As part of the History Department’s Engagement Series, we had the pleasure of meeting Wake Forest alumnus and distinguished historian, Pete Daniel. Dr. Daniel’s work covers a panoply of important cultural and historic issues from farming to civil rights and environmental degradation.
During our discussion of his book Toxic Drift: Pesticides and Health in the Post-World War II South., Dr. Daniel posited that our history with pesticides stems from the idea that nature is not good enough. This idea sparked an interesting interdisciplinary discussion that called up concepts from economics, literature, history, ethics, and civil rights. The breadth of the discussion should not have been surprising given that Daniel is a strong proponent of the liberal arts tradition and sees great value in thinking about issues across disciplinary divides.
Tu B’Shevat is not a Jewish high holiday, but at Wake Forest, it offers students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to explore a cultural tradition that celebrates shared values. This year, the multi-faceted group congregated at the Southeast corner of the new North Dining Hall to plant an Eastern Redbud tree that was generously donated by Landscaping Services.
Chanel Shulman, President of Hillel, welcomed and thanked everyone for attending the event. Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, explained Tu B’Shevat and its importance. Gail Bretan, the newly appointed Director of Jewish Life, read a poem and recited various blessings that praised God for creating the earth, preserving life, and creating the fruit of the tree. After these blessings, students and staff ate fruit and nuts, traditional foods of Tu B’Shevat.
Ph.D. student Rachel Hillyer spoke about her work at the event as well. Hillyer is currently researching migrating tree communities in the Andes, with Dr. Miles Silman, in the Biology Department. Dr. Lucas Johnston of the Religion Department spoke about the religious significance of trees around the world.
To end the event, students and staff got their hands dirty, working together to shovel soil around the tree. Due to the starting date of the spring semester, this year’s celebration of Tu B’Shevat occurred a week later than the official date of the holiday. The day was bright and cold; the celebration invited visions of an approaching spring and the splendor of the Eastern Redbud in bloom.
Contributed by Chanel Shulman ‘16
WFU Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, Megan Anderson, helped to develop the first-ever community awards program for sustainability in Forsyth Co. this fall. Anderson, who serves on the advisory council for the Winston-Salem Sustainability Resource Center, developed the program to recognize best practices and inspire others to reach for higher levels of sustainability integration.
According to Anderson, “There are many businesses, non-profits, groups, and individuals that are doing wonderful and inspiring things in our community to support sustainability. We felt that it was very important to recognize these outstanding efforts, and at the same time, help set high goals for the future of our community. Sustainability should be an integrated concept in the strategic planning for our local leaders and organizations, and we hope that this event helped spur collaborative partnerships, the sharing of best practices, and high bench-marking goals for future sustainability initiatives in Forsyth County and beyond.”
- Sustainable Business of the Year (1-50 employees): Inside Out Designs
- Sustainable Business of the Year (51+ employees): Wexford Development LLC of Winston-Salem
- Sustainable Non-Profit of the Year: Triad Community Kitchen
- Spirit of the Community (Individual or Group): Marcus Wright, Director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectroscopy Labs of the Chemistry Department for Wake Forest University
- Honorable Mentions: Gallins Family Farm, Betty and Jim Holmes Food Bank Garden, Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind, and Old Salem Gardens of Old Salem
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
Twenty-seven undergraduate students from diverse disciplines attended the first-ever Social Impact Career Workshop, co-sponsored by the Office of Personal & Career Development, Service & Social Action, My Journey, and the Office of Sustainability.
Part one of a three-part series, the workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback through student evaluations. “It really opened my eyes to the myriad of options,” commented one student. “[The workshop] taught me about the ‘next step,’” noted another attendee.
During the first half of the event, Dr. Katharine Brooks, Executive Director of Personal and Career Development, led students through a self-reflection and planning exercise. The group then heard from a professional panel that included Dr. Ananda Mitra, Professor and Chair of Communication; Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, WFU Director of Sustainability; Ryan Lesley (’06, MBA ‘14), former Peace Corps volunteer and co-president of WFU Net Impact; and Alex Tsuji (MBA ’14), secretary of WFU Net Impact. After brief introductions from each panelist, students had the opportunity to ask questions. The discussion reflected interests that ranged from local to global issues and spanned sectors from non-governmental to corporate.
Former Wake Forest Fellow Annabel Lang (’12) developed the idea for the workshop while working with EcoReps, a peer sustainability education program of the Office of Sustainability. With an increasing number of Wake Forest students gaining sustainability-related experience through curricular and extracurricular endeavors, she saw a need to bridge the gap between these undergraduates’ experiences and their future professional lives.
