Environment

Carbon-based energy sector is collapsing, geophysicist tells BGSU audience

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The tide has turned against carbon-based fuels. That could help assuage the worst effects of global warming that could flood major cities as ocean levels rise and fresh water becomes scarce in the more arid interior. Dr. Henry Pollack, an emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Michigan, said that the story of alternative energy competing with oil and coal was once perceived as a David vs. Goliath scenario. “The test in front of us,” he told an audience last week at Bowling Green State University, “is to reduce Goliath to David’s level.” That now seems to be happening. In 2010, he said, for the first time investment in alternative fuels, including wind, biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, fusion and nuclear, outpaced investment in the oil, gas and coal industries. That year $187 billion was invested in alternative fuels compared to $157 billion in fossil fuels. Five years later, he said, investment in alternative fuels had grown by almost $100 billion, while investment in carbon-based technologies had dropped to $130 billion. “I’m telling you we’re at the tipping point,” Pollack said. “Carbon fuels are on the way down and out.” He urged the audience “to follow the money,” and then told the tale through international headlines. The nation’s two largest coal companies have declared bankruptcy. The last deep-pit coal mine in the United Kingdom has closed. The stock price of coal companies is dropping. Saudi Arabia is considering selling its state-owned oil company Aramco. The United States has lifted its 40-year ban on exporting oil. The reasoning being, he said, “let’s let them sell…


Future just got brighter for BG solar field

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s solar field project just became bigger, brighter and more of a bargain. The solar project, which had been stalled since last summer, was approved Monday evening by the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities. On May 2, the project will come before City Council, which has already had two readings for the project and was just waiting for details to get ironed out. If all goes as planned, an estimated 2,900 homes in the city will be powered by sunlight starting next year. “This is incredibly exciting for the city of Bowling Green,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. The project is not only moving ahead, but it is expected to produce more power than originally planned. The initial plan called for 110 acres to be used on the city’s 317 acres located at the southeast corner of Newton and Carter roads, northeast of the city limits. The city was in line to get 10.5 megawatts from the solar field, according to Brian O’Connell, director of utilities for BG. However, instead of fixed mounted panels, the new plan calls for single axis tracker panels. “The panels will rotate and follow the path of the sun as it moves through the sky,” O’Connell said. The rotating panels will take up 35 more acres and cost more to install, but they will increase power production, he said. The solar field will generate 20 megawatts, with Bowling Green getting 13.74 megawatts of the power for its customers. The moving solar panels will start producing earlier, continue later in the day, and generate higher megawatts at…


Earth Day plants the seed for respecting planet

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN  BG Independent News   Bees get no respect. Leeches may be ugly, but they are a sign of beauty to biologists. And powering an incandescent light bulb takes a lot of energy from little legs. An awful lot of learning was packed into fun hands-on (and feet-on) activities at the Seventh Annual Community Celebration of Earth Day on Sunday outside at the Montessori School in Bowling Green. “We want people to have a greater appreciation of the local environment and also feel more connected with the planet,” said Caitlin Buhr, advancement director at the Montessori School. A lot of children have that bond with Mother Nature, she added. “We want to nurture the connection they already feel.” The Earth Day celebration featured several different activity stations that snuck in learning for young children. Children got to hold some critters like crayfish that came straight from the Maumee River near Otsego Park. “Those critters can tell us a lot about the health of the river,” said Christina Kuchle, from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The sample in the aquarium was a pretty healthy mix of crayfish, mayflies, leeches, sow bugs, and freshwater shrimp. The next station took children out of the water and lifted them skyward. Children could hear the calls of a bald eagle, California condor and Peregrine falcon, plus touch the skulls of several birds. “Kids like anything hands on,” said Cinda Stutzman, of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. Children put those hands to work at a station on bees, by splattering paint on paper flowers to pollinate them. “Bees are often…


Earth Week opens with Creation Care Celebration

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Creation Care Celebration, which marked the beginning of Earth Week activities in Bowling Green, focused on the possibilities. Honored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event’s sponsors, were those who were already making a difference locally, and statewide. The keynote speaker spoke about what churches could do to preserve the environment. And a series of workshops were offered on household options for taking action. Stumbling blocks were mentioned – the state’s renewable energy standards are on hold. But the two state legislators in attendance State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown, both Republicans said they were in favor of lifting the hold on them and letting them take effect. The keynote speaker Greg Hitzhusen of Ohio State University’s School of Environment & Natural Resources, spoke of a pastor in Idaho who took the initiative to put saving the environment at the center of his church’s mission. He discovered, Hitzhusen said, less resistance than he expected. Now 10 years later he’s experiencing fierce backlash to his efforts. “How do we overcome these obstacles?” Hitzhusen wondered. The speaker, who is involved in the Interfaith Light and Power movement, focused his talk on what works. “Build on your strengths,” he said. That means finding what expertise is within the congregation that can spearhead efforts. The United Church of Christ in Sylvania used the expertise of Al Compaan, a leading researcher in photovoltaics, to initiate a solar project. “Do what makes sense for your community,” he said. Even simple measure can help. Saving money on energy can help a church keep its doors open…


