Storms Sweep through the Southern Plains

ENVIRONMENT Storms battered the Southern Plains, as far east as Florida and as far south as Mexico, resulting in deadly floods, a rush of tornadoes, and gale-force winds. (CNN) Use our activity to create your own weather map, and take a look at our own with today’s MapMaker Interactive map. Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit. Discussion Ideas … Continue reading Storms Sweep through the Southern Plains

Ebola in America

HEALTH A Liberian man is the first person to be diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus on US soil. So how did he arrive undetected and what are the risks to Americans? (BBC) Use our resources to understand how maps can be used as tools to help solve problems. Discussion Ideas Read through our excellent activity “Mapping A London Epidemic.” Adapt its themes to apply … Continue reading Ebola in America

Outdoor Nation: A Movement for a Generation

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to the great city of Austin, Texas for a weekend of collaboration, inspiration, and most of all, fun.  What brought me there?  The groundbreaking new conference series, Outdoor Nation. This series of nine summits throughout the summer and fall of 2012 brings youth from throughout the country together to identify outdoor issues, overcome barriers to outdoor participation, and propose projects to increase youth engagement in their outdoors.
Following an early morning flight out of DC, I arrived at the University of Texas campus just in time to participate in a great service project with the Student Conservation Association.   Fifteen volunteers and one hour of hard work in the Texas heat, and we had picked up over forty pounds of trash and five pounds of recycled goods from Waller Creek, running through the heart of the UT Austin campus. We were rewarded for our hard work with a delicious lunch at UT’s Jester Center Dining, where we met with the director of campus housing and dining, who spoke with us about the university’s sustainability initiatives.  One fun fact from the conversation: by eliminating food trays in dining halls, the University of Texas was able to reduce its food waste by 48%, from 112 tons/year to approximately 48 tons/year. What a great example of an exercise in both sustainability and food economics!
Following an evening of exploration in Austin, including stops at the Blanton Museum of Art and the Texas State Capitol, I was up bright and early to participate in my first ever Outdoor Nation Signature Summit. Arriving at UT’s Thompson Conference Center, I joined 160 eager young adults (ages 16-28) for a welcome breakfast and an engaging discussion on the rights and responsibilities of our generation in relation to our great outdoors.  
Video courtesy of Outdoor Nation.
Throughout the morning, we were kept engaged with challenging quizzes, photo contests, and democratic decision making, all run by our technologically-savvy facilitator, Chris Bui.  Chris is a Social and Civic Entrepreneur, whose primary work area is in fostering democratic movements to solve modern challenges.  Thanks to the Outdoor Nation team for bringing in such an engaging leader for our summit!  

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Ike Moves up the Pike

Left: Due to its wide geographic expanse, Hurricane Ike created a huge storm surge that inflicted major damage on the barrier island of Galveston, Texas.

It was a rough weekend for the Gulf Coast and the United States economy as Hurricane Ike reached
the shores of Texas
early Saturday morning. Ike, a Category
II hurricane, caused havoc in the Houston area, shutting down airports and oil
refineries that play integral roles in our nation’s economy. Ike claimed 100
lives, including 30 Americans, and spurred 2,000 rescue attempts, reinstating
the apprehension of hurricane season for the American people.

As Ike, now a tropical depression, moves north (track
its status on this page)
, the full impact of the storm becomes
apparent. Resources have been pulled
nationwide for residents in 29 Texas counties declared “disaster areas.” Over
7,000 National Guard troops have been mobilized, as well as countless Red Cross
volunteers to staff 20,000 shelter facilities. Over two million Texas residents fled the
area into surrounding states, and the 140,000 who refused to evacuate are living
in water-logged homes. Experts estimate
clean-up efforts will range upwards of 10 billion dollars, which would make Ike
the third-costliest storm in history.

That 10 billion dollars doesn’t account for the extraneous
costs the nation’s economy will endure. Gas-prices have risen overnight because 14 oil refineries are
inoperable. (See how gas prices have fluctuated nationally with this “Gas
Temperature” Map
.) Major
Huston airports such as George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby resumed limited
service today, but the total dollar-amount lost through flight-cancellations
and reschedules is still undetermined.

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Wind Power: It’s the Way of the Future, Y’all

As a Houstonian whose
father works in the oil industry (oil reservoir management to be exact), I
found this issue surprising, compelling, and extremely relevant even to those
who live outside the Lone Star State…


Texas may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of alternative energy. Rather, it’s probably the state most
associated with oil production and consumption (e.g. “Texas T” from The Beverly Hillbillies). “Black gold” certainly plays a strong role in
Texas’ economy and history (it has been the
top oil producing state since the 1920s), but the Lone Star State is also gaining a reputation as a
leader in alternative energy. Texas is investing in wind
resources more than any other state, having just committed $4.93 billion to new
transmission projects
. Nationwide, only 1 percent of electric power is
generated by wind sources. By 2030, experts
estimate that figure could jump to 20 percent if other states follow Texas’ lead.


Wind energy can be captured by wind turbines like these in Missouri
Photo courtesy of
Popular Science

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