Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures
Header

How to Care?

March 10th, 2017 | Posted by Victoria Grant in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Pope Francis’s encyclical created a moving call for action. He beautifully described the human role of climate change. The encyclical was not a complicated science publication and did not contain much scientific evidence which added to his argument rather than weakened it. His defense came from texts and people in a language which could be easily comprehended by the common man. His words were moving and surely impacted the many people who heard or read the encyclical yet, there still has not been much change seen in the world. The Pope has often been in the top spots for the most powerful leader in the world in Forbes magazine. He reaches millions of people with his words and influences a major religion but, even when he speaks on climate change and the moral responsibility people have, there are no major changes seen. How do you make someone care?

One of the most powerful leaders in the world called you out and said change your ways but, you agree with what he said and move on without taking real action. The encyclical should be a motivator for change but, people still do not care. Climate change is not affecting them now so it is not a problem. The problems others are experiencing are not yours so ignore them. We talked about factories in class and a point was made about factory managers not thinking about factory conditions because, they may have their own families and are concerned with their own well being. While that is somewhat reasonable (I still think it’s a problem when you are okay with poisoning people so your family can eat.), what is the moral debate with the CEO’s of huge corporations? The people of Nike who make millions annually and live lavishly know the conditions of their factories but, they can’t take a slight pay cut so people can have enough to eat. They can’t pay less for or not have a celebrity endorsement so dyes are properly disposed of and not going into people’s water. That’s nonsense!

There’s no reason to justify the wrongs you are committing. If you are in the wrong and have to try and justify what you are doing, you are wrong despite your reasoning. People see the damage being done to the world; they see what their actions are doing and still don’t care. I see what is wrong and want to fix it. I want to do my part to make a difference but, there are not enough people doing little things to fix the problem and too many people denying that there is a problem. Showing pictures of what will be lost does not influence these people and scientific evidence does not prove anything to them. The Pope could not change their minds. How do you make people understand when they refuse to listen?

 How can people be okay with living in a world without sights like this?

 

 

Blog #7 – Kevin Bhimani

March 10th, 2017 | Posted by Kevin Bhimani in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Kevin Bhimani 3/10/17 Blog #7

 

By spending some time after class and really thinking about what we did, I decided to make this blog post about the Paris Agreement. The obvious answer when you think of something like the Paris Agreement, a multi-national agreement on climate change detailing the future of our world in terms of actionable items by the member countries—you would think that the actual document itself would be almost unreadable by your average citizen. But it is just the opposite. The actual Paris Agreement is almost trivial, looking like something that we could have came up with in class as opposed to a masterfully synthesized piece of international legislation. By going over it article by article, one can quickly see that there is nothing in the actual piece that calls to any tangible action items, rather most of the rhetoric is along the lines of “we should be doing this” and “these countries should invest in this and that”. Even the Pope, who has published his own encyclical, Laudato Si, on climate change praised the “historic” agreement. In my opinion, it is likened to more of a recommendation document than something that has been hailed as a transformative agreement to our society as a whole. This is incredibly concerning for the future of our planet as we see our world leaders coming together and producing effectively nothing. Nothing for countries to be held accountable for, nothing specifically delineating steps that countries will be taking, just a few general takeaways to maybe put in motion, maybe not. Even if President Trump wants to abandon the Paris Agreement, will it do anything? I think that reading this has made it clear that although I still believe the best way to get true change to occur for our planet is through institutions such as our government, we can not trust them to actually make that effort. As people, we have to recognize the problem and ensure that the fate of our collective home is in our hands. With or without the support of our respective governments, we need to take steps sustain what we have.

 

Sources:

https://cruxnow.com/life/2015/12/14/pope-francis-praises-historic-paris-climate-change-agreement/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-cop-diplomacy-developing-united-nations

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/11/the-problem-with-abandoning-the-paris-agreement/508085/

Using the aesthetically qualities of vegetation to entice an environmentally friendly behavioral change

There is no doubt that we as a people base our reactions and sentiments on visuals. For example, there is an entire field called “color study” in which analyzes the way in which certain colors affect the human mood. What is interesting is when companies and organizations capitalize on the aesthetic aspects that cause people to behave in a certain way.

On our nature hunt this week, I became aware of the visual aspects of the campus in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It is pretty interesting that it take consciously taking in the aesthetics of a place to understand the impact that visuals have on my own daily decisions. I came across many environmental visuals that communicated to me different ideas. Take the construction on east campus versus the heavily wooded areas on west campus for example; I had more feelings that the campus was environmentally friendly when I was surrounded by green space, rather than overturned soil and construction trucks. This idea connects to the discrepancy of green spaces in Durham leading to an overall decrease in mental happiness in East Durham compared to their green heavy counterparts. 

I was most captivated by the ways in which visuals were used on campus to entice people to behave differently. For example, the simple placement of bike racks around campus can change the culture around biking versus riding the bus. Also, Duke like to brag when they are working towards sustainability; they place lots of stickers and plaques on buildings and classrooms that meet certain energy and sustainability goals. This also relates to the idea that people are motivated by small positive, visual reinforcements. The biggest push to change behavior that I witnessed was the usage of vegetation around areas in which contained recycling and trash bins. As if a the site of the plant would remind the person throwing something away, that they were indeed making an environmental decision. While I may be looking into the placement of items on campus too closely, it is still vital to understand environmental communication and behavioral changes by analyzing the visuals tied to those ideas.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XwVQDZLI29AGIiGQ7sWBCx4Rv2VRS90krFpGANVUgPw/edit?usp=sharing

The Paris Agreement

March 9th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Paris Agreement Summary

Article 1

  • A glossary for the paper

Article 2

    • It is time to respond more appropriately to climate change through sustainability and eradication of poverty.
    • Become more adaptable and have each country work within their capabilities, whatever they may be.

 

  • Don’t let temperatures get 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.

 

Article 3

  • Countries should be ambitious and help each other out in following the Agreement.

Article 4

    • Reach peak emissions ASAP, then rapidly reduce.

 

  • Each nation sets a goal beyond its current capabilities.
  • Developed countries take the lead, support developing.
  • Report information on progress with transparency every 5 years.

 

  • Time frames TBD by the conference.
  • Responsible for own emissions level.
  • Economy-wide changes if achievable.