Take a walk on the wild side with Chris Gajewicz, BG naturalist

(This is the first of regular columns about nature by BG’s Natural Resources Coordinator Chris Gajewicz.) Each year naturalists, birders, and nature enthusiasts eagerly await spring migration.  Warmer weather, longer days, and spring storms signal major movements of birds to head north to their summer breeding grounds.  Casual nature observers often see their first robin of spring around this time of year.  Hard core birders know that these robins have been here all along for the most part toughing out our northern Ohio winters and subsisting on fruits and berries all winter rather than the more commonly observed worm feasts in spring. Truth be told, I know spring is here when the red-winged blackbirds finally arrive.  Red-winged blackbird, (Agelaius phoeniceus), males arrive first and they can be seen setting up their territories along country roads, in wetland areas and just about anywhere cattails are growing in early March.  The males are highly territorial and set up intricate invisible boundaries known only to them and other members of their species.  The males aggressively display and call out to other males along these lines and chase out interlopers if necessary.  In reality, they spend most of their time displaying for each other and altercations are few. Male red-winged blackbirds are a striking jet black bird with red and yellow “epaulettes” or shoulder pads, (think George Washington’s golden shoulder pads on his uniform).  When the bird is at rest, generally only the red portion can be seen.  When the male is in full display, he spreads his wings and splays his tail from a sitting position, leans forward, and calls out the familiar,…


Fire will bring new life to park prairie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Earlier today, the bright orange flames devoured the tall prairie grasses and left behind several acres of charred ground.  But in a matter of days, life will start bursting through the blackness. “Within three or four days new life pops up,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. As Stutzman watched the prairie burn in Wintergarden Park on Tuesday, she talked about the reason for the occasional controlled burns. “We are trying to minimize the amount of woody plants and invasive species,” she said. And that will help flowers germinate and grow in the prairie area. Without the burns every one to three years, the blackberry and sassafras plants take over, she said. The fire crew was led by Tim Mason, who has been doing controlled burns like this since 1970. To get rid of the woody plants, the crew was doing a backburn, followed by flash fires up the sides. “The fire has to work backward,” Stutzman said. Once new life starts returning, there should be sunflowers and a variety of other wildflowers in the meadow. “There will be lots of great wildflowers that are great for pollinators and butterflies,” she said. The meadow was designed with pollinating plants in mind. “The grasses are the backbone of the meadow,” and the flowers are the mosaic, Stutzman said. “The majority of the meadow has been reintroduced with a grass and flower mixture.” The acreage of the entire Wintergarden Park is about 100 acres, with approximately 30 of that being field and meadow. “I’ve been working…


Citizens want Wintergarden Park to stay wild; Simpson to continue gardens

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   City residents want Wintergarden Park to stay wild, and Simpson Garden Park to get some more gardens. Overall, both parks are giving residents exactly what they need – places of peace and natural beauty. Citizens came together to talk about the city’s natural parks and programs last week as part of a series of public forums to help with the strategic plan for the parks. The consensus for Wintergarden Park was – leave it alone. “We want to keep it as a nature preserve,” said Martha Mazzarella. And for Simpson Garden Park – manage its growth as the funds become available. Citizens said Wintergarden is ideal for nature observation, multi-generational programs such as nature walks, and has great diversity with a prairie, swamp woods and oak savannah. The strengths at Simpson Garden Park include the diverse gardens, its accessibility to those unable to navigate wooded trails, its link to the hospital so people there can easily seek peace in the park, and its educational value with labeling of plants. Programming isn’t heavy at Simpson, but that’s OK, said Frances Brent. “Just its being is the most important part,” she said, explaining its value as a passive park. Both sites make good use of volunteers, including master gardeners at Simpson. Some citizens wanted to make sure Wintergarden wasn’t changed, while other wanted faster development of Simpson. “Don’t screw it up,” Lee Rockett said about Wintergarden. “We need a natural area.” Rockett questioned the use of pesticides in the park and the removal invasive plants like the black raspberries. “When you affect the flora,…


