May 25, 2020 /

When the Details Matter: A Tale of I-976

There’s something subliminally beautiful about public transportation. The coordination of ferries, buses, light rails, and trains is like an unending orchestral score, with a grand conductor making sure all the instruments stay on beat and in tune. For most of us, the intention behind this coordination is beyond our daily thought. We don’t think about the multi-decadal planning behind effective public transit. 

Read more

May 21, 2020 /

Fresh fish and a side of resilience: third generation seafood businesses in Seattle

100 Resilient Cities defines resilience as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses or acute shocks they encounter.
Seafood restaurants, marinas, and maritime industry buildings occupy much of Seattle’s urban shoreline. In this story, we’ll leave the docks and travel inland to visit two seafood shops in my neighborhood, one very old and one new, to learn about how they’ve adapted to change. 

Read more

May 18, 2020 /

“To me, plastic-free is impossible right now”: Perspectives from a plastic factory owner

Lau Dik San has been the owner of a plastic bag factory for more than twenty years. His factory, Hop Fat Plastic Bags Printing, is located in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong. The site has boxes of plastic bags stacked from floor to ceiling, and the tang of the polymers floats around, acrid and pungent. It would be an environmentalist’s nightmare. But to Dik San, the factory is both a family business and a site of creativity and memory. 

Read more

May 14, 2020 /

From tree to forest: resilience in the face of climate change

Resilience according to the IPCC: The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions.

There is a tree a few yards away from my house that stands proud above the rooftops, powerlines, and fragmented urban life below. 

Read more

May 11, 2020 /

Consensus or Contentious? How scientists come to an agreement…or don’t

Teacher looking at laptop

‘97% of climate scientists agree that humans are the cause of global warming.’ This statistic, that at first seemed to be the definitive proof the world needed to take climate action, has done little to end social and political division on the matter. In fact, it’s become void of meaning for me after hearing it repeatedly in every environmental course I’ve ever taken or taught. 

Read more

May 7, 2020 /

Nationalism “quite resilient” in pandemic

Marco Rubio defines resilience as “the defining trait of an American…[how] we persevere through difficult circumstances and arrive triumphant on the other side.” In this feature piece, Sallie challenges this definition and shows that resilience cannot be synonymous with nationalism.
In an April 20th op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “We Need a More Resilient American Economy,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) defined resilience for the U.S. 

Read more

May 4, 2020 /

Musings of then and now: Reflecting on a moving society

It may be because I am in the midst of editing my thesis and months away from graduation that I am finding myself frequently reminiscing on my upbringing and the environments that I have inhabited. The nature of my thesis itself has called for a reflection of the past, present, and future state of Miyako, an island on which I spent two years of my childhood. 

Read more

Apr 27, 2020 /

Music Muted on Climate Concerns

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
-Victor Hugo
Music always helps me in times of loneliness. In the midst of my pre-teen angst, I would listen to my dad’s “Pure 80’s” CD on my walkman during lunch and jam to the Eurythmics. When I spent six weeks working on an oceanographic research vessel in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I became an Alabama Shakes connoisseur. 

Read more

Apr 20, 2020 /

To All the Earth Days I’ve Loved Before: One Grad Student’s Reflection

When I think about Earth Day, I think about myself in middle school, full of angst and preteen crises. During that time The Walt Disney Company launched a campaign called “Friends for Change: Project Green.” Lauded as an environmental platform for children, it starred fan favorite Disney Channel personalities in commercials and media campaigns, and featured informational articles about problems facing the planet. 

Read more

Apr 13, 2020 /

Cooking with SMEA

Social distancing is hard, and it’s sometimes easy to feel isolated. For many of us, we’ve been turning to cooking and baking comfort foods to feel more connected to friends and family, both near and far. This week on Currents, we share with you some recipes from around the world from our students, staff and faculty. Most are vegetarian, some are vegan, and some gluten free. 

Read more

Apr 6, 2020 /

She Speaks for the Whales – An Interview with Jenna Harlacher

Microplastics are a hot topic right now in the world of marine science. So hot, that even popular news and consumers have picked up on it. While some of us panic over our own consumption of microplastics, others are looking at the impact of microplastics in the environment. SMEA’s very own Jenna Harlacher is part of the latter group. When she’s not analyzing marine mammal acoustic data with NOAA AFSC (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center), she’s in the lab looking for microplastics in orca poop. 

Read more

Mar 16, 2020 /

To Sustainability and Beyond!

