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Tufts Student Studies Sustainability and Food Systems in Italy

PERUGIA, Italy — “So many people told me that the most important thing I could do at Tufts would be to study abroad. Tufts really focuses on intercultural communication and awareness,” said Alex Cherry from his seat at a café in the center of Perugia, Italy. Alex is pursuing a Dual Major in International Relations and Environmental Studies at Tufts University, though he is currently studying abroad through the Food & Sustainability Studies Program (FSSP) at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program in Italy.

At Tufts, Alex says that his educational background has had a focus on the science and policy of environmental studies, while at Umbra “the focus has been more on cultural identity and the contrasting ways that different societies produce and consume food.” Umbra’s FSSP is a curricular concentration that applies an interdisciplinary approach to the study of food and sustainability in order to discover how the individual, the community, and society relate to food in Italy, America, and elsewhere. As part of the program, Alex has taken courses in the history and culture of food, sustainability and food production, and the business of wine.

A key characteristic of the FSSP is that all courses include a series of co- and extra-curricular activities as a supplement to topics discussed in class. To develop a deep understanding of various food production processes, Alex has spent his semester cooking an antique Roman recipe in Florence; exploring an ancient pharmacy to learn about the medicinal characteristics of food; touring multiple, family-run, organic wineries and cheese producers; working in a synergistic garden; and visiting local farmers’ markets. He has also had the opportunity to go truffle- hunting in the hills of Umbria and discuss organic agriculture with Matteo Bartolini, a lobbyist for the European Agricultural Commission for Sustainable Agricultural Reform. When asked what he thought of the flurry of community engagement activities that filled his semester, Alex responded, “What’s the point of being a student? Why am I studying? It is so that I can be trained in a professional way so that I can go and do something for the community that I am a part of.”

In addition to his courses within the FSSP, Alex chose to compliment his semester studies with CESP 351: Fair Trade Practices: Seminar and Practicum. During the course’s practicum, Alex works in a local fair trade shop and assists with the advertisement of events that promote fair trade concepts to the locals of Perugia. He commented that the shop’s community is welcoming to volunteers of all backgrounds, including locals with mental or physical disabilities. “The whole ethos of what they do is making sure that everyone is getting what they deserve, to create a community space,” said Alex as he described how the fundamentals of fair trade translate into the shop’s community. During the seminar portion of the course, the class reviews the impact of fair trade on both local and global economies, the place for fair trade inside the global market, and the role of the World Fair Trade Organization. Readings and discussions offer comparative analysis of Italian and American perspectives on global markets and the complexities of communicating such a topic across cultures.

As he ended his conversation with Umbra staff, Alex explained that he feels it is important for students of an interdisciplinary field, such as food and environmental studies, to learn to have a well-rounded perspective that discounts neither science nor culture and history. He concluded saying, “I am really glad that I got to see both the Italian and American perspective [on food systems] at the same time and in the same place.”

About Food & Sustainability Studies at the Umbra Institute:

The Food & Sustainability Studies Program is an interdisciplinary curricular concentration at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food & Sustainability Studies Program, contact the associate director of the Program, Zachary Nowak (znowak@umbra.org). You can also watch a short video describing studying at the Umbra Institute.

Overcoming Road Blocks to Addressing Climate Change

 

In February, Tina Woolston, the Program Director of the Office of Sustainability, attended the Second Nature 2017 Presidential Climate Leadership Summit to represent Tufts. President Monaco signed the Commitment on Earth Day of April 2016, making the university a charter signatory. I sat down to talk with her about her experience and reflect on how the office and Tufts can incorporate the insights gathered at the conference.

We began our conversation with some of the more novel ideals she gathered from various talks and workshops. These included:

It is evident that the world needs to take action and make change now to prevent catastrophic damage to the environment and irrevocable harm to the human species.

Tina heard a recurring theme throughout the conference of the ways democracy and civic engagement are vital to the environmental movement, and how this is an opportunity for universities, including Tufts, “to teach students how to be effective civil agents” as well as for faculty to inform policy as unbiased experts. David Orr, Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College on Sustainability and the Environment, a speaker at the conference, warned that we are facing a “challenge to the fabric of democracy right now.” He explains that democracy needs to be functional and robust for climate action to succeed, which is very difficult in a time of the fake news and alternative facts that encourage inaction nationwide. The President of George Washington University, Steven Knapp, described the importance of restoring a focus on the state of democracy and civics. Sustainability in higher education concerns the effective connection between environmentalism, social issues, and civic engagement as a mobilizing force.