Oil drilling not thrilling to county park district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An oil and gas exploration business failed to return to the Wood County Park District board meeting Tuesday to follow up on its pitch to test in parkland. The park commissioners did not seem disappointed, and had no intention of inviting the company back. “To be honest, it’s not going to change my mind,” said park commissioner Denny Parish. Sean Haas, of Reserve Energy Exploration, in Chagrin Falls, asked the county park commissioners last month for permission to do testing in Baldwin Woods. He said he would return with a more detailed presentation this week, but canceled. The company was interested in doing seismic testing for oil and gas in the 124-acre preserve, off Euler Road near Weston.  The preserve is a mix of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. Seismic testing is a process where an image of the subsurface is created. That data is then used to locate the most optimum place to drill for gas or oil. Haas explained the seismic testing does not use explosives, but rather shakes the ground to discover gas or oil. During last month’s board meeting, Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger expressed concerns about any type of testing. He referred to Baldwin Woods as a “sensitive natural area.” “It’s not something I would encourage or something I would support,” Munger said. “I would not recommend it.” Haas countered that process is “non-invasive” and should be thought of as “scientific research” that could be of benefit to the community. “It shakes the ground,” he said of the testing. “It doesn’t create any tremors or earthquakes.”…


Simpson garden showing its colors, including white

Look closely to see the golden, bowed heads of hundreds of snow burdened daffodils. Daily for three weeks the Simpson Gardens have increased the daffodil and hyacinth count of blooms. Visitors have rejoiced in the cool weather preserving the flowers “like a florists refrigerator.”  Friday’s unseasonable snowfall overdid the refrigeration effect. Heads and stalks bowed from the weight of an unseasonable weekend spring snow the daffodils of Simpson Garden await Tuesday’spromised sun to stand upright again.  Continued cool temperatures will extend the record blooming season . Rapidly draining water puddles in the Hosta garden. The first sharp spears of reemerging plants poke through mud and water.


Earth Month events planned throughout Wood County

April is Earth Month and Wood County and Bowling Green agencies are collaborating to provide multiple events geared toward conservation, education and family fun. The Seventh Annual Community Earth Day Celebration will be the culminating event held on Sunday, April 24th, 2016 from 2-4 pm at the Montessori School of BG, 515 Sand Ridge Road. This free family event has nature science education stations including: a giant Earth Ball, archery, a power-generating bicycle, bookmobile, art projects and crafts, nature walks, various giveaways including live saplings and much more. There is a Passport for the Community Earth Day Celebration that can be picked up at the welcome table on the day of the event. Have the passport stamped at each booth and once complete, turn in the passport to be registered for great giveaways. For a list of the activities during April, please visit www.communityearthday.com. Community Earth Day Celebration booths include the following participants and family-friendly interactive activities: The City of Bowling Green Utilities Division will be providing attendees with the opportunity to generate electricity using the Energy Bike. This stationary bicycle is connected to an electric motor that produces energy to power light bulbs, a radio, a fan and a heater. Through the resistance created by the motor, riders get direct feedback on the energy required to operate each appliance. BG Parks and Recreation will have both an interactive booth and naturalist-led nature walks that are fun for the whole family. Nature walk times are 2:30 and 3:30 pm. Ohio Department of Natural Resources activity: The Maumee State Scenic and Recreational River is an important resource for aquatic organisms and…


BCI Lab recognized for energy efficient design

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey announced today that the BCI laboratory on the BGSU campus has earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. “Opening the new BCI lab at Bowling Green was an exciting milestone. It added the latest technology and increased capacity to help the crime-fighting efforts of Ohio’s law enforcement agencies,” said Attorney General DeWine. “And this certification confirms that this important work is being done in a facility that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.” “We’re proud to have the BCI facility on our campus for the opportunities it offers our students and faculty, and especially pleased that it reflects our goal of achieving carbon neutrality and being a good environmental role model for the citizens of Ohio,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said. LEED certification comes from the U.S. Green Building Council – a national green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The LEED certification encompasses numerous categories of energy efficiency and environmentally sound design. For example, the BCI lab is expected to be 14 percent more energy efficient than the standard building baseline, thanks to its HVAC and lighting units, in addition to its windows and insulation. Water consumption is estimated to be more than 40 percent below the standard baseline. In building the 30,000-square foot facility, which opened in 2014, more than 20 percent of the materials cost went toward recycled products. At the same time, construction waste was recycled or reused, diverting more than 90 percent of construction waste…


