Sunday, June 21, 2020

Great Lakes at Historic Levels

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The Chicago Tribune published an interesting article today by Patrick M. O'Connell about record high levels in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. It is worth a read here. As the piece points out, the shoreline in Chicago is seeing some significant inundation that is impacting access and threatening boater safety. The high levels are the result of global climate change associated with increased runoff associated with increased precipitation and warmer winters.

O'Connell notes that the Great Lakes have seen significant fluctuations in recent years and experienced record low levels just five years ago. The wild fluctuations are not normal and reflect the predictions of extreme conditions that many climate scientists have predicted as highlighted in recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Zora Neale Hurston Quiz Revisited

On this Juneteenth celebration, I wanted to revisit my Zora Neale Neale Hurston Quiz that I published back in April of 2015. I have long celebrated her writing as some of the most important 20th century environmental literature written in the English language. She has a distinct way of bringing elements of nature into her fiction and non-fiction that was relatively uncommon during her time.

The find the answers to the quiz, you can visit the original post here.

the original post follows.


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Zora Neale Hurston is one of what I call the Trifecta of early to mid- 20th century Florida women writers who had an impact on how we think about the environment. I've written about this trifecta here.

Hurston is perhaps one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century to call Florida home. She had a huge influence on 20th century writing and certainly on how we think about the environment in Florida.

1. Hurston is most famous for this book that depicts life in the Everglades for African American farmers. Name the book.

2. Weather is one of the most symbolic elements in the book referenced above. In what way does weather have a deus ex machina moment in the book?

3. Hurston wrote the above referenced book while living in this country. Name the country.

4. The book depicted a distinct human and environmental realism that was unique at the time. It was also very different from the tradition of this group (with a familiar New York name) with which Hurston is often associated. Name the group.

5. While a noted novelist and short story writer, Hurston earned a degree in this field from Barnard College. Name the field.

6.  In 1935, Hurston published this book that focuses on folklore from Florida. In it she reveals dozens of stories that have been passed down through generations--many of which bring in environmental or sustainability themes. Name the book.

7.  Hurston often used black dialect that was common in the south at the time. This was criticized by many for what reason?

8.  One of the things that I find refreshing about Hurston's work is that it shows people in relationship to their environment in very realistic ways. She also uses an abundance of environmental references. For example, Hurston speaks about her experiences as a black women in an interesting essay in which she uses environmental metaphors such as "For instance at Barnard. "Beside the waters of the Hudson" I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again." Name the essay.

9. Although largely associated with Florida and New York, Hurston was actually born in this state and lived there until she moved to Florida when she was three years old. Name the state.

10. From the 1950's and until her death in 1960, Hurston lived in relative obscurity. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida. However a famous author revived interest in Hurston in 1974 when she wrote an essay for Ms. magazine titled "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston". She also dedicated a grave marker to her near her burial site. Name the author.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Seeking Chapter Authors for the Global Handbook of Sustainability

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I am in the midst of a new project that seeks to bring together great minds in helping to better define and describe the growing field of sustainability. The book, called The Palgrave Global Handbook of Sustainability, is a different type of publication. The volume will have dozens of articles on a range of topics within the interdisciplinary framework of sustainability. If you are in the sustainability field, I want you to be part of it.

The articles will not be peer-reviewed, but instead will be published online after I complete a review and after they go through a copy editing process with Palgrave Macmillan. I suspect that once I get a draft of a chapter, I can turn it around within a week or two. The volume will exist online and edits can be made to your article(s) up until the completion of the entire volume (which I suspect will take a year or two). Once it is done, the entire volume will be printed. You can check out my introductory chapter to the book here. The volume should prove to be one of the largest and most important sources of sustainability information every published.

If you are interested in being part of the project, take a look at the list below of main chapters. The ones that are highlighted have been taken. The others are up for grabs. You can also suggest a new chapter topic. I will update this list in future posts as the project progresses. Drop me an email at if you are interested in joining a great group of authors in the production of this important volume.

