Environment Snap Talks

Writer: Christina Oddo

Faculty from across three academic schools gathered on March 10 to initiate the Environmental Center Snaptalks, discussions based on new environmental projects, studies and collaborations with students.

Beth Duckles, assistant professor of sociology, gave a talk titled “Looking Green and Being Green: Using Sustainable Construction Practices.” Duckles asked, “How do we define a green building?” and described that systems in these buildings vary, based on the way it is situated, the materials used, the indoor air quality and more. She also asked, “Why are we not building green?” and touched on the costs involved and how many people refuse to change their habits. She elaborated on why people are building green. She said that costs could be a reason, a definite counter argument, along with long-term intangible savings, deep green or spiritual connections and innovative motives. Finally, Duckles brought to our attention that, against common belief, most sustainable characteristics are not visible aesthetically. “With all of this in mind, what is the process to change the definition of a green building?” she said.

Kevin Gilmore, visiting assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, discussed issues and ideas regarding Marcellus shale. He discussed problems associated with increased bromide in the water and also touched upon flowback water and described the organic profile of river water in our region. “Where is all pollution going now?” Gilmore said. He explained that most, in fact, is going to underground injection.

Associate professor of geography Duane Griffin highlighted many ideas regarding biodiversity. He spoke of species gains and losses, and compared the tropics, where more species are born, with the poles. Griffin discussed the term “cradle,” which promotes biodiversity, and the term “museum,” which implies less extinction. Finally, he outlined the diversity gradient, from 21,000 years ago to today.

Tammy Hiller, associate professor of management, described the managing for sustainability program, one of four new majors for the school that will start in the fall. The goals are to understand sustainability as an interdisciplinary phenomenon and to use reflection to foster innovation in managing sustainability.

“The Aesthetic Dimension of the Interrelations Between Ecological Science and Ethics” was discussed by Sheila Lintott, assistant professor of philosophy. She discussed the goal to “preserve integrity, stability and [most importantly] beauty of the biotic community,” and to “consider the role of beauty in an ecological context.” She raised the question of “aesthetic relevance” and expressed how ecological knowledge is relevant to “aesthetic experience,” like associating nature with personal memories, for example.

George Shields, Dean of Arts and Sciences, showed the modeling of the growth of clusters and aerosols from first principles. “How do we understand feedback systems in a warming climate?” Shields said. He discussed the role of aerosols in atmospheric chemistry, as well as the thermodynamics of water cluster growth, which occurs only at low temperatures or if the vapor phase is substantially supersaturated.

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