Environmental Studies Blog

November 20, 2013

Brandeis Garden Week

Filed under: Events — chansen @ 5:38 pm
Brandeis Garden Week, a week full of plants and volunteering, is ending today. Brandeis Garden Week is a campus-wide initiative to increase awareness of urban agriculture and garden education.
This past week, there have been indoor garden displays in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium, the Shapiro Science Center lobby, and Goldfarb Library. The displays were a successful hit for students, and they show that even in the cold weather, we can garden inside!
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About a week and a half ago, there was a bike tour of Waltham gardens, ending at Waltham Fields Community Farm where there was a bicycle-powered cider press! The event was sponsored by DeisBikes and was a great opportunity for students to enjoy the fall weather and be outside.
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Last Wednesday, students went to the Waltham Fields Community Farm to spend the morning working outside in the community.
Today is Brandeis Garden Week’s final event, which is a cooking event with Sodexo cosponsored by HSSP and Brandeis Pluralism Alliance. The event is free for the students who are meal plans and $10 otherwise. If you would like to attend, it is not too late! The event is from 4:30 to 6:00 pm and you can sign up here.
As Brandeis Garden Week is ending, we are reminded not only how important and healthy it is to have locally grown foods, but also how much fun it is!

November 18, 2013

Russia’s Arctic Oil Rig

Filed under: News — chansen @ 6:00 pm

The Russian government and the Greenpeace organization are arguing over the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Arctic. The rig is owned by Gazprom, a Russian state-owned company. The base of the rig is so heavy that it cannot be moved, and it sits about 20 meters (66 feet) deep on a seabed.

The issue with the rig is not its structure. Instead, it is the possibility of a spill in the Arctic waters. Campaigners say that “the nature here is unique,” as the animals, such as polar bears, walruses, and narwhals, have nowhere else to go if there is a spill. The arctic ocean has two narrow entrances to the remaining oceans: one by Iceland and the other by Alaska. Therefore, there is little mixing with other seas, causing oil spills to stay in the Arctic. Also, an oil spill would be catastrophic because of the low temperatures in the north. In tropical waters, oil becomes absorbed readily by bacteria and other microorganisms. These microorganisms do not live in cold waters, so the oil would stay in the Arctic for about 100 years. Companies also do not have the technology to collect spilled oil under ice.

Gazprom claims that they have extremely safe measures intact. The rig is in shallow water, enabling the wellhead to be inside the rig. There is also a cut-off system  that offloads the oil into tanks. There are detections on the tanks to detect movement, and if there is too much movement by a factor such as ice, oil stops flowing. The company also claims that they could clean up a spill under the ice by using icebreakers. Two icebreakers are near the rig, which would enable skimmers to enter the water and clean oil if needed.

The safety measurements are not enough for Greenpeace activists, who repeatedly attempt to climb the rig in protest. By climbing the rig, the activists are creating risk to the rig’s possibility of spilling. Workers have even started to spray the rig with fire hoses while the activists attempt to climb up, but the activists claim that the use of inflatable boats and lightweight ropes deters them from being a threat.

This year, when 30 Greenpeace activists attempted to climb the rig, the FSB, Russia’s federal security service, pulled the activists off, pointed guns at them, and opened fire onto the water. The activists are now in jail with charges of “piracy as part of an organized group.” The Netherlands, where the Greenpeace ship that went to the Arctic is registered, is currently challenging the arrests with an argument of the “Convention of the Law of the Sea.”

View the full article here.

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November 13, 2013

The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the ADHD Epidemic, from The New York Times

Filed under: News — chansen @ 5:57 pm

The diagnosis of ADHD has skyrocketed over the past few decades, causing a shortage in low-dose generic medications. A large percentage of people diagnosed with the disorder likely have no neurological problems at all, and the common diagnosis is likely because of sociological factors. Parents expect more from their children which causes children to need to focus more intently.

A study was done at Michigan State University to find a genetic basis of the disorder. Using both fraternal and identical twins, researchers concluded that traits of hyperactivity and inattentiveness are highly inheritable. There are different regions of the brain where ADHD genes affect neuronal circuitry, showing that there is a physiological feature of the disorder.

Although ADHD is physiological, many patients that have the medication do not have the disorder. Policies such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education act in 1991 and the Food and Drug Administration Act in 1997 allow drug companies to market to the public. The rates of diagnosis in eastern America are also higher than the rates in the western part of the country, giving more evidence of the sociological influences that cause ADHD diagnosis.

When President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, diagnoses began to skyrocket even more. The diagnosis is on the rise because the way our societies define disorder continues to change. Schools used to punish kids who wouldn’t sit still, but now schools support these children with medications and therapy. As Joel Nigg says in the article, “When people don’t fit in, we react by giving their behavior a label, either medicalizing, criminalizing it or moralizing it.”

Medications can hurt people as well as help them, and the increasing diagnosis of ADHD may do both.

See Original Article Here

 

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