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Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)
The Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) Graduate Program held its second annual ES&P Research Symposium on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at the Marsh Institute. During this event, ES&P graduate students presented their research to the community. Posters were on display all afternoon and students introduced their research in brief oral presentations to those in attendance.
Abstracts of ES&P graduate student research presented at the 2008 ES&P Research Symposium:
Designing Vulnerability Index to Explore Neighborhood health Problems: A Case Study of Main South and Piedmont Neighborhoods of Worcester City
This study tries to incorporate both primary and secondary data to design a household level vulnerability index. Vulnerability index is presented as an outcome of environmental stressors in the neighborhoods, and social adaptability of a household in the neighborhood. Primary data of 80 households surveyed by the Worcester Environmental Justice project are compared with secondary data from different sources to design the index. The final index is compared to self-reported health problems of the households to test the hypothesis: Large numbers of health problems in Main South and Piedmont neighborhoods are the results of disproportionate burden of environmental stressors and poor social adaptability of households. The result supports the hypothesis with significant positive correlation of the vulnerability index designed, and health problems reported by the households.
Readers: Tim Downs and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger
Investigating Drinking Water Contaminants, Mold and Moisture Using Community-Based Participatory Research in Worcester, Massachusetts
In the communities of Main South and Piedmont in Worcester, MA, indoor pollution is a growing health concern among residents because a variety of negative neighborhood conditions force residents to spend an extended period of time indoors. In addition, multiple social and economic stressors limit the neighborhood’s capacity to assess and alleviate indoor pollution concerns. Recently, neighborhood organizations became aware of these concerns, and in 2004, five local organizations formed a community partnership to help residents test their homes for indoor pollution through community-based participatory research (CBPR). This paper analyzes the results of the drinking water, mold and moisture tests, as well as the role of CBPR as a tool to test for indoor pollution, build capacity and reduce risk. The research shows bacteria, pH and lead are pollutants of moderate concern in Worcester tap water and chlorine, nitrates, nitrites hardness and pH are of low or no concern in Worcester tap water. On average, households had low to moderate total mold spore levels with ascaspore and cladosporium being the most abundant spores in the neighborhood. Moisture varies from low to high within and between households. Pollutant vulnerability was shared equally among participating households. While CBPR is sometimes difficult, it is still a crucial component of indoor pollution research. CBPR can help inspire positive changes and can serve as a model for other communities working toward similar projects.
Readers: Tim Downs and Laurie Ross
Green Investing: A Developing Field
Corporate environmental performance can be a source of risk or reward to financial investors. The field of green investing, or selecting a portfolio based on environmental criteria, is slowly emerging from the broader field of socially responsible investing. Green investment practices are expected to grow as corporate environmental performance
becomes increasingly important, especially in the face of global issues such as climate change. These funds have the potential to provide greater returns to investors as attitudes towards environmental performance change, and these green investors have the potential to influence corporate behavior. This has great implications for corporations, as well as regulators. However, green investment faces a challenge because there is a lack of information about corporate environmental performance which needs to be addressed.
Readers: Halina Brown and Jennie Stephens
Hazardous Waste Clean Up Policy in Massachusetts: When Following the Rules Does Not Provide the Solution
The existing regulatory framework for hazardous waste clean up in Massachusetts is examined using case study comparisons. The social theories of risk and environmental justice are used to explain why residents living in close contact with a hazardous waste clean up site feel that their health concerns are not addressed. Analyzing an EPA clean up site and a privatized clean up site shows that the Massachusetts state clean up policy does not use an available health assessment resource which would address residents’ health concerns.
