Monday, December 31, 2012

An Energy Nerd's Reflection

Hello Stews,

As the year ends, I have realized the great impact River Stewards has had upon my experiences in my collegiate career.  I have a much greater appreciation for the city of Dayton, the great water resources available and how the city utilizes its resources.   I have also learned a great deal about sustainability through River Stewards and joining Sustainability Club on campus. 

One part of sustainability that has really caught my interest is in energy.  I am currently studying to be an electrical engineer and co-op at an energy company, Duke Energy.  During the River Steward summer orientation, I made a joke, to Leslie’s disliking, that I work for a company that pollutes our air and water, and I felt like I needed to balance that out with something that protects our environment.  Although this was meant as a joke, it is not a joke that energy production is a large contributor to pollution today.  However, being an employee of a large energy company has given me a unique perspective on sustainable energy and what is being done to make our energy as clean as possible.

A hot topic in clean energy is renewable energy.  In the United States, this clean energy has received a large push by many people and governments to become a more prominent way for our energy to be produced.  I am all for renewable energy, but there are many issues with it for energy companies who would be the ones most using this new means of energy production.  For example, many wind farms have been built across the USA.  A major problem with wind farms is that large energy companies lose money by allowing the windmills to produce energy.  However, the government gives companies money for producing wind energy to cover the costs. With the shape our government is in now, I am not sure how much longer this subsidizing will last.  There are many advancements in renewable energy that need to be made in order for this to be a main producer of energy for our nation, but I am optimistic for these future advancements.

In the Midwest, against our liking, coal is a main source of energy because of its availability, price, and efficiency.  To our liking, the government has put many environmental regulations on the production of coal that is causing many coal plants to be shut down because they cannot meet these regulations. Because of the regulations, there are many investments being made by energy companies to make our energy cleaner.  Many coal power plants have scrubbers installed that remove about 95% of sulfur oxide from the smoke from coal.

Energy companies, including Duke Energy, are also investing in a new way of burning coal through an Integrated Gasification Combine Cycle (IGCC).  This process turns coal into a gas so harmful chemicals can be removed from the coal before it is burned.

Although it would be ideal to stop burning coal all together, the reality is this is not economically possible based on demand and profit.  Next week I will begin my second co-op term with Duke Energy and am very excited to see other steps that can be done with our energy companies to better protect our environment.  My experiences as a River Steward have allowed me to make connections from my job to the effects on the environment and I am excited to continue to learn and apply more as a River Steward.

Drew Bolubasz – 2015 Cohort

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In an attempt to connect my experience as a River Steward and a member of the Rescue Squad, I decided to volunteer at the Emergency Medical Services department (Station 22, Huber Heights) and Miami Valley Hospital (MVH). Coincidentally, I happened to be a part of the rescue team for a woman who crashed into the Great Miami River on the first night of November, 2012*. As our crew arrived on scene, we were informed that the patient was trapped in her car, submerged in the river up to her waist level for approximately 25 minutes. The patient was extricated and secured on the stretcher, which was loaded onto the back of our ambulance. Unaware of the river's presence, the patient had turned towards its side to avoid collisions as she lost control of her vehicle, as stated by the patient en route to the hospital. Due to this accident, the patient was severely hypothermic, and all of her wet clothing but the top underwear was completely cut and removed in order to restore her body temperature. The patient pleaded with us not to cut her brassiere because she would not be able to afford a new one. She then asked us to pack all of her torn clothes, so she could mend and wear them again if possible. It still makes me sad thinking about how unfortunate it is for anyone to have to worry about his or her clothes while in a situation that could result in death. Indeed, this incident was a direct reminder of the poverty level in our region. When I volunteered in the Emergency Department of MVH, for instance, I interviewed a homeless man who asked the hospital staff to assist his suicide. (Both of these patients survived, as far as I know.) Yet I am grateful that these service opportunities have opened my eyes to people who are in need, and led me to think about my own role in society. With the strong support from the Rivers Institute and the Fitz Center, I feel that River Stewards could achieve almost anything to make the difference we want to make, and am extremely excited to see what we will bring to our community by helping those that are in need.  

*This story was covered in local ABC news, but attaching the link would be a violation of patient privacy.

Hailey Kwon
2015 Cohort

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2014 Cohort's Cap Stone Rocks!

Alas! Winter break is here! We can be with our families and old friends. No classes, no homework, no exams. We're done! Well kinda...

You see, the River Steward's 2014 cohort has been hard at work all semester and especially these last several weeks, and in order to keep the momentum in our favor, we've several task to accomplish over break.

For those of you who may not know what we've in mind for our cap stone project let me give you a brief description of what we are envisioning. Our idea is a digital and interactive kiosk. A kiosk that will highlight and provide enticing descriptions of Dayton's best outdoor destinations, especially those along the river. The idea was inspired by our desire to share some of our favorite spots with the rest of the UD community. Thanks to the 2012 cohort, UD has the ability to reach many of these destinations by bike...if only they knew where the destinations were. That is where we come in. The aim of the kiosk is to point a very enthusiastic UD body in the right direction(s). Simple enough.

So far, we've only a rough layout of where we want to go with this and how we think we want to get there. Our next steps are to find community partners, solidify the kiosk design, drum up the conversation with UD, and simultaneously draft a formal proposal. There is much work to be done, however, we're both confident and excited about moving forward, especially now that we officially have the support and approval from Leslie King and Dick Ferguson. Our progress so far can only be attributed to a wonderful coordinator (shout out to Leslie!) and an amazing cohort.

Many good things to come!

Alexander Gaskins