Monday, December 16, 2013

Undergraduate Spotlight: Joseph Capellupo

Name: Joseph Capellupo

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Year: Sophomore

Degree tract: TBA

Campus involvement: Environmental Studies Student Organization (ESSO), Syracuse University Outing Club (SUOC), ESF Eco-Rep, ESF Music Society

Post-graduation and/or life goals: Happiness, leave the world a better place than I've found it

Interesting fact: I suffered an ACL/Meniscus tear in my left knee this summer that nearly prevented me from attending ESF.

Research interests/completed: Indigenous populations, sustainability.

Why did you choose to attend SUNY-ESF?: A high school classmate of mine exposed me to ESF and after visiting campus and researching the school, I fell in love with it. The relationship with Syracuse University is also very beneficial to me.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Sue Senecah!

The following is a news article from the Chatham Courier and Register Star on the Department of Environmental Studies' Professor Emeritus Sue Senecah. Congratulations!

Chatham Resident Receives Honorary Doctorate in Sweden

Chatham resident Dr. Sue Senecah received an honorary doctorate from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in a formal ceremony on October 5 in Uppsala, Sweden, about 20 miles NW of Stockholm.  SLU is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. The honorary doctorate is the highest honor that can be conferred in academia.  Dr. Senecah was recognized for her leadership in founding and developing the field of Environmental Communication and her expertise in process skills such as dispute resolution and collaborative decision making to help communities manage natural resources in an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable manner.  She was nominated by SLU’s Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences faculty that includes natural resources, environmental communication, environment and landscape planning, agriculture, food and biotechnology.  The university board confirmed the nomination.
Dr. Senecah remarked, “To have my professional career recognized by academic peers, especially at such a prestigious institution, is such a high and rare honor.  It surprised and humbled me.  And, it was a lot of fun!”

Dr. Senecah was one of four honorary doctorates honored by SLU, one from each of the four large, main faculties.  The formal ceremony was preceded by three days of formal dinner parties; lunches; a 30 minute formal presentation by Dr. Senecah to an auditorium full of professors and students; and an evening rehearsal for the very structured ritual the next afternoon.   At the ceremony, Dr. Senecah received an inscribed gold ring, a traditional handmade academic hat, and the doctoral diploma.
 After the ceremony, a formal dinner for 400 people was held at Uppsala’s 12th century castle where key moments of Swedish history played out.  The grand hall was lined with tapestries.  Long tables were lit with large candelabras.  All the men wore tails with white cumberbunds and all the women wore floor length evening gowns.  Senecah was honored with the Chancellor’s nvitation to give the toast on behalf of the honorary doctors.

After a 17 year career as professor of Environmental Studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, Dr. Senecah is now professor emeritus.  She led the creation of the B.S, M.S, and Ph.D. programs in environmental communication and participatory processes at SUNY ESF and still teaches her course in Collaborative Governance.  Dr. Senecah explains that environmental communication is difficult to describe, “You can’t point to it the way you can with forestry, landscape architecture, marine biology, agriculture, or other topic-centered fields.  Environmental Communication is applicable to all other fields because it deals with the dynamic communication processes by which humans work out their relationship with each other and the environment.  This could be through inclusive public engagement, collaborative decision making, dispute resolution, awareness campaigns, and other processes to address complex and contentious environmental and natural resource management issues.”  Senecah explains that the series of community conversations that were held during the early stage of the Town of Chatham’s revision of its comprehensive master plan was one example of environmental communication in action.
Senecah calls herself a “pracademic” because she practices the theories and skills she teaches as a professor.  She has worked with just about every kind of federal and state agency, nongovernmental organization, community, business, and stakeholder to productively address issues such as forest plan revision, land use, hazardous and solid waste management, wildlife management, water quality, and heritage corridors.

Senecah is considered the key founder of the field of Environmental Communication over the past 25 years and has been recognized with several awards.  The field has been established in the US for nearly 20 years, with conferences and an academic journal.  Today Environmental Communication is a common program of study at large and small US and increasingly international universities.  However, this past June was a milestone.  The newly established International Environmental Communication Association sponsored its first conference with 34 countries represented. Dr. Senecah was honored as a keynote speaker.