Article 5

  • Preserve large forests – properly incentivize stakeholders to do so, perhaps through monetary conservation

Article 6

  • Countries acknowledge that action is voluntary
  • Countries will face adaptation costs and any proceeds obtained can be used to offset these costs
  • Countries should use a variety of methods to achieve their planned contributions

Article 7

    • Countries need to adapt to prevent climate change
    • Adaptation costs in the present will greatly reduce adaptation costs later on
    • Countries should cooperate to share research and techniques

 

  • Developed countries should assist less developed countries

 

  • The UN will lend support
  • Natural resources must be properly managed
  • Adaptation efforts will be recognized by the “global stockplace”

Article 8

  • All parties recognizing the need for addressing loss and damage to climate
  • The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts is the overseeing body for the Paris Agreement
  • Detailed out ways they can cooperate such as early warning systems, “comprehensive risk assessment and management”

Article 9

  • Developed countries have to provide the resources to assist developing countries in their efforts
  • Developed countries should lead the way for “climate finance” for resources, instruments, etc.
  • Need to communicate efforts for qualitatively and quantitatively providing aid to developed countries biennially

Article 10

    • The agreement highlights the nations sharing a long term vision and coming to a unanimous agreement to use technology in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • They will strengthen cooperative action on technology development and transfer.
    • The Technology Mechanism established will thus serve the agreement, working in accordance to the Technology Framework.
    • Accelerate, encourage and enable innovation

 

  • Excessive jargon, repetition and ambiguous claims of what to do. No concrete plans in accordance to their “long term vision”

 

  • Important: To support developing nations.

Article 11

  • Calls for the need of capacity building in high risk areas ie. developing countries, and those who will be most adversely affected by climate change.
  • Says developed countries should enhance support for capacity building in developing countries
  • Last line says they will discuss/agree to all the above at another meeting?

Article 12

  • Says: Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.
  • Reiteration of previous statements.

Article 13

    • Repetition of points that call for a mechanism of transparency and extending support to developing countries for the implementation of this article.

 

  • Important: Says that each party shall regularly provide the following information:

 

    • (a) A national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, prepared using good practice methodologies accepted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement
    • (b) Information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving its nationally determined contribution under Article 4. 8. Each Party should also provide information related to climate change impacts and adaptation under Article 7, as appropriate

Article 14 *mutatis mutandis

    • Countries “shall periodically take stock of the implementation of this Agreement to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goals”

 

  • Updates every 5 years, starting from 2023

 

  • These updates will help inform future action

Article 15 *mutatis mutandis

  • Basically, whatever mechanism to facilitate compliance to this agreement will be followed
  • The mechanism is a basically a committee that the Paris Agreement will form, that will check upon progress?

Article 16 *mutatis mutandis

  • Article basically says that anyone who isn’t part of the Paris Convention is allowed to view as an observer. Some other specific classifications are given to others…but everyone is free to view ultimately.

Article 17

  • “The secretariat established by Article 8 of the Convention shall serve as the secretariat of this Agreement.”

Article 18

  • “The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation established by Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention shall serve, respectively, as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of this Agreement.”

Article 19

  • Subsidiary bodies can be established by the countries in the Paris Agreement if necessary

Article 20

  • “This Agreement shall be open for signature and subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the Convention.”
  • It shall be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017.

Article 21

  • “This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.”
  • Definition of what total greenhouse emissions emissions

Article 22

  • The provisions of Article 15 of the Convention on the adoption of amendments to the Convention shall apply mutatis mutandis to this Agreement.

Article 23

  • Article 16 will apply mutatis mutandis (Latin phrase meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”)
    • In other words, it isn’t done yet and obvious changes still have to be made
  • Future changes, additions, or annexes to the agreement will only be lists, forms and any other scientific, technical, procedural or administrative material

Article 24

  • The part of Article 14 relating to settlement of disputes is also mutatis mutandis

Article 25

  • Each party gets 1 vote
  • If the EU or another organization consisting of a collective group of countries votes, it gets as many votes as it has member countries, but only if none of those countries vote independently

Article 26

  • The agreement is entrusted to the Secretary-General of the UN (in legal terms, he is the Depositary) since it is a multinational agreement

Article 27

  • No reservations may be made to the agreement, meaning that no countries may place caveats on their ratification

Towards the end of the 1990s, the Internet started to become an omnipresent fixture in many people’s lives. With its user base annually doubling in size and its user-generated content growing uncontrollably, the Internet was overwhelming the infrastructure built to maintain it. In order to keep up with this growth, enterprises began to invest in more robust server infrastructure in hopes of accommodating users’ large demands for increased processing power, larger storage space, and faster network speeds. It soon became apparent that the growth rate of Internet traffic and content would not be declining in the near future and enterprises would need a more permanent solution for accommodating Internet users. This demand for a more capable foundation for the Internet had become the catalyst that fueled the creation of the 3 million data centers currently active in the United States today. Despite becoming fundamentally vital to the daily functioning of the Internet, data centers are undoubtedly guilty of nurturing the world’s unhealthy dependence on the Internet. This dependence made the cyber world so intertwined with the real world to the point that users expect this anthropogenic system to respond instantaneously and perform flawlessly. Thus, propelled by always rising user expectations, data centers have fostered a cycle of continuously building facilities that are capable of generating more power. Unfortunately, this chronic power increase is produced at the expense of further depleting limited natural resources and ultimately results in a permanent addition to data centers’ growing damage to the environment.

While browsing the Internet, users are hidden from its inner workings. Users can neither see the movement of data between their computer and a network nor the energy required to facilitate that communication. Although this abstraction yields a simpler experience for users, it hides a harmful byproduct of their web activity, the polluting effect it has on the environment.

Nearly every action performed on the Internet has the cost of a resultant carbon emission: making a Google search emits .2g of CO2, watching a YouTube video for only 10 minutes emits 1g of CO2, and simply owning a Gmail account for a year emits 1200g of CO2. Regardless of whether a user is actively using the Internet or not, a user’s carbon footprint is quantified by the volume of data the user creates and its subsequent manipulation which can be independent of user action. Therefore, this omnipresent carbon offset that accompanies Internet usage calls for the need to augment the efficiency with which data is manipulated. This can be accomplished by focusing on the Internet’s primary data handler— data centers.

Annually, data centers are becoming markedly more energy efficient; however, any gain in efficiency is subsequently eaten by an increase in user demand. For most data centers, their clients expect not only fast speeds but also guaranteed data integrity and ubiquitous service. While these expectations can be met by data centers, they introduce several bottlenecks to a data center’s energy efficiency that are necessary to provide the expected near-perfect service. A few of these bottlenecks are: high-performing server hardware, readily-available uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, powerful temperature maintenance systems. In order to service data at the bare minimum, a data center just needs sufficient electricity to power its server hardware. Generally, any additional electricity is used to accommodate large server loads and, most importantly, maintain temperatures within the facility to prevent damage to both hardware and data.

