Senior Thesis Abstracts 2011
Public Land for Public Use?: Managing New York State Land for Recreation
Jacob Aronson 2011
New York State has a long history of conserving open space and providing recreational opportunities on its land. The state has had to deal with the classic dilemma faced by all public land managers: how to determine who gets to use the land and for what purposes. This thesis examines how New York State manages the allocation of public land for outdoor recreation in the face of two conflicting goals: resource protection and recreational use. Responsibilities for managing public land in New York State are split between the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Department of Environmental Conservation. These two agencies have different missions and follow different practices when planning for recreation on land that they manage. New York has inadequately fulfilled the recreational desires of all-terrain vehicle users. Based on the principle that environmental protection is paramount, the state has failed to provide ATV users with access to public land because of the environmental damage that the activity causes. The decision to prohibit ATV use on state land is not in the spirit of providing a diversity of recreational opportunities. It also reflects the strong organizational power of environmental interest groups in the state.
The Soul of the City: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Dallas City Development and the Trinity River from Dallas's Founding to the Present
John Bannon 2011
In 1998 the city of Dallas passed a bond program to finance what would become the Trinity River Corridor Project. This project aims to redevelop the historically unused Trinity River floodplain into a multi-use park combining recreational amenities, flood control, transportation alternatives and environmental remediation in an attempt to utilize and connect the city of Dallas to the single largest geographical impediment to its growth since the city was founded. This current project represents a distinct break from the past in Dallas’s relationship with the Trinity River.
Through an analysis of Dallas city development beginning in the early 1900s and culminating with the current project, three distinct eras in the city’s approach to the river can be seen. From the Dallas’s founding in 1841 until the 1930s the relationship was characterized by destruction as the city scrambled to control and conquer the usually docile river that becomes a torrent during flood events. Beginning in the early 1930s and stemming into the 1970s the city entered an era defined by conflict between continued attempts to control the river and a desire to utilize the river in a manner that would economically benefit the city. These efforts were epitomized by the failed fifty-year drive to create the Trinity Canal and turn Dallas into a port city. Since the 1970s and the rise of the environmental movement, the desire to beneficially utilize the river remains but the relationship between the city and river has changed from one of domination to one of mutual respect as for the first time, Dallas leaders are thinking about the river itself as an important city asset to be maintained. Through an analysis of the forces that shaped this change in conception, the aims of the Trinity River Corridor Project can be placed in historical perspective and forms an optimistic outlook on Dallas’s search for a defining characteristic.
Establishing Links Between Basin-Scale Climate and the Growth of Atlantic Corals: The Effect of Temperature and Feeding on Favia fragum
Hannah Barkley 2011
Growth of important reef-building corals in the tropical North Atlantic is strongly influenced by large-scale modes of climate variability.
During extended negative (cool, high productivity) phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), rates of skeletal growth of Bermudan corals are 30-50% higher than during extended positive (warm, low productivity) phases. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report coupled general circulation models predict shifts in the NAO over the 21st century toward increasingly positive phases. Thus, predicting the full impact of climate change on Atlantic coral reef ecosystems requires understanding the mechanisms linking coral growth and ocean variability.
We investigated the relative influence of temperature and food availability on the physiology and growth of the Atlantic coral /Favia fragum/, rearing zooxanthellate juveniles in four-week culture experiments under combinations of three temperature (22ºC, 25ºC, 28ºC) and two feeding (fed or unfed) conditions. Both temperature and feeding had significant effects on total lipid content and symbiotic zooxanthellae densities, and these factors independently and interactively increased the skeletal growth and calcification of the coral recruits. In addition, corals reared in cold, nutrient-replete conditions were 50% larger than those reared under warmer, nutrient-depleted conditions.
These results highlight the importance of heterotrophic feeding and, by extension, ocean productivity in fueling the growth of reef-building corals in relation to the phases of the NAO, with important implications for the health of coral reef ecosystems over the 21st century.
To Mobilize a Nation: American Public Preception of Climate Change and the Prospects for U.S. Climate Legislation
Barron Brooks 2011
The United States, as the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and a key player in international climate change negotiations, has the capability to make a remarkably large contribution to the worldwide effort to mitigate global warming by enacting strong legislation to reduce its emissions. However, for a long list of potential reasons, the U.S. has failed to adopt such a policy even as many of the world’s leading economic and political powers are doing so. One of the most important factors that will determine the likelihood and extent of U.S. climate legislation in the future, and the focus of this thesis, is the level of support that the American people have for such policy.
This thesis explores two central research questions in order to investigate the most effective approach for increasing U.S. public support for emission-reducing policies. First, it examines the potential for public education on climate change to improve support for climate policies and how such educational programs can be most effectively designed. Second, it studies the extent to which support for action to reduce emissions can be increased through the use of alternative messaging frameworks other than climate change, and analyzes what the most effective frameworks are to accomplish this goal.
In this thesis, I investigate these questions in three steps. First, I review existing academic research on how Americans form their opinions on climate change and prevailing public opinion surveys on the topic. These works provide some preliminary answers to my research questions and demonstrate the need for further research on this topic. Second, I analyze the results of a survey of 354 American adults that I conducted for this thesis. My survey provides unique information that furthers the investigation of this study and adds to the existing volume of research. Third, I assess how the conclusions of my survey and of previous academic research compare to current efforts to educate Americans on climate change and employ alternative messaging frameworks to generate support for emission-reducing policy.
The overall conclusion of this thesis is that in pursuing the goal of encouraging public support for U.S. climate policy in the near future, the use of alternative messaging frameworks is a much more promising approach than that of improving public education on climate change. The messaging frameworks of increasing American energy independence, protecting health by reducing pollution, creating new jobs, and (somewhat surprisingly) ensuring a safe future climate are found to be very effective in generating support for policies to reduce emissions, even among Americans that are skeptical of climate science or opposed to government efforts to mitigate global warming. This suggests that using a combination of these frameworks, and making the goal of addressing climate change a peripheral but not central focus of policy messaging, could be very effective in producing high levels of public support.
