Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eaglets Demonstrate the Circle of Life with Baby Raccoons

If you've been following the saga of the eagles in Wisconsin through the Eagles4kids Website, you know that they have grown tremendously.  I am amazed how quickly they grow.

This growth rate is due to the very prolific hunting of the parents.  Mr. Lawrence's 3rd and 4th graders have documented that the parents brought a variety of dead (and partially alive) animals for their babies to eat, including deer, sandhill crane, fish, and raccoons.  Check out this video of a dinner of three baby raccoons.

It is certainly a better demonstration of the circle of life than some other sources.....

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Read Along of Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History Part I

Some areas of North America experienced
significant transformation at the hands of
Native Americans.  This is an artist's depiction
of Cahokia, a native settlement near St. Louis.
Click for photo credit.
If you've been part of the On the Brink Read Along of Down to Earth:  Nature's Role in American History by Ted Steinberg, I am sure you have some thoughts on the book.  Today, I am going to briefly discuss Part 1 of the book, which consists of three chapters.  The first chapter covers pre-contact human history, the second highlights issues associated with early contact and settlement, and the third chapter focuses on problems of early colonization in New England. 

Having nearly finished the book, and finding myself enthusiastic about later chapters, I must say that the first chapter is the most disappointing of the lot to date.  However, this shouldn't dampen your interest in the remainder of the book.  The problem with the first chapter is a problem inherent in most histories of places.  Short attention is given to the prehistoric peoples and the impact they had upon the landscape.  Of course, the problem that most writers have with this period is that there is a general lack of solid information about these people.

Yet in a book on nature's role in American history, it seems odd that so much information on ecological change in America is overlooked by Steinberg.  Much of the first chapter focuses on broad ecological change associated with the deaths of various mammals (including the mammoth) potentially at the hand of early North Americans and concomitant (perhaps) ecosystem manipulation through fire and other activities.  Of course, Steinberg also highlights the development of agriculture and the significance of hunting.

These are certainly key themes in the discussion of the relationship of early North Americans and the landscape.  What is missing is a solid discussion of the ample evidence of widespread landscape alteration for agricultural land uses, urbanization, home building, burial, mound building, mining, fisheries, and a variety of other activities.  For example, there is plenty of evidence of significant landscape alteration associated with Cahokia, near St. Louis.  Here, Native Americans built one of the largest earthen structures known to mankind, changed streams, modified soils, built a city, and significantly altered the ecology. 

Wherever one looks in North America, one can see the imprint of prehistoric peoples on the landscape and this is not sufficiently discussed in the first chapter in my mind.

Pocahontas statue at Jamestown, Virginia. 
Click for photo credit.
 Chapter Two brings us forward into the contact and settlement period.  As one could anticipate, a significant theme is the widespread destruction of the Native American population as a result of introduced diseases.  Of course, the diseases were not the only thing introduced.  Old world plants and animals also became both benefits and problems.  Many of the early settlements were not particularly in tune with their new environments.  The settlement of Jamestown is used as a striking example of poor decision making around ecological principles.  The extraction of fur and timber is also used to demonstrate the sudden impact of European colonization of America.

From Chapter Two, Steinberg brings us to the settlement of New England.  Here, Steinberg argues, the New Englanders quickly overused the soil in a modified and intensive form of subsistence agriculture, making it largely unproductive and unable to sustain the growing population of the region.  The problem was multifaceted.  The rocky New England soil and the short growing season provided distinct challenges.  Yet, the growing population combined with inheritance rules put greater and greater demand on the soil.  Using small parcels of land to feed a family caused stresses on the land and put people at risk to starvation if crops failed.  When the volcano Tombora erupted in 1816 bringing a year-long cold spell highlighted by a June snowstorm, the region's decline accelerated.  Many left New England for other regions further west via the Erie Canal or other newly opened western transportation routes.  This left the region ripe for a new form of more intensive and specialized agriculture which persists today.

Thus, ends my brief discussion of the first part of the book.  Soon, I will review the next three chapters that begin to explore the great commoditization of the natural landscape of the continent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

China History Podcast and Read Along Starts Tomorrow

Food is a recurring theme in Chinese
history.  Click for photo credit.
I am heading off to China in a few weeks to develop a research project with the South China Sea Research Institute and I have been boning up on my Chinese language and history.  As part of this effort, I ran into an interesting podcast I thought I would share with my readers called the China History Podcast.  I've made it through the first 4 episodes and I have to say that I am really enjoying it.  The podcasts run around 20 minutes and the creator, Laszlo Montgomery, does an excellent job conveying key points.  He also introduces details of the Chinese language into his discussion.