In order to quantify the power efficiency at which the data center is running, the industry uses the power usage effectiveness (PUE) metric. This metric is calculated by dividing the total electricity the data center consumes by the energy required to run the server hardware. This essentially describes the additional electricity necessary to maintain the normal operation of the server hardware. An ideal PUE is 1.0 which denotes that all electricity used by the data center is solely consumed by server hardware, but this would also mean that no electricity is consumed by cooling mechanisms, lighting, or any other overhead, which is highly unlikely. Within the United States, data centers achieve a PUE of 1.85 on average; however, this value largely depends on the size of the data center which is generally correlated with the scale of the operation and the quality of the infrastructure. Therefore, it becomes less surprising that small data centers generally have a PUE of 2.0 and large data centers can have a PUE as low as 1.1. Although the average PUE for large data centers is lower than that of smaller data centers, it is an insufficient metric for comparing infrastructures. This metric is only useful for measuring a data center’s efficiency with respect to itself and fails to reveal complete information about the data center’s total energy consumption, a vital factor in computing a more telling metric: the data center’s carbon footprint.

In 2016, the U.S. government released a study of data center energy use, which the first in the complete analysis of the topic over the past decade. In the study, it was estimated that data centers in the United States consumed 70 billion kWh of electricity in 2014 which is equal to 1.8% of the country’s total energy consumption for that year. In the same year, data centers were estimated to have used 626 billion liters of water which equates to 1 liter of water consumed for every .11 kWh used. To put that into perspective, that .11 kWh can only power a 40-watt lightbulb for about 3 hours. Alternatively, the average daily electricity consumption for a U.S. residence is 30.03 kWh. If this amount of electricity was consumed by a data center instead, it would equivalent to about 273 liters of water consumed which is the recommended intake of water for men over the course of three months. Due to their excessive consumption of electricity and water, in addition to several smaller factors, data centers have been estimated to account for about 2% of total global greenhouse emissions annually, or about 648 billion kilograms of CO2 in 2014. The industry claims that in the coming years they will be able to upgrade their facilities without increasing their proportional contribution to total global greenhouse emissions, but regardless of their claim’s veracity, their objective should not only be to maintain their consumption but to minimize it.

Somewhat inconsistent with their recorded extreme energy usage, data centers do not necessarily require all electricity they expend to operate normally; in fact, for most data centers, using only half of their average total energy usage would result in service that is nearly identical in quality to their normal service. The reasoning for data centers’ consumption of the other half of their average total energy usage is rooted in the expectation of delivering “perfect” service to their clients. This service is defined by three promises: fast network speeds, guaranteed data integrity, and most importantly, functional service at all times. Although data centers aim to achieve this level of service, they know it is impossible to be perfect. Therefore, they consume a significant portion of the extra energy for minimizing the risk of any service-affecting error occurring within the facility. Though a majority of clients do not require this level of service, for some clients, any time period of the data center being unavailable could create serious risk for their businesses. Likewise, for a data center, any time period of them being unable to service requests could also create serious risk for their business—losing their clients. As a result, many pubic data centers have no choice but to expend even more energy to meet their clients’ high service expectations despite them knowing that this additional energy consumed, almost independent of its volume, will principally result in only a marginal increase in their service.

There are several factors on which data centers expend the additional energy. One of the most critical factors is the maintenance of cold temperatures and humidity levels within the facility to ensure hardware can operate and protect client data. One method many data centers use to maintain their controlled climate is using computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units. These are devices which monitor and maintain air temperature by producing cold air that propagates throughout the facility and cools down server racks. This air is subsequently funneled back into the CRAC units to repeat the process indefinitely. By maintaining a cool temperature in the data center, the facility ensures a prolonged lifespan for the hardware and minimizes the risk of hardware being damaged or shut down due to overheating. Additionally, most CRAC units also have humidifier components that help to maintain a moderate relative humidity within the data center. It is imperative that the humidity within data centers is controlled so that it becomes neither too dry nor too moist. Within a dry atmosphere, the chance for electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurring increases, which could result in destroyed or corrupted data. On the other hand, within a moist atmosphere, dust particles become more susceptible to sticking to electrical components and thereby reduce the components’ heat transfer ability and further contribute to their corrosion. Now, it should be evident that CRAC units and alternative cooling mechanisms not only play a useful role within data centers by controlling atmospheric variables but also ensure hardware integrity as a result.

It may seem advantageous to have prolong the equipment’s lifespan as long as possible; however, it should be noted that within most data centers, a server’s average lifetime is about 4.4 years before becoming replaced with an upgrade. Therefore, data centers can mitigate the energy its cooling mechanisms consume by only aiming to sustain the minimum air temperature that would ensure a piece of hardware’s lifespan to be equal to the length of its upgrade cycle. Historically, CRAC units have been used to effectively achieve this goal, but as average processing power within a server grows over time, the heat to be maintained by CRAC units grows as well. This necessitates CRAC units to expend increasing amounts of power to perform its maintenance tasks, which could make a noticeable impact on a data center’s total energy consumption but also implies greater volumes of coolant necessary to run the units themselves. The coolants used generally contain halocarbons or chlorofluorocarbons which are mildly toxic substances that can contribute to ozone depletion. Given that disadvantages of CRACs and their accompanying harmful environmental impact become magnified over time, it is crucial that data centers begin to invest in alternative cooling systems, such as evaporative chillers, in order to adopt a cooling mechanism that not only sustains its efficiency but also minimizes its ecological threat over time.

In addition to cooling systems, another factor in which data centers invest a significant amount of extra energy to maximize their quality of service is the collection of alternative power sources of that would be used in case of primary power source failure. Even a small power outage could result could compromise data integrity or even render the service unavailable, which is an unacceptable outcome. In order to prevent against this possibility, data centers have uninterruptable power supply (UPS) systems which can temporarily power their facilities in case of emergency. These systems generally use lead-acid batteries as their power supplies, but they have the disadvantages of having a short average lifespan of 2.5 years as well as having a guaranteed negative environmental impact since their production often employs destructive mining techniques. Further contributing to UPS systems’ disadvantages, data centers typically have backup diesel-powered generators in addition to their lead-acid batteries because modern battery technology is incapable of independently power an average data center for an extended period of time. In the case that backup generators do not exhaust all of their stored diesel quickly enough, the stored diesel could become expired and must be discarded. This discarded fuel is an unavoidable waste This waste of fuel is unavoidable and adds to all data centers’ compounding environmental debt that has been formed as a byproduct of their interminable practice of generating minimal benefit at large environmental costs.

