30 November 2012

A Place for Bioenergy 2

Wow. Where to begin. I've been participating in a "bioenergy workshop" at Michigan State and it's been a heady mix of physical/natural/social science. One thing that's clear to me is that risk/benefit perceptions surrounding advances in bioenergy (and energy in general) depend largely on place-based assumptions. Who do those risks/benefits affect, how do they play out (in the past, present, future) and why? There is a lot to unpack there. I know we (at this workshop) are not solving any grand problems. But we are moving dialogue forward, among this group anyway (an influential group at that).

Public opinion on bioE is still developing, which makes it ripe for study and influence both. As public awareness of bioE issues grow, risk perceptions change - even though actual risks remain relatively static. This makes it an area of technological innovation where social influence can be somewhat easily used; where media messages can have strong impacts; and where public, deliberative participation is all but essential for long-term sustainability.
Since I am typing this on an iPad which is not as convenient as a regular keyboard I'm going to keep this short. If you are on Twitter you can search #SMEP to see  how I have followed discussions throughout the day. More to come when I get back to a real keyboard. Until then, simply consider how much energy you use. It is largely invisible and embodied in the products we buy and the fuels we use but it is there, driving our First World lifestyles at the (often considerable) cost to others around the globe. Keep it in mind and conserve as if someone's life depended on it. Because it probably does.

27 November 2012

A Place for Bioenergy 1

Later this week I'll be participating in an academic workshop focused on sustainable bioenergy futures. Hosted by Michigan State University, the "Bioenergy Futures: Technical Feasibility Meets Social Sustainability” workshop is sponsored by the Sustainable Michigan Endowment Project and will feature a wide range of scholars from across North America. I appreciate that my department at UW recently posted a highlight on my involvement. Thanks, LSC!

Over the course of the workshop, from 11.29 through 12.01, I will be acting as a panelist on the "Norms, Communication, and Participation" panel led by David Secko. I plan on doing more listening and learning than anything else but it will be a great opportunity to take in so many points-of-view on this grand topic. As part of the program I will also be able to present some of my preliminary dissertation research findings. Yes, it will see the light of day! Whoa!  I'll post a mini-version of the poster here on The Topophilian sometime soon.

As the workshop progresses I will do my best to update or at least share some simple thoughts on how I see "place" as having a part in the developing realm of bioenergy in the US (and beyond). As usual, feel free to comment or share questions/thoughts and to follow me on twitter (@JTspartz) where I will be doing some degree of "live tweeting" the event (though not so much as to be a distraction...).

16 November 2012

Chicago, Wicked Good

Spending time in Chicago this weekend has me thinking of Carl Sandburg a lot.

The first lines of his 1914 poem "Chicago" are hard to forget: 

     Hog Butcher for the World,
     Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
     Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
     Stormy, husky, brawling,
     City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked...

But I don't believe it! The wicked part, I mean. I had a great time wandering around downtown along Michigan Avenue, State, Grand, Huron, Superior... Nice to get away and enjoy a little professional camaraderie (as part of the 2012 MAPOR conference, the reason for this trip).

A little something different does a lot of good, as usual.