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Go on an Adventure with Us: How the BCSE is Making Lemonade from Lemons.

This semester and possibly the entire academic year looks very different for Bucknell and campuses throughout the country. Bucknell has taken due diligence and our numbers are looking great because of the hard work and team effort of all of campus. But students still feel the strain.

The lack of social opportunities due to covid-19 and large annual events such as the Susquehanna River Symposium going digital, all leave a void for students. Necessity is the mother of invention. We at the BCSE saw the need for students to get outdoors and be social without compromising anyone’s health. What we’ve come up with already has everyone buzzing.

For the Fall semester and possibly continuing in the Spring, we have created a wide variety of student excursions from kayaking down the Susquehanna to walking tours discovering sustainability on campus. The full list of excursions is as follows:

  • Susquehanna river kayak trips
  • Stars over the Susquehanna
  • Night owl (creature) watching
  • Mussels, mills, & the environmental History of Buffalo Creek
  • Exploring Sustainability – a walking tour
  • Fire Pit Chats & music
  • Dale’s Ridge birding walk
  • “The beautiful distant view” – Making the place of Bucknell
  • Residential microgrid, permaculture, & sustainable living tour
  • Thinking in 7 generations – connecting choices past, present, & future
  • Fly fishing & stream ecology
  • Logging, steam railroads, and the Pennsylvania forest
  • Farming & the Chesapeake Bay – agricultural wetlands at Ard’s Farm
  • From ditch to stream – Miller Run comes to life
  • Frogs, wetlands, & mine reclamation – a walking tour at Montandon Marsh
  • Wet your fanny in the Susquehanny

Some excursions will be running every week throughout the fall semester with a variety of dates and times to fit every student’s schedule. Others will be announced in the Spring. Each trip has a maximum capacity based on the ability to social distance. We are excited to provide opportunities for students to learn and express themselves, all while getting outside and active. for more detailed descriptions on each excursion, to see the schedule, and to sign up, click here.

It’s going to be a different-looking year, but doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. We are looking forward to a year a adventure and making the most of our time on campus together!

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A Turning Point For Fossil Fuels & a Greener Future

For decades the road to greener, renewable energy and the slow of climate change has been an uphill battle. The fossil fuel industry has been largely responsible for thwarting green movement global progress. As a $257 billion industry in the U.S. alone and much of the world still relying on high carbon-producing fossil fuels, large-scale change has been slow-going. Nonetheless, we haven’t given up on the goal of a cleaner planet for future generations.

World consumption of fossil fuels by country as of 2017. Source: “Which Countries Use the Most Fossil Fuels” –

Collectively, the world has been making changes and advancements in renewable energies to reduce our CO₂ emissions in hopes of slowing and ultimately reversing climate change. Leading the way is Switzerland, currently considered the greenest country in the world, whereas the U.S. only tops in at 27th on the list.

Switzerland has made many advancements and lifestyle changes which highly contribute to their number one spot on the list. Just to name a few:

  • They have no landfills and instead incinerate all trash, producing a very minimal amount of air pollution. (Caldwell, 2020)
  • They’re among the top recycling countries in the world, charging for trash disposal but offering recycling for free. (Caldwell, 2020)
  • Utilization of hydroelectric power as their primary total energy source. (Lakshmi, 2018)
  • Large-scale protection and designation of land to national parks. (Lakshmi, 2018)

This is not to diminish any advancements of the U.S. or other countries, but the Swiss are clearly not afraid to make the difficult changes for the long-term payoff. Total energy supply from renewable and low carbon producing sources is on the rise in Switzerland as fossil fuel is being phased out. Using virtually no coal and very little natural gas, the only fossil fuel Switzerland still uses for energy supply is oil, and even that has drastically dropped. In 2013, total energy supply coming from oil dropped roughly 1,000 ktoe (kilotonnes of oil equivalent) and continued on a steady decline as the country relied more on a nuclear power vs. oil. Although not a perfect answer, this change-over undoubtedly contributed to the country’s overall environmental health. As compared to the USA and the world, you can see how this Switzerland’s changes has made an impact.

Although Switzerland is leading the green movement, as renewable energies become more widely available and cost effective, their utilization is on the rise and fossil fuels are at a steady decline. The elimination of fossil fuels is not going to be the singular answer to reversing climate change, but it’s a big factor. Looking at the incline of renewable energies in the U.S. and the world, a trending projection for the future appears.