Photo courtesy of: Chatham Courier and Register Star

PhD Fellowships in Genetic Engineering and Society

North Carolina State University:
We are recruiting 6-7 PhD students to participate in an NSF funded, IGERT in Genetic Engineering and Society: The Case of Transgenic Pests at North Carolina State University.  This will be our IGERT’s third year. Students of the 2012 Cohort have been examining questions linked to the genetic modification of mosquitoes while students of the 2013 Cohort have been delving into issues surrounding invasive rodents and biodiversity. We are excited about expanding our discussion to include the technical hurdles and social questions associated with genetic engineering as applied to agricultural pests. Possible applications of these technologies include offsetting losses to crop harvests and alleviating related negative social impacts of pests especially in areas with subsistence agriculture.
As in the past, the students of the 2014 Cohort will explore the social, ethical, and ecological consequences of current pest control techniques as well as those associated with a genetically engineered approach. Such impacts include (but are not restricted to) food inequality, the role of scientific literacy and local expertise in subsistence and industrial agricultures, and ideals of food autonomy.
We are looking for excellent students who are interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to their graduate training.  Students may have majored in humanities, mathematics, or a social/natural science, and should be seeking broad and rigorous graduate training across these areas. We welcome students who have a either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of these areas and want strong interdisciplinary training at the doctoral level. 
Students who participate in the program will receive a PhD in a home doctoral program and a graduate minor in Genetic Engineering and Society. The minor will include four courses, one of which will be taught in Latin America. In addition to full fellowships, funds are available for international internships.
Please visit our website for more details on the program, including a list of participating faculty:  In addition to contacting potential faculty mentors, prospective students are encouraged to email questions to:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Grace Frenzel

The Darker Side of Eco-Tourism
by Grace Frenzel (ES Major Class of 2016)

          On the site listing career possibilities for graduates of the Environmental Studies department at SUNY ESF, you can find Eco-tourism Specialist as one of the options. Eco-tourism is defined as vacations that bring people to places around the world with ecological significance, such as rainforests, coral reefs, or savannas while causing as little disturbance as possible. It is traditionally thought to be a valuable way to travel while simultaneously learning about conservation and sustainability around the world. I, however, have come to conclusion that Eco-tourism has many downsides for the environment and for the people living in the areas we “first world travelers” have identified as pristine natural habitats. 

          The obvious dark side of any sort of travel is the greenhouse gases produced during transportation. Many self-proclaimed environmentalists are careful with their carbon footprint, but with the eco-tourism industry growing so rapidly, it may be that they can justified the huge number of emissions they produce on their plane ride to Costa Rica. Countries have also uprooted native peoples in the name of eco-tourism. In Africa, the government is pumping money into national parks as they are predicted to be such lucrative tourist attractions that they are kicking out people living on the land that will become national park territory. Eco-tourism, in my opinion, is also likely to start as a way to respectively observe plants, animals and phenomena, but the natural succession will surely lead eco-tourists and eco-tourism companies to further and further invade natural habits, thereby damaging them. On top of that, since most of these visits take place in developing nations, there may not be an effective way to police what is named “eco-tourism.” Greenwashing is likely to follow: companies labeling themselves as eco-tourism venues for profit, when what they are doing to not fit with the principles of the industry. 

          People deserve to witness earth’s beauty, but many measures need to be taken to ensure that it is not at the expense of our home: the earth. As long as we are smart about it, there may not be need for concern over the future of eco-tourism. My solution is that this industry needs to be taken over by careful and intelligent Environmental Studies majors from SUNY ESF.

Blog Contest Entry by Craig Lazzar

The use of Graphic Visualization in Environmental Problem Solving

            Graphic visualization can be critical to an effective discussion of environmental systems, phenomena, or problems. Graphics help to orient participants in the discussion to the various points and relationships within the system. A graphic can provide an understanding of process flow, with the advantage of helping to highlight where points of failure might occur or the circumstances and practices surrounding a failure. 

