Environmental Film Series: Ice on Fire

I attended the Environmental Film Series on Tuesday, January 28 in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering & Chemical Building as an academic event. The Series played Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary called Ice on Fire about the numerous solutions that exist to minimize or reverse the effects of climate change. I found it refreshing that, unlike many environmental documentaries, this film did not spend the bulk of the time trying to convince the viewers that the climate is changing as a result of humans’ impact. Instead, it interviewed a few scientists who work in that field and showed some of their data and then shifted the focus to the solutions. One of the solutions that stuck out to me involved growing crops for human consumption in large greenhouses. These greenhouses would have atmospheric carbon dioxide pumped into them after the carbon dioxide was separated from other atmospheric gases. Not only would this take carbon dioxide out of the air, but it would also use it to produce plants in favorable conditions for them. Other solutions included renewable energy sources that are not as well-known as solar and wind, like tidal energy from the oceans.

After the showing of the film, Tom Darrah, a professor in the earth sciences department, spoke on his thoughts of the film. I appreciated his perspective as someone who has been a professional in the field for a while. One point that he brought up is how necessary it is to make the public aware of the potential solutions to climate change that exist, however, he thought many of the solutions mentioned in the documentary were rather fantastical and their effectiveness was likely over-embellished when you think of the change we need on a global scale.

Even though most of the solutions were being tested in the United States, climate change is an international problem that effects everyone on earth and does not pay attention to national borders. As an environmental policy major, many of my classes touch on the squabble between developed and developing countries about how much effort each country needs to be putting in to minimize climate change. Regardless of your stance in the matter, countries like the United States need to be taking charge on researching and developing solutions since we have been putting out excessive amounts of greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, I think it is important that this film put such an emphasis on what scientists, farmers, and other Americans are doing to reduce our impact on the environment.

Second-year Transformational Experience Project Expo

I attended the Second-year Transformational Experience Project Expo on Wednesday, November 20 at the Ohio Union as an academic event. The first presenter I talked to had completed her STEP project on an education abroad program in Seville, Spain that she participated in at the end of her junior year in May of 2019. While in Seville, she took four classes at a sister school to Ohio State and was able to transfer that credit to fulfill some of her GE required classes. She especially noted how much she loved being able to practice her language skills at all times. Whereas in Columbus she can only practice her Spanish in the classroom, she was able to speak it in restaurants, in the street, and with the host family she stayed with. By spending three weeks in Spain, she was able to really immerse herself into the culture and took advantage of being so close to other countries by also going to Morocco, Portugal, and Paris. I have also taken many years of Spanish classes from grade school through college and would love to be able to practice my skills in a Spanish speaking country through a similar program to this one.

The second presenter I spoke with used her STEP funds for a three week education abroad program to Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands through the Fisher School of Business. Through this program, she was able to meet with people from numerous Scandinavian companies and hear presentations about what they are doing to make their companies more sustainable. She had the opportunity to meet with large companies like Ikea as well as smaller, lesser known businesses. I am especially interested in sustainability and the initiatives that companies are currently pursuing and would personally consider going on a program like this. When her group met with one of the larger companies, their presentation consisted of the sustainability audits of other companies and how they have been improved. When asked about what their company is specifically doing to become more sustainable, they had limited answers. This is fascinating to me since it shows how companies want to appear more environmentally-friendly, but can fall short of actually becoming more sustainable.

The third presentation I heard was about an education abroad program in New Zealand through the School of Environment and Natural Resource about sustainable tourism and human impacts on the environment. The presenter spoke about going on the trip this past May for three weeks. She also talked about the amazing natural places they got to witness firsthand because their learning and lectures were all done in the field. Not only did she get to learn about the environment, but she was also moved by learning about the native Maori people. This presentation was especially interesting to me because I am hoping to go to New Zealand with this program this coming May. Since I am in the same school as her, I was particularly interested in if she was able to secure scholarships through our school. She mentioned that she was able to fund her trip through scholarships with our school, as well as the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Science and the Wolfe Scholarship.

Jennifer Turner, “Can China be the World’s Green Leader?”

On Friday, September 20, I attended Jennifer Turner’s lecture in Mendenhall Lab titled Can China Be the World’s Green Leader as a campus event. This topic especially interested me as a student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Prior to attending this lecture, I had a rather limited understanding of the amount and types of actions the Chinese government has taken to fix its environmental problems. It seems that in a lot of the classes that I have taken, we have only learned about the many environmental concerns in China right now, like air pollution, population growth, urbanization, and their growing middle class. Jennifer mentioned, however, that many Chinese officials realize that they have to be the best in green issues and take immediate action because their huge population makes the sheer numbers of their problems add up quickly.

