Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Announcing a New Open Access Journal: Suburban Sustainability

The new open access, peer-reviewed journal, Suburban Sustainability, is now soliciting contributions for its first issue.  Suburban Sustainability (ISSN 2164-0866) will be the premier dissemination vehicle for scholarship on sustainability issues in suburban and metropolitan settings. The suburbs have emerged as the nexus of dynamic demographic, social, economic, and environmental change. Suburban Sustainability will publish scholarly works to identify, analyze, and solve the problems of suburbia. The journal, published by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, is supported by the University of South Florida Libraries.

Authors may make contributions here:  http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/subsust/  We are also seeking guest editors to develop themed issues.  If interested, please contact the editor of the journal, Robert Brinkmann at robert.brinkmann@hofstra.edu

Open access journals allow for the rapid publication of peer-reviewed articles with unrestricted access to our scholarly output.  Given the issues we face in sustainability, it is important to share research quickly in high quality journals.  Suburban Sustainability strives to broaden the conversation on sustainability by providing a unique venue to publish research.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Build It Green for a Repurposed Driven Life in New York

New York is going green in many ways.
Click for photo credit.

I just ran into a really great New York area non-profit.  It’s called Build ItGreen:  Low Cost Salvage Surplus BuildingMaterials.  This group offers not only building supplies, but internal fixtures and furniture like lighting and cabinetry.  According to their website, they have kept 900 tons of building materials out of landfills and gave $250,000 worth of materials to support non-profits. They have stores in Astoria and Brooklyn.

They salvage materials from buildings that are going to be demolished and resell them to the public at a cost much less than new items.  They will even take apart your kitchen and haul it away for free so they can repurpose your old items.

Build It Green works in partnership with New York's Community Environmental Center that seeks to improve the housing stock in the region to make it more affordable and energy efficient.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hobart and William Smith College Wins with Wind + T-Shirt Contest Update

Congrats students, faculty, and staff of Hobart and William
Smith Colleges!  Click for photo credit.

Big congratulations to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for becoming the first small liberal arts college in New York to get 100% of their energy from wind sources.  They are doing this by purchasing renewable energy certificates.  You can read about this initiative here.  Thanks to former student and colleague, JoAnn Sullivan, who is a visiting faculty member at Hobart and William Smith for alerting me to this news.

This is yet more evidence of the kind of leadership happening at the local level in the country.  There is very little national leadership on environmental issues these days and most of the hard work is being done at the local scale by organizations like Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Also, I've had some good guesses on the t-shirt contest.  There are hints in the comments section of this post.  Keep on trying!  No winner yet.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Gift Idea Plus New Hint in T-shirt Contest

It's black Friday and I am hiding away trying to stay away from the pepper spray at the mall.  So, I decided to give a shopping hint for those of you seeking to find something "green" to give this holiday season.  My top 5 shopping recommendations:

1.  Buy a CSA membership.  Nothing says love like food--particularly locally grown.  Community sponsored agriculture (CSA) is sprouting up all over the world and this site will guide you to a local CSA where you can buy a full or partial membership for someone you love.

This is the famous Rafters the USF Botanical Gardens Cat doing exactly what I
like to do on black Friday.  You can get your friends memberships
to the garden to see rafters for little more than catnip.  
Click here for photo credit.
2.  Etsy.  Etsy is a real hit or miss experience, but if you search, you can find some great stores that sell great handmade things.  For example, here's an Esty store that sells handmade wooden toys.  For every toy sold, they plant a tree.  You can also search on Etsy for local shops.

3.  Exercise or dance class.  Everyone loves to exercise, or at least they grudgingly like to, even those who rarely go.  It's a great way to support local small businesses.

4.  Membership to your local botanical garden.  Almost every place in the US is within driving or walking distance of a botanical garden.  They are great places for a family picnic or a quiet contemplation with nature.  Here's a link to a listing of all botanical gardens in the US and a quick Google search will find your local botanical garden in your country.

5.  Continuing Education.  Most universities and community colleges have continuing education courses that offer short, not for credit courses on everything from cooking and computer skills, to dance and creative writing.  They also have exercise programs and courses targeted for youth and the older crowd.  Here's a link to Hofstra's continuing education, but there are likely great courses in your area.  How much fun would it be to take a course on fencing or intro to wine tasting with your giftee?

Happy shopping!

On another topic, don't forget I am holding a contest for a cool bat t-shirt.  Click here for details.  I have added a hint.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks and a Contest--Win a Bat Shirt

Happy Thanksgiving!
On this Thanksgiving, a big thanks from me to all of you for visiting On the Brink.  This month I have had a record number of visitors from all over the world.  I appreciate you for sharing the blog with your friends and family.  For my international visitors, today is a holiday in the United States called Thanksgiving.  It is a time to reflect on all that is good in life.

