[Gordon Bauer, ERG graduate student]

The northern lights outside Barrow. Photo credit: Ori Chafe.

A few weeks ago, ERG Professor Margaret Torn sent a cryptic department-wide email inquiring if anyone would like to assist in ecological research in northern Alaska as part of the Next Generation Emerging Ecosystems – Arctic project. I thought for a few moments about how disruptive and inconvenient this would be: two days lost in transit, foregone work time with deadlines fast approaching, and evenings spent alone in an icy wasteland. Then I thought about opportunities that only come once in a lifetime, and impulsively sent out an emphatic yes. One thing led to another, and then suddenly I found myself in a taxi to the airport at 4am, bound for Barrow, Alaska on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

“The sea has given us so many gifts…it can have my body.” My main motivation for going to the Arctic was the physical place: I wanted to experience the icy landscape extending as far as the eye can see, the northern sun low in the sky, and the chance to see polar bears, arctic foxes, and the aurora borealis. I was not disappointed. On our second night in Barrow, we laid in a snowbank for over an hour with approximately 50 layers of clothing to protect against the polar wind, staring in awe as giant green ghosts danced across the sky. At one point an arctic fox scampered by, pausing to ponder what we were doing there. On the third day it snowed, and the Arctic Ocean turned into a giant slushie, the waves barely strong enough to break.

The work itself was a refreshing break from the office: every morning, we snowmobiled out to a field site in the tundra in the pre-dawn 10am light, dismantled frozen monitoring equipment for a few hours, and then transported it to a warehouse via sled as the sun set around 3pm. For the past five years, this equipment has been used to take incredibly detailed measurements of the arctic ecosystem and the evolving interactions between the ecosystem and climate. Among other things, an eddy flux tower measures carbon dioxide and methane released from the melting permafrost, while an elevated tram system measures changes in flora and energy balance along a 40-meter cross section. The monitoring station is dismantled for the winter every November, and set up again in the spring.

Ori Chafe (right) and Stan Wulschlegger take sensors off the eddy flux tower, as ERGie Richard Barnes (left) looks on.

Richard packs up equipment for the winter.

The daily commute.

Ori (left) and Richard enjoy some Arctic pumpkin pie.

However, what I found most fascinating and inspiring about Barrow was not the science nor the landscape, but the community itself. A hub of Inupiaq culture and one of the few places in North America with active whale hunting (bowhead whales serve as a crucial source of food for the community), Barrow feels at once foreign and utterly American. On our second night in Barrow, I drove into town with Richard Barnes—my ERG companion on the trip—to take in the sights. In many ways, Barrow looks like any other small American town, with a few key differences. The wooden homes are all on stilts to maintain stability during permafrost melt, and outside the mayor’s office on the main street sits a bowhead whale skull the size of a small car.

Richard admiring the lawn decoration outside the Barrow mayor’s office.

The Arctic Hotel in Barrow.

When Brussel sprouts are $6.99/lb, vegetarianism isn’t the most practical option.

“When someone says they support 'America first,' you have to wonder, does the America they are talking about include Barrow, Alaska?” Sadly, that arctic environment is changing rapidly, and it isn’t clear how much longer Barrow will continue to exist in its current location. As the sea ice melts earlier in the spring and takes longer to form in the fall, the waves have more time to erode the land. The flooding has become a serious problem. Already, residents have had to relocate some ancestral grave sites, and many fishing cabins outside of town have been swept away. Within the next 20 years, it is possible that all of Barrow will have to move. But in the face of inevitable destruction, we also saw signs of resilience. When we talked about the need to relocate graves, one woman we met said, “The sea has given us so many gifts…it can have my body.” She spoke with excitement about relocating to a village in the mountains.

My visit to Barrow was a strong reminder of the diversity of this crazy country we call home, and of the fragility of life at the frontier. When someone says they support “America first,” you have to wonder, does the America they are talking about include Barrow, Alaska? If so, supporting America first means supporting a diversity of cultures and world views. It means supporting not just a way of life associated with coal mining, but one associated with whaling, frozen tundra, and polar ice caps as well. Perhaps above all, supporting America first means doing all we can to stop climate change.


[compiled by Yoshika Crider and Emma Tome, ERG graduate students]

The Energy & Resources Group is by no means a homogenous space -- methodologically, ideologically, disciplinary -- but we are united by our commitment to asking and answering questions that are consequential to more than the academic world alone.

In recent months, politically-motivated events have impacted life at Berkeley, disrupting a place we call home. We asked ERGies how they engage with the world through or outside of the university, why, and to what ends. Here’s a brief glimpse into Life@ERG.

