Environmental Studies Program: 2012 Senior Essay Abstracts

Chelsea Andreozzi, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Amity Doolittle): Building Trails and Growing Allies: Aboriginal Rights and the Environmental Movement in British Columbia

A history of unresolved legal issues of title and rights has resulted in the First Nations of British Columbia, Canada holding a unique socio-legal status in the province that requires industries, the government and other outside entities to consult with indigenous groups before implementing projects within their territory. Outside groups, including environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) and resource-based companies, have recognized the influence that First Nations have over their territory and sought to form alliances. The Wilderness Committee is an example of one ENGO which has partnered with First Nation communities by inserting its conservation agenda into the framework of community development, with mixed results for both objectives. Focusing primarily on the relationship with the St’at’imc Nation, especially the Seton Lake Band, this paper will analyze two actions taken by the Wilderness Committee: a trail building project and a community farm project in order to evaluate the costs and benefits of this partnership and to discuss what this case study signifies for the potential for future collaboration between First Nation communities and Western environmentalists.

Luke Aronson, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Menachem Elimelech): Renewable Energy and Water Desalination

Freshwater resources are rapidly becoming a global issue. Water scarcity worldwide will be exacerbated as climate change, and rapid increases in population, pollution, and agriculture place higher demand on Earth’s limited freshwater supply.  Reverse osmosis desalination is a technique currently used around the world to provide fresh water.  This process is energy intensive and has relied heavily on fossil fuels to meet that energy demand in the past.  It has been proven that the energy demand of reverse osmosis desalination can be met using renewable energy sources.  Through long-term studies and economic analyses of current projects, researchers have proven RE desalination to be cost-competitive with other means of freshwater supply.  The economic viability of these systems has already surpassed that of conventional methods in many cases.  If developed and implemented in conjunction with conventional water supply systems as well as government policy changes, these RE-based desalination systems could easily help alleviate the world’s drinking water problems in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner while fostering global economic and socio-cultural growth.

Amanda Bennett, Environmental Studies (Advisor: John Wargo): Ecofficiency in the Ivy League: Using Energy Consumption as a Metric to Evaluate the Environmental Sustainability of Yale Dining

Sustainability has become a quickly growing trend amongst food providers, increasing the demand for eco-friendly products. However, as Americans continue to consume many calories from processed foods, meats and other energy-intensive products, it is important to examine how key institutions can help guide a national shift toward sustainable food. What are the environmental, social and economic effects of a diet rich in pastries and burgers? In order to answer this question, Yale University was used as a case study. The ECo Index Ingredient and Recipe Database was created to help provide a more accurate picture of Yale Dining, using energy consumption in BTU as a metric in a life cycle analysis of each item ordered and prepared by the institution. Results indicated that dishes with many ingredients were the most energy-intensive, and that recipe and menu simplification could potentially help save money and energy in the long run. Additionally, energy used in storage could be further conserved by reducing the use of frozen and refrigerated items in place of shelf stable alternatives. Recommendations for future success include simplifying and consolidating recipes, minimizing frozen and refrigerated product purchases, and streamlining the food environment for both managers and patrons to encourage healthy and environmentally sustainable choices where possible.

Erin Carter, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Amity Doolittle): Artificial Turf: Institutional Decisions & Environmental Impacts

Each year, hundreds of artificial turf systems are installed for athletic teams.  Every installation requires thoughtful consideration and analysis to optimize its application.  This essay will focus on the application of water-based turf for field hockey fields.  It will provide an overview of the subject and how the triple bottom line pertains to selecting artificial turf systems.  Yale University will be used as a case study to highlight the incorporation of profit, people, and planet into the decision processes.  The specific challenges that face Yale will be addressed by providing examples of ways in which other institutions have solved similar obstacles.

Alyssa Cheung, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Amity Doolittle): What Grows Here? A Garden History of New Haven and Cultivating a New Form of Urbanism

With the hope of trying to convey the importance of community gardens in urban areas, this paper explores different facets of their origin and current state. I argue that community gardens play a vital role in shaping a new form of urbanism in New Haven, and that in order to fulfill this role they must be considered an enduring part of the urban landscape, instead of just a temporary use of vacant space. This paper traces the history of community gardening within the United States and New Haven, examines the current challenges facing community gardens in the city, and finally suggests recommendations for ensuring the longevity of community gardens in New Haven.