Part 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Organization of the Knowledge of Sustainability
Part 2. Environmental Sustainability
            Chapter 3. Defining Environmental Sustainability and Major Earth Cycles (could be 2 chapters)
Part 2a. Energy 
            Chapter 4. Global Energy Use
            Chapter 5. Oil and Natural Gas and Sustainability
            Chapter 6. Coal and Sustainability
            Chapter 7. Nuclear Power and Sustainability
            Chapter 8. Solar Energy
            Chapter 9. Wind Energy
            Chapter 10. Hydroelectric Power
            Chapter 11. Geothermal Energy
            Chapter 12. Other Green Energy Sources:  Wave, Tide, Current, etc.
            Chapter 13. Energy Conservation
Part 2b. Climate Change
            Chapter 14. The Science of Climate Change
            Chapter 15. The Evidence for Climate Change on our Planet
            Chapter 16. Greenhouse Gases and their Distribution and Production
            Chapter 17. Climate Change Challenges in Coastal Environments
            Chapter 18. Climate Change Challenges in the Arctic
            Chapter 19. Climate Change Challenges on the Continents
            Chapter 20. Greenhouse Gas Management
Part 2c. Water
            Chapter 21. Global Water Use
            Chapter 22. Water Resources:  Aquifers, Reservoirs, Lakes, and Rivers
            Chapter 23. Desalination
            Chapter 24. Water Management
            Chapter 25. Innovations in Water Management: Agriculture
            Chapter 26. Innovations in Water Management: Industrial and Energy Applications
            Chapter 27. Innovations in Water Management:  Urban and Suburban Uses
Part 2d. Natural Resource Management
            Chapter 28. The State of the World’s Natural Resources
            Chapter 29. Forests
            Chapter 30. Wetlands
            Chapter 31. Oceans
            Chapter 32. Prairies, Mountains, and Other Ecosystems
            Chapter 33. Endangered Species and Extinction
            Chapter 34. Parks and Public Lands
            Chapter 35. Ecosystems Services
            Chapter 36. Urban and Suburban Ecosystems
Chapter 37.  Mining and Minerals 
            Chapter 38. Agriculture and Sustainability
            Chapter 39. Organic Food
            Chapter 40. Local Food, Slow Food, and the Small Farm Movement
            Chapter 41. Fish and Fisheries
            Chapter 42. Fish and Shellfish Farming
Part 2e. Waste and Pollution
            Chapter 43. Defining Waste and Pollution
            Chapter 44. Sewage and Sewage Treatment
            Chapter 45. Municipal Waste (Garbage) and Its Management
            Chapter 46. Industrial Waste and Its Management
            Chapter 47. Medical Waste and Its Management
            Chapter 48. Human Remains and the Sustainability of Death
            Chapter 49. Plastics
            Chapter 50. Radioactive Waste
            Chapter 51. Air Pollution
            Chapter 52. Water Pollution
            Chapter 53. Heavy Metal Pollution
            Chapter 54. Nutrient Pollution
Part 3. Sustainability and Equity
            Chapter 55. Defining the Social Equity Issues in Sustainability
Part 3a. Sustainability in the Developing World
            Chapter 56. The State of Sustainability in the Developing World
            Chapter 57. Human Rights
            Chapter 58. The Global South and Sustainability: Issues and Constraints
            Chapter 59. Small Island Developing States and Sustainability
            Chapter 60. Sustainability in Africa
            Chapter 61. Sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean
            Chapter 62. Sustainability in Asia
            Chapter 63. Health and Sustainability in the Developing World
Part 3b. Environmental Justice and Racism
            Chapter 64. Background on Environmental Justice and Racism
            Chapter 65. Social Equity
            Chapter 66. Indigenous Peoples and Sustainability
            Chapter 67. Gender and Sustainability
            Chapter 68. Environmental Racism in North America
            Chapter 69. Environmental Justice in Europe
            Chapter 70. Environmental Justice in Asia
            Chapter 71. Environmental Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean
            Chapter 72. Stakeholder Engagement Forthcoming by Dr. Christian Wells, University of South Florida
Part 3c. Education and Sustainability
            Chapter 73. Environmental Education
            Chapter 74. Children and Sustainability
            Chapter 75. Informal Education and Sustainability
            Chapter 76. K-8 Sustainability Education Forthcoming by Dr. Randa El Bedawy, The American University in Cairo
            Chapter 77. High School and Sustainability
            Chapter 78. Sustainability at Universities and Colleges
Part 3d. International Benchmarking and National Sustainability Planning
            Chapter 79. The Sustainable Development Goals
            Chapter 80. International Organization for Standards ISO 26000
            Chapter 81. Human Development Index
            Chapter 82. National Plan 1
            Chapter 83. National Plan 2
            Chapter 84. National Plan 3
Part 3e. Urban and Regional Planning and Sustainability
            Chapter 85. Background on Urban and Regional Planning, Forthcoming by Dr. Constance Carr, Université du Luxembourg
            Chapter 86. Urban Approaches to Sustainability: Transportation
            Chapter 87. Urban Approaches to Sustainability:  Food
            Chapter 88.  Urban Approaches to Sustainability:  Zoning
            Chapter 89. Urban Approaches to Sustainability: Equity, Forthcoming by Dr. Jenni Cauvain, Nottingham Trent University
            Chapter 90. Resiliency
            Chapter 91:  Green Building
            Chapter 92:  Green Infrastructure
            Chapter 93:  Regional Planning
            Chapter 94:  Tiny House Movement, Co-Housing, and Land Trusts, Forthcoming by Dr. Elizabeth Strom, University of South Florida
            Chapter 95. Individual Carbon and Environmental Footprints
            Chapter 96. Minimalism
            Chapter 97. Intentional Communities
Part 4. Economics and Sustainability
            Chapter 98. Introduction to Economics and Sustainability
Part 4a. Business and Sustainability
            Chapter 99. Sustainable Business Management
            Chapter 100. The Circular Economy
            Chapter 101. Supply Chain Management and Procurement
            Chapter 102. Benchmarking for Businesses
            Chapter 103. Green Fashion
            Chapter 104. Green Investing and Financial Services
            Chapter 105. Green Information and Communications
            Chapter 106. Just in Time Production and Efficiency
            Chapter 107. Green Logistics and Transportation
            Chapter 108. Greenwashing
            Chapter 108. Business Ethics
Part 4b. Economic Development and Sustainability
            Chapter 109. Background on Economic Development
            Chapter 110. Economic Development to Protect Natural Assets
            Chapter 111. Economic Development and Equity
            Chapter 112. Green Entrepreneurship
            Chapter 113. Green Technology Transfer
            Chapter 114. Green Economic Incentives
            Chapter 115. Microcredit
Part 4c. Regulations
            Chapter 116. Introduction to Environmental Regulations
            Chapter 117. Environmental Law
            Chapter 118. The EPA and Its Regulations
            Chapter 119. Environmental Regulations in the European Union
            Chapter 120. Environmental Regulation in Asia
            Chapter 121. Environmental Regulation in the Global South
            Chapter 122. Protecting Water and Wetlands
            Chapter 123. Protecting Plants and Animals
            Chapter 124. Protecting Air
            Chapter 125. Protecting People
Part 4c. Travel, Tourism, and Recreation and Sustainability
            Chapter 126. Ecotourism
            Chapter 127. Green Conventions and Events
            Chapter 128. Green Restaurants
            Chapter 129. Green Hotels
            Chapter 130. Cruise Ships and Sustainability
            Chapter 131. Green Athletics and Sporting Events
            Chapter 132. Green Media
Part 4d. Consumerism
            Chapter 133. Global Consumption Patterns
            Chapter 134. Advertising for Consumption
            Chapter 135. Impacts of Consumption
            Chapter 136. Hoarding
            Chapter 137. Economic Disparities
Chapter 138.  Critical Discourses on Sustainability
Part 4e. Tools in Sustainability
            Chapter 139. Cost Benefit Analysis
            Chapter 140. Mapping, GIS, and Remote Sensing Forthcoming by Dr. Christopher Badurek, SUNY Cortland
            Chapter 141. Benchmarking
            Chapter 142. Community Engagement 
Part 5 Historical Considerations
Part 5a. Human History and Sustainability
            Chapter 143. History of the Environmental Movement
            Chapter 144. Prehistoric Human Development and Sustainability
            Chapter 145. The Archaeology of Sustainability, Forthcoming by Dr. Lynne Goldstein, Michigan State University
            Chapter 146. Sustainability in the Bronze Age
            Chapter 147. Sustainability and the Industrial Revolution
Part 5b. Great Figures of the Sustainability Field (note this list will expand and these chapters will be short bios)
            Chapter 148. Carl Sauer
            Chapter 149. H.D. Thoreau
            Chapter 150. Aldo Leopold Forthcoming by Dr. Christopher Badurek, SUNY Cortland
            Chapter 151. Rachel Carson
            Chapter 152. Zora Neale Hurston
            Chapter 153. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas
            Chapter 154. Gro Brundtland
            Chapter 155. Michael Mann
            Chapter 156. Al Gore
            Chapter 157. Octavia Butler, Forthcoming by Dr. Lisa-Marie Pierre, Bronx 
Community College
          Chapter 158 Bill McKibben
Part 6. Organizations (again, this list will expand, but the text will be short in most cases)
Part 6a. International Organizations
            Chapter 159. The United Nations
            Chapter 160. The World Health Organizations
            Chapter 161. Greenpeace
            Chapter 162. Natural Resource Defense Council
            Chapter 163. The Nature Conservancy
            Chapter 164. World Wildlife Fund
            Chapter 165. Slow Food International
Part 6b. National, Regional, or Local Organizations
            Chapter 166. U.S Council of Mayors
            Chapter 167. US Green Building Coalition and Passivhaus
            Chapter 168. 100 Resilient Cities
            Chapter 169. African Sustainable Energy Association


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Case Studies in Suburban Sustainability Available for Preorder

My book, Case Studies in Suburban Sustainability, which I edited with Sandra Garren, is available for preorder with the University Press of Florida. Check it out here. The publication date is set for October 20th. 

The book is the first to examine how the suburbs can contribute to broader national and regional sustainability goals. Most books that examine the sustainability within a local or regional framework look at cities. In the book, we argue that cities are relatively easy places to do sustainability because of the top-down organization of governments and the reach of government services. Suburbs, in contrast, are extremely challenging places to advance sustainability agendas because of the diffused governments and government services, the density of infrastructure, and their political nature. However, it is important to make progress in these areas because of the massive size of their footprints in the United States when compared with other types of settlement patterns.

The book contains a range of case studies ranging from water and air pollution management to economic development and environmental justice. The book contains 17 chapters which include introductory and conclusion chapters by me and Dr. Garren. The introductory chapter highlights the history of sustainability and the importance of a suburban approach. The final chapter surveys some of the international issues associated with suburban sustainability, particularly in contrast to the United States, and also highlights themes that emerged from the case studies in the previous chapters.  I am sure that many of you interested in sustainability will want this one for your bookshelves.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

8 Tips for College and University Students Planning for the Fall 2020 Semester

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I know that there is a great deal of angst out there among students as to what the fall 2020 semester will bring. Some universities are planning to open for on-campus courses. Some are planning to offer online courses only. And most others are somewhere in-between. Since many of my readers are college students and their parents, I thought I would provide 8 tips for how to plan for the upcoming fall semester.

1. Don't let this crazy time slow down your eduction. I know that some out there reading this are tempted to just give up on the fall semester given the various unknowns. However, across the country, university administrators, faculty, and staff are working hard to put together a very solid experience for Fall 2020 students. Whether your courses are going to be online or in-person is still a bit uncertain at this point. However, what I can guarantee is that students will be able to get the courses they need to advance their degrees. Uncertainty can be a bit anxiety inducing. Jut focus on the fact that you will be able to get the courses you need regardless of the delivery method. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal--your degree.

2. Evaluate your technology needs. It is hard to imagine, but there is actually a laptop shortage right now in the marketplace and there is quite a long waiting list for many electronic products. Thus, now is a good time to consider what you might need for the start of the fall semester and make the appropriate purchases. If costs are an issue for you, contact your university now to find out what types of laptop assistance they can provide. Many universities are offering laptop loans or other types of support for students who need some help.

3. If you plan to live on campus, follow campus rules when returning in the fall. Campus professionals have been working on guidelines to make campuses safe for students, faculty, and staff. Residence hall managers, for example, are working on plans to house students so that they can maintain safe distances from other residents. It is important to follow the rules set on campus behavior not only to protect yourself, but to protect others who work on or visit campus. Many university faculty and staff may be in those vulnerable categories we've heard about and students should try to limit their risks in order to keep the broader campus community safe.

4. Take some time to interact with the social media in your department, college, and university. Many universities are creating some amazing social media content right now which is helping to raise school spirit. Plus many departments and faculty members have upped their social media game and are adding value to student experiences as they learn from home. Explore what is out there in your department and university. Join in and add to the conversation and create some content of your own within your area of expertise. Student governments and other student organizations such as department clubs, Greek organizations, and interest groups are all active on social media and provide ways for students to participate without being on campus. I tend to find the best content on Twitter. However, Tik Tok and Instagram also have some great content.

5. Find ways to interact with your Department and your Fall 2020 instructors prior to the start of the semester. Drop instructors a note to introduce yourself with information about your background and your interest in the material. If you and they have time, arrange a short zoom meeting with a key faculty member or two who teach material of particular interest to you. Seek their career advice. If you have time, offer to assist with a research project in some capacity. These are the types of interactions you might have had in the Spring of 2020 if we would not have had COVID-19. Given that most faculty are likely to be place-bound for the summer. they will most likely be more than willing to take a Zoom call and would probably be glad to have some help on something. You could help with some research projects from home doing things like literature reviews, data analysis, and data visualization. You could also help with your Department's social media or outreach. These types of interactions will get you connected to your Department and faculty in meaningful ways.

6. Get to know your career services office. Every university has an office of career services that provides an array of services for students. At the very basic level, they will assist students in finding meaningful careers. However, they also provide an array of other services such as personal development, resume reviews, and interview practices. Take the time now to get to know what these offices offer. They have largely moved online during the lockdown and are glad tp provide online support.

7. Look for new auxiliary activities. It is hard to determine exactly what types of student activities will be available in the Fall semester due to the fact that things are changing rapidly. However, universities offer a range of really interesting online student activities. For example, some universities are offering online yoga and meditation classes. Others are offering (for a modest fee) online music instruction for non-music majors. Still others are offering online multiplayer games. Whatever your interest, I am sure you can find something at your university that will interest you. Take advantage of what your university is offering.

8. Discuss your finances with a student aid specialists and consider all scholarships. There are experts at all universities who provide support for students who need financial assistance. Now is a good time to reach out to review your situation so that you can figure out how to cover your educational costs. In addition, discuss scholarship opportunities with your Department to find out what might be available. Look for other scholarships in your community. Many organizations provide student scholarships. There are lots of people out there willing to help you. You have to take the time to ask for the help.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Freedom Riders National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Freedome Riders National Monument in Alabama. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

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Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Castillo de San Marco National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument
César E. Chávez National Monument
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Stanwix National Monument

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sustainability Case Studies Chapter 13: Small Land Holding in Karnataka, India

Small farms in Karnataka, India.
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This is the 13th post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

The 13th chapter of the volume, titled Methods for Integrated Sustainability Assessment:  The Case of Small Holder Farming in Karnataka, South India, by Sheetal Patil and Seema Purushothaman, examines the role of small farming, and associated benefits, within the overall agricultural system present in India. Over the last few decades, India has moved heavily into the tenets of the green revolution which promotes the use of technological advances in agriculture over traditional farming. The green revolution promotes the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and new seed varieties to enhance production. While there is no doubt that the green revolution has contributed significantly to India's ability to be more agriculturally self sufficient, there is concern that many small farmers are falling behind as India's agriculture becomes more aligned with the globalization of agriculture.