While public education on climate change is not found to have significant potential to alter U.S. public opinion on global warming in the near future, this thesis assumes that such education will still play an important role in improving long-term American understanding of climate change and maintaining consistent support for emission-reducing action. This thesis finds that such education will be most effective in accomplishing these goals if it focuses on refuting counter-arguments to climate science, highlights current and future local impacts of climate change, remains apolitical, and tailors its programs to appeal to Americans across the ideological spectrum.
Lithium: Mind, Earth and Energy
Garland Castaneda 2011
Lithium (Li) as a treatment for bipolar disorder is the world’s oldest psychopharmaceutical, but its mechanism of action remains poorly understood. The Li+ ion affects cellular signaling pathways including phosphatidylinositol, arachidonic acid, cAMP, and MAPK/ERK cascades and also indirectly modifies gene expression. Li’s effect on many of these pathways leads directly and/or indirectly to the inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3ß (GSK3). GSK3 is a multifunctional protein involved in glucose metabolism, cytoskeletal structure, and apoptosis. This enzyme’s myriad effects make it a focal point for researchers working to understand how Li works. However, there are several other treatment options available, and much more remains to be learned about Li and bipolar disorders in general.
Small amounts of Li are naturally present in most sources of fresh water. Higher concentrations correlate with decreased suicide and overall mortality. Concentrations are highest in the Lithium Triangle in South America. Companies there mine Li from the brines beneath some of the world’s largest salt flats. For the last several years, production has increased due to demand for batteries to power portable electronics and electric vehicles (EVs). There appears to be enough Li to meet future demand, but mining takes an environmental toll on water resources, which impacts local farmers and wildlife.
Performance of the Li-ion batteries powering current EVs have been steadily improving, but much more needs to be done for them to compete fairly with traditional vehicles. Silicon anodes, vanadium cathodes, and Li-air technology are all possible improvements on current designs. Despite recent gains in battery technology, converting to EVs would not lead to drastic decreases in pollution, especially in China where most electricity still comes from coal. To reduce emissions the transition to EVs must coincide with increased development of renewable energy sources. This thesis reviews all of the above topics and proposes future directions for research in these fields.
Harvesting the Caviar of the East: Sustainable Measures and the Paradox of Consumer Ideas
Rena Chen 2011
Bird’s nest soup is a Chinese cultural delicacy, made with the hardened saliva nest of certain species of swiftlets that have traditionally inhabited caves. While the nests themselves are irrelevant to the survival of adult swiftlets, they are crucial for newborns and fledglings, and swiftlet populations are large contributors of outside materials to a cave ecosystem. Research in Malaysia was performed to determine: farming and cave harvesting methods and their sustainability, the efficacy and enforcement of conservation measures, ecological and urban implications of this industry, and why people prefer cave- harvested nests when these seem to be more environmentally harmful.
Results show that there is an over-exploitation of nest harvesting, caused by a growing demand from China and Hong Kong, and that as a lucrative and sustainable solution the farming of swiftlets has become a booming industry in Malaysia within the past couple decades. Prices and market research via consumer interviews show, however, that there is an unyielding preference for wild or cave-harvested nests as opposed to farmed nests, despite the ecological implications, due to consumer ideals of cave- harvested nests as superior in taste and/or nutrition. In lab-based studies involving chemical analysis, certain nests have been found to have varying compositions, the properties of which are discussed. These differences, however, are questioned due to the amount of nutrients present and the processing, during which elements can be lost.
The implications of this study may be applied to movements such as the organic food movement, in which many consumers may believe that they are purchasing more sustainable food because they were grown more naturally, even if they happened to be grown more inefficiently. This idea is briefly discussed in the conclusion of this paper.
Mangrove Species Zonation in a Bermudan Tidal Pond
Matthew Costa 2011
The mangrove ecosystem is characterized by severe limitations to plant growth and survival. Tidal inundation causes extreme fluctuations in the temperature, salinity, and oxygen content of the soil. Environmental stress seems to drive species distributions in this ecosystem toward fairly strict zonation. A well conserved pattern of species zones arises in mangroves around the world, though there is little consensus on what factors govern this process. The aim of this study was to identify the variables that control the zonation pattern observed in a Bermudan mangrove.
Walsingham Pond is a tidal saltwater pond surrounded by a belt of mangrove forest consisting of a Rhizophora mangle zone near the shore and an Avicennia germinans zone farther inland. In a fixed transect study, I quantified species distribution at varying distances from shore and recorded measurements of a suite potential predictor variables. Using multiple regression, I identified five statistically significant predictors: canopy height, elevation, nitrate concentration, light intensity, and soil conductivity. My analysis allowed me to estimate the relative strengths of each effect. Though salinity is supported in the literature as the major determinant of mangrove species distribution, it appeared to have a relatively small effect at my study site. Canopy height and light intensity seem to play a major role. A survey of seedling distributions within a canopy gap reinforced this finding. The gap micro-environment was associated with higher light availability and a shift in the seedling community.
My findings suggest a potential model of the biotic and abiotic controls on mangrove species zonation. Controlled tests of my correlational results are required in order to establish causative relationships. Well-founded models for explaining mangrove species distributions are critical to mangrove conservation and sustainable use in our changing global environment.
A Hybrid Approach: An Analysis of Driving Behavior and Policy Options for Decreasing Gas Consumption in the U.S.
Emma J. Cunningham 2011
This paper uses household level data from the 2001 and 2009 Federal Highway Administration National Household Travel Survey to identify factors that determine household driving behavior. Regression analysis examines how the gas price, vehicle, and demographic characteristics affect annual miles driven by the household, average fuel efficiency of household vehicles, and the probability that the household owns a hybrid vehicle. The results of the paper suggest that households respond to an increase in gas prices by decreasing the number of miles they drive in the short run, and by increasing the fuel efficiency of household vehicles in the long run. Part of this household response is manifested in a higher probability of purchasing a hybrid vehicle when gas prices are high. The purpose of examining these relationships is to identify potential policy options to decrease household gas consumption and vehicle emissions – a goal which has both economic and environmental value. The paper goes on to discuss potential strategies to increase household demand for high fuel efficiency vehicles, and finds that a higher gas tax and Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards are the most promising options.
