Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

As part of our series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks, we travel to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.

Weird Long Island Weather

Check out this report from FIOS Long Island News about Long Island's weird weather.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crater Lake National Park

As part of our series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks, we travel to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.

Scholars from Hainan Arrive in Hofstra

One of the benefits of being involved with international research and teaching is having the opportunity to work with great people from around the world.  Today, three scholars from Hainan, China arrived at Hofstra to work with me and my colleagues on a variety of sustainability topics.  As many of my long-term readers know, I have been working the China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies on a research project related to sustainable development in Hainan.  Since my last trip to that island in the summer, Hofstra has hosted three delegations of Chinese visitors from that island.

The three visiting scholars will interact with my students, conduct research, and expand our understanding of sustainability.  They will be here through July.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Introducing New Contributor, Dr. Elizabeth Larson

I am pleased to introduce a new contributor to On the Brink, my old friend and classmate, Dr. Elizabeth Larson, who is a faculty member at Arizona State University.  Beth and I were in the same Ph.D. program many years ago and we had several classes together.  We lost track of each other over the years, but reconnected recently.  Beth teaches courses in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU and has been awarded the Distinguished Public Scholar Award by the Arizona Humanities Council.  She has done a great deal of work throughout Latin America and focuses on peace studies, human rights, refugees, and the environment.  She also leads study abroad programs to South America.

I look forward to reading her posts!

Is Walmart Moving Toward GMO Food Labeling?

Food at Walmart.  Click for photo credit.
I've covered quite a number of food stories this year, particularly in the area of genetically modified organism (GMO) food sources.  Some nations have banned the import of GMO crops and planting of GMO seeds over the last year.  In the US, California defeated a measure to require labeling of GMO foods.  It looks as if some other states are striving to get labeling measures on the ballot in places that might be more favorable to the requirement.

According to this article on Grist, one of the biggest funders of the anti-labeling efforts was Walmart.  Now it appears as if Walmart is pulling its funding for anti-labeling efforts and may support GMO labeling. And others in the food industry may join them.

For those of us who respect Walmart’s sustainability efforts (I am one of them), this makes sense given the impact they have on improving retail sustainability (take a look at their sustainability site here).  This GMO initiative fits within their broader environmental mission.  I know that Walmart gets criticized by lots of people for some of their other activities, particularly on social justice issues.  But, there is no doubt that Walmart has one of the largest impacts on improving retail sustainability in the world.

Genetically modified food is certainly a controversial topic and I have had a friendly debate with one of my former colleagues over GMO food in the comments sections and on my Facebook site over the last year or two.  Regardless of what you think about GMO food, I think it makes sense to let people know whether or not they are consuming such products.  So, I think it is a reasonable move for Walmart, and the broader food industry, to move voluntarily to label their products.  Indeed, I would rather see the food industry do this on a voluntary basis than have it enforced by law.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dorm Chef Cheekily Wins Porky Top Chef Prize

The University of Iowa at Iowa City.
Click for photo credit.
I ran into this article from the Des Moines Register highlighting the results of the annual Pork Producers Association Iowa Taste of Elegance competition.  The winner, Barry Greenburg, is the lead a chef for housing and dining at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

He won with a "Charlotte of Pork Cheeks and Collard Greens with Roasted Garlic Custard and Andouille-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Black-eyed Pea Salad."

I know that I tip on the old end of the scale these days, but they never served a Charlotte of Pork Cheeks in my dorm back in Oshkosh back when I started college in 1979.  There was a cafeteria line with limited choices and pretty standard American food.

However, university dining has gotten more sophisticated.  At Hofstra for example, the main student dining hall has something similar to a mall food court with a grill, an Asian stand, an American entree stand, a sandwich place, a vegan stand, a Mexican place, a Kosher stand, a sushi place, and a California Pizza Kitchen.  Oh yeah, there's also a Starbucks.

Most university dining service operations have moved in this direction.  I have gotten to know some of the folks who ran the services at the University of South Florida and at Hofstra and I found them very open to conversations around food choices.  For example, Hofstra University dining services makes a very big effort to buy local food from Long Island in order to support the farming community on the island and reduce the carbon footprint of food transportation.

So, it isn't really a surprise that a university chef would win an important food competition.  It's no longer 1979.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Back from Venezuela

On the Brink will return to normal tomorrow.  I am back from Venezuela.  I had a great trip and learned a great deal about the country.

Here are some images of suburban gardens in the El Hatillo area to conclude my week on posting on Venezuela.