In an effort to maximize the reliability of all facets of their service, in addition to protecting against external hardware-related failure, data centers must always be prepared for sudden, and often rare, spikes in server load. In order to alleviate this risk, any active servers cannot operate using all of their available power because a server needs readily available computing power in the case of peak data traffic loads, which are often rare. As a result, average server utilization can only range from 10% to 45%, depending on the data center’s infrastructure quality. In addition to this limitation, active servers within a data center further waste energy because usually about 10% to 30% of them are vampire servers. Vampire servers are active servers that are not performing any jobs and instead are sitting idly, still using the same amount of energy. Unlike server utilization limitations, this is a byproduct of poor infrastructure management and can easily be avoided. This negligence combined with data centers’ inability to concurrently deliver maximum server utilization and elastic peak load handling results in data centers wasting nearly 90% of electricity used to power the servers which results in unnecessary inflation of data centers’ carbon footprints.

Despite data centers being a fundamental necessity for the functioning of the Internet, the negative ecological impact of the extra energy expended to fulfill clients’ expectations of their quality of service ultimately outweighs the positive anthropological impact of their almost negligible service improvements. This imbalance has been steadily increasing over past two decades because Internet users have unconditionally embraced all improvements to speed and reliability. Unfortunately, the resource cost to obtain the enhanced quality of service is often times grossly disproportionate to the value of the service improvements. This inequality is hidden from Internet users and conditioned them to expect this performance, ignorant of the costs. Stemming from their fear of damaging their business, data centers give themselves no choice but to comply with the users’ expectations and ultimately make it more difficult for themselves to reduce their exceedingly negative impact on the environment.

Despite data centers’ significant contributions to pollution over the years, it approximately took until 2007 for people to notice the magnitude of their pollution problem with studies being released detailing their environmental impact. Even then, the following few years saw growing public effort to rally against their massive carbon footprint, and by 2012, partially motivated by the feat of bad publicity, data centers began to actively invest in improvements in infrastructure and management that would lead to reductions in their carbon footprint. Of these improvements, the most globally-benefitting was the diversification of data center energy sources by increasing their consumption of renewable energy.

Starting in 2010, Greenpeace began campaigning to spread awareness about data centers’ hidden dependence on coal. During this campaign, Greenpeace revealed that 50% to 60% of the electricity used by Facebook’s data centers was directly produced from coal. Originally, Facebook deflected the accusation by saying that they had no control over the methods the grid used to produce electricity, but during the next year, after realizing the opportunity to drive growth in renewable energy, Facebook became one of the first tech companies by publically committing to powering their data centers completely with renewable energy.

Since making their commitment, Facebook has made several strides in reducing their carbon footprint and has motivated other tech companies to do the same. In 2012, Facebook created the Open Compute Project which is an industry-wide initiative to share specifications and best practices for building the most energy efficient and economical data centers. This gained some traction within the industry, and Facebook used it to introduce the water usage effectiveness (WUE) metric, which has become increasingly popular within the industry. This metric provides more meaningful data about energy consumption than PUE because it can be used to estimate both total water and electricity consumption for a data center by using average values in the industry. As a result of taking these steps forward, Facebook played a vital role in increasing competition within the industry by permanently adding environmental impact as a factor in consumers’ minds.

Earnest to not be outmatched, other large tech companies, also made efforts to reduce their data centers’ environmental impact and promote change within the industry. Given that in 2016 a study estimated that only 12% of a data centers’ total carbon emissions are generated within the facility and the remaining 88% is from production of its third party resources, such as electricity and water, it was clear that data centers needed to focus more attention where they procure their required resources than the manner with which the data centers used them. With respect to reducing carbon emissions from water usage, some companies have made progress in using more grey and seawater to for use in their data centers. In 2012, Google’s data center near Atlanta completely moved to recycling waste water to use in its cooling mechanisms and releases any excess purified water into the nearby Chattahoochee river. More impressively, in 2013, after building its large solar farm in North Carolina, Apple was able to announce that all of its data centers were now running on 100% renewable energy. This energy is sourced from a combination of renewable energy bought from energy companies and renewable energy that is generated onsite. Many companies have begun to follow these company’s paths to augment the percentage of clean energy they use, and for some small companies, this option literally would not have been available without the larger companies’ help.

Given the large energy demands data centers have, large companies have leverage over public utility companies to push them to embrace renewable energy. Duke Energy, the largest energy utility company in the country, has been the target of pressure to increase renewable energy production. Pushed by the demands of companies like Apple and Google, Duke Energy has already invested more than $4 billion in solar and wind facilities in 12 different states over the past 8 years. In addition to pushing for cleaner sources of electricity, many data centers have been working with their local municipalities to build mutually beneficial water treatment plants that reduce water waste and practice more carbon-conscious methods for purifying water. This would benefit data centers by giving more control over the carbon offset of the water they would consume and also local citizens by providing them more options for clean water. Thanks to the advances of large companies, smaller data centers were able to benefit from these newly-created renewable energy facilities; in fact, for some, a new facility was their only reasonable opportunity to use renewable energy. Ultimately, the continuing advances in reducing carbon emissions made by large tech companies have reduced their own ecological impact and have also set a good example for smaller companies to practice the same mindfulness in the future.

Aside from the external carbon emission reductions available to a data center, the infrastructure within a data center presents several possible improvements to be made as well. As mentioned previously, a well-known serious problem with data center infrastructure is server utilization. Many data center servers use on average about 10% to 20% of the power consumed by their servers effectively. This is largely due to the limitation of a physical server only being able to be installed in at most one application whereas applications can have multiple physical servers installed. Since most applications do not require maximum server power at all times, their servers often only use a fraction of their energy productively. This consequently results in a large and unnecessary contribution to a data center’s carbon emissions. Fortunately, in recent years many data centers have been able to avoid this problem through their adoption of virtualization. With virtualization, a physical server can power multiple virtual servers located on the cloud. A virtual server executes processes in the same way as physical servers do, so it becomes possible for one physical server to accommodate the processes for multiple applications because these applications would have the physical server’s virtual servers installed instead. Through this, it has been shown that it becomes possible for servers to increase their utilization up to 80% safely, a marked increase in efficiency. Additionally, since physical servers can accommodate multiple jobs at once, data centers can possibly reduce the number of active servers in their facility which reduces the data center’s cumulative heat generation and carbon footprint. Incentivized by these clear benefits, many data centers have been updating their infrastructure to support virtualization, and even in 2011, it was recorded that 72% of companies had data centers that were at least 25% virtualized. Propelled by the increasing popularity of the cloud, there is no doubt that the adoption of virtualization will increase in the future and its effects on reducing data center carbon emissions will be significant.

