Kalamazoo College Guilds: Sustainability SIPs

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This collection includes Senior Individualized Projects (SIPs) that deal with issues of sustainability. Abstracts are generally available to the public, but PDF files are available only to current Kalamazoo College students, faculty, and staff.



Unless otherwise stated, authors retain the copyright for all content posted to the Kalamazoo College Digital Archive.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 25
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    Rampart Rhetoric: The Role of Frontier Mythology in the Development of Alaska’s Natural Resources and Identity
    (2010) Hertz, Jenna; Lewis, James E., 1964-
    After a summer of deep exploration, the story that I felt compelled to tell was the story of an attempt in the early 1960s to build a hydroelectric dam on the Yukon River at a place called Rampart Canyon. Though few people have heard about the dam today, it was the subject of a fierce battle in the 1960s. Referred to variously as a “monumental boondoggle” and the “Greatest peacetime project in the history of the free world” the dam was shrouded in controversy. A news reporter predicted that the dam would “erupt into a terrific emotional battle that could rip the state apart.” Alaska Congressman Ralph Rivers described Rampart Dam as a “slumbering giant waiting to be awakened.” In an effort to tell the story of Rampart Dam, I asked myself what I though would be simple questions: why was the dam proposed? Why was it never built? What did this mean? In the process of answering these questions, I realized that I was not really telling the tale of the would-be dam on the Yukon River at all. The story that I found- the story that dominates this project- is the story of Americans facing an identity crisis. The crisis began in 1959 when Alaska became America’s 49th state. In a process that I term “Alaskan adoption,” the United States began a confusing ritual of attempting to incorporate its new state into the nation. In its search for bridges, America probed its cultural archives and found another crisis: the closing of the American frontier in 1890. The most lasting legacy of this crisis was historian Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis about the significance of the frontier to American development. Americans seized on Turner’s story as a way to incorporate the northern land into its most cherished national myth: the settling of the American West. The new state was deemed the “last frontier” and set on a trajectory to echo this paradigm. But Alaska was a very different place than the American West it was charged to mimic. Twentieth century America was a different place as well. In the 1960s the United States was facing what Stewart Udall termed a “quiet crisis” of environmental destruction and a parallel social revolution. Against this backdrop, Rampart Canyon Dam was proposed. Two sides, boosters and environmentalists, arose to argue for and against the dam. Both spoke the language of frontiers, but they did so with radically divergent interpretations. The difference in interpretation was rooted in a dispute over the lessons of frontier history, conflicting value systems, and opposing visions for Alaska’s future. The success of environmental interpretation and rhetoric in the Rampart debate indicated a shift in the way Americans told their favorite story. The stories we tell as a nation are important because they form the basis for national identity and shape our actions. By studying the non-story of Rampart Dam, I hope to reveal new insights pertaining to how Americans construct a common identity through national mythology and how this self-understanding manifests in the choices we make pertaining to our relationship with the natural world.
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    Costs, Benefits and Sustainability of the Salween Dams along the Thai-Burma Border
    (2010) Breck, Kelsey; Hussen, Ahmed
    The 2800 km Salween River is the last major river in Southeast Asia that remains free flowing. Unfortunately, Thailand and Burma have made plans to build a series of five large dams along the 118 km portion of the river that forms the Thai-Burma border. With an installed capacity of 19,600 MW, these dams are expected to cost approximately 10 billion USD and will be funded by private investors from China, Burma, Thailand and Japan. Since the first MOU was signed by Thailand and Burma in 2005, there has been significant resistance from civil society groups who want to stop the projects on environmental and human rights grounds. This study is an attempt to look more closely at the economics of these projects and whether or not they are actually worth the costs that will be fronted by taxpayers, local people and investors. Although the study found a positive NPV for Thailand, investors who wish to fund these projects should carefully consider details about the extremely high-risk investment environment in Burma, slow returns on investment and inefficiencies associated with large hydropower when evaluating this figure. Finally, the lack of sustainability from both an environmental and human rights perspective further illustrates the need for more data collection regarding the feasibility of these projects and potential alternatives before construction proceeds.
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    The Role of Green Accounting In the Creation of Indicators of Sustainable Economic Growth
    (2009) Weir, Anne; Hussen, Ahmed
    Gross domestic product (GDP) is the most widely utilized measure of economic growth worldwide. The GDP is often mistakenly used as a measure of social welfare, even though it was never meant to be used as one. The GDP is a poor indicator of economic wellbeing because of, among other reasons, its lack of inclusion of environmental damages. This is because many natural resources do not have a market price. In addition, costs incurred from cleaning pollution or repairing environmental damages, known as defensive expenditures, actually increase the GDP. Alternative indicators of economic growth must be created in order to account for and reflect aggregate social wellbeing, as well as the use of environmental resources that do not have a market price. Since the late 1980s there has been some progress towards this end; the development of what is known as green accounting. Green accounting stresses placing values on the environment by accounting for the depreciation of natural capital. Doing this helps to correctly take natural resources into account in indicators of sustainable economic growth. The objective of this SIP is to show how economic growth, as enumerated by GDP, would be different for indicators of aggregate economic performance that consider the sustainable use of the environment. To bring this issue into a clear view, two case studies are examined: the first one explains how pollution and pollution abatement procedures affect China’s GDP. The second case study discusses the differences between the GDP and an indicator of sustainable economic growth in Austria. Both of these case studies show that the GDP is flawed with regard to the environment, and that the GDP does not represent sustainable economic growth.
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    Commuter Behavior at Kalamazoo College: Manifesting Ontological Security in Environmental (In)Action
    (Kalamazoo, Mich. : Kalamazoo College, 2010) Lawrence, Amanda; Cunningham, Kiran, 1961-
    In June 2007, Kalamazoo College became the second college in Michigan to sign the American College and University Presidents‟ Climate Commitment, a promise to address local and institutional influences on climate change. By 2058, the College plans to achieve carbon neutrality. Commuter greenhouse gas emissions represent a statistically small obstacle to carbon neutrality; however, commuter behavior reflects massive cultural barriers to climate conscious action. A socially sustainable culture, in which mutual cooperation and commitment to protect the environment are the norm, is necessary to build enduring community commitment to climate action. My research investigates the ways in which commuting patterns of faculty, staff, and especially students manifest cultural factors that affect environmental action. I deconstruct the influence of identity on commuter behavior through the lens of Giddens' ontological security, drawing on data collected through semi-structured interviews with student leaders on campus and more than 500 student, faculty and staff surveys. My research suggests that cultural background and gender impact the way commuters conceptualize the immediacy of climate change in time and space, and following, how commuters prioritize and actualize environmental knowledge and ethics.
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    Environmental Policy and its Degradation by Conflicting National Goals
    (1979) Bartlett, Sara E.; Greenberg, Sanford N., 1952-; Boyer, Clell C.
    The focus of this discussion will be the environmental movement -- its rise as a national issue, the legislation enacting its goals, the regulation of its polluters, and the degradation of its importance as a national issue with the rise of the energy and inflation as national concerns.
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