Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Month: November 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Why UK’s plan to Eliminate Coal Usage May Worsen Climate Change

The United Kingdom has announced plans to restrict the use of coal-fired power plants by 2023, and shut down all of the remaining plants by 2025. Doing so will make the UK one of the largest nations that is transitioning from coal to natural gas and wood as fuel.

While coal is notoriously responsible for contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and subsequently promoting global warming and climate change, the new sources of fuel are somewhat problematic. Burning trees for fuel produces about fifteen to twenty percent more carbon dioxide pollution than burning coal would. Not only that, but the fuel required to grind, heat and dry the wood, as well as transport the pellets, will add another twenty percent worth of emissions and pollution.

Natural gas is beneficial in that its extraction is least damaging to the environment (compared to coal and petroleum) and it is the cleanest burning of the three major fossil fuels. However, it should still be kept in mind that its reserves are located in politically unstable regions of the world which makes extraction complicated. Its transportation is also a difficult process, and while the environmental damage from extraction is less damaging, it is still very much prominent.

The UK’s efforts are certainly appreciated as they are attempting to take a step in right direction, but it must be questioned if it is in fact the right way to go.

Terrorism Resonates: Paris Rally for Climate Change Cancelled

In light of recent events, a rally that was scheduled to take place in Paris on November 29, the eve of the United Nations conference, has been cancelled by police for safety precautions. The march was anticipated by organizers to have as many as 200,000 participants, all of whom would demand a strong action regarding climate change. Environmental campaigners, such as Nicolas Haeringer of 350.org, are determined to find different ways to call attention to their cause for climate justice.

Similar marches in other countries were also planned, such as in Australia, but they are still scheduled.

Delegates of the climate conference remain firm in their plans to attend the talks, as failing to do so would “hand the terrorists a victory.” Some individuals reported feeling safe with the level of security that is being employed.

It has also been acknowledged that with the cancelation of the march, it may compromise some of the elements of the meeting, but will not significantly affect the outcomes of the negotiations.

Read the full article here.

Damnation – Environmental Film Response

060114_damnationlThe documentary film Damnation by Travis Rummel and Ben Knight looks into the large dams of the United States and the effect they have on the river ecosystems. Released in 2014, it highlights the problems of the old dams but also explains how removing them significantly helps the environment there. As the film notes in the beginning, it was financed by Patagonia, which helped give it a higher budget and opportunities. This is one of its weaknesses however, as defined by the class. The documentary is composed of many shots of actual dams, interviews, and hand-held camera work. It is most definitely an advocacy documentary because it presents an issue with a clear statement on where the film stands. Ben Knight is also taking part in the documentary and so it becomes participatory, along with performative since he is in the story as well. Though some people disagreed, the film allowed unaware people to learn some information about the problem and also show how it can be fixed.

As one would imagine when watching a film about dams, the film is essentially entirely all shots of dams. The film is composed of beautiful shots along with interviews that, for the most part, help enlighten the viewer even more as well as provide some humor. The strongest point is definitely the quality of the shots; compared to Gaslands, this film is cinematic and it makes it appear more calm. I can understand how the cinematography was utilized for a unique purpose in each film, but I prefer a more cinematic shooting style. A weakness that the class pointed out is that the film is produced by Patagonia, yet I found that there was almost no reference to Patagonia other than the “disclaimer” in the beginning of the film. The one shot of Ben Knight with his RED camera in the woods was unnecessary, but a 4 second shot doesn’t always ruin a film. Most of the films viewed in class are effective in conveying a message and showing the audience how they can start to think about change. Damnation very clearly outlined the problem that dams make, and at the end it was a hopeful ending. It wasn’t entirely oblivious or too hopeful, but it didn’t make you depressed that there actually was no solution.

Since I personally really enjoyed Damnation, particularly the cinematography, I had to try and see my classmates’ perspectives because while they also liked the cinematography, they didn’t think it was an effective film. In relation to Manufactured Landscapes, I thought the advertising in this film was very minimal, mainly the reference to Patagonia in the beginning and the shots of the RED camera. Manufactured Landscapes was completely about a photographer and showed his work, but I don’t think people will react to it the same way. With the great cinematography, I was able to think about what was being said more than how much I disliked the footage, like with Gaslands. Overall, I think the film is effective for certain people and does convey information, but some might be less impressed with the product placement and also a limited output of information.