Tufts has a long history of valuing civic engagement from Fletcher School Alum Peter Ackerman’s International Center for Nonviolent Conflict which teaches about activism through the history of nonviolent protests to the Tisch Scholars’ Foundations class on civic engagement techniques. Tina also mentioned the potential for future workshops and symposiums to find common ground and support networks in the Tufts community that will bridge divides of movements, from human rights, to social justice, to global health, to security, to the environment and climate change, as they are all connected. In fact, the most effective climate messaging discusses impacts to human quality of life, not necessarily sustainability or the environment, which can be seen as only affecting a limited amount of people in another time or place.

Tina also saw a presentation about how Princeton University strengthened its sustainability ethos by creating a 30 year campus plan that is informed by its sustainability plan and its comprehensive utility plan.  During the planning process Princeton started each conversation about its priorities with a look at the desired impact the planners wished to have outside of the university environment. This led to planning that incorporated a reduction in environmental footprint, prioritization of environmentally related research to influence policy, and creating university policies to protect and stand up for those impacted by environmental degradation.

The Silver Lining for Climate in Politically Uncertain Times

Content based on the 150th Environmental Studies Lunch and Learn given to professors, staff, and students at Tufts University. Every week during the academic year, the Lunch & Learn lecture series features speakers from government, industry, academia and non-profit organizations to give presentations on environmental topics. This is a great opportunity to broaden your knowledge beyond the curriculum, meet other faculty and students and network with the speakers.
Students, faculty, staff, and members of the community are welcome to attend this lecture series, which is co-sponsored by the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Tisch College of Civic Life.
Climate Strategy During the Trump Years
Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

The presidency of Donald Trump poses significant uncertainty about the extent to which the United States will continue to make progress on addressing climate change. Ken Kimmell will explore how the incoming administration might rollback policies that have been put in place to address climate change, and make it more difficult for future administrations to address the issue. He will also discuss the progress that is being made in states and regions of the country and the improving economics of clean energy. He will highlight the strategies that the Union of Concerned Scientists and others are likely to employ to limit the damage to our climate objectives and build upon the progress that is being made.

Like many of us, Ken Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)—a leading science-based nonprofit that combines the knowledge and influence of the scientific community with the passion of concerned citizens to build a healthy planet and a safer world—see the “dark cloud” surrounding the new political climate; however, Mr. Kimmell is hopeful that its “silver lining” will come in the form of positive change from the people.

In his talk at Alumnae Lounge this March, Ken discussed the darkness in terms of threatened democracy and a “very confused citizenry.” The new administration has been riddled by what Mr. Kimmell refers to as a “factless presidency,” upheld by “alternative facts” and dominated by the belief that climate change is a hoax. Meanwhile, Congress is increasingly captive to special interests that wish to deregulate industries and thwart protection of the environment and human health. And, every day an increasing amount of fake news is published in the media, leading the public to lose trust in the institutions of media, government, and academia to try to “separate fact from fiction.”

At the same time, climate change continues to be a reality faced by many. The Paris Agreement, a global agreement between 197 signatory countries to address and reduce climate change, makes ambitious goals for the US. Kimmell explains that this agreement has not been ratified through the Senate and with the new administration’s determination to repeal and prevent climate policy, it will be a great challenge to meet the goals set by the Paris agreement. The administration’s “scorched earth” tactics to dismantle comprehensive climate policy create a long lasting impact on the viability of climate policy which, along with the government “censorship of science,” have created what Mr. Kimmell refers to as “Climate Denial 3.0,” in which people do not argue whether or not climate change exists, but instead feel that this determination and proceeding action cannot be made before further “debate and dialogue.” There is a real possibility more funding will be granted to the fringe theories in this “continuing debate,” creating propaganda that sows doubt instead productively of creating policy upheld by data collected on climate change by the federal government for over 20 years.

While it may seem a bleak future for the climate movement, Kimmell sees a silver lining in “opportunities to resist, build power, broaden the environmental movement, and revitalize it.” He observes that with “lightning speed, resistance is forming.” People are ready and organizing to mobilize, protect, and expose injustice in changes to federal policy. He also sees the court room as a safety net built into our government, as its decisions and actions are based in factual evidence for actions taken. While the federal government is lagging behind in climate leadership, many cities and states are taking initiative to create climate strategies and goals for increased reliance on renewable energy, clean energy job creation, carbon pricing, cap and trade, zoning codes that encourage smart growth, diversion of food waste, and investment in public transport.

With all this to contend with, what can we do as residents, citizens, students, and academics? Kimmell advises us to lead by example within our institutions, mentioning as an example UCS’s recent divestment from fossil fuels. Another way to make change is to join local movements of resistance and get more civically engaged, contacting your member of congress and local representatives. There are also national opportunities to stand up in resistance, including the March for Science—focusing on how science and academia can publish, communicate, and engage to reach the groups who need their help—and the People’s Climate March—working to acknowledge the issues of climate, justice, and jobs—both of which are coming up at the end of April.

