Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 30, 2015

Zora Neale Hurston Quiz

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Zora Neale Hurston is one of what I call the Trifecta of early to mid- 20th century Florida women writers who had an impact on how we think about the environment. I've written about this trifecta here.

Hurston is perhaps one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century to call Florida home. She had a huge influence on 20th century writing and certainly on how we think about the environment in Florida.

I'll post the correct answers in the comments in a day or two.

1. Hurston is most famous for this book that depicts life in the Everglades for African American farmers. Name the book.

2. Weather is one of the most symbolic elements in the book referenced above. In what way does weather have a deus ex machina moment in the book?

3. Hurston wrote the above referenced book while living in this country. Name the country.

4. The book depicted a distinct human and environmental realism that was unique at the time. It was also distinctly different from the tradition of this group (with a familiar New York name) with which Hurston is often associated. Name the group.

5. While a noted novelist and short story writer, Hurston earned a degree in this field from Barnard College. Name the field.

6.  In 1935, Hurston published this book that focuses on folklore from Florida. In it she reveals dozens of stories that have been passed down through generations--many of which bring in environmental or sustainability themes. Name the book.

7.  Hurston often used black dialect that was common in the south at the time. This was criticized by many for what reason?

8.  One of the things that I find refreshing about Hurston's work is that it shows people in relationship to their environment in very realistic ways. She also uses an abundance of environmental references. For example, Hurston speaks about her experiences as a black women in an interesting essay in which she uses environmental metaphors such as "For instance at Barnard. "Beside the waters of the Hudson" I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again." Name the essay.

9. Although largely associated with Florida and New York, Hurston was actually born in this state and lived there until she moved to Florida when she was three years old. Name the state.

10. From the 1950's and until her death in 1960, Hurston lived in relative obscurity. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida. However a famous author revived interest in Hurston in 1974 when she wrote an essay for Ms. magazine titled "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston". She also dedicated a grave marker to her near her burial site. Name the author.

Previous On the Brink quizes about environmental writers or leaders are below.

John Muir Quiz
John Muir Quiz Part 2
Aldo Leopold Quiz
Rachel Carson Quiz
Bill McKibben Quiz
Teddy Roosevelt Quiz
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Quiz

Best Thing You Will See Online April 30, 2015

One in 180--A Panther Lost in Florida While Coyotes Come Back to Long Island

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There is mixed news for animals today.

In Florida, the Miami Herald is reporting that a panther was shot in southwest Florida. There is no evidence as to who shot the animal. There are only about 180 Florida panthers left in the state.

At the same time, there is some good news. Coyotes have been seen on Long Island and it appears as if they may be reestablishing themselves on the island. My friend and colleague from the Department of Biology at Hofstra University has been quoted widely on this issue. I will have an interview with him about the coyote comeback soon on this blog.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 29, 2015

Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry Considers Moving. Will It Become a Fast Food Museum to Support the 1%?

Part of the sprawling grounds of the Tampa Museum of
Science and Industry. Click for photo credit.
I love Tampa but sometimes I don't think it knows what it wants to be.

On the one hand, it is working hard to improve communities. Just take a look at this Website that demonstrates a clear commitment to community redevelopment. On the other hand, it has focused considerable energy in recent years in downtown improvements. When I first moved to Tampa in 1990, the downtown was a wasteland where nothing happened. Today, it it thriving and it is a nice place to live and work.

In the midst of this tension between community redevelopment and downtown investment, there is news that the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) may be moving to a downtown location.

In some ways this makes sense. There is a gravity with downtown locations and there are already several amenities in the area. However, this move is encouraged by real estate developers who are hoping to capitalize on their broader real estate holdings by bringing public institutions to the area. Public amenities paid for with tax dollars increase property values for private land owners.

Museums are community institutions that have impacts on the places where they are located. The museum has been open to the public at their present location for 33 years. It is located across the street from the University of South Florida and is in one of the poorer and more diverse parts of town. Will the museum leave this community behind for the glitz of downtown to promote real estate development for the 1%? Or will it continue to serve a diverse community and maintain its commitment to an underserved part of Tampa?

Time will tell.

In the 1990's one of my students did a study on the gopher tortoises in a preserve area that was on the museum property. It was home to dozens of tortoises who thrived in the ancient sand dunes on the site. Shortly after he completed the study