It’s been shown that there are data centers are readily embracing opportunities to reduce their carbon emissions, but there is also a substantial number of data centers who have not embraced these opportunities at all. In 2014, of the 70 billion kWh of electricity consumed by data centers in the United States, only 5% of that consumption can be attributed to the massive “hyperscale” data centers constructed by companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google while the remaining 95% is attributed to small- and medium-sized data centers. This seems counter-intuitive because these average-sized data centers cumulatively process only 66% of all data center traffic in general. This large discrepancy between data center traffic and energy consumption of these two classes of data centers reveals many of these average-sized data centers are largely energy-inefficient. This inefficiency is primarily rooted in those data centers’ lack of incentive to make changes to become more energy efficient. In order to do so, they would have to make substantial investments in upgrading their server infrastructure and spend time teaching their IT staff about the new infrastructure, both of which are difficult due to the limitations imposed by the small scale of their company. Therefore, many of the carbon emission-reducing upgrades available in data center operations only benefit hyperscale data centers because they do not suffer from the same limitations as average-sized data centers. Unless average-sized data centers are presented worthwhile incentives, a majority of data center traffic will continue to be serviced by their outdated systems and ultimately remain unaffected by the several improvements available to reduce its future carbon emissions.

Currently, the incentives for companies to upgrade or replace their average-sized data centers may be negligible, but in the coming years, the advantages of becoming a client of a hyperscale data center will be too hard to ignore. By 2020, it’s projected that hyperscale data centers will account for 68% of total global data center processing power and will service 53% of total global data center traffic. These are increases of 74% and 55%, respectively, from their values in 2015. This projected increase in popularity stems from the compounding effects of hyperscale data centers’ improvements in cost and energy efficiency and quality of service over the years. In addition, small data centers will notice difficulties in accommodating their future traffic given that annual global data center traffic is projected to increase from 4.7 trillion gigabytes in 2015 to 15.3 trillion gigabytes in 2020. This 326% increase in data volume will be much more difficult to cope with for smaller data centers than it would be for hyperscale data centers because small data center server utilization is currently about 4 times lesser than that of hyperscale data centers and is only expected to receive a marginal increase by 2020. As a result, this incapability will force small data centers to make the decision: upgrade its outdated infrastructure or become a client of hyperscale data center. Despite the improbability of small data centers making energy-efficient infrastructure upgrades in the future, their future contribution to global carbon emissions will likely be reduced if they choose to redirect their traffic to hyperscale data centers instead. This migration has the potential to eliminate several serious inefficiencies in the industry and also would result in a more compact, environmentally-conscious collection of companies that could motivate each other to invest in more efficiency innovations in the future.

Data centers have undergone a serious evolution since their boom during the dot-com bubble in late 1990s. They have become vital to the functioning of the Internet and have transitively played an integral, yet abstracted, role in many Internet users’ everyday lives. Despite the clear advantages they have given to the modern world, data centers have been more ecologically harmful than they have been anthropologically helpful. This omnipresent ecological threat stems from their growing energy consumption and the permanent negative environmental impact it generates.

While a portion of data centers’ energy consumption is effectively used for the functioning of applications, the remaining energy is largely wasted by facilities’ inefficient infrastructure and their investments in chasing an unattainable quality of service. The quality of service delivered is especially correlated with the magnitude of data centers’ anthropological and ecological impacts, both positive and negative. These two realms of impact have an inverse relationship where a positive improvement for one realm generally results in a more negative future for the other; however, the magnitude of change is not always equivalent for both realms.

Currently in the industry, a substantial amount of energy is often expended to yield marginal increases in performance, but it is questionable whether users even notice the improvements bestowed upon them. Would they notice that an image was loaded a fraction of a second faster than previously? Or that the file they recently uploaded to the cloud now has several redundant copies of it to restore the file in case it will be corrupted? The likely answer is that people would neither notice nor even expect these improvements, but despite this possibility, companies still strive to deliver increasingly better speeds and service. This ultimately pushes users to eventually become accustomed to a higher quality of service that they would have otherwise ignored. This hazardous cycle continues to cause further pollute the environment, and in order to eliminate its negative ecological impact, it is indispensable that all data centers unanimously agree upon an upper bound for their future quality of service and begin to direct their focus to minimizing their carbon impact instead.

The future of the intertwined relationship between data centers and the environment can result in many different outcomes. In one outcome, data centers will magnify their positive role of developing energy innovations and promote their widespread adoption, but in another outcome, the destructive cyclic relationship between data centers and their clients will continue to exist and continue to deliver their constantly growing levels of ecological damage. The relationship’s future outcome is not only dependent on the actions of data centers but the actions of their users as well. In order to create positive change, it is imperative that users become cognizant of the toxic byproducts resulting from their cyber activity. Whether this cognition yields reductions in their daily streaming activity or a decreased dependence on the cloud, the cumulative effect can make a marked difference in their cumulative impact on the environment and could potentially trigger a permanent acceptance of a more environmentally-conscious usage of technology.

The future state of the environment, as it has always been, is inherently decided by people’s actions. Technology users need to accept that since they were satisfied with humbler service in the past, they can still be satisfied with the same quality of service in the future. In the same vein, data centers may be reducing their yearly increases in energy consumption rates, but this trend is not guaranteed to last. Therefore, in order to ensure the longevity of the environment, it is ultimately humans’ responsibility to not only reduce their levels of consumption but also amend their relationship with the environment before their intertwined longevity is permanently compromised.

Let’s go somewhere!

March 7th, 2017 | Posted by Victoria Grant in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Hey y’all,

I don’t know if anyone will see this in time but, we have the media challenge and have the opportunity to explore off campus. Would anyone want to get together and go explore the unknown? I don’t have a car but, we could share an Uber. Let me know if you are interested by commenting to this post or emailing me at my duke email: Victoria.grant@duke.edu. I think getting together would be really cool and a great way to go out farther in Durham. Hopefully, I’ll hear from y’all if not, enjoy the challenge!

