Tag Archives: Cabrillo

Good riddance to disposable plastic bags in CA

The Cabrillo Sustainability Council worked to eliminate plastic bags in 2011. Now a California statewide ban looks likely, having passed in the state legislature, though we’re still waiting for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it into law.

Learn more at Grist/CityLab:

Last month, California became the first state to pass a bill banning the ubiquitous disposable plastic bag. If signed into law, the measure will prohibit grocery and retail stores from providing single-use plastic bags and require them to charge at least 10 cents for paper bags, compostable bags, and reusable plastic bags. The bill, introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), will also provide funding for California-based plastic bag companies to develop sturdier, reusable options.

Worldwide, consumers use an estimated 1 trillion plastic bags each year—nearly 2 million a minute—with the use time of a typical bag just 12 minutes. Californians alone throw away 14 billion a year, creating 123,000 tons of waste and untold amounts of litter… [more at Grist]

Also at HuffPo.

Quick update: Jerry signed!  It goes into effect in July, unless lawsuits get in the way.


Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

If you happen to be in Singapore and you can make it by on the 30th…

The Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster of HSS cordially invite you to a seminar by Dr Michelle Merrill, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Environment and Sustainability Research Cluster. Her topic is Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know.

Details of time/venue: 30 April 2014, Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm,   HSS Meeting Room 4, Level 4 (HSS-04-71), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Education for Sustainability: What Every College Student Should Know

It is easy to find evidence for unsustainability. Almost everyone has heard about the problems (climate change, air pollution, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity loss…) and it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which multiple converging crises precipitate devastating social, economic and political shocks.  Most would agree that, even without such doomsday scenarios, solving these unsustainability crises is an obligation we have to future generations; intergenerational well-being demands that we learn to be good ancestors and leave a world that works for our descendants.  While most sustainability problems actually have solutions that could be implemented without waiting for tomorrow’s technology, the solutions are often dismissed as “not feasible,” with the clear implication that leaders in industry, government and academia do not really know how to resolve these interdependent problems.  Sustainability requires not just new technologies and industrial processes; it also requires new attitudes and mindsets, especially the ability to consider how consequences travel through interconnections in complex adaptive systems.  Colleges and universities are where tomorrow’s leaders should gain the skills to wisely address these challenges.

Education for sustainability is essential for intergenerational well-being and the long-term viability of society. It also provides an ideal platform for students to learn and apply interdisciplinary critical thinking.  This talk will investigate strategies for promoting interdisciplinary education for sustainability in tertiary education.  Concepts and pedagogies that were implemented at Cabrillo College (California, USA), and preliminary results regarding their efficacy will be addressed.  The talk will review some of the organizations and strategies for promoting professional development in education for sustainability around the world.  Plans for fostering a strong network of sustainability educators across colleges and universities centered in Southeast Asia will be presented.

Michelle Y. Merrill Biographic Sketch:

Michelle Y. Merrill (Ph.D.) studies teaching, learning, cultural evolution and culture change.  Since 2004, her focus has been on the application of those concepts to sustainability:  how we can connect with, learn from and teach one another to co-create a resilient, regenerative future.  She is particularly interested in applying principles, examples and metaphors from ecology and evolutionary biology in solving human design problems in both the social and technological arenas, especially systems thinking and biomimicry. Before embarking on her current research project on sustainability and pedagogy at NTU, she worked at a community college in California, developing sustainability-themed courses, advising student clubs, and supporting college efforts to enhance institutional and community sustainability and social justice.  She won the 2013 John D. Hurd Award for Teaching Excellence at Cabrillo College.

Dr. Merrill’s previous research was on the evolution of primate behavior, giving her a broad grounding in tropical ecology, primate and human evolution, social networks, cooperation, learning and communication.  She studied wild orangutans (Pongo abelii) on Sumatra, and bonobos (Pan paniscus) in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and at the Language Research Center (Decatur, Georgia, USA).  Her doctoral dissertation in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy from Duke University (2004) was on Orangutan Cultures: Tool Use, Social Transmission and Population Differences.  Her experiences in tropical rainforest fieldwork inform her current approach to sustainability, emphasizing the need to address social and economic development along with environmental conservation to protect and preserve endangered great apes and other species, including our own.