A sugarcane farmer in Karnataka, India.
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As the article notes, small farmers have not seen the same benefits of the green revolution as large farmers. Even though the small farmers are often far more efficient than the larger farmers, they do not receive the same financial gains. Indeed, the situation for small farmers in India has been rather grim. Many small farmers in the author's study area of Karnataka have committed suicide as they saw their livelihoods disappear in the face of growing agribusiness in the region. The governments have reacted by trying to put value in agricultural practices that are traditional and organic.

Nevertheless, as the article points out, many of the larger companies involved with agribusiness, such as fertilizer companies, are heavily subsidized by state and national governments. This leaves the small land holders struggling with trying to keep their operations afloat. The article reviews a series of quantitative and qualitative ways that agriculture in Karnataka can be assessed from a sustainability lens. I will not go into the details here, but suffice it to say that the authors provide a unique review of how to better assess sustainability of agriculture that take into account the unique issues associated with small farmers.  The chapter concludes with a list of lessons learned that anyone involved with local agricultural planning would find useful.

Click here to for more information about the book.

Here are some discussion questions that can be used when using this chapter in a lesson on agriculture and sustainability.

1. Where is Karnataka, India?

2. Why did farmers in the region commit suicide in such numbers?

3. What is the green revolution? How did the green revolution impact small land holders in India?

4. How does agribusiness and the globalized food system impact farmers in your area?

5. As the authors point out, national and state policy focuses heavily on agribusiness even though there is strong verbal support for sustainable agriculture. Why do you think state or national policies around food do not match stated state or national sustainable agricultural goals?

6. Which level of government do you think understands the plight of small farmers the most (national, state, or local)? Why?

7. What is bio-physical modeling in the context of assessing agriculture? Why is it important?

8. The state of Karnataka has published some sustainability goals. How do they support a drive for sustainable agriculture in the region?

Previous posts in this series:

Chapter 5. Drinking Water Infrastructure Inequality and Environmental Injustice:  The Case of Flint Michigan
Chapter 6. Sustainable Renewable Energy:  The Case of Burlington, Vermont
Chapter 7. Greenhouse Gas Management: A Case Study of a Typical American City
Chapter 9. Waste Management Outlook for the Middle East

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Will the Coronavirus Make Meatless Monday and Plant Based Diets the Norm?

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News is emerging regularly about the challenges associated with meat production facilities around the world. For example, an investigation is currently underway in Cudahy, Wisconsin around coronavirus safety for workers at the Patrick Cudahy meat packing plant and many meat packing plants have closed due to outbreaks. Shoppers have reported shortages of meat in grocery stores. 

Will these problems lead to an increase in families opting more regularly for plant based meals and even adaptation to plant based diets? As I noted in this recent post, while there are certainly many, many tragedies associated with COVID-19, there are interesting sustainability trends that may emerge once we pass the worst of it. 

Certainly there is a growing interest in finding options to the industrial food system. Many of us are getting food delivered which makes it more likely that we are trying to tune in to local food options and food systems. In addition, there is greater interest in gardening and growing our own food. In the New York area, many people have left the city for the country--some of them for good. A close friend of mine, who never really gardened before, is building a greenhouse so she can be a bit more self reliant. I am sure some of you reading this are making very different food decisions today than you did pre-lockdown.

