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Posted on 03/28//15

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

With our upcoming W2O event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity right around the corner, we are taking another look at our own energy usage and thinking about how to curb emissions right here in our homes. Making everyone’s home energy efficient would go a long way to curbing human induced climate change that leads to our warming oceans and sea level rise. Getting a home energy audit is the first step and it is FREE! All it takes is a couple of hours of following a trained auditor around your house. We stumbled upon Martha Stone-Martins personal testimony of her experience with Homeworks, an energy company from Woburn Massachusetts. The disclaimer to this testimony, which reads like a love letter, is that Martha’s web design business, Linkwell, helped Homeworks build their webpage five years ago. Our personal relationship with Martha validates her testimony which came into our mailbox as a neighbor to neighbor “wow, I loved this” moment completely unsolicited! Here is Martha’s unedited email:

Sorry for the blast but thought I would share this favorable home owner experience. A few years ago, Linkwell did a website/logo for this firm in Woburn called www.homeworksenergy.com. They are a firm that does insulation, weatherstripping etc. But most interesting is they are a contractor for MASS SAVE which offers free energy audits of your home. It took me a year to finally call to do one but it was so worthwhile that I had to share.

You can call MASS SAVE for a list of contractors or go to homeworksenergy.com to schedule.
Blair came to my house (she has been doing home audits for 5 years and has a master’s in sustainable energy) on time, armed with her computer, tools and printer. 3 hours later, I had $1000 worth of free LED bulbs (nice ones that emit warm light), 2 programmable thermostats and a special energy saving power strip. We went room by room with her infra red tool that measured heat loss. Happily we learned that our house has good insulation and the windows are in pretty good shape. But she could have showed you exactly where your walls may needed more or a window needed weatherstripping. She showed me the impact of shutting blinds or curtains in the winter. She checked the flues in both the heating system and the hotwater for CO2 leakage. All the data was loaded to MASS Save and I received a final report with her recommendations. She prepared a quote on site to do a a bit of foam insulation where the exterior walls hit the stone foundation in the basement and weatherstrip the doors. This quote for work which will be done by homeworks came to about $550. But with the MASS Save incentives, it will cost us $64.00.

Blair Kershaw from Home Energy Works writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete the energy audit

Blair Kershaw from Homeworks Energy writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete every energy audit

Homeworks also recommends Window Woman, window-woman-ne.com from Peabody who can renovate existing single pane windows in old homes. That was also a very positive experience. Alison came out and looked at all our old windows that I assumed we would have to replace someday. She commented that in shape single pane windows with storms are almost as energy efficient as new double pane. They offer services to tune up (check glazing, replace ropes with more stylish chains, fix broken parts that hold the window in firmly) as well as restoration and complete replacement. She also pointed me to a storm window person if I wanted to replace some of these.

So with the MASS Save 40 free LED lights and the rest I just purchased onsale at Lowes last weekend ($15 LED floods for $5 and $10 LED reg size for $5), and a few cranky hours with a teenager on a ladder, we are all LED. All warm light, all dimmable. Looking forward to our next energy bill.

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Martha Stone-Martin
Principal, Linkwell Services, LLC
www.linkwell.com

 

Posted on 03/08//15

Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

With our upcoming event on April 9th, Rising Waters: The Impact on Humanity, W2O is researching island nations and their struggles for acknowledgment and help regarding their plight of losing their homeland and livelihood as a result of rising seas.  How do we, living so far away from most of these coastal communities, help raise awareness that carbon emissions have directly affected the most vulnerable populations?

The topic of sea level rise is gaining momentum in the press and being discussed across the globe. Cities everywhere are making sea level rise adaptation strategies.  The Guardian has announced that it “is embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it. In the first, an extract taken from the introduction to THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein, the author argues that if we treat climate change as the crisis it is, we don’t just have the potential to avert disaster but could improve society in the process…”

“We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts…There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth. The good news is that many of these changes are distinctly uncatastrophic. Many are downright exciting.”

Over the winter break, W2O was fortunate to have a terrific intern game to learn more about how W2O works and what messages we use to communicate protecting our  oceans. We asked intern Lizzie Savage to choose an island that is in eminent danger from encroaching seas and give us a sense of the challenges that these communities face. With gratitude to Lizzie, we have this profile to share:

The small island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, was once known for its white sandy beaches, and expansive coral reefs. However, in the past decade or so, Tuvalu has become more popularly known as one of the many small island countries whose population risks extinction due to sea level rise.  Tuvalu has been recognized as highly “vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, including “coastal erosion, flooding and inundation, increasing salinity of fresh ground-water supplies, destruction of primary sources of subsistence, and destruction of personal and community property.”  Each one of these impacts contributes to making life on Tuvalu more difficult and increasingly uninhabitable.