Readers: Tim Downs and Halina Brown
Shared vulnerabilities between the Vo Doi Nature Reserve and buffer zone people in U Minh Ha National Park, Vietnam
The inter-relationship between the nature reserve and buffer zone people is complex. The more inhabitants have to rely on the nature reserve for livelihoods, the more likely it is that there will be biodiversity loss; and the more biodiversity loss, the greater the need for protecting areas. People become more susceptible when they live in the buffer zone, but the Vo Doi Nature Reserve is also at risk of disturbances from inhabitants. This paper addresses how they are vulnerable to each other. In particularly, the paper explores household incomes, factors influencing household incomes, land-use and natural resource policies affecting inhabitants; the factors impacting vulnerability of the nature reserve; the relationships among different groups affecting land-use activities; and the alternative ways that buffer zone people can meet their livelihood needs while conserving the nature reserve. The questionnaire survey was conducted in thirty-one households living in the buffer zone of the Vo Doi Nature Reserve. The findings explain that the majority of inhabitants live under poverty and stress to the nature reserve. The longer inhabitants live in the buffer zone the more they get vulnerable. Livelihood activities are the main causes of Melaleuca forest fires in the Vo Doi Nature Reserve. This paper discusses how to reduce poverty and sustain conservation. Sustainable livelihoods, community-based forest management, and tourism are discussed to reduce the conflict between long-term biodiversity protection and the immediate need of inhabitants.
Readers: Tim Downs and Ken MacLean
Payments for Environmental Services (PES) in Shivapuri National Park, Nepal
Shivapuri National Park is home to nearly 600 poor, subsistence households. It is also an important watershed, providing drinking water, irrigation water, and hydropower to the city of Kathmandu, Nepal. Within the past 10 years, accelerating rates of deforestation in the park have raised concern over the sustainability of these vital "environmental services." The situation has sparked growing interest in implementing payments for environmental services (PES), an emerging market-based approach to watershed management in which upland communities receive payments for adopting sustainable forest management practices. While economic valuation of the park’s resources indicates that PES is a favorable approach, stakeholders have failed to find common ground due to divergent perceptions of management priorities. This study critically examines the tenability of PES within the environmental, social, economic, and political contexts of Shivapuri National Park. Specifically, it uses participatory tools to explore the willingness of different stakeholders and institutions to engage (or not engage) in a PES program, and questions more broadly whether forest conservation can be aligned with local economic and livelihoods development.
Readers: Tim Downs and Ken Maclean
How could the methods used to conduct a social impact assessment of New England fishing communities be improved?
The Magnuson Act of 1976 was designed to end foreign competition to the U.S. fishing industry in the exclusive economic zone. Subsequently, the U.S. fishing industry expanded immensely to reap the benefits, and fish stocks plummeted. As a result, the law was updated in 1996 to expand regulatory scope over threatened fisheries via management plans by the 8 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regional councils. According to the new law, fisheries management measures should not produce adverse socioeconomic impacts on fishing communities. However, it is unclear how local fisheries managers are to assess regulatory effects, and in any case there are few resources for doing so. This research reports on a project to test and refine an emerging methodology for assessing human-environment vulnerabilities, the Vulnerability Scoping Diagram (Polsky et al., 2007). In this approach, fishing communities are examined for social and/or ecological vulnerabilities, described in terms of three dimensions: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to the hazard of changing fishing regulations. Results are reported from interviews conducted in two New England fishing communities, Chatham, MA and the New Hampshire sea coast, where 21 and 16 stakeholders were interviewed, respectively, including commercial fishermen, charter boat captains, and local fisheries and non-fisheries officials and proprietors. The resulting VSDs relate first-order assessments of the factors that enhance/mitigate vulnerability.
Readers: Colin Polsky and Jennie Stephens
Remediation Plan for a Local Contaminated Fractured Bedrock Site
A remediation plan was designed for a local site contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in deep bedrock fractures. The plan is a voluntary measure. This project explores the drivers of this remedial action and the evolution of treatment of contaminants in fractured bedrock.
