Thursday, July 31, 2014

New York City Microfarms; and Hofstra to Host Long Island Food Conference

Check out this article from the New York Times about New York City citizens' efforts to grow and
The Hofstra student garden.  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
raise food in backyards.  There are also efforts to grow food on walls and roofs.  There is also a very strong forager movement in the city.

The growth in the interest for eating and growing healthy food is an international trend that suggests that major changes in how we approach food are underway.

In Long Island there is a tremendous interest in raising, cooking, and eating good, healthy, and clean food.  As such, Hofstra will host the Long Island Food Conference Saturday, April 25th.  I'll list more about the event as it gets closer, but the conference is put on by the North Shore Land Alliance with support from Hofstra.  Previously, the event was called the Long Island Small Farm Summit.  Given the interest in other areas of food, we decided to rename the event.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lead Pollution and Violence in Latin America

My niece and nephew in Caracas will be the first
generation in some time to grow up without
lead emissions in their environment.
One of the striking things about Latin America in recent years is the horrible increase in violence.  When I was in Venezuela earlier this year, it was dangerous to get around the city of Caracas and many people are kidnapped, murdered, or violently robbed every year.

There are a number of reasons for violence in Venezuela and other countries.  Some have attributed it to political upheaval, drug gangs, lack of opportunity, and failure of established social institutions.

However, I ran across this brief article from July of 2013 by Rick Nevin, a noted economist who has been looking at issues of lead pollution and crime in the United States.  His research has shown that there is a link between lead pollution and associated poisoning and violent crime.  Indeed, he has demonstrated the rise and fall of violent crime in the United States and tracked it quite closely with lead pollution.

As many know, lead pollution in children causes widespread learning disabilities, cognitive disfunction, behavioral problems, and a number of other problems.  Nevin has shown variations in lead pollution output in different countries of Latin America and has shown that there is a link between lead pollution and violence.

What is interesting in the Venezuela case is that this country was one of the last countries to ban leaded gasoline in the world (in 2005).  In 2013, Nevin predicted that Venezuela will continue to see increased rates of violent crime for the next several years.  At least for 2014, that prediction has sadly come true.

I conducted research with colleagues many years ago on lead pollution in Trujillo, Venezuela.  We found very high levels of lead on the streets in front of homes, where children play, and in backyard patios.  There was no doubt that the lead was coming from automobile exhaust and that many children were exposed to lead in their daily lives.

While Venezuela is late compared to the rest of the world in banning lead from gasoline, I am glad that the next generation of Venezuelans will not have to be exposed at rates of previous generations.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Unilever's Corporate Sustainability Plan

Unilever has an online sustainability plan ( that is divided into 9 main areas within three themes.  Each theme has subgoals that are quantified within the plan (note, I have taken the text largely from the site with some modifications).