For example, in 2014 the Chinese government took a stance on air quality by issuing a War on Pollution. About 1.6 million people in China die early each year as a result of respiratory issues caused by air pollution so hopefully this stance will help in lowering those numbers. A few weeks leading up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the government had the industries shut down for weeks because they wanted blue skies over the city. Not only is having clear skies good for publicity, but it also shows that the government is also starting to prioritize the environment over economic profit. The government has also stated that they will not allow internal combustion engines or diesel cars on roads by 2030, which should also improve their air quality. More recently there has been a bottom-up push from citizens for information transparency on pollution, since there is no open information in China. This has led to the creation of an app where anyone can take a picture of a polluted river, attach its coordinates and the date, and submit it to the app. This app then combines all of the entries onto a map that anyone can look at. The Chinese government has also incentivized local government officials to meet environmental standards by making their jobs and promotions dependent on it. Additionally, China is #1 in installed solar energy, although 30% of it is not yet connected. Still, it is a great start and double what the United States has installed.

It is very interesting for me to compare China methods for tackling environmental problems with what I have learned about the United States’ methods in my Environment and Natural Resource Policy class. Because of China’s “environmental authoritarianism”, as Jennifer called it, the government can quickly make decisions and instruct cities, local officials, or businesses to implement programs or follow new standards on short notice. Like Jennifer phrased it, it is as if Chinese officials are throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks. This greatly contrasts the United States’ environmental policies which have to go through many people and stages to be implemented. Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969 and President Nixon signed it into law in 1970. NEPA requires that state and federal agencies prepare documents, provide information, and review actions that will affect the environment and natural resources. The processes of preparing Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements are time consuming and thorough. Even more, at the end of the process, agencies are not even prohibited from choosing an environmentally damaging practice. My reasoning for comparing the two is not to conclude that one country’s method is more effective than the other or more economically efficient. Instead, it is interesting to compare and contrast these two politically large nations and what they are doing to improve and protect their country’s environment in a time when their citizens are especially taking note of their actions and inaction.

International Affairs Internship Panel

For this month’s Scholars event, I attended the International Affairs Internship Panel in the Smith-Steeb glass classroom on Monday, September 9 as a professional development event. Prior to this event, I thought that obtaining an internship abroad would be rather difficult and did not even know where to look to find one. After hearing the panelists’ first-hand accounts, however, I have a much better understanding of the process and feel assured that an internship abroad could be an option for me. Two of the four panelists went through Ohio State for their internship and recommended doing so because, in their opinion, it was an easier and more straightforward process than going through a connection outside of the university. By going through Ohio State, the students were able to secure scholarships and housing. For the panelists who did not go through the university, finding housing, especially in another country, was a stressful time for them.

Since this event was put on by a member of the IA leadership council and largely focused on working abroad, it heavily related to the topic of International Affairs. Three of the four panelists had interned in another country – Canada, Portugal, and France – and the other worked for the state department in Washington, DC but her work dealt with international topics. By spending a summer working in another country, the panelists really got to immerse themselves in a different culture. Not only did they get to be a tourist in their respective country, but they also got to see a whole other side of the culture through their workplaces. Two of the panelists interned at international companies and reflected on how fascinating it was for them to walk down the hallway and hear multiple languages spoken at a time. The panelist who interned for the Canadian Parliament had a different experience since he worked in an anglophone office, but he says that he knows so much about Canadian culture now from his five weeks there. One of the panelists even took initiative to be directly involved in the community she was living and working in by joining an intramural volleyball league. She recommended for anyone thinking of interning abroad to join an intramural or similar group because it made her feel more at home there. It is also a great way to meet people who already have a common interest and she said that she made a lot of friends by being in the league.

I am glad I took advantage of this event because I gained a better sense of what it is like to intern abroad. Because of the panelists’ perspective, confidence, and advice, I am more inclined to apply for an internship abroad now than I was going into the event. However, whether or not I am able to intern abroad one day, I do know that I want to study abroad while at Ohio State and most of the panelists’ advice is transferable to that context.

Panel on Climate Change and Environmental Issues

 

On March 5th and 6th, I went to a two day academic panel on climate change and environmental issues. The first day, located in Drake Hall, centered around international and national environmental issues whereas the second day was located in Hagerty Hall and focused more so focused on the state and local levels. The panelists included Colin O’Brien, staff attorney for Earth Justice, Scott Weaver, Director of Air Quality for American Electric Power, Cathy Becker from the Ohio Sierra Club, Kate Bartter from the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, and Serdar Tufekci from Ohio State Energy Partners. Each panelist brought fascinating knowledge from their unique backgrounds and made for an informative and captivating discussion.

