The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Category archive

News - page 9

Goucher Professors Discuss the Evironmental Protection Agency

by
Image courtesy of Google Images.

Madeline St. John, News Editor

February 25th, 2017

When the EPA came into existence in 1970, during Nixon’s administration, it was backed by relatively strong bipartisan support for environmental regulation, likely due to politicians recognizing and responding to real, visible environmental problems across the country. “It was an era in which rivers were catching on fire and people were dying from respiratory diseases related to air pollution,” said Robert Neff, a professor in the Environmental Studies (ES) department.

In the current political climate, the topics of environmental protection and climate change have become divisive ones. A Senate hearing was called to “modernize” the Endangered Species Act, with the argument that it prevents mining and the creation of jobs. Carbon dioxide may be removed from its classification as a pollutant, preventing the EPA from regulating it. Congress approved a resolution to overturn a Stream Protection Rule that prevented companies from dumping waste in local waterways. The U.S. will likely quit the Paris Climate Accords. The list goes on.

Already, the White House has frozen EPA grants and federal contracts, cut in half the number of EPA employees attending an environmental conference in Alaska, and, along with other federal agencies, ordered the EPA to halt their communication with outside organizations.

Scott Pruitt is the new head of the EPA. Pruitt has lobbied directly against EPA regulations. More specifically, Professor Neff cited Pruitt’s opposition to the EPA’s pollution regulations in the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA calculates the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of the bay–the amount of pollution that the bay can handle each day–and divides these waste quantities among the surrounding states. These regulatory efforts for cleaner water have been proven effective. “The dead zone is shrinking, the oysters are coming back…Pruitt was opposed to this approach,” said Neff.

Pruitt’s “agenda would include providing new permits to drill oil and extract natural gas for energy production,” wrote Marko Salvaggio, a professor in Goucher’s ES department. “Not only will this increase carbon emissions, but [it also] threaten[s] our fresh water supplies and the health of the people who rely on this water.”

“Recent reports have demonstrated the petroleum industry’s efforts to confuse the public about the impacts of climate science – in the same way the tobacco industry worked to obfuscate the links between smoking and cancer…these types of campaigns that are now promoted by Scott Pruitt in the EPA,” wrote Emily Billo, a professor of Environmental Studies.

There has also been discussion of subjecting the EPA to political review. Typically, scientific research undergoes rigorous peer review, which, at the EPA, is followed by additional EPA-led review. If the White House adds its own review process, Neff stated, “this will be a complete corruption of that [scientific] process…How do we know that findings haven’t been altered for political reasons?”

Under the current administration, scientific research in general is threatened. Scientists expect to receive cuts in funding, and some will likely lose their government jobs. Cuts in national government funding for science will lead to job loss. This will affect recent graduates looking for jobs, who will have to compete with more experienced workers who will be back to job-hunting. Funding cuts will also likely result in less funding for graduate students.

Cynthia Kicklighter, a professor in the Biology Department, worries that changes in government will particularly impact funding for basic research. Basic research–research to improve scientific theories and understanding rather than, say, “find the cure for cancer”–is the kind of research almost all Goucher faculty conduct, and is the kind of research often “deemed as wasting taxpayer money,” said Kicklighter. She cited the example of a study which put shrimp on treadmills, with the purpose of seeing the effect on shrimp of low oxygen concentrations, which are often caused by algal blooms, in, for example, the Chesapeake Bay. “It sounds ridiculous,” she said, “but there was a legitimate scientific basis. Basic research is often made fun of. It’s misunderstood…Across the country, there is a lot of disconnect, and a lot of people don’t value it.”

Republican senators confirmed Pruitt, knowing that, only a few days after his confirmation, he had been ordered to release the 3,000 emails and other documents of correspondence that his Oklahoma office exchanged with fossil fuel interests during his time as attorney general.