…Meanwhile, Happy Earth Day!

Capitola Bags the Bag

It’s time to Bag the (Plastic) Bag! Way to go, City of Capitola.

Cabrillo College: Phil Kaplan’s “Making a Difference”

A great new addition to the Great Ape Conservation info – right in my backyard, so to speak.

Cabrillo College: Phil Kaplan’s “Making a Difference”: http://www.cabrillo.edu/~pkaplan/making_a_difference.html

“We are accepting (working or not plus accessories) cellphones, iPods, MP3 Players, laptops, digital cameras, all small computer accessories, inkjet printer cartridges, energy bar wrappers (foil inside), potato chip bags and corks to help raise funds for the Orangutan Conservancy, Santa Cruz SPCA and Save Our Shores. Over 2500 cell phones, 50,000 corks, and 19,000 energy bar wrappers have been kept out of the landfill and refurbished or recycled in environmentally-safe ways through our program. They can be given to Phil. Other out-dated or unwanted electronics, including computers and TVs, can be recycled for free at Grey Bears on Chanticleer near the old Skyview Drive-Inn and Flea Market. Read about the increasingly sad plight of the Orangutan (which is Malaysian for “person of the forest”).”


Promoting Sustainable Choices at College Events

To put it as diplomatically as possible, we experienced some challenges in attempts to make a recent event more sustainable, especially in regards to the free food that was offered to community participants.  The Cabrillo Sustainability Council decided to put together a statement about how we can improve future performance on this.  I offer my contribution to that here, hoping that others can use and transform these arguments to make their own events and organizations more sustainable.

Why Cabrillo College events should emphasize sustainable choices

1)      Events like Graduation and the Social Justice Conference are some of our major opportunities to connect with the broader community that we serve.  We want to look like we are keeping up with important cultural changes in higher education.  One of the major transformations taking place on college and university campuses everywhere, particularly at some of our major transfer schools, is a shift to sustainability.  There is a broad movement in higher education institutions shifting to the use of sustainable, local and organic foods, meatless and vegan food choices, and a reduction of single-use or disposable items like bottled water.  See http://www.aashe.org/ for many examples.

2)     Cabrillo College should model what we teach in classes and at events like the Social Justice Conference and Earth Week, and strive to do better than the bare minimum in our many commitments to improve campus sustainability (including both external commitments like the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment and the Monterey Bay Area Regional Climate Action Compact, and internal commitments like the Student Senate and Inter-Club Council Sustainable Purchasing Resolution – see http://www.wiser.org/file/view/5b15399f971a04c9726f12805d48486e).  Our students will be living in the time of consequences for our current choices, and they may not forgive hypocrisy and foot-dragging in our efforts to meet these commitments.

3)     We have an opportunity to be on the leading edge of the necessary and perhaps inevitable changes in our culture toward sustainability.    The drive toward “global awareness,” “personal and professional responsibility,” “sustainability” and “a strong sense of social justice” are embedded in the Cabrillo College Vision Statement (http://www.cabrillo.edu/home/mission.html). We must not miss opportunities to demonstrate leadership in these areas.

4)     Sustainability and Social Justice are inextricably linked.  The impacts of unsustainable choices fall most heavily on the disenfranchised in our own communities, and more broadly on the global poor.  The consequences of non-organic agriculture are felt most deeply by farmworkers and nearby communities, where rates of cancer and birth defects are higher in those exposed to pesticides.  Climate change is triggering devastating floods in places like Pakistan, Brazil and Mississipi (http://climatecommunication.org/new/articles/extreme-weather/floods/).

5)     The gravest social injustice fostered by our limited commitment to improving the sustainability of our choices is to the generations that will follow us.  Cabrillo College is an institution that has endured for over five decades, and most of us hope that we will continue to serve our community for many decades to come.  We should be an institution that can take the long view, considering the consequences of our choices and actions and how they will impact the well-being of future generations in our community and across the planet.

