action team, Cool Davis.

A solar photovoltaic vendor talks to an attendee at the 2012 Cool Davis Festival.

A solar photovoltaic vendor talks to an attendee at the 2012 Cool Davis Festival.

 

The 4th Annual Cool Davis Festival is Saturday, October 12th from 8:00-1:00 alongside the Farmers Market in Central Park. Enjoy entertainment, family activities, interactive exhibits, climate action opportunities and above all, information about reducing your carbon footprint at the food demonstrations, bike circus, EV-car show, and the Cool Solutions tent. Bike, or ride Unitrans for free all day. To volunteer, go to http://www.cooldavis.org/take-action/volunteer/ For details, go to http://www.cooldavis.org/2013/09/14/cool-davis-festival-getting-cooler-all-the-time/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turning waste to energy: California Bioresources Alliance Symposium

September 17th, 2013 @ 8:32 am by Camille Kirk

Register Today for the California Bioresources Alliance Symposium

 

UC Davis Extension is proud to present the eighth annual California Bioresources Alliance Symposium: A Call to Action, which takes place Sept. 18-19 at the Cal/EPA Building in Sacramento. The symposium will focus on recent California legislation addressing bioresources and the Bioenergy Action Plan, ways to address biogas challenges faced by dairies, wastewater plants, and forestry products residuals handlers, facility siting issues, and use of bioresources for mine reclamation.

Conference attendees will also tour the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District’s Biosolids Recycling Facility. Each year, the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant processes 26,000 dry tons of biosolids, 30 percent of which is beneficially recycled at the BRF. The site visit will highlight how the BRF fits into California’s regulatory history, and will also feature a tour of the fats, oils and grease subsystem.

  • Sept. 18-19, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • California EPA, 1001 I St., Sacramento, CA
  • $175 fee includes morning refreshments, lunch on the first day, evening networking reception and field trip
  • Discounted fee of $100 available for public sector employees, $35 for full-time students with valid ID

Who should attend?

Intended for all those involved with organic residuals, the symposium brings together industry professionals, municipalities, regulators, legislators, state and federal agencies, researchers, financers and other stakeholders.

2013 Planning Committee Members

U.S. EPA Region 9, California Air Resources Board, State Water Resources Control Board, CalRecycle, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Energy Commission, UC Davis Extension, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, California Association of Sanitation Agencies, Western United Dairymen, Dolphin Group and Teru Talk

2013 Sponsors

BioCycle, Harvest Power, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Material Convert, Synagro, InSinkErator

 

Check the UC Davis Extension website for updates!

 

 

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An Insider’s Look at Becoming the First College or University Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Business…

May 13th, 2013 @ 8:24 am by Camille Kirk

We thought it would be interesting to invite David Takemoto-Weerts, the UC Davis Bicycle Program Coordinator, to share his perspective on applying for and winning Platinum-level recognition of the campus as a Bicycle Friendly Business. Here are his words about the achievement:

BFB platinum_newWhen UC Davis was awarded the highest (“Platinum”) level award by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) as a Bicycle Friendly Business on Earth Day, April 22, I was a bit surprised, but also very pleased. As one of only eight businesses nationwide to receive Platinum recognition (out of 545 awards presented since 2008), and the first college or university so honored, we are understandably proud.

I had not given much thought to applying for this award until mid-December when LAB’s Executive Director, Andy Clarke, on a visit to UC Davis, suggested that we should and that doing so might improve our chances of moving up from Gold to Platinum the next time we apply for the award. With only four weeks (including two weeks of winter break!) to complete and submit the lengthy application, I was grateful that there was at least some overlap between the questions on the new form and our previous Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) application form. [UC Davis was awarded Gold recognition as a BFU in 2011.]

Perhaps most staff, faculty and students don’t think of the University as a “business”, but the fact is that we have thousands of employees and we provide a wide range of services, usually for a fee, to a broad constituency. Filling out the BFB application forces one to think about what we do in many different ways.

I was asked what the most challenging question was to answer. It was probably this one: “What has been the business’s most significant investment for bicycling?”

