Last week the USDA released a new report on climate change and agriculture in the United States.

USDA report

Combining professional input and scientific research from the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private sectors, this peer-reviewed study provides an extensive overview of the climate change effects on U.S. agricultural production, suggesting that while farmers and ranchers have a long history of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of projected climate change effects over the next century requires major adjustments—simply put, we need to take action to moderate those effects in the United States, and worldwide.

This report is interesting as it addresses the need for adaptation and includes a healthy dose of sustainable agriculture practices as recommendations. What will conventional ag producers in the Heartland states think of such recommendations?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this new report from the USDA.

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Yesterday I took a call from a reporter who wanted to know if the way we talk about Climate Change in the Heartland is different now because of the drought and record breaking temperatures across the nation.

It seems a recent University of Texas at Austin poll shows a jump between March and July in the percentages of Americans – particularly among Republicans and Independents and especially in the South – who say they “think that global climate change is occurring.”

Nationally, 70 percent of poll respondents this month said they think climate change is happening, compared to 65 percent in March, while the percentage saying they don’t think it is occurring dropped from 22 to 15 percent.

My answer seemed to surprise her.

We don’t really spend a lot of time talking about climate change. WHAT – you don’t spend time talking about climate change? What kind of environmental organization are you?

Well…..

One that’s committed to encouraging energy conservation, an easy task in the Heartland where people are frugal minded (who wouldn’t want to save money on their energy bills) and faithful (we should all be good stewards of the earth).

One that focuses on the economic impact wind energy has had in this region, while advocating for clean energy policies in Kansas, throughout the Southwest Power Pool and across the United States.

One that’s less interested in debating the science of climate change and more interested in finding ways to reduce carbon emissions in real time.

We believe there is common ground to be found in the energy conversations happening in the Heartland.

Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director, Climate + Energy Project

An interesting blog post over at wired.com suggests “Before the Lights Go Out” by Maggie Koerth-Baker as a worthy summer read. I think it’s a great day when a book about climate change, energy policy, and the grid is not only recommended as a fun summer read but also begins the intro with the Climate + Energy Project! Read an excerpt from the introduction below:

“Climate change is a lie.” The man leaned back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. “Climate change is a lie,” he said again. “It’s just something made up by environmentalists to scare us.”

I heard this story a few years after it actually happened, from EileA great read on climate change and energy policyen Horn, one of the environmentalists who watched this man’s speech from the other side of a two-way mirror. At the time, Horn and her colleagues were about to launch a new nonprofit organization called the Climate and Energy Project (CEP), an environmental activism group based in the state of Kansas. The man was a partici

pant in one of a series of focus groups that the CEP had put together in Wichita. The idea behind the focus groups: don’t be stupid….

…Yet Horn remembered that man, specifically, because he changed her outlook on the world. In a way, he changed her life. Not because of his position on climate change, but because of what she learned about him—and other people like him—as the focus group continued.

“No matter how the conversation started, whether they believed in climate change or not, the discussion always, eventually, turned to energy solutions,” she told me. “And when it did, it turned out that this guy drove a hybrid car and had changed all his lightbulbs out to CFLs.”

Now that is surprising information. It surprised Horn, too. Like many people who might describe themselves as “green,” Horn thought of climate change as an idea you had to accept before you’d be willing to care about energy change. Before the focus group, she saw climate and energy as a couple of nested boxes. Open the alternative energy box, and you’d find a box full of climate change fears inside. She was wrong.

“We came away with multiple examples where people who didn’t believe in climate change were taking action anyway for other rea- sons,” Horn said. “A lot of it was energy security and also conserva- tion, which is just an ethic that we have in the Midwest. Prudence came up a lot, with people saying, ‘Well, even if we aren’t sure, maybe we should take action just in case.’ One thing that was said in all groups was, ‘We need another Apollo project,’ this fiercely nationalistic response where even if we don’t believe in global warming, we still want to lead the world in fuel-efficient vehicles. We want to be number one.”

That lesson—that you don’t have to care about climate change to care about energy—was enough to alter the way the Climate and Energy Project did business. Instead of kicking off their campaign by trying to lead a bunch of very stubborn horses to the lake, they just skipped right ahead to the part where everybody gets a glass of water.”

