Tag Archives: Nature

Eco-journalist presents at Whatcom

By: Lynette Martinez

In a recent presentation on how people are capitalizing on climate change, environmentalist McKenzie Funk said engineers in Israel use a salinization machine to convert sea water into clean drinking water. Photo courtesy of Mckenzie Funk.
In a recent presentation on how people are capitalizing on climate change, environmentalist McKenzie Funk said engineers in Israel use a salinization machine to convert sea water into clean drinking water. Photo courtesy of Mckenzie Funk.

McKenzie Funk, environmental journalist and author of the book “Windfall,” gave a presentation at Whatcom Community College May 7 and discussed how people are adapting to and capitalizing on climate change.

“When I got back from the Arctic, it wasn’t, ‘Is climate change real,’ or ‘Does climate change exist?’ Climate change is very much real and very much exists,” said Funk.

The event, called “How the World is Preparing to Warm (and some are preparing to get rich in the process) started at 5:30 p.m. in Heiner Theater and was hosted by Whatcom’s Sustainability Club.

Sustainability Club Advisor Courtenay Chadwell-Gatz saw Funk speak last fall at Village Books in Fairhaven and thought his presentation would benefit Whatcom students, she said.

“A few club members recently talked with some students wh o still don’t believe climate change exists,” she added, which was part of the reason she invited him to speak on campus.

Chadwell-Gatz also said that her co-advisor for the club, Debra Lancaster, was recently “accused by a student for ‘pushing her agenda’ down his throat,” during a class discussion about environmental issues.

It is the Sustainability Club’s mission to educate the community about environmental issues and Funk’s

visual presentation helps in doing so, Chadwell-Gatz said.

“Fear-based approaches do not work well for proving climate change exists,” Funk said at his presentation, which was attended by a crowd of nearly 40.

Funk’s presentation included photos documenting his travels to 24 countries and 12 U.S. states, during which he observed how people are profiting off of climate change.

He said he observed three major results of climate change which people are capitalizing on most: Ice melt, drought, and deluge, which is a combination of sea levels rising and super storms.

Examples of these environmental issues, he said, that have an element of capitalism to them can be found in several countries.

In Greenland, ice is melting so much that land is being exposed and new mineral deposits are being discovered. Drilling for those minerals is how Greenland made enough money to declare independence from Denmark, Funk said.

“It’s really hard to find anyone in Greenland that doesn’t like climate change,” Funk said.

In South Sudan, where there has been major drought, land is being sold to other countries as farm land.

“A New York hedge fund manager struck a deal with the son of a South Sudan warlord to buy a chunk of land the size Delaware, where crops would be grown and shipped back to the U.S.,” Funk said.

Another example Funk used is that in Israel there is a desalinization machine that takes sea water and cleans it to make it available for human consumption. Ice melt causes increases in sea levels, thus more sea water is available to desalinize.

“The only downfall to running a machine like this is the amount of energy it consumes,” said Funk.

Funk emphasized that his work was not aimed at determining whether capitalizing on climate change is right or wrong, but towards determining ways in which it occurs.

“I wanted to tell a story that no one else has heard,” Funk said.

Whatcom student Taushia Saurel, 36, who attended the event said, “I am surprised to hear that companies have turned climate change into such a big business. Instead of capitalizing on climate change they should be investing money to prevent it.”

To further educate the community about environmental issues Whatcom’s Sustainability Club has been presenting a film festival for the last three weeks featuring documentaries discussing different environmental issues. Films are free and open to the public. The two remaining films are “Sun Come Up” which shows on May 14, and “Rooted Lands” which shows on May 21. Films will be showing in Syre Student Center room 105 at 11:30 a.m.

Nationally recognized environmentalist Bill McKibben will also be coming to Whatcom to speak on the Chuckanut Radio Hour May 16 at 5:30 in Heiner Theater.

“We are such a small campus in the middle of nowhere, so when we can get nationally recognized speakers to come to our campus, it’s a crime not to go hear them speak,” said Chadwell-Gatz, who encourages students, and the community to attend these events and get informed.

“Funk’s work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek, and The New York Times, according to a biography on his website.

The biography also said that Funk “won the Oakes Prize for Environmental Journalism for his story about the melting artic and was a finalist for the Livingston award for Young Journalists for his interview in Tajikistan with one of the first prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay.”



