Archive for the ‘Local and Regional Environmental Issues’ Category

commencement, part II: A shout-out to John Graves

May 29, 2010

I began this summer with a book I received for Christmas. It’s called Goodbye to a River, written by John Graves and published in 1960. 1960. It may be the most contemporary account of aquatic resources I’ve ever read.

Read what Graves said about the Brazos River 50 years ago. As you read, keep in mind what my friend Kurt says about environmental issues. He says environmental issues are basically the same, but the scale and intensity differ from place to place.

From Goodbye to a River:

“And furthermore that while all the rivers may continue to flow to the sea, those who represent us in such matters will at least slow down the process by transforming them from rivers into bead strings of placid reservoirs behind concrete dams…

Bitterness? No ma’am…In a region like (insert your region here), scorched to begin with, alternating between floods and droughts, its absorbent cities quadrupling their census every few years, electrical power and flood control and moisture conservation and water skiing are praiseworthy projects. More than that, they are essential . We river-minded ones can’t say much against them — nor, probably should we want to. Nor, mostly, do we…”


Can we say much? Do we? Do I? I am trying to find my voice. Check out the following link on Alabama Aquatic Resources I spear-headed this endeavor. I’m interested to see how it will play out.


CES/APES: The world is connected

February 4, 2010

Energy Experts Say Water Use and Energy Consumption Linked, Urge Conservation

Do you know how much water it takes to light your house? How about the electricity involved in watering your prize-winning tulips? As it turns out, it’s a lot more than you’d think.

Due to expected population growth and urbanization in the United States—especially in drought-prone Western States like Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Nevada—two top energy experts at a AAAS discussion urged the federal and local governments to explore new strategies to meet nation’s burgeoning water and electricity needs.

Water and energy resources are inextricably intertwined, the experts said. Electricity generation requires a massive amount of water usage and water delivery requires energy to move into your home, and therefore conservation efforts cannot focus on a single resource.

“Without efforts exploring how we can better use water and electricity . . . business as usual will put us on a collision course with these two natural resources,” said Michael Hightower, Water for Energy project lead at Sandia National Laboratories.

For more information, read the full story.

apes: ripped from the headlines

January 5, 2010

…or should I say, headlines ripped from apes? I was at the local Chevron station on Sunday morning, buying a Diet Coke, and I looked down at the Birmingham News and guess what I saw. The front page article, just belwo the fold was about Birmingham’s current mayoral race and focused on regional cooperatoin and economic development. Sound familiar? It gets better. The first paragraph of the article compared Birmingham’s failures at reginal development to successes in Chattanooga and Denver. We talked about and wrote about these very things in our final project.

Remember what I said at the end of the year. The work we did was meaningful. The ideas and solutions you guys generated are meaningful. Use them as you move on to your next phase of learning.

BTW…the entire article is available in the followig link.

APES: The Class You Can’t Escape

December 12, 2009

Aditi brought up the Kingston, TN,  coal ash disaster  in class on Friday. I received the following email and Birmingham News report from the Cahaba River Society this afternoon. It seems air quality issues and power generation are tied to water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Who’d a thunk it? Y’all would after a semester of APES. The entire letter can be found on a a page called Kingston Mine. Untagling the connectiong in this article  could serve as another final exam for APES.

apes, week 17: PESTLE approach to air quality

November 29, 2009

This should be an exciting week. It’s time to start our final project on Birmingham air quality and Birmingham’s potential economic development.

We’ve got two weeks to work together and a 90 minute wrap-up session on the day of the final. Both weeks are about collaboration. This week is focused on getting the information on the table and framing the question. Next week will be all about writing.

Before the end of Monday, I will have a “PESTLE page” on this blog dedicated to the final project. We can put all the papers and all the bullet point documents up on the “PESTLE page”.

Monday (11/30): Finish work on Research Papers/Begin collaborating with other members of your small group.

Tuesday (12/1): Finish small group work. Develop one page synopsis available for everyone. If time: begin small group presentations (7-10 min each)

Wednesday (12/2): Small group presentations (7-10 min each)

Thursday (12/3): Framing the Question/Weekend assignments

Friday (12/4): Values and Beliefs

CES, Week 14: More Community Ecology

November 9, 2009

Okay CES, we get to spend a little more time out in Linn Park , and we will calculate the Shannon Diversity Indecx for the park. Following that you guys get a couple of flex days to work in your specialty. I will be at the National Association of Biology Teachers National Professional Development conference leading a bunch of other teachers through an aquatic mesocosm assignment. When I get back in town, we’ll finish our unit on Community Ecology and set our sites on population ecology.