As I mentioned, I have had hundreds of visits from people in countries all over the world.  Blogger, the platform for this blog, keeps track of where people are coming from when they visit the site.  I am always humbled by the range of visitors and I often wonder how they find the site.  I know that some of you find it through Google searches and that others of you find it through friends or via Facebook or Twitter.  No matter how you found it, thank you for visiting!  I hope that you continue to visit.  I also encourage you to send me ideas for blog posts or comment on the site if you agree or disagree with anything.

To celebrate Thanksgiving and all the new visitors, I have a contest for you.  Below is a list of the top 10 visiting countries to this blog (in alphabetical order):

Win this cool bat shirt.  It is printed with of a photograph of
bats flying in Austin, Texas.  It is one of Mario's creations
using an image he found on Flickr and for which he
obtained permission.  Lots of sizes available, so anyone
can win.  I'll ship it internationally if we have an international

Trinidad and Tobago
United States

You will win a cool bat t-shirt if you place the countries in order (most number of visits to least number of visits).  Place your guesses in the comments section to this post.  I'll check in and give hints until there is a winner.  I think #1 is pretty obvious.  But, can you guess the rest?  Good luck!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Goofy But Charming Green Video from CUNY

I love when the green community has a sense of humor.  This is a goofy but charming video from CUNY.  What kind of video should we make at Hofstra?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Savannah's Green Canopy

Savannah, Georgia embraces its history and preserves
its environment.  
Click for photo credit.
Savannah Georgia is just about the loveliest city one could imagine.  I am currently in Savannah at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers and I am truly delighted that the organization picked such a jewel of a place to hold their meeting.  But, what is it about Savannah that is so special and what can we learn about this city from the context of sustainability?

First of all, Savannah has embraced historic preservation.  Two of the important elements of sustainability are to preserve resources and protect culture.  By preserving the historic buildings and neighborhoods of Savannah, the community is embracing a sustainable ethic that concomitantly enhances their city.

Second, Savannah has a commitment to the preservation of canopy trees.  The downtown and much of the city are lovely, in part, because of the dedicated effort of The Savannah Tree Foundation.

Shipping traffic in downtown Savannah, Georgia.
Photo by Robert Brinkmann.
Finally, Savannah has a number of organizations dedicated to sustainability efforts.  Clearly, Savannah’s charm did not happen without the hard work of many groups and individuals.  How are you making a difference in your own community?

I must note that not all is green in Savannah.  The coastal waterways of Georgia have serious pollution issues due in part to the heavy ship traffic they receive.  I am curious as to how the shipping industry is working to improve their activities to try to limit their impact on the coastal ecosystems of Georgia.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Janisse Ray Inspires Georgia Green

I had the pleasure to hear Janisse Ray's keynote address today for the opening of the annual meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers in Savannah Georgia.  Ray is an environmentalist and author known for her writings and activism in Georgia.  The keynote centered around the fragmentation of the southern natural landscape by corporate interests that are interested in profits over protection.  Her talk, which was a mix of autobiography, science, and poetry, was of interest to those of us unfamiliar with the activism surrounding environmental protection in the deep southern coastal plains of Georgia.

The video below gives you a flavor of Ms. Ray's poetry and point of view.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Celebrating Suburban Diversity

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnwardell/36924039/

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the annual Celebration of Suburban Diversity Banquet hosted by Hofstra’s National Center for Suburban Diversity.  The event was terrific in that it highlighted the changing nature of America’s suburban landscape.  

The keynote speaker of the event, Kirk Kordeleski, the President and CEO of Bethpage Credit Union made a great point about suburban diversity on Long Island.  The young people of Long Island, and much of the United States, are becoming much more diverse.  His comments are particularly pertinent given the reports that have been coming out of the Brookings Institute on demographic changes within metropolitan regions.  He noted that businesses would be smart to reach out to diverse communities in order to expand their businesses and help everyone reach their fullest potential.  He noted that businesses are most successful if they put people ahead of profits.  The profits will come if an organization is sincere about the people and committed to a community.

Several community leaders earned awards at the banquet for their work in Long Island and it is evident that there is a strong commitment to make Long Island a better place for its citizens.  While Long Island is one of the more racially segregated places in the United States and much work needs to be done to achieve equality, the nearly 600 attendees at last night’s banquet are leading the charge to transform the region.  Indeed, as far as I can tell from a quick online search, Long Island is the only place to plant a flag for recognizing and celebrating suburban diversity.  Well done.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hofstra to Host Major Sustainability Conference

Suburban landscapes must be part of the sustainability
conversation.  Photo by Mario Gomez.
Please take a look at this call for papers for a major sustainability conference that will take place on the Hofstra campus in November of 2012.  Please forward the link to anyone you think may be interested in participating.

Our theme is From the Outside In:  Sustainable Futures for Global Cities and Suburbs.  We are seeking to have a conversation on sustainability issues that includes suburban landscapes.  They are often not part of the dialogue on sustainability, even though they cover large areas of the United States.  Of course, we want to include papers on urban and rural sustainability as well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ulan Bator Engineers Big Chill for Summer Heat

Ulan Bator.  Photo credit:

Check out this story from The Guardian detailing an effort to reduce energy consumption in Ulan Bator.  It is a fascinating approach to storing temperature conditions for reuse.  I wonder if this engineered system could be used in northern cities in the United States, Russia, Europe, and Canada?  If anyone knows of any similar approaches in the west, please let me know.  I also wonder what the negatives are in developing and embracing this approach.  It sounds like it needs a significant land base and it would probably have some impact on ground water systems.  Other problems?  Hat tip to Shane Snipes (@vannshane on Twitter) for the link to the article.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hofstra to Host Long Island Small Farms Summit

Hofstra University will host the second annual Long Island Farm Summit on Saturday April 14.  I am on the planning committee for the event and I can tell you that there are exciting things going on with food, farming, and sustainability on Long Island.  Even though all of Long Island is in the New York metropolitan region, it is also one of the most important agricultural regions in the country.  Suffolk County has the greatest value of farm crops of any county in New York.  In addition, it ranks high in a variety of agricultural indicators.  For example, it is the second largest producer of chickens in New York and one of the largest producers of sod in the nation.  In addition, New York has seen a 4 times increase in the number of young farmers in the last 10 years, many of them on Long Island.  This region is truly the epicenter of the locavore and small farm movement.

Two nationally known keynote speakers will be at the event (I cannot release names at this time, but trust me, you’ll want to hear them) and lots of workshops.  Mark your calendars now.  New York has seen a renaissance of small farming in the last decade and our region is home to some of the most innovative approaches to urban and suburban farming in the world.  I am sure that the summit will be of interest to many.  The video below highlights last year's summit.

You can also volunteer by getting involved in the planning committee.  The next meetings are on:

December 13
January 17
February 7
March 20

All meetings are at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thinking About La Vie Boheme

I've always had admiration for Richard Florida's work on the creative class, while taking it with a grain of salt.  In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, he argues that the most innovative and economically vibrant cities are ones that have attracted and maintain a creative class.  Cities that have a thriving creative class tend to have the three T's:  talent, technology, and tolerance.  The creative class generally consists of young, smart, tolerant, technologically oriented types that emerge out of a more bohemian lifestyle.

Since the publication of his book, cities and creative class advocates have worked hard to attract the creative class to their regions.  This video from Akron is clearly trying to attract a creative class through tolerance, talent, and technology. 

Cities that seek to attract a creative class often focus on downtown redevelopment, densify the urban core, build attractions like museum and theaters, and develop policies that are tolerant (note video below may not be safe for work: language, butt image, you know, bohemian stuff).

I've seen the creative class idea in play in Tampa and St. Petersburg Florida.  When Hillsborough County (home of Tampa) enacted an unfriendly anti-gay ordinance, the City of Tampa made a point to reach out to the LGBT community to show that the city was tolerant.  At the same time, leaders in St. Petersburg, Tampa's neighboring city in Pinellas County, made a point to demonstrate their tolerance.  The creative class listened and now St. Petersburg has a thriving downtown while Tampa's, (in Hillsborough County) is sputtering along.

I think my biggest criticism of the entire creative class movement is the sense that cities need to compete for a creative class by investing in things like art museums, grand parks, stadia, and other amenities.  I've seen consultants using the creative class argument advocate for building major infrastructure and amenities in downtowns using tax payer dollars in order to attract creative class individuals.  In some instances, these projects are successful.  In other cases, they are not.  Indeed, sometimes huge investments of tax dollars are made without considering the needs of the communities that are already in place.  This gets to the root of my concern over the creative class argument made by many in the planning and consulting field.  Instead of focusing on the strengths of communities or existing opportunities, they argue for using tax dollars to build their way to creativity.

I also wonder how much about the creative class is spontaneous and how much of it can be truly created by intentional urban policies.  Certainly cities can put policies in place and build amenities to attract a creative class, but it doesn't mean they will come. 

