Eye on Earth

Understanding Urban Eutrophication

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When you think about the primary sources of water pollution, you probably imagine a factory pipe or perhaps massive livestock farms. But would you believe that your quiet neighborhood could be degrading water quality locally and downstream?

That was the topic of the season finale of Institute on the Environment's Frontiers in the Environment lecture series on Wednesday, May 12, on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.

Biofuels and the Fiction of the Average Farm

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BY JOHN SHEEHAN

Several years ago, Gevo Inc., which operates a biorefinery in Luverne, Minn., approached the University of Minnesota with what seems like an obvious question: How sustainable is the corn it uses in its southwestern facility?
 
I say "obvious" because almost everyone (experts and nonexperts alike) thinks they already know the answer. It seems like we take it for granted that fuels and chemicals made from corn are a "bad idea" because of corn's apparently large carbon footprint, which Argonne National Lab estimates to be 371 grams CO2 per kilogram of corn harvested on average in the U.S.

Accolades for Acara

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With its innovative work to encourage impact entrepreneurship around the world, we've always had a hunch the Acara program is something special. That hunch got some solid affirmation recently when Acara won the C. Eugene Allen Award for Innovative International Initiatives (III Award) from the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance. The award recognizes faculty and staff who internationalize their work or the work of their department. The recipients receive an award trophy and a $2,500 professional development or program assistance stipend.

Adventures on the Frontiers of Carbon Reduction

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04-30-Hamilton.jpgEnvironmentalists in the United States have long pushed for reductions in carbon emissions. Now, it seems the era of carbon regulation may be upon us.

But implementing these complex regulations is complicated and takes place at both the federal and state levels. This was the topic of Fresh Energy science policy director J. Drake Hamilton's Frontiers in the Environment lecture last Wednesday, April 30 on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.

Leaders Are Made, Not Born

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"Leaders aren't born, they are made," said revered football coach Vince Lombardi. That's the guiding principle behind the Boreas Leadership Program, a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. Boreas offers leadership development opportunities to graduate, professional and postdoctoral students from all University colleges. 

Boreas seeks to develop the next generation of social and environmental leaders -- those who will tackle the tough challenges facing the world today -- through skills workshops, networking and mentoring events (the weekly Boreas Booyah!), and participation on a student advisory board. 

"Boreas programming complements a traditional graduate education and helps develop the kinds of leaders we need in the transition to a more sustainable world. Boreas students move beyond the University as stronger communicators and better-networked leaders ready to jump into making an impact," says Boreas program director Kate Knuth. "It's exciting to see what they're up to and where they're going."

Paddle Forward: Mississippi River

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BY ELIZABETH JUST

Last fall, 10 other people and I paddled more than 2,000 miles in canoes. Our trip was called Paddle Forward, and we were on a mission to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. I've been paddling for years but mostly in wilderness areas such as the Boundary Waters. While I love these places and enjoy the quiet time alone in nature, recreating on local waterways brings a new appreciation to the place you live. 

I spent the majority of college learning about environmental issues surrounding climate change, such as energy usage, water depletion, resource extraction and decreases in biodiversity. Alone, secluded in serene wilderness, you are less likely to think about difficult climate issues. However, while paddling a river that more than 50 cities depend on for daily water supply, you can't escape noticing the effects humans have on the fourth largest watershed in the world.  

I became interested in sustainability issues after I took an off-campus course from HECUA that opened my eyes to the many environmental challenges we face today. After completing the HECUA course, I immediately signed up for the sustainability studies minor, housed at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, to dive even deeper into the complexity of these issues. The minor furthered my knowledge on sustainability topics and provided the necessary tools to think critically about complex environmental systems. I also thrived in the experiential learning environment provided by the minor. I graduated in 2012 from the College of Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences with a B.S. in environmental science and policy management. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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