Readers: Halina Brown and Tim Downs
Modeling Appropriate Corporate Social Responsibility Behavior in the Gold Mining Sector: Cases from Ghana
Philanthropy and sustainable community development have become the main strategies employed by mining companies for corporate social responsibility. To identify the CSR approaches currently being used by gold mining companies operating in Ghana and to understand the evolution of CSR over the years by these companies, four multinational gold mining companies were studied: Gold Fields Ghana Limited, Abosso Gold Fields, Anglogold Iduapriem and Chirano Gold Limited. Qualitative methods were used to explore the nature of companies’ CSR. These included review of company documents, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The role of the government of Ghana and mining support organizations in making companies socially responsible was also examined. Findings of the research provide information on the CSR strategies currently in use by gold mining companies in Ghana. The study concludes with recommendations for best practice of CSR in the developing world.
Readers: Halina Brown and Dan Ofori
Clark University’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory
As the causes and consequences of climate change become clearer, individuals, cities, businesses and college campuses across the United States are beginning to ask themselves how they can cut back on the greenhouse gases they emit. In June of 2007, John Bassett, President of Clark University, signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (Clark University, 2007). In doing so, President Bassett has joined over 480 college and university presidents in committing an institution to creating a comprehensive inventory of all sources of campus related greenhouse gasses and developing an action plan for the institution to become climate neutral (ACUPCC, 2007). The following report describes the method used and the results obtained for the Clark University Green House Gas (GHG) emissions inventory, specifically on the transport sector (including campus fleet, commuter and air travel). The fruits of this research intend to answer three questions: 1) What are the sources of Clark’s GHGs in the transport sector? 2) What are the campus’s total GHG emissions related to transport from 2004 to 2007 and 3) Identify areas in which Clark can effectively cut back on its GHG emissions.
Readers: Jennie Stephens and Halina Brown
Evaluating the effects of pseudo-absences and modeling approaches on animal species distributions
The use of conservation planning tools in association with increased availability of geographic information systems and environmental data (variables) has resulted in widespread exploration and application of species distribution models (SDMs). SDMs are developed by relating information on plant or animal species distributions to environmental gradients. Most of the traditional statistical methods used in SDMs require information on species presence and absence, however many of the data sources contain information only on species presence (i.e., presence-only data). Given cost and time constraints conservation managers require effective ways to use these presence-only data (for example, by generating ‘pseudo-absence’ data) to explore species distribution or species habitat use. The purpose of this paper is to test the influence of variations in pseudo-absence data sampling methods in animal species distribution modeling across the South American Continent. Presence-only data representing the narrowly-distributed Microryzomys minutus (Rice Rat) and the broadly-distributed Bradypus variegatus (Brown-throated three-toed Sloth), are used in this study. Environmental variables representing various direct and resource gradients are combined with AVHRR NDVI time series and human footprint data (i.e., roads, urban areas) to constrain animal potential spatial distributions. The similarity of species distribution maps among three modeling approaches (i.e., random, random-clustered and stratified) was quantified. All of the quantitative species distribution models were good predictors of the validation data set, but the spatial distribution of mapped habitats varied considerably among models. Results suggest that choice of model and variable set could influence the identification of target areas for conservation.
Readers: John Rogan and Tim Downs
Toxic Soil Busters Co-op Business Plan
Economic and social welfare of communities is often dependent on the quality of the environment that they inhabit and have access to. The success of environmental stewardship initiatives and their frequently associated social and economic rewards are often dependent to some degree on funding and internal management. Environmental sustainability often requires sustainable financial and managerial systems to effectively support quality environmental stewardship. This professional project is a business plan created with the aim of assisting an organization to more effectively fulfill its mission to remediate contaminated soil and tackle environmental injustice in society. It is the roadmap for Toxic Soil Busters to follow as the organization becomes a for-profit, worker co-operative that is sustainable in its democratic management and financial security.