While it feels like a lifetime ago that CEP did those focus groups and we can hardly remember a time when our approach to this work hasn’t been about the common ground we all share in the Heartland, it is nice to be reminded of our roots.

We would love to hear if anyone has read this book or reads it this summer. What do you think?

posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Director of Communications & Special Projects

We hope you have heard our exciting news about the ENERGY QUEST USA documentary that has been premiered on PBS. We are thrilled to have the work in Kansas by Kansans highlighted on this national stage. We think you should be proud too.

Please take the time to watch your local Kansas PBS station this Sunday, May 6th at 6:00pm. Make sure to share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. Stay in the loop with #earthtom and #takechargeKS.

Here is a quick peak at some of the Kansas work covered in the documentary:

Let us know what you think about the coverage of this work in Kansas.

Are you surprised? Impressed? Wish you knew more about this work?

Have a great weekend!

Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Communications and Special Projects Director

Welcome to a guest post by Dan Whisler, an environmental science teacher at Sterling High School in Sterling, KS. Dan has also been part of the Wind in Schools program which installed a small wind turbine for the Sterling School District and has been used to teach students about the science of renewable energy and the future job potential in the renewable energy field. Dan and his students have a great passion for the real life learning that is part of the renewable energy projects they have been part of.  Dan and Sterling High School are also looking to collaborate with other high schools in the area such as Lyons and Chase High Schools for as wide a group of classes (economics, match, etc) to take advantage of this program.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed Chevy Volt project or the Wind in Schools project please contact Dan Whisler at  whislerd@usd376.com.

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Sterling Hich School Chevy Volt Project

Sparked by a “what if…” comment during discussion of an assignment in one of my Environmental Science classes last winter, it has been an interesting year of exploring the “possibilities” as we have taken this initial idea and now work to pull the pieces together to make the SHS Chevy Volt Project a reality!  My excitement for this project reached a new level this week as I can now say not only have I finally seen a Chevrolet Volt, but thanks to the support and encouragement of Tony Hoover, New Car Manager at Conklin Cars inNewton, I had the privilege of taking a Volt for a test drive.

What was it like to finally see and drive the vehicle I have been reading so much about this past year?  I am VERY impressed!   The Volt is classy and stylish both inside and out and has a bit futuristic look when you sit in the driver’s seat and see the control panels.  The two large data displays are convenient and easy to comprehend and the electric motor is very quiet, but it definitely has some “get-up-and-go” when you hit the road.

Is it possible to drive 75 mph on the interstate in an electric-powered car?  Absolutely!  We completed two short loops out on the interstate (my wife wanted to drive it, too) and pulling back into the lot the data display showed 18 miles traveled and 6.4 kWh of energy used from the battery.  That first look at the numbers for our test drive is all it took for me to know I want to study this vehicle in more detail.

The idea for this project actually has roots that can be traced back to a workshop that my wife (Kelley – science teacher at Buhler H.S.) and I were fortunate to have attended twice.  Taught by Donald G. Fell, Foundation for Teaching Economics Program Director, and Robert W. Reinke, Professor Emeritus at theUniversityofSouth Dakota, The Institute of the Environment and the Economy is designed to help teachers integrate an understanding of economics using current environmental issues into classroom discussion.

As science teachers, Kelley and I were a bit unique in our participation in these workshops, but these workshops had as much real-life science application as any science workshop we have ever participated in.  One of the points I remember being emphasized over and over is now the basis for the SHS Chevy Volt Project – “solutions to environmental issues are usually found in economics”.  From this, the seeds for our project began to grow.

Sterling High School was one of the five original schools selected to participate in the Wind for Schools program, so the study of renewable energy has been a strong focus in our Environmental Science classes for several years.  As news of the Chevrolet Volt began to hit the headlines in 2010, my 40 mile round-trip daily commute  led to an obvious hypothetical case study – “When it comes to saving money AND being environmentally friendly, is it: ‘The car of the future?’.”