By now, we have read environmentally-themed novels and short stories, we’ve discussed eco-imagery and climate communications, we’ve conducted deep critical analyses of a range of environmental issues, we’ve watched environmental films, and we’ve now for today skimmed the UN Paris Agreement and the Pope’s Encyclical Letter Laudato Si. The only thing we’ve not yet done is move our scholarship outside (into ‘nature’) and beyond the classroom (to the public social sphere). Today we’ll do both. Today your challenge is to participate in the local and global online conversations around environmental and climate change. On Thursday, then, we’ll discuss the Laudato Si, the UN Paris Agreement, and the environmental explorations you document today. <The schedule has been corrected to reflect our new plan>

 

For TODAY:

  1. Create a Twitter or Instagram account if you do not already have one. If you already have one but would prefer to create a new one for this assignment, please feel free.
  2. Send me via email the Twitter or Instagram handle you’ll be using today.
  3. Explore! From 3:05 – 4:20, explore the campus (East, West, and Central) and/or spaces off-campus (Duke Forest and the Eno River are great if you’ve never been) and document your environmental findings. Find a new outdoor space, take a new look at a favorite place, or go on an afternoon hike with your eyes trained toward your surroundings. Post images of what you see to your Instagram or Twitter account using the hashtag #ecolit290 + at least one of the following:

#climate
#climateselfie
#soilselfie
#everydayclimatechange
#climatechange
#environment
#globalwarming
#water
#renewableenergy
#climatejustice
#environmentaljustice
#oil
#sustainability
#recycle
#ActonClimate
#nature
#animal
#plant
#mineral
#humanschangingclimate
#anthropocene

As you post your photos and selfies, take note of tweets or Instagram posts that are using the same hashtag. See if you can get someone (or many someones) to retweet or regram you. Accumulate at least 10 high-quality microposts before the close of the course period. Questions? Email me, send me a chat message via gmail (amandastarling [at] gmail…), or send a DM via my @stargould Twitter account. I will be online and at the ready during our full course period, watching for your posts and waiting to answer any questions you may have. Bonus: You do not need to go to the classroom today. Just start your explorations when the course period begins. Don’t forget to send me your Twitter or Instagram account before you start and don’t forget to use #ecolit290 so that your posts will be counted toward your total.

The Flint Water Crisis – Not simply an honest mistake

In spring 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan were struck by surprise as they turned their taps to receive brown-colored contaminated water. It was later found out that the water was contaminated with lead concentration pushing hundreds of times beyond the acceptable limit, effectively poisoning the whole city’s population. With America’s per capita GDP pushing $53,000, as compared to the worldwide average of about $10,000, we are one of the wealthiest nations on this planet. To other nations, the United States is often viewed as the beacon of success – a place where everyone lives in comfort, and happiness. But such an image doesn’t hold up well when one takes a look into the living situation of those residing in Flint, Michigan. As a city stricken by a dangerously contaminated water supply, with some of the poorest residents in the nation, Flint is a grim reminder of the suffering that some residents in America actively endure on a day to day basis as a result of the gross negligence of both attention from leadership, as well as a lack of allocation of resources. What specifically happened here? What impact did this ultimately have on the people of Flint?

April 25th, 2014 was the fateful day when the officials of Flint, Michigan officially switched the water source of the city from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (sourced from Lake Huron) to that of the Flint River, citing that this was a “temporary switch”. The ultimate goal was to build a pipeline to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), which would allegedly save the city 200 million dollars in the next 25 years if executed properly, according to officials. Officials tried to keep the public relaxed about the decision, claiming that “Flint water is safe to drink” [1]. However, officials didn’t attempt to proactively do any tests for themselves to see whether such a drastic change in water source change would affect the corrosion within the pipes. One of the biggest red flags was that the pipeline system of Flint Michigan was made of lead – any type of corrosion would pose a big health risk to the citizens. Yet, the officials decided to take a “wait and see” approach, as characterized by the Michigan Radio at the time [2]. The officials didn’t have to wait long. The reports of contaminated water came almost directly after the switch was made. In May, reports of E. Coli in the water prompted the city to put up a boiling advisory for water before use. Eventually, it turned out that the water from the Flint River was indeed corroding the pipes, and a harmful amount of corrosive flow through was coming out of people’s taps. In fact, in October, General Motors decided to stop using the water, as they were fearing it would corrode the machines in their facility. By February of 2015, it was determined officially that there was extensive lead contamination of water supplies across Flint Michigan (this was already known before – it just took a while for city officials to catch up to the fact) [3]. The interesting thing to note here is that it took several months before city officials could even acknowledge officially that there was contamination of something dangerous in the water. What could possibly suggest such a delay?

The Michigan Civil Rights commission published a 129-page report, after a yearlong investigation of the Flint Michigan water crisis. Over 150 residents’ testimonies were heard, and compiled in the report. The commission concluded that the problems in Flint could be connected to “historical, structural and systemic racism combined with implicit bias”. The report specifically zeroed in on how the reckless decision of the emergency management to switch the water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River without being more careful, disproportionately affected communities of color, which predominantly make up Flint Michigan. According to the US census, Flint is over 57% black [4]. Over 41% of the citizens in flint live below the poverty line. Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, representing the city of Flint, stated “It’s hard for me to imagine the indifference that we’ve seen exhibited if this had happened in a much more affluent community”.

Upon further analysis of the crisis, there are some potential conflicts of interest that arise of the politicians that have been involved in making some of the decisions. Governor Snyder of Michigan’s chief of staff was Dennis Muchmore, who was with the Flint water issue. During this time, his wife, Deb Muchmore, was also the spokesperson in Michigan for Nestle, which happens to be the largest private owner of water resources in Michigan. Given that Nestle has a business model that revolves around bottled water, it is not unlikely for one to see that there is definitely a conflict of interest. Michael Moore elaborates on this “The Muchmores have a personal interest in seeing to it that Nestles grabs as much of Michigan’s clean water was possible — especially when cities like Flint in the future are going to need that Ice Mountain.” While Moore might be slightly alarmist in his rhetoric here, there is a solid point to be seen. The Michigan government recently allowed Nestle to expand groundwater retrieval extensively from sources just 120 miles from Flint Michigan, for a measly $200 per year [5]. This decision to let Nestle get access to such vast amounts of fresh water for little to no benefit to the state led to a big controversy from the people of Flint. Finding out the finer the details of the arrangement with Nestle is also still unclear, as the specific terms hadn’t yet been disclosed. Unfortunately, substantial information regarding this deal is unlikely to come out about, especially given Michigan’s dead last ranking of transparency, according to a recent national study of state ethics and transparency laws [6].

