What does the future really hold for Lake Erie, in times of global warming?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 07/07/2008 - 17:35.

I lived for a while in Bay Village, along Lake Erie, and the views, microclimate, and bugs were amazing. When I first moved there, I used to take my dog down to the water, at a little "swimming" area by Columbia Road, until we went swimming there after a storm and then both got sick as dogs, and the dog's fur started falling out. I've stayed ashore, since... and keep my kids away from the lake. Perhaps the water is not entirely unsafe, between rains, but all that shit and worse that flows into the lake, when the storm drains and sewers overflow into the lake, stays in the lake. And what industry and shipping dumps into the lake, stays in the lake... or turns into fish many eat. So is this a good use for the lake? Who cares, much less may make a difference? And what does the future really hold for Lake Erie, in times of global warming?

It seems all government leaders and popular media of the region are convinced the lake may serve shipping, industry, recreation, food and sewage together, but this doesn't seem to be working well to lots of international environmental  and healthcare experts. So how do we sound an alarm and start changing public perception about the purpose of our natural resources, so more citizens may live better lives and lobby their leaders to lead better, and the media to report better, for the environment. May these days of $4+ gas, global warming, and believing in change spark a new era of activism against pollution, and polluters.

There are many things individuals may do to improve the quality of Lake Erie, if encouraged to do so. An important example would seem to be using rain-barrels and diverting downspouts into well designed yards. People should reduce paved surfaces on their properties, and incorporate water management into land and building planning.

Regional government leaders must take a role planning the future of Lake Erie and our other natural resources, and better manage water on city and county. While the mayor of Solon may not manage a lakefront community, every mayor in the region leads a lakefront region, and must ask is the highest and best use of the lake a dumping ground... and are they not partly to blame, and responsible for finding solutions. It seems this is one concern every politician in NEO may agree on.

Who is leading this charge in NEO today... ? Who is prepared to stand up to the port, and industry, and government, and inspire others to do the same, at the grass roots level regular people may understand? Only one person... Citizen Hauser.

It is criminal this entire region, for all it wastes on poor leadership, has not produced financial support for Ed, as he serves the public. Perhaps in times of global warming such proven environmental leaders in the community will be sought out, entrusted and compensated rather than shunned by the establishment... when the establishment finally realizes they need citizens' help to survive, as they too are citizens.

 

Step1

Go to any water department, county or state office that "supposedly" keeps Lake Erie clean.

Step2
Find political hire in said department, be it mayor's child, relative of county "boss" hired for political gain, or any know-nothing who was hired mainly to get a sopranos like politician elected for his 20 consecutive term.

Step3 Beat him so badly he cannot return to work at said department, forcing to hire competant person in know-nothing's place.

Yeah...I'm frustrated living here all my life.

Step 4: Go to Case and do the same

Unfortunately, the problem is not isolated to government, as there are few examples of private people and organizations in NEO being progressive about water, either... look at this typical scene at Case, where there are acres of grass being watered on what is otherwise a "green roof" (over a subsurface garage)... the huge case campus could be feeding their community, or those around them, or at least helping reduce water waste and run-off... I wonder what is Case's carbon footprint vs. Carnegie Mellon, a college Case likes to consider a peer, and Cleveland's footprint vs. Pittsburgh, a city we consider "competition", which seems far ahead of us by actually being progressive... like by actually being green...

Case watering lawns

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Green Practices and roof at Carnegie Mellon make differences

Carnegie Mellon appears to be world-class being green... here is a green roof on their campus, and they have a website dedicated to their green practices. I came across an interesting paper suggesting Rice University learn from Carnegie Mellon's "Green Practices"... read through this and browse their site to appreciate the proper development of a green culture over time, and the results. How are we doing at our 23 colleges and universities in the region? How did the retiring president of Cleveland State really do? How green he mades the campus, students and community during his tenure... how green have been and will be his building projects... those are the measures of that man that will really matter over time. Are our educators too proud, or ignorant, to learn from world-leaders?

