Presidential campaigns, lyme disease, marijuana legalization and food systems
- By Brianna M. Fay
Today's presidential campaigns are fueled by viral videos, online journalism, and social media - ten years ago this was a new phenomenon. Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics by Vermonters' Thomas Streeter and Zephyr Teachout examines former Vermont governor Howard Dean's 2004 presidential race and his team's use of the internet to mobilize the campaign.
Over the years, the Vermont legislature and the Agency of Transportation have strived to fairly fund town-level transportation projects. A team of researchers at UVM (David Novak, Asim Zia, Chris Koliba, and Matt Tucker) tested a new decision-making process designed to increase transparency, foster objective evaluation criteria, and increase geographical equity in the allocation of transportation funds across the state. The researchers found the process they developed succeeded on objectives 1 and 2 but not on objective 3. The study can be found here.
Can food systems be used as a framework to teach about diversity and white privilege? UVM agricultural anthropologist, Jason Parker, says yes. Parker's recent research on the use of diversity training at land-grant universities examines the role that a systems thinking perspective and the universal language of food can be utilized to emphasize interconnections among people.
With the debate over legalizing marijuana heating up in the Vermont Legislature, the Castleton Polling Institute surveyed Vermonters. Of those polled, 56% support the legalization of marijuana, while 34% oppose it, and 10% were not sure/had no opinion. Regardless of whether respondents supported legalization, when asked about the likelihood of Vermont passing legislation legalizing marijuana, 33% said it was unlikely and 8% were not sure/had no opinion, while 59% believed legalization was very likely in 2016.
Environment and Energy
Vermont's Public Service Department released the state's final Comprehensive Energy Plan this month. The plan reaffirms Vermont's pledge to meet 90% of energy needs through renewable sources by the year 2050 utilizing a series of policy mechanisms including regional collaborations and cap-and-trade style mechanisms.
As the Vermont landscape and environment continue to change, so do the effects on the animals that live here. Researchers at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (Rosalind Renfrew, John Lloyd, Christopher Rimmer, Steven Faccio, Kent McFarland, Bryan Pfeiffer) and The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (Judith Scarl) examined the past, present, and future of Vermont's bird population. Habitat loss is the principle cause of most, if not all, recent extinctions among North American bird species the authors write in Bird Conservation in Vermont -- a chapter in The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Vermont.
Lyme disease in Vermont is the subject of recent research by Bill Landesman, a professor of biology at Green Mountain College. Considering the Center for Disease Control's data showing Vermont to have the second highest incidence of Lyme disease cases in 2014, and Lyndon State College researcher, Alan Giese's 2014 study Distribution of Ticks and Prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, the need for research in this area is great. In May of 2014, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill into law that aims at giving doctors more freedom in treating long-term symptoms of tick-borne illnesses. See WCAX's video interview with Landesman for more information.
Winter Ready by Vermont native, Leland Kinsey, is a collection of poems about the landscape of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The book was a finalist in the running for the 2014 Vermont Book Award. Vermonter Howard Frank Mosher, author of Stranger in the Kingdom, calls Winter Ready "a chronicle, in poems, of the preparations for winter in the Northeast Kingdom, of a contemporary, rural narrator inextricably connected to the Kingdom, his family past and present, and the natural world."
Although efforts to manage U.S. water quality has been proceeding for decades, over half of assessed waterbody units were threatened or damaged for use in recent assessments, says a 2016 thesis study by UVM graduate student, Joel Nipper. The paper titled, Measurement and modeling of stormwater from small suburban watersheds in Vermont, names urban runoff as the leading contributor to impairments and examines urban runoff dynamics.