Monday, April 30, 2012

Last Day to Enter Images of Spring Photo Contest and Eastern Phoebes from Missouri

Today is the last day to enter my images of spring photo contest.  Just send your images to me at  to enter.

The winner will receive a t-shirt.  I haven't had a ton of entries for this contest, so the chances of winning are pretty high!  I am surprised that I haven't had more entries since  I have more people visiting the blog than ever before.  Send your images to me before midnight tonight to enter.  They can be any image of spring in your area.

My cousin Carol sent along the photos in this post along with the following text:

My Phoebes...the Eastern Phoebe,  Sayornis phoebe, to be exact.

They start with last year's nest...not in the best shape...

then refurbish the nest and lay five white eggs for this year's first brood.

Momma sits on the nest for about 2 weeks...

...before the eggs hatch--though at this point they don't look much like baby birds.

As they hit the one week mark, they are looking much more like baby birds, and keeping Momma and Poppa Phoebe busy with their feedings.
(though it will get busier for them as the young ones grow)

Today, about a week and a half old, you can see how quickly they are growing!  It won't be very long--in an average year around Mother's Day,
but probably early this year--when the nest gets too small to hold them all or starts to weaken from the weight of the birds and they are forced
to fly away (though I will admit that sometimes they are scared away by the flash of a camera! :D).

After taking some time off to recover, Momma and Poppa Phoebe will again strengthen the nest in preparation for their second brood of the year.

Usually, only four eggs this time.  The sounds of feebee, feebee will be heard through the neighborhood and next year, with any luck, they will be back!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 50th Anniversary of the Mets

My good friend, Elizabeth Strom from the University of
South Florida.  Liz is an avid baseball fan and the Director
of USF's Office of Community Engagement.
 Over the last few days, I attended the 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets Conference at Hofstra where I gave a paper on sustainability in baseball with my good friend, Liz Strom, from the University of South Florida.

The conference was interesting and a great deal of fun.  I've learned that while I thought I was a baseball fan, nothing compares with the fans I saw at the conference.  There were whole sessions on individual games and people spoke at great length about single plays from the 1960's.  Plus, there were several players from the 1960's and 70's in attendance, particularly Rusty Staub, Ed Charles, Ed Kranepool, Art Shamsky, and Bud Harrelson.

I saw several interesting presentations.  One panel focused on the use of statistics in making decisions in baseball and included an applied mathematician who works for the Mets, and other statisticians who work for ESPN, Bloomberg, and the Society for American Baseball Research.  The takeaway message I got from that panel is that while there are 9 players and various managers and coaches on a team, one of the most important members of a modern baseball organization is a mathematician who loves baseball.  It was all very Moneyball.

Me and Mr. Met.
I also went to see a session with Ed Charles.  He was on the famous Mets 1969 team and retired at the end of that season.  He is considered the poet laureate of baseball.  He read some of his poetry and discussed what it was like as a young African American growing up in the south in the 1940's.  He lived near the spring training facility in Daytona Beach where Jackie Robinson first broke the color barrier in the minor leagues in the U.S.  Charles remembered being inspired by Robinson and recalled his family praying for Robinson's safety in Daytona.  He discussed meeting him later in life after they were both retired from the game.

Another interesting session I attended was on the use of music in the Mets organization.  If you are not familiar with the song, Meet the Mets, you should be.  It has been used for home Mets games since 1962 and there are a variety of different versions of it.  I didn't even realize I heard the song here in New York or elsewhere until I attended the presentation.  It is one of those catchy songs one hears that becomes part of the background.  If you do a youtube search, you'll find a number of different versions.  The one below is the original.

Our paper presentation went well.  We reviewed the sustainability practices of all 30 major league baseball teams as expressed in the press releases and Websites.  What we found is that there are some teams doing great things (Boston and Minnesota in particular).  We also found that some teams are rather innovative.    When we publish the paper, I'll post a link here.  My friend Paul Pettersen stopped by and it was really nice of him to come by and see me.

We received some interesting feedback from the attendees.  One person asked us why he should care about greening efforts in baseball.  I really bobbled the question and one audience member who liked our paper said afterward that I should have answered something to the effect of, "Do you want baseball around for your grandchildren?"