Regardless of the debate of the underlying intentions of how the flint water crisis came out, at this point, there is at least one thing that everyone can agree about – that the entire city was exposed to noxious water. This toxic, lead-laced water has already affected the population, and will very likely have long lasting effects. It was concluded via a study by Virginia Tech University, that Flint Michigan as a whole was contaminated by levels of lead that far exceeded safe limits. Furthermore, certain parts of Flint had households that had lead levels exceeding 13,000 parts per billion (ppb). This is an extremely high amount – for comparison, 5,000 ppb is considered to be a level of contamination equivalent to that found in industrial waste. 5 ppb is considered to be the level of lead from which one should be concerned. Extended exposure to lead at concentrations of 5 ppb and above lead to various neurological and developmental problems, which means that children are particularly susceptible [7]. With such extreme concentrations, citizens of flint were already being affected by the lead poisoning within a very short time window.

As of now, 6 officials have been criminally charged in the Flint Water Crisis case [8]. There were intentional efforts to cover up the facts of the crisis – according to the Detroit Free Press, “ Some people failed to act, others minimized harm done and arrogantly chose to ignore data, some intentionally altered figures … and covered up significant health risks.” The fact that there are now criminal charges being filed indicates that the notion that the overall situation as an “innocent mistake” was untrue.

When was the last time we heard about such an issue affecting an affluent population? Had it affected a richer population, would the actions taken by the government been much quicker and more effective? Would there be willful negligence by the leaders to such an extreme scale? Such questions we might never find the answer to – and that is the irony of it all. While officials argue over who is to blame, and who isn’t – a neglected population continues to suffer. Down the road, what does the future of America look like? Can we work to prevent underprivileged populations from suffering disproportionately from manmade environmental problems? The situation at Flint, Michigan tells us that we have a lot of work left to do. Only time will tell if we are learning from our mistakes.

Work Cited

1. Snyder, Rick. “Snyder Email.” State of Michigan. Executive Office, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2017.

2. Smith, Lindsey. “After Ignoring and Trying to Discredit People in Flint, the State Was Forced to Face the Problem.” Michigan Radio. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

3. Roy, Siddhartha. “Hazardous Waste-levels of Lead Found in a Flint Household’s Water.” Flint Water Study Updates. N.p., 01 Sept. 2015. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

4. “Population Estimates, July 1, 2015, (V2015).” Flint City Michigan QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

5. Ellison, Garret. “Nestle Bottled Water Plant Upgrade Driving More Groundwater Extraction.” MLive.com. N.p., 31 Oct. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

6. Egan, Paul. “Michigan Ranks Last in Laws on Ethics, Transparency.” Detroit Free Press. N.p., 09 Nov. 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

7. Mayo Clinic Staff Print. “Lead Poisoning.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., 06 Dec. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2017

8. “6 State Employees Criminally Charged in Flint Water Crisis.” Detroit Free Press. N.p., 29 July 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2017

 

Duke University employs over 37,000 people and its property holdings span 8,691 acres (Duke University’s Office of News and Communication). Consequently, its energy footprint is enormous. In 2013, energy comprised 76 percent of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, and of its carbon emissions, 50 percent was derived from the purchase of electricity (Sustainable Duke – Energy). Equally large, meanwhile, is the University’s influence on sustainability and environmental policy. In June 2007, President Richard Brodhead signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment and pledged Duke to achieving carbon neutrality by 2024 (Sustainable Duke 2009). The University now faces an uphill battle, as change will need to be swift and efficient in order to achieve this goal.

Duke plans to combine a strategy of emission reduction and carbon offsetting, which will involve “providing successful examples of technologies such as solar PV, solar thermal, biomass and biogas steam production, and hybrid fleet vehicles” (Sustainable Duke 2009). However, while many people have heard of solar power and hybrid car technology, the idea of biomass or biogas is more unfamiliar because it is much less common; according to the American Biogas Council, the United States has just 2,200 sites producing biogas in all 50 states; by comparison, Europe operates over 10,000 (American Biogas Council 2016).

The technology is relatively simple in its design. Organic material—in this case, pig manure—is delivered to a digester system, which breaks it down into biogas and digested material. Solids and liquids are used for the production of fertilizer, compost, and other agricultural processes. The biogas is taken out and processed until it is mostly composed of methane, which is then distributed and used for electricity and fuel (American Biogas Council 2016).

In North Carolina in particular, biogas is becoming increasingly important thanks to the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law, which was passed in 2007 (North Carolina Utilities Commission 2008). It requires public utilities to produce 12.5% of their portfolios through renewable energy resources or energy efficiency measures, and as of 2017, 0.14% of this must come from swine biogas. In order to comply, electric utilities must either purchase or develop 284,000 swine Renewable Energy Certificates (equal to 1 megawatt hour of electricity) by 2018 (Maier 2015).

However, the practice of large-scale hog farming translates into less-than-ideal outcomes for residents of surrounding areas. Between the 1980s and 1990s, North Carolina went from fifteenth to second in hog production in the United States, with most of this explosive growth taking place in the “Black Belt”—the eastern region of the state where a large African American population still suffers from high rates of poverty, poor health care, low educational attainment, unemployment, and substandard housing (Nicole 2014). This proximity presents a many-layered problem. Namely, “people of color and the poor living in rural communities lacking the political capacity to resist are said to shoulder the adverse socio-economic, environmental, or health related effects of swine waste externalities without sharing in the economic benefits brought by industrialized pork production” (Edwards & Ladd 2001).

Although some have argued that the geographic distribution of pig farms is purely coincidental, researchers have found that the counties with larger minority populations contained proportionally more hog waste, “even when controlling for regional differences, urbanization level, property value, and attributes of the labor force” (Edwards & Ladd 2001). And this is not a small issue: the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported in 2012 that between 9 and 10 million hogs were raised at these farms, resulting in the production of approximately 19.6 million tons of waste annually (NCDACS 2012). This waste is usually stored in vast “lagoons” that are breeding grounds for Salmonella and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in addition to containing insecticides, antimicrobial agents and other pharmaceuticals, and nutrients that can cause widespread pollution and damage to local ecosystems when they inevitably leach into local waterways or overflow during storms (Nicole 2014).

