Today Sierra magazine released its seventh annual ranking of the nation’s “Coolest Schools,” a salute to U.S. colleges that are helping to solve climate problems and making significant efforts to operate sustainably.
Sierra examined the academic institutions making a difference for the planet, seeking out campuses that are creating tangible change in all categories of greenness—from what’s served in dining halls to what’s taught in lecture halls to what’s powering the dorms. Whether it’s Cornell’s minor in climate change or American University’s new campus-wide composting program, schools across America are taking dramatic steps to help protect the planet and its resources.
“For the past seven years, Sierra magazine has ranked colleges and universities on their commitment to fighting climate disruption and making sure the future their students will inhabit has safe water, clean air and beautiful landscapes,” said Bob Sipchen, Sierra magazine’s editor-in-chief. “By showing such strong leadership on so many fronts—from energy use and transportation to the courses they offer—the best of these schools are pointing the way for other institutions.”
Sierra magazine’s top 10 schools of 2013 are:
- University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
- Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA)
- University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
- University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
- Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
- Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
- Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
- American University (Washington, DC)
- University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)
The University of Connecticut, Sierra’s number-one school, stands out for offering more than 600 sustainability-related classes; for having reduced its water use by 15 percent since 2005; and for, over the past two years, having retrofitted 13 buildings to prevent emitting 2,640 annual tons of carbon dioxide. In addition, more than one-quarter of the food served in dining halls is processed within 100 miles, with many ingredients harvested right on campus. UConn’s first appearance on Sierra magazine’s “Coolest Schools” list was in 2010, at number 49.
In addition to featuring Sierra’s data-based rankings, the magazine’s September/October issue includes an array of stories that examine whether colleges’ sustainability efforts really make a difference when students graduate. Such pieces include Aha Moments, which profiles three people whose lives were forever changed for the greener because of a moment (or a person) in college and The Measure of an Education, by Pulitzer winner Edward Humes, in which readers learn how schools are starting to gauge whether steeping students in environmentalism truly does create a more sustainable world.
Exclusively online is a video made by the Sierra Club’s “Best Interns,” sent on assignment to document the behind-the-scenes goings on of the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a biannual contest during which students build futuristic solar-powered houses. Also available online is a list of the most coveted eco-scholarships, plus Sierra’s annual “20 Days of Giveaways” sweepstakes.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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