I think the most positive reaction we got was from a historian with the Baseball Hall of Fame who wanted to get more information from us so they could feature green efforts in ball parks at their facility. 

All in all, the conference was a great success and the organizers should be pleased with it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chickens on Zoning Menu in Tampa

I ran across this article about backyard chickens in Tampa.  The city is making it easier to keep chickens in the city.  They were legal, but there were distinct restrictions as to where they could be kept.

The new rules will make it possible for nearly everyone with a backyard in Tampa to keep them.

There are plenty of people keeping chickens in Tampa and I don't know of any serious complaints or issues with them.  Indeed, there is quite a large group of feral chickens that live in Ybor City.  The residents have embraced them and they are quite popular.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Earth Week at Hofstra

Students for a greener Hofstra made a man out of recycled
bottles to highlight issues of consumption and recycling
on campus.
We don't just celebrate Earth Day at Hofstra, we make a week of it.  Check out this summary of events that are taking place on campus.

Yesterday, it was great fun to be interviewed about sustainability on WRHU, Hofstra's award-winning radio station.  After, I was part of a panel on food and sustainability with Donna Boyce of Sustainable Long Island that was organized by Kari Jensen.  Later in the day, I was in the audience for Sister Jeanne Clark's discussion about her work with food activism on Long Island and her long-standing work on anti-nuclear issues.  Sister Jeanne is in her 70's and keeps on keepin' on!  To cap off the night, I attended a discussion I helped organize as part of Hofstra's Science Ideas Lecture Series that featured risk managers who are already dealing with the impacts of climate change in our region.  During the day, there were a number of tables set up featuring a number of different organizations working on environmental issues in the region.  Tonight, I am attending a screening of a movie about sustainability issues and conflict in Africa called Crisis in the Congo:  Uncovering the Truth.

All of these events were organized as part of the effort of a group of students and faculty working through Hofstra's Center for Civic Engagement.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A "Rant" on Quotation Marks

Proudly Serving "School Lunch"
Is this snarky or just an inappropriate use of quotation marks?
Click for photo credit.
I am not entire sure when it happened.

I think it began about eight years ago.  That is when I started noticing creeping quotations marks in a variety of writing.  I define creeping quotation marks as those "marks" used for emphasis when little or no emphasis is needed. 

I have never been a fan of the use of quotation marks for emphasis.  I usually find them snarky in writing and I get oddly irritated when I run across them.  Read these two sentences to see what I mean.

Bill had a party on Saturday.

Sam had a "party" on Saturday.

Clearly, Sam's party was not very much fun. 

If you intend to sound snarky in your writing, punctuate away.  There is nothing wrong with sounding like a teenager if you want to write like one.

But most people prefer clear, formal writing with a mature tone.  If you want to sound like an adult, why not say:

Sam had a boring party on Saturday.  You didn't miss anything.

These sentences are clear and precise. 

If creeping quotation marks were mainly found in informal writing, I would not have an issue with them.  But, lately I have seen quotation marks seep their way into academic writing and student assignments.  Think of these two sentences:

Washington County is developing "environmental policy" initiaves.

Jefferson County is developing environmental policy initiatives.

Which of these sentences is clearer?  To me, I fully understand what Jefferson County is doing in the second sentence.  They are working on environmental policy initiatives.  It is clear as a bell.  But, as a reader, one starts to question the intent of Washington County's initiatives in the first sentence.  Does the writer intend to call the initiatives into question?  Are they not environmental policy initiatives?  Are they development initiatives disguised as environmental initiatives?  In other words, the emphasis leads to a lack of clarity and intent by the author.  It causes the reader to ponder the writer's meaning.

Let us explore another common use.  Some people use quotation marks to indicate an out of date expression or a term that is misused commonly by the public.  One example I ran into recently is a sentence similar to this:

In 1492 Columbus "discovered" America. 

There are two problems with the use of quotations in this sentence.  First, we all recognize that Columbus was not the first person in North America and the use of the quotations to indicate that you know better is a bit out of date.  It reads like the worst of 80's postmodernism and seems snarky and haughty.  Second, the sentence is imprecise.  The way that Columbus is discussed in the modern era is within the context of European contact.  Thus, a more accurate sentence is:

I wonder what is implied by the word dog?
Click for photo credit.
In 1492 Columbus was the first known European to come into contact with indigenous North Americans.