1.       Improved health and well-being
a.      Health and hygiene.  Goal:   By 2020 we will help more than a billion people improve their health and hygiene.
                                                              i.     Reduce diarrhoeal and respiratory disease through handwashing
                                                             ii.     Provide safe drinking water
                                                            iii.     Improve self esteem
                                                            iv.     Improve oral health
b.      Goal:  By 2020 we will double the proportion of our portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognized dietary guidelines.
                                                              i.     Reduce saturated fat
                                                             ii.     Increase essential fatty acids
                                                            iii.     Improve heart health
                                                            iv.     Reduce calories
                                                             v.     Remove trans fat
                                                            vi.     Provide healthy eating information
                                                          vii.     Reduce sugar
2.      Reducing environmental impact
a.      Greenhouse gases.  Goal:  Halve the greenhouse gas impact of our products across the lifecycle by 2020
                                                              i.     Cut greenhouse gases in manufacturing by purchasing renewable energy, focusing on energy conservation and efficiency, and outfitting new factories with energy saving plans
                                                             ii.     Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from skin cleansing and hair washing
                                                            iii.     Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from washing clothes
                                                            iv.     Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation
                                                             v.     Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration
                                                            vi.     Reduce energy consumption in offices
                                                          vii.     Reduce employee travel
b.      Water use.  Goal:  Halve the water associated with consumer use of our products by 2020.
                                                              i.     Reduce water in existing factories and build in water conservation in new factories
                                                             ii.     Produce easy rinse product and products that use less water
                                                            iii.     Reduce water use in skin cleansing and hair washing
                                                            iv.     Reduce water in agriculture
c.      Waste and packaging.  Goal:  Halve the waste associated with the disposal of our products by 2020.
                                                              i.     Goal of zero non-hazardous waste to landfills
                                                             ii.     Reduce packaging
                                                            iii.     Increase recycling and recovery rate
                                                            iv.     Increase recycled content of products
                                                             v.     Reuse packaging
                                                            vi.     Tackle sachet waste
                                                          vii.     Eliminate PVC
                                                         viii.     Reduce office waste
d.      Sustainable sourcing.  Goal:  By 2020 we will source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably.  Several specific goals are listed ranging from paper and board to agricultural products like cage-free eggs and sustainable cocoa and palm oil.
3.      Enhancing livelihoods
a.      Fairness in the workplace.  Goal: By 2020 we will advance human rights across our operations and extended supply chain.
                                                              i.     Implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
                                                             ii.     Source 100% of procurement spend in line with our Responsible Sourcing Policy
                                                            iii.     Create a framework for fair compensation
                                                            iv.     Improve employee health, nutrition, and well-being
b.      Opportunities for women.  Goal:  By 2020 we will empower 5 million women.
                                                              i.     Build a gender-balanced organization with a focus on management
                                                             ii.     Promote safety for women in communities where we operate
                                                            iii.     Enhance access to training and skills
                                                            iv.     Expand opportunities in our value chain
c.      Inclusive business.  Goal:  By 2020, we will have a positive impact on the lives of 5.5 million people.
                                                              i.     Improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers
                                                             ii.     Improve incomes of small scale retailers
                                                            iii.     Increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain

Clearly striving to reach these goals involves all aspects of Unilever’s business operations, supply chain, and global operations.  Very few companies have such a clear, far-reaching initiative that bridges the desire to promote products that they produce while advancing a clear sustainability agenda.  And no, I'm not paid by Unilever to write this.  I'm not saying it is the greenest company or the best sustainability plan on the planet, but it is impressive.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Our Collective Parthenon

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
As my readers know, I spent some time in the Greek Isles this summer.  However, I also spent two days in Athens seeing the sites.  Of course, I made the obligatory trip to the Parthenon.  One rambles around the ruins and there are scant interpretive signs.  I left wanting to know more.

While I was in Oxford, I ran into this book at Blackwell's Bookstore by Mary Beard called simply enough, The Parthenon.  Since it was not a dense unapproachable tome, I picked it up.  I am glad I did.  It is a relatively short book that highlights the entire history of the site from construction to the modern day.

Without going into the details of the Parthenon or its history, the overarching message from the book is that the Parthenon is really not a story about the Greeks that built it over 2500 years ago.  Instead, it is a story of the way that others used and abused it since it was constructed.

Certainly there is that relatively brief moment in time (if a few hundreds of years of its 2500 year history could be called brief) when it was used as a temple to Athena.  Then, it appears, that it was somewhat of a temple while also serving as a treasury and a regional tourist attraction (as it is now).  However, upon the fall of Athens as a major power, the temple served as home for a warlord, a monument to the Roman Emperor Nero, a church, a mosque, a fortress, and a site of squatters.

When the Greek government started to restore the Acropolis in the 1800's, the site was largely destroyed and in ruins.  It was looted extensively by treasure seekers and museum seeking to have pieces of classical Greek statuary in their collections (Lord Elgin and the Elgin Marbles for example).  A massive explosion in 1687 ruined the building and tore off the roof.  The blast also killed approximately 300 people.  How could they reconstruct the acropolis given all of this damage?

But reconstruct, they did.  They threw together the structure we see today and cleared the site of 2500 years of debris (no doubt losing important artifacts and historical context in the process).  Since then, many have realized the errors of the past.  Now, a much more scientifically appropriate reconstruction process is underway and the entire building is expected to be open to the public in a few years (one can only wander outside of it).

The modern Parthenon is nothing like the Parthenons of the past.  Certainly the design is the same, but the use and the way that people interact with the building are different.  Thus, the modern Parthenon is more of a reflection of us than it is of the past.  Each culture interacted with the space in their own way. The ancient Greeks constructed it, but many generations transformed the space for their own use.  While we see an ancient Greek space through our modern lenses, the reality is that we are seeing a very modern space that is interacting with ancient space and it tells us a great deal about ourselves.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Credit for Lionfish Study Gets Poisonous

Click for photo credit.
Check out this report from the Miami Herald about the fallout of publicity on a 6th grader's science project.

As many in the higher ed biz know, we often work with high school or younger students on science projects.  They come to us over the summer or have scheduled times to come in to do lab work during the regular semester.

Because they are so young, universities and the media often focus publicity efforts on these students.  They and their results are interesting and give us hope for the future.  It is always wonderful to see these students do good work.  Many of us put in long hours working with these types of students and our undergrad and grad students often help us with the mentorship work.

However, clearly things got out of hand with the lionfish research alluded to in the story.  It appears as if the media picked up on a 6th grader's project that was based on graduate student work already published.  The 6th grader did some follow up work to a detailed study conducted by a graduate student.  Who got the national and international credit?  The 6th grader.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Texas Goes 3600 Miles for Wind

A wind farm in Texas.  Click for photo credit.
Check out this interesting article in the New York Times on Texas' quest for wind energy.  They built 3600 miles of transmission lines from the windy panhandle to the major energy using areas of the state to try to encourage construction of windmills in the region.  And it is working.

Dozens of new windmills are being been built that will account for 7000 megawatts of energy.  The capacity of the transmission line is 18,000 megawatts, so there is room for further development.  Considering that a medium-sized coal burning power plant produces about 500 megawatts, the implications of this wind development project are clear.  The wind plant has the potential to eliminate the need for 36 coal burning power plants.

Of course, there are always challenges with wind.  The biggest, of course, is how to supply energy on non-windy days.  Nevertheless, this is a very big development for the green energy movement.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Another Huge Sinkhole in Spring Hill Florida

Spring Hill, Florida continues to be the epicenter of sinkhole activity in Florida.  The area developed rapidly since the 1970's.  Since then, hundreds of sinkholes have formed to cause widespread damage to homes.  The main reason for this situation is the unique underground geology in the area.  A groundwater mixing zone, where fresh and saline water mix to form a more aggressive solution environment for limestone, is nearby.  Plus the bedrock is relatively near the surface which means that the impacts of any solution and subsequent collapse are very evident.

Check out this video below.  Also, if you want to know more about Florida sinkholes, there's this.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Income Inequality on the Decline?

Check out this interesting piece in the New York Times about income inequality.  According to the author, it is on the decline globally.  This is an important finding because income inequality is a theme in much of the emerging discourse on global sustainability.  While the author acknowledges that income inequality is on the rise in places like the U.S., it is dropping throughout much of the developing world. He also states that many nations with income disparities can modify policies, such as improving education, to address the concerns.

The piece is worth a read to get a nuanced and critical view of the discourse on issues of income inequality.  What do you think?  We have certainly seen income inequality rise in the United States and it is of growing concern to many major thinkers.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Life Without a Personal Car in Finland

Click for photo credit.
Grist has an interesting article on Helsinki's efforts to use driverless cars, smart buses, and hi-tech wizardry to get rid of cars in 10 years.  They are seeking to create a transportation system by which you can have door to door transit service by putting in your starting and end point in an on-line application.  Once that is done, a car shows up to take you to a bus stop or your destination.

I know lots of people in the New York area who already do this--albeit without the driverless cars.  It is pretty easy to live without cars in the New York area.  However, for less dense cities, this approach could be a game changer for reducing cars on the road and for reducing personal debt for car ownership.  Driverless car technology is looking more and more like it will be transformative for our future.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Today I continue my series highlighting interesting open access Flickr photos of all 59 U.S. National Parks. In this post we go to Lassen Volcanic National Park in California. 