The podcast is excellent for anyone interested in history--whether you intend to go to China or not.  One of the most interesting of the four podcasts focused on China's Great Leap Forward in the 1950's and 60's.  A great deal of industrialization developed during this time and agricultural declined.  Because of this, millions of Chinese died of starvation.  Indeed, I was shocked to learn that more people died in China from mass starvation during this era than in any other place on the world during the modern era.

Tomorrow I will be starting the discussion of Down to Earth, Nature's Role in American History as part of my read along (click here for details).  If you have anything to say about the first few chapters, drop me a note and I'll include it in my discussion.  Or feel free to comment in the comments section after I post on it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

US Military Leads Charge on Sustainability

A photo from the Texas Military Forces Sustainability
Conference in 2012.  Most people do not realize how
much work is being done on the sustainability front by the
U.S. Military.  Click for photo credit.
This may surprise some of my readers, but the U.S. military is one of the greenest organizations out there. I first encountered this fact years ago when I was working with a consulting firm on issues of cultural resource management on military bases in Arkansas and Tennessee.  I learned that the bases are responsible for huge tracts of land.  In order for the land to be managed effectively, the bases hire environmental experts responsible for a variety of environmental issues including endangered species management, cultural resource management, and sound ecosystem preservation.  Indeed, I found that the bases I worked on were among the best managed landscapes I have seen.  While the military missions of the bases are front and center, there is no doubt that sound environmental decisions determines what can and cannot be done on the bases all over the country. 

For example, if there is a known archaeological site on a base, military operations will avoid that site.  The same types of decisions are made for the preservation of endangered species or watershed management.  Over the years, many of my students have graduated to work at military bases as environmental experts or have worked for consulting firms that do some type of environmental work on military bases.  Just take a look at this list of military installations in the U.S. and you will see that there are dozens of bases that need environmental support of some type.  

If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the efforts by the military.  The army puts sustainability front and center in clear language on this site that details a variety of their efforts.  The Air Force and Navy also have clear sustainability missions.  Check out the clarity of the Air Force's description of their sustainability operations here.  

Certainly the operational nature of the military is often in conflict with notions of sustainability.  That is the very nature of conflict and I am not trying to greenwash in this post.  Yet, the day to day operations and land management of the U.S. military provides a strong positive example of sound organizational sustainability management and planning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns and Environs

I have been traveling and am just posting some pictures from the Carlsbad, New Mexico area.  I attended the board meeting of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and took some time to see some sites.
Hello from El Capitan in Texas.

The cacti are in bloom.

A typical landscape in west Texas.

The entrace to Carlsbad Caverns.

Carlsbad Caverns is my favorite cave in the U.S.  It is immense.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Castile Formation on the Texas-New Mexico Border

The Castille Formation consists mainly of varved
gypsum with layers of calcite and organic matter.

A friend of mine alerted me to a great roadcut where one can see the varved evaporite deposits of the Castille formation on the way to El Capitan from Carlsbad Caverns. The site is interesting for a number of reasons.  Most of the surrounding lowland landscape is underlain by evaporates of some type or another.  However, because they are eroded easily, they are rarely exposed.  At this site, near the New Mexico/Texas state line, the road has cut through the rocks to create a very nice exposure of the sediments.  It is a site well known to geologists as it is one of the best exposures of this formation in the region.

This segment shown in my hand represents about 30
years of deposition. 
I stopped and took a few pictures.  The light colored layers are only a centimeter or less thick and are gypsum evaporate deposits and the darker layers are organic rich calcite indicating an influx of organic matter and evaporitic calcite.  Each dual layer shows an annual cycle.  The entire formation has over 250,000 dual layers, representing a quarter of a million years of sedimentation.  The formation is nicely described here. It is definitely worth a quick stop if you are in the area.  The evaporitic sediments in the region are largely responsible for the presence of an oil and gas industry in the area.  They serve as a cap rock that seal in the energy sources below.
Note the irregular bedding.  The variations were caused by
post-depositional changes in hydrology and tectonics.