Downtown businesses to be surveyed for green certification

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s downtown businesses will soon have a chance to prove how green they really are. For two years now, Lucas County has had a sustainability program in place for businesses, according to Holly Myers, environmental and sustainability professor at Bowling Green State University. Myers and her students would like to bring that “green business” program to downtown Bowling Green. Last week, Myers and three students presented their ideas to the City-University Relations Commission, which endorsed their concept. To start the process, the businesses will be surveyed. To qualify as a green business, an operation must adhere to the values of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and quality of life, Myers explained. The survey covers the following topics: Waste reduction and recycling, with points for recycling items, electronic billing and printing double-sided copies. Green purchasing, with credit given for buying products in bulk, buying from local vendors and using recycled items. Energy conservation and efficiency, with points for using energy efficient lights, shutting down computers not in use, and participating in the city’s Efficiency Smart Energy Conservation Program. Alternative transportation for planning delivery routes, using hybrid fuels or employee ride sharing. Water conservation and pollution prevention for planting drought-resistant plants, using low-flow toilets or tankless water heater. Staff training and public awareness for offering customers green service options, or asking customers if they want a bag (to promote use of fewer bags). Community involvement by participating in local charitable events, offering volunteer opportunities to employees, or making annual donations to charity. Certifications or awards for safety or other efforts. Businesses that do well…


Little girl makes waves saving rare dolphins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Standing on a step stool to reach the podium, the 9-year-old told how she has taken on a nation’s prime minister and a local corporation to try to save dolphins on the other side of the globe. Calista Wilkins, a fourth grader at Otsego, has been working two years to preserve Maui dolphins, the smallest of its species, that live off the coast of New Zealand. On Thursday, Calista shared her story with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. The serious little girl with long blond hair is not intimidated by leaders whose words praise the preservation of the dolphins, but whose actions do the opposite. Her efforts have earned her a grant from Jane Goodall’s organization to continue her dolphin-saving work. Calista was also at ease speaking to the group of Kiwanians, trying to engage them in the presentation. She showed slides of New Zealand, where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed, and asked if anyone was familiar with the small statured characters called hobbits. “The Maui dolphins are sort of like that,” she said. Though Calista has never been to New Zealand, and has never seen the Maui dolphins, she confidently explained their plight. The rare dolphins number only about 50, and risk becoming extinct by 2030 if nothing changes to reverse their fate. The black, white and gray dolphins have rounded noses, dorsal fins shaped like Mickey Mouse ears, and like to swim in groups close to the shores of the northern portion of New Zealand. Calista showed photographs of the small dolphins, including one called “Scratchy,” named…


Students to clean up reputations and neighborhoods at same time

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BGSU students often get trashed for not being good neighbors to full-time city residents. In an effort to clean up their reputations and their neighborhoods at the same time, an Adopt a Block program is being started with the help of the City-University Relations Commission. Danielle Parker, vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government at Bowling Green State University, said the program will help students connect with the community. “This is a new and exciting way for students to give back, besides dropping off some canned goods and walking away,” Parker said. The program will work somewhat like the larger scale “Adopt a Highway” effort. Ten “blocks” have been established by the City-University Relations Commission. Student groups will be asked to adopt an area then head out once a month and pick up trash in the medians. The trash will then be disposed of in the dumpsters behind the city fire station and electric division on Thurstin and Court streets. The 10 “blocks” up for adoption are: North Enterprise from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. North Summit from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. North Prospect from East Wooster to Frazee Avenue. East Court Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Pike Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Ridge Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Merry Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Reed Street from North Prospect to Thurstin Avenue. Area bordered by Wooster, Biddle, Clough and South College. Area bordered by Wooster, South Enterprise, Clough and South Prospect. “Students will go out and take care of that block,” Parker…


BGSU plans to get down with Earth Month activities

By BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS BGSU is mobilizing the community to get involved with sustainability efforts and issues during April. A full slate of Earth Month events and activities has been planned to raise awareness about and combat the effects of global climate change. Organized by the Office of Campus Sustainability, all the events are free and open to the public. Visit the website for full details. http://www.bgsu.edu/campus-sustainability/earth-month.html In 2015, the University adopted its Climate Action Plan to help meet its goal of being a carbon-neutral institution by 2040 as part of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Students have been active participants in BGSU’s environmental efforts. Among them, the student-led Green Initiatives Fund  provides a pool of money for projects that enhance sustainability at BGSU. In honor of Earth Month, the Environmental Service Club invites others to join its “Adopt-a-Highway Earth Month Edition” on April 16. To learn more about the issues surrounding climate change, the community is invited to attend a guest lecture by Dr. Henry Pollack, a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Michigan. He will be presenting a blend of climate science and policy in a talk entitled “Good COP, Bad COP: The Paris Climate Accord,” at 7 p.m. April 18 in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater. Pollack will share his research on how to move forward with public policy even though there is scientific uncertainty. A highlight of the month is always the annual Eco-Fair, on Earth Day, April 20. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Union Oval and features environmental organizations, groups and initiatives from…