Sands: Technology, Environment, and Society in the Development of Oil Sands Resources in Alberta, Canada
Christopher Della Porta 2011
Fifty years ago, when commercial oil sands development first became viable, the Canadian resource garnered very little attention. Today, the oil sands of Alberta are one of the leading producers of petroleum in the world, and in total reserves are second only to Saudi Arabia. This thesis is an account of the technological, environmental, and social change that swept Canada’s Alberta province in second half of the twentieth century due to the development of a new alternative fossil fuel source, oil sands. Using a diverse set of primary sources, this thesis catalogs exactly how the oil sand – otherwise known as bitumen – deposits located in Alberta came to be exploited as a petroleum resource, and will visit various effects of bitumen’s commodification over the past half-century. Specifically, it will pursue three broad inquiries. What developments led the oil sands to become the major source of petroleum that it is today? What has been the impact of oil sands exploitation on the surrounding natural landscape? And what has been the impact of oil sands exploitation on the nearby human environment?
As the second largest deposit of petroleum in the world, Alberta’s oil sands have elicited a significant amount of literature. In an effort to answer the first question posed, I mainly employ technical manuals written in the 1980s, approximately a decade after the first commercial operation opened, which are devoted to describing the technical specifics of early oil sands operations. These company- and expert-authored reports help provide a comprehensive study of the development of oil sands technology, without which the resource would still lie untouched.
The subsequent chapter in this work engages with the second question pertaining to the environmental impact of the sands. As an extremely controversial enterprise, the oil sands have elicited politicized literature from both ends of the spectrum. This chapter explores the two brands of literature to determine the environmental reputation of oil sands development, comparing them with the actual known effects of such development in order to shed light on the reason for that reputation. By pursuing an environmental angle, this thesis enters the currently popular field of environmental history. It looks to make its mark by adopting a case study approach, telling the story of a specific time and place. And from Cronon, it employs his sweeping idea – suggested in the title of his book itself (Nature’s Metropolis) – that not only human agency, but also the environment’s agency, works to influence and shape a landscape.
In the midst of the oil sands development lays a city that up until the late 1960s was a tiny trading outpost. This city, Fort McMurray, is the central focus in answering the third question posed, as it is an archetypal energy resource boomtown. Much literature has been written on the topic of energy boomtowns, prompted by the rise of coal towns in the American West, which all exhibited a very similar set of social symptoms in response to their resource booms. I draw upon two works in particular, John S. Gilmore’s “Boom Town May Hinder Energy Resource Development,” and David Champion’s and Andrew Ford’s “A New Look at Small Power Plants: Boom-Town Effects,” in the third chapter to analyze the effect of oil sands development on a nearby community. At the end of the day, the remarkable transformation of Alberta’s bitumen deposits into a principal source of carbon-based energy is a story of human initiative and the profound impacts of resource exploitation.
(Not Quite) as American as Apple Pie: An Ethnographic Study of the Place of Vegan Dessert Shops in American Culture
Carol Dreibelbis 2011
Everything about food is shaped by the cultural moment in which that food is involved. The study of food from an anthropological point of view, then, looks at foodways, defined as “beliefs and behaviors surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food” (Counihan 2002: 3). In my thesis I consider the foodways surrounding one small aspect of American culture: veganism. More specifically, my thesis seeks to understand the place of vegan dessert shops within American culture based off of my participant-observation fieldwork at two vegan dessert shops—a vegan donut bakery in Seattle and a vegan ice cream shop in New York. Neither shop specifically advertises that it is, in fact, a vegan dessert shop. Given that these dessert shops voluntarily sell vegan products because of the numerous perceived environmental and health advantages of such products yet neither shop directly communicates those advantages to its customers, I consider the impact that these shops have on vegan culture and American culture more broadly. These shops serve ice cream and donuts—desserts with strong positive associations and negative connotations as quintessentially “American” foods; meanwhile, veganism, an extreme form of vegetarianism, exists as a subculture that rejects the consumption of all animal products as a way to move away from all that goes along with the consumption of animal products in mainstream American culture.
I argue that these dessert shops do have a positive—though unexpected—impact on both mainstream and vegan American culture. Vegan dessert shops allow veganism to perpetuate itself as a challenge to the mainstream by virtue of remaining connected to the mainstream American diet: the existence of vegan desserts also allows vegans to embrace their own veganism (and the activism connected to it) while still finding comfort and community in the mainstream food culture. In this light, vegan donuts and ice cream can allow vegans be a part of American culture (even as they attempt to change it). In the end, I suggest that this may be a more effective way for the vegan movement to both influence mainstream culture and maintain a strong, healthy community for itself.
The Wrath of Grapes: The Impact of Climate Change on Viticulture and the South African Wine Industry
Coleen Driscoll 2011
Climate change will impact many industries in the coming decades, with agriculture being one of the most vulnerable. This thesis aims to show the complexity of adapting to climate change, with a focus on how government can work with an industry to create a better outcome. To examine this idea, this thesis uses the South African wine industry as a case study, both because of wine’s close relationship to climate and the industry’s importance to the regional economy. The goal of the case study is to examine the relationship between climate and wine, analyze the quality of future wine (in a new climate) and to consider the potential effects of this shift in quality on the wine industry. This thesis argues that without intervention grape quality and industry success are likely to decrease; government intervention to help avoid market failures can help the industry prepare for climate change.
The first step of this analysis was a quantitative assessment of the effects of climate on grape quality (using grape price as a proxy) though an historical regression analysis. Using the results and climate change projections, the second step qualitatively assessed the vulnerability of future grape quality. The third step took this result (a likely decrease in overall grape quality) and examined how that could affect the wine industry.
The results of steps one and two show that white grapes are more likely to fare worse as a result of climate change than red grapes. Although both showed negative relationships with extreme temperatures (above 30ºC), white grapes also showed negative effects from high winds (above 200km/day wind run) and increasing minimum temperatures in winter and bunch initiation (October and November year before growing season). Red grapes, on the other hand, had positive correlations with these variables. Both grapes had slightly positive correlations with rainfall during harvest.