No matter the circumstance, having to leave the life you know and love in your home country for a new and daunting life somewhere else is not easy. Although the living situation in Tuvalu has become increasingly burdensome and unsafe, inhabitants have a hard time bearing the thought of leaving, and for good reason. “We don’t want to leave this place. We don’t want to leave, it’s our land, our God given land, it is our culture, we can’t leave. People won’t leave until the very last minute,” explained Paani Laupepa, the former assistant secretary of Tuvalu’s Ministry of Natural Resources.  Tuvaluans are faced with extreme hardships, such as frequent flooding that reaches to the middle of the island destroying crops and trees, or salt water seeping through holes in the ground creating puddles one to two feet deep which often surround homes and offices. Living a life in Tuvalu is not easy, but for many it is their home, and home is not something you easily give up on. Generations upon generations have built their lives, and endless memories in Tuvalu and have planned to continue doing so for generations to come. The sad truth though, is that if nothing is done to prevent further sea level rise, the island nation of Tuvalu will not be around long enough to be a home for future generations.

As climate change poses threat to the lives of Tuvaluans, some seek a life elsewhere. For most, this elsewhere is New Zealand. “New Zealand has agreed to welcome 75 immigrants (from Tuvalu) annually,” assuming that the they are of good standing, have basic English skills, are in good health, under 45 years old and have a job offer in New Zealand. This gesture, however, will only make a small dent for the nation of Tuvalu, whose population is nearing 10,000 people. “In 2001, the Australian government was asked to consider accepting migrants from Tuvalu. It refused to commit to [the] request.”  In order to ensure the survival of this small nation, and others among it, larger and more powerful countries will have to step up and be open to sharing their communities with those who are being displaced from their own.
New Zealand recently granted residency to a Tuvaluan family who claimed that if they were to return to their lives in Tuvalu they would be putting themselves at risk. The family had been living illegally in New Zealand for many years while simultaneously trying to gain work visas and status as refugees.  Gaining residency in New Zealand is extremely difficult because the International Refugee Convention does not consider those who suffer as a result of climate change to be refugees. The Convention “doesn’t provide an open ticket for people from all the places that are impacted by climate change. It’s still a very stringent test and it requires exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.”  The Tuvaluan family who gained residency in New Zealand was the first to do so on humanitarian grounds.
Although there is only one success story in regards to humanitarian based residency appeals, it represents hope for more similar stories of its kind in the future. As many small island nations continue to suffer as a result of climate change, more and more families and individuals will begin to seek residency elsewhere.  In order for these nations to find safety and a new home, the developed nations of the world must open up both their hearts and their borders to the ever-growing number of climate change refugees.

 

 

 

 

Posted on 02/08//15

Some of you have already made your plans for the upcoming school break. Whether you are going to some exotic place or just staying in your “no place like home” environment,  exercise some thoughtfulness about our blue planet while on vacation. Breaks from the busy schedules of work and school are are good time to think about fresh ideas and an easy time to try something new. Did you pack an empty reusable water bottle and reusable bag for the journey?  Will your kids pledge to turn out the lights in their rooms each day before heading out from home base? Are you choosing restaurants that are conscientious about keeping a green/blue establishment? Taking a book? Try BlueMind by Wallace J. Nichols, a book that speaks to your love of the oceans.

Bring W2O blue mindfulness on vacation this year!

Photo: S. Burkus

Photo: S. Burkus

Posted on 12/26//14

Dr. Matral:Bigelow

photo: Laura Lubelczyk, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

 

 

Marine biologist Dr. Paty Matrai is talking about Coccolithophores from her office in Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where she is a lead research scientist. This intimidating word is a type of phytoplankton (remember that from science class?), or a tiny marine plants. Abundant and vital phytoplankton are both the smallest, but most important microorganism in the marine food chain and are key to a healthy ocean and planet. Disturbances to these plants, such as ocean acidification (the increase of  carbon dioxide in the oceans that produces carbonic acid, which reduces the ph of the water) affects the entire marine population. Phytoplankton produces much of the oxygen in the ocean and half the oxygen on land. They are effectively responsible for creating the oxygen in every second breath we take. Turns out, some varieties of this ocean movie star are also stunningly beautiful.

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Dr. Matrai has worked at Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay Maine for 20 years. A native of Chile, she came to the United States and studied Biological Oceanography at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is particularly interested in how sulfur cycles through the ocean, the biological production and consumption of organic sulfur and halogenated compounds, and the role of phytoplankton as both a source  (through respiration) and sink (taking in for energy) of carbon dioxide.

Over the years, Dr. Matrai’s work has taken her north to the Arctic for stints as long as six weeks sampling and analyzing ice cores and the microscopic creatures of phytoplankton that are hidden within. A job not for the faint of heart with cold temperatures that require lots of trial and error to find just the right gear for keeping warm and dry. While she is working intensively in these conditions, she is also conscious of the beauty that surrounds her.