Fossil fuels don’t seem to be suffering all that much according to the above depictions. The U.S., however, has drastically dropped in coal use since 2008 and coinciding with this drop, our national CO₂ emissions also decreased by over 4% that year. Over the next decade, the U.S. would go on to accomplish an 18.7% decrease in CO₂ emissions. Globally, CO₂ emissions have fluctuated greatly as under-developed countries became more robust, populations increased, and the need for clean, renewable energy was realized.

Projections from several studies and experts say that the fossil fuel industry is in trouble. A 2018 study by lays out the expected peak of fossil fuels between 2020 and 2027, with a likelihood that the peak will occur in 2023. With populations growing across the world, energy demand is projected to grow 1% – 1.5%. Wind and solar energy specifically are looking at a 15-20% increase in demand. Couple this with increased government policies driven by the need to decrease emissions, air pollution, and control climate change, the rise of electric vehicle supply and demand, and the drop in cost of renewable energy, the fossil fuel industry is looking at a risky future and possible losses of $25 trillion in fixed assets.

These projections are also mirrored in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2020 Report. In the report, one of the many projections show the growth in electricity generation from renewables and the steep fall in generation from fossil fuels.

What none of these reports have or could have accounted for was the Covid-19 pandemic that immobilized the globe in early 2020. The peak of fossil fuels was estimated to occur around 2023 originally, but ultimately, the shutdowns across the world sped up the process. With more people working from home than ever before, oil demand dropped by more than 20% compared to the 2019 high. Many sources have reported that if the economy doesn’t recover fairly quickly from the pandemic and renewable energy demand continues to rise, the demand for fossil fuels will have already peaked in 2019. If, however, the curve of our recovery is more v-shaped, the fossil fuel industry could recover demand by 2022 says a article.

The world all but stood still as only “essential” employees were commuting and some countries completely shut down, causing nature to reclaim metropolitan areas. Global CO₂ emissions dropped by 17% in the beginning of April during the peak of shutdowns.

For the green-minded, this was a leap in the right direction. Coupling a massive drop in CO₂ emissions, the decline of fossil fuels, and the increase in affordability and demand of renewable energy sources, we are well on our way to slowing climate change, right? While these are historic accomplishments, it’s important that we don’t live in a bubble of denial and comfort zones and also take a look at the measurable percentage of CO₂ that is still lingering in our atmosphere.

In May of this year, the amount of CO₂ in the air hit the highest average monthly value ever recorded. Measured at over 417 ppm (parts per million) and over 2 ppm over last years average of 414.7 ppm, it’s clear that the emissions phenomenon caused by the pandemic didn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Considering that CO₂ can remain in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, the global output is simply building up layer after layer. We now have the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere in human history! (The Washington Post, Freedman and Mooney, 2020)

Several factors beyond emissions have contributed to this buildup. Increased deforestation, El Niño conditions causing drought and extreme heat, and the wildfires as a result, are all things that inhibit the ability of plant life and trees to absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s a vicious cycle that will ultimately lead to our own demise. Mass deforestation, and emissions from travel, production, trade, and more have all thrown climate change into full swing. As a result, weather conditions change, temperatures are at record highs, and natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, all contributing to the inability of nature to absorb the massive amounts of CO₂ the world produces.

Living with the belief that Covid-19 has curbed climate change would be ill-informed. Living with the idea that there is no hope to make a change is self-fulfilling. We have to find a common ground of awareness and knowledge as humans and be willing to make the big changes it’s going to take to secure a future for ourselves and our children. Scholars all over the world are shouting out what those changes must be and that there is hope. We just have to listen and take action.

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Proof That Humans Are the Problem & the Silver Lining in COVID19

The world was hit hard and fast by the COVID19 pandemic. No one expected it to travel as far and as quickly as it did. Our routines, travel, and every day life was tossed in a metaphorical salad of chaos. Everywhere we looked people were wearing masks which, in time, evolved into somewhat of a fashion statement. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper were the most sought after commodities for months. People panicked and cleaned out store shelves. The greed of the people showed its ugly face and the finger-pointing, hatred, and ignorance grew parallel to people’s fear and restlessness.

Stay-at-home orders were put in place all around the world and gas prices plummeted to the lowest we’ve seen them since the 90’s. Some lived in denial, while others lived in terror. But all in all, planes were grounded, stores closed their doors, millions lost their jobs, schools shut down and a new era of mass online learning was imminent. The world had all but stopped and was now in perpetual state of indefinite chaos. So how could there be a silver lining to such a global tragedy?