To me, the first sentence seems lazy and full of implied meaning that is inappropriate in formal writing.  The second sentence is clear and detailed.

Another use of quotation marks I don't like is when they are used to offset a particular term or phrase that the writer thinks needs more definition, emphasis, or clarity.  Here are two examples:

Diamonds are found in "kimberlite" rocks.

In the United States, "The Endangered Species Act" was signed into law by President Nixon in 1973.

To me, the use of the quotations in the first sentence reads like a 7th grade textbook.  Kimberlite is a perfectly normal word and it doesn't need any particular notation.  Likewise, The Endangered Species Act is a well-known law and does not require any emphasis.  The use of quotation marks in both of these sentences is redundant and inappropriate.  Why set a word or phrase aside when educated people know, or should know, the meaning.

I am a fast writer and I make lots of mistakes.  I am sure my readers could point to some stinkers on this blog.  So please indulge my thoughts about "writing" so that my readers could have some idea of my "feelings" about the use of quotation marks in "formal" writing.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Decline of Bees and Monarch Butterfiles Linked to Industrial Agriculture

Click for photo credit.
There have been a number of new reports about the link between the decline of key insects and industrial agriculture.  One report links the increase of genetically modified crops to the decline of the monarch butterfly.  Milkweed, the preferred monarch butterfly nursery plant, is in rapid decline in the midwest due to the introduction of genetically modified plant crops that can withstand herbicide applications.  The genetically modified crops survive and the remaining plants, including milkweed, die.  Thus, as spraying of herbicide increases,  the monarch butterfly decreases.  Over the last decade, there has been nearly a 60% reduction in milkweed plants in the midwest with a startling 81 percent decrease in monarch egg production.

The New York Times recently highlighted research that demonstrated that low levels of pesticides impedes bee brain function making it difficult for them to find their way home.  Such changes lead to increased bee mortality.  Other research demonstrates that low levels of pesticides lead to lower food production by bumblebees. 

The problem as I see it is that we have divorced the production of food from ethics.  In many cases, the means of production are out of the hands of individual farmers.  As highlighted in the film, King Corn, most farmers are heavily reliant on the seed, fertilizer, and pesticide companies in a compex economic system that takes control of agriculture away from farmers and places it in the hands of large agribusinesses.  Because of this, the farmer, who may be concerned about the bee and the monarch is unable to change practices that damage these insects.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Images of Spring at Hofstra During the Long Island Farm Summit

We had unsettled weather overnight with a great deal of wind and rain, reminding us on Long Island that spring weather is not always perfect.  Up until yesterday, we had a string of glorious sunny days with nearly ideal weather.  

During the Long Island Small Farm Summit a week ago, the weather was particularly nice and I took a series of photos of the tulips on the Hofstra University Campus where the event was held.

Hofstra University has a lovely campus.  Its grounds are an arboretum so there is something to see for the plant lover everywhere.  The campus is on the former estate of the Hofstra family who were of Dutch descent.  For this reason, Hofstra has always had a rather impressive collection of flowering spring bulbs and people come on to the campus to see the grounds when they are in bloom.

Hopefully these images will inspire some of you to submit a photo for my Images of Spring Photo Contest.  You can read about the rules here, but there is only one week left to enter!  Send in your images to

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New Research on Health Impacts of the September 11, 2001 Attacks

Click for photo credit.
My friend, Carey Maslow, the Deputy Director of Research at the World Trade Center Health Registry in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City has a new article out with her colleagues on the long-term health impacts of the September 11, 2001 New York City attack.  Their study focuses on World Trade Center workers and residents.  You can get the article here.

They looked at hundreds of individuals who were exposed to smoke, dust, and other pollutants in Manhattan.  What they found is that individuals who were exposed are more likely to have lower respiratory problems years after the events.  In addition, those who remained in their damaged but livable homes after the attack were more likely to have problems than those whose homes needed to be vacated for repairs.