Readers: Joe Sarkis and Jennie Stephens
The Impact of Displacement and Resettlement of Akosombo Hydro Power Project in Ghana: A Case of New Adjena and Pesse Traditional Area
Beginning from the 1950s, as national economies and populations increased, dams were increasingly perceived as a way of meeting water and energy needs. As a result, 45,000 large dams were built globally by the year 2000. Dams have been promoted as a long-term, strategic investment with the ability to provide multiple benefits. Dams were therefore perceived by many as engines or “temples” to modernization or economic progress, and as a means of improving human welfare. Underestimating costs and overestimating benefits, there is the issue of non-accounted social and environmental costs, and benefits. In nearly every case, the majority of people evicted by dams end up further impoverished, and rarely shares in the benefits. Despite the problems associated with dams, supporters fail to assess the range of possible negative impacts and implement adequate mitigation, resettlement and development programs for the affected communities. The paper uses both primary and secondary data, mainly in the form of field survey, articles, books, journals, and technical reports to examine the impact of the dam in the New Adjena and Pesse traditional area in Ghana. By relying heavily on the Michael Cernea model; Impoverishment, Risk and Reconstruction (IRR), as a guide to identify the impacts as landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, increased morbidity and mortality, food insecurity, loss of access to common property, disruption of education and community disarticulation. Using data collected on a sample of 55 respondents, the paper revels and analyses socio-economic, psychological and ecological impacts which were triggered by the nature of resettlement policies designed and implemented. These include general public participation in resettlement design, mode of compensation packages used and actually implemented. It is, therefore, recommended that in addition to securing sustainable livelihood through direct provision of land as compensation, which is land for land policy, government and project authorities have to commit themselves that the project would not be implemented unless a consensus resettlement plan can be formulated on the basis of collective bargaining between displaced people and project authorities. Development centered investment in the form of employment in the public sector, provision of micro finance credit as well as rural and urban opportunities as a way of diversifying systems of production should be used to supplement compensation.
Readers: Dianne Rocheleau and Jody Emel
Using Community-Based-Participatory Research to test levels of radon, lead, and Particulate Matter in two communities of Worcester, MA
In the communities of Main South and Piedmont neighborhoods in Worcester, Massachusetts, residents are particularly vulnerable to indoor pollution as they spend most of their time indoor due to local conditions such as high levels of violence, lack of green space and recreational areas, and harsh weather. Difficult access to information and social and economic stressors often limit the capacity of these residents to confront indoor pollution issues. Currently, Clark University in partnership with local organizations is developing an indoor sampling in the communities of Main South and Piedmont neighborhoods in Worcester, as part of a community-based-participatory research (CBPR) to assess and alleviate resident household exposure to indoor pollutants. The sampling process started on June-July 2007 with a pilot project of eight houses, and more data is currently being collected from a second round of sampling, which started in January 2008. Although, final results are not ready due to ongoing data collection, the purpose of this research paper is to analyze the results of radon, lead (paint, dust and soil) and Particulate Matter tests in these two communities, as well as the role of CBPR in facilitating indoor testing, building capacity and mitigating risk.
Readers: Tim Downs and Laurie Ross
"Green" Education: Using Children’s Literature to Promote Environmental Stewardship
As human beings continue to have significant impacts on the Earth’s environment and its resources, the need for environmental awareness is escalating. Global climate change in particular, is a pressing issue for the twenty first century. Therefore, it is important that the next generation of children understands the scope and complexity of this problem, and possesses the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to take environmentally responsible actions. One way to approach climate change education is through children’s literature. Children’s literature is interesting, informative, and imaginative. It breathes life into concepts that, in textbooks, are often perceived as being dead. Through storytelling, it invites the reader to share and identify with the content inside. This invitation becomes even more compelling when words are combined with engaging images. By reading picture books, children of all ages are able to learn about the many facets of the natural environment and better understand the interrelatedness of their lives with it. Both in and outside of the classroom, environmental education aims to facilitate adoption of sustainable practice by both school students and the general public. This paper explores the role of children’s books in this regard. In particular, it investigates the current arena of children’s literature related to climate change. An overview of theoretical approaches underpinning “green” education is provided, and examples are presented of the ways in which children’s books can promote environmentally sustainable attitudes. By reviewing research evidence in relation to these issues, the paper identifies the current “state of affairs” in climate change literature for children and areas where improvement is needed.
Reader: Jennie Stephens
View past ES&P Final M.A. project topics: