Wednesday, August 20, 2014

People's Climate March--Long Island Attendee Information

The route of the People's Climate March.  It will end around
34th Street.
In one month, delegates from around the world will gather in New York City to discuss climate change at the United Nations.  Coinciding with this event is the People's Climate March on Sunday, September 21st, which will be the largest march or rally on climate change to ever take place.  You can read about the march here.  

If you are on Long Island, the Sierra Club is offering reduced-rate tickets on the Long Island Railroad to get into NYC to take part in the march.  Due to the crowds that are expected, organizations are encouraged to take the train and avoid driving into the city in cars or chartered buses.  You can follow up with the news on this from the Sierra Club here.

I will be organizing students and faculty at Hofstra University to attend and will be posting that information soon on the Sustainability Studies Facebook page here.  

If any of my friends or family from outside of Long Island are coming into town for the march, let me know.  I have a some space and I am sure we can find space for sleeping somewhere on the island or the city if we fill up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The 1% on Mushy Ground in Florida

Check out this article from the Tampa Bay Times about the politics of sugar, wetlands, and payoffs.

Some of the vast sugar cane holdings in south Florida.
Sugar cane is heavily subsidized by the U.S.
government and is run by a handful of very wealthy
families.  Of course, politicians in Florida are saying
wetlands law meant to protect the environment hurts the
industry.  Click for photo credit.
As anyone who has spent any time in Florida knows, sugar is a big business in the state and it is controlled by a handful of families.  It relies heavily on guest workers to cut the sugar cane and it is very much supported by agricultural subsidies.  So, pardon my snickers this morning as I spit up a little coffee when I read the article that described politicians paid off by the sugar industry bemoaning the heavy hand of government in trying to protect wetlands of Florida and how regulating wetlands will cost jobs in the sugar industry.  I love how the article called those trying to protect wetlands "big government bullies" when the industry that is being protected by the politicians is heavily supported by big money from the government.  That's chutzpah.

The rate of wetlands loss in Florida has doubled since the 1970's.

Adam Putnam, Florida's Agricultural Commissioner, is quoted in the article as stating that anyone with mushy ground on their property would be regulated.  Here's the real story on this.  If you have mushy ground on your property, it should never have been developed in the first place.  You are living in a wetland.  Florida is home to thousands of acres of developed property that were once wetlands.  Unethical developers supported by similarly unethical land use policy, developed many areas of seasonally wet property that is normally wet during the summer rainy season.  These wetlands should never have been developed since they can flood during particularly wet seasons.  The developers put their buyers at risk of flooding and water-bourne illnesses when they developed and sold that land--not to even mention the ecological issues.

So in my mind, this is an excellent example of well-funded politicians doing the bidding of their industrial patrons in an industry that is heavily reliant on tax payer dollars for support.  In other words, the politicians are funded by your tax dollars to do things that hurt the vast majority of taxpayers.  This is a classic example of government for the 1%.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Writers Blog Tour

The Long Island Railroad portion of the Writers Blog Tour.
Click for photo credit.
I was tagged to be part of a Writers Blog Tour that is taking place all over the world.  The Blog Tour is sort of like the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in that a writer gets tagged and then tags three other writers.  The tour's purpose is to introduce the blogs of writers to a wider audience.  Each writer must respond to four questions:

1.  What are you working on?
2.  How does your work vary from others' work in the same genre?
3.  Why do you write what you do?
4.  How does your writing process work?

I was tagged by Lyn Millner who blogs at She is the founder of Gulf Coast University's Journalism program.  She is working on a book about Cyrus Teed and the Hollow Earth Cult that will be published by one of my publishers, the University of Florida Press.  You can read more about that in her Blog Tour Entry here.

Before I get to my answers, let me introduce you to who I am tagging.

1.  Francisco Toro.  He is one of the authors of Blogging the Revolution:  Caracas Chronicles and the Hugo Chávez Era.  He is a frequent contributor to The Guardian and Huffingtonpost, and has written for New York Times.  His current blog is Boring Development and he also blogs occasionally at the well-known blog he founded, Caracas Chronicles.

2.  Lisa-Marie Pierre.  Lisa blogs at on a number of interesting issues, particularly on how to balance a busy life while keeping a healthy lifestyle.  She also blogs about a number of sustainability issues.  I love her posts on sustainable eating on a college budget.  She has a strong interest in Haiti.  She is working on her Ph.D. in urban planning at Arizona State University and is writing on a book on Haiti.  Lisa also contributes to this blog.

3.  Edward Carr.  Ed is the author of Delivering Development:  Globalization's Shoreline and the Road to a Sustainable Future.  His blog is Open the Echo Chamber.  He writes very thoughtful pieces about development issues that I have found very useful in my own work.  His most recent entry on fairtrade is a must read for anyone interested in international development and sustainability.

So Francisco, Lisa-Marie, and Ed, you are officially tagged.

Now, my responses.

1.  What are you working on?

I am usually working on several writing pieces at the same time.  The big project I am working on right now is a new textbook on sustainability.  As everyone knows, sustainability is a relatively new field.  Due to its newness there are very few textbooks on the topic.

Writing a textbook is a daunting task.  My contract requires me to produce 180,000 words.  This is roughly the size of Great Expectations.  Most academic books are 120,000 words or less (about the size of my book, Sinkholes of Florida).  I will be done with the first draft before classes start in September.