Cactus flower near the outcrop.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eclipse Photos

Hello to my readers from Carlsbad, New Mexico, where I was pleased to experience the solar eclipse this afternoon.  Here are some photos.  Enjoy!
We had nearly a complete eclipse in Carlsbad.  North
in Albuquerque they had the entire ring.  No
complaints from me though!

Some folks gave us black film viewers and we were able
to see incredibly detailed views of the eclipse.  For most of the time,
it just looked like the sun was dimming.
At the very end, the eclipse was quite evident as the sun set.
This is what it looked like right before the eclipse.  The sky
clearly dimmed from this point forward.
We were a little worried about the clouds, but it all turned out fine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Port Washington Local History Center

Port Washington is a walkable community
with many amenities.  It has been this way
for decades.  Click for photo credit.
I live in a really great Long Island community called Port Washington.  One of the best parts about living here is that it has one of the best local libraries I have ever seen.  I was poking around their website and ran into their Local History Center which has a vast amount of information including digital collections, books, oral histories, and photos.

The photos are great fun.  It is great to see how how much the community has stayed the same or changed.  Overall, I find it interesting to note that the town has not changed that much over the last century.  While there are infrastructure changes (for example the taxis look entirely different now), the buildings on main street look for the most part the same as they did early in the 1900s.

One of Port Washington's marinas.  Click for photo credit.

There are some truly exception images from their collection.  For example, take a look at this photo of the town after a hurricane in 1938.  Or, take a look at this map from 1893.  You'll see that there are just a few buildings in place in the late 19th century.  A building boom took place right after.

As far as I know, Port Washington has always been a great place to live.  It has a small town atmosphere and it is easy to get to New York City by train.  It is a walkable community and you really do not need a car to do basic shopping.  Modern urbanists have been trying to recreate these communities all over the U.S. through the tenets of New Urbanism.  Some of these communities have been successful, some have not.  Taking a look at the historical images, it is easy to note that there is a sense of community and institutional longevity in Port Washington that is hard to recreate through architectural means.

I have written often about the significance of historic preservation to the modern sustainability movement.  It is worthwhile to study the past in order to figure out how design communities that make sense for today.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Street Sweeping and Applied Research

How do street sweepers impact the environment?
Click for photo credit.
Last night I gave a lecture to the Long Island Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (AMSE) on the science and policy of street sweeping.  It was very nice of them to invite me and I had a terrific experience.  The Long Island Chapter is one of the strongest organizations in the regional group of the AMSE that consists of the northeast US, Quebec, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  In fact, the regional district Leader, Michael Roy, was there last night to give a regional service award to one of the members of the Chapter.

My talk focused on street sweeping science and policy and focused on work I did with my friend, Graham Tobin in Florida on a wide array of topics, from street sweeping waste to storm water management.  I am always struck by the lack of research on street sweeping.  Every day, thousands of street sweepers spread out across the world and significantly change the landscape.  They produce an amazing amount of waste.  If you do a search for academic research on street sweeping, you'll find very few articles.

Whenever I go to academic conferences, I am amazed by the amount of research being done on pure science topics that have little real-world application.  I don't want to throw a stone at these researchers, because we need this type of research.  However, when there are real problems that could be solved by conducting research on a number of important applied topics like street sweeping, the vast amount of pure science research seems odd and a bit of a luxury in these important transformative times for the environment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Brink Read Along: Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History

Click for photo credit.
Before giving an exam yesterday, I grabbed a book I had sitting on my shelf for some time. The book is Down to Earth:  Nature's Role in American History by Ted Steinberg.  I often read while giving essay exams and this book has been calling to me for some time.  I think I bought it at one of the conferences I attended in the last year or two.  I remember reading parts of it in the past, but decided to do a complete read through over the next week or so.  The book is used as a textbook in environmental history courses.

I thought I would invite my readers to do a read along of the book with me.  I read the first few chapters yesterday and I thought they were very readable and interesting.  If you are a lover of history and/or the environment, I think you will find the book a good read.  It is definitely not your traditional college textbook.  The writing is crisp and rich and not the normal dry text one typically finds in the genre.  I am sure you can get the book through your local library or you can order it online.  It is also available as an ebook.

