This evening I read an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times describing how efforts to increase forest density have led to a cascade of negative effects on local and regional eco-systems. Well meaning attempts to “save the trees” have depleted water reserves and changed weather and soil dynamics. “As temperatures rise,” the authors conclude, “too much forest strangles too many watersheds.” Although the op-ed is brief, its arguments are built on serious research and analysis. I was delighted to see that the authors are Helen M. Poulos and Jamie G. Workman, who have been working together at Wesleyan’s College of the Environment. Helen is a post-doctoral fellow and Jamie is a Visiting Professor in the COE’s think tank. Both have been working with students this year on issues concerning water. Indeed this week they are hearing seniors present their own research, work that usually links environmental science with at least one other field. Barry Chernoff, Schumann Professor of Environmental Science and COE founder, conceived of the think tank as place for rigorous critique and generous collaboration. It’s also a place where scholars can think together about how to translate their research into interventions in the public sphere.
This week has also seen scores of media outlets using the data provided by the Wesleyan Media Project. The WMP’s latest report deals with heavy-duty pollution — the sharp rise in negative ads as compared with the 2008 presidential campaign. Project Director and Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler says that in addition to the rise in negative tone, “60 percent of all ads are sponsored by interest groups, which is really, truly a historic number.” Erika leads a team of student researchers in Middletown who code and analyze data from across the country. This research will become ever more important as the campaign churns along.
Maybe I should close with an example of Wesleyan folks attending to more positive aspects of the environment: all writers on campus working to improve the cultural world we breathe. This past weekend, Amy Bloom ’74, Kim-Frank University Writer in Residence, led Foodstock, a celebration of food and writing about it. From all accounts, the participants had an enlightening, nourishing day — and they also collected quite a bit of money and food for the Amazing Grace Food Pantry.
On Wednesday, May 9 student writing prize winners will read from their poetry and prose at Russell House, starting at 8:00 pm. The student writers who will be reading this evening, in the this order (thanks to Anne Greene for the information):
Marina Reza ’13 (Herbert Lee Connelly nonfiction award co-winner, along with Jessica Jordan ’13 , who’s abroad)
Katherine Gibbel ’15 (Sarah Hannah Prize, poetry)
Aditi Kini ’13 (Horgan Prize, fiction)
Corey Dethier ’12 (Sophie Reed Prize, poetry)
Anna Swartz ’13 (Wesleyan Fiction Award)
I’m sure that this will be a contribution to our cultural environment that our writers will sustain!