Water Dialogues for Thursday

Hello friends.  This is the daily Water Dialogues update.  You really shouldn’t miss these if you are in environmental studies or environmental science.   At noon in the CAPA symposium there is the term’s Environmental Studies Colloquium on the conservation of forests and aquatic ecosystems for human and ecological benefit.  This lecture will be given by Paul Barton, of UMass Amherst, and director of the Forest to Faucet program.

At 7:00 pm, also in the symposium, there will be the semester’s Robert Woodworth science lecture, on success stories in ocean conservation.  This lecture will be given by Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

This look like excellent opportunities for students in the environmental sciences.

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Water Dialogues for Tuesday

Tomorrow, the main event of the Water Dialogues will be the semester’s Ruth Dewing Ewing Social Science Lecture.  The lecture will be given by Clive Lipchin, director of the Arava Institute, and will discuss desalination as one possible avenue for conflict resolution in the Middle East.   It will focus on the creation of regional water markets for countries such as Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.  This lecture will be at 7:00 PM in the CAPA Symposium.

Earlier in the day will be two events, one lecture entitled “An Overview of a Transboundary Water Dispute in the Southeastern United States,” on the challenges of domestic water rights negotiations, and the other by Patricia Johanson, on framing environmental problems as artworks.

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Water Dialogues for Monday

On Monday, (12:30-2:00 in Tishman,) there will be three talks on water and the issues surrounding its use.  I plan on attending the lecture on the potential for increasing the use of hydroelectric power in Vermont.

The first lecture is by our own Tim Schroeder, giving a background lecture on the geologic and climactic aspects of how freshwater resources are distributed around the globe.

There will be a lecture in CAPA from 4:10-6:00 about the political and legislative challenges that are faced when dealing with water issues.  This talk will be given by the two founders of the organization Waters Without Borders, and Bennington professor Elizabeth Goodman.

A discussion of the potential for hydroelectricity as a source of renewable energy in Vermont will take place at 7:00 pm in Tishman.  Vermont was once powered entirely by hydro power, but its use has declined substantially since steam combustion engines became prevalent in industry.  Subsequently, there are many unused dams in Vermont that could be retrofitted and used again.  This issue can be controversial.  Panelists include a series of Bennington community members, state legislators, and conservationists.

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Summer Opportunity

Without Walls Eco Practicum – Liberty, New York, May 27th – June 23rd (four seminars)

Engage in learning and discussion about the most important current environmental issues.  The four weeks are broken down into different themed seminars.  Participants can attend any of the individual weeks, or all four.   Seminar themes include the role of local and organic foods, the treatment of livestock, renewable energy, and natural resource management.   Students will be engaged both in reading and discussions with specialists, and in hands-on learning opportunities.

For more information, check out the Eco Practicum website.  Application deadline is April 1st.

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High Sugaring Season

For the fourth consecutive year that I have been around, a group of Bennington students tapped the sugar maples in the grove behind Jennings, in order to reap that sweet syrup so uniquely characteristic of this biogeographical environment.   Last Tuesday, the taps were drilled into the trees and the buckets hung.  During the week, volunteers gathered the sap from the overflowing buckets and dumped them into big plastic garbage barrels.  On Sunday, we started boiling.  We boiled all day and into the night.  Around 3:00 AM, we siphoned off the last of the unfinished syrup and banked the fire to die down.   We got over a gallon from the first round, and will probably end up with between two and three gallons.  Although we still have a lot of sap collected (and potentially with more on its way, depending on the weather), it remains to be seen whether we will be able to boil it all.  And with the weather turning warm, the unboiled sap may grow bacteria and not be good for making syrup.

However, this years sugaring operation was and lovely and successful endeavor for us all.  I have worked on this project in some capacity each year since I was a first-year.  Each time I have stood with friends around a boiling pan of sap and marveled at this incredible phenomenon.  All around us the trees are drawing water up from their roots and, with energy stored from last summer’s leaves, imbuing it with sugars that it then propels upwards to create new growth.  By creating a dime-sized hole in the cambium of the tree, we divert some of that liquid, which we then boil down for hours, concentrating those sugars down into syrup.  To me, this process is nothing shy of magical.

Thank you to the collaborators!

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