Tonight at 8:30pm is Earth Hour, and annual event where hundreds of monuments around the globe go dark for an hour in order to promote sustainable energy and conservation. This year more than 170 countries are taking part, from the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Times Square and even the International Space Station. Earth Hour started in Sydney Australia in 2007 and has grown each year. In order to support this tonight from 8:30pm to 9:30pm turn off all of your lights and share this link to spread the word!!
Dynamic Tidal Powder is the newest idea to harness energy from the tides. Renewable energy is produced by the surge of the ocean waters due to the rise and fall of tides. It is a new idea therefore the amount of power produced thus far by tidal energy is small and there are very few power plants. The first Tidal Power Station is located in La Rance, France. Unfortunately the U.S. has not sites where energy could be produced at a reasonable price, but it is a great idea for other countries like China, France, England, Canada, and Russia to implement. There is a long road for tidal energy but once engineers develop a product that has a low Energy Payback Ratio, has little impact on the environment, and is profitable for everyone, it will be a highly beneficial sustainable solution.
Tidal Streams are bodies of high velocity water due to tides. Turbines are placed within these streams to allow the waters steady and reliable tides to produce a constant stream of electricity. The turbines blades move slowly to prevent marine life from getting caught in the system. The first tidal power station was constructed in 2007 and implemented in a narrow straight between the Strangford Lough inlet and the Irish Sea.
What is this strange plastic looking tree you might ask? It is the Arbre A Vent or “wind tree” created by French entrepreneur Jerome Michaud-Larivieve through his company New Wind. The 26×36 foot tree has 72 “leaves” that are silent power generators. A wind as light as 4.4 miles per hour can push a leaf, allowing energy to be produced potentially year round. Power is produced from these trees to power all the streetlights and some small surrounding apartment buildings. Even though this does not sound like much, in the long run it will be highly beneficial. Wind power has a high Energy Payback Ratio although it’s biggest criticism against their implementation is their appearance. This invention is great because it is allowing a great sustainable resource to be implemented without the criticism of those who will see it everyday.
Are offshore wind farms the future of renewable energy? Europe has already invested in 2,488 offshore wind turbines jumping on the next big thing. After much debate and protest, Deepwater Wind announced they would be the first company in the U.S. to implement the first U.S. wind farm. They secured a $290 million to build a small, five-turbine wind farm off the coast of Black Island in Rhode Island. Even though the farm is on the smaller side it is estimated to produce 125,000 megawatt-hours annually allowing it to produce enough power for 17,000 homes. I believe this is going to be one of the renewable energy sources that will aim the world in the right direction to becoming more sustainable.
California is facing one of their longest and harshest droughts in history. Dried up lake beds cause water shortages forcing residents to decrease outdoor irrigation. They face up to $500 in fines if they do not cooperate. The state was put under drought emergency as of January with estimated losses of $2.2 billion and 17 thousand jobs within the year. In addition to residents changing their outdoor irrigation ways, agriculture farms were forced to use less and less water as they watched their wells decrease year by year. The ultimate question is, what should be done in the future to avoid fresh water depletion in California? The country? The world?
In my opinion in areas where droughts are probable catchment systems should be implemented. Catchment systems can be implemented under buildings. By catching water on the roof and then storing under the building, the water can be used to make everyday life more sustainable and to have back up water in case of emergencies. Although, the main change that needs to occur is consumption. The majority of the United States is consuming more energy and resources than is available. We are at a turning point and need to change our habits.
What are mangroves you may ask? I first learned about mangroves at The Island School, in Cape Eleuthera Bahamas. I learned from hands on experience about red, black and white mangroves. Mangroves are a large tree like shrubs that grow in sediment habitats near the coast. They are typically located in tropical areas and are the main ecosystems for a diverse group of animals. Mangroves interlocking roots in the ocean and on land are crucial to preventing sediment from running into the ocean and protecting the last from tsunamis and hurricanes. They also have a unique system of excreting salt that allows them to thrive in the ocean.
I came across an interesting article posted by National Geographic called “To Save Coral Reefs, First Save Mangroves”. The article discusses the hard truth that the coral reefs are not thriving in the waters that have increasing temperatures. Although, scientists have found that there are small coral reels surrounding the mangroves that have survived, showing that the mangroves could be a key factor to saving the coral reefs.
I came across this group on campus and thought it was amazing! Team GR2OW, made up of IDEAS students, is working to make Lehigh’s campus more sustainable by implementing composting on campus. Their initiative to decrease not only Lehigh’s carbon footprint but also the community around Lehigh, is one that should inspire others to make a change where they live. As Ali Lang on Team GR2OW worded it perfectly, “just because your an engineer doesn’t mean you have to work with math and science, engineering is so much more than just numbers and theories, engineering is failure and growth… engineering is problem solving.” This idea that engineering are more than numbers is what the IDEAS program is all about. Engineers are problem solvers and problem solvers need to know more than numbers, they need diverse knowledge to help them develop a product that benefits all parties.
This week in my Science of Environmental Issues class we focused on learning about the complexity in nature and the environment, specifically planetary boundaries. As discussed by Rockstrom, there are many planetary boundaries including climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification and more. These boundaries define the “safe operating state” for humanity to continue thriving on this planet. It is already estimated that two boundaries have been crossed which means humanity is at a turning point.
Humanity either needs to find more sustainable ways to live on this planet or face the consequences. Each planetary boundary has effects on each of the other boundaries. If one boundary is crossed others are in turn negatively affected. For example, the nitrogen cycle boundary has been crossed primarily because of the mass production of fertilizer for food production. This additional nitrogen produced by humanity makes our planets bodies of water more acidic, leading to loss of biodiversity in the marine ecosystems which causes strains on the already crossed biodiversity boundary. All o the boundaries are interconnected and it is not enough to just help prevent the crossing of one boundary. In class we discussed what the boundaries are, how they affect each other, and what are some ways to prevent crossing more.
Interesting articles on the topic:
As a second semester freshman, I am already delving into my intended major. The biggest asset of IDEAS Program is that it concentrates on making you proficient in your area of learning. That does not just include what classes you have to take to get a degree but what classes will allow you to become a more well rounded, holistic engineer. This semester I chose to enroll in Beginner Spoken Mandarin II, Glaciers and Glaciation, The Science of Environmental Issues and Natural Hazards: Impacts and Consequences along with my prerequisites. It is a fantastic feeling going into a classroom and being passionate about what you are learning. IDEAS teaches you that any class you take will help your major. If your majoring in Environmental Engineering but take a psychology class, it will help you understand people which will help you to become a better engineer. IDEAS is a privilege to be part of and if you want to learn more go to
The loving ambiance and the feeling of a full stomach are the aspects of Thanksgiving that I cherish the most. Like most students, I was fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving off campus surrounded by loved ones. Whether your family celebrates with ham, turkey, lasagna or anything in between this holiday is a time for loved ones and good food.
Thanksgiving morning I woke to snowflakes drifting down from the sky and it was almost as if I were back home in Maine. Walking outside, I felt the chill of the fresh air and the snow crunching beneath my steps.
With a stroke of inspiration I started rolling the perfectly wet snow, and with each roll the ball became larger and larger. Just like when I was young, my daddy came and helped me build a snowman. Thanksgiving is a time to relive old pastimes as well as make new memories with the ones you love.