What about with the $ billions in new projects under construction and development right now with University Hospitals and the Clinic... how about all those houses being built by area community development corporations...

Here is some good thinking for Rice, which offers insight for all our school and community leadership...

Carnegie Mellon University:  A Green Model for Rice University 

By Amy Ugoletti

ENST 302

February 2006 

      There have been significant changes at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the past 12 years.  The environmental change began in 1990 with two policy initiatives.  The creation of the position and hiring of a Recycling and Waste Coordinator combined with the adoption of a formal recycling policy amplified green voices on campus.  From the numerous and creative projects that followed, it seems like CMU’s attitude is more energetic about environmental stewardship than do our Rice counterparts.  In order to decrease CMU’s environmental impact, students, staff and faculty invest in strong leadership and are more dedicated to the campus community.  This is seen in thriving campus organization, widespread recycling efforts, green education in academia among other areas.  Not only does CMU strive to be a green college, but it also interacts with the greater Pittsburgh area.  If Rice makes a few changes in the coming years as CMU did in the nineties, our university may influence not only the campus community but Houston as well.  From studying CMU’s environmental initiatives during the past 12 years, it is clear that a vital characteristic of an environmentally friendly university is constant innovation and dedication to existing policies. 

      The most important center for environmental discussion and policy implementation at CMU is the Green Practices Committee.  It is made up of students, staff and faculty whose stated mission is to “strive to develop university practices that improve environmental quality, thereby establishing CMU as a practical model for other universities and companies.”  The Green Practices Committee’s mission statement, along with its sharp official university logo can be seen on the inviting and easy-to-navigate website  at www.cmu.edu/greenpractices.  Topics of interest to the Committee include dining, construction and buildings, recycling, transportation, communications, outreach, purchasing and energy use.  For communications, the Committee created the environmental newsletter “Green Scene” in 2001, a bi-monthly publication aimed at publicizing and communicating efforts of the Green Practices Committee and promoting the environmental successes of the campus.  Websites and newsletters would similarly increase environmental awareness on the Rice campus.  In an outreach effort, the Green Practices Committee designed the First Annual Energy Fest to promote awareness about energy conservation and alternative energy resources.  One challenging step for Rice would be to hire summer interns, as CMU’s Green Practices Committee does, to foster interest and communication between students and staff.  Just as Rice’s commitment to freshman orientation is seen in the employment of approximately 27 O-week coordinators during the summer, Rice could also show commitment to environmental stewardship by hiring summer interns. 

      From summer interns to material management, CMU encourages individuals to act responsibly.  Recycling is a major movement on campus, evidenced by the increased percent of waste recycled from 5% to 13%, in only a few years.  CMU challenges its community to increase recycling rates by competing in a statewide Rush to Recycle Challenge to see which college/university can increase recycling the most in six weeks.  If that is not surprising enough, CMU plans to increase recycling rates from 14% to 33%, which includes fraternity and off campus housing.  Also, in collaboration with the CMU Purchasing department, the university changed from virgin paper to 30% post-consumer recycled content for copy and print paper in 2001.  This is a great project to start at Rice because paper is something students, staff and faculty use daily.  Besides paper, odd recyclable objects such as CDs, batteries and transparencies are collected at the newly created Recycling Education Center in the University Center, perhaps a location similar to the Rice Memorial Center.  Another method to education the CMU community was the First Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day in 2000. 

      On a more visible level to students are several environmental projects in the dining room.  In 1999 CMU banned the use of polystyrene in a dining room and switched to washable dinnerware.  Rice has washable dinnerware, but we have not yet banned Styrofoam cups and bowls.  The reusable mug program, where mugs were distributed in 2001, was an effort to reduce the amount of disposable cups.  Also intriguing is CMU’s testing of biodegradable cornstarch containers instead of clear plastic containers. 