I'll discuss my thoughts on the first few chapters next week.  I'd love to have your comments on the book and perhaps we can get some discussion going in the comments of my upcoming posts on the book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Industrial Ag and Small Ag Clash in Minburn Iowa

This pig is in the minority in that it is allowed out of
doors as part of its life cycle.  Most pigs we eat spend
their entire life in confinement facilities that house hundreds,
if not thousands, of pigs in cages in a single building.
I ran across this interesting article from the Des Moines Register reviewing a conflict brewing in Minburn Iowa over the construction of a 5,000 hog confinement facility consisting of two large buildings.  If you spent any time in the country near a pig farm, you can imagine what it would be like living next to 5,000 hogs.  Neighbors, including an organic farmer, are concerned over their quality of life if the pig confinement facility is built.

There were pig farms not too far from where I grew up. They typically had a few hundred pigs at most.  This graph and associated article shows you how pig farming has changed since the 1970's when I was a kid.  There are now fewer farms that raise pigs and those that do raise pigs raise lots of them.  The graph clearly shows the movement away from the family farm into an industrial agricultural system.

Can you imagine what the proposed confinement building would be like inside?  This is the Humane Society's take on farm animal confinement.  You may also find this editorial from the New York Times written by a rancher of interest.

To me, this is an issue of redefining agricultural zoning.  There is no doubt that the pig confinement facility is quite different from traditional agricultural practices and that there are reasonable arguments to be made that it requires special zoning permits.  These large facilities are about as far away from traditional agricultural one could imagine.  I am not the first person to make this argument and some have taken such matters to the courts.  However, the courts, in part, have sided with industrial agricultural interests in not requiring special agricultural permits for such facilities based on zoning rules.  Some courts have said that pig confinement operations are within the realm of what could be expected to occur on agricultural land uses.

To me, such intensive activities represent industrial scale food production and should require broader community support from surrounding neighbors prior to approval, similar to what happens when land is rezoned.  Zoning, in part, is meant to protect property owners from deterioration of value and to maintain a quality of life.  We have zoning to prevent, say, a fast food restaurant from opening up next to your residential home in a residential neighborhood.  I think the same argument can be made for these industrial-scale agricultural facilities.  If you are a traditional farmer, do you really want one of these facilities as your neighbor?  Shouldn't you have a right to have a say whether or not this is the kind of land use you want in your agricultural neighborhood?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Eagles Get Pinfeathers and Green Meadows Petting Farm

If you haven't been to Eagles 4 Kids for a while to see the webcam of the eaglets in Wisconsin, you should stop by.  I've been following the saga of the eagles through the eyes of an elementary school and their webcam since conception.  Now, the eaglets are over a month old and are changing every day.  They are starting to stand much more on their own and they are getting their pinfeathers in as May moves along.

The parents are hunting nearly non-stop.  While I noticed that they bring mainly fish, they have also brought plenty of birds and small mammals.

The webcam, except in its most gruesome moments, provides great background if you have to spend your day on the computer.

In other news, the good folks at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Wisconsin have opened for the season.  It is run by some high school friends of mine near Waterford, Wisconsin.  If you are in the area, stop by!  Enjoy this video of the farm with a song written about the place.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Global Statistics on Improving Maternal Health

Click for photo credit.
Given that it is Mother's Day here in the U.S. I thought I would take a moment to review some statistics from the United Nations on the state of maternal health around the world.

The U.N. created a series of goals to improve the planet called the UN Millennium Goals.  They are divided into several broad categories, one of which is called Goal 5:  Improve Maternal Health.  There are a series of subgoals under this category and I thought I would review one of them, maternal mortality rate.  Maternal mortality rate is the death of a woman while pregnant or 42 days after the termination of a pregnancy by causes associated with the pregnancy.

Millennium Goal Target 5.A.  Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.  To date, the world has gone from 400 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 260 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2008.  Clearly great progress has been made, but the goal has not been met.  If you break it down regionally, there has been tremendous progress in many parts of the world.  However, the greatest maternal mortality rate remains in Sub-Saharan Africa where the decrease has been from 870 to 640 over the same period.  In contrast, developed regions have gone from 26 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 17 in 2008.