One of the discussions from the first night that stood out to me was sparked from the question of what is keeping the United States from using 100% renewable energy, especially considering how there are known renewable energy sources like wind and solar that our country could adapt. Even though energy companies and environmental lawyers are typically pinned against each other, both Colin O’Brien and Scott Weaver agreed that a large factor is that money talks for politicians. Since fossil-fuel companies are currently set up to be carbon-based and are profiting from how they are now, they do not want change even if it puts our future at risk and their donations to politicians sway politicians to agree with them. Additionally, another challenge that I had not thought about before is that there will have to be a lot of thought put into how to manage energy storage, particularly for cars, and keeping the cost manageable.

It was also exciting to hear from people who are involved in environmental issues particularly in Ohio and Columbus since that is easier to visualize and put into perspective. Before the second night of the panel, I did not know that the city of Columbus had committed to using 100% clean renewable energy by 2050. One of the ways to do so that I learned is to look at the areas that are consistently spending too much on energy to see if it could be because of inefficient buildings. Not only does this help the environment, but it also helps those living in these areas which tend to be lower income families to begin with. Ohio State University, specifically, is also working to be more environmentally friendly after the last president said that if universities do not take lead on climate change, then who will? The university now has 24 Gold, Silver, and LEED certified buildings. In addition, wind energy meets 15% of the main campus’s energy needs and some residence halls are heated and cooled with geothermal wells.

Being a student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources, this event heavily resonated with me because I got to hear from people working in this field. I am an indecisive person by nature, and when it comes to deciding on a major it is no different. My answer to the always pressing question “what do you want to be when you grow up” fluctuates depending on what movie I am watching or what book I am reading. However, after attending this panel discussion, I am more sure than I have ever been that this is the field I want to work in.

Climate change directly relates to International Affairs because issues like water pollution, air quality, and global warming do not stop at national borders. In environmental issues, politicians and civilians cannot only think about how policies and practices would affect them, but how it would affect the earth as a whole. Because this is an international issue, we need international commitment to switching to environmentally friendly practices.

 

 

 

NOSH Gala

On Saturday, February 16 I had the opportunity to volunteer at the NOSH Gala located at M at the Miranova in downtown Columbus. I participated in this service event from 3:30 pm – 10:30 pm with a few other members of Breathe Hope, an Ohio State student organization I joined this semester. The Nosh Gala is affiliated with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to raise money for research and treatments. Most of the people who attended the gala were doctors and experts on cystic fibrosis along with families who have been affected by cystic fibrosis. My volunteer role was to assist in checking people in and out of the gala in order to make their experience easier and help the organizers run the event smoothly.

Even though my role was not particularly huge, it was exciting to be a part of a cause that actively works to change the lives of those with genetic diseases and their families. Since there was a lull in our volunteer roles while the event was actually going on, the organizers allowed us to stand in the back of the room and listen to the two guest speakers who were both very powerful and moving.

The first speaker was Dr. Mitchell Drumm who was one of the doctors who helped discover the gene for cystic fibrosis. Not only did he speak on the medical details behind cystic fibrosis and how him and other doctors discovered the gene, but he also mentioned a statistic that stuck with me the rest of the night and made me see just how important that night’s fundraising was. He explained that cystic fibrosis is a rare disease, yet there are multitudes of other genetic diseases that are even more rare than cystic fibrosis. While only small amounts of people have each individual disease, it adds up that 1 and 20 people are likely to have some kind of genetic mutation. However, since the other diseases are not as well known, they do not have large foundations like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to raise money and awareness for their diseases. Because of this, the research and discoveries made by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation then gets applied to other genetic diseases which ends up helping more just cystic fibrosis patients.

The second speaker, Ryan, gave an emotional testimony of his own experience with cystic fibrosis. He was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was a baby and his parents were told he would not make it through elementary school. However, because of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s advancing research and treatments, he is currently 34 and doing great. One of the most moving nights of the evening was when he talked about a new treatment he tried a few years ago. The first few weeks with this new treatment he felt really sick until one night where he had a sudden urge to go for a run. After running, he realized that, for the first time in his life, he could breathe.

The NOSH Gala relates to international affairs because it is not only Americans who have cystic fibrosis and therefore the research and technology that comes out of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation helps patients worldwide.

I am glad to have had this opportunity to hear from Dr. Drumm and hope to continue to help the Cystic Fibrosis Fund in the future through Breathe Hope to help patients like Ryan.