Given an expected overall decrease in quality (without adaptation to future climate), it is more likely that there will be an overall decrease in total revenue for the wine industry (even though domestic revenue may increase). This is relatively uncertain, however, due to conflicting effects and uncertainties about demand elasticity. Although effects on the industry remain unclear, what is clear is that a decrease in total revenue would have a negative effect on the economy and that there are policies related to wine and climate change (including water, trade and liquor policies) that the government should examine further to help the industry.
This thesis provides a quick insight into one industry in one nation; however, it shows the complexity of climate change legislation in a broader sense, stressing the importance of discussing future effects now. Future research should be conducted on the effects of climate change on the wine industry, as well as other industries, so that the world can continue to prepare for the changes to come.
The Thermal Ecology of Anolis Lizards of The Cayos Cochinos, Honduras, and Their Vulnerabilities to Climate Change
Ryan K. Huynh 2011
Recent studies conclude that even in the tropics, climate warming would have adverse effects due to species evolutionarily specialized for a narrow thermal range. I wanted to further look into how two different tropical habitat types would affect species performance from warming: forest versus open-habitat. Thermoregulation is a behavioral trait of species to maintain particular internal body temperatures for life functions , and I investigated whether thermoregulatory behavior between species in those habitat types would be different: would one species benefit while another species is ecologically jeopardized?
To answer this question I had to study the operative temperatures, non-thermoregulating values, from the two habitat types and secondly capture and test inhabitant anoles at various temperatures to construct performance curves. I traveled to Cayos Cochinos, Honduras, with Operation Wallacea for eight weeks to conduct field work on two anole species: Anolis lemurinus, the forest-habitat anole, and Anolis allisoni, the open-habitat anole.
My project shows that the two habitat types have distinctly different temperature distributions and that the inhabitant anoles have different performance curves. I show that open-habitat Anolis allisoni would experience an increase in performance due to ambient temperatures moving closer to their thermal maximum for optimal performance, and forest-habitat Anolis lemurinus would have damaged performance from having more ambient temperatures outside of their thermal breadth and environmental temperatures would be further from their thermal optimum as well as closer to their critical thermal maximum, meaning more temperatures would be in the potentially fatal range.
There is ultimately cause for alarm because my project showcases how warming can simultaneously hurt and enhance performance for two tropical species living in two distinct habitats.
A Storm of Change: The Effect of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on Global Commodity Prices
Matthew Anderson Katz 2011
This paper addresses the historical impact of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on global primary commodity prices. Using vector autoregressive models and a novel proxy variable to model El Niño intensity, the paper finds that El Niño has a statistically significant impact on many of the most widely traded primary commodities, with a regionally pronounced effect on commodities grown along the Pacific Rim. On the upper end, a one standard deviation shock to El Niño increased coconut oil price inflation in excess of 6 percentage points. Further, El Niño’s impact on real price inflation was found to be largely symmetrical between the spot and futures markets for primary non-energy commodities. However, between 4 and 10 months after an El Niño shock, the relationship between the spot and futures markets exhibited asymmetries, suggesting subtle divergences in market expectations, the convenience yield, or the risk premium of holding a futures contract during this 6-month period. In light of El Niño’s statistically significant impact on commodity prices, this paper also discusses the implications for developing countries and corporate commodity exposure. Following the examination of commodity risk management schemes, this paper argues that El Niño forecasts and intensity variables are crucial to accurately construct a commodity risk profile and develop a successful risk management strategy.
Water Access in the Colonias of Laredo, Texas: Health, Representation, and Uncertainty
Cynthia Kroll 2011
El acceso al agua en las colonias de Laredo, Texas: salud, representación, e incertidumbre*
The term “colonias” has different connotations on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border: in the U.S., colonias are border towns lacking basic resources, whereas in Mexico they are synonymous with community or municipality. In this thesis, I use artistic representations of the U.S.-Mexico border to suggest that residents of Laredo, Texas colonias should be included in water conservation education programs because they are part of the transborder space. I discuss the shared histories of the sister cities Laredo (Texas) and Nuevo Laredo (Mexico), the evolution of their colonias, initial perceptions of them, and the logo of a bi-national environmental program, Border 2012/Frontera 2012, to suggest that the colonias of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are what I call “Siamese twin colonias”. I then examine Claire Fox’s literary analysis of the border region, The Fence and the River, and Alex Rivera’s near-future science fiction film about water availability in Mexico, Sleep Dealer, to show that water is a shared resource between both the U.S. and Mexico, and Laredo and its colonias. Based on this analysis and predictions about water availability, I suggest that Laredo colonias should be included in conservation education programs. Although such a program does not yet exist in these colonias, I discuss the use of promotoras (community health workers) and the importance of cultural understanding as potential components that warrant further consideration.
*Thesis written in Spanish
Physical and Electrochemical Evaluation of Synthesis Methods of Bimetallic Catalysts for Ethanol Oxidation
Barrett LaChance 2011
Platinum catalysts paired with a secondary metal oxide in a 3-1 Pt:M atomic ratio from solutions of varying acidity comprised of ethylene glycol, HCl, NaOH, a platinum metal precursor PtCl6 2−, and the metal oxide nanopowders SnO2, TiO2 and WO3 were synthesized using a microwave-assisted polyol process for electrooxidation of ethanol. These catalysts were physically characterized to determine catalyst particle composition and size though Energy Dispersive X-ray (EDX) scans using an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM), and micrograph imaging using a tunneling electron microscope (TEM). The ESEM proved too weak for particle size or distribution analysis on the nm scale, and TEM imaging demonstrated that particle size is unaffected by synthesis solution pH. Cyclic voltammetry (CV) half cell reactions in 0.1M and 1M aqueous ethanol were carried out to determine peak oxidation current density and thus potential fuel cell performance of the catalysts. Acidity of synthesis solution did not correlate with to catalyst performance in CV trials in 1M fuel, but a trend of decreasing catalyst performance with increasing pH was seen in 0.1M fuel. The dilute 0.1M ethanol fuel proportionally outperformed the 1M ethanol fuel, which yielded a study of the Kintetic Isotope Effect (KIE) and the role of water as a reactant in the electrooxidative process. This test examined the CV half cell performance of catalysts in 1M ethanol aqueous ethanol and 1M ethanol in D20 solvent fuels. This study yielded a significant KIE for presence of water and thus provided information on the rate determining step of the reaction mechanism of ethanol oxidation to higher electron products such as acetic acid or CO2.