Wanting students to understand there are a number of factors involved in determining the operational cost of owning a vehicle, I had them complete a cost-benefit analysis comparing the Volt to my current vehicle, a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.  From that cost-benefit analysis came the idea for this project…”What if we actually had a Volt and could put it to the test?”

Thus, the “SHS Chevy Volt Project” was born – the idea to lease a Volt as a school district vehicle for three years and put it to the test in a highly-integrated, real-life study.  The project has gained additional support thanks to Brad Berman, editor of www.plugincars.com, who has offered support for the project in return for weekly updates detailing our results and the variables being tested week-to-week.

There is still a lot of work to be done to connect all of the dots to make this project a reality, especially since school budgets don’t have the extra funding needed to support projects such as this.  In addition to the work required to complete grant applications and secure business sponsorships and support from various organizations, there is also curriculum development that must be done to include not just students in my classroom, but in area schools as well.

We have applied for several grants that we should hear the status on soon and, if approved, those will help get the project started; next we will work to complete the funding needed for the entire three year project.  JaCam Chemicals and United Industries, both inSterling, along with local farmer/Board of Education member Jon Oden have offered support for the project, so we are moving in the right direction.  Thanks to these businesses/individuals and the support of people like Tony Hoover, Brad Berman, Jeff Laudermilk, President of First Bank in Sterling, and Cleila McCrory, our district grant writer, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together to make the SHS Chevy Volt Project a very unique learning experience for students in area schools!

Dan Whisler

Environmental Science Teacher

Sterling High School

 

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The views in this post are not those of the Climate + Energy Project. This is not a paid advertisement for anyone associated with CEP or the mentioned project.

The Climate + Energy Project has been busy with many high impact projects this past month. We are excited to share what we have been up to and we will try our best not to share it all at once.

We have been working with some great media teams on projects like energyNOW!  energyNOW is a weekly TV news magazine engaging America on the critical energy issues of the day. This segment highlights the great work of some of the Take Charge! Challenge communities. Check in on this innovative energy efficiency program as this year long 16 community competition closes at the end of the month.

Take a moment to watch this half hour show about the  impact the Take Charge! Challenge is having in Kansas and how CEP works to connect with Kansans.

 Check in with us over the next month as we announce some exciting additional media projects.

 

Posted by Kate Van Cantfort www.climateandenergy.org

If you are reading this blog, your interests already lie in the content of this documentary.   Climate change believer or skeptic this documentary can help you to answer some of those unanswered questions.  Join in the nationwide Q&A, get your voice heard!

This is an amazing event, not to be missed!

 

Tuesday, April 12th – FREE and Open to the Public

TWO Screenings: 12:30pm, Carlsen Center 211 & 7:15pm, GEB 233

Johnson County Community College, Overland Park

Q & A with Director Peter Byck, Live & In-Person

 

carbon nation is a documentary movie about climate change SOLUTIONS. Even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don’t buy it at all, this is still a compelling and relevant film that illustrates how SOLUTIONS to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues.

carbon nation is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan, big tent film that shows tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment.  It provides an entertaining, informed and pragmatic primer about why it’s incredibly smart to be a part of the new, low-carbon economy: it’s good business.

carbon nation’s optimism and pragmatism are appealing across the political spectrum. While other good films have been about problems, blame and guilt, carbon nation is a film that celebrates solutions, inspiration and action.

Quotes from carbon nation characters:

“Do I think man is causing global warming? No, but that doesn’t make any difference. I want clean water and I want clean air. And that’s so simple.” THE WILD ALASKAN

“Climate change in fact is a national security issue. This is no longer the purview of Birkenstock-wearing tree huggers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” THE ARMY COLONEL

“So if you don’t give a damn about the environment, do it because you’re a greedy bastard and you just want cheap power.” THE BIOCHEMICAL ENGINEER

Visit www.carbonnationmovie.com for trailer and reviews.

Q & A will stream live from JCCC to colleges and universities across the country as part of the carbon nation on campus screenings event

Sponsored by: Student Environmental Alliance & the JCCC Center for Sustainability

Call 913-469-8500 x2883 or email sustainability@jccc.edu for more information

Posted by Kate Gonzalez www.climateandenergy.org/