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Sustainability Stories: November 2021

Different Approaches to Flood Mitigation

Monday, November 8, 2021  by qrelihan

   A recent news story caught my attention this week regarding a climate resiliency project being built in NYC. In fact, you may remember seeing news footage of flooded NYC subways and streets during Hurricane Ida. Well, the city of New York decided that the was the last straw and they had to do something to mitigate the effects of climate change. The city is constructing a system of seawalls and floodgates in the East River Park area to protect it from future flooding (Kaur 2021).  

   The goal of this project is to reduce the impact of storm surges in the future for the 110,000 residents that live there. However, New York City is not alone in this endeavor as coastal communities throughout the US either already have seawalls or are planning to construct them soon.  New York City is in the company of Jacksonville, FL, Virginia Beach, VA, Galveston, TX and Charleston, SC as cities that have proposed similar projects to reduce the impact of storm surge flooding (Dubb 2019).  

   Seawalls and floodgates are not the only solution being explored to mitigate the effects of flooding, in fact some cities in the US are embracing the Dutch concept of "working with flooding rather than fighting it".  The Dutch leave their coastline open, creating designated flood parks for the water to go.  This concept has inspired city planners in Boston, MA to consider alternative options to the originally proposed 4-mile seawall around Boston Harbor (Hunt 2018).  Now, Boston city planners are looking into creating flood parks that will divert water to designated areas rather than building a seawall.

   There is no one solution to flood mitigation, in fact what works in one city, may not work in another.  For instance, in a city such as NYC, there is a lot of infrastructure and not a whole lot of space available to build flood parks along the coast, making a seawall their best defense against flooding.  Whereas smaller coastal communities such as Gloucester, MA may have more space available along the coast to dedicate to flood parks. Some coastal communities may opt to build both flood parks and seawalls to best protect their communities from the impacts of flooding. The biggest takeaway from this is that coastal communities and cities have options when it comes to protecting themselves from floods.

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Is Daylight Savings Time Good For The Environment?

Monday, November 1, 2021  by qrelihan

   This coming weekend is Daylight Savings Time and most of us associate it with gaining an extra hour of sleep. However, studies have been done to see if setting back the clocks has any effect on the country’s electricity use. Since Daylight Savings Time has been around long before electricity, it can be difficult to know what electricity use would look like without Daylight Savings Time.  Over the years many have conducted research, trying to answer the question of whether it is a good thing for the environment.

   When Benjamin Franklin originally proposed the concept of Daylight Savings Time, part of his proposal was the fact that people could rely on sunlight for light and heat instead of burning candles and wood.  Thus, conserving resources and utilizing renewable resources such as sunlight, making it cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  Although this was true when Daylight Savings Time was first implemented, Benjamin Franklin did not consider the role that electricity and air conditioning could play.

    In fact, increased use of air conditioning to cool homes in warmer climates, during the long summer days is part of the reason many argue that Daylight Savings Time is not a good thing for the environment.  People can rely on sunlight to some degree for lighting and heating but in warmer climates they need relief from the sun as it can provide too much heat.  Despite this fact, Daylight Savings Time is still serving its original purpose of providing longer, brighter, and warmer days. 

   To settle the final score of whether Daylight Savings Time is beneficial to the environment, a nationwide study was conducted to see if it decreases overall energy use. In 2008, the Department of Energy found a “decrease in energy use of about 0.5 percent—doesn't sound like much, but that's enough to power a dishwasher in every single US house for more than a week straight”(Nosowitz, D., “Daylight Savings Time is Actually a Good Thing” 2020).  Therefore, while you will benefit from an extra hour of sleep this weekend, the environment will benefit from fewer fossil fuels being burned from energy production.

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