Part two of the Social Impact Careers Workshop will take place Tuesday, January 15th, 2014 at 5:00PM. In this next installation, students will learn how to “pitch” their experiences, passions, and skills to potential employers. Additionally, attendees will learn how to take advantage of the upcoming Job & Internship Fair, on-campus opportunities for gaining social impact experience, job search resources, and networking strategies. To participate in part two, students should register through the DeaconSource calendar. It is not necessary to have participated in part one, in order to participate in part two.
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator
If you take a look at your hands, your wrists, or your neck, you will likely see something special, precious even. It is quite dense, glows with an almost aura-like quality, and, as of press time, costs about $1,350 an ounce. The material – gold – is familiar to all of us. Less known, however, is how it gets to us and the role of another unique metal in that process. Liquid Mercury, a toxic substance that has been phased out of equipment and processes in the US over many years, is essential to artisanal gold mining in much of the world.
On October 16th, Luis Fernandez the director of the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Ecosystem Project visited Wake Forest for a lecture on the use of mercury in artisanal, or manual gold mining and its impacts on the environment and people of the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Madre de Dios is a region of eastern Peru extending into the Amazon basin and is marked by some of the most intensive artisanal gold mining activity in South America.
The process of gold mining in the Amazon is much as it was a few hundred years ago here in the US. Water cannons are used to wash away the topsoil from small areas of forest, a few hundred feet square. This leads to extensive deforestation; a new study from Greg Asner, also with the Carnegie Institute, determined that over 120,000 acres have been deforested for gold mining in Madre de Dios and small artisanal mines have become the main culprit. After removing the vegetation and topsoil, the pay dirt is then washed through equipment to separate the gold by gravity. The problem with the pay dirt in Peru, and other areas where artisanal gold mining is common, is that the gold is present only in small flakes, not the stereotypical nuggets. So, miners use mercury to bind the small flakes of gold and concentrate them, separating the gold from other sediments. In the end, the mercury is burned off, releasing it into the atmosphere and environment. This mercury finds its way into soil and rivers, where it is slowly accumulated in crops and fish, contaminating some of the only reliable sources of food in the region.
Fernandez’s research focuses on identification of mercury contamination in fish and people in the region and his latest work has produced alarming information: over 60% of fish sold in markets in Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios, are contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury and 78% of people in Puerto Maldonado had unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies. Even worse, the most vulnerable population, women of childbearing age, had the highest mercury levels at 3 times the safe amount.
So, with all this bad news we ask ourselves, what can be done? What are the long-term effects on these populations? What are the long-term effects on the environment? Can the contaminated areas be reforested and, if so, how can it be done? Can the demand for gold be reduced so that it is not profitable for these small-scale, mostly illegal operations to persist? The answers to many of these questions are still unknown. There are currently few identified major health effects due to the low but chronic exposure to mercury, but cryptic effects such as decreased intelligence in children are being identified. Methods of removing mercury from the environment on a large scale are in their infancy and the gold mines are small but spread across a vast area, further complicating restoration efforts. What is known, however, is that if consumers demand safely and responsibly mined gold, as has been done with diamonds, or if they simply demand less gold, artisanal gold mining activity and the damage it causes will fade.
Contributed by Max Messinger
This coming April, Wake Forest will host our inaugural Champions of Change award ceremony.
In March, we will accept nominations for awards that honor sustainability through:
- resource conservation (energy, water, or waste reduction),
- academics (teaching, research, engaged learning),
- service and social action, and
- bright ideas (innovative ideas that have been or could be implemented).
We look forward to hearing about the work of all the inspiring change agents across campus.
Just as fall started to peek its vibrant head around the corner, I ventured over to the music city with Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, Director of Sustainability, and Megan Anderson, Manager of Waste Reduction and Recycling, to attend the 2013 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference.
This year, the annual conference, which moves around the nation, attracted over 1,700 attendees. Held in the new Music City Center in downtown Nashville, a LEED silver-certified guitar shaped conference center, the energy of the city reverberated in conference attendees, including me.
As only a second-year attendee, it was an exciting opportunity to indulge in the visionary ideas presented by internationally acclaimed sustainability leaders, including Raj Patel and George Bandy, to attend a few thought-provoking workshops, and to connect with colleagues from around the world.
Members of the Southeastern Sustainability Coordinators Network congregated for dinner one evening at a local hotspot in revitalized East Nashville. It was nice to reconnect with other sustainability professionals and to meet some faculty and students from the region, who are not typically involved in the network’s regular meetings.
