Posts

Susanna Hecht on Climate Change Professor Susan Hecht works to achieve the UC system`s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025

By Stan Paul 

For Urban Planning professor Susanna Hecht, the future of life on this planet as we know it is a matter of degrees — a scant few at that.

Hecht is part of a group of 50 University of California scholars and scientists addressing the 10-campus Carbon Neutrality Initiative proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2013. Under this initiative, the University of California aspires to become carbon neutral by 2025. Recent California legislation also calls for a marked increase in the amount of renewable resources providing electricity in California by 2030.

Hecht and her UC colleagues, led by Veerabhadran Ramanathan (renowned climate scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography), are among those who want to “bend the curve,” or the “hockey stick” graph as Hecht refers to it, on the rise in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. A mere two-degree change in average temperature will portend future disaster from drought to sea-level rise, and changing weather patterns that most of the globe is not prepared for, according to experts representing a wide range of disciplines.

Hecht said, “We are already in the middle of this…and a lot of records are being broken on a weekly basis.”

The group of UC scholars, from fields as diverse as ethics and environmental justice to climate science and religion, met in October at the University of California’s Summit on Pathways to Carbon and Climate Neutrality: California and the World, led by California Governor Jerry Brown. The purpose of the meeting was to focus on solutions that could guide the state but also to provide solutions that could be used worldwide. UC research and recommendations were also part of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris.

In addition to carbon (which has a long life in the atmosphere), Hecht points out the many other factors that contribute to temperature rise, such as methane and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) released into the environment, as well as the “heat island” effect our built environment, roads and urban centers create.

As a “carbon sink,” the tropical rainforest absorbs millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere, and Hecht points out that deforestation of the Amazon has dropped significantly in the last decade. This has had an impact, but the rainforest can’t do it alone, especially when deforestation continues in other parts of the world such as Indonesia.

Change will require not only scientific innovation but also social innovation that focuses on our relationship with forests, said the co-editor of “The Social Lives of Forests: Present and Future of Woodland Resurgence.”

Creating Good “Food Citizens” for Future Food Equity and Security Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program Taking Applications Starting Feb. 1, Selected Students to Begin Fall 2016

By Breanna Ramos

The UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs will open the application period for the Food Studies Graduate Certificate Program starting Feb. 1. The program is open to all UCLA graduate students and selected applicants will begin taking classes in Fall 2016.

Food equity, security, and environmental sustainability are growing global concerns, and there is an increased interest in developing programs to alleviate such issues, specifically within the University of California system.  The certificate program falls under UC President Janet Napolitano’s Global Food Initiative, which was launched in 2014 to address “…one of the critical issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2025.”

“It shouldn’t be an issue for people to get healthy foods or for us to worry about whether or not we’re going to have healthy foods in the future,” said Alexis Oberlander, Project Manager for the program at the Luskin School. Oberlander is just one of the many staff members who strongly supports food studies’ importance and participated in developing program details.

“That’s part of what’s most exciting, having people from the North and South campuses: from English, Dentistry, and all over,” said Public Health professor May Wang. “We can’t really talk about food without addressing all these other social, economic, and even political aspects.”

The program requires that participants take courses in multiple fields. Among the four graduate-level courses students must take, one must be a core interdisciplinary class that was specifically designed for the program. The other three courses can be chosen based on personal preference and selected from the following categories: Food Policy and Food Systems, Nutritional Science, and Social and Cultural Aspects of Food.

“The hope and intention of the program is that it’ll bring students together across all disciplines to think about the complex issue that is food in our country today,” said Sarah Roth, graduate student researcher for the program. “Bringing together law, business, public policy, urban planning, and public health students into the same room so that they can both understand one another’s perspective and use that understanding to leverage change.”

Applications will become available in February, with about 10 participant slots available. The program is expected to attract students from various disciplines.

“A passion for food is the critical component for applying,” said Oberlander. “Applicants should express any ideas that they have about how they’re going to use food studies in their education and future careers because that’s our goal: supplementing their education, so that they can go into the working world with their certificate and apply it to whatever they’re doing.”

Events have been planned to attract not only potential students, but to educate others about why studying food is crucial. A calendar of campus events relevant to food studies also is available online at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/content/food-studies-event-calendar

“What we really want to do is create good food citizens,” said UCLA law professor Michael Roberts, lead instructor for the core course. “What ‘good food citizens’ means is that we’ve got people in the community who understand and appreciate food and who can improve the conditions, the consumption, and or production of food in the local community and beyond.”

For more information on the program and other food studies related resources, visit the certificate website at: http://luskin.ucla.edu/foodstudies.