Starting a conversation

After the election in November 2016, the ERG space became a setting for many conversations about the difficult politics that affect our community, our work, and our daily lives. One of our department tea times became a brainstorm session for what we could do.

Raising money for causes we care about

“This is a picture of germinating Zinnia seeds in preparation for the sale, a variety called ‘Cut and Come Again.’ Seemed appropriate.”

“Several of us at ERG have been dismayed by the increasing "othering" and xenophobia that's been exacerbated and further legitimized in our current political climate. One of our small acts of resistance and peace in the face of all this was to grow lots of baby plants this spring, with the intention of donating all the profits to organizations working for social or environmental justice. On Mother's Day, we had a plant sale and bake sale in North Oakland, with hundreds of veggie and flower starts and a table full of cookies and brownies and other delicacies. We told everyone to pay whatever they wanted for the plants and baked goods -- honestly, just a day of community gathering to talk about gardening and eat tasty snacks together felt good. So it was a really nice surprise to see that we raised $1290 (!) at the sale, which we decided to donate to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. For me, the daily ritual of watching seeds germinate and unfurl, watering baby plants, and observing them grow was a good antidote to the the news, a meditation to keep grounded and a reminder to do the best I can, now.” (ERGie Sasha Harris-Lovett)

“This is the group of women in a group called ‘PMS - Post March Salon.’ We've been meeting monthly to discuss resistance activities, and we had our first fundraiser last month for a Democratic nominee in a flippable district in Southern California.” (ERGie Gauthami Penakalapati, pictured far right)

Volunteering our time

“I’m attaching a pic of the volunteer training day of Surf City Project. SCP takes undeserved youth in the surrounding area surfing, and shares values related to respect for the environment, healthy living, and personal growth.”

"I’m thankful for the times we are living in. I have taken a look at myself and how I live, and decided to keep changing. Where I put my money, what food I eat, how I spend my time, what I learn, how I share what I have, how I give to where I’m from and where I live. If Trump and his posse hadn’t won I would still be living in my old-fashioned ways. How would people living 30 years from now wish we had lived? What decisions do they wish we had made? Are we living in the past, or shaping the future? To keep going, one must stay ahead of the times." (ERGie Diego Ponce de Leon)

Attending marches and rallies
ERGie Noah Kittner at the Washington, D.C., March for Science

ERGies Peter Worley, Gordon Bauer, Yoshika Crider, Seigi Karasaki, Veronica Jacome, Sophie Major, Samira Siddique, and Emma Tome at the Bay Area Rally for Peace on August 27, 2017.

“After the first Milo Yiannopoulos protests in February, friends from opposite sides of the political spectrum made very different claims about what had happened, each narrative portraying a very different picture of the Berkeley community. Who punched who? How much property damage was really done, and by whom? I had my own thoughts and opinions, but ultimately I couldn't give any more of an objective account, because I hadn't been there, either. I was across the street at an ERG Chinese New Year celebration, and had been thinking of going to the protests after, but then some friends who had been there started coming in looking scared, and I decided to stay away. In late August, in response to yet another far-right rally planned for downtown Berkeley, a broad coalition of groups organized a rally called Berkeley Unites Against Hate. In the week leading up to the event, I got a flurry of  emails from administration at both UC Berkeley and  Lawrence Berkeley National Lab telling me to stay home. But this time, I knew I had to be there, if only so I could say definitively what happened.  As it turned out, the event was beautiful--bouncing music, inspiring speeches, and good friends smiling in the California sun. There were 7,000 peaceful protesters there, and together we made a strong statement about what Berkeley stands for. The headlines that day focused on the four people who were arrested when a fight broke out, but I know what the event was really about: solidarity, community, and resistance.” (ERGie Gordon Bauer)

The Bay Area Rally for Peace, August 27, 2017 (Photo by ERGie Gordon Bauer)

Women's March, January 21, 2017 (photo by ERGie Gauthami Penakalapati)


[Isa Ferrall and Laney Siegner, ERG Graduate Students]

As the rains fell generously on Northern California last winter, many local farmers eagerly anticipated the healthy plants and high yields sure to come in this year’s growing season. California’s water problems are far from solved (especially when it comes to groundwater levels that remain well below average in aquifers across the state), but the high soil water content produced lush green hillsides that just two years ago were golden brown from years of intense drought. This fall, with the harvests still coming in, the time is ripe to share in the bounty, support a local farmer, and join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation! Nothing keeps you in touch with the seasons better than local food; it’s time to get your squash and pumpkin flavors from a local farm instead of that pumpkin spice latte.