We have the power to make our voices heard on climate change—a truly nonpartisan issue that “reaches across all people, animals, and landscapes,” and impacts disproportionately the health and security of low-income communities and communities of color. It is important that the environmental movement work with environmental justice communities to elevate the priority of climate change and resist deliberate inaction and oppression collectively.

 

Mystic Mural Environmental Education Coordinator, Somerville Arts Council (Somerville, MA)

Applicant will work with Arts Council director and Mystic Mural project director to coordinate and lead fieldtrips and explorations focused on the Mystic River and local environs. This contract work will provide experiential learning environment for teen-age youth participating in the Mural project. Applicant will lead trips and/or coordinate with other local environmental leaders to lead trips. Topics to address are: flora/fauna, environmental justice, invasive species, water quality, and historical commerial and industry uses of the river. For more information and images go to: http://www.somervilleartscouncil.org/mysticmural

Scope of Service:

  • Present experiential workshops to youth about the Mystic River and its environs
  • Collaborate with Mural Artist to implement the environmental component of Mystic Mural program
  • Collaborate with other agencies and specialists to enrich the youth muralists’ experience and knowledge; help lead fieldtrips
  • Adapt and implement ane xisting 10-topic questionnaire/evaluation to use as a pre/post assessment for the program
  • Complete a program review narrative

Seeking applicant who has environmental education experience working with youth. This is NOT a position to support the design and painting of the mural, but rather to support environmental education component of the summer project. Contract ideal for teacher or others seeking a fun, enjoyable short contract for July.

Compensation:

Teaching/On-site: 5 hrs/day x 8 days x $20/hr= $800

Plan/prep/evaluation: 10 hrs x $20/hr=                   $200

Total compensation =                      $1000

Timeline:

2017 program year will start Monday, July 10th and continue for 3-4 weeks.

To apply:

Please send short email letter outlining experience and attached resume. Send to: Gregory Jenkins, gjenkins@somervillema.gov

30 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Month at Tufts

As we shift out of our winter hibernation and spring graces us with its sunny rays, it is time to celebrate Earth Month. The month of April, surrounding the main event—Earth Day on the 22nd—is a reminder to pay close attention on our environmental impact, remind ourselves of the ways we can make a positive difference, and join movements to protect our communities from the burden of environmental degradation and climate change. Here are some ways we can all reduce our impacts and reconnect with the environment:

  1. Bring your reusable water bottle with you to rehydrate on the go. You can find hydration stations on the Eco-Map.
  2. Turn the lights off when you leave your room.
  3. Get a coffee in a reusable mug at cafés on campus including The Rez, Brown and Brew, and Commons and receive a discount!
  4. Reduce food waste – Only take what you can eat in the dining centers.
  5. Eat meatless on Mondays  – the Eco-Reps are in the dining centers every Monday night from 5pm-7pm.
  6. Donate unwanted clothes to the Eco-Reps Earth Day clothing swap.
  7. Participate in Zero waste week with the Eco Reps.
  8. Recycle – Take our recycling quiz and see if you know what should go in the new mixed recycling bins!
  9. Attend an Earth Month event.
  10. Volunteer with the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative to divert more of Tufts’ food waste and feed people who need it.
  11. Learn about one of Tufts’ LEED-certified spaces.
  12. Fill out our Green Office Certification checklist and receive a plaque recognizing your office’s sustainability efforts. Click here to see the list of offices that are already certified.
  13. Carpool, vanpool, bike, walk, or take public transit to work instead of driving.
  14. Head to the Bike Fix-It Station near the Campus Center to pump up your tires before you head out.
  15. Say hello to your Eco-Reps and Eco-Ambassadors.
  16. Bring your own place setting to events serving food instead of using disposable dishware.
  17. Register your bike with TUPD.
  18. Plug your electric items into a power strip and turn off the strip when you aren’t using it to save energy.
  19. Remember to bring your reusable bags when you head to the grocery store.
  20. Get your hands in the dirt with Tom Thumb’s Student Garden.
  21. Take shorter showers.
  22. Turn the heat down a few degrees when you go to bed at night and snuggle up with fuzzy socks and an extra blanket instead.
  23. Wash your laundry in cold water to preserve their colors and save the energy spent on heating the water.
  24. Recycle your e-waste—like batteries, broken headphones, and ink cartridges—in the bins located in your residence hall. If you are not sure where the closest bin is, ask your Eco-Rep.
  25. Terracycle your energy bar wrappers and chip bags at on-campus locations shown on our Eco-Map.
  26. Download the Eco-Map to learn about sustainability resources on the Medford/Somerville campus.
  27. Download the Bike Guide for more info on cycling resources on the Medford/Somerville campus.
  28. Learn about sustainable transportation options with the Boston & Grafton commuter brochures.
  29. Attend an Environmental Studies Lunch & Learn.
  30. Subscribe to the Sustainability at Tufts newsletter.

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