The Damn Dam: The Transnational Opposition Movement that Influenced Washington and Changed the World Bank
Caroline Markowitz 2011
In 1985, the World Bank began funding the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), one of the biggest dams of the Indian Narmada Dam Project, intending to irrigate parched Indian land. The Sardar Sarovar Dam is located on the Narmada River, which runs through three Indian states: Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. This created compliance issues between the three riparian governments, the Government of India, and the World Bank. In 1992, the Bank dropped funding due to the Government of India’s failure to comply with the Bank’s environmental and R&R (resettlement and rehabilitation) regulations.
I focused my thesis around Barber Conable, president of the Bank between 1986 and 1991 during the heat of the Narmada debate. Conable is known for dedicating his time at the Bank to sustainability and women’s rights. Although this is evident in his Bank speeches and demeanor, he seemed to be a submissive Bank leader.
One of the most contended issues of the project lied in the fact that the Narmada River is home to indigenous people, referred to as Adivasis, whose land was flooded and lives were destroyed by the SSP. In the late 1980s, a strong transnational opposition movement grew in protest of the SSP. Environmental NGOs and human rights organizations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, etc., combined forces with the Indian peoples movement, aimed at persuading the Bank to stop funding the project.
Through an analysis of archival Bank documents, I reveal the strong impact these organizations had on Barber Conable, influencing him to commission an Independent Review of the SSP. This review team led a mission in the fall of 1991, returning with striking evidence that the Government of India and those of the three riparian states had not followed the Bank’s environmental or R&R stipulations. During the six years that the Bank funded the SSP, the project was defined by delays, conflicts, and protest; in the end, the Bank dropped the project, but the Sardar Sarovar Dam was still constructed.
Pushing the 123ka Barrier in Greenland: A Revisitation in the Reconstruction of the Disturbed Section of GISP2/GRIP
Sean McGinnis 2011
While ice cores from Antartica have been dated to 800ka, our current limit in Greenland extends only to 123ka. Previous research suggests that the strati- graphically disturbed sections of GRIP/GISP2 could extend the Greenland record further. Here, we use the δ18Oatm and CH4 from Vostok and the same parameters from the NGRIP/GISP2 Greenland Composite to uniquely date 9 new points which span 120ka to 240ka, most of which are located in Eemian. The δ18Oice and total gas content associated with these data points support previous evidence that the Eemian was warmer with a thinner Greenland ice sheet. Our newly constructed record exhibits a brief cooling trend between 124-125ka as well as a total gas con- tent spike at 123ka, both of which are unresolved by current sea level estimates and remain unexplained at this time.
The Effect of Biochar on the Processes Governing Emissions of Carbon Dixoxide and Nitrous Oxide from Agricultural Soils
Michael Merlone 2011
CO2 and N2O emissions from agricultural soils are a significant contributor to global climate change. Adding biochar to these soils has been shown to both sequester carbon and reduce emissions of both gases, minimizing the overall impact of agriculture on climate change. This study aimed to understand the reasons for the reduced CO2 and N2O emissions observed in biochar-amended soils to ascertain the safety of large-scale adoption. Over a 7 week period beginning 6/12/2010 at the UC Davis student farm, gas and soil samples were collected from 20 1x1 meter plots, growing Yolo Wonder peppers (Capsicum annuum) on 4 different treatments: compost 5 t/ha, biochar 5 t/ha, biochar and compost at 2.5 t/ha each, and control.
The treatments were fertilized twice via emulsion at 25 kg-N/ha. As expected, N2O and CO2 emissions were reduced by biochar addition, but the compost only treatment also showed decreased N2O emissions with respect to control (p<0.05). This result, along with no significant difference across treatments with respect to extractable nitrogen (p>0.05), suggests that the reductions in N2O were not due to decreased absolute levels of denitrification. Instead increased availability to labile organic carbon due to adsorption on biochar or to additions by compost, probably resulted in increased efficiency of denitrification and therefore decreased N2O emissions. The reduced CO2 emissions were attributed to a shift in the type, but not quantity, of soil organisms, which resulted in a decreased overall respiration rate. Yields were not affected positively or negatively by any of the treatments. These results suggest that biochar does not have a negative impact on overall soil health and is likely safe on a large-scale, however further research should be performed to confirm these results.
Estrogen and Light Pollution: Effects on the Growth and Behavior of Sailfin Mollies (Peocilia latipinna)
Jennifer D. Oswald 2011
Estrogen pollution and light pollution have been recognized for their individual ability to interfere with the biological functioning of aquatic organisms. Both pollutants interfere particularly with the normal reproductive biology of fish, yet little is known about how light and estrogen pollution act in consortium. This study investigates the individual and combined effects of exposure to these pollutants, in the form of 17α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2) and dim lighting during normal dark hours, on the growth and behavior of female Sailfin mollies (Peocilia latipinna). Female Sailfin mollies were bred and treated from birth with exposure to estrogen, light, or a combination of light + estrogen. Following exposure, females treated with light and light + estrogen exhibited shorter body length measurements than control females over the course of ten weeks, however, no significant difference in growth of females exposed to different treatments was found.
Also following exposure, females were subject to a series of choice behavior experiments between male and female Sailfin molly models. Results of the behavior experiments revealed that females exhibit sexual repulsion from males under control conditions; estrogen exposure reinforced this sexual repulsion while light exposure caused female behavior to be neutral and non-preferential between the sexes. Overall responsiveness of females to both sexes was found to decrease with exposure to estrogen but increase with exposure to light and light + estrogen. The results of this study show that estrogen and light pollution have subtle, yet significant impacts on the normal growth and behavior of Sailfin mollies. Abnormalities in size, growth, and responsiveness to conspecifics are not fatal for individual fish, but do have implications for the persistence of Sailfin molly populations.