I also write in the area of karst (landscapes of limestone terrain), especially on themes of sustainability in limestone landscapes.

Some other projects:  I am putting together a proposal to be a series editor for a series of books on sustainability ranging from energy and water, to environmental justice, development and law.  If there are any sustainability authors reading this who would be interested in putting together a book proposal on one of these topics, please contact me.  I am also working on some articles with students on sustainability in professional sports, lead pollution in soils, and sustainability education in the state of New York.  There is also a novel in the works and I am also working on an e-book on blogging.

2.  How does your work vary from others' work in the same genre?

I think that my work is more applied and practical than others working in sustainability and karst science.  Many working in sustainability focus on theoretical issues in the field.  I think that this is fine.  However, many of us believe that we have a handful of decades before we will have serious problems that will impact the future of our planet.  As such, I think it is important, at least for me, to teach and write about things that have the potential to make a difference now.

3.  Why do you write what you do?

As the adage goes, write what you know.  It is also important to write about things that interest you.  I am very interested in how we interact with the environment and how those interactions vary across the planet.

4.  How does your writing process work?

Years ago I took a writing workshop with Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist's Way.  The class changed the way I approached writing.  I used to dread writing and it took me forever to get an article done--much less write a book.  However, using a few techniques, my writing improved--both in quality and output.  I started doing something called morning pages (you'd have to read her book to find out more) to get my writing started each day.  The morning pages evolved into my blog.

Most days I write.  On many of those days I start off with a blog post early in the morning.  After this, I set my writing goal for the day.  I usually do this by setting word count totals.  If I have a reasonable amount of time to write, I set a goal of 3000 words.  If I have more time, I go to 4000.  If I have less time, it might be 1000 or 2000.  However, I try to write at least 500 words a day to keep a project moving.

When I have a goal of 2000 words or more, I set mini-rewards.  Perhaps lunch after 1000 words.  A bit of light reading or relaxation after 1000 more.  But, the key is to stay focused on the goal for the day.  If I do not finish a goal in my university office, I stop at a library on the way home to finish it.  But, I get it done.

Writing something substantial, like a 180,000 word book, is like building a building.  It takes time to place each brick.  But, eventually, the building gets done.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Monsanto Loses Honey of a Deal in Mexico

Click for photo credit.
Check out this article from the Guardian about how Monsanto lost a permit to plant GMO soybeans in Mexico.  Why did they lose the permit?  It's all about honey.

Mexico is the third largest exporter of honey in the world and one of the largest producers of honey anywhere.  Of course, we all know that bees gather pollen from plants to make the honey.  Since the European Union bans imports of honey that is produced off of GMO plants without appropriate GMO labeling (and Germany bans GMO produced honey altogether), the addition of vast acres of GMO crops in Mexico would limit the business of existing honey producers.  Monsanto is likely to appeal the case to a higher court.

There is no doubt that this case is about much more than bees.  Local small farmers will have difficulty competing with large producers of GMO crops produced on corporatized farms.  Small indigenous farmers in Mexico (and throughout the world) see the introduction of GMO crops as a threat to their traditional farming methods and lifestyle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Decision Time on Keystone Pipeline and Fracking in New York

Click for photo credit.
The National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, requires that Environmental Impact Statements be written to guide decisions on federally permitted projects that have the potential to do some type of environmental damage.  The statements are guided by science and spell out the range of impacts that could be expected.  They also review alternatives to projects and suggest ways that projects could be improved.  Many states, including New York, have their own version of NEPA that requires state permitted projects with potential environmental impacts to have an environmental assessment.

NEPA was never intended as a political tool.  It was designed to help leaders make decisions.   However, it is looking more and more that it is being used to delay decisions on controversial projects so that they are made after elections.  At least that is the way it is looking on the issues of the Keystone XL Pipeline and fracking in New York.  The latest (of at least 3 drafts) of an Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline was published in January.  At first, it was announced that a decision would be made in early summer whether as to whether or not the President would approve it.  Now, everyone expects that a decision will be made after the midterm elections in November.  The project was first proposed in 2008.

The same situation is happening in New York around the issue of fracking.   Two environmental assessments have been completed.  A public health review was requested in 2012.  That review is still underway.  Leaders in New York have been delaying the decision since 2008--exactly the same time frame as the Keystone XL Pipeline.  For a review of where New York is on this issue, see this article from Pro Publica.  Again, it is clear that the decision will not take place until after the elections.

While I understand the realities of the political process, I can't help but be disappointed that environmental rules are being mishandled.  As an environmentalist, I see the delay tactics as hurting the intent of the law, thereby weakening its ability to be effective.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park

Today I continue my series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks. In this post we go to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. 

I'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order. If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along. Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts on the National Parks. Check them out to see the beauty of the U.S. National Parks as captured by visitors.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.

Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two Florida Butterflies Added to Endangered Species List

One of two new endangered species:  The Florida Leafwing.
Click for photo credit.
Check out this article from the Miami Herald about two new species that were added to the Endangered Species List managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.  The listing gives the insects special protection, including careful management of developments in their habitat.

The listing is controversial because the habitat is in a part of Miami where the city is planning to build a new theme park, apartments, and a Wal-Mart.

Many note we are in the midst of a great extinction event (see this article).  Given the reality of what is happening on the planet, what would you rather have, more theme parks and Wal-Marts or more natural habitat?