Claude de Jocas, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Naomi Darling): Passive House on the Prairie: Passive Houses in Five Regions of the United States

Since the first certification of a Passive House built in the United States in 2003, the Passive House Institute U.S. has pushed for the widespread adoption of the standard across the country. This enthusiasm for dissemination has resulted in Passive Houses being built in nearly every climate type found in the United States, not just in those areas which are climatically similar to Central Europe, where the standard originated. The existing literature on Passive House in the U.S. has largely failed to address the question of homeowner comfort in these diverse regions. This essay presents interviews I conducted with the owners of five Passive Houses, located in California, Utah, Illinois, North Carolina, and Maine, for the purpose of assessing their comfort levels in the homes. Based on the results of my interviews, I make recommendations on which areas of the United States the Passive House standard is best suited for, namely inversion and frontal regions. In subsidence and instability climates, I argue that energy efficiency is best achieved through the application of traditional vernacular architecture strategies.

Taylor Gregoire-Wright, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Garry Brewer): The Crash and Conservation of the Cabo San Francisco Lobster Fishery

In response to a sharp decline in the lobster population of Cabo San Francisco, the NGO Nazca developed a one-year conservation agreement with local fishermen in order to allow the stock to recover. The agreement was centered on directly paying the fishermen to work on conservation projects instead of fishing. This paper explores how this conservation agreement originated, how it was implemented and whether it had any lasting effects. I offer recommendations for how Nazca and the fishermen should proceed and I draw conclusions regarding the applicability and limitations of direct payment conservation schemes for artisanal fisheries. I conclude that direct payments conservation projects need to justify their high costs through allowing target populations to recover, by building up human capital, and by reducing the pressure placed on the fishery.

Hayes Hyde, Environmental Studies (Advisor: John Faragher): Liquid Gold: A Tale of Two Rivers

Although the issue of water allocation and management in California has frequently been researched, the origin of the legal, political, and social constructs surrounding the initial stages of development of these regimes is often overlooked, despite their persistent effects on current water policy.  The Colorado River and the San Joaquin/Sacramento River complex are the two largest river systems serving California. As a result of greatly differing climates- arid in the south and Mediterranean in the north, settlers adopted different bodies of law-agrarian and riparian respectively. While these laws were the earliest forces governing the management of the rivers, they were not the driving forces behind the creation of the management regimes whose legacies endure today. At the turn of the 20th century, the Progressive movement was sweeping the nation. Both northern and southern Californians utilized the tenets of this movement, adapting them to their own contrasting situations. Those in the south became leading proponents of the reclamation movement, arguing for large-scale diversion to support comprehensive irrigation in an otherwise dry, inhospitable land. Settlers in the north, coping with the legacies of hydraulic mining, utilized conservation to garner support and funding to control floods and manage irrigation of the fertile Central Valley. This paper uses primary historical documents to explore the attitudes and motivations of the politicians and settlers to understand the development of these two differing management regimes. By understanding and examining the past, more insightful perspectives and more coherent comprehensive water policy can be developed in contemporary California.

Reid Magdanz, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Susan Clark): Cabins, Parks, and People: Subsistence and the National Park Service in Northwest Alaska

Residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough (NWAB) on Alaska’s northwest coast still live a subsistence way of life, reliant on the land for their economic, social, and cultural well-being.  Parts of five national parklands lie within the NWAB, making the National Park Service (NPS) responsible for managing large areas of the region.  The relationship between the NPS and NWAB residents has long been contentious, and NWAB residents interviewed in the summer of 2011 expressed disappointment and frustration with NPS management. The tensions between residents of the region and the NPS are based in failures of process.  Short-tenure superintendents, ineffective mechanisms for local involvement, long delays in NPS actions, and the pressure imposed on the agency from both inside and outside cause problems for subsistence management.  Incentivizing longer-term superintendents, holding them accountable for maintaining relationships with locals, building more effective mechanisms for local input, better incorporating that input into management, better communicating NPS goals, and avoiding explosive incidents would improve both the management process and relationships between NWAB residents and the NPS in northwest Alaska.

Julia Naman, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Paul Sabin): Atlanta's Growing Thirst: Facing Scarcity in a Land of Plenty

Considering the Southeast’s high average rainfall and verdant landscape, it is difficult to believe that Atlanta, Georgia is currently facing a serious water crisis. Nonetheless, in the past ten years, the city has counted down the days before its water would run out, lost the rights to its primary water source and has declared a state of emergency due to lack of water. This paper illuminates why Atlanta is in its current situation by investigating key moments in Atlanta’s water supply history from the city’s origin to the present day. In addition to the severe droughts that periodically devastate the region, Atlanta’s crisis stems from the city’s failure to value and invest in the management of its water resources. Atlanta has consistently prioritized economic growth and expansion over maintaining a stable supply of water and has often refused to take ownership of its problems, attempting to pass off the blame and responsibility to others. Understanding the intricacies of Atlanta’s poor water management can help reveal how cities create resource scarcity by mismanagement and more importantly, how this may be avoided.