You can look at more statistics here on a number of the goals.  This map shows the breakdown of maternal mortality by country.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

19th Century Farm Maps of Manhattan

This Pork Shop stands out as a pleasant anachronism in
the glass and concrete world of Manhattan.  200 years ago
much of the island was farmland.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Yesterday, I took the Long Island Railroad to get into Manhattan in order to put in an application for a visa to go to China.  The train pulled into Penn Station and I walked several blocks to the consulate near 12th Avenue and 42nd Street.  Each time I go into New York I am struck by the intensity of development and the number of people who are on the street and who inhabit such a small area.  Yet, there are still signs of a more rural, or at least different, time.  I walked by the area where the horses are stabled and the buggies kept prior to heading to the Central Park area to take tourists on rides.  I also ran into some specialty shops that seem a bit out of place in the mix of the modern landscape.

That is why this article from the New York Times is so interesting to me.  It notes that the Museum of the City of New York along with the Manhattan local government created an online map of early 19th century agricultural Manhattan.  You can see the map here.  If you know the island, I think you'll like comparing existing places with the agricultural landscape of the past.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Undergraduate Research Day at Hofstra

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Yesterday was undergraduate research day at Hofstra.  Two of my Honors students presented posters on their work.  One student reviewed her work on understanding the green fashion movement.  Many designers and manufacturers are developing a number of green initiatives around fashion.  Prior to the current era, people had few retail options for garments or made their own clothes.  Today, in our era of globalization, clothes are cheap and almost disposable.  My student looked at a variety of businesses developing alternatives to the fast fashion movement.  My other student discussed how residents of islands in the Chesapeake are dealing with environmental change within the context of globalization.  Many of the islands are quickly becoming depopulated due to the subtle rise in sea level, land sinkage, and the lack of opportunity for young people in this time of globalized labor and markets.  She developed population pyramids for the islands and it is clear that in a generation they will be largely unpopulated unless there is a change in behavior.

There were other great posters and presentations.   One of our students did a GIS analysis of how the national scope of the Occupy Movement is changing over time.  Another gave a presentation comparing the business practices of Apple with Kodak.  As you probably can imagine, Apple is much less civic minded than Kodak, which had a huge impact on Rochester, New York.  It was really stunning to see the difference between an early 20th century company's approach to civic engagement compared with a modern company.  Another student presented research on current slavery issues in Brazil centered around charcoal production used in iron processing.  

Overall, we had a nice showing on campus and I am really proud of all of our students.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Flame Retardant Flashes Through EPA Approval

Click for photo credit.

When the EPA was set up, it was designed to manage well-known pollutants regulated by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.  Yet, we live in an age of nanochemistry and hi-tech approaches to better living through chemistry.  How can we know that emerging chemical products are safe?

The bottom line is that we do not know if they are safe.  Little public health or environmental testing of these chemicals is done prior to approval.  As the article points out, some of the chemicals used as fire retardants have entered ecosystems and caused damage.  Legally available products have been banned in some states and countries, but are broadly available in products in the United States.  Some have even been labelled carcinogens by some organizations.

There has been great discussion in recent years around reforming existing chemical safety law and regulation.  The US is behind other countries in evaluating emerging products and chemicals to which we are exposed in our daily lives.  Given the gridlock in our federal government, I do not expect to see any change in U.S. law any time soon.  But, states have stepped up to the plate and are developing their own regulatory system given the absence of federal leadership on these emerging industrail chemicals and new pollutants.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Repurposing An Old Bridge Into an Amenity and North Carolina Thumbs Nose at Creative Class

The wonderful Friendship Trail is an old bridge that connects Tampa
with St. Petersburg.  It is now closed due to safety concerns, but efforts
are underway to reopen it.
Click for photo credit.
I am a huge fan of the Friendship Trail Bridge over Tampa Bay.  The trail was essentially an old bridge, called the Gandy Bridge, that connected Tampa with St. Petersburg over Tampa Bay.  The bridge was scheduled for demolition when a new bridge was constructed in the 1990's.  However, community activists fought to keep the bridge in place as a pedestrian bridge.  I walked it many times.  It was an amazing community asset because you could walk or bike all the way across the bay.  In fact, it was the only pedestrian or bicycle connection between the communities.

