Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weekend Motie News Linkspam: Happy Earth Month from Michigan State University

April2011BadgeMichigan Stand Up and Fight

April Fools is over, and so is focusing on "business as usual." It's time to return to what this blog is about, which is fighting off or surviving collapse.

Since it's Saturday, it's the day when I survey scientific, environmental, and economic research news from the local universities. This week, Michigan State University receives top billing, as they have a plethora of environmenal news.

Top Story

MSU kicks off Earth Month with weekly ‘Dim Down’

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University will kick off Earth Month festivities this Friday, April 1, with the annual Dim Down program.

Sponsored by the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, the program is designed to encourage faculty, staff and students to engage in collaborative energy conservation.

Faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to participate in voluntary energy conservation each Friday from noon to 1 p.m. throughout the month of April by turning off lights, computer monitors, speakers and other nonessential items.
“The Dim Down program has very successful in the past several years at MSU,” said Ashley Hale, senior communication undergraduate and founder of the Dim Down Program. “In 2009, Dim Down events equated to a 3 percent decrease in overall energy usage on campus.”
That's not much, but it's better than nothing.

Each week an event will be hosted by the Office of Campus Sustainability to encourage participation and facilitate discussion on environmental issues.
Oh, cool. What's on the agenda?

*April 1: Turning Trash into Treasure — A crafting activity designed to help participants learn how to reuse household materials and reduce land-filled waste. The event will take place from noon to 1 pm. in the Union lobby. Craft materials will be provided.
Darn, missed it--and it looks like it would have been fun, too.

What else?

*April 8: Sustainability Research Symposium — Research conducted at MSU with a focus on sustainability will be presented in Wonders Hall Kiva from noon to 2 p.m.

*April 15: State of the State Energy Discussion — Learn more about statewide energy policy, MSU’s Energy Transition Planning Process and energy efficiency at home from noon to 1 p.m. in Wonders Hall Kiva.

*April 22: Take-a-Tour — Stop by the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center from 12-1 and take a tour of the facility which has earned LEED gold certification.

*April 29: Dim Down Walk — Celebrate a month of energy conservation and enjoy the sunshine. The walk starts at noon in front of the Hannah Administration Building.
Fridays look like good clean green fun at MSU.


Book promotes sustainable fisheries

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Few concepts seem more limitless than the idea of all the fish in the ocean – a comforting assumption that is both false and dangerous, says a new book.

Sustainable Fisheries: Multi-Level Approaches to a Global Problem presents many approaches to the issue of unsustainable fisheries, provides potential solutions and is a call to action for a conference on global sustainable fisheries, said Abigail Lynch, University Distinguished Fellow, doctoral student in fisheries and one of the book’s editors.

“We see this as a lightning rod – a way to give vital information to policymakers and bring an important issue to the forefront,” said Lynch, who worked on the book with a number of people from MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability.

This book discusses the importance of fisheries from a global perspective, describes current fisheries failings and provides recommendations for more sustainable practices such as food and livelihood security, ecosystem-based and community-based management, governance reforms, reduced capacity and accountability.
You can buy the book by clicking on the link in the book's title.

The way to (kill) a bug’s heart is through its stomach

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A study at Michigan State University has revealed a potential new way for plants to fend off pests – starvation.

Gregg Howe, biochemistry and molecular biology professor, cites that this defense mechanism is just one example of a veritable evolutionary arms race between plants and herbivores.

Howe, in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers insights to understanding the chemical weaponry of this war, which could lead to new approaches to protect crops.

All plants produce the enzyme threonine deaminase, or TD1. Howe’s research focused on potato and tomato plants, which also have the ability to produce a closely related enzyme TD2 when attacked by caterpillars. Rather than repel caterpillars, however, TD2’s devastating effects come later – in the pests’ stomachs. TD2 goes to work in the gut of caterpillars to degrade threonine, a key nutrient they need to grow. In essence, the plant actively starves the caterpillar.
This looks like it could be another Baccilus thuringensis toxin. The gene for that toxin has been spliced into corn, cotton, and soybeans. It kills pests, but it also is spread in pollen. It's still less dangerous than spraying conventional chemical insecticides.


Steering committee to guide MSU energy transition

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A steering committee composed of 24 Michigan State University faculty, staff, administrators and students will help guide the university as it transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Members have critical knowledge in engineering, economics, health, conservation and behavior. The group will create draft goals and strategies for public feedback and external review.
The formation of the committee is just the latest step in MSU’s energy-transition process. For more than a year, MSU has been engaging in an energy-transitioning process. Staff and administrators have collected data, created educational and financial models and commissioned a study to evaluate energy infrastructure.