Who's Behind the Wheel: A Comparison of Automotive Industrial Policy in the United States and Japan
Esteban Plaza-Jennings 2011
The state of the automobile industry has recently been in the news a great deal due to the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler. Indeed this federal bailout represents the largest involvement of the U.S. government in the affairs of what is already one of the most intensely regulated industries in the country. This paper seeks to examine the history of government industrial policy in the U.S. auto industry and compare it with the contrasting model of Japanese industrial policy. Specifically, this paper tries to determine how U.S. government industrial policy can best support growth in the automotive sector. This research shows that the U.S. industrial policy has been inconsistent as a result of the government prioritizing foreign policy concerns over economic concerns. This contrasts with Japan which historically has had a supportive industrial policy as a result of its focus on economic issues.
Responding to Nigeria’s Building Challenges: A Bamboo Dome Design for a Nigerian School
Megan Prier 2011
This thesis addresses the economic and social challenges currently faced in Nigeria as a result of a growing population and a weak construction industry inflated by the failure of the conventional building system dependent on petroleum. The proposed alternative is a construction industry rooted in sustainable, local materials and employed with local workers. The focus of this paper is one potential design for a bamboo gridshell to serve as a multi-purpose gymnasium for a school in the rural villages on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria where the population is without modern amenities and adequate educational resources. The frame is constructed entirely out of whole bamboo culms connected with wooden joints via stainless steel bolts with bamboo reinforced concrete footing and thatch roofing.
The initial form of the design was inspired by the large span requirements and durability demands to minimize contact to the ground. The shape was refined with computerized form finding to optimize the efficiency of member strength by isolating the majority of member loads to axial compression. A structural design of the global form, interior gridshell joints, and supports, with strength analyses in Structural Analysis Program (2010), compares material capacity with accumulated loads calculated according to the International Building Code and the Structural Design Codes for bamboo and verifies the strength and stability of the design under assumed loading conditions and joint type. Supplementary analyses of the design include a life-cycle cost analysis based on available data for material and labour costs and a sustainability analysis with the Sustainable Building Assessment Tool (SBAT) and an approximation of embodied energy. Safety in light of new and limited codes and fire hazards are discussed as well as the proper treatment for durability to prevent material decay from pest infestation and moisture-induced decay. A potential construction process and order is recommended using limited machinery and hand labour.
Structurally, the design of a large span gridshell pushes the structural capacity of bamboo design and suggests the viability of the material in large scale application with design decisions that take advantage of bamboo’s natural strength parallel to the grain and addresses durability, dimensional instability, and joint challenges unique to bamboo.
This proposal thus presents a safe and viable design and system of building that can provide housing for a growing population, combat high unemployment, empower poor communities, and stimulate the Nigerian economy from the ground up to achieve the recently passed federal government’s “Vision 20/2020” to make the Nigerian economy one of the fastest growing economies worldwide by 2020. Furthermore, the holistic and sustainable potential of bamboo building generates economic growth and social development that can be carried past 2020 generations into the future, solving both the short term goal of the government and the long-term necessity of sustainability in light of imminent global climate change. The design of a school adds to social development by providing a physical space that encourages permanent teaching and regular education that can provide children with the necessary skills to develop their own communities.
The Conservative Conservationist? Regulatory Focus, Framing, and Ideology in Climate Change Communication
Erin Sherman 2011
Anthropogenic climate change threatens human welfare, but human individuals and institutions, particularly those who lean rightward on the political ideological spectrum, have not made adequate efforts to acknowledge and adapt to it. System justification theory provides a theoretical framework for understanding why individuals, especially conservatives, might resist recognizing and reacting to this problem, specifically through relating conservatism to positive regard for the sociopolitical status quo in addition to psychological characteristics such as ambiguity and uncertainty intolerance and low integrative complexity. Research relating system justification theory to regulatory focus theory suggests that system justification may be driven by an underlying prevention focus and/or high behavioral inhibition sensitivity, which, combined with conservative ideological scripts, may cause a cognitive load-type effect to inhibit complex cognition in the face of affectively aversive stimuli. The particular challenges of confronting climate change in this motivational and cognitive state are discussed.
This empirical investigation tested the strength of this framework and its implications for conservation-relevant cognition and behaviors in a 2 by 2 factorial design in which regulatory focus prime and pro-environmental message frame were varied across participants. The design employed paradigms from political, motivational, cognitive, and applied conservation psychology sub-fields. Preliminary results suggest a complex relationship between ideological scripts and prevention focus. A possible cognitive rigidity-based mechanism for the beneficial effects of alternative environmental messaging and political strategies is discussed.
The Effect of Fuel Prices on the Average Fuel Economy of Automobiles Sold
Kyle Soloff 2011
The large quantity of pollution created by the transportation sector in the United States is known to be a major contributor to the carbon dioxide accumulation in our atmosphere. With the growing concern over climate change, this pollution has become a significant concern for U.S. policy makers. The dominant political strategy in the past has relied on Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that require a certain fuel economy for automakers. This paper explores another interesting policy option, that of taxing gasoline. The idea of taxing gasoline in order to reduce pollution is based on the assumption that higher fuel prices will cause drivers to either drive less or buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. I specifically study the latter of these two possible effects, by exploring the causal relationship between gas prices and the fuel economy of automobiles bought by consumers. This paper tests the hypothesis that raising fuel prices will lead to the purchasing of more fuel-efficient vehicles by consumers by regressing a weighted average of miles per gallon against crude oil prices. I find that a $1 rise in crude oil prices leads to a statistically significant rise in average MPGs by between 0.01 and 0.03. Consumers thus change their vehicle purchasing patterns in response to changes in oil prices, and, based on my time-lag analysis do so with little delay between when they respond to price changes and when they purchase vehicles.