Thursday, January 24, 2013

Garbage Collection in Caracas

The vast city of Caracas at night.
My Venezuela week continues with a brief discussion of garbage collection.  

I ran into this article about garbage collection issues in Caracas, Venezuela.  It is really a rather fascinating read.  I think it provides excellent context for understanding the social, environmental, and political issues the country is facing.  

While there is a ton of interesting information in the article, one tidbit stuck out.  The main landfill in Caracas is nearly full and unless it opens a new landfill, the country will have to move into recycling or waste to energy.

But, that is just a small issue compared to the day to day issues associated with garbage collection and management in the city.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Renewable Energy in Venezuela

A hydroelectric dam in Venezuela.
Click for photo credit.
As noted in my previous posts this week, I am taking a bit of a departure from my normal posts and focusing this week on Venezuela.  Today, I thought I would review a small bit of information about renewable energy in Venezuela.  The country is moving into renewables for local consumption even thought it is the 8th largest petroleum exporter in the world and has the 2nd largest reserve of natural gas in the western hemisphere.  Here is an article on the move into renewables for background.  South America has tremendous fossil fuel resources, but has also been involved with renewable energy development for decades, largely in the form of hydroelectric and biofuel production. 

Venezuela has a goal of becoming one of the leaders in renewable energy in South America.  However, Paraguay already receives 100% of its energy from renewable sources (hydroelectric).  Venezuela too receives most of its domestic electricity (72%) from hydropower.  Yet, this form of energy has proven vulnerable due to droughts.

A quick scan of the Internet revealed that there are projects or plans underway to build wind farms on the Venezuelan coast as well as large solar farms.  Plus, Venezuela also plans to expand their hydroelectric systems to expand domestic energy production overall.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Suburbs of Caracas

Hello from Caracas Venezuela!  I'm in South America visiting family before the start of the semester and I thought I would do a few posts this week about the area.  Yesterday, I posted on a half marathon through a mountainous region known for its cacao production.  Today, I thought I would post some photos to show the structural difference between the South American suburb and the North American one.

This is a typical suburban front yard in the outskirts of Caracas.  The
houses are walled or fenced with private back and front yards and lots
of covered open air spaces to take advantage of the pleasant climate.
Many suburbs like this in Caracas are gated and guarded.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann. 

This view from the center of Hatillo shows a different type of suburban development--the barrio.  As big cities like Caracas expand, some suburbs develop formally like the first photo.  Others developments are more informal like the high density barrio.  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

As cities around the world expand, they extend into smaller communities, engulfing them into the new urban area while maintaining some original characteristics.  This is the center of the community of Hatillo, an old colonial town that once was on the ouskirts of Caracas.  Now, it is essentially part of greater Caracas.  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
The town square of Hatillo, anchored by the church in the previous photo, is the center of life in these suburban centers.  In this photo, a group is enjoying playing music and singing.  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

You can see all kinds of things in the town square.  Even dogs with socks.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

La Ruta del Cacao--Sports and Environment

Cacao from Chuao, the famous cacao town where
the race ends.  Click for photo credit.
Check out this link about the 2nd annual half Marathon, La Ruta del Cacao that took place last year.  It takes runners on a 23 km route through some of the most unique forests in a cacao growing area in Venezuela.  The taxing route extends from sea level, to over a 3,000 foot peak, and then back to sea level.

The setting is certainly interesting, but the organizers take advantage of the opportunity to educate the public about the environment.  They also organize tree plantings and conduct a clean up of the route.  They look at the event as an opportunity to engage the local population and participants on the importance of environmental protection.

The third event will be this May.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Congaree National Park


As part of our series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks, we travel to Congaree National Park in South Carolina.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.

Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts on the National Parks.


A Tour of the Space Station

Like many born in the 1960's, I'm fascinated by all things associated with space exploration.  So, it comes as no surprise that when I ran across this 30 minute tour of the International Space Station, time was suspended.

I must admit that I had a little bit of my cave claustrophobia kick in during the tour.  I would be totally fine on the station for about a day.  But after that?  No.  I would want to be back on earth.

Anyway, say good bye to 25 minutes and watch this fascinating video.  So proud of this international effort!


Images of Fall in Manorhaven, New York 2012

I downloaded a bunch of photos from my camera tonight prior to a big trip (more about that in an upcoming post) and I found some images of fall from Manorhaven, New York, my home.  Here they are with a few explanations.  It's hard to imagine that fall is just a month and a half behind us and that spring is right around the corner!!  Can't wait!