            Use of a graphic to understand an environmental issue has the advantage of helping users to define the system and the boundaries that they will draw around the issue at hand. This can have several positive effects, like helping to understand the underlying and/or existential factors that help to bring about an environmental problem, and may serve to highlight how structural change may address a problem in a better or more comprehensive way than a simple quick fix or “band-aid” solution would. Sometimes a direct resolution to a problem is only a partial solution, and a graphic can help identify the proximate or ultimate factors that help construct the situation and may be central to addressing it in totality. 

            I had a professor in my undergraduate studies that taught about communication in organizations. His class was essentially an indictment of the traditionalist “paternal hierarchy” of the majority of Western businesses, NGOs, and even governments. His critique was a powerful one because hierarchy tends to beget hierarchy; if there is a problem within a system, the traditional model demands creation of a new rule, law, structure, bureau, department, or administrator with the explicit responsibility of addressing the newly perceived problem. The crux of this critical view of hierarchy is that adding more hierarchy to solve a problem that was the result of the existing hierarchy rarely serves to actually address and resolve the issue. It demands additional costs, assumptions, structures, and efforts to address a problem that might not have actually ever been a problem if the underlying structure is the cause of contention. The bottom line is that the creation of new layers of accountability and subordination weakens the competitiveness of the process, business, or organization in question because of these extra costs. This leads to the “top-heavy bureaucracy” that is so often bemoaned for its inefficiency. This professor drew a critical comparison between Western modes of structuring organization--with sometimes over a dozen layers of subordination under a single figurehead--to Eastern modes of structuration which seek to minimize hierarchy and often operate with only two or three layers of subordinates under a central authority. The argument follows that Eastern businesses were more competitive and offered lower prices, at least in part, to this simplified structure. Graphic depiction of an environmental problem as a multi-layered structure can serve to highlight the weakness or true need for adding yet another layer of accountability to the hierarchy. 

            A graphic visualization approach can also have important inherent limits. While a conversation led without the aid of graphic depiction might wander aimlessly for a time, it may well wander into areas of observation or criticism that a graphic depiction would exclude from the discussion entirely. I think this is the most significant weakness of a graphic model approach to discussing environmental problems. Once you construct your graphic depiction or model, it will often limit the discussion within the boundaries of that model. Related to this is the danger of committing errors in building the graphic representation, and the possibility of invalidating your conclusions due to an error in the conceptualization of the model. Additionally, there are increased costs in energy, time, and expertise involved in constructing a complete graphic model and simultaneously trying to avoid the sorts of omissions or errors of attribution or causation that might have snuck into the graphic depiction of the problem.

Capstone: Xinde Ji

Xinde Ji
MS Candidate
Department of Environmental Studies
Major Professor:  Richard Smardon
December 10, 2013
1:00 – 2:00 pm
105 Marshall

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Maria Ordonez

This summer, Environmental Studies student Maria Ordonez was involved in making a film advocating for better policies on oil drilling in Ecuador. Maria, who attended high school in New York but is originally from Ecuador, stays in touch with friends and family there. She moved to Ecuador after her junior year, to work with different environmental groups for a year, and returned to campus this fall to finish her degree. In the class, Introduction to American Government, she has shared lots of interesting things about her country. For example, in 2006, Ecuador was the first nation to add a 'rights to nature' to its their constitution. However, that right does not automatically translate to perfect environmental policies, by any means. "The Amazon rainforest is a famously rich and complex ecosystem, and one of the most special spots there is Yasuni National Park," she explained. The massive park is home to tens of thousands of species, and many remain to be characterized by biologists. This place is the considered to be "the most biodiverse place on the world." Yasuni National Park is also home to many people. The residents of the park are indigenous peoples the Waorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane , whose life there precedes the national boundaries by thousands of years. Two of these nations are not contacted or better said, remain in voluntary isolation. 