In response to Pruitt’s nomination, about 700 former EPA officials sent a letter to the U.S. Senate opposing the nomination. This letter was covered in over 150 news outlets, raising awareness of the strong opposition to new EPA leadership. Among these former EPA employees was Goucher professor Dan Engelberg, who recently retired from 15 years at the EPA.

“This isn’t a new thing,” said Engelberg, in an interview, referring to the obstacles that the EPA now faces. “All of this has happened before, with Reagan, Gingrich and Bush. When was EPA last in a truly comfortable position?” he added, in an email.

Part of the EPA’s mission is to enforce regulations related to the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Clean Water Act of 1972, as well as create and enforce other legislation related to pollution control standards. In 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act required that people know about toxic chemicals present in their communities. In the 2000s, the EPA’s role expanded to include climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA plays a big role in environmental protection, and has been very influential during the 47 years that it has been in existence. Engelberg, who worked there for years, was critical of the agency. He stated that “the old structure really wasn’t working as well as it should,” and that there are “chronic issues” in the agency that “are less urgent, but more important.”

“In the early days, the agency was being sued all the time, on both sides,” said Engelberg, meaning that environmentalists, as well as businesses and industry, took the EPA to court, holding them accountable to their own regulations. Certainly, with recent occurrences in Flint, Michigan, the EPA has come under fire, and Engelberg expects, and hopes, such attacks will continue.

However, according to Engelberg, 90% of the enforcement action of environmental regulation is conducted by states. Also, one-third of the EPA’s budget goes directly to states. Engelberg expressed his belief that changes in EPA administration will result more in a “shift to the right” than a “u-turn” or “sinking” of the metaphorical environmental protection “ship.”

“The EPA has roughly 15,000 employees,” said Engelberg. “The president can appoint about 80. That is less than one-half of 1 percent of the EPA’s employees.” He also emphasized that, in general, employees at the EPA “really believe in the mission,” a fact that will make it more difficult to run the organization in a way that goes against its stated purpose. “In a way, I’m optimistic,” said Engelberg.

All of the professors interviewed for this article stressed the importance of optimism, in conjunction with activism. “What makes Trump different [from previous presidents who opposed environmental regulation] is his manner,” Engelberg said. “He’s not intellectual; he’s not well-schooled. People are reacting to his language.” And Engelberg is hopeful that this can be a positive thing–that the pushback to Trump will “energize the public” and cause young people to “take a stand” and invest their time and energy in environmental issues.

Professors also commented on the importance of paying attention to marginalized communities. “[Native American] communities often rely on funding through EPA grants to monitor groundwater pollution, and without this support they are less likely to be able to halt projects that will have detrimental effects on their land and people,” wrote Billo. “Those who are protesting to protect their communities’ rights are also being investigated as criminals by the government, and in some cases forcibly and violently attacked.”

The options for counter-action are numerous. Kicklighter discussed the possibility of citizen science–citizens can volunteer to collect scientific data and make observations (cataloging when flowers bloom, for example), increasing the body of scientific knowledge, particularly in the area of climate change.

Alternatively, one can donate money to environmental organizations, or fundraise for money to donate. Volunteer to clean up streams. Vote, and vote for representatives that value the protection of the environment. Call representatives. Educate yourself on local issues. “There are daily occurrences of oil spills, water pollution, etc. that often go unreported or unnoticed,” wrote Billo. She cited the example of the Curtis Bay, Baltimore, where protesting high school students were able to prevent the installation of a high-polluting incinerator project in their area, where air quality is poorest in the city.

Write letters to your senators on issues related to the environment (for example, on the “modernization” of the Endangered Species Act). Plant trees. Decrease your personal environmental impact. Write an editorial. Take to the streets. Participate in the March for Science, on Earth Day, March 22nd, in Washington D.C.

“Persistent resistance,” said Neff. “Collectively, we’re terrifying.”

Campus Construction Update

by

Erika DiPasquale, Associate Editor

February 25th, 2017

On Friday, February 17th, Linda Barone, the FMS project manager, and the Whiting-Turner Construction Team co-hosted a community update on the campus construction plan. Despite free pizza, attendance was extremely low.