“I marvel at the shapes, ridges and color of the ice.” Dr. Matrai offered.

“When you visit these places that are hardest to get to and have few inhabitants you feel an urgency to communicate to the rest of the world how delicate these systems are.” she adds.

W2O will help the New England Aquarium host Tiny Giants, a photographic exhibit from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, of the microscopic creatures that are vital to our very existence. On January 15th please join us to take a closer look at the ocean. Tickets are on sale now!

 

 

Posted on 11/23//14

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Though Mayor Menino is surely missed in Boston, his presence was felt strongly at the Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities meeting at Boston University last week. Most speakers credited Mayor Menino for bringing them together to engage in the topic of how climate change and the resulting sea level rise will affect cites across the world.

City officials from Helsinki to Melbourne came to collaborate and learn about what cities are doing to increase their resilience to protect their communities with smart design choices involving government, urban planners, developers, the private business sector, academia and scientists. Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in a video shown shown at the event that extensive research shows that over the next 30 years, sea levels will increase up to a foot or more in some east coast locations and that when storms occur on top of already typical tidal flooding, higher tides will magnify the risk of severe coastal events.

The conference highlighted the importance of communication between those entities working in different domains, especially from scientist who are learning the language that will be crucial to delivering the message of climate change that causes sea level rise to governments, insurers and the public. “Inherit uncertainties make it harder to make the message clear,” said Bud Ris, past president of the New England Aquarium and a contributor to environmental education and policy around the topic of climate change. But Tony Janetos, director, Fredrick S. Pardee Center for the Studay of the Longer Range Future and co host of the event with the Initiative on Cities, reminded us that “we (scientists) were never trained to communicate this way.” It is an urgent message they are tasked with delivering- one that he says is not that climate change is “50 years out, like we thought” but here faster than we even imagined. “We do not have the luxury to ignore what the science or the experience of others tells us. We must manage the risks while learning more.”

Everyone wants to know, “What will the future hold?” According to Janetos, “it depends on what future we choose.”

*The computer enhanced photo on this page is from a prediction project of the collapse of the Western Antarctic glaciers from Climate Central. Yes, that is the Boston Harbor Hotel. Check out the rest of the photorealistic work depicting iconic places around the globe (and maybe where you live) by photographer Nickolay Lamm.

Posted on 11/16//14

 

Tiny_Giants_Invitation_FINAL

In this exhibit Bigelow Labs  along with the New England Aquarium will present a photographic exhibition of “marine microbes revealed on a grand scale.” Tickets are limited. Come take a closer look at the mystery and beauty of the ocean seen from a microscopic lens. W2O is so excited to host and we look forward to seeing you there!

Posted on 10/07//14

It doesn’t matter where you live, who you are, or what your economic or social circumstances are, a world without sharks would be devastating. Think desperate, barren, foul, depleted, or apocalyptic. It is estimated that 100 million sharks- majestic apex predators of the ocean-are killed each year. Fishing, accidental “by catch” and the demand for shark fins and other parts for sale are the major contributors to the shark’s decline.  The concept of protecting sharks to some might seem counterintuitive. Don’t they eat everything and contribute to the decline of other species in the ocean? We imagine them as voracious eaters because our perception of sharks has been colored by images that depict them as dangerous man-eaters. In truth, without a healthy shark population, we would be in real danger of losing the living ocean that we rely on for food, our economy and livelihood. The fact is, sharks matter more than you think.

Photo: Brian Skerry

Photo: Brian Skerry

The loss of sharks would set off a chain reaction in our oceans. According to Oceana, “The loss of sharks as top predators in the ecosystem allows the number of grouper, which eat other fish species, to increase. The groupers in turn reduce the number of herbivores, such as parrotfish, blennies and gobies, in the echo system. Without these herbivores to eat algae off the coral, algae will take over the reef system.” In Oceana’s report Predators as Prey: Why Healthy Oceans Need Sharks, even shark’s proximity to some animals will cause them to behave when choosing feeding sites in ways that are healthier for oceans.

Learn more about the importance of sharks at W2O’s October event Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic, Misunderstood Creature. Wendy Benchley, co founder of the Peter Benchley (author of Jaws) Ocean Awards and shark advocate will present along with John Mandelman, scientist and director of research at the New England Aquarium.

So move over and make way-sharks ultimately will keep us healthy if we protect them.