Recently, the national government has changed its policy and will be allowing oil drilling in this fragile area. If it goes forward, oil drilling in Yasuni would threaten both the natural environment as well as the communities there, and environmental advocates are urging the government to reconsider. The people that are in front of the fight to save Yasuni are mostly young people, students, and the indigenous people affected with help of other indigenous nations from various regions of Ecuador. They all have a strong natural identity in common and peaceful protests and marches have been seen by these members of society everywhere in Ecuador. The number of people protesting in the streets, reach thousands. Protests have ended in people being hurt and the national police using their force to make people leave. Already, projects related to oil are causing problems, and people are frustrated about cancer rates and more. Specially after the Ecuadorian Amazon has being dealing with what has been considered of the largest environmental disasters of the planet, due to negligence of foreign oil companies in terms of management of toxic wastes. This disaster has so far left 1400 cancer deaths and other health and economic problems. Maria takes this as a personal responsibility; going to an environmental school she knows that biodiversity is a treasure and she is a personal friend of the Woarani women leaders. They  are currently struggling even in terms of language barriers, yet fighting hard for their territory. As part of the effort to convince the government to reconsider, Maria helped make a short film about it, with Earth Soul Productions and you can watch this two and a half minute piece on Youtube.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blog Contest Entry by Yasmeen Bankole

Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: The More Sustainable Method 
By Yasmeen Bankole 

Experts have always led us to believe that bottle water is healthier and clean alternative to tap water. Many water advertisements lead us to believe that all bottled water comes from pristine springs and alpine peaks. But in reality, bottled water is just plain, filtered water. Many people know this, and yet this has not diminished the market of water. Estimates variously placed worldwide show that bottled water sales are between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at the fast annual rate of 7 percent. 

Consumers choose bottled water for a few reasons, including convenience, taste and quality. Bottled water can also be an alternative to other beverages when consumers want to eliminate or decrease the amount of sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or other ingredients from their daily intake. Public water systems provides water for human consumption in most places, through piped distribution systems for specific areas or communities. The Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water production, while the Environmental Protection Agency regulates tap water. However, they use comparable standards for ensuring safety. 

In October 2011, the Drinking Water Research Foundation published “Bottled Water and Tap Water: Just the Facts: A Comparison of Regulatory Requirements for Quality and Monitoring of Drinking Water in the United States.” The information presented in DWRF’s report supports the fact that drinking water, whether from the tap or a bottle, is normally safe, and that administrative requirements for both forms of water provide our country with clean, safe drinking water. 

So I urge everyone to stop purchasing water bottle and just drink tap water instead. Although bottled water is very large business, it is not a very sustainable market. It's costly, wasteful and distracts from the issues of public health: the construction and maintenance of safe municipal water systems. Buy a reusable water bottle and use that instead of plastic bottles. Don’t like the taste of tap water? Purchase a carbon filter that turns most tap water into fresh, filtered water and at a fraction of the cost of buying bottled water. Through individual change, we can become a more sustainable society, one reusable bottle at a time. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Congratulations Dr. Parker!

The Department of Environmental Studies is proud to announce...

 Dr. Andrea Parker has been elected as Vice-President of the Environmental Communication Division of the National Communication Association!
The National Communication Association (NCA) is a nonprofit designed to advance communication as a discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. The NCA focuses its efforts on serving its members who are scholars, teachers, and practitioners by supporting their professional interests.
The Environmental Communication Division is a multidisciplinary effort to support a broad audience of academics, professionals, and practitioners in the sharing and building of theoretical, critical, and applied scholarship addressing environmental communication in a variety of contexts.

Blog Contest Deadline Extended!

Writing any end of the semester papers? 
Shorten them to less than 850 words and submit them to the blog contest!
Want an opportunity to win a $50 gift card?
Enter the blog contest!

The deadline for the Environmental Studies Blog Contest has been extended until Friday, December 6th! Increase your chances of winning by submitting more than one post.

Topics can include:
  • A pressing environmental studies issue
  • Why you chose to study Environmental Studies at ESF
  • An update on your personal research
  • Photo submission with description of location/event
Please send all items to Megan O'Connor at OR drop a copy off with Rebecca at the department office.

Note: Photos and blog posts will be randomly drawn by department faculty. By submitting material you agree to allow the department to use the material in their blog, website, and publications.