I'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. Check them out to see the beauty of the U.S. National Parks as captured by visitors.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Giant Siberian Hole Not End of Times or Aliens

Anytime something strange and unexpected happens on the earth, some claim that it is a sign of the "end of times". Such sentiments are not new or unique.  Feverish fear mongers have been making such claims for centuries. It's been happening as long as there have been apocalyptic religious views that saw the earth ending in some cataclysmic event brought on by the hand of God.  Likewise, UFO adherents find any oddity on earth more evidence for their odd assertions of aliens among us.

Well, today's apocalyptic event is a giant hole in the ground in Siberia.  It looks like some explosion of some type occurred to cause a large crater to form.  While there is some confusion over exactly the processes involved with the formation, it looks to me like a gas explosion over a salt or ice dome.  The landscape is a periglacial environment with tremendous subsurface ice activity.  Geologists know that this ice has some strange properties in that large collections of it will grow to cause elevated bumps in the landscape called pingos.  The pingos act in some ways like salt domes in that they serve as a cap under which gases can build up.  

There has been a great deal of natural gas extraction in the area.  My guess is that there was some form of instability brought about by pressure changes associated with the extraction.  However, who knows?  The evidence is not in yet.  I just know for sure that this is a natural process and not aliens or the end of times as some pseudoscientists have claimed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It Was the Best of Sinkholes, It Was the Worst of Sinkholes: A Literary Mashup

Photo by Jason Polk.
My buddy Jason Polk posted a photo on Facebook of my book, Sinkholes of Florida, on a sale table at  the National Speleological Society with the comment, "Great Read!"  I do think the book is readable (you can buy it here) and informative about the science and policy of sinkholes in the state.  There's even a bit of history that you may enjoy.

However, the great read comment got me thinking about the mash literature genre that blends together a classical novel with some other theme.  Two of the more popular ones of late were Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

I wonder how some of the great novels could be mashed with Florida Sinkholes?  Here are some opening lines of great novels mashed up with a sinkhole theme.

The Great Sinkhole:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in a sinkhole ever since.

Moby Karst:
Call me doline.

The Old Man and the Sinkhole:
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in a sinkhole and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

The Karst Jar:
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in a sinkhole.

A Farewell to Caves:
In the late summer of that year we lived in a sinkhole in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.

The Red Speleothem of Courage:
The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed a sinkhole stretched out on the hills, resting.

One Hundred Years of Sinkholes:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover sinkholes.

The Invisible Sinkholes:
I am an invisible sinkhole.

 Can you think of any others?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Most of the World's Corporate Sustainability Leaders Are In Europe

Click for photo credit.
I just got done reviewing the 2013 Dow Jones Sustainability Index and found that most of the top leaders by industry group are in Europe.  More specifically, of the 22 industry groups, 13 are from Europe, 4 are from Asia, 3 are from Australia, and 2 are from the U.S.  The two U.S. Industry group leaders are Citigroup, which leads in Diversified Financials, and Abbott Laboratories, which leads in Health Care Equipment and Services.  This doesn't mean that there are not other U.S. companies ranked high within the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  These are just the sector leaders.

If you are not familiar with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, it has been in place since the 1990's to evaluate companies based on a complex set of social, environmental, and economic criteria.  Indeed, it is the oldest major corporate sustainability index.  Companies must apply to get listed.

The Index is reviewed globally and within major financial regions.  Only about 20% of traded companies get listed within  Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Why It Is Good that the U.S. Is the World's Largest Energy Producer from a Sustainability Perspective

Click for photo credit.
Many in the environmental community were face palming over the last week since news came out that the U.S. overtook Saudi Arabia as the world's largest energy producer.  They are concerned that we are overexploiting our resources and causing long-term damage to the environment.

However, there is a good argument, and it is one that I support, that this growth in U.S. energy production is a good thing for sustainability.  Here's why.