The roses in my neighborhood bloomed well into November.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Lots of leaves were gone after Hurricane Sandy.  It's remarkable how many were left!
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

This is on the shore of Sheets Creek, a tributary to Manhasset Bay which is part of Long Island Sound.
Can you believe this is within the viewshed of the Empire State Building?  So nice here.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

This is a common site still on Long Island.  There are tons of storage sites for what remains of downed trees.
The entire forested landscape of Long Island is vastly different after Hurricane Sandy.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Higher Education Boom in China

The main entrance to Sanya University.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Check out this article from the New York Times about the boom in higher education in China.  It features Sanya University in Hainan, a university I visited last year.  It's an interesting piece that details China's efforts toward building a college educated population.

Hofstra is developing a strong partnership with this university.  It's a beautiful part of China that is rather like Florida.  We are building a Sustainability degree program in partnership with them.

Channel Islands National Park

As part of our series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks, we travel to Channel Islands National Park in California.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Taiyo Francis Featured in Hofstra Sustainability Video

Hofstra Sustainability Studies major, Taiyo Francis, was featured on today's Hofstra University front page website here (not sure if the link will work after a week).

He is also featured on the video posted below.  He is one of several fantastic new majors in the program.

I get to work with some amazing folks!

Big Changes in Store for University of California, California State

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
Check out this article from the LA Times detailing changes Governor Brown wants to make to the university systems in California.  

Universities are under increasing pressure to graduate students within four years, keep costs low, and ensure that they are training students for jobs of the future---all within an environment where professors are developing free open online courses.

It will be interesting to see if common ground can be found between the desires of the governor and the various stakeholders involved to chart a sound course for California's university systems.

The climate for managing higher education is certainly in flux.  I believe that in 10 years or so, there will be a great reset.  Those universities that position themselves as quality institutions with strong faculty/student links, mentoring, and professional connections will be in a far better position than universities that focus on increasing class sizes, expanding online education, and rapid graduation.

There is nothing particularly wrong with any of those strategies (increasing class sizes, expanding online education, and rapid graduation).  However, the emerging job markets in the next 10 years will be in areas that require specialized training and higher order thinking that require excellence. 

How does a faculty member recognize truly exceptional talent if s/he is teaching huge online courses at a university that does not foster undergraduate research, hands-on learning, or experiences with professional organizations?  It can be done, but will it?

My guess is that the state universities will probably develop more tiered systems and that funding will be cut to some of the mid level and lower level state universities to support quality programs at the flagship schools.  States will probably develop entire campuses devoted to online education with others focused on small classes, residential life, and specialized campus programs (note that New York State has a campus entirely devoted to online programs already).  In addition, I think that private schools, even though they cost more money, will be positioned well as the states cut budget (and quality) of their university systems.  Parents and students interested in quality education will bypass state schools to seek better experiences at private universities or niche public ones.

In Florida, I found that faculty with children often tried to keep their kids out of the public school systems.  They recognized that private schools provided better education.  The quality of public education in Florida is problematic due to major cuts in spending and the overall lack of taxpayer support for education in the state.  Those that did send their kids to public schools moved to districts where the quality of the school was very high.  I look at the Florida public school model as the likely trajectory for higher education in the U.S.  As budgets are cut at the public universities across the country in an environment where tuition has to stay level or decline, parents and students will opt to go to high-quality private schools where they have confidence in the quality of education.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beijing's Pollution and China's Greenhouse Gases

A view toward Haikou, from Hainan Volcano Park
China.  The haze is humidity, not pollution.
Hainan is a desirable place to live for many Chinese
due to the clean air.  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
There are two interesting articled in the China Daily, the official English language newspaper of China.  The first focuses on the pollution problem in Beijing.  This story has gotten a great deal of press lately.  Small particulate matter, which should be below 25 micrograms per meter to prevent health problems, was measured at 900 micrograms per meter--the highest levels ever recorded.  According to the article, there is tremendous concern over the long-term economic development of the Beijing area due to the problem.  Some factory activity and construction had to cease during the pollution spell.

The second article notes that greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have reached record highs in China.  China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.  The U.S. is number 2.  China is taking a number of initiatives to develop alternative energy sources.  Nevertheless, the emissions continue.

When I was in China last summer, I was struck by the air pollution in Beijing.  While there is tremendous opportunity in the capital, many seek to move to coastal areas where the air is not as polluted.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Carlsbad Caverns National Park


As part of our series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks, we travel to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.  For more information about the park, click here.  We'll run through all 59 National Parks in alphabetical order.  If you have any photos that you would like to share from any national park that I could post, please send them along.

Following the photos, you'll find links to previous On the Brink posts on the National Parks.