For the well-informed, data-driven ERG graduate student, the choices of which CSA to pick can be paralyzing. Which farm is the closest, does the most to reduce food waste, uses the most sustainable agro-ecological practices, or supports minority farmers? Which one is going to give me the right amount of veggies, ones that I know how to cook rather than random mystery vegetables I’ve never heard of?

These questions have hung in the ERG air for months, from conversations in the student kitchen to Isha’s Water Group dinner last winter. We’ve finally decided to put together a choice table to highlight the distinguishing features of several local CSAs, with the hope that it will help ERGies select their dream CSA. Because the question should not be whether or not you join a CSA, but rather which CSA works best for your life. Read on for inspiring sources of ingredients to use for your next eggplant parmesan, butternut squash soup, persimmon bread, or other delicious home-cooked meal.

Local CSAs

Distinguishing feature
How much food?
Pick up options
Home delivery

Capay Valley, north of Sac.

(*Laney gets this one, ask for more info!)
Certified organic, leader in restorative farming practices. Veggies, value added products and flowers
Good amount for 2 people (or dinner party), can pick up every week or every other
$19/box for 4 boxes; $16.50/box for yearlong payment (48 weeks)
Tons of options in Berkeley and Oakland, every day of the week, bring own bag to pick up
Yes (+ $7/week)

Mostly Oakland farmers, others from Central Valley (Stockton, Hollister, Merced)
(*delivered to ERG kitchen every other week)
Supports local minority-owned farms and Oakland high school students who run a Youth Pickle Co., proceeds go to free veggie vouchers for local clinic
Half-share is good for 2 people, lots of variety of fruits (citrus), veggies and herbs, can get every week or every other
$17 for half-share (plenty for 2 people), $34 for full share
Lots of options for pick up, sometimes at personal residences, Tuesdays and Saturdays, come in paper bags

Various sources, large family farms in CA

(*ask Julia and Isa for more info and up to $20 off your first box!)
Reduces food waste by selling foods that aren’t conventionally marketable in grocery stores (as the name implies)
Depends on your choice of box size, small organic produce box (recommended) good for 2 people
Organic mixed, regular mixed, all veggie and all fruit options;
$15-17 for small organic produce box
Yes, normally Saturday mornings($3/box)

Mendocino County
Horse- and solar-powered biodynamic farm
Veggies, fruits, flowers, grains and meat (varying amounts)
$43.45/week for full season (varies seasonally; contact farm for more info)
Delivered on Saturday mornings by local members

Brentwood CA (1 hr from Berkeley)
Legendary certified organic farm
All fruit CSA, plus dried fruit, honey, olive oil, eggs, etc.
$15.50-$73 (mini share to triple share), available weekly or biweekly
Pick up at many East Bay locations and farmer’s markets
Yes (mail order)
Sea Forager Seafood

SF Bay
Small scale fishermen using sustainable practices
Fillets, shellfish, and small whole fish; can select dinner for 2 or 4 people
$24-47 depending on amount
Pick up at The Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley, Fridays 3-7, weekly or biweekly
No (only in SF, $8 more)

Oakland, CA
Farm is planned, planted, harvested and sold by K-8 youth in Oakland

Farmstand sales (located in Tassafaronga Park)

Humboldt County family ranches
Meat CSA- beef and pork
You choose
$129/month, can get monthly or bi-monthly deliveries
Free home delivery in CA!

Marin/Pt. Reyes, CA
Sustainably raised meat; firm commitment to ecological livestock production
You choose- meat or poultry boxes
$70 (small box) - $212 (large box)
Home delivery to East Bay

The positive testimonies have been piling in from ERGies: CSAs help you cook more, eat healthier, consume sustainably… and they are real time-savers when it comes to reducing trips to the grocery store. Cost is variable and, in some cases, there is a premium for sourcing food sustainably (especially meat). We hope our table shows, however, that you can still find an option that will work for your budget.

If you don’t have the ability to commit to a weekly or bi-weekly CSA, or are still finding your match, fear not! There are many other ways to get your food from local farms in the meantime, starting with farmers’ markets. Below, we compile a list of the most accessible farmers’ markets from Berkeley. As with the CSAs, cost is variable, often with premiums for prime locations. But again, budget friendly options do exist. Whether or not you end up going home with more than you can carry, simply going is a fun way to connect with your local community.