Two concepts that are important in sustainability are using resources locally and environmental justice.  Let's explore these issues separately. 

Using resources locally.  If we use resources locally, we limit transit costs and limit the impact of our resource uses on other people.

Environmental justice.  Globalization has made it very easy for Americans to consume without feeling the impact of our consumption.  Our cheap fast-fashion makes clothes disposable, but contributes to harsh working conditions in places like Bangladesh.  Our thirst for oil has caused political instability, corruption, and environmental pollution in far-flung places like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, and Iraq.  

So to limit the impact of our consumption on other peoples, it makes sense to use resources we extract from our own lands.  This also reduces energy costs of shipping.

We environmentalists use energy in our day-to-day lives (at least most of us do).  If we fight local development of resources, we are inadvertently encouraging importation of resources from places without the types of political and environmental regulation we have in our country.  I am not saying that we should open up drilling in the Arctic, but I do think we need to think about how we can work toward energy independence in order to keep the impact of our consumption within our borders.

In many ways, extracting resources locally forces us to confront the impacts of consumption in our own backyard.  It is my hope that the impacts of resource extractions, and concomitant difficult issues like fracking, will lead us to greater conservation, improved alternative energy technology, and greater environmental awareness.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

John Muir Quiz Part 2

On February 11, 2013, I published a John Muir Quiz on this blog that turned out to be one of my most popular posts.  I suspect that some teachers or students around the country are using it for ideas and deeper learning.  The Google search engine seems to really like my blog posts and a search of John Muir will find my blog entries on him elevated pretty high.  You can see the original quiz here.

I thought I would expand the quiz with ten new questions.  Let's get our Muir on!!  Click the comments for answers.

Click for photo credit.
1.  John Muir is credited with starting which important environmental organization?

2.  Near the end of his life, he fought the building of a dam within Yosemite National Park.  What was the river on which the dam was proposed?

3.  Did he win the fight?

4.  Muir became friends with this well-known American President and even took him camping.  Which President was it?

5.  Muir had an influential friend that later turned into an enemy.  Their friendship ended over different views of public lands.  Muir felt that public land should be preserved and protected for future generations.  His friend felt that public lands could be used for some activities like sheep herding.  Name this influential friend who was also the head of the U.S. Forest Service.

6.  Many picture Muir living a life totally living within the wilderness.  That is not true.  He had a business that kept him occupied for most of his time in California.  It was a family business, so he was able to escape to the mountains regularly while the rest of the family oversaw the operations.  What was the business?

7.  In what city did Muir die?

8.   Muir was the first Euro-American to explore this famous place in Alaska.

9.  In the first quiz, I noted that Muir got very sick when he walked from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico.  In what place did he get sick?

10.  After he got sick, he went to New York to catch a boat to California.  But first, he sailed to this important city.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Climate Change Scientist and a Skeptic Walk Into a Pub...

The last few posts were a bit serious.  So it's time for some levity with my latest on Huffingtonpost here.

A photo from  a few several years ago in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Galileo, the Catholic Church, Climate Change, and How the Secular World Is Failing Science Part 3

Voltaire's tomb in Paris.  Click for photo credit.
This post is Part 3 of a longer piece titled, Galileo, the Catholic Church, Climate Change, and How the Secular World is Failing Science.  Prior to reading today's post, please read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

As can be seen from the previous writing, the Catholic Church has widely embraced issues of sustainability and climate change.  Indeed, the Church has defined climate change as one of the key social justice and ethical issues facing the world today.  Indeed, Pope Francis recently said that exploitation of nature is the sin of our time.

So at a time when the Church has widely accepted the science of climate change, about 25% of American's do not believe that climate change is happening.  Roughly 63 percent believe that climate change is real.  While the 25% figure might seem small, it is a very vocal minority with tremendous influence on public policy.

Just take a look at Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida, a highly vulnerable state that is already seeing flooding in Miami from increased sea levels.  He doesn't believe that climate change is man-made.  Florida's Governor recently said that he doesn't believe in man-made climate change either. 