Some of the ideas around creating and nurturing the creative class focus on fostering the bohemian lifestyle.  Leaders of Apple Computer, for example, emerged from the hippie environment in the San Francisco area.  But how does a planner create a bohemian neighborhood.  Would one want to?

I think it would be interesting to test some of Florida's ideas by examining what happens in 20 years with the activism around the Occupy Wall  Street movement.  A number of locations have thriving Occupy movements and some cities have made a point about being tolerant of their presence in public places.  Will these places be the new economic power houses in the future?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Great Hipster Video Showing Ironic View of Gentrification

I was poking around online for a good brief video that I could show in my class that would highlight issues with gentrification and I found this one that ironically addresses gentrification in the hipster Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn.  It is so very on-point geographically and culturally.  I think it will start some interesting conversation in class tomorrow.  If you haven't been to this part of Brooklyn, it is the epicenter of the hipster movement and is quickly turning into a very gentrified region of New York.  Of course, the hipsters were the first ones to start the gentrification process.  Now that the gentrification is pricing them out, will they go back to Manhattan?  Or will they come to Levittown in a mass ironic migration?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Drexel University Purchases 100% of Its Energy from Green Sources

Wind Turbine On the University of Delaware Lewes Campus.  Click for photo credit.

I recently learned that Drexel University recently committed to purchasing 100% of its energy from alternative energy sources, largely wind.  The school is doing this by purchasing energy credits.  In other words, they are still using dirty energy off the grid, but offsetting it by buying credits in wind energy.  They are part of a growing number of universities making a commitment to green energy.  By getting involved, they are helping develop the infrastructure and research for the future.

Take a look here for a listing of all of the colleges participating in the EPA Green Power Challenge and here for a listing of the top 20 colleges in terms of green energy purchasing.

How does your local college fare in the rankings?  Hofstra is second in the Colonial League in the purchase of green energy in that it gets 6% of its energy from third party sources involved in the production of alternative energy.  A new solar array is going live this semester on one of the residence halls and we have a pretty amazing co-generation system.  So, the purchase of green energy does not tell the full story about the nature of energy use on campus.  Nevertheless, I think this EPA program is a great example of how we can benchmark our sustainability efforts.  If your college or university is not ranked here I think you should find out why and get involved.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rethinking Development: Ed Carr's New Book Suggests a New Approach

What is development when speaking about the state of nations?  To most development is the comparative way in which countries utilize their natural and human resources.  Traditionally, we have spoken about development using terms like third world or industrialized to represent a particular state of development.  We often think of development within a continuum.  There are places that are relatively undeveloped and there are places that are highly developed from a technological perspective.

We in the developed world have often felt the need to reach out to help others in lesser developed countries.  This is a noble emotion, but one that can have problematic consequences. In relatively recent history, the colonization of Africa, Asia, and the Americas by European powers was, in part, an attempt to transmit the values of the European enlightenment.  Certainly there was commerce in play, but in historical writings, one often sees the desire to somehow transform the cultures of the colonies into more European places.  The Europeans believed they were improving the lives of the indigenous peoples.  Sounds familiar?

Let’s fast forward to the modern era.  Via the processes of globalization, many areas of the world could be considered in some way improved.  But I think it is worth asking, to what end?  Who is improved and who is gaining via the improvement?  There have been many critiques of the modern development movement, particularly of some of the larger development projects sponsored by the World Bank.

The problem is that the terms developed and development are western constructions of ideas that are particularly fit for understanding the arc of industrialization in the west but not especially helpful in areas traditionally thought of as undeveloped or less developed. 

In some cases, development projects only transform places from sustainable communities into highly vulnerable places plugged into the global labor market and supply chain.
One book, Delivering Development:  Globalization’s Shoreline and the Road to a Sustainable Future, by Professor Ed Carr of the University of South Carolina, examines these very issues and provides a more thoughtful approach to understanding what has gone wrong with previous development efforts.  The book is worth a read if you really want to make a difference in the world. 

He discusses the book in the video.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Walk In Autumn

 Forgive my indulgence for using this space to post some photos of a walk I took this weekend around my neighborhood.  It was perfect autumn weather and I had to share some of the images.

Here's a poem to provide some words to go with the images.  The poem is by John Keats and was written in 1819.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hat not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozing hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring?  Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


The walk was from the duplex I rent in Port Washington to Sands Point Preserve.

The hike took me over a glacial end moraine on the north shore area of Long Island to the edge of Long Island Sound.  Living on one of the most populated islands in the world (I believe the 14th most populated island), one can find some amazing natural respites.  The views of the sound from the preserve are breathtaking.