Hello all! I am currently in Dulles waiting for my 8 hour flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. I am beyond excited to be able to experience my first time in Europe in this beautiful, Scandinavian country as well as examine the progressive sustainable practices that have been adopted there. I think this will be an extremely worthwhile course, especially since it is led by Professor Brown and Carfagno, my emerging markets ICE professors. Reading about the creative ways Denmark has been combatting climate change has gotten me excited about seeing them implemented in-person. This includes parks being transformed into water infrastructure, bike highways, urban farms, and wind turbines on the island of Samsø—which is 100% powered by renewable energy! More importantly, this poses a question of how these practices could be adapted to local communities in the U.S. in order to address issues concerning climate change, food security, and transportation.
As a final step in our study of sustainability, Professor Brown has assigned a “transfer project” – our task is to choose an element of the curriculum that particularly appealed to us, and plan out how we will transfer the idea/practice/movement back to our homes. My sustainability project proposed waste incineration as a solution to Sri Lanka’s problems with waste disposal and electricity generation.
Ice cores are awesome.
I realize that this is a somewhat cryptic statement, but what I really mean to express when I proclaim the awesomeness of ice cores is my fascination with the idea that it is possible to look back in time and read Earth’s history imprinted in slices of ice. Today, we visited Denmark’s Center for Ice and Climate, to take in a lecture on climatology. Despite learning all about ice cores in an excellent lecture (some details of which I’ve included below) I found it almost unfathomable to grasp that it is possible to read temperatures, the concentration of different gases, and even volcanic eruptions back for hundreds of thousands of years. I was intrigued by the pains that ice core scientists take to analyze the cores at a high level of accuracy, and found myself imagining heated debates over which spike in temperature should represent a summer and which represents a mere heat wave. The lecture also left me feeling nostalgic for my last Chemistry class (4 years ago now, in my junior year of high school) with its discussion of Oxygen isotopes’ role in reading temperature from ice cores.
After our return from Samsø, we began learning about waste management. The key takeaway: no waste should go to waste. Fascinatingly enough, what we commonly consider to be waste still has tremendous potential value, and can be a resource if it is treated correctly. Organic waste can often be composted, in order to produce compost that returns nutrients to the earth and enhances agricultural productivity. Non-organic or manufactured waste can be recycled, and the waste that does not fall into these categories can be burned to heat water or produce electricity. The caveat to the idea that waste is a resource rather than a burden is the negative environmental impact that may outweigh the economic benefits of certain waste treatment options.
On the Friday, we set off for a field study to Samsø, Denmark’s energy independent island. With a solid grounding in climate change, Danish history, and the interplay between sustainability and livability, we took a train to Kalundborg and boarded a ferry for the island. We arrived, and walked to our hostel. The hostel was fantastic – it had its own bowling alley, as well as foosball and pool tables. The rooms were excellent as well, and it was a wonderful place to come back to after hours spent exploring Samsø.
After the first few days of immersion into Danish culture, our group shifted its focus to sustainable living, the core subject matter of the course. In order for a community to practice sustainable living on a large scale, infrastructure must be put in place to enable citizens to make sustainable choices – this idea of creating opportunities for sustainable choices that also benefit the individual is, in my opinion, the true meaning of livability. However, this is an oversimplification.
After an eventful first week in Denmark, I finally have a minute to organize my thoughts and write down a few of the many things that we learned this week! So much has happened that I had to think hard about how to present the intensity of the last few days; after some deliberation, I’ve decided to divide the group’s time in Denmark into three sets of experiences, each of which will be difficult to describe in a single blog post. In this first of three posts I’ll be covering the first part of the week, which was a crash course in Danish history, culture, and cuisine.