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Off the beaten path: Whatcom offers hiking and tai chi classes

Photo by Max Singer. Whatcom's introduction to hiking courses, held during spring, fall, and summer quarter, allows students the oppertunity to gain hiking experience and learn the basics of planning a hiking trip.
Photo by Max Singer. Whatcom’s introduction to hiking courses, held during spring, fall, and summer quarter, allows students the oppertunity to gain hiking experience and learn the basics of planning a hiking trip.


By: Max Singer

Community College offers several physical education courses that differ from typical P.E. classes, including tai chi, hiking and yoga. These courses provide students the opportunity to learn about interesting forms of physical activity that they are less likely to have encountered before.

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art used for both defensive training and its health benefits.

“Tai chi is choreographed movements in a set routine,” said Paul Mulholland, a physical education instructor at Whatcom who teaches the tai chi class. The different forms of tai chi are usually practiced in slow and deliberate movements. “It has moves and is considered a ‘soft-style’ martial art like Aikido,” he said.

When students learn how to do tai chi, they “learn movement in a new way, and [learn] to move in a different way,” which can be applied to other sports and physical activities, Mulholland said.

“It’s something new in terms of physical development.” Mulholland said he has 25 years of experience in tai chi and is trained in all four major styles.

The four major styles are Chen, Yang, Wu and Sun. Each form focuses on specific aspects of movement, such as quickness or attention to form, Mulholland said.

“I teach this particular system of Yang style because it’s in the middle for complexity,” he said, adding that most people begin with Yang style.

“I tell my students to practice at home, and incorporate tai chi principles such as coordination and breathing into other aspects of their life,” he said.

Mulholland said he helps motivate students by describing the more intricate parts of the movement and giving verbal encouragement, and he helps the class maintain an appropriate pace. He added that while does not utilize music in his class, music can help one relax when doing tai chi.

Mulholland is teaching his last tai chi class this quarter, but said he is excited for the renovations completed on the Pavilion Gym as it will provide more space for physical education activities.

In public high schools, physical education classes fluctuate between mandatory and elective, and many colleges and universities including Whatcom do not require it at all.

Whatcom teacher Bernie Dougan has been leading Whatcom students on hiking expeditions to Bellingham’s various scenic destinations for the past decade as part of his introduction to hiking course.

“It’s all about experiencing a new way of combining physical activity and the outdoors in a natural setting,” he said.

Dougan teaches the class every spring, fall and summer quarter and said it usually has around 11 students in it. He said he strongly encourages students to be “comfortable with continuous strenuous activity” before joining the class.

Dougan said the bulk of the hiking takes place on the weekends. “These hikes usually occur on Friday or Saturday and often take three to four hours,” he said. This quarter, three hikes are scheduled for April 25, May 10, and June 7.

During the course, Dougan said the students will learn how to become prepared for hiking, the basics of trip planning, and how to properly use a map.

Dougan said he will be taking the students to several locations including the Stimpson Nature Reserve near Sudden Valley, Lake Ann near Mt. Shuksan, and the Chain of Lakes Trail at Mt. Baker. The Stimpson Family Nature Reserve is a destination that features many 400-year-old Douglas fir trees scattered throughout the trail.

Transportation to the hiking destinations is covered by the college and the other recommended equipment for the class is appropriate footwear, Dougan said. In particular safe hiking shoes that provide traction and comfort are considered vital, he added.

The students are assessed based on the number of hikes they complete with a minimum requirement of a trail five miles long with steep hills included, Dougan said. When the class hikes, they hike as a group unit; “Keeping track of the person behind you is key, and the last person in line has the responsibility to make sure no one is trailing,” he said.

Dougan said he finds the hikes themselves the most enjoyable. The course routes change depending on the season, he said. “Spring time stays the same, though in other months I try to take the students to the Cascades. To me, I teach it because I hike all the time,” he said. There is a new trail called the Rock Trail on Chuckanut Drive which Dougan said he hopes to take students on in the future.

On the hikes themselves, Dougan stresses safety and said he tries to avoid leg sprains. “Try to not get overwhelmed by the physical demand,” he said. Weather can affect the terrain and has been a concern in the past. “I would cancel the hikes if it was raining really heavily. More often I’ve had to shorten hikes because of the rain,” he said. Temperature is generally is not an issue during the treks however.

The class is a good way to introduce students to different hiking locations, he said. Some students get hooked and want to do it more, which is good because “I always encourage students to meet up and hike outside of class,” he said.




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