All posts by nicholasrobertcorder

Earth to table: Is biodynamic the upcoming food movement?

Dig garden

Written by: Megan Tyminski

Local. Organic. Fair trade. Humane. Non-GMO. More and more, people are equating food quality with its growing process. Ethical concerns related to social issues and the environment have materialized into consumer trends, and farming philosophy has made its way to the dinner table. So what’s the next philosophy that could start showing up on plates? Biodynamic farming.

In Columbia, Missouri, Sarah Cyr, restaurant co-owner of Wine Cellar & Bistro has been using biodynamic practices that steward the earth and its people.

The Cyr biodynamic farm grows a variety of vegetables that Craig Cyr “enjoys cooking with later” at the restaurant. Sarah also sources biodynamic wines for the menu, including a lengthy list of biodynamic and organic wines featured prominently on the first page.

As a sommelier, Sarah Cyr can taste the “cleaner, brighter, tastier” flavor profiles in biodynamic wines. It also helps that she feels healthier knowing what is going into the production, and the philosophy.

So what is biodynamic? Essentially, the practice looks at farming as an ecosystem, and integrates organic approaches that are taken “even further to the whole health of the land and the moon cycles,” said Cyr.

Biodynamic farming uses scientific reasoning, and manages soil health as the most important practice. Cyr uses compost preparations from cow horns, fish from their pond and oak bark to provide nutrients and prevent disease.

Tim Reinbott, a researcher at MU Bradford Farm concerned with soil science, said that there is definitely some truth in these principles.

“Soil health in general is a change in philosophy,” he said. “Soil is not just a growing medium. It’s alive.”

According to Cyr, biodynamic farming can be “hard for people to wrap their brains around,” and may seem a little hokey, but in reality, it’s “egotistical of us to think that nature can’t do it better.”

If this philosophy grows, that taste of nature may be in your next meal.

Citizen Science: How YOU can help the environment

17079728492_d1e2b90b3b_z.jpgWritten by: Vidya Balasubramanyam

Did you know that you too can be a scientist? It doesn’t matter if you are a business student, art major, or interested citizen; there is a lot that you can do for science. In fact, scientists are actively seeking your unique skills to help them answer complex questions about the amazing planet that we live in.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. With proposed federal budget cuts threatening environmental and climate science, your involvement is needed more than ever for a brighter future. Here are some simple, fun ways you can contribute and advocate for science and the environment:

Did you see change?

climate-change-2063240_640.jpgHave you noticed that the winters are getting warmer, or that a tree in your backyard bloomed earlier than usual? Your simple observations are valuable to scientists! Head over to iSeeChange to document your observations. You can choose from several investigation themes—from birds to extreme weather events to your everyday life. The changes that you see around you are important to the narrative of planet Earth. Each post you make will be accompanied by a bigger picture visualization using satellites or other data.

Cloudy with a chance of… science?

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgEver been accused of always having your head in the clouds? NASA wants YOU! The Globe Observer is an interactive project meant to help scientists record sky observations through cloud photographs that you take. This information will be used to enhance their understanding of global climate change. All you have to do is download the app (available on the iOS App Store and Google Play), look through some training resources, and lose yourself in the clouds!

It’s time to get dirty!

soil-1795902_640We have food to eat because of soil. To maintain and improve soil quality, scientists need to have a better understanding of soil health. This is where you come in. The MO Dirt project is looking for volunteers (working as individuals or teams) to conduct soil health surveys in a study site of your choice. Several resources are available to get you started; the first step would be to create an account on their website.

A similar project is seeking to develop new life-saving drugs by learning about diverse genetic information in soil bacteria. They’re interested in samples from the Midwest, and you can even earn an Amazon gift card in return for your help! Fill out this form to request a soil sampling kit, and head over here to read more.

Take a selfie!

SaracaStreamThis one is really easy. Next time you’re out hiking, or you come across a stream during a scenic drive, stop and take a selfie with it! It’s that simple. Your selfie will help in creating a national map of streams that need to be monitored because there is currently a lack of information about water quality. This is especially important because the Clean Water Act is currently being reconsidered through an executive order, which could eliminate protection for our water bodies. This handy infographic should help you take and upload your selfie in support of clean water.

Are you ready for an renewable future?

Renewable_energyWhy not spend some time working in an energy lab? Our fossil fuel resources are dwindling out, and scientists need your help in designing a renewable future. Head over to NOVA Labs, and take the challenge. You’ll be given all the data you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of energy sources, and you’ll eventually end up designing a renewable energy system for an entire city!

None of the above?