This was the first of a series of updates that will occur every other Friday at 3pm in Heubeck Dining Hall Room A. Although the next update will likely be the same presentation they gave on the 17th, once the construction gets moving, the meetings will be updates about what has happened and what changes have been made. The meetings give students the opportunity to ask their questions, see an interactive digital 3-D version of the Mary Fisher Project, and watch a video about how the Wolfe House & Building Movers Company will move the Froelicher building across the street. Future updates will take place on the following dates:

-March 3rd

-March 31st

-April 14th

-April 28th

In the meantime, if you have questions, please contact Lee Block, our GSG Senate Representative and Chair of the Student Life committee at leblo001@mail.goucher.edu .

Mary Fisher: present-Summer 2018

The reason there hasn’t been much progress is because there is a permit pending to carve a temporary access road between the chapel and Bacon for moving building materials. Once they have the permit, this temporary road will be built and the Mary Fisher Lawn will basically turn into a temporary parking lot.

Bacon, Dulaney, & Hooper will remain open as residence halls for the duration of the project. For those living in Bacon, there is an area of refuge within the fence so that in case of an emergency, you can exit the building at any exit. In such an instance, public safety will let you out from within the fence. Otherwise, the area around Mary Fisher enclosed by the fence is completely off limits to students. Public Safety monitors the cameras that overlook this off-limits area.

Two additions will be made to Mary Fisher in addition to completely renovating the interior of the building as it currently stands. Ultimately, the top floor will be the only all-you-can-eat dining hall on campus, featuring a Mongolian Grill and a large seating area. A retail dining hall (think former Pearlstone/current Heubeck) will be on the entrance floor. The Office of Student Engagement (OSE) will have an entire wing in the final building.

Mary Fisher is projected to be complete by Summer 2018, so current Sophomores and First-Years will be here to enjoy its services.

Froelicher: this Summer

Sometime between June and July, Thorman & the Froelicher courtyard will be demolished, but Alcock, Gallagher, & Tuttle will literally be picked up and moved to the SRC side of the street where the basketball court, swingset, and old garage are located now.  Expect to see some digging and pipe-laying on the SRC-side of the road in mid-to-late March to prepare for this move. Attend a future construction update meeting to see a video of the Wolfe House & Building Movers Company in action! This decision to move Froelicher instead of demolish it will be half as expensive as building a new building and save a lot of time.

The First Year Village: this summer-2018

Once Froelicher moves across the street, the construction of Buildings B & C where Froelicher currently stands will begin this May when the semester ends. For safety reasons, a fence will be built around the entire construction site, closing the current pathway from the Residential Quad to the SRC and P Selz. Consequently, until the buildings are complete in 2018, you will have to walk to Loop Road in order to reach the SRC from the Res Quad.

Interfaith Center: July-January 2018

This project will hopefully begin this July and be complete as of January 2018 to the left of the Chapel.

Equestrian Center: 

This will be located behind the President’s House. Toward the end of this summer, some trees will be removed back there in order to grow grass for the horses to pasture. The reason for this edition to campus is that the current paddocks are too small for the amount of horses that we have.

Hoffberger: 2019

An addition and renovations to this outdated building are projected to begin in 2019.

But what about Stimson?

According to Barone and the Whiting-Turner Team, a lot has to happen before this. The current plan is to demolish Stimson Dining Hall to plant a grassy area once the new Mary Fisher opens in Fall 2018. In the early 2020s, they will demolish one section of the Stimson dorms at a time. Senior Apartments will be built in this space.

Area between front gate & Peabody:

Goucher has a permit to rezone this area and is in the process of talking with developers to build something on this land as an additional source of income for the college. Some trees have already been removed in this area.

Where will everything be?

