Deep Dialogues and Expert Series

Deep Dialogue – 1/22/24 – Preserving Forever Wild Lands

We were joined by Jon Leibowitz, Executive Director of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, a land trust that focuses on permanent protection of forest and wild lands in the northeast region. Jon discussed the critical role that forever-wild forests, wetlands, and intact ecosystems play in addressing the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, with an emphasis on long-term climate benefits of rewilding permanently protected lands. Jon showed examples of completed land protection projects in the region and discuss the opportunities for additional creation of wilderness areas in accordance with the recently released Wildlands in New England report. The presentation explained how everyone can get involved in this regional effort to protect the wild Earth, while also protecting the climate.

The video from the Deep Dialogue is here.

Deep Dialogue – 11/27/23
After Death Care and Carbon Recycling

If you live your life as an activist concerned about the climate emergency and what sort of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren, then considering how we leave the Earth seems to be an important consideration. The most common ways to handle one’s dead body are burial in a graveyard or cremation. Cemetery burial is a form of landfilling, and as currently practiced using embalming fluids, cement vaults, and various metals and plastics, the process leaves behind a mini toxic waste dump. Cremation is typically done by high-temperature fossil fuel burning which creates significant air pollution.
Our speakers were:

  • Glen Ayers, Soil Scientist and retired Public Health Professional, Advocate
    of protecting groundwater and recycling human nutrients
  • State Representative Natalie Higgins, Sponsors of
    H.2193, An Act Expanding After Death Care Options
  • Laura Cassidy from Recompose, the first operating Natural Organic
    Reduction facility in the country (Seattle, WA)

This Deep Dialogue introduced our community to familiar concepts such as green burial, and less known options such as conservation burial, alkaline hydrolysis, and natural organic reduction (human composting). We discussed the opportunity for advocacy to promote alternatives to landfilling and cremation through the passage of proposed legislation to legalize additional options with a lower carbon footprint so that our passing will enhance the Earth instead of increasing the cumulative burden.

Glen Ayers presentation for is here. The video of the Deep Dialogue is here.

Deep Dialogue – 10/30/23
Reducing Food Waste

Wasting food has an astonishingly massive greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. In the U.S., 35 percent of food goes uneaten along the supply chain, generating the same amount of GHG as 58 million passenger vehicles driven for one year. This is due to the methane produced from food decaying in landfills, the resources it takes to grow, transport, cool, and cook food, and the conversion of native ecosystems to agriculture. 

Fortunately, it is a solvable problem that offers some low-hanging fruit for GHG reductions. We consumers are the largest total generators of food waste, but it’s not always easy for us to change wasteful behaviors. New practices are needed that can enable consumers to actively reduce their food waste at home by making it obvious, affordable, and convenient.

This deep dialogue addresses not only what individuals can do in their households, but also what municipalities, states, and the food industry can do to reduce food on larger scales.

Speakers:

  • Minnie Ringland from ReFED, a national organization focused on eliminating food waste, will elaborate on the connection between food wasted and climate change. Minnie’s slides are here.
  • Liz Miller from Lovin’ Spoonfuls will discuss food recovery efforts in MA and advocacy to increase them. Liz’s sldes are here.
  • Anya Pforzheimer from Watertown DPW will discuss Watertown’s municipal composting program. Anya’s slides are here.

The video for this Deep Dialogue is here.

Deep Dialogue – 8/28/23
Reducing Meat Consumption

We presented information about the climate harms caused by consuming animal products, specifically beef and dairy, and how we can mitigate some of those harms, short of eliminating meat consumption completely.

Professor Marianne Krasny, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell, and author of In This Together: Connecting with your Community to Combat the Climate Crisis. Marianne presented her own research and experience about how to promote dietary change within communities and social networks.

Sabine Von Mering (Ph.D) presented the arguments for reducing animal product consumption. Sabine is a  Public Voices Fellow on the Climate Crisis with The OpEd Project, in partnership with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, a climate activist with 350 Mass, and the Director of the Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis University.

Presentations were followed by a lively Q and A, and discussion. The video of presentation and Q and A are here.

Expert Series – 8/15/23
Residential Heat Pump Retrofits

with Senator Brownsberger

Senator Brownsberger shared his latest findings and conclusions from his intensive investigation into the real-world needs and challenges for implementing heat pumps at a sufficient scale to meet the Commonwealth’s carbon reduction goals.

Will Brownsberger is the State Senator for the Suffolk and Middlesex District representing Allston, Brighton, Watertown, Belmont, Fenway, and West Cambridge, and is President Pro Tempore of the Senate as a member of the Senate President’s leadership team. He did a deep energy retrofit of his home and last year did a full conversion of its heating system to electric heat pumps. Senator Brownsberger maintains an extensive guide to his findings and analysis of heat pump here.

The presentation is insightful.  Senator Brownsberger is candid about our current progress and the challenges we face.  Participants shared their thoughts and asked tough questions which the Senator responded to frankly and honestly.

The video of the presentation is here and Senator Brownsberger’s presentation is here.