AASHE 2013 was also a bright reminder of the impact higher education makes in the development of a more sustainable world. With universities the size of towns and university systems larger than entire states, operational changes for sustainability translate to multi-scalar resource conservation and policy development opportunities. Curricular and co-curricular commitments to education for sustainability generate change agents with the necessary critical thinking and leadership skills to lead the societal transformation.
As a silver rated campus in AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System, Wake Forest embodies these opportunities: our students and faculty are developing and applying research that is stimulating change at home and in the places they work around the world. Our commitment to Pro Humanitate through service and social action demonstrates our leadership for the betterment of humanity. WFU’s influence in the field was evident to conference attendees as Dedee was the master of ceremony for the conference and co-lead both pre-conference and conference workshops.
What boost of energy the conference-catered coffee failed to provide, our colleagues offered through shared stories, new ideas, and inspired laughs. After all, if a conference in the music city doesn’t make you come back with a little honky tonk in your sustainability step, then maybe you should keep on walking.
By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator
“When you die, God will not ask you how old the earth is. He will ask you ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’”
In celebration of World Food Day, the WFU Divinity School’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative and the WFU Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability hosted Richard Cizik for a discussion of what some refer to as creation care, or a scriptural call to care for God’s creation.
Cizik served for ten years as Vice President for Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, the top staff position in the organization. In a 2008 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” he expressed support for addressing climate change and sparked a national uproar within the evangelical movement. Soon thereafter, he was discharged from his post.
In his work as the president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Cizik is now empowered to address the interconnections between food, poverty, and climate change. He references Bob Doppelt’s book, The Power of Sustainable Thinking in saying that we cannot be good stewards of creation without understanding the systems that surround us. Global hunger is not simply a matter of inadequate distribution: floods, draught, poverty, the subjugated roles of women, and regressive global economic and agricultural policies all play a role in the inability of families and communities to access food.
According to Cizik, food and climate have become two of the most important issues to young evangelical voters. He believes that leadership on these issues requires bold action and a commitment to morally just behavior. In the conversion from climate denial to climate action, he witnesses a deny-deliberate-do-defend cycle. He sees more and more faith leaders making the conversion and answering the call to action because it is aligned with their intrinsic biblical values.
By Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, Director of Sustainability
A diverse academic audience was prescribed a remedy for some of the defining environmental issues of the century when Winona LaDuke, American Indian political activist and founding co-director of Honor the Earth, spoke at Wake Forest in late September.
LaDuke’s heritage and experience – founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project in her Anishinaabe homelands in Minnesota, co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, former board member of Greenpeace USA, and two-time national office vice presidential candidate – provided a unique landscape for her lecture entitled “To Honor the Spirit of the Earth: Contemporary Indigenous Approaches to Sustainable Economies.” Ulrike Wiethaus, professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies, says “Winona LaDuke is a global leader and spokesperson in environmental sustainability. She offers a perspective and depth of knowledge that is rarely heard on our campus.”
LaDuke outlined what she identifies as the three most important issues regarding sustainability: climate change, peak oil, and food insecurity. She went on to describe how the current American view on sustainability and the environment is both flawed and unsustainable, saying “It seems like people don’t want to stick around for another 1000 years.” Rather than making viable public policy, we simply clean up the messes we make. She explained to the audience that Americans have an addiction, and that we partake in extreme behaviors, including fracking and mountaintop removal, in order to feed this addiction.
By highlighting various flaws she sees in our economy and the catastrophic consequences of our current behaviors, she urged the audience to spring into action, describing the changes she implemented in her own community: eating local foods, using renewable energy, and increasing the biodiversity of her crops. She emphasized that if her community, which has high rates of poverty, incarceration, and chronic illness, can do it, then the Wake Forest community can too. “You could sit here and pretend that someone else is going to do it. But as my culture says, ‘you are either at the table or on the menu.”
LaDuke’s lecture was a wake-up call for several attendees. As Dr. Wanda Balzano, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program articulated, “Not only is Winona LaDuke a role model for many women who are fighting for social justice, but she is also one of the most important voices of our time as an environmentalist, as an inspirational author, and as a feminist and political activist.” Her presentation will hopefully incite change in our Wake Forest community, and inspire us to plan for the next seven generations in everything that we do.
By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer
WFU was the host site for the Piedmont Triad Green Roof & Wall Market Development Symposium in mid-September. The conference, which was organized by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in partnership with the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (CEES), brought experts from around the state and across the country together to display the newest green roof and wall technologies as well as to discuss the benefits of living architecture and how to advance the field.
Learn more about the symposium from the Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability website.