Archive for May, 2012

May 25, 2012

We’ll be Back!

Hi lovely readers!

As you’ve surely noticed by now, the HarvardREP blog has gone dormant for a bit given our current preoccupation with summer endeavors. However, we might try and rustle up a few guest posts from others in the REP office, and regardless, we promise to return in the fall with lots of exciting new updates and (hopefully) entertaining anecdotes from the wild and wacky world of environmental science and sustainable resource use!

May 7, 2012

Weighing In on the Ethics of Meat Consumption

ghg cow
We’ve discussed meat consumption and the connection to climate change in our previous post here. The New York Times recently raised the topic and asked their readers to compete in an essay contest answering the question, how or why is it ethical to eat meat?

The best essay –  as judged by renowned food critics or writers Peter Singer, Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Andrew Light – has been posted here, and you can read the six finalist essays at this link. The winning essay based on reader participation and polling is a piece titled, “I’m About to Eat Meat for the First Time in 40 years”, by Ingrid Newkirk, in which she discusses her decision to consume in vitro meat only.

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May 7, 2012

So said the Lorax…

The new movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s book The Lorax may have brought back fond memories of a childhood classic. The story of a young boy and his adventures in the land where “Grickle-grass” grows carries a somber but important environmental message. CBS New York’s Kyle Ayers wrote a short article on the eco-loving theme of this favorite children’s tale: check it out here!

May 5, 2012

College Students with a Water Shortage

….Sorry, Class of 2040…

May 4, 2012

You can’t hunt what doesn’t exist

People have different opinions about the ethics of hunting. But this is a message that both sides can agree on: you can’t hunt what doesn’t exist anymore. This axiom has led to major conservation efforts on the part of hunters over the years.

Now, we have to apply this knowledge to an animal who seldom needs any help: the lion. Wild lion populations have dropped by 50% in the past three decades primarily due to unsustainable trophy hunting. 64% of lion trophies traded between 1998 and 2008 were shipped to the United States.

Hunters tend to target big, charismatic looking males. Unfortunately, when a male dies, his pride is left without a male head and becomes unstable. Younger males kill each other for dominance as well as the young cubs sired by the previous male.

In order to prevent imports of lion trophies, the US is considering putting lions on the Endangered Species List. Even if they don’t, we’re urging everyone who reads this blog: if you hunt, think critically about what you hunt; the supplies are not unlimited!

May 3, 2012

Follow the warming clues

How do we know the world’s getting warmer?

Follow the clues…

May 2, 2012

Why we can’t depend on desalination

Sometimes people ask why saving water is so important. They acknowledge that it saves money, but if you have the money to spend, why not use it as you want? After all, with the process of desalination — a process that removes salt from marine water to convert it to drinkable fresh water — we humans will be able to generate lots of drinking water for years to come.


It’s a nice thought. Desalination does have a potential role to play in the future of our water supply, but there are some problems. First of all, it’s incredibly expensive. The money it takes to desalinate water vs filter fresh water for drinking is a ratio of 13/4.

What’s more, desalination is not an ideal environmental solution. Yes, it produces fresh water…but it also produces a ton of salt! And that salt does not end up on your dinner table, but in the ecologies of lots of sensitive marine organisms. In 1999, 55,000 invertebrates and 78,000 fish were killed as a result of desalination plants.

So…keep turning off the tap and the hose. For now, we still haven’t found any magical solution to the water problem.

A desalination plant. Not the ideal solution.

May 1, 2012

Which Tree’s the Greenest?

Planting virtually any kind of tree is going to help remove some CO2 from the atmosphere. But are some trees especially good at helping us improve our carbon balance?

Yes, it turns out. In fact, there are a couple things to consider, according to Earth Talk, from The Environmental Magazine.

Choose Low-Maintenance Trees to Maximize Carbon Absorption
Dave Nowak, a researcher at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Syracuse, New York has studied the use of trees for carbon sequestration in urban settings across the United States. A 2002 study he co-authored lists the Common Horse-chestnut, Black Walnut, American Sweetgum, Ponderosa Pine, Red Pine, White Pine, London Plane, Hispaniolan Pine, Douglas Fir, Scarlet Oak, Red Oak, Virginia Live Oak and Bald Cypress as examples of trees especially good at absorbing and storing CO2. Nowak advises urban land managers to avoid trees that require a lot of maintenance, as the burning of fossil fuels to power equipment like trucks and chainsaws will only erase the carbon absorption gains otherwise made.

Plant Any Tree Appropriate for Region and Climate to Offset Global Warming
Ultimately, trees of any shape, size or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and perhaps easiest way for individuals to help offset the CO2 that they generate in their everyday lives is to plant a tree…any tree, as long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.