Recently, a cab driver told me that he didn't believe that climate change was real because it gets cold at night and warms up during the day.  He thought climate scientists didn't understand the reality of nature. In North Carolina, it is now illegal to use sea level rise predictions developed through scientific models.

In the past, large institutions like the Church condemned scientists like Galileo for telling the truth.  Now it is the public and politicians.  The secular world has taken on the role of evaluator of scientific truth and the jury is not the Inquisition of Rome, but poorly informed citizens and politicians.

This is a not a world that Voltaire would ever have imagined in his quest for a secular society.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Galileo, the Catholic Church, Climate Change, and How the Secular World Is Failing Science--Part 2.

Click for photo credit.
This post is Part 2 of a longer piece titled, Galileo, the Catholic Church, Climate Change, and How the Secular World Is Failing Science.  Prior to reading today's post, please read Part 1 here.

Clearly, based on the the experience of Galileo, the Catholic Church was not embracing the sciences at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.  There were certainly many theologic and political reasons why the church was nervous about a sun-centered solar system.  Emerging Protestantism and the contemporary wars over religion led the church to stand firm on traditional beliefs in order to preserve its identity.  Plus, many faithful thought the emerging science of astronomy was a test of faith.  How could they support a sun-centered world when the Bible clearly stated that the Earth was the center of God's creation?

Times change and the interpretation of the Bible and the teachings of the Catholic Church change as well.  While the Galileo trial exemplifies one of the worst cases of the conflict of the church and scientific reason, the church has long been engaged with trying to understand the link between science and theology--today more than ever.

Perhaps the best example of the modern work of the church is the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was established in 1936 to advise the Pope on scientific matters.  Its members include some of the top scientists in the world.  People like Niels Bohr and Max Planck were members.  Current members include people like David Baltimore and Stephen Hawking.  You can see the Website here.

Today, the Academy is working on a number of important issues.  Last year, for example, they convened an interesting interdisciplinary conference on plant genetics, brain development, food security, and education.  As far as I know, this is the only conference that brought these four topics together under one tent.

This year, the Academy hosted a conference called Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature:  Our Responsibility.  Read more about it here.  The conference organizers' proposal for the conference states:

Rio+20 Summit on biodiversity preservation was convened to provide a resolution to the problems Humanity faces in our interchanges with Nature. In practical terms though, it is widely acknowledged to have been a failure.
Looking through its programme it is hard to detect an overarching intellectual framework that was used to identify Nature's constraints. The lacuna was inevitable. There was no collective endeavour among natural and social scientists. That is why we are proposing a joint PAS-PASS workshop on Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature.
Our idea is not to catalogue environmental problems. We propose instead to view Humanity's interchanges with Nature through a triplet of fundamental, but inter-related Human needs – Food, Health, and Energy – and ask our respective Academies to work together to invite experts from the natural and the social sciences to speak of the various pathways that both serve those needs and reveal constraints on Nature's ability to meet them.

This is hardly the age of Galileo.  The church, through the Academy, is wading into some of the toughest scientific issues of our day.

It is worth taking a look at what the Catholic Church says about climate change, perhaps the most controversial scientific issue in the United States.

Pope John Paul II first spoke about climate change on the World Day of Peace in 1990, stating that the problem has reached "crisis proportions".  Pope Benedict spoke so often about climate change and the environment that a book compiling his writings and speeches on the topic was recently published.  During his papacy, the Academy published an important report on the impact of climate change on mountain glaciers.  The Pope also spoke of the clear link between climate change and the fate of the poorest amongst us.  He placed climate change and overall environment deterioration as one of the most important ethical issues of our time.

Pope Francis carries on the very strong message of the church and climate change.  He recently said, "Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few. Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude."

Given the Catholic Church's stance on climate change and the environment, I would argue that that church has moved from its disruptive stances on science in the 1600's to being a leading voice on one of the most important scientific issues of the day--climate change.  The church's stance brings together the scientific and moral issues that many of America's great sustainability writers (Muir, Leopold, McKibben, etc.) have been talking about for generations.

Part 3 tomorrow.