New Roots Charter School: Ithaca’s Public High School Committed to Sustainability

The Clinton House is home to New Roots Charter School, located in downtown Ithaca on North Cayuga St. New Roots was opened in 1828, and has developed as a “public high school committed to education for sustainability and social justice.” They aim to employ “Education for Sustainable Development” (ESD) into their every day curriculum, in which a student’s economic growth, social development, and environmental protection are promoted in an inclusive, equitable and secure manner. Beyond educating knowledge and practices for the environment, New Roots also focuses on education for poverty alleviation, human rights, gender equality, and cultural diversity to name a few.

Some of the more interactive activities the students have been engaged with in the past have been sewing “door snakes,” or draft blockers, for low-income residents which would ultimately help them save money and fuel. Other projects have included building cold-frames for a Town of Ithaca community garden with locally-harvested locust wood, as well as refurbishing and recycling computers.

New Roots is also a part of the Farm to School Program in which the school lunch program is directly connected to local farms; West Haven Farm in particular. This relationship brings healthy produce into the cafeteria, and also helps the students see the impact that food systems have on communities. The students also have the opportunity to participate in the agricultural program which focuses on where and how to procure foods locally and affordably.

More information can be found about New Roots Charter School at their website.

Climate Change is Melting Hollywood’s Winter Shoots

Hollywood is an industry filled with studio heads and auteur directors who

thrive on control. However a new problem has risen in many films shooting this

year that can’t be controlled and that is Mother Nature. Climate change has been

making it difficult for many of the winter shoots this year because of melting snow.

The executive producer on FX’s hit TV show Fargo, Warren Littlefield, talked about

how when they filmed the first season in Calgary in 2013 it was reportedly negative-

35 degrees. However when filming the second season the next year it was nearly 70

degrees warmer and there were many days where it didn’t even fall to the freezing

point. “We were sending trucks into the mountains to load them up with snow and

bring them down to our locations,” Littlefield said.


Many other films this year are finding the same problems. Alejandro Iñárritu’s

The Revenant had to halt production for a couple of weeks due to terrible weather

conditions. The team even had to go on a global search to find snowy locations to shoot

Not only that, but Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight also endured

unfortunate weather problems. The crew was promised that their shooting location,

Telluride, Colorado, would be covered in snow by the time they started filming. Sadly,

the area got a record low amount of snow that year and they had to redo their shooting



Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who works for Slate, says climate change may

affect Hollywood in several ways: The frequency of extreme weather makes it

harder to predict which areas of the world may have snow, rain, or sunny days

during any given month. And Hollywood may not be able to rely on “locations that

are nearby and cheap to film, where it has filmed for decades,”

I found this article incredibly interesting and had no idea that the film

industry was being impacted this heavily by climate change. The fact that these top

tier, auteur directors are running into to this many weather problems just shows

how uncontrollable this has become. It will be interesting to see if we see more films

impacted by climate change causing studios to produce less films set in snowy or

winter settings.


For more information check out this article:




Article by Matt Alchin

Four Geoengineering Ploys

In a nutshell, geoengineering is the attempt to artificially modify Earth in order to make it less susceptible to climate change. In most cases, it is less desirable for many reasons, and despite that fact that some geoengineering “solutions” will work, are we really that reluctant to simply try and reduce our emissions? Instead of addressing the real issues that are driven by capitalistic greed, geoengineering only disregards the fact and instead enforces change on Earth itself. This is certainly a wrong step in the direction of progress.

  1. Inject sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. This will allegedly bounce incoming solar radiation into space before it can get to the lower atmosphere and cause more damage, similar to how volcanic eruptions naturally create stratospheric sulfur aerosols. The shortcoming of this, however, is that once injection starts, it must be continued indefinitely. Otherwise, the SO2 will descend to Earth and subsequently cause a spike in heat, only worsening the problem that it was created to fix.
  2. Place mirrors in space. As ridiculous as this sounds, it has been suggested that by having mirrors orbit the Earth, they could ultimately be used to deflect sunlight back into space. Lowell Wood calculated that a mirror measuring 600,000 square miles (or multiple smaller mirrors), would be required to deflect the 1% of sunlight needed to restore climate stability. Needless to say, this plan has not yet been tested.
  3. Cover islands and rooftops in white. This attempt would theoretically absorb less heat and reflect sunlight back into space, similar to the last two geoengineering plans. While it sounds simple enough, this plan isn’t quite as effective when its implications are further investigated. The white roofs would, in fact, cool urban areas, but it would also cool the air near the ground. This increases local air stability, which consequently results in few clouds due to the lack of moisture and energy being evaporated. Overall, the decreased cloud coverage can offset and even override the effect of the white rooftops, rendering the effort useless, if not more harmful.
  4. Seed the ocean with iron. Iron is the limiting factor for phytoplankton growth, and supposedly the geoengineering plan begins with distributing small iron filings into the ocean. This will increase the population of the phytoplankton, who will then naturally photosynthesize and extract carbon from atmosphere. Eventually they will die due to overpopulation, and their tiny corpses will sink to bottom of the ocean, taking CO2 with them. While this has been tested and worked once, it hasn’t proved the same results in other trials.