Daniel Olson, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Shimon Anisfeld): Nor Any Drop to Drink: Mapping the Pollution Vulnerability of the Mountain Aquifer

The Mountain Aquifer, which straddles the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories, is one of the most important water resources for both areas. It is estimated to supply between 600 and 700 million cubic meters of water per year, more than a third of annual water consumption in Israel. Israelis and Palestinians share the water that percolates into the Mountain Aquifer. Nearly all water consumed by Palestinians in the West Bank is pumped from this aquifer. While Israelis have access to other sources of water, the Mountain Aquifer remains an important drinking water resource for people living in the metropolitan areas of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Be’er Sheva. Additionally, Israeli settlements in the West Bank utilize water from the Mountain Aquifer (Tagar, 2004).

Generally, the water extracted from this source has been reliable and clean, especially when compared to the Coastal Aquifer in the Gaza Strip, which has been decimated by saltwater intrusion (Lein, 2000). Much concern remains, however, over the future health of the Mountain Aquifer. Because it is a karstic aquifer, the Mountain Aquifer has greater pollution vulnerability. Land use changes in Palestine, including increasing levels of irrigated agriculture, increased urbanization, and an increased volume of untreated sewage and solid waste have raised concerns in both Israel and Palestine about the Mountain Aquifer’s long term viability (Tagar, 2004; Harpaz, 2000).

This paper seeks to address the issue of Mountain Aquifer pollution by asking which areas of the Mountain Aquifer are most at risk for pollution. A GIS model known as the PIMethod will be used to determine which places in the aquifer’s recharge zone are most vulnerable. The resulting map will be used as the basis for a brief discussion about potential development patterns, land use policies, and infrastructure plans that could minimize risk to the aquifer. The map will also be discussed as an important part of the proposed United Nations guidelines for the protection of trans-boundary watercourses. Finally, challenges relating to pollution prevention in the Mountain Aquifer will be compared to the challenges facing the Edwards Aquifer, a large karstic aquifer just north of San Antonio, Texas. First, however, an overview of karstic aquifers, the physical and political state of the Mountain Aquifer region, and other GIS vulnerability models is necessary.

Jeannette Penniman, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Alan Plattus): Minimal Housing as Urban Planning: Striking a Balance Between Environmental Control and Organic Development

This essay explores the capacity of a particular low-income housing strategy—incremental housing—to serve as a unit for controlled, sustainable urban growth. Much urbanization in Latin America (a region where nearly 80% of the population already lives in cities) occurs informally and with grave environmental repercussions. Yet most governments don’t have the capacity to meet the need for shelter through traditional housing. I analyze four case studies of incremental housing: projects aiming to compromise between governmental control over land use and service provision, and resident participation in housing construction and personalization. Using interviews, articles, plans, reports, and a self-developed Sustainability Index for Minimal Housing, I analyze the environmental implications of projects in El Salvador, Chile, and two in Colombia. I find themes of incidental environmental benefit with respect to land preservation, formalized infrastructure, and creation of high-density urban neighborhoods. The social and physical durability of housing units— also crucial to sustainable settlement—are dependent on spatial flexibility within rigid structural frames. While the case studies present a unique opportunity for institutional control of urban growth, incremental housing projects would benefit from more explicit environmental criteria guiding their design.

Emmanuelle Pickett-Bortko, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Jeffrey Park): The Journey Toward Self-Determination: The Navajo Experience fro Livestock Reduction to Uranium Mining

This project is a two-part thesis dedicated to the exploration of Navajo “self-determinism” and its historical roots.  Through independent research and on-site filmmaking, I examine how the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ 1930’s Livestock Reduction exemplified the failure of the government’s paternalism and the lack of respect for individual rights.  Furthermore, I argue that the same policies that harmed the Navajo also forced and ultimately encouraged them to stand up for their individual liberties, participate in industry, and demand responsibility for themselves in a movement of “self-determination.”  With the destruction of their livestock in the 1930’s, their economy in ruins, and their rights continually under assault, the Navajo began to turn to promising new work in the uranium mines during the 1950’s.  For the film portion, I focus on this moment of decision-making that highlights the Navajo prospector experience not as an Indian or victim, but as a person addressing their economic needs and cultural desires while taking responsibility for their actions – a sense of life that the Navajo asked the government to respect.  By selecting this moment, I am able to tell the story before the world realized, decades later, that uranium mining was disastrous to one’s health, so that memories of agency were realized to be complex histories of betrayal.  I hope that readers of this thesis and viewers of the film will see two things: (a) the tension between tradition as a security against the government and individualism; and (b) economic independence as an effective response to paternalism.