It seems like every week a new company or CEO announces big plans to fight climate change. Only time will tell which plans will lead to impactful action, but in the absence of Federal government legislation, it’s hard to argue against private action. Billionaires and big tech aren’t the only groups calling for sweeping changes, though. University students across the country are pressing their institutions to fight for the planet too! 

Read more

Mar 9, 2020 /

Fighting with fire

Small fern sprouting up from the ground.

This isn’t a story about how the United States government destroyed pristine, untouched landscapes with their destructive policies (untouched, no, but a lot of destroying was done), or decimated Indigenous populations, or how climate change and wildfires are coming to get us. This is a story of strength, resilience, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).
Wildfires are not a new phenomenon. 

Read more

Mar 2, 2020 /

Sustwainability is What Bwings Us Togethew Today…or was it mawwiage?

Two hikers each wearing a backpack and holding hands as they walk are walking away from the photographer. The inclined trail is muddy and rocky, with ferns, shrubs, and large evergreen trees on either side. The sun is beaming through the trees obscuring some of the image.

I didn’t sleep at all that night, maybe in protest of having to wake up at 5:00am the next morning. After my parents and I bundled up in several layers, we were off at 5:30am to pick up two more victims (my lovely friends) for our early morning excursion. With the five of us snug in my petite Scion iA, we set course for Seattle, for the 7th Annual Dress Dash hosted by Brides for a Cause. 

Read more

Feb 27, 2020 /

Should We Let Nuclear Lose the War Against “Freedom Gas”?

“Megan, have you watched Chernobyl yet?” I heard this question over and over again until a few months ago, I finally succumbed to the peer pressure and binge-watched HBO’s miniseries, Chernobyl. The series tells a dramatized account about how lies, deceit, and political fear led to the 1986 Soviet Union nuclear reactor meltdown and the cleanup process that followed. The portrayal of all the brutal ways the high radiation exposure affected people from the total body burns, to miscarriages and terminal cancer was harrowing and honestly, made this series a difficult watch. 

Read more

Feb 24, 2020 /

How Social Media Killed the Elephant: When Nature Meets Geotagging

Four giraffes are seen huddled underneath a tree with the shadow of a jeep extended on grass and dirt in the foreground.

Imagine you’re on a safari in the African Serengeti, a once in a lifetime trip. You have planned for months to go on a wildlife safari, probably put down a hefty payment in hopes of seeing some animals, and flew halfway around the world. Your guide is optimistic that they will find an elephant somewhere on the reserve. As you clear a cluster of trees, you hear a series of gasps from your fellow tourists – there is a herd of elephants right ahead of your truck! 

Read more

Feb 20, 2020 /

Falling pH and Rising Momentum: Taking Action on Ocean Acidification

This is the third article of Currents feature series on Climate, to read more on the climate conversation, check out our previous posts on youth perspectives and climate litigation.
Ocean acidification, infamously called climate change’s evil twin, has earned its share of bad press lately. Mainstream media like The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times are covering new and discouraging findings – acidified ocean waters along the Pacific Northwest coast are harming the shells and sensory organs of valuable Dungeness crab, and waters off the California coast are acidifying twice as fast as the global ocean. 

Read more

Feb 17, 2020 /

Revisiting ‘Wishful recycling’: More harm than good

You read about where your recycling goes in a 2019 autumn Currents piece by Karin Otsuka and Marlena Skrobe, but what can we do to make sure we do more good than harm through our behavior at home? This President’s Day, we’re revisiting a Currents piece by SMEA alum, Nyssa Baechler, on wishful recycling and how more is not always better when it comes to recycling.  

Read more

Feb 13, 2020 /

I don’t remember the first time I heard about climate change, do you?

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term climate change. I don’t remember learning about it at school, discussing it around the dinner table with my family, searching for it on the world wide web using my family’s IBM PC 330, or having it be a focus of my childhood. I was born in 1990, the same year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) First Assessment IPCC Report (FAR) was released, underscoring the importance of climate change as a global challenge and demanding international cooperation. 

Read more

Feb 10, 2020 /

Heat and Housing: A Link between Historic Racism and Current Environmental Inequities

On July 29, 2009, the temperature reached a sweltering 103 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Brutal temperatures persisted for three days, and two people in Western Washington died. Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., partly because of its famously temperate weather consisting of cool, wet winters and mild summers. However, it is this mild climate that makes extreme heat even more dangerous when it occurs. 

Read more