The research highlights some of the long-term effects of the pollution associated with the disaster.  But it is unclear how the nature of an individual's exposure influences health.  For example, those who cleaned their home may have had some immediate acute exposure, but reduced chronic exposure.  The differences in behavior immediately after the disaster may provide clues as to how better to address short-term exposure to extreme and rare pollution events.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Can Carbon Sinks Drain Our Way Out of Climate Change Problems?

My friend and neighbor, Randy Hoenig, posted a link on her Facebook page to an interesting New York Times article about the timing of blooms in Thoreau's Concord landscape.  The article notes that blooms are occurring much earlier than they did in Thoreau's time and that the likely cause is subtle change in the climate.

Of course, the scientific community is largely in agreement about the impacts of greenhouse gases on the environment.  However, we have not developed appropriate policy to counter the facts we are seeing on the ground.

 I, along with Sandra Garren, have written about the failure of the US Government to act on climate change.  Many scientists believe we have passed the tipping point and that significant climate change is inevitable even if we develop policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Some have looked to big science type projects to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Carbon can be stored in rocks (limestone or dolomite) and sediment for long periods of time.  This report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature suggests that one of the best ways to store carbon in coastal ecosystems is not by reef rock formation, but by the expansion of tidal salt marshes.

Yet we have seen significant wetland loss in many parts of the world.

This report about wetland loss on the Mississippi River delta from the USGS suggests that we have lost significant salt marsh in this important area over between 1956 and 2004.  The video above from the USGS describes some of the impacts of the wetland loss.

Clearly one thing we can do to try to store more carbon is to protect and expand our natural tidal salt marshes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Joshua Tree Part of Green National Parks Program and New Spring Photo Contest Entry

The beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park.  Photo by
Terry Brock.
Joshua Tree National Park is the site for today's Spring Photo Contest Entry from Archaeologist, Terry Brock.  While many of us in more humid areas have a distinct spring image memory that consists of tulips and daffodils, Terry reminds us that spring comes in different ways in different places.

I thought I would take a moment to note that Joshua Tree National Park is part of the National Park's Service's Climate Friendly Parks program. 

Take a look at what Joshua Tree is doing here on their website.  The park's efforts provide a great example of how organizations are taking a look at their impacts on the environment and how they are developing ways to mitigate them.  One way Joshua Tree is doing this is by conducting a greenhouse gas inventory and developing goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

By far their biggest challenge is transportation emission reductions within the park and I think it will be interesting to see how they do in meeting their targets.  You can read their climate action plan here to get a sense of their strategies.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Photos in the Spring Photo Contest and More Eagle News

I received more photos in the Images of Spring Photo Contest.  These come from Stephanie Mueller.  She says about the images:

These all basically have the same representation to me, that spring is a time or blooming and fresh starts. It's when the world realizes that it gets a chance to start new and I love the idea that all of nature goes along with that. 

I love them all, but have to pick the water lily flower image as the one to compete in the contest.

To enter and read more about the contest, click here.  You only have until the end of the month, so send your images to me as soon as you can.

Also, as you know, I've been following the eagle saga in Wisconsin.  The eaglets are becoming more active and you can see them in the webcam here.  Their nest is becoming quite the butcher shop and the eagles have been hunting like crazy to keep them fed.  It's great fun to watch them.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Images of Spring Photo Contest Entrant from Missouri

I received the first entries into my Images of Spring photo contest.  They came from my cousin Carol in Missouri.  As you can see, her garden is doing rather well! 

I love all the photos she sent.  The photos make me feel like I am looking at her garden.  Although I really like all of them, I am picking the Lily of the Valley photo for the contest entry.

I haven't had a big response to this photo contest this time around.  I get tons of visitors to the blog every day, so please consider sending in a photo or two for consideration in the images of spring photo contest.  The deadline for entry is the end of April.  So, you only have two weeks to enter.  All of the details for entry can be found if you click here.  Please invite your friends who like to take pictures to enter as well by sending them a link to this post.


Lilly of the Valley.