Monday (9Nov09): Finish identifying trees in Linn Park

Tuesday (10Nov09): Calculating Linn Park Diversity Index

Wednesday (11Nov09); Veteran’s Day. No School.

Thursday (12Nov09): Flex Day 1

Friday The 13th: Flex Day 2

APES: Final PESTLE Project Revealed!

November 4, 2009

PESTLE Project: APES 2009

Question: How can Metro Birmingham (Jefferson/Shelby County) Alleviate Current Air Quality Problems and stimulate economic growth for the area?


1a) How is Jefferson County and Shelby County government set up?
1b) How has the lack of municipal cooperation lead to current air quality and         economic problems?
2) Is the Alabama Constitution a root cause of current air quality problems or will     anything get accomplished given our current constitution? What about the     current constitution lead to the current county and municipal     governments in     place?

3a) What are the traditional industries in Jefferson/Shelby County?
3b) How have they contributed to the current demographics of the area and     current air quality issues?
4a) What are the current economic engines in Jefferson/Shelby County?
4b)How have they contributed to the current demographics of the area and     current air quality issues?
5) How have other similar sized cities (in the SE) stimulated economic growth,             and decreased pollution?
If they haven’t decreased pollution, then what are their proposed solutions.         What barriers did those cities overcome to increase economic activity?

Follow up 1) Are there any hard numbers on the extrinsic value of smart growth     and open space? (Meaning, have there been any studies to suggest that per     capita income increases and property values increase when smart growth     occurs     and air quality improves?
Follow up 2) Technical/Scientific/Economic: What are the costs of these potential     solutions? Are they worth it?

6) Who, in the greater Metro Area is the most vulnerable to increased air     pollution and decreased economic activity?
7) Smart Growth? What is smart growth? Is it feasible in metro                 Birmingham? Is it Happening already? If so where. Are these smaller movements     scalable to other areas? What are some of the “roadblocks to smart growth?

no number) How should improvements to metro Birmingham infrastructure and     incentives for new businesses and smart growth be paid for? (this should be a     question in the room during the summit, not for research)
no number again) What role do individual consumers and power users play in     “cleaning the air” or decreasing air pollution? (should be in the room)

8) What is Birmingham’s current air quality Problem(s)?
What are the primary pollutants?
What are the causes of the pollution?
9) What are some proposed solutions for cleaning the air in birmingham?
a) Transportation? What role does transportation play in air pollution and                 air quality?
10)    b) Buildings/Homes? What role does increased building efficiency play in             cleaning the air?

11)     d) Energy Production? What is the role/what responsibilities do power             companies and energy resource providers (SONAT, ALAGASCO, Coal             producers) have in maintaining air quality?

12a)What local, state and federal laws are in place to clean decrease pollution?
12b) What local, state and federal laws “incentivise” decreased pollution and     smart     growth?
12c) Are there local ordinances in other cities that have paved the way for     economic growth?
13) What are the environmental consequences of decreased air quality?
What are the effects on our natural capital (forests, surface water,                 agricultural lands)
14) What are the effects of decreased air quality on human health (are there         any numbers on Birmingham residents?)

APES: Week 8, Community Ecology Cont.

September 27, 2009

This is the week we’ve been waiting for. We’re off to the Cahaba River for the day. During class we’ll look at a faciinating community that dwells in the leaf litter, the kryptozoa. We’ll use this community to learn how to quantify diversity and calculate a diversity index. This is good stuff.

Monday: Kryptozoa investigation 1: sorting the arthropods

Tuesday: Kyrptoza investigation 2: Identifying the krytptozoa

Wednesday: Cahaba River Field Trip, 9am – 4:35pm

Thursday: Kryptozoa investigation 3: Continue IDing the kryptozoa

Friday: Kryptozoa investigation 4: Calculating diveristy indeces for each habitat.

Air Quality Assignment 1

August 25, 2009

Check out the share point/APES lab Manual for a digital copy of our air pollution study. My plan is to teach air quality from the inside out. What the plan? Collect the data; analyze the particles; discuss how weather, climate, topography, point source and non-point source pollution affect air quality; then postulate how air quality affects our local economy and how environmental laws are enacted to protect Birmingham and surrounding county citizens.

Two links to use:


Jefferson County Department of Health