Show and Tell 2025 | Environmental Sustainability | GetUp! Australia

“Get-Up State” Graffiti Celebration and Activism in the Ithaca Community

On September 26th, several students enrolled in our “Cinema in Exhibition” and “Selected Topics: Activists and Environmental Media” concurrent courses as well as our professor, Bradley Rappa, attended the second annual “Get-Up State” event. This occasion brought together over fifty graffiti artists from around the globe to celebrate hip-hop culture by covering the entire circumferences of the two Cornell University Press Buildings at 770 Cascadilla Street downtown in spray painted murals. The event was sponsored by Tompkins County Public Library, so I sat down with the Library Exhibit Coordinator, Sally Grubb, to discuss the circumstances of the event. Here’s what Grubb had to say:


“How did this event come into fruition?”

Sally Grubb: “Three years ago in 2012, Cornell asked the Public Library to participate in their celebration of hip hop, because Cornell has this big hip hop collection. They had invited Afrika Bambaataa [a South Bronx DJ who’s electronic music from the 1980s is known to have had major influences on the development of current hip hop culture] to come down to become a visiting professor, and they wanted a celebration of the founding of hip hop as well as a celebration of and presentation of their collection. They wanted the community involved as well because hip hop is a community activity, it’s a community culture, it’s not an academic culture. So we said, “Yes, we will certainly participate.” We had an exhibit at the Tompkins County Public Library, which was mostly based on material from Cap Matches Color [a collective that focuses on the preservation and honoring of spray paint use, acquisition, and design of spray can graphics], and then I invited Cap Matches Color to put on a graffiti painting activity. In April 2012 was the first Get-Up State, and obviously we had to do a lot of things like, I mean, I had to go to Cornell and get permission to use their walls and negotiate the licence and all this. Jay Potter [local graphic designer, graffiti artist, and muralist], who knows all about the art, organized the donation from Ironlak Paints. All the donations have been supplied by Ironlak Paints. The only thing the artists are getting is paint, and they’re coming from all over the world.


“Why is “Get-Up State” being held now?”

Sally Grubb: “We chose this time of year because the weather is more reliable than in April. The first one we did was in December, and it was designed to coincide with Cornell’s celebration, and then this time it’s designed to coincide with good weather.”


“How many artists have come to Ithaca for this occasion?”

Sally Grubb: “I don’t know how many artists there are, but there are more than fifty of them. Between fifty and sixty artists, and they’re from all over Europe [Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Germany, Canada and elsewhere], and then ten states of America [Denver, Colorado, Minneapolis, Massachusetts and elsewhere]. You name it, they’ve come, and they’re all excited to be here, because it’s so unusual just to have graffiti writers celebrated and celebrated for what they do. Not because they’re tagging walls or doing something illegal, but because they’re invited to decorate an otherwise big, blank building. So it’s amazing. It’s amazing for them, it’s amazing for the community, and it’s a credit to the Public Library. The Public Library reaches out to do this sort of thing in their community, and it’s only made possible because of Cap Matches Color. It wouldn’t be without them.”


“How were the funds raised for this event?”

Sally Grubb: “We had a small tourism grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program, and then sponsorship from a number of local businesses. You never think that it takes an awful lot of money to put on something that is free, but they [the artists] have come up. GreenStar Natural Foods Market, Ithaca Bakery, Purity Ice Cream, Ithaca Beer Co., The Westy, Rick’s Rentals… Without them we wouldn’t have the event either… It’s such a big space that you don’t notice how many people are here. Both these buildings are painted right round. So it’s an enormous footprint…This is an exhibit.”


This was an appealing event in relation to our Activists and Environmental Media class for several reasons. The first being that “Get-Up State” was and is a great example of a global and local community of artists, organisations, businesses, and townspeople coming together to make a mostly positive, permanent impression on their community. Creating awareness of a commonly frowned upon artform, and doing so with the help of an Ivy League College and many local businesses is certainly an accomplishment worth recognition. Witnessing people from all over the world meeting in Ithaca in order to celebrate and leave a lasting reminder of an often discouraged form of artistic expression is very powerful. This translates directly to the sphere of environmentalists and activists here in Ithaca and in other small town communities. For years to come, the Cornell Press Buildings will be a lasting reminder of the unlikely and tangible power of a motivated group of people. If the Public Library and the Mayor can endorse a county and tourist sanctioned graffiti mural exhibit in a downtown area, then making almost any cultural or environmental paradigm shift in a local environment must be possible. The writing is literally on the wall, in a positive sense, at 770 Cascadilla Street.