Look closely for the visitor in the ajuga.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Field Singing on Shelter Island

Some of the field singers from Sylvester Manor Farm.
I met some amazing people at the Long Island Small Farm Summit.  The event went off without a hitch and I'll be posting a great deal about it in the coming days.  But, I thought I would introduce you to some great folks who are involved with farming culture on Shelter Island, which is an island in the middle of the two forks of the east end of Long Island.

Their farm is called Sylvester Manor and as they say, they are putting the culture back in agriculture.  I think this video says it all.

They have been bringing back field singing in a big way and they performed at the summit prior to Will Allen's presentation.

As you know, I post quite a bit on sustainability and historic preservation, and I think these folks bring it all together quite well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Interesting Blog on Chickens and Beekeeping

I ran into this blog that focuses on the chickens and beekeeping.  It's a fun blog to follow and I thought some of my readers may enjoy it.

If you are on Long Island today, don't forget to come out to the Long Island Small Farm Summit!

Friday, April 13, 2012

When Animals Attack in Suburbia

Click for photo credit.
I ran across this article from the Tampa Tribune about a woman who was bit by a bobcat when she tried to help it.  Unfortunately, when she tried to save the animal after it was injured on the road, she was bitten and the animal was euthanized.

One of my former students, Amanda Gilleland, did her dissertation on animal/human conflicts in suburban settings in Florida.  Most conflicts are really quite benign and involve things like raccoons or possums getting in places people don't want them.  There are a number of companies that will trap the animal and relocate it or kill it.

Some conflicts are more extreme, such as the bobcat bite situation noted above.  The presence of alligators is another issue that confronts suburban dwellers in Florida.

It is important to note that most of the conflicts that occur between animals and suburbanites happen with animals that have adapted to the suburban setting.  Bobcat, bear, and panther conflicts are almost unheard of.  We typically find out about their presence when they are hit by a car.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eagle Nest Full of Dead Critters for Chicks

If you've been following along with the saga of the eagles in the webcam in Wisconsin, you might want to check in.  The chicks are eating quite a bit and the nest is full of all kinds of dead critters for them to eat.  Also, the babies are venturing out a bit more and are becoming more active.  You can see all the action at the Eagles4kids website here.

Tasmanian Tree Sitter, Thinking of Julia Butterfly Hill, and Register for Long Island Farm Summit

The site of Luna, Julia Butterfly Hill's 2-year home.
Click for photo credit.
I ran into this story from The Guardian's environmental blog about woman who is living on top of a tree in the Tasmanian forests in order to bring attention to the issues of old growth forest exploitation.  I would love to hear what my Australian readers think about her efforts and their take on the forestry issues in Tasmania.

The story took me back to the late 1990's when Julia Butterfly Hill sat in a 1500 year old redwood for over two years to bring to light issues of old growth redwood cutting and to save the tree.  She named her tree Luna and wrote a book about her experience.  I've added her blog link in my blog list here on the right.

Julia Butterfly Hill's efforts were an important development in the sustainability movement.  It became clear to those involved with forestry that activists brought to light unsustainable practices and that they needed to do a better job in managing forests.  Also, the activist community had a model of how one person could make a huge difference in policy.  It is important to note that Julia Butterfly Hill was not the first tree sitter.  Many activists were involved with tree sitting long before she came on the scene.  However, she certainly is the most famous American tree sitter.

I saw Julia Butterfly Hill speak in Tampa a year or two after she came down from the tree and she was clearly a mission-driven individual deeply committed to preservation of the environment.  She was an inspiring speaker and discussed a variety of issues associated with sitting in the tree for two years--everything from basic survival skills to local political issues.

In other news, if you are attending the Long Island Small Farm Summit taking place at Hofstra on Saturday it would be helpful if you would register in advance.  Please see this site for registration instructions.  If you cannot register in advance, no problem.  However, it would be helpful if you would.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Studs Terkel Centenary and Long Island Small Farm Summit

Terkel's book Working brought into
focus the lives of a number of different
types of American workers.
Click for photo credit.
Chicago is in the midst of celebrating the life of Studs Terkel.  He was born 100 years ago and lived until 2008.  A variety of events are scheduled around his centenary celebration.  You can read about them here.  