      On a larger scale, CMU is dedicated to environmentally friendly buildings, vehicles and energy plans.  The university promotes LEED building, which is prestigious environmental standard that stands for leadership in energy and environmental design.  CMU’s first LEED certified project, a new LEED certified dorm, opened in 2003 and houses 259 students.  This is approximately the same number of students that are housed in a Rice college and thus a fine example for Rice to follow.  Rice University would only be about a decade behind CMU if the tenth college was LEED certified, improving on dorm indoor air quality, energy and water conservation

      Other projects investigate alternative building styles.  CMU competed in the First Solar Decathlon National Competition on Washington D.C. which was followed by the installation of solar panels on one campus building in 2004, generating electricity for that building’s computers.  Rice might consider solar panels or green roofing, which CMU started in 2003.  The green roof project was researched and designed by several students and finally finished in late 2005.  Rice can even monitor CMU’s green roof because the Green Practices website has a live web cam of it.  Benefits of the green roof include a reduction of cooling and heating energy consumption, protection of the roof’s structural elements from UV rays, extended life of roof, and decreased storm water waste streams. 

      One of CMU’s most impressive new policies states that all new campus vehicles must be alternative fuel vehicles.  Created after two alternative fuel vehicle purchases in 2001, this policy embodies CMU’s forward thinking.  The CMU Campus Security department quickly followed and purchased a natural gas car in 2001 as well. 

      Leading Pennsylvania colleges and universities, CMU was first to purchase wind power.  For more than four years, about 6% of the total electricity used on campus is purchased from wind power.  CMU’s website proclaims that it is the nation’s largest single purchaser of wind generated electricity.

      On campus, CMU encourages discipline among individuals by advocating putting computers on sleep mode when not in use.  Like nationally syndicated and highly successful milk ads, CMU advertises “Sleep is Good, Power Naps.”  Rice University might also try something similar, especially because we are a leading engineering university on the cutting edge of technology.  Smart students should also be smart about energy conservation

      Campus initiatives are supported by a foundation of educational resources.  CMU is home to the Institute for Green Oxidation Energy, a research, education and development center in which a “holistic approach to sustainability science is being developed.”  Green chemists at the Institute focus on renewable energy technologies, chemical feed stock, and benign alternatives to polluting technologies.  The research of the Institute is focused in the third of three major problem areas where green chemists can make major contributions to sustainability.  CMU even patented TAML®, a “new set of catalysts for the activation of hydrogen peroxide which stands for TetraAmidoMacrocyclicLigand activators.”  Researchers are investigating the use of TAML® activators for use in wood pulp bleaching, laundry science, surface cleaning, toxic chemicals destruction and decontamination and water disinfection.

      Green chemistry’s goal is the reduction and eventual elimination of pollution.  One important principle is that “it is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.”  CMU shows commitment to spreading this attitude beyond campus by planning events such as Pittsburgh’s FirstNight celebrations where kids learned about green chemistry from CMU professors and students.  Rice’s excellent chemistry and nanotechnology departments might also be interested in CMU’s responsible attitude to promote sustainability. 

      Another method to educate is two yearly classes called “Introduction to Sustainability Engineering” and “Case Studies in Sustainability Engineering” in CMU’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department.  Students learn about the concept of sustainability engineering and changing attitudes toward technology and the environment. 

      It is surprising to find a leading environmental program on a campus located in one of America’s old cities, a town that prospered on coal mining and steel in the nineteenth and early 20th centuries.  Although Pittsburgh is not likely to make it on the cover of National Geographic, Carnegie Mellon University sets a high environmental standard not only for organizations on the East Coast, but in the whole nation as well.  From recycling to alternative fuel vehicles and green buildings to ethical chemistry, Rice can learn from CMU as we strive to be a cutting edge university not only on the “Third Coast” but in the whole nation.  If President David Leebron is committed to Rice’s excellence, he might be not only open but committed to environmental excellence on campus as well.  As the heart of campus, Rice students must adopt the attitude of CMU students in discipline and dedication to energy and material conservation and green innovations.  As some of the academically capable students in the U.S., Rice students might rationalize that they have more important things to do, but Rice could make great strides in the next 15 years with a small but committed investment to campus environmental movements. 

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Best header, yet

  Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink.  The frustration is more than palpable here in NEO.  Time for a revolution?