The Post Office is in its permanent location. The self-service lockers are here to stay. The Bookstore will continue to do online books as they started this semester and its current location in the ATH by Alice’s is also its permanent location, “At least for the foreseeable future,” according to Linda Barone. Whether the Commuter Lounge will move back to its former location—where OSE is now—is unclear.

The Athenaeum:

No construction will be happening there, but there will be some internal changes. The current conversation is how to make better use of the Info Commons Space. The computers aren’t going away, but they will likely be moved. Speak to a Librarian for more information and to share your ideas about how future changes can serve how you use the library resources.

Concerns: 

One of the students in attendance raised the concern about the trees that will have to be removed in the construction process. Barone said that the law requires them to replace every tree they remove and that they are making an effort to take down as few as possible.

Another question was about the plan to use a ton of glass in the Mary Fisher editions like the Athenaeum. 6 windows in the ATH have shattered in the last 6 years for no explainable reason, despite many engineers investigating the situation. John, the Whiting Turner Project Manager, says that the shattering glass is a “freak accident” and that they can’t do anything to prevent it from happening in the future buildings other than build the building correctly. The glass panels are designed to expand and contract with the changing temperatures, and hopefully will not shatter in the future.

There are still a lot of questions to ask and concerns to raise. Please attend future updates in order to join the conversation and ensure that all your concerns are addressed before the construction is finalized.

Goucher Students March for Women’s Rights

by

Usha Kaul, Staff Writer

February 15th, 2017

On January 21, 2017, the day following the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, over 4,956,000 people all over the world marched through the streets in order to send a bold message to our new administration. The Women’s March on Washington’s (WMW) Organization stated, “we are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.”

The Women’s March on Washington (WMW) was founded by a group of white women. Its intentions are that everyone can participate regardless of race, gender, class, religion, status or way you chose to vote. Hundreds of thousands of people took planes, trains, cars, buses to get to their nearest march. Almost all the major cities superseded their expectations of numbers of participants. There were a total of 418 Marches in the Unites States and 97 marches internationally, from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Congo, in countries such as France, Germany, and India. These numbers do not include the virtual marches and many pop-up marches that took place. Online marches made the Women’s March more accessible to people with disabilities.

The Women’s March was a time for people to  come together and recognize that women’s right are human rights and that discrimination is unacceptable. The WMW stated that, “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared.” The march on January 21st was just the first step in combatting this new challenge. Since this was the first day in office for President Trump, many individuals took this opportunity to protest other issues that affect the targeted communities listed above. There were signs about women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter and many more. Protesters sported posters supporting racial diversity. But don’t get me wrong. There was also an emphasis on the women’s issues. Many posters conveyed messages in support of planned parenthood and women’s empowerment in general.

A group of Goucher Students led by seniors, Usha Kaul and Sophia Robinson, departed from Goucher around 4:30AM. They were able to secure a spot on Washington D.C.’s stage where a handful of important speeches were taking place. They stood for around 7 hours and marched for another 2 hours. Speakers at the Washington D.C. March included actress and chair of the Artists Table of Women’s March on Washington, America Ferrera, Distinguished Professor Emerita at UC Santa Crus Angela Davis, filmmaker Michael Moore, actress and activist Scarlett Johansson, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner and Jordan Davis along with many other wonderful activists and directors. Sofia Robinson stated, “The Women’s March was an incredibly empowering experience. People from all walks of life came together in solidarity, and stood up for themselves and everyone who is marginalized and not regarded as equals in the social, political, and private realms.”

Personally, I, Usha Kaul, was in awe of the immense amount of support from the entire world as we took a stand against our new government. As an Indian-American, I take pride in who I am and I want to continue to live in the United States and thrive here as such. I never want to be told I can’t. It’s part of my existence. My grandparents were a huge influence on me growing up. They fought for peace in India during partition and then I am proud to say that my grandmother, once in the United States, put on her sari and was the first Indian woman to run as a democrat for the NJ state assembly. I march for her. I march because I want the same freedom. I march because I am Indian and proud.

1 7 8 9
Go to Top