Terkel was a writer and historian who lived in Chicago.  I first became aware of him when I read his book, Working, which was published in 1974.  I think my father owned the book and I remember finding it somewhere around the house.  I distinctly remember reading it and enjoying it immensely.  The book contains a series of essays about people and their jobs.  As a teenager growing up in a small town, the book opened my eyes to the lifestyles of a number of different kinds of people and how they felt about life.  

The book didn't celebrate the rich or the unusual, but a variety of workers who were part of the American landscape in the 1970's.  I still find the themes of the book grounding.  People find value in their work and their jobs and their lives provide insight into the way our society functions.  In today's 15 minute celebrity culture and consumer driven world, it is easy to forget that there are stories all around us if we take the time to get to know people.  Terkel wrote a number of other interesting books (particularly Hard Times his oral history of the Great Depression) and hosted a well-regarded radio show.  A friend of mine recently loaned me a CD of some of his more famous interviews and I enjoyed them immensely.

I think Mr. Terkel would have enjoyed the upcoming Long Island Small Farm Summit that is taking place this Saturday.  The event should prove to be fantastic.  It is bringing together a variety of leaders of the small farms and local food movement.  Long Island has a distinct local food culture and there are many opportunities for small business and jobs within the small farm economy.  To register for the event, please go to here.  Look for me at the opening session and at the Hofstra information table in the student union during the day.  Stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sustainable Flowers and Eaglet #2

What is the carbon footprint of these flowers and how far
did they travel to get to NYC?
Click for photo credit.
I was just working on a proposal for a research project on evaluating sustainability benchmarking schemes when I received an email from a friend of mine about a book and blog about sustainability in the flower industry.  Most of us probably know that most of the flowers we buy come from vast distances.  For example, there are many growers in Florida that ship landscape plants all over the country and a huge number of cut flowers bought in the United States originate in South America and Europe.

This book and this blog provide a variety of interesting information about locally sourced and sustainably raised cut flowers and plants.  Hope you enjoy!

Also, as you know, I've been following the saga of the Eagles in Wisconsin and their webcam exploits.  The second eagle hatched today and the eaglets are starting to get active.  You can watch them here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bad Reef Art

These reef balls are proven artificial reef foundations.
Click for photo credit.
I ran across this article from the Miami Herald about an artist who created a project based on a failed artificial reef.  As noted in the report, thousands of tires were used to construct an artificial reef off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Reef critters didn't like the tires as a habitat.  Plus, the metalwork holding the tires together disintegrated causing some tires to break free and damage existing reefs.

Sometimes the best intentions toward sustainability and the environment go horribly wrong.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Great Neck Wrings Neck of Backyard Chicken Ordinance

This is a sight you will not see in Great
Neck, New York.  Click for photo credit.
The Village of Great Neck decided recently not to allow individuals to keep chickens in their backyard.  You can read about the situation here.  This is bucking a national trend that has been emerging in recent years.  Many communities have voted to allow individuals to keep hens (not the noisy roosters) in backyards or on rooftops for egg and meat production.  Even densely populated New York City allows backyard chickens.  Also contrary to an earlier post of mine that suggested that Long Island bans chicken raising, some communities very close to Great Neck, particularly very upper crust Manhasset, allow backyard chickens.  You can read more about backyard chickens here.

I don't see the chicken issue going away any time soon in Great Neck or other places on Long Island.  There is greater interest in raising chickens in backyards.  Plus as more and more people learn the benefits of backyard chickens, it is likely that local governments will support the trend.

Long Island communities tend to be geographically small and they do not change very quickly.  People tend to vote on landuse issues in ways that preserve the value of property.  I can understand the fear that some may have that backyard chickens may decrease property values.  However, young adults tend to get the backyard chicken trend and do not have a problem with chickens in their neighborhoods.  While Long Island has had a long public discussion about a youth drain on Long Island, communities are voting against the very things that would attract young, creative people to the region.

Also, just in case you haven't noticed yet, the Wisconsin Eagles I've been following have been tending their eaglet.  It has been fun to watch.  You can see the eagle family life here.  There are also clips showing the feeding and care of the baby eagle.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter, Passover, Spring Break, Etc.