Local Farmer's Markets

Farmer’s Market
North Berkeley
Shattuck and Rose, Berkeley
Th 3-7pm
Combination of food, art, crafts, and music
Saturday Downtown Berkeley
1931 Center St, Berkeley
Tu 2-6:30pm
Th 3-7pm
Sa 10am-3pm
Fun scene of vendors, art, music, families, and community
South Berkeley
Alcatraz and Adeline St, Berkeley
Tu 2-6:30 pm
Very accessible, accepts SNAP/EBT, great selection and diversity of vendors
5300 Claremont Ave, Oakland
Su 9am-1pm

SF Ferry Building
One Ferry Building #50, San Francisco
Tu 10-2pm
Th 10-2pm
Sa 8am-2pm
Lots of vendors, fun to take ferry to SF, waterfront views along Embarcadero, nice breakfast/lunch spot!
Lake Merritt / Oakland
Lake Park Ave, Oakland
Sa 9am-2pm
Beautiful setting for a farmer’s market!
SF Civic Center
United Nations Plaza, San Francisco
We 7am-5:30pm
Su 7am-5pm
Cheaper than Ferry Building, but more gritty
100 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco
Sa 6am-1pm
Very large wholesale market, need a car

Supporting local farms and gaining knowledge about where your food comes from is healthy for both people and planet. We have created these choice tables with a Berkeley home-base in mind, but we encourage you to apply these ethics wherever you call home to purchase your food sustainably, eat seasonally, and support your local economy.

Have fun and bon appetit!

Photos by Isa Ferrall and Laney Siegner.
The views expressed here belong solely to the authors of each entry and are not representative of the position of the Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley.


[Michelle Levinson, ERG Graduate Student]

Image Source: East Bay Times

This has been a terrifying year. Earthquakes, hurricanes, heat waves, and floods — the news sounds like a chapter from the Book of Revelation, or a scene from the dystopian future that Octavia Butler envisioned 25 years ago. We know that these traumas and calamities are experienced first and worst by those with the fewest resources and means for resilience, and this truth has played out in the varied impacts of storm flooding in HoustonPuerto Rico, and Bangladesh.

I have read articles and “reacted” to posts on social media; I have donated (grad-school-budget-sized amounts) to causes; I’ve traded updates and insights with family, friends, and random strangers. Yet while these disasters have caught my attention, I have primarily managed them on the rational side of my mind — acknowledging all of this loss, but also wondering what I would have for lunch and whether the 6-bus would be running on time. This is to say, the remote traumas of others stayed emotionally remote to me, and I think to many others as well.

Disaster elicited a very different and emotional reaction this week, after landing so much closer to home. On Sunday morning, I woke up to a string of texts among my family. My aunt and uncle had been evacuated from their home at 2 AM the night before. They awoke to a loud banging on the door and saw the hills above them glowing orange. Now they are with my family in Oakland, still waiting to learn the fate of their home. Many have not been so lucky.

This tragedy reaches deep into the ERG and Berkeley communities, though the fires rage two counties away. It is not just the immediate loss of life, home, and community that we mourn, but also the little things we take for granted. For me, this is my bicycle commute.

Wednesday morning I checked the air quality and decided that 73 AQI was good enough to ride my bike to school. Maybe I would go a bit more slowly than usual, but I had my inhaler in my backpack (as always) and was desperate for some exercise to release some of the stress of midterm season. After all, I make this ride multiple times a week and am in pretty good shape. On a normal day, I don’t even need to puff my inhaler before going on a jog.

But five minutes into my forty-minute ride, I knew something was wrong. There weren’t many other cyclists on the street, which was abnormal. I pedaled past an unusual number of babies and children waiting with their guardians to cross the street to the pediatrics unit of Kaiser Permanente. By the time I was two miles into my five-and-a-half-mile ride, I was very short of breath.

For me, an asthmatic episode comes on slowly, straining my breathing and then constricting my chest in the way you might feel right before you start to cry. Yet the instinct to take a deep breath to calm myself and reset leaves me even more scarce for air. In these moments, it is hard not to let your thoughts rush and fear mount, but nerves are far more hurtful than helpful. In fact, it is because my asthma is so well managed that I am unfamiliar with handling the symptoms when they do arise. I am privileged to always have had access to quality healthcare, but my experience is common among children that grew up in Oakland.

I would rather that experiences like this stay rare, but I am not deluded. The effects of climate change are projected to increase prevalence of asthma triggers, like longer pollination seasons and ground-level ozone. As this week’s tragic events in the North Bay attest, fires are another awful face of these threats, driven in part by climate change. Whether it is the asthma attack of a cyclist in Oakland or the tragedy of losing your home in Santa Rosa, the havoc of climate change has come home.