Unfortunately, the trail closed several years ago due to safety concerns.  Some areas of the concrete in the old roadway were deemed unsafe.  I, and many others, were disappointed when the trail closed.  It provided a great urban parkway with access for fishing, biking, and roller blading.  It was an extremely popular site, similar in many ways to the popularity of the High Line in New York City.  While there were not the amenities or design elements one sees in the well-regarded High Line, there were amazing views of the bay and the urban region and a nice long span for exercising.

Thankfully, a group is working on providing access to the Friendship Trail again and is seeking support to replace the unsafe concrete spans with metal.  This article details their efforts.  I wish them the best of luck in reaching their goals.  There is no doubt that the Friendship Trail was one of the most popular parks in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.  The reborn trail would be an amazing addition to the region.

In other news, North Carolina voted to ban gay marriage and domestic partnerships.  It will be interesting to see how the universities and high tech industries of the state deal with this issue.  In Florida when a similar ban hit, universities provided domestic partner insurance through private dollars.  I don't think the North Carolina law will allow for even this approach.  In fact, I believe that the law bans any benefits for domestic partnerships for public and private companies. 

Most Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits.  I am curious to see how the business community of North Carolina reacts to the new law.  Most people involved with economic development look at domestic partnership insurance access as a draw for talent.

Richard Florida and others have written quite a bit about the significance of the creative class to economic development of a region.  The creative class is defined a group of college educated, hard working, technologically savvy individuals who tend to drive economic development.  Steve Jobs is a perfect example of someone who represents the creative class.  Check out this video of Richard Florida describing the significance of the creative class to economic development.

Will businesses and universities have a hard time attracting the creative class in light of this new law?  How will the famed research triangle be impacted by the banning of domestic partnerships?  There is no doubt that elections have consequences to immigration and I imagine that there will be some movement of talent as a result of the new law.  Plus, it will be harder to attract some talent to come to North Carolina.  Whether one agrees with the law or not, one has to recognize that many in North Carolina are polishing their resumes today.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

National Public Gardens Day Is May 11

If you go to the USF Botanical Gardens this weekend,
say hello to my old friends, Kim Hutton (left) and Laurie
Walker.  Kim is the Director of Special Events and Volunteers,
and Laurie is the Director of the Gardens.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann
Check out this site from the folks at Better Homes and Gardens.  You can get free admission to your local botanical gardens in celebration of National Public Gardens day.

A big hat tip to the USF Botanical Gardens for bringing it to my attention on their Facebook page.

There are several gardens in the New York area participating in the program including the Queens Botanical Gardens and the New York Botanical Gardens.  I think I'll probably make my way to one of those over the weekend in between doing end of the semester grading.  In Florida, my favorite garden, the USF Botanical Gardens, is participating as is one of my other places, Bok Tower.  Wherever you live in the U.S. (if you live in the U.S.), you can find a garden near you to enjoy this weekend for free.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bike Infrastructure's Gears Up In Minnesota

Minneapolis Mayor Rybak leading bikers in Minneapolis.
Click for photo credit.
I ran across this article on the benefits of the improved bike infrastructure in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I thought some of my readers might find it of interest.

The modern transportation network in the U.S. is understandably built around the car.  But with gas prices above $4.00 and with people wanting different transportation options, it makes sense to divert some of the dollars that normally go to car infrastructure improvements into bicycle infrastructure in some locations.  According to the article, the improvements on Minnesota roadways was significant.  There was less carbon in the air, less gas burned, less health care costs, and a 50% increase in bicycle use.

If you are interested in bicycle infrastructure improvements on roadways in your area, contact the organization responsible for your roads.  Federal, state, and local governments each control different segments of roadways.  Project managers are always seeking public input on projects.  If you get involved, you can have a big say in what happens on road improvements in the area.  I've been to public meetings where I was the only person from the public in attendance.  Those responsible for projects do take public comment into consideration.  I know many projects that added bike lanes and sidewalks due to the comments of a few people who show up at meetings when projects were presented. Most of the public is pretty apathetic about transit and citizens rarely show up for publicly advertised meetings about roadways improvements.  That is why one person can make a big difference in the direction a project takes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nitrogen Trading in Connecticut

I ran into this interesting program on nitrogen trading in Connecticut.  The purpose of the program is to reduce nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants in order to improve the water quality of the Long Island Sound.
Click for photo credit.