Happy Easter, Passover, Spring Break, etc!
To me, this time of year always brings back pleasant memories.  Growing up in Wisconsin, Easter was a time when the spring plants would start to awaken and I saw glimpses of the pleasant summer season ahead.  This is my first spring back in the north in over 20 years, and I have to say it has been glorious.

It is so different from April in Florida.  I do miss all of my dear friends in back in the south, but I am enjoying the beauty of a northern spring.  Of course, I know that Florida is always perfection in April, particularly when enjoyed with friends, but the flowering fruit trees and spring bulbs of Long Island do provide renewed attractions to this aesthete's eyes.

We planted some spring bulbs in our backyard in the fall and they turned out lovely.  The fishing boats have returned to Manhasset Bay and our local marina is slowly filling up with boats.  It is a glorious time.

I think this sense of renewal is especially heightened in the lives of teachers.  This is the first weekend of my Spring Break and many schools are closed this week.  Many teachers are off this week.  I and others often totally shut down from teaching and research for a few days this time of year in order to recharge our souls.

Whatever you are celebrating this year, thanks for visiting my blog and being part of the conversation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Eagles in Wisconsin Starting to Hatch

Click for photo credit.
Just in case you've been following the saga of the eagles in Wisconsin, the first egg is starting to hatch!  You can watch the drama unfold live on webcam here.

The first baby is starting to break the shell and the second one should start making its way out tomorrow.  It should be a fun weekend for eagle watching.

Just a reminder, this is part of a project by a group of elementary school kids in Wisconsin.  I am sure they are excited the see the babies!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Green Easter Parade Hat?

Check out this Easter Parade hat that is really an entire
ecosystem.  Click for photo credit.
We are heading into New York for the Easter Parade on Sunday.  We've been looking online for references for our easter hats.  I love the one I posted here that I found on Flickr.  It is an entire ecosystem complete with plants, soil, worms, and roots!

Do any of you have any suggestions?  How can I represent sustainability on a hat?  Or shall I just give up on being green for the day and just have a good time with it?  Do a Google or Flickr image search for New York Easter Parade and you'll see a range of wonderful ideas!

Robert Moses and the Suburban Parkway

The low bridges on the parkways designed by Robert
Moses do not allow passage of buses or semi trucks.
Click for photo credit.
There are a number of Robert Moses stories that float around Long Island that are fascinating.  If you are not sure who Robert Moses is, read this obituary of him that reviews his many accomplishments.  In short, he was a political scientist who took on the role of master planner for the greater New York area.  In Long Island, perhaps his greatest accomplishments are the many parkways that were constructed to bring commuters from Long Island into New York City and to move them quickly and efficiently around the island.

When I moved here, I was surprised how easy it is to get around Long Island due to the many parkways.  If you are not from the area, they are like interstate expressways, but with access limited only to cars.  The lack of buses and trucks is an intentional design element by Moses.  He intended the parkway system to be a pleasant car experience for drivers.  He made the overpasses too low for large vehicles.  He designed the roadways for the suburban commuter and he did not want trucks or buses to mar the experience of the driver.  It all sounds very Mad Men in today's context.

There are some who have argued that the parkways limit access to Long Island.  Mass transit commuter buses cannot get around the island easily.  Neither can school buses.  Plus, the parkways cut through existing neighborhoods and changed the character of Long Island significantly.

These types of grand public works projects have fallen out of favor in our more dystopian and libertarian times.  Certainly Moses' works can be critiqued from a number of angles from a sustainability perspective, but his work represents a more utopian time in which the suburbs were the answer to the ills of urban living.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Floating Homes--The New Normal News of Climate Change

It is interesting that in recent years we are seeing more discussion around adaptation to changing climate. This article points out the new normal.  Planners and architects are seeking ways to design buildings that float in order to maintain development near coastlines.
Click for photo credit.

This is an adaptation that is particularly pertinent for the island nations such as The Maldives, which are slowly disappearing into the ocean.

But I wonder if we have given up trying to prevent the pollution associated with global climate change.  The language we use in our society seems to focus much more on adaptation and developing resiliency strategies to deal with rising sea levels and climate disruptions than it does on managing the source of the problem. 