Daksha Rajagopalan, Environmental Studies (Advisor: James Scott): Trees in Contemporary Environmental Thought: A Case of Khmer Buddhist Tree Ordinations

Trees play several roles in contemporary environmental thought. In addition to how they are predominantly seen for their scientific, economic, and environmental values, they also have spiritual and religious value to some. The very notion “value,” however, means different things to different people. In this essay, I explore two different modes of relationship-with, through the lens of how we relate to trees. Then, I consider a case of Buddhist tree ordinations, where trees are ordained as monks in Cambodia. Western scholarship around “engaged Buddhism” and monks' involvement in conservation or political goals (in both Cambodia and Thailand) views engaged Buddhism from a political lens: either as a local social movement or as having international or transnational reaches. However, based on my research, I present an alternate vision behind Maha Ghosananda's tree ordination in Cambodia—not as political, but rather as devoutly Buddhist, by examining the transformative potential of sacred ritual. In ordaining trees as Buddhist monks, his teachings were not about reforestation or conservation. Rather, his teaching invited participants into a new space of relationship, interdependence, where reverence could be practiced. His teaching was neither argument nor injunction; it was an invitation to practice reverence. I further suggest a parallel between the two modes of relationship-with I outline at the beginning and the different interpretations over engaged Buddhism.

Holly Rippon-Butler, Environmental Studies (Advisor: John Wargo): Moving Milk: Transportation and Commodification of Milk in New York State

Transportation plays a critical role in the dairy industry because fluid milk must be handled and delivered rapidly between cow and consumer, due to its highly perishable nature. In this paper, I ask how the development of the transportation industry has affected New York State farmers over the past two centuries, and how this has directly impacted farmers in the state today. As the mode of milk delivery changed from carts to railroads – and eventually to tanker trucks – the spatial arrangement of farms, the volume

of milk production, and the intensity of resource use were altered as well. Dealers entered into farmers’ relationship with environmental and market conditions as the region of fluid milk production expanded – creating an industry that looked to growth, no matter what the demand or cost, as inevitable and guaranteed. I argue that the way the transportation industry evolved over the past two centuries has created economies of scale in the dairy industry that enabled milk to become a commodity and encouraged the development of large-scale dairy farms in New York State, making it difficult for small farms to compete.


Rachel Shaffer, Environmental Studies (Advisor: John Wargo): Ozone Pollution and Health in Atlanta: The Implications of a Presidential Decision

Due to recognized adverse effects on human health and the environment, tropospheric ozone is regulated and limited by the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Despite the legal mandate to revise these standards according to updated scientific evidence and to ensure protection of public health, the Obama Administration suspended the September 2011 recommendations for limits of between 0.060-0.070 ppm and instead set national limits at 0.075 ppm. The goal of this project was to understand the public health implications of this decision in Atlanta, Georgia. Population data, incidence rates, air quality levels, and effect estimates were analyzed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s BenMAP program t predict the difference in premature mortality, respiratory hospital admissions in the elderly, and emergency department (ED) visits for asthma under the different standards. Results suggest that there will be minor changes in premature mortality and asthma ED visits, but the most significant public health effects will be experienced by the elderly population. Overall, the data generated provide a concrete estimate of the consequences of neglect of environmental legislation that will continue to burden this country in the coming years.

David Skophammer, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Julie Newman): The Process of Sustainable Building: A Yale Case Study

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate how an institution transitions from an emerging design process, with a vague conception of sustainability, to a fully-integrated, value-based sustainable design process. Yale University provides the context for this case study. The paper explores two primary factors to account for this transition: top-down initiatives and modes of inter-project learning. By focusing on Yale’s building program in the period from 2005 to 2012, this paper shows how a variety of institutional forces interact over time to influence sustainability in the design process. The results from this study are valuable to other institutions seeking to emulate Yale’s design successes.

Rachael Styer, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Paul Sabin): Faith, Family and Farming: The Survival of Small and Mid-Sized Farms in Lancaster, PA throughout the Twentieth Century

Throughout the twentieth century, U.S. farm structure and size trended toward fewer but larger farms, with serious negative implications for environmental and human health. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is an example of a functioning farming region based on small and mid-sized family farms. This paper explores Lancaster's farming history, from its origins in eighteenth century colonial subsistence farming, through its “golden era” in the 1920's, and concludes in its agricultural zoning battles throughout the latter half of the twentieth century. The county has not been immune to the consolidating effects of government subsidy payments, mechanization and changing land use. However, Lancastrians' had a strong commitment to a “sense of place” that caused them to confront head-on the powerful forces that had consolidated small farms across the nation. Their desire to sustain the lucrative tourist industry, and the religious Amish community's belief that farming is the only way to live a proper life combined to create a powerful narrative of a specific place in time. Lancaster's story speaks to the power of community, the commitment to farming as a way of life, and the importance of family values... Faith, Family and Farming.

Joy Sun, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Deborah Davis): The Political Opportunity for Civic Participation in Environmental Issues in China: An Analysis through the Lens of People's Daily

To better understand the political opportunity that has opened up in China for public participation in environmental protection, articles containing keywords relating to environmental protection, civil society, and the intersection of the two were analyzed in the newspaper People’s Daily (????)--a Chinese newspaper renowned for representing the ideas of the central government. The study period spanned from the beginning of economic and political reform in 1979 to 2010. Quantitative analysis involved tracking the number of articles containing the keywords through the period of study, and qualitative analysis involved in depth readings of the articles to uncover changing context, discourse, and rhetoric. Examinations of People’s Daily reveal increasing awareness of environmental issues and greater discourse about civil society, and suggest that central government endorsement of public participation can trace its origins to environmental protection. Furthermore, research suggests that calls for public participation in a specific situation such as environmental protection and consumer protection can snowball into other contexts and contribute to the general expansion of the political space for civic activism.

Brian Tang, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Alexander Felson): Managing Urban Landscapes for Water Quality

Further progress toward clean water in the Long Island Sound and New Haven Harbor demands a more integrated and holistic approach to water pollution than Connecticut has traditionally employed. By permitting municipalities and regional authorities to meet regulatory obligations through changes to the urban landscape that reverse the drainage characteristics that lead to polluted waters, Connecticut will be able to more cost-effectively meet its clean water goals while simultaneously providing greenspace and urban design benefits to residents of cities like New Haven. Current funding and regulatory requirements steer municipalities and regional authorities to centralized pollution controls to treat the symptoms of an urban drainage system. A more distributed approach that prevents rainwater from mobilizing and concentrating pollutants in the first place is in order.

Kaylee Weil, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Gordon Geballe): Bridging the Gap: A Case Study in Effective Environmental Education

In recent decades, environmental education has been hailed as an up-and-coming field. Tasked with instructing a wide base of young learners, environmental education is a tool through which to realize positive change in future generations. More recently, the field has seen growth in interest in experiential environmental education. This subset, purposefully conducted in an outdoor environment, encourages students to actively participate in a process of exploration and discovery of environmental topics, processes, and issues. The present study is an effort to evaluate the success of NatureBridge, an environmental education organization which has exhibited great longevity in the field, and from its accomplishments, form lessons for two other comparable but different organizations, Common Ground’s Environmental Education Center and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. I evaluate NatureBridge’s effectiveness through five concrete dimensions of success: 1) training of educators; 2) strong core program; 3) sustainable business model; 4) collaboration with the National Park Service; and 5) evaluative processes. I will explore how these dimensions apply in unique ways to the two other organizations, while remaining mindful of the significant differences in the histories, cultures, and missions of each.

Michael Wysolmerski, Environmental Studies (Advisor: Paul Sabin): The Fight for a Neighborhood: Flood Control and Race on the Anacostia Tributaries

Lakeland, an African American neighborhood in College Park, Maryland, historically suffered from severe flooding. The neighborhood was located on Paint Branch, a tributary of the Anacostia River. In the early 1970s, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a channelization project to protect the neighborhood from floods. A vigorous debate emerged during the approval process. White environmentalists from College Park and the University of Maryland opposed the project on ecological grounds. Residents of Lakeland and local government officials argued that flood control for the neighborhood was a civil right and thus the Corps should build the project. The project served as a prerequisite for the Lakeland Urban Renewal Project, adding another layer of intrigue to the debate. Eventually, the project was approved, and the Corps finished construction in 1975. Urban renewal also moved forward, and Lakeland changed dramatically. The debate provides a case study to investigate the relationship of race and the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It serves as an opportunity to begin to bring race into dialogue around the campaign to preserve open space. The story of flood control in Lakeland is a tragedy, as both the proud neighborhood and the undisturbed stream ceased to exist after channelization and urban renewal occurred.