California’s Higher-Education Disaster – The Chronicle of Higher Education

…budget cuts caused enrollment in California community colleges to decline by over 400,000 students. That’s more than the total number of undergraduates enrolled in the entire California State University system.

California’s Higher-Education Disaster – Brainstorm – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

One of the concerns I have about the way we think about higher education in this country is the question of whom it serves.  Popular rhetoric suggests that colleges are there to serve students, and the more business-minded the college administration is, the more likely they are to frame college as a place that serves students as customers, and that emphasizes student outcomes (usually in terms of graduation rates and sometimes subsequent job placement).  As teachers, we’re expected to be motivated to promote student success, and be rewarded by our interactions with students (since we certainly can’t expect to be rewarded financially in keeping with our workload and level of expertise).

Honestly, however, it’s not the individual students that we are serving.  We are serving society.  We are serving the future.  The people who have to live in the world our students create have almost as much stake in educational outcomes as our students.  They may not get the direct benefit of the improved employment opportunities, but the world that we all live in is shaped by the number of educated people, and the quality and intent of that education.  What technologies will be developed, what policies will be made, what new businesses will be created… these things are largely the domain of people with post-secondary education.

So when we get a statistic like an enrollment drop of 400,000 in California, we have to be clear that we are narrowing the idea pool for the future.   It’s not just that we’re serving 400,000 fewer “customers,” we are changing the capacity of our state to innovate.  We are responding to current budget crises by reducing our intellectual resilience as a community.

Timing the Trees (and other wonderful things)

I’ve had a terrific two days because I’ve been able to visit Judy twice!  I’m so jazzed about the idea of creating a local phenology calendar/almanac.  I found three organizations to support this: UCSB Phenology Stewardship Program, Project BudBurst, and USA National Phenology Network.  I’d like to do this as a Cabrillo-College-specific project, documenting the living things on the main Cabrillo campus (and probably expanding to Santa Cruz county, as we go along).  So we start to notice and record when the Liquidambar trees begin to turn colors, when the cherry trees bloom, when the poppies open,

when the cliff swallows arrive (usually around St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th), when the owls nest, and so many other wonderful natural events that make this such a spectacular place to live.  These are the things the Ohlone would have noticed (well, not the Liquidambar or the cherries, since those aren’t native).  They are the things that connect us to place.

I also hope that such a calendar/almanac could include all those wonderful celebrations of nature that are embedded in all cultures (well, probably, I guess I should check…).  Maybe someday, we can have a full 365 day cycle to celebrate these natural events and things ecological, like the God’s Gardeners in Margaret Atwood’s brilliant and amazing The Year of the Flood.

Judy told me that today is the Jewish New Years Day for Trees, Tu Be’Shevat, celebrated by eating dried fruits and nuts in the promise of coming plenty.  For our celebration, we ate chocolate and cherries together, and we made shide paper strips for a shimenawa I will be placing around a redwood near my home (a Shinto tradition).  We talked about the co-evolutionary braid of our early primate ancestors developing along with the angiosperms (the trees that make flowers and fruits) and insects (especially pollinators).  We also talked about the first trees we fell in love with.

Mine was a huge, sweet California buckeye, whose canopy came all the way to the ground, providing a fragrant refuge in the springs and the punishingly hot, dry summers of Concord.  I fled into its embrace often when I was a ‘tween, across the dry blonde grasses of Newhall Park, to get away from the cookie-cutter suburban landscape where I lived.  I imagined I was native to that place, having no idea what those people must have been like, but feeling closer to them and their imagined wildness than to my family or my classmates.  I read books about wolves and horses and dolphins, and I dreamed of escaping into the wilderness.

When, years later, I found myself in wilderness, in the Sumatran rainforest, trying to observe our cousins the orangutans, and illegal loggers moved into the research site and began to fell the amazing trees that were complex ecosystems unto themselves, and each day I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to cope, I vowed that I would do what I could to save all trees, all over the world.  I don’t know if I’ve done right by them, but little-by-little, I keep trying and hoping it’s making a difference.

So, thank you, Judy, for reminding me to think about the trees.  And thank you, trees, for making us all who we are.  I pledge to pay more attention to the wheel of events that mark your years here in my beautiful hometown.