I am proud to be a member of the ERG community. We have the opportunity, and the obligation, to apply our training, knowledge, and skills to this great challenge whose consequences are known too well, both near and far. Today, we also urge you to consider volunteering or donating to support the communities in the North Bay, and throughout California, that have been ravaged by fire this October.

Thanks to Jesse Strecker for his thoughtful comments on an early draft of this post.
Note: The views expressed here belong solely to the author of each entry and are not representative of the position of the Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley.


[John Dees, ERG graduate student]

 ERGies at ERGworts (Photo by E. Panzer) 

On April 7, 2017, the 2016 cohort (Newbies!) hosted yet another fantastic annual ERG Talent Show. This year's show really raised the bar, as the young wizards of ERGworts honed their interdisciplinary powers to battle the evil Trumplestiltskin! Amidst the unfolding drama at ERGworts, our department put their full powers on display with live music, acro-yoga, and the return of the famous (from Baghdad to Delhi, via Agra) Bollywood Dance! Special thanks to our cheeky MCs, Emma and Phillippe, who set the tone with their dapper style and bow-ties.


[Christopher Hyun and Emma Tome] 

This is the email that all current ERGies received on election night.

Equity and Inclusion Rally on Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley (C. Hyun)

The students initiated an unanticipated ERG Town Hall the day after the presidential election in the department Reading Room. First-year graduate student, Emma Tome, wrote to all of us, eloquently expressing what many of us were thinking as that night progressed:
RE: Can we talk about this?
     Are we studying solutions to climate change and pressing environmental problems under an illusion of political inevitability?
     I'm writing before the returns come in because part of me hopes that the existence of political rationality is not yet completely foreclosed. But is it the assumption of rationality itself that has led us astray?
     Even if the non-climate change denying candidate manages to win, this remains a wake up call.
     I'm sure there are many think pieces underway that will far better explicate the phenomenon we are witnessing now.
     I'm here with many fellow students at Professor Harte's house. And in between checking competing returns on our phones we are puzzling over what our work in the department means.
     I will be the first to admit that I am new and naive to this work, it being my first term back in school. But this is also why I am asking for your collective guidance.
     Could we hold a town hall about the election in the coming weeks? It's not exactly about the election, but also the politics that underlie and motivate, implicitly or explicitly, the questions we might ask and the arguments we make, and dare I say, change we might achieve.
     Can we talk about this?
Immediately, the ERG community responded and organized a meeting with faculty, staff, students, post-docs, and visiting scholars the following day. We realized that we first needed to acknowledge what was going on in our community. We shared our histories, passions, realities, and concerns. We came out of this understanding that there is much to do within and outside of the scope of our individual academic work, within and outside of ERG, on and for both sides of this divided country. Our conversation still continues on day two and beyond via email, during ERG tea breaks, and butcher paper in the kitchen.

On butcher paper (C. Hyun)

The ERG executive committee of faculty, staff, and students has recognized the urgent need to reinforce and clarify ERG’s stance on inclusion and has put this preliminary affirmation on our homepage:
The mission of the Energy and Resources Group is education and research for a sustainable environment and a just society. ERG actively promotes intellectual, racial, ethnic, and gender inclusion; researches the impacts of equality and inequality; and celebrates diversity in our community.
The use of the word “inclusion” in this affirmation is purposive, so as to maintain space for those who are concerned about a sustainable environment and a just society but who may not often be perceived as a part of “diversity.”

This is in addition to the University of California’s official statement on the results of the presidential election by the UC president and chancellors:
In light of yesterday's election results, we know there is understandable consternation and uncertainty among members of the University of California community. The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  Diversity is central to our mission. We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance. As the Principles make clear, the University “strives to foster an environment in which all are included” and “all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore.” The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.
We are proud of what the University of California stands for and hope to convey that positive message to others in our state and nation.
Students, staff, professors, post-docs, visiting scholars taking the opportunity to meet during ERG tea (C. Hyun)

At ERG, we continue to meet and strategize during breaks and via email and Facebook. We encourage alumni, faculty affiliates, related programs across campus, California, and the US to reach out to us as well. We hope to have a stronger and more detailed statement ready in the near future and to keep the dialogue going.

In the meantime for more information, please contact an ERGie near you.

Note: The views expressed here belong solely to the author of each entry and are not representative of the position of the Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley. 
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