If none of these appeal to you, worry not! There is a vast repository of citizen science projects on SciStarter. You can use their customized filters to find the one that is perfect for you. They have more than 1600 formal and informal projects so you can easily find one tailored to your interests.

Want to do more? How about marching for science?

On Earth Day (April 22, 2017), scientists and science enthusiasts are coming together to March for Science. The goal of the march is to affirm science as a democratic value, support scientists, and advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science. The march takes place in Washington, D.C. but if you can’t make it all the way to D.C., no worries, we’ve got one right here in Missouri! The rally starts at 2 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater and goes down 8th street to the columns, ending with a science festival at Peace Park. So invite your friends, confirm your attendance on their Facebook page, and last but not least #StandUpForScience in any way you can!

Mizzou students report on key issues (and turtles) in Costa Rica


Written by: Erica Overfelt

The University of Missouri way of learning is summed up in one saying: “we learn by doing.” By bringing eight Mizzou journalism students to Costa Rica this past winter break, Professor Bill Allen truly created a learning experience that goes perfectly along with this saying, and it just happens to be in the tropics.

This field reporting trip was started by Allen in 2011 with help from project co-ordinator Fern Perkins. Throughout most of Allen’s career, he did a lot of reporting in Costa Rica, which led to the inspiration for the trip.

“I thought we should get some students down there,” Bill said, “Part of the problem is that we don’t have enough U.S. journalists covering stories outside capital cities or war zones. Important issues are coming out in the rural areas like climate change, water issues, or energy. This is all happening outside the realm of politicians and we’ve got to go get them.”

Allen believes that the students who attend come out as different people by the end of the two-week trip. Some students gain confidence in reporting, while others gain new perspectives on many sustainability and/or environmental issues.

“The trip changed my passion for environmental issues and sustainability,” said Holly Enowski, the only freshman to attend the trip. “It allowed me to see that the issues are all over, not just limited to within our country’s borders. Costa Rica is a very environmentally conscious country and it was interesting to interact with locals and gauge their views on healthy eating and environmental protection.”

Almost all Costa Rican natives believe in sustainability, Allen mentions. A key lesson students learn on this trip is that other countries have different stances on sustainability than the United States. Allen explains that most countries believe the U.S. is off-balance sustainability wise.

“In terms of balancing, it is the need to protect our environment so we can live,” Allen said, “as opposed to continuing to abuse it as if it is an infinite resource. That abuse reigns in the United States because of our culture; however, Costa Ricans understand the need for balance.”

During this past winter’s trip, the students observed the sustainable harvesting of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. This species of marine turtles nests along the coasts of Costa Rica. However, numbers are dwindling. National Geographic states, “Though the olive ridley is widely considered the most abundant of the marine turtles, by all estimates, it is in trouble. Rough estimates put the worldwide population of nesting females at about 800,000, but its numbers–particularly in the western Atlantic–have declined precipitously.” The main cause of this declining population is poaching.

Sustainable harvesting was permitted by the government of Ostional making it the only place in the world where it is legal. Basically, the government allows locals to come to the beaches where the turtles’ nest. The locals are only allowed to take a small percentage of the eggs (less than one percent) and they are allowed to do whatever they want with the eggs they harvest. At first, many conservationists reacted angrily to this idea, but surprisingly, this act actually helped increase turtle population.

“It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to watch and see thousands of turtles come out of the ocean to lay their eggs during the arribada,” Enowski said. “What I loved most was the social, cultural, historical, political, economic and personal importance it had on [Ostional] and the people who live there.”

The eight Mizzou students were able to see sustainability in a different country first hand throughout the entirety of the trip. Although the definition of sustainability is different in every country, when we learn about what it means to be sustainable in different countries than our own, it helps the world unify as one and furthers the fight to get to a brighter future.

Avoiding a Giant Asteroid: The President-Elect and Climate Change

Written by: Nick Corder

Throughout Earth’s history, scientists acknowledge 5 different mass extinctions. These catastrophes have been caused by events like volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids. Today, however, we could possibly be living in the sixth extinction, and it is not the result of an outside force. For the first time ever, one of Earth’s own species is killing off much of the planet’s biodiversity, and that species is us.

Recent predictions by NASA scientists show that the average temperature of the Earth will increase by 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit over the next 100 years. This prediction has disastrous implications for the environment. By the year 2110, sea levels have the potential to rise by 10 feet, an event that would cause significant problems for island and coastal communities. A rising ocean also means stronger tropical storms and changing precipitation patterns, both of which have significant impacts on ecological systems. The solution to the problem of climate change is not simple, but one small action could vastly alleviate the effects: stop using fossil fuels as fast as possible.