I could think of many possible responses, but I went with this:

In the 1960s, Chancellor Emil Mrak made two major policy decisions that were instrumental in making UC Davis so welcoming to bicyclists: 1) all campus buildings and other destinations would have sufficient bike parking for all cyclists and the parking areas would be located as near to major building entrances as possible. 2) in 1967, the campus “core area”, formerly accessible by motor vehicles with no restrictions, was closed to all motor vehicles except for emergency, service and delivery vehicles. By doing so, the core area streets essentially became wide, safe and convenient bike paths overnight. The “bicycle only” campus core area has expanded over the years and, in fact, will expand significantly in 2013 when unauthorized motor vehicles are restricted from even more roadways on the west and southeast sides of campus.

The other challenging part of the application was trying to remember and include all of the programs, policies, procedures and infrastructure that contribute to the overall “bike friendliness” of UC Davis. It’s not like any one department has control or authority over the creation, implementation or management of all these elements, and I’d guess we might have missed a couple.

Even though we earned the top award, we know there is always room for improvement. We should soon be getting feedback from the League that will describe areas in which they feel we could improve. We received similar follow-up when we received the Gold BFU recognition in March 2011. As a result, we instituted a number of improvements that we believe will elevate us to Platinum status when we reapply for the BFU award in July.

To everyone who helped with both applications, especially all those who responded to the League’s survey questionnaire which is an integral part of the review process, TAPS would like to extend a huge “Thank You”! It’s the many campus individuals and departments who do so much to encourage bicycling here at UC Davis that really put us in the top echelon of “bicycle friendship” in the U.S.

So, now that you know a little of the behind-the-scenes story, go out and celebrate May is Bike Month by riding around our Platinum-level bike friendly infrastructure. Bike safe and have fun!

 

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Water: Fact or Fashion?

February 25th, 2013 @ 10:30 am by Camille Kirk

Guest blogger Alicia Brown, a third-year Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning major, Sustainability Showcase Curator and Green Offices Intern, writes about the latest installation in the Memorial Union Sustainability Showcase, located in the east wing, near the Information Desk and AggieCard Office.

Water: Fact or Fashion? Display in the UC Davis Memorial Union Sustainability Showcase.

Water: Fact or Fashion? Display in the UC Davis Memorial Union Sustainability Showcase.

The Sustainability Showcase has opened its second exhibit for viewing on the first floor of the Memorial Union! The theme of the exhibit is Water: Fact or Fashion and features disposable water bottles and issues surrounding water quality and use. Water is a vital aspect of our everyday lives, but when faced with the facts, is choosing to drink bottled water a necessity or a product of our society’s consumerism? Why do people pay more for their water than they need to?

When thinking about water, it’s hard not to consider safety and equity on a global scale, but the issues hit close to home as well–in the Central Valley where tap water is unsafe due to high concentrations of nitrates from agriculture, households are paying 4.6% (3 times the affordability threshold recommended by the EPA) of their income on relatively safer bottled water. Is this out of necessity or is it a fad? How do we solve the problem of water equity in our own state? These are some of the thought-provoking questions the exhibit invites you to explore.

With interesting visuals and a collection of water bottles from across the country and around the globe, Water: Fact or Fashion is intriguing and engaging.

Some of the collection's water bottles from around the world.

Some of the collection’s water bottles from around the world.

An interactive portion of the exhibit allows viewers to become part of the ongoing conversation about water.

Comment board, with a "Question of the Week" about water policy and use.

Comment board, with a “Question of the Week” about water policy and use.

The Showcase is a collaborative project between departments to provide information about various sustainability issues in keeping with UC Davis’ reputation as a #1 Cool School. Make sure to stop by and check it out! The exhibit is located on the first floor of the MU between the Corral and the Information Desk.

If you are interested in creating your own sustainability themed exhibit or have any thoughts and suggestions, please contact student curator Alicia Brown at the Office Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (aibrown@ucdavis.edu).

Many thanks to John O’Connor of H2O’C Engineering for giving us permission to display part of his collection of water bottles as well as visuals from his presentation.

 

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Garth Lenz to present “The True Cost of Oil” to Davis, UC Davis, and Sacramento audiences

January 10th, 2013 @ 11:34 am by Camille Kirk

Guest blogger Lynne Nittler, a Davis citizen and active member of Cool Davis, sends news that Garth Lenz is coming to Davis next week. Don’t miss his award-winning talk; you have three opportunities to catch it:

Large-scale mining in the Alberta Tar Sands. Photograph by Garth Lenz, copyright reserved.

