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. 

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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! 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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! 

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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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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Feb 6, 2020 /

Climate litigation is working — except in the U.S.

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, environmental awareness and the need to address the impact of global warming appears to be at an all-time high. Politicians around the world are making references to a “green new deal,” and the world’s most famous teenager isn’t a musician — she’s the 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year. 

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Feb 3, 2020 /


Two people seated at a table with chopsticks in their hands. On the table in front of them are various bowls of food, some containing cooked white rice.

For us, rice was life.
There’s a Cantonese saying, 食咗飯未 (siik jor fan mei) – have you eaten rice yet? It is a standard greeting between family, friends, and sometimes even between strangers. It means, “Hey, how are you? Are you well?” Rice, and the act of cooking rice, of sitting down with a bowl of rice and eating it, was an act of care. 

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Jan 27, 2020 /

In Ovens Green Our Mother Bakes: The Rights of Nature Movement

A sunrise is seen across a small body of water. Tree branches with leaves are in-view obscuring the sunset. A green field and sandy shoreline are in the foreground.

During the piercingly cold snow days we just had, I thought a lot about sun, and home. Home for me is the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was first a volunteer and later a research technician in Dr. Kathy Boyer’s wetland ecology lab.
As we walked through a tidal marsh or waded through eelgrass beds, I’d often notice my lab mates saying things like “Oh, this eelgrass looks happy!” or “This pickleweed looks stressed.” Not because I wasn’t thinking similarly, but because in the STEM fields we’re conditioned to Be Objective and resist emotion or anthropomorphization. 

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Jan 21, 2020 /

(Aqua)Culture Wars

Four net pens protrude from the water with snow covered hills in the background. The water surface is calm and flat.

Depending on who you ask, offshore aquaculture is either key to meeting food demands in a growing world and shrinking the US trade deficit, or it will catastrophically destroy ecosystems and livelihoods. Most government agencies involved in managing offshore aquaculture support its development, but most of the people it would directly affect outside of the industry oppose it.
Sounds tricky, but not quite like the culture war you mentioned in the title. 

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Jan 13, 2020 /

Ushering in 2020: The Green New Decade

According to the most recent Climate Change in the American Mind report, the majority of Americans (59%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends, while the remaining 41% say they do so “occasionally” or “often.” Regardless of which camp you currently fall into, with climate change on the agenda of so many Presidential candidates, it’s probably a good idea to steady yourself for some climate small talk. 

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Dec 9, 2019 /

Eating for yourself and the planet: Get you a diet that can do both!

How much time do you spend eating? According to the USDA, the average American spends about 1,800 days of their life eating. With this time eating comes consistent, daily decisions about what to select from our pantry or buy at the grocery store. Additionally, we are inundated with food-related information from physicians, celebrities, and popular health media that complicate our many decisions. 

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Dec 2, 2019 /

Tribes lead the way to revive regional salmon runs

We are all salmon people, and we know what we need to do.
Such was the message of this year’s Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit, a day-long gathering focused on achieving consensus for immediate and bold action to restore the Pacific region’s diminishing salmon runs. The summit, hosted by Squaxin Island Tribe on November 5 in Shelton, Wash., was a follow-up to last year’s inaugural convening of a broad coalition of groups working toward a consensus to accelerate salmon recovery in the region.  

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Nov 27, 2019 /

Where does your recycling go?

In Jenjarom, a small palm plantation town a few kilometres outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the smell of burnt plastic crept across the town every night, entering the homes of residents, causing them to wake up choking for fresh air. After months of sleepless nights, a few local residents decided to investigate the source of the smell, forming the Kuala Langat Environmental Action Association (KLAA). 

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Nov 25, 2019 /

Seattle Aquarium Keeps Pace in an Age of Change

To many of us, going to the Seattle Aquarium may be a way to fill a rainy afternoon, a chance to get a closer look at a particularly fascinating marine creature, or perhaps an opportunity to learn something new about the aquatic world that surrounds us. But to Jim Wharton, a visit to the Aquarium represents an opportunity to be inspired–inspired to empathize with marine creatures and to take action on their behalf.  

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Nov 21, 2019 /

A Different Type of Holiday Wasted

What’s getting wasted this holiday season — other than your great uncle Earl? Turns out, a lot of food. In King County, 33% of household waste is food. That’s an average of 390 pounds per household per year! When 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, reducing food waste would also help lower emissions and curb climate change. 

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