The Film “Liyana” Followed by a Director’s Talk with Aaron Kopp

On Thursday, January 10th I had the opportunity to see the film Liyana at the Gateway which was followed by a Director’s Talk with Aaron Kopp. I heard about this non-IA event through my English professor because she is responsible for bringing Aaron Kopp to campus to lead workshops and talk to students.

The film is hard to describe as it does not fit evenly into categories. It is in part animated but also has parts that more so qualify as a documentary. Liyana opens with a professional story teller going to a school for orphans in Swaziland and having the children begin to formulate a story of their own to tell.  She provides a basic structure, but the children are the ones creating the story through their imagination. They first create a protagonist named Liyana and the film goes on to show her story through animation while having the children tell her story. Liyana’s storytellers are Swazi children aged about nine to eleven years old. The parts that are more so a documentary are segments where the audience gets to see what the children do every day and hear them give a little background of their own lives. Through these segments, the audience can start to put together that the adversity Liyana faces correlates to the children’s lives. In the Q&A with Aaron Kopp following the film, Mr. Kopp explained that the film’s creators knew that the story the children would create would have a lot of imagination, but would also have aspects that are similar to their lives. For example, Liyana’s mother dies young from AIDS and her father is an abusive alcoholic who also dies from AIDS in the beginning of the film. The children coming up with Liyana’s story are orphans and most of their parents died from AIDS. While being filmed, the children went into detail about the struggles they have faced. However, Aaron explained in the Q&A that he did not want to take advantage of their vulnerability by sharing that with the world. Instead, the film shows clips of them talking about the physical abuse they took from their family, especially their fathers. In another part of the story, Liyana’s home is broken into in the middle of the night and the thieves kidnap her younger brothers. This sets Liyana up to embark on a transformational quest to find her brothers which the bulk of her story is about. Before Aaron Kopp and his team arrived in Swaziland to start filming, the children’s school was broken into.

Liyana opened my eyes to how children process their struggles. Despite having experienced so much pain and loss, the storytellers all want happy endings for themselves. They could have chosen to have Liyana’s story end with her not being able to save her brothers, but they instead decide that she overcomes the numerous obstacles in front of her and become a hero. Their ability to be optimistic when they have so many excuses not to inspired me and I left the film feeling optimistic.

This film relates to International Affairs because it shows the everyday life of Swazi children which never makes the news. It is important to be educated on how people all around the world are living since everywhere is different. As a student spending all of my time in Columbus, it is easy to get carried away by my studies and not think about how people around the world live.

Since the film had a heavy undertone of abuse, rape, alcoholism, and AIDS, I was glad that Mr. Kopp was there after the showing to answer questions about how the film came to fruition. Because my English professor was so invested in the film and bringing Aaron Kopp to Ohio State, she is planning to incorporate Liyana into our lessons throughout the semester. I am glad that I will be able to continue processing my thoughts on the film because this film is too important to watch once and then forget about forever.

 

 

Breathe Hope’s Blanket Making Event

On Thursday, November 15 I attended a service event in one of the conference rooms located in the Ohio Union put on by Breathe Hope, a student organization on campus. Breathe Hope works to spread awareness about cystic fibrosis and raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This particular service event involved making tie blankets out of fleece fabric for patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital with cystic fibrosis so that they can have a warm and soft blanket with them for the cold holiday season. In just one hour, the other volunteers and myself made a total of eighteen blankets.

Prior to attending this event, I did not know what cystic fibrosis was or who it impacted. The name only sounded familiar to me from television commercials that ask for donations. After making these blankets and hearing what Breathe Hope’s leaders had to say about cystic fibrosis and specifically about the patients at Nationwide Children’s, I was moved to research more about it on my own to get a better understanding of who would be receiving the blankets we made. I was surprised to learn that at least 30,000 people in the United States alone have cystic fibrosis and that most people are diagnosed with this genetic disease before they turn two years old.

From this experience, I also had the opportunity to meet other international affairs scholars who came to volunteer. I sat at a table with two second year international affairs scholars who I had never met before and would not normally have gotten a chance to talk with so casually on a Thursday night. One of these students is also in the School of Natural and Environmental Resources and specifically in the major that I am thinking about switching into. It was very beneficial for me to get to talk to her about what she likes about her major and the classes she is in. She also gave me advice to help me decide between majors. She suggested that I look at the classes required for my major and compare them to the classes required for her major to see which ones interest me more. We also have the same adviser so she suggested I talk with our adviser about it as well. In general, I was great to talk to both of these second years to hear about what they like about IA and what is different this year than how it was last year.