Pollutant trading is an innovative tool used by pollution managers to control point and non point pollution within distinct geographic boundaries.  A set total pollutant load among polluters is agreed upon with set limits for individual polluters.  If one polluter pollutes less than its set target limit, it can sell the right to pollute up to its limit to a polluter who is polluting more.

What this does is encourage polluters to pollute less because they can make money by selling credits.  This essentially funds innovation.  In the case of nitrogen trading in Connecticut, the credits help fund improvements in sewage treatment plants.  It also helps polluters who cannot afford major improvements by allowing them to pay for the right to pollute.

Pollution trading is used all over the world to manage regional pollution problems.  Unfortunately pollution trading is not very well understood by the public.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Burger King Goes Cage Free

click for photo credit
I ran across this interesting article today noting that Burger King is going to make a big change in its pork and egg sourcing policy.  By 2017 its hundreds of millions of eggs will be from cage free vendors and all of its pork will be crate-free.

Because of its purchasing power, Burger King is going to make a big difference in the supply chain of these major food sources.  Notably, it is the first major fast food vendor to make such a commitment.

No longer will cage free and crate free food be seen as something out of reach to the public and an elite form of foodyism.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Elmont Discusses Economic Development Around Racetrack

Ever since I served as one of the writers of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Plan, I've been watching a variety of interesting economic development initiatives with great interest.  

Belmont Park.  There is much hope for community
economic development pinned on this site.

Last night, the community of Elmont held their second annual Elmont Economic Development Summit.  I wasn't able to attend, but Aisha Al Muslim, a reporter with Newsday, tweeted updates from the event.  You can read her twitter feed here.

Typical residential area of Elmont.  A large expansion of
housing occurred after the construction of the racetrack.
Elmont is an interesting place.  It is on the boarder of Queens, thus is a Long Island community, but with a flavor of Queens.  Elmont was relatively rural until the opening of the Belmont Race Track in 1905.  Since then, Elmont developed an urban/suburban quality.  Currently Elmont is in transition.  Like many older suburban areas on the urban fringe, it is going through a transformation.  

If one examines the most recent data on population of Elmont from the US government, one will find that a significant percentage of the adult population is foreign born.  The white non-Hispanic population has dropped by approximately 50% in the last ten years with associated growth in Hispanic, African American, and Asian populations.  Elmont is home to the 6th largest concentration of Asians on Long Island.  The diversity of the community is an asset discussed by many in framing Elmont's economic development.

Street scene of a commercial area of Elmont.
Elmont also has many other assets.  It has a train station on the Long Island Railroad, several commercial districts, and some light industrial areas.  Each of these assets provide opportunities for those considering the economic development of the region.

It is clear, however, that the community is giving much attention to the potential of Belmont Race Track.  Currently, it serves a single purpose.  Can the property be better used to provide greater economic development and concomitant jobs in the area?  I know that I'll be watching to see what happens.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rafters the Cat LOL Contest

The USF Botanical Gardens is having a LOL Cat captioning contest featuring pictures of their resident beloved cat, Rafters.

I think you have to be a USF student to be part of the contest, but you can send one in anyway for fun.  Part of the mission of the USF Botanical Garden is to educate the public about sustainability and Rafters is certainly part of the message.

If you want to enter the contest, see this site.

It gives me an idea for the next photo contest on this blog.....LOL sustainability anyone?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Final Images of Spring Photo Contest Entries

Julie Marie Evans sent along these entries in the photo contest.  They are all nice, but I must pick one for the competition.  My two favorites are the bleeding hearts and the bee in the azaleas, but I have to go for the bee in the azaleas. The flowers seem to be at peak beauty and everyone knows I am a sucker for bees.  Plus, I think that the image is really lovely and represents spring the best of all of them.  The captions in the photos were sent along by Julie to describe the photos.  I am also quite fond of the rest of them and I really enjoyed seeing them.  Thanks Julie!

Over the next few days, I'll package the images that I selected for the contest and send them on for judging.  We should have a winner in a week or two!

A busy spring time bee netaring on the white azaleas... 

A springtime caterpillar showing off..."Look ma, no
hands!! or feet or whatever...."

Rudy Teddy and colorful azaleas of spring.

Dainty bleeding hearts, our beloved harbingers of spring.

Laura, and her dear friend, Liz, sharing Easter basket goodies.