Deep Dialogue 7/31/23
Reducing Air Travel

This Deep Dialogue will help you sort through the complicated scientific and personal issues raised by air travel. If you’ve ever felt conflicted about flying due to its heat impact, you are not alone!  Most of us know that air travel is bad for the climate: between airplanes’ CO2 emissions and other heating effects caused by pollution at high altitudes, air travel accounts for upwards of 5-6% of planetary heating. More harmful than driving, flying is the fastest way, hour for hour, to heat the planet.   And air travel has major equity implications. For example in the US, 68 percent of all flights are taken by the 12 percent of the population who fly six or more times per year. But many of us have also reached our “golden years” with culturally-induced expectations of flying to visit children, grandchildren, friends — and bucket list destinations!


What to do about this inconvenient truth? First, we need to talk about it openly and honestly, without shaming, which is what this Deep Dialogue accomplishes. The presenters are:

  • Dan Castrigano, Organizer at Flight Free USA. Dan will discuss the climate impact of air travel and how we can mitigate some of those harms.
  • Professor Marianne Krasny, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell, and author of In This Together: Connecting with your Community to Combat the Climate Crisis. Marianne will talk about how our own ordinary acts can influence and inspire collective and widespread change.

Presentations are followed by a lively Q and A, and discussion.

The video for the presentation is here. The presentation slides are here.

Deep Dialogue – 6/26/23 – Grid Level Storage with Roy Harvey

As more of our electricity is sourced from wind and solar, we know there will be times when the output from these sources will not meet our demand for electricity.  This will happen during periods of overcast skies, low wind, or times of very high demand such as will occur in winter during cold snaps when most buildings are electrified.

During these times, there needs to be a source of clean electricity to fill in the gaps.  Storage is seen as the prime candidate to fulfill this role.  But how much storage will be needed?  How much will it cost?  What are the tradeoffs and what storage technology is suitable?

Roy Harvey, a member of our research team and retired electrical engineer, addresses these questions and more. The slides from the presentation are here and video is here.

Expert Series – 5/23/23
Networked Geothermal Systems

with Audrey Schulman and John Ciovacco

Networked Geothermal systems are an innovative solution to heat and cool buildings in a safe, non-emitting, and affordable way. Instead of natural gas, networked geothermal uses interconnected ground source heat pumps. The system connects buildings with different heating and cooling needs, improving the overall system efficiency for all the connected buildings. This model is already becoming a reality. Eversource Gas and National Grid, two of the largest utilities in Massachusetts, have received permission to build a total of five demonstration projects. Seven other gas utilities and 12 states are now looking into moving forward with their own networked geothermal projects.

John P. Ciovacco, the President of Aztech Geothermal, LLC received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Union College. John chairs the educational sessions at NY-GEO’s annual heat pump conference, which is widely regarded as the largest and most comprehensive in the Northeastern US. His company, Aztech Geothermal, has designed and installed hundreds of residential and commercial ground source heat pump systems since the early 2000’s. Aztech is involved in over 15 District / Networked Geothermal projects in the Northeast, several of them involving regulated gas and electric utilities.

Audrey Schulman, HEET Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, is a A lover of maps, she created the first-in-the-nation statewide zoomable public map of utility-reported gas leaks. Together with Zeyneb Magavi, she has developed HEET’s innovative solution to transition gas utilities from gas to networked geothermal, or systems of networked ground source heat pumps. There are several gas utilities now installing thermal networks in Massachusetts and New York. Schulman is also the author of six novels, which have been translated into 12 languages and reviewed by The New Yorker, The Economist and CNN.

Click here for the video of the presentation and discussion
Click here for Audrey’s slides.

Deep Dialogue – 5/22/23
Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Transportation

Rashid Shaikh is a scientist who lives in Cambridge. In 2000, he retired from working as the director for science at the Health Effects Institute. Previously, he worked as the director for science at the Health Effects Institute, an independent non-profit organization, jointly funded by the EPA and the auto manufacturers, which has provided some of the most critical science to inform air pollution policies in the US and abroad. His presentation, titled “Air Pollution and Climate Change: A Tale of Twin Challenges,” focuses on the effects and magnitude of air pollution on human health, the impact of regulations, and the disproportionate burden on EJ and underserved communities from mobile sources. He also discusses the (major) contribution of the transportation sector to GHG emissions and the co- benefits of policies to address climate change.

Click here for the video of the presentation.
Click here for the slides from the presentation.

Deep Dialogue – 4/17/23 – Offshore wind with Tony Rogers

Massachusetts has mandated that we have 5.6 GW of offshore wind power under contract by mid-2027. Does this mean we can now move on to the next challenge? Commitments to offshore wind up and down the eastern seaboard herald the beginning of the offshore wind industry in the US, but do we have the manufacturing plants, the supply chain, the workforce, the installation vessels and the transmission lines that we will need? This presentation provides insights into these questions. It covered the basics of why offshore wind power is so important, what it takes to get an offshore wind power project permitted and built, and the challenges facing the state and project developers that need to be addressed to translate our offshore wind power commitments into power flowing into the New England grid.

Tony Rogers was a researcher in the UMass Wind Energy Center for many years, co-wrote a book on wind turbine design and engineering, was the lead technical author of the state’s successful proposal for the Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown MA, and worked for an international wind energy consulting firm for seven years.

The slides for the presentation are here and the video is here.

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