With no one traveling on planes, cars, or boats, the carbon foot print of the entire world had drastically lowered. Something so many scholars and green advocates have striven for for decades was now happening all on its own, in a matter of weeks. The estimated global decrease in carbon is 17% according to a study published in the Nature Climate Change journal. At the peak of stay-at-home orders and lock-downs, carbon dioxide emissions decreased by about 18.7 million tons when compared to daily emissions from the same time last year, becoming possibly the largest decrease in history and levels comparable to what they were in 2006!

In China alone, carbon emissions dropped by 25% in just 4 weeks (Article by Lauri Myllyvirta – CarbonBrief) and nitrogen oxides emissions dropped by 50% (Study published in MDPI journal).

Satellite images from the NASA Earth Observatory

If we zoom in and isolate that even more, below satellite images of Wuhan, China show the massive decrease in No2 levels in comparison to the same time of year in 2019.

Satellite images from the NASA Earth Observatory

In other parts of the world, historic things are happening because of the large-scale drop in pollution as a direct result of the lock-downs of Coronavirus. In India, pollution has gone down so drastically that it is obvious to the naked eye. In just days after the lockdown was implemented in India’s capital, New Delhi, the levels of pollution dropped by almost 60% according to expert analysis from the Center for Science & Environment, reported by The Washington Post.

The India Gate war memorial in New Delhi on Oct. 17, 2019, and on April 8, 2020, after air pollution levels dropped during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Anushree Fadnavis and Adnan Abidi/Reuters) – The Washington Post

Even the tops of the Himalayas are now visible from a distance in some parts of India for the first time in 30 years! Imagine that awe-inspiring moment.

Indian residents can now see the towering peaks of the Himalayas from Punjab for the first time in 30 years, after a massive drop in pollution caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown. – news

The decrease in emissions isn’t the only positive phenomenon resulting from COVID19. Nature has reclaimed its territory in beautiful ways. Waters are cleaner and clearer, streets are deserted, and there’s no traffic. All over the world, the animals that we keep at bay with our mere presence begin coming out of the woodwork and roaming the streets and waterways. An article from Inverse, an online news resource, compiled a list in fact. Although you’ve probably heard about the Dolphins in Venice, Italy’s canals, this was actually one viral post that was fake. However, dolphins did grace the docks of the Port of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy.

Wild Turkeys took over many places, including a schoolyard in Oakland, CA, the city streets of Boston, MA as well as Harvard University.

Mountain lions roamed freely through Boulder, CO.

The ever-reclusive leopard showed up in Southern India.

And even Coyotes relaxed in San Francisco.

The list goes on and on with wild boars walking the streets of Barcelona, Spain, deer in herds through the city streets of Nara, Japan and Eastern Ghats, India, and even hoards of monkeys in Thailand and Dehli, India.

One thing is for sure. Nature restores itself in our absence. The past few months was comparable to watching an episode of “Life After People”. Maybe not to the extreme of the endgame, but at least a taste of what it might be like. The pandemic hit the world hard and people regrettably lost their lives in the process. It has shaken us as a people and we will likely be dealing with the aftermath for long after the virus is gone. But in all the chaos and tragedy, it’s nice to see a little good come of it. Even if it’s only fleeting.

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Teaching in the Face of a Pandemic

No one was prepared for how fast the world changed. Most of us were just expecting that it wouldn’t reach us. We went about our lives and hoped for the best. Then our world was turned upside down. uncertainty swept the globe and higher academia was no exception.

At Bucknell, we are committed to serving our students with the best education that we possibly can. This includes research intensive and hands-on courses. So where did that leave us in the face of the pandemic? In a tough spot to say the least. But our faculty, staff and students rose to the occasion.

One of these classes was ENST212/UNIV215: “Stream Ecology and Restoration: The Science Behind Fly Fishing” taught by Matthew Higgins, Katie Billie, and the BCSE’s Benjamin Hayes and Sean Reese. Benjamin Hayes noted the challenges and payoffs stating,

The COVID crises hit just as the outdoor labs began and I thought it impossible for the students to feel satisfied with completing a field intensive course remotely.  But it turned out to be fun making in-the-stream and underwater videos for them and they seemed grateful for the effort.

Like many across the university, they had to get creative. And their hard work paid off. The class was a success. Here are some highlights on the class and what it was all about…

We want to congratulate all of the students, the faculty, and staff across campus for their flexibility, their ability to adapt quickly, and their outstanding work in such unprecedented circumstances. Here’s to a brighter future ahead.