I only say that the impact of this event was mostly positive because I spoke with several concerned Ithacans about the use and disposal of the dozens and dozens of aerosol spray paint containers that this event called for. This unknowing damaging of the environment on the part of the organizers of “Get-Up State” is another reason why this event was meaningful to our course. It is circumstances like these that call for reflection and action on the part of every living human who produces waste. If it appears that there is no solution to using such small, disposable containers of spray paint, then action must be taken on a part of everyone who cares about the near future of our planet to find a solution. If refillable spray paint cans are not feasible, then another solution must be found. Once an environmental problem, no matter how seemingly small, is identified, it must be acted upon. In this case, the problem may not yet have been identified, or it may simply be ignored due to impracticality. Either way, this is worth looking at, as it calls for the attention of all disposable product users, and asks them not only to look at the reason for their waste, but to find a solution to their misuse of valuable resources.

I spoke with other community members at the event regarding the community apart from “Get-Up State”. I asked particularly about the conversations taking place within the Ithaca environmental activist climate. One community member stated, “What I know is that this is a community that is very engaged in that conversation. In fact, if you’re following the news, you know there’s a lot of talk about how much development is good for this community. What will help? What is good? What is good development, you know, environmentally? In this community, everyone wants to have that conversation, not everyone agrees, but at least we’re having that conversation. And what do you mean by environment? I think in this area it has a lot to do with the water issues around fracking, the development issues, and how it impacts if you have too much. The building that’s going on now, that eleven story building is a big topic of conversation.” This refers to the building set to be erected by Texas-based developer “Campus Advantage” in downtown Ithaca at 301 East State Street. They added, “I think we’re in the best place to be during climate change. We’ve got a community that’s thinking…” Now, I believe, Ithacans and people in support of the health of Earth have to focus our efforts on DOING as well as thinking.


For more information on “Get-Up State” visit:


or http://tcpl-exhibits.blogspot.com/2015/09/tcpl-and-cap-matches-color-present.html


To learn more about the eleven-story building visit:


Five Passive Solar Home Features

The Passive Solar Home design emerged as a response to an oil crisis in the 1970s, and uses free solar energy, thus decreasing heating bills by about fifty percent. The carefully calculated features of this home make it an ideal solution for those who would like to decrease the size of their carbon footprint, and have an incredible impact on the contribution of minimizing climate change.

  1.  Orientation of the House: orientating the house with a long East-West axis will help optimize solar gain from the South in the winter.
  2. Window Placement: placing most windows on the South side of the house, and very few on the East and West sides will avoid overheating of the house from the low sun rising in the morning (East) and setting in the late afternoon (West). Having few windows on the North side will also prevent drafts from the cold winds coming from the Northwest. Double or triple glazed windows will provide better insulation.
  3. Roof Overhang: the roof overhang of a home can be calculated so that it perfectly blocks the high summer sun but also allows the low winter sun to penetrate the building envelope.
  4. Thermal Mass: a large mass inside the home, such as a water jug or stone, will capture, hold, and release heat in the home.
  5. Intelligent Landscaping: place evergreen trees to the Northwest to shield the home from the winter winds, and place deciduous trees to the South which will provide shade in the summer, but will be bare in the winter thus allowing the sun to enter.


7 Easy and Sustainable Home Modifications

For those wishing to have a more environmentally friendly home (or work environment when applicable), follow these tips to make your way towards a greener lifestyle.

  • Use renewable energy such as photovoltaics, wind, geothermal, solar, etc.This will reduce the need for fossil fuels, and therefore decrease the creation of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances. This will save not only your wallet, but also the environment in the long run. ENERGY STAR appliances alone can save up to 30% on electricity bills.
  • Install fluorescent / LED lighting. Doing so can create jobs and spur innovation as you fund companies who will work to find even more energy efficient ways to improve their products.
  • Insulate your walls and windows. This can greatly increase the comfort of your home as the temperature will be regulated. This will also add an extra layer of protection between you and pollutants and allergens!
  • Use warm water instead of hot and cold water instead of warm. When possible, use less hot water as this will save the energy required to heat said water.
  • Hang your clothes instead of using dryer. Other than the obvious saving of money, electricity, and the environment, opting to line dry will also save the clothes themselves! Dryers weaken the fabric’s fibers and they will wear out faster as a result.
  • Install programmable thermostats. You can save 10% on heating bills by setting back the thermostat by 10 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours a day! And more importantly, you can help save the environment as well!
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