This service event relates to International Affairs because cystic fibrosis does not just affect people in the United States, but people all around the world too. There are more than 70,000 people worldwide right now living with cystic fibrosis. Nationwide Children’s cystic fibrosis patients do not come from solely the Columbus area. Their patients come from as far away as West Virginia and Kentucky to be treated here. These blankets we made will help keep children with many different backgrounds and cultures warm this holiday season.

John Mearsheimer, “The Great Delusion: Liberal Ideals and International Realities”

On October 4th I attended John Mearsheimer’s talk about “The Great Delusion: Liberal Ideals and International Realities” at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies. In his talk, Professor Mearsheimer argued that the United States’ foreign policy of liberal hegemony has failed. He asserts that this is due to political leaders overlooking the importance of self-determination because at the core of every nation is the belief that they should be their own sovereign state and that no country wants to be socially engineered by the United States or have their way of life changed.

While this event was largely centered around the United States’ policies and ideals, it also focused on how those ideals transformed into foreign policy and diplomacy, thus relating to international affairs. Professor Mearsheimer addressed how, since the Cold War, the United States has been practicing liberal hegemony to with the goal to remake the world in America’s image. There have been many instances since then where the United States has interfered in another country’s affairs with the intention to impose our democratic system on them. This is illiberal because a central aspect of liberalism is the idea that people cannot agree on fundamental principles, yet in these instances the United States is acting as if there is only one way to run a country and that way is liberal democracy.

Professor Mearsheimer’s talk relates to what I have learned in my Introduction to Development Studies: Global Poverty, Inequality, and the Field of Development course. In the unit that covered foreign aid, I learned that foreign aid donated by developed countries during the Cold War was used as a tool to impose their own political and military motives. This aid was largely wasted on corrupt politicians instead of being given with the intention of helping countries develop. This money transformed into, what some economists argue, a new form of colonialism in which developed countries could still assert their influence over developing countries through their aid money.

Aside from that class, I have not learned much about the United States’ recent foreign policy. In the social studies courses I have taken in the past, we were taught about what happened in the wars and conflicts the United States has fought or gotten involved in since the Cold War. However, we did not learn about their motives for doing so beyond the umbrella reason given that communism is bad and therefore the United States must take responsibility for preventing countries from adopting communism. Professor Mearsheimer’s talk struck my interest because it built upon my elementary knowledge of the conflicts the United States has gotten involved in recently.

From attending this event, I have gained a critical outlook of how the United States interferes in international issues and a desire to learn more about international diplomacy. I want to attend more speaker events at the Mershon Center to expand my knowledge of world events and be exposed to new perspectives beyond what I learn in the classroom.

Education Abroad Expo

On September 4th I attended the Education Abroad Expo in the Ohio Union put on by the Office of International Affairs as an academic event. The expo opened my eyes to the multitude of opportunities there are to study abroad during my time at Ohio State. Prior to this, I knew that I wanted to study abroad since I have many family members and friends who have done so and had great experiences. However, I was unsure about how I would schedule my classes in order to be able to study abroad and still graduate on time. After attending the expo, I feel confident that I will be able to schedule my classes in a way that I will be able to study abroad for a semester. I was also nervous about being able to afford the expense of studying abroad, but I am less anxious about that now that I have heard about the many opportunities for scholarships and grants.

Regardless of where I study abroad, I am hoping to gain a greater understanding of the culture and to broaden my knowledge of the world from the experience. I joined the International Affairs Scholars Program because of my love for traveling and meeting people whose backgrounds differ from mine, so I want to utilize the opportunities I have to travel as much as I can while I am in college. I would preferably like to be abroad for a semester in Europe so that I could take weekend trips to other countries. At the moment, as I am only seven weeks into college, being away from my family and friends for an entire semester seems impossible, however, I know that challenge will be worthwhile to be able to make the most of my time abroad. Because I have taken Spanish since I was in the first grade, I would love to be able to use that knowledge to talk to native speakers no matter where I decide to study.

While I would prefer to study abroad for a semester, I was also introduced to study abroad sessions during the month of May that interest me. For instance, the School of Environment and Natural Resources offers a four week study abroad course in New Zealand to learn about their sustainable tourism and how people are effecting the environment. Not only did the pictures from the trip look breathtaking, but the upperclassman I talked to who had gone on the trip this past summer raved about her time there. This student is a business major and particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to talk to entrepreneurs in New Zealand and learning about how they are making their businesses environmentally friendly. This stood out to me because I assumed students from the School of Environment and Natural Resources would make up the entirety of the students on the trip, so the fact that people from many different majors attended her trip over the summer greatly interests me as another way to meet new people.