Posted on 09/17//14

W2O, in partnership with the New England Aquarium, will host shark protector and advocate, Wendy Benchley along with scientist John Mandelman on October 22nd for an evening lecture, cocktail party and celebration of the ocean’s apex predator: the majestic shark. Wendy is actively engaged in the marine policy community  and supports many of the world’s leading ocean and environmental philanthropies. She is a member of the International Board of WildAid, a widely respected global non profit solely focused on reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn and shark fin.  With her late husband, Peter Benchley, and after the release of his movie phenomenon Jaws, the Benchleys helped transform fear of “Great” white sharks into a message of conservation and protection inspiring a new generation to become advocates for protecting this hauntingly beautiful species referred to by biologists by its real name: the white shark. Senior Scientist and Director of Research at the New England Aquarium, John Mandelman, has spent the last fifteen years studying the effect of human disturbances on sharks. His research focuses on decreasing stress and injury to sharks while increasing their overall survival in the face of fishing pressure. “By understanding how sharks respond to human-induced disturbances, we can establish more effective strategies to protect them. Sharks are critical to the health and balance of just about every marine environment around the globe, and therefore essential to our well-being” Mandelman says. Come celebrate, learn and share the awe of sharks with us. Here for ticketsW2O_2014 Benchley Fall_Lecture_Invitation_600px

 

 

Posted on 08/07//14

W2O’s summer intern Elise Green gives us a lesson about Marine Protected Areas and why they are important to all marine life, especially sharks.Elise Green USC intern

As part of my work as a biology student at University of Southern California, last month I visited Palau, a group of islands that are part of Micronesia, in the Pacific ocean. Apart from hosting some of the pristine white beaches featured on the television show, “Survivor,” Palau is best known for its untouched coral reefs that feature an incredibly high rate of marine biodiversity and its popular “Jellyfish Lake” in which tourists can swim with millions of sting-less jellyfish. It is also home to the world’s first shark sanctuary, the Palau Shark Sanctuary. As W2O is preparing to host a shark-centered event in October, you might be interested in understanding exactly what a “shark sanctuary” is. According to the BBC, each year, about 100 million sharks are captured by fishermen and contribute to the 39 percent of shark species that are classified as “threatened” or “near threatened” for risk of extinction*. Shark sanctuaries strive to address this problem and hope to replenish shark populations worldwide by forbidding the fishing of sharks and preserving shark habitats.

The main goal of the Palau Shark Sanctuary is to end shark-finning in the waters around Palau. Shark fins are sought after for use in popular soups and for medicinal purposes in some countries. Shark-finning has led to a large decline in shark populations and refers to the act of catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and releasing the sharks back into the water. Without their fins, sharks struggle to swim and often die soon after their fins are severed.

Elise Green & Amanda Semler diving in Palau Photo: Tom Carr

Elise Green & Amanda Semler diving in Palau
Photo: Tom Carr

Because I was scuba diving in Marine Protected Areas to collect data as a part of a University of Southern California project focused on reef regeneration, Palauan rangers accompanied my group to our various dive sites. The rangers informed us that, while shark-finning was a major problem in Palau in the past, since the establishment of Palau as a Shark Sanctuary in 2001 and since the addition of more rangers to help enforce regulation, shark-finning incidents have noticeably declined.

Not only did I feel extremely lucky to have the chance to dive amongst beautiful animals such as Napoleon Wrasse and Eagle Rays, but, thanks to Palau’s waters being mostly free from shark poachers, I also had the opportunity to admire sharks such as the Gray Reef and White Tip shark. These sharks can grow up to eight feet long and enjoy warm, shallow waters near corals or atolls. Because these sharks, like most, feed mostly on fish and crustaceans, I had no fear of diving close to them and greatly appreciated their extreme grace as they maneuvered the waters with subtle yet strong thrusts of their fins. Hopefully general awareness about shark conservation around the world will increase, and these marvelous animals will prosper for generations to come.

Grey Reef Shark photo: marinebio.org

Grey Reef Shark
photo: marinebio.org

 

Posted on 08/02//14

beach pathShelly Kaplan from Monroe N.J. has a fabulous response to “Why the Beach is a Bummer” a rant about feeling less than comfortable at the seaside by Roxane Gay (Sunday NYTimes Review, July 27th.)  Ms. Kaplan writes an eloquent retort with deep respect for the beach, ocean and its emotional benefits. She writes, ..”I feel the most sadness for the 61 percent of Americans who have never seen the ocean with their own eyes.”  She seems to want to defend what she loves, beautifully and simply. You can read the entire letter to the editor here.

I am never so peaceful as when my feet are in the sand, when the smell of the Atlantic permeates the air I breathe, and when I hear the lullaby of ocean waves.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichol’s new book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Douses neuroscience to explain the benefits of the ocean. A review here by The Guardian, addresses the naysayers like Ms. Gay; “Anyone whose experience of the sea is limited to grey skies and the indignity of wriggling into a damp bathing suit on a rain-swept beach might well balk at such utopian talk.” For the rest of us, we love that Blue Mind gives us some science to explain what we already know.