At this moment of time, meat is not only getting a bit harder to find, it is also very expensive for people who have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is very high (as I am writing this the unemployment rate in the US is around 20%) and people do not have the funds for large quantities of meat. For them, it is not about the scarcity of meat, it is the expense. Healthy, plant based diets are far less expensive than most meat options and it makes sense for many of us to cut back on meat in order to save money.

As many of you reading this know, meat production is far harder on our planet than plant production. It uses more land, water, and energy than plant production. Meat production also is responsible for around 15% of the world's greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. 

If, as I suspect, meat consumption declines in the next few years, we will see concomitant environmental benefits such as improvement of waterways and greenhouse gas reduction. 

Many who are opting or will opt to eat more plant based meals are not necessarily embracing vegetarianism, veganism, or even broad-based sustainability ideals. Instead, they are reacting to availability and pricing. Meatless Monday may become more of a necessity than a statement. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge Starts May 1st

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
It's that time!

The next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge starts May 1. If you are interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle, please join me and others as we recommit to living green. The challenge will be run on a closed Facebook group for 30 consecutive days starting May 1st. I will be live each day to provide sustainability information and coaching. You can watch my live videos any time since they will be stored within the Facebook group. Thus, you don't need to watch the videos live. I will post in the group the times that I will be live so that you can join live when you can.

The group will focus on 6 main themes during the challenge:

  • Theme 1. Greenhouse gases, energy, and climate change
  • Theme 2. Food
  • Theme 3. Sustainability knowledge
  • Theme 4. Consumerism
  • Theme 5. Waste and recycling
  • Theme 6. Transportation and community 
I hope you can join me. If you are interested, please drop me an email at to get into the group.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Air Pollution Falls in the Midst of Pandemic Lockdown

Click for photo credit.
CNN has an interesting piece here about the improving air conditions in major global cities as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. It seems that staying home is good for the environment and reduces air pollution. The article demonstrates that components of the environment can recover quite quickly if we change our behavior. The before and after photos in the piece are worth a look and tell an important story.

When things get back to normal after this crisis, and they will at some point, it is worth considering how to change our behavior to reduce the impacts of our global culture on the environment. We need to find a way to return to normal without going back to the polluting practices of the past. There are some interesting opportunities that have emerged:

1. Can we find ways to increase the percentage of the population who work from home in order to cut down on air pollution and the need for cars?

2. Are there ways to enhance online learning so that greater percentages of k-12 and higher education operations can reduce their carbon footprints?

3. Can we curb our consumption of stuff (which we often don't really need) so that we can cut back on our increasing hunger for global consumption of natural resources?

4. Can we develop local food resiliency so that we are less reliant on global food systems for our diets?

I am sure that there are many other things we can do as a global culture to improve our environment once we are past the crisis. As many smart people have pointed out over the last two months, global pandemics tend to change our culture. We can make the environment cleaner if we recognize that we have the power to live a greener life.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Vexing Sustainability Problem of Disposable Gloves

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I have seen quite a number of complaints online about the new litter menace:  plastic gloves. In my own neighborhood, I have seen many gloves on the streets. I recently had a grocery delivery and the delivery person left the gloves he used in my driveway.

I get it. Folks don't want to put potentially contaminated materials back in their car. Grocery store parking lots have really been impacted by this problem.

What is the solution?

First of all, if you are a regular user of plastic gloves, there are a number of companies that will recycle them. Check out TerraCycle here for an option. You basically buy a box and fill it up. When it is full, you mail it to TerraCycle and they will recycle them for you. Kimberly-Clark has a recycling program for institutions that utilize lots of medical equipment called RightCycle that recycles plastic gloves.

It is clear that while the TerraCycle and RightCycle programs are great, they are not currently meeting the needs of the public. We need to find a way to collect these plastic gloves for easy recycling.

Perhaps we will develop used glove recycling stations at grocery stores or places of worship where we can take our used gloves. There are compostable and biodegradable plastic gloves available on the market at well. I don't know how effective they are for combating COVID 19.

It is clear we have a new plastic glove waste problem and I suspect we will have solutions to this problem soon. Necessity is the mother of invention.