Garth Lenz, an internationally-renowned environmental photo-journalist, will present his talk and award-winning slide show, “The True Cost of Oil: Images of Beauty and Devastation,” on the Alberta Tar Sands at the United Methodist Church of Davis (1620 Anderson Road) at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, January 14.  Suggested donation is $15-20; students are free. Space is limited; pre-register at www.cooldavislenz.eventbrite.com .

“Canada’s Tar Sands are perhaps the most visually compelling example of all that is wrong with our addiction to fossil fuels and why we must change or face dire consequences for all life on Earth,” states Garth Lenz.  His TED talk on the Tar Sands has been visited over 700,000 times!

Best known for his work presenting environmental and social justice issues, Garth has photographed extensively throughout Canada’s temperate rainforest and boreal forests, gathering images that show the plight of the pristine Canadian boreal region and its people who are now confronted by a vast industrial project.  The Alberta Tar Sands are the third largest, most carbon-intensive oil reserves on the planet, and their exploitation is a global threat to climate stability.

Lenz will also present his slideshow talk at Wellman 2 Lecture Hall at UC Davis on Tuesday, January 15, at 5:00 p.m.  The presentation is open to the UC Davis community and to the general public.

Additionally, Lenz will present “The True Cost of Oil” at Goethe Hall at St. John’s Lutheran Church (1702 L Street) in Sacramento on Thursday, January 17 at 7:00 p.m.  Donations will be accepted at the door.

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Sustainable Development for the 21st Century: The Role of the Modern University

August 17th, 2012 @ 3:20 pm by Camille Kirk

The guest post below comes to us from Paul Dorn, Director of Marketing & Communications for the College of Engineering, UC Davis. Paul is also an extraordinary bike commuter, and has written The Bike to Work Guide. Below, he shares information about an upcoming conference that will directly demonstrate the link between higher education and sustainability.

 

UC Davis Solar Panel Installation

Solar panel installation in the parking lot of the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis in 2011

The College of Engineering at UC Davis is sponsoring a free one-day conference, Sustainable Development for the 21st Century: The Role of the Modern University, on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at the UC Davis Conference Center, located near Mondavi Center on the university campus. The event is free, but requires online registration.

According to Diran Apelian, an organizer of the Sustainable Development conference and a visiting faculty member in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at UC Davis, the event will offer a great opportunity to address sustainability across a widevariety of interconnected disciplines. “Technology, by itself, cannot do the job,” says Apelian. “Sustainable development requires a holistic, inclusive blend of education, technology/innovation, and public policy/political cooperation.”

Too often, according to Apelian, many sustainability challenges are regarded as distinct, separate topic, when in fact they are all components of a needed systemic approach to sustainable development. A healthy population requires affordable nutrition; optimal food production relies upon availability of water and energy; climate change and energy use are affected by population growth and availability of renewable sources of energy; and housing and shelter must address local and community needs.

“UC Davis is well positioned for a leadership role in providing implementable solutions for a sustainable future,” says Apelian. “With a wealth of achievement in agricultural and biological sciences, UC Davis will be at the heart of assuring the future of food, water, and healthcare. UC Davis offers — across the entire United States — the perfect setting for productive information exchange and advancement, toward a better and more sustainable future.”

 

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Super Cool!

August 14th, 2012 @ 4:18 pm by Camille Kirk

#1 Cool School UC DavisToday, Sierra magazine released their 2012 Cool Schools results, and UC Davis ranked #1! So, we are the Coolest School. Officially.

Wow! That’s fun! This is a nice honor in our field.

We are really proud of our campus for achieving this ranking. Thank you to everyone—students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends—who’ve made decisions and taken actions that helped our campus to get to this point.

This year, the sixth time Sierra has run this survey, they changed their methodology to use the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. STARS asks many questions about dozens of sustainability metrics; it’s an extensive survey and probably the most comprehensive one we’ve ever completed. Participating in Cool Schools this year has given us a chance to perform one of the most complete assessments of our work in sustainability to date.

Winning the #1 ranking is great—it really is—but it is even better to be able to look at the progress we’ve made, identify areas for further work, and plan for next steps.

Let’s celebrate this year and keep moving forward. Here’s to yet more innovation and implementation!

Read more about our award and watch a fun “video postcard” from Sierra‘s student correspondent about why UC Davis is the Coolest School in 2012.

 

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