Modern Renewable Energy Technology: Reducing Carbon-Based Energy Usage in the United States
Peter Sassoon Sopher 2011
This paper’s primary purpose is to determine whether renewable energy production, using modern technology, impacts energy usage from fossil fuel sources at a statistically significant level. The secondary objective of this paper is to determine which other variables—from the following categories: energy price, EPA defined geographic region, climate policy, energy end-use sector, economics, pollution, politics, and climate—explain energy usage from fossil fuels at a statistically significant level. This paper uses state-specific data for all 50 states in the United States for the nine years from 2000-2008. This paper’s regressions use a panel dataset with the parameters set as “State” and “Year.” The results indicate that, from 2000-2008, there was a negative correlation between renewable energy production and usage of energy usage from fossil fuels that was statistically significant, but that increased renewable energy production yielded a disproportionately low corresponding reduction in the usage of energy from fossil fuel sources. Other variables that significantly and negatively correlated with energy usage from fossil fuels were states in the Southeast, states in the Pacific Northwest, and annual precipitation. Variables that significantly and positively correlated with energy usage from fossil fuels were very conservative states, states with large land areas, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states, states in New England, residential sector energy consumption, and industrial sector energy consumption.
India Shining? An Assessment of the National Solar Mission
Kathleen Wade 2011
In January of 2010, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy released the NationalSolar Mission (NSM), the country’s most ambitious solar energy policy to date. NSMaims to install 22 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, a target over 70 times larger thanIndia’s current installed solar capacity. Policy experts and entrepreneurs have debated whether NSM is likely to achieve this goal in time, but others have raised more fundamental questions. As a developing country, shouldn’t India focus on using solar energy to meet the needs of its poorest citizens? But such questions are rare and the overwhelming attention NSM has received is about its high targets.
This thesis analyzes NSM in the context of India’s past renewable energy policies, especially wind, to determine the NSM’s most likely outcomes and apparent objectives. The first chapter examines the history of solar energy policy in India from the 1980s to the present day. During this time, India’s renewable energy ministry shifted its support from rural solar dissemination programs to incentives for grid-connected solar applications. NSM is the culmination of this trend. The chapter then outlines NSM’s stated goals and mechanisms as they have progressed to date.
The second chapter evaluates the effect of central and state government policies on the development of India’s wind energy sector, which began in the early 1990s. Tax concessions spurred rapid installation of wind capacity and the emergence of a strong turbine-manufacturing sector. But perverse incentives created by policy and inadequate energy planning by utilities prevented benefits from wind power from flowing readily to consumers. Wind technology was also ill suited for electrifying villages in remote areas. Government policy successfully established India’s wind sector, but it could not distribute the benefits of wind energy to the general population.
The third chapter analyzes NSM in detail and projects the policy’s most likely outcomes. Similar to other national renewable energy policies, NSM is too small in scope to impact India’s energy security or carbon emissions trajectory. Flaws in the policy’s mechanism for stimulating solar generation suggest that NSM will not meet its targets for solar capacity. Utilities are not likely to integrate solar power any more efficiently than they did wind power. NSM largely ignores solar energy’s potential to contribute to rural development, though research and experience has shown that solar power can be a costeffectivemethod of improving energy access. What remains is NSM’s commitment to stimulating the solar manufacturing industry through local content restrictions and the creation of a domestic market for solar components. Solar industry growth, like wind sector growth in the previous decade, is NSM’s most likely outcome and quite possibly its primary objective.
This thesis concludes that NSM is an inappropriate renewable energy policy for India because it focuses on creating a solar industry over employing solar energy to achieve basic development goals. Even if NSM installs 22 gigawatts of solar power by 2022, its success will be an empty one for renewable energy in India.
The Maryland Intercounty Connector: A Response to Public Concerns
Megan Waters 2011
For over fifty years, the general land-use plans in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area included zoning patterns that reserved state land for a highway that would connect the region’s rising business and residential developments. After a dip in the economy in the 1970’s caused plans for the highway known as the Outer Beltway to disintegrate, the concept of the Outer Beltway was dropped. However, the section connecting Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties just north of D.C. was retained in local and regional plans. State and local officials initiated studies and plans for this connector highway in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but attempts at construction approval failed under the rising opposition of residents, civil rights activists and environmentalists. Despite the continual and increasing presence of this opposition, the connecting highway known as the Intercounty Connector (ICC) was approved for construction in 2006 and has since been nearly completed. It is now touted by Maryland officials as one of the “greenest” highways in the nation for its environmental impact mitigation and community stewardship package. The goal of my thesis is to evaluate how the ICC task force responded to public and private concerns during the approval process, with a more detailed focus on the environmental aspect. I provide the public with a brief synopsis of the issues surrounding the ICC as well as simplified explanations of their resolution.
The Politics of Biodiversity Hotspot Protection in Thailand
Lauren Whatley 2011
This paper analyzes the environmental policies that exist in Thailand that aim to protect biodiversity and the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot in Thailand. The analysis will question the role of the Thai government in drafting policies and secondarily, on implementation. The goal of this investigation is to determine which factors facilitate the protection of biodiversity by focusing on Thailand and using it as a model for other countries situated within biodiversity hotspots throughout the world. In correlation, the analysis will seek to specify which factors pose constraints and prevent effective environmental policy-making. To garner this information, the extent of resources will go beyond print material to include interviews with exports and firsthand observation. The paper will first discuss the importance of biodiversity as well as threats to its preservation. Then, in order to pinpoint the factors that affect successful protection of biodiversity, the paper will look at the history of the Thai government in the past 100 years, past and present environmental policies and programs, and obstacles that have prevented biodiversity protection. Finally, the paper will compare Thailand’s policies that protect biodiversity to a variety of other countries that are rich in biodiversity and explore which circumstances advance biodiversity protection. The most salient factors in ensuring biodiversity protection are an early history of environmental protection policies, a sufficient amount of economic development, and the presence of NGOs and organizations to help enforce policies.