However, there are certain individuals, namely the president-elect, Donald Trump, that do not plan on reducing carbon emissions. In fact, he proposes reviving the dying coal industry in order to create new jobs, a decision that is simply outdated. In addition to his thoughts on coal, Trump has expressed discontent with US involvement in the Paris Agreement. At one point, he even suggested that he would “cancel” US affiliation. This agreement, which brought together 195 countries from around the world, constitutes a promise that each country lower fossil fuel emissions, and even though it is not everything that is needed, the Paris Agreement is the first major step towards international cooperation in regard to climate change.

The president-elect’s stance on this issue is understandable when one considers that Trump and the new head of his EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, are both notorious climate change deniers. As a result of this belief, Trump plans to redirect “billions in climate change spending,” a plan that would affect the American people for generations to come. For instance, one of the ways Trump plans to cut down spending is the gradual dissolution of the EPA. China, a country where an organization like the EPA is not sponsored by government, deals with “tens of thousands of additional deaths” every year at the hands of air contamination.

In an open letter to Trump, more than 800 earth science and energy experts have come together to petition the 45th president. They argue that climate change “threatens America’s economy, national security, and public safety.” They list six necessary steps to avoid “disaster”:

  1. Make America a clean energy leader.
  2. Reduce carbon pollution and America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
  3. Enhance America’s climate preparedness and resilience.
  4. Publicly acknowledge that climate change is real, human caused, and an urgent threat.
  5. Protect scientific integrity in policymaking.
  6. Uphold America’s commitment to the Paris agreement.

With Trump admitting that there is “some connectivity” between human action and climate change, many are feeling hopeful about our environmental future under Trump. Do not let his words prevent you from action. This is the same man that wants to “scrap” the Clean Power Plan and permit the Keystone XL oil pipeline. As citizens, we must ensure that each and every step on this list is carried out, but it is the power of the citizenry, not that which is invested in the executive branch, that is going to get this done. A few years ago, the asteroid was on the horizon, but now he’s in the White House. We must act now.

Sustainable Threads: A Look into Going Green with Clothing

Written by: Mary Diekmeier

When most of us think of sustainability, the first thing that probably comes to mind is recycling, volunteering, etc., but there are actually many different ways of being sustainable that you might not have thought of before! In this article, we’re focusing on how to be sustainable right in our own closets by achieving sustainability through clothing. You can do it by considering a few factors.

The fashion/textile industry is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. Not so surprising, considering textiles don’t really biodegrade. It’s our job to do our part and be less wasteful in our own lives to sustain the earth for years to come. So let’s focus on how we can change our shopping habits. Can you think of a garment you’ve bought that was pretty inexpensive, bought on a whim, and ended up falling apart a few washes in? When that happens, the first thought is usually to just throw it away. Consider a few alternatives when shopping.

  • Ask yourself how often you see yourself wearing whatever you’re considering buying. Does it serve a function in your closet? Do you really love it?  If the answer’s no, consider saving your money for something else.
  • Invest in good clothing. Try to reduce how much you buy and how often you shop. Not only does this affect your clothing’s sustainability, it benefits your economic sustainability. Save up money for garments you really want that will last you a long time, and keep those garments for as long as they are useful to you. Shopping less = more sustainable!

If you already have clothes that you no longer want, there are several options to take beyond just throwing it away. Want the garment out of your closet, but it has no obvious signs of wear like major fading or rips/holes? Consider donating it. Whether it’s to Goodwill, a local charity, or even to a friend, try and make sure the product is reused. Another route is repurposing. Go on Pinterest, find a fun DIY, and turn an unwanted garment into something new for yourself or a friend!

Think twice about where you shop. Some stores are popular for being easy on the budget, but really consider the quality of the clothes that come from the stores you buy from. Avoid fast fashion. If you’re like me and love online shopping, there are lots of sustainable clothing retailers online. For example, if you’re looking for basic, staple items, the company Pact has a good selection, all made of 100% cotton. Also, don’t overlook secondhand clothing! Check out places like ThredUP or Poshmark, where regular people sell their lightly used clothing so it can gain more use through someone else.

There are lots of ways to shop sustainably right here in Columbia, MO. If you live on or near campus, the downtown area is just a short walk/bike ride away (which is also totally sustainable). A retailer downtown I would recommend is Route. It’s an apparel-based, non-profit and fair trade brick-and-mortar shop on 9th street. Also, a great idea if you’re trying to shop sustainably is to stop by the Peace Nook. A fighting power for sustainability here in Columbia, Peace Nook is another non-profit that sells books, various health food items, etc. as well as clothing! At any rate, buying locally is sustainable in and of itself, so next time you have a weekend free, visit the small businesses wherever you live and see if you can find the next addition to your closet!