The cumulative effect of proximity to hog farms is damage to one’s health that ranges from mild to life-threatening. Sacoby Wilson, a University of Maryland environmental health professor who has documented environmental justice issues surrounding hog farms in North Carolina and Mississippi, explains that the problem is worse than simply bad smells. “You have exposures through air, water, and soil. You have … inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposures. People have been exposed to multiple chemicals: hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, endotoxins, nitrogenous compounds. Then you have a plume that moves; what gets into the air gets into the water. You have runoff from spray fields. These are complex exposure profiles” (Wilson & Serre, 2007).

Fortunately, growing interest in using anaerobic digesters to process biogas at these farms may provide an avenue to combatting these problems. By retaining the waste and putting all parts of it to use, adverse outcomes and severe ecological damage can be avoided, at least in part. The benefits of swine biogas are twofold: first, it provides a fuel source that burns cleanly, and second, it is an efficient use of manure that would otherwise literally go to waste.

The gas produced by anaerobic digestion primarily consists of methane, which is a relatively clean fuel when burned due to its chemical simplicity (Laurell 2014). However, if released in its un-combusted form into the atmosphere, methane is roughly thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, making its capture and use increasingly important as the pace of global warming continues to accelerate (Kelly 2014). According to statistics from the Energy Information Administration, hog waste accounts for 11.34% of methane emissions from the agricultural industry—a figure which has increased due to a growth in hog farming since 1990 (Conti & Holtberg 2011). Burning methane results in more energy per unit of carbon dioxide emissions as compared to oil (29% less) and coal (43% less.) In addition, unlike other fuels, methane combustion releases basically no dangerous nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, or particulate matter into the atmosphere (Laurell 2014).

Additionally, increasing production of swine biogas gives pig farmers another source of income while using up manure that would otherwise have simply been discarded or potentially washed away in rainstorms and polluted local bodies of water. For example, one farm in North Carolina has 28,000 hogs and a 1.2 million gallon anaerobic tank digester, which processes about 50,000 gallons daily of hog manure, carcasses from pig and chicken operations, and dissolved air flotation (DAF) sludge from nearby animal processing plants. “While a significant portion of the $5 million project was financed by the farmer, [owner Billy] Storms is not worried about the return on his investment. He says he will easily make his money back with the combination of selling the electricity and the accompanying Renewable Energy Certificates… and with payments for taking the DAF sludge from the plants” (Maier 2015). Processing the waste also creates a cycle of benefits for the farmer, as some of the gas that is produced can be kept and used for power on-site. On top of this, waste heat can be used for “heating barns, water, and greenhouses or even used for drying grain” (Maier 2015).

Such systems have seen moderate success when implemented in North Carolina. For example, in 2011 Google partnered with Duke University and Duke Energy to implement such a system at Yadkin County’s Loyd Ray Farms. The Sustainable Duke website explains, “The electricity… is used to support five of the nine swine barns at the farm and the operation of the innovative animal waste management system. From the digester, the liquid waste flows to an open-air basin where the wastewater is aerated to reduce the concentrations of ammonia and other remaining pollutants so that it can be reused for irrigation.” Not only is this system self-sustaining and environmentally friendly, but it also reduced carbon emissions by 2,087 metric tons in just one year (Sustainable Duke – Loyd Ray Farms).

Unfortunately, capturing and processing hog waste will not reverse the adverse health outcomes for individuals who live near these farms. Airborne particulates, unhealthy compounds, and toxic gases will still pose challenges for these communities, and the intersection of socioeconomic status and race in these areas adds another layer of ethical and social obligations to the burden on North Carolina to find a long-term solution. Anaerobic digesters are certainly very promising to avoid ecological damage and reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, but they cannot be the only answer to this extremely complex problem. They will have to be managed extremely carefully to prevent methane emissions, and if the solid waste is used for fertilizing or irrigation, it must be processed adequately to remove dangerous compounds that can be extremely toxic to surrounding ecosystems if they leach into water supplies. Perhaps some technological advancements will be able to improve this solution in the future; however, for now, using swine biogas for energy is still better than letting all that waste go to waste.

 

References

American Biogas Council (2016). Biogas 101 Handout. Retrieved from https://www.americanbiogascouncil.org/pdf/ABC%20Biogas%20101%20Handout%20NEW.pdf

Conti, J., & Holtberg, P. (2011). Emissions of greenhouse gases in the United States 2009. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/pdf/0573%282009%29.pdf

Duke University’s Office of News and Communication. Duke at a Glance. Retrieved from https://duke.edu/about/duke_at_glance.pdf

Edwards, B. & Ladd, A.E. (2001). Race, poverty, political capacity and the spatial distribution of swine waste in North Carolina, 1982–1997. North Carolina Geography, (9):55–77. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1446269/Race_poverty_political_capacity_and_the_spatial_distribution_of_swine_waste_in_North_Carolina_1982-1997

Kelly, M. (2014, March 26). A more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms. Research at Princeton blog. Retrieved from https://blogs.princeton.edu/research/2014/03/26/a-more-potent-greenhouse-gas-than-co2-methane-emissions-will-leap-as-earth-warms-nature/

Laurell, N. (2014, June 12). Natural gas overview – why is methane a clean fuel? The Discomfort of Thought. Retrieved from http://www.nlaurell.com/natural-gas-overview-why-is-methane-a-clean-fuel/

Maier, A. (2015, August 12). Hog wild about biogas. North Carolina Bioenergy Council. Retrieved from https://research.cnr.ncsu.edu/sites/ncbioenergycouncil/2015/08/20/289/

NCDACS (2012). 2012 North Carolina Agricultural Statistics.North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/National Agricultural Statistics Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from http://www.ncagr.gov/stats/2012AgStat/AgStat2012.pdf

Nicole, W. (2013). CAFOs and Environmental Justice: The Case of North Carolina. Environmental Health Perspectives, 121(6), a182–a189. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.121-a182

North Carolina Utilities Commission (2008). Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). Retrieved from http://www.ncuc.commerce.state.nc.us/reps/reps.htm

Sustainable Duke (2009, October 15). Duke University Climate Action Plan. Retrieved from http://sustainability.duke.edu/climate_action/Duke%20Climate%20Action%20Plan.pdf

Sustainable Duke. Energy. Retrieved from http://sustainability.duke.edu/campus_initiatives/energy/index.html

Sustainable Duke (n.d.). Loyd Ray Farms. Retrieved from http://sustainability.duke.edu/carbon_offsets/loydrayfarms/index.php

Wilson, S.M. & Serre, M.L. (2007). Examination of atmospheric ammonia levels near hog CAFOs, homes, and schools in eastern North Carolina. Atmospheric Environment, 41(23), 4977–4987. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231007000453