While it is well and good to build adaptations in response to climate change, there are unknown factors as work that can be a threat.  For example, this research article on the range of the Lyme disease-bearing tick suggests that the range of the tick is expanding significantly due to warmer temperatures across North America.  

There are many unknowns ahead due to our inability to effectively deal with greenhouse gas pollution and I am not sure that floating coastal buildings will prove ultimately effective.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

5 Signs of a Green Opening Day for Baseball

What is your team doing to go green?  (Click for photo credit).
1.  Bats.  The Twins plant 100 trees for every bat their pitchers break.  Last year they planted over 17,000 trees in state parks and lands.  What is your team doing?

2.  Organic and Local Food.  The New York Yankees have a Healthy Home Plate program focused on healthy eating for kids.

3.  Green Ball Parks.  Washington Nationals play home games in a LEED Silver stadium.

4.  Energy.  Boston's Fenway Park uses solar energy to heat 37% of the hot water that it uses.

5.  Water.  The Phillies use runoff from their stadium to water landscape plants.

What is your team doing?

National Speleological Society Annual Convention

Karst landscapes, such as this one in Slovenia, are all
the rage at the NSS Annual Convention.  Photo by Bob
The National Speleological Society Annual Convention is June 25-29th in Lewisburg, West Virginia.  The theme of this year's event is Mayacon--referring to the infamous predictions that 2012 will be the end of the year according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar.  I think I will be in China (or just about to leave) so I don't think I'll make this year's meetings.  However, I urge anyone interested in caves or caving to attend to enjoy all that there is to enjoy about these kinds of events.  It certainly one of the most unusual conventions you will ever attend.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Historic Archaeology and Sustainability

I've been thinking a bit about the significance of historic archaeology and sustainability. 

Archaeologists of all ages help with an
excavation at Michigan State University
as part of their campus archaeology program.
Click for photo credit.
The concept of sustainability has been evolving in recent decades, but largely involves understanding how best to live in order to preserve resources for future generations in equitable and economically sound ways.  Sustainability can mean different things to different people and largely depends upon one's geographic setting.  Sustainability to me in developed Long Island just outside of New York City is likely considerably different from someone's concept of it in rural Moldova.  Because of this, sustainability can be a values-driven concept when comparing different places and when constructing global measurements of sustainability.  Of course, we also find different viewpoints and values within small geographic areas.  Just take a look at how different sustainability ideas skew experiences on a gradient across Long Island from Brooklyn and Queens to the Hamptons.

But what about sustainability across time?  Can historic archaeology be used to understand how past societies lived either sustainably or unsustainably on our landscape? Can we learn from the past to live more sustainably today?  The folks at Michigan State University's award winning Campus Archaeology Program have been doing just that.  They have been studying how their campus changed over time in order to better understand energy use, food sourcing, building materials, and a variety of other factors that we now look at today to measure campus sustainability.  It would be fascinating to apply some of the sustainability measurement schemes, such as the Clean Air, Cool Planet greenhouse gas inventory tool on a 19th century campus.  How different are the greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis in 1890 compared with 2012?  I am sure we would find that we do better at some things, and worse at others.  But, we would certainly learn a great deal from such a comparative approach.

Historic home in Roslyn I pass each day.  How sustainable were
its inhabitants over generations?  Click for photo credit.
Each day when I drive to Hofstra's campus, I pass through the small historic Long Island community of Roslyn.  It's quite an interesting place.  It was founded in the late 1600's as a harbor and mill town.  It became a very affluent area in the 19th century and was the home of William Cullen Bryant.  The community has one of the most well-preserved and documented groupings of historic buildings on Long Island.  Some of them are on one of the busiest north/south routes in Nassau County, Roslyn Road.  Each day thousands of cars pass by within feet of homes that are hundreds of years old.  I always wish I could see what the area was like prior to the advent of the automobile.  I wonder how sustainable Roslyn was in its day?  Could we measure the carbon footprint of residents of Roslyn in different periods from its founding to today?  Would we find that per capita carbon footprints varied with time?  If so, by how much?  What about how they would have fared if we measured other sustainability indicators such as water, food, equity, and economic development?  How would Roslyn, arguably a pre-suburban suburb of New York, have compared with New York City over the same time periods?