The committee is scheduled to submit the transition plan to the MSU Board of Trustees in early winter 2012.
I told you MSU was pretty progressive. I'm glad to see they're preparting for a renewable energy future.

MSU prof calls for carbon labeling of consumer goods

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Labeling products with information on the size of the carbon footprint they leave behind could help both consumers and manufacturers make better, environmentally friendly choices.

A Michigan State University professor and colleagues, writing in the April issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, said that labeling products, much like food products contain labels with nutritional information, could offer at least a short-term solution.

“Even modest changes in the household sector could significantly reduce emissions,” wrote Thomas Dietz, a professor of sociology who also is with MSU’s Environmental Science and Policy Program. “A carbon-labeling program could reduce carbon emissions in two ways: By influencing consumer choices and by encouraging firms to identify efficiencies throughout the supply chain.”

Recent surveys, Dietz said, have found that nearly one-third of all consumers are willing to purchase “green” products or have already done so. The problem, he said, is a lack of information.
This hasn't been done before? Really? In any event, this looks like an idea whose time has come.


New partnership to bolster Michigan exports

EAST LANSING, Mich. — From mom-and-pop shops to fledging factories to corporate hubs, small- and medium-size Michigan businesses can now better compete in the global marketplace, thanks to a recent partnership between Michigan State University’s International Business Center and the United States Commercial Service.

It is the state’s first partnership between the federal agency and a major public institution to foster economic development. The U.S. Commercial Service is the export promotion arm of the U.S. Commerce Department.

“Exporting is important for Michigan because by and large we’re a manufacturing state, which means we have a lot of good products that we haven’t taken advantage of internationally,” said Tomas Hult, director of the International Business Center.

Under the new agreement, the MSU center will conduct pro bono market research and analysis for companies wanting to go global, while the U.S. Commercial Service will provide international networking and support, also pro bono, Hult said.
This will help Michigan out of its current slump, but how long will the energy and money last to maintain a global export economy?

Wayne State University: Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index hits post-recession peak in March at 71.8

The Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) soared to 71.8 in March, a post-recession peak for the economic activity indicator. The Southeast Michigan PMI has exceeded 50 for 14 consecutive months, signaling a strong economic recovery. An index above 50 indicates economic expansion. The higher the score is above 50, the faster the growth rate. PMIs are leading indicators, often forecasting what is to come before the economy changes.

Each month, faculty from the School of Business Administration at Wayne State University and leaders from the Southeast Michigan chapter of the Institute for Supply Management survey metro Detroit's purchasing managers, examining factors such as production, new orders, inventories of raw materials and finished goods, employment, vendor deliveries and commodity prices.

"Production, new order activity and employment were up by over 10 points in March, all pointing to a continuation of economic growth," said Nitin Paranjpe, an economist and supply chain faculty member at Wayne State's business school who analyzed the survey data.

Employment continues to show strong expansion with a March Index of 70 indicating that the expansion is finally generating a sustained recovery in jobs.
Yes, things are getting better here, but we'll see how long it lasts. After all, it is still April Fools day from Chicago west to the International Date Line.

University of Michigan: Transforming transportation, revitalizing Michigan communities

Business and labor leaders, policymakers, innovators and research scholars from around the world will convene at the inaugural "Transforming Transportation: Economies and Communities" summit to advance knowledge, systems and solutions that can transform the future of transportation and revitalize economies and communities in Michigan and beyond.

The program will combine high-level plenary sessions with focused, collaborative working sessions, an open poster session, many opportunities for sharing work, and local, social and cultural visits in Detroit.

Discussions will focus on the future of transportation and its instrumental role in the revitalization of economies and communities, as well as on strategies for implementing innovative solutions and systems at the intersection of technology, livability, labor, supply chain, economic and environmental sustainability, social equity, and public policy.

Working sessions will address a number of innovation strands, including sustainability, climate change, energy efficiency, and the future of transportation; logistics and supply chain management into the future; safety and national security—moving people and goods in resilient communities; the emerging new-mobility industry; and jobs and skills for the next generation of transportation, among others.
The summit will be held April 7-9 at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. For more information, see the event's website. And, yes, it's good to see people plan for a more sustainable future.

That's it for this week's edition from Michigan's research universities.

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