Organochlorine Speciation in Lake Sediments
Marjorie Willner 2011
Anthropogenic organohalogens, specifically organochlorines, have been continually scrutinized for their toxic effects; only recently have scientists begun to question the impact of naturally occurring compounds. The identification of over 3,700 new organohalogen compounds in the last two decades underscores the need to understand the biogeochemical chlorine cycle. Previous studies have identified that natural organochlorine compounds are both produced and degraded in soils and soil biota. However, little is known about natural organochlorines in lakes and lake sediments.
This work aimed to elucidate the chlorine speciation in fresh water lake sediments and suspended particles. Data was collected on the distribution of chlorine between the inorganic and organic fraction and on the specific organochlorine compounds in a given sample. Speciation depth profiles were constructed for three fresh water lakes in Puerto Rico, US and showed that the fraction of inorganic chloride increased with depth. Additionally, the data from the lakes was compared to see if nutrient limiting effected the chlorine speciation. Mass spectroscopy data was collected from a lake bed core from one of the Puerto Rican lakes and from a lake bed core from the Pine Barrens, NJ site. In the Puerto Rican sample the possible chemical formulas deduced from the mass spectroscopy spectra matched the chlorine speciation suggested by the speciation data.
Rethinking the Innovation Policy Debate: An Analytic Framework
Tucker Willsie 2011
The goal of this thesis is to develop and demonstrate a methodology for evaluating government initiatives to promote innovation. My paper intends to show that the current ideological debates between those favoring government-led innovation and those opposing it are unhelpful because they ignore the details of the programs themselves that can separate success from failure. I propose the creation of a framework that dissects and analyzes the contextual and technical components of historical research initiatives. When completed, this framework can then be used to evaluate current and proposed research initiatives in a more nuanced and informative way.
In order to create the framework, I begin by examining aspects of the current policy debate between government interventionists and market fundamentalists, and identify several key points of contention. While there are other equally valid questions, in this paper I specifically look at the justifications for government intervention in the research process, the potential risks associated with intervention, the phases of the innovation process that the government can/should target and finally the partnerships that the government can form with private industry to help them achieve their research objectives. In Chapter 2, I address these questions one at a time, using one or more historical examples to defend the conclusions I make. At the end of the chapter I draw my findings from each of the four questions into a concise, one-page framework that can easily be applied to another research initiative.
For this paper, I focus on the government-supported efforts to develop cheap, viable solar photovoltaic technology. In Chapter 3, I use the framework developed in Chapter 2 to evaluate the details of solar PV technology and the government program in place to support it. I conclude that the government does have proper motivations and justifications for intervention and the risks of government intervention harming the viability of the technology are low. I also provide a somewhat detailed account of why the government should support research and development for second-generation solar cells rather than focusing on deployment, which would favor first generation cells. Finally, I evaluate ARPA-E, a public-private partnership aimed in part at supporting innovation in solar PV technologies, and determine that the program demonstrates all the features that should lead to a cost-effective and productive partnership.
In Chapter 4, I apply the results of my analysis back to specific policy debates occurring in Congress today. In doing so, I demonstrate that the framework model can provide guidance on the most salient policy issues in a way that is rooted in a rational analysis of historical initiatives and that therefore avoids becoming mired in the ideological back-and-forth that currently rules these debates and leads to inconsistent, sometimes irrational policy.
Egyptian Power Politics: Nationalism, Nasserism, and the Road to the Suez War
Spencer Zakarin 2011
My thesis, entitled Egyptian Power Politics: Nationalism, Nasserism, and the Road to the Suez War, explores Gamal Abdel Nasser’s policies during his first four years in power and how these policies were influenced by the political environment in which he took power and the premises upon which he justified his rule.
When Nasser and the Free Officer’s Movement took power in 1952 in a military coup, they inherited a government that was exceedingly corrupt and ineffective. Egypt had been ruled by Great Britain, whether directly or indirectly, for decades. One of Nasser’s main principles was establishing a truly independent Egypt, free of international influence.
Egypt was a predominantly agricultural economy, but because most of Egypt is desert, its economy relied on a fixed amount of arable land. As the population grew, the cultivable land per capita decreased, leading to worsening conditions for the lower classes. According to Nasser’s plan, creating an independent Egypt meant not only making it politically independent but also economically independent. Thus, Nasser was determined to modernize the economy, solve the agricultural problems, and project Egyptian strength abroad. His solution was the building of the Aswan High Dam. This project was meant to provide cheap electricity, water security, and increased cultivable land area, as well as serving as a symbol of Egyptian strength.
Nasser’s government replaced a string of very short-lived cabinets, each having been ineffectual and unpopular. In order to accomplish the goals of the revolution, Nasser understood that he had to maintain power. The Aswan High Dam seemed to be a great solution to many of Egypt’s problems, but it was not a short term solution. The effects of the Dam would not be seen for many years. In order to remain in power long enough to see the project through, Nasser adopted Egyptian nationalism, framing himself as the leader of the common Egyptian. By positioning himself in this way as opposed to appealing to the elites, Nasser obtained the popular support needed to stay in power.
As Nasser grew in popularity and strength in Egypt, he began to look outside Egypt’s borders to strengthen his country internationally. As he did within Egypt, Nasser utilized ideology to empower himself and his country, though this time the ideology was not that of Egyptian nationalism, but rather pan-Arabism. By advocating a unified Arab people in opposition to Western interference, Nasser became the hero of the Arabs. He demonstrated that it was possible to stand up to the great powers.
In his attempt to build the Aswan High Dam, Nasser sought out financing from many of the Western nations. After being continually rebuffed, Nasser realized that financing would not come from abroad, and so had to come from within Egypt. Because the Dam was so crucial to his development plans, Nasser was willing to go to great lengths to assure its construction. In order to obtain the financing for the construction of the Dam, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. This led to numerous political confrontations between Nasser and the Western nations, but Nasser refused to back down or retreat in any way. He was politically unable to give in to Western demands because his political legitimacy was based on his staunch opposition to Western influence and domination. He, in effect, had no choice but to continue forward at any cost, even into war. Nasser’s eventual victory in the Suez War, though not due to any victories on the battlefield by the Egyptian military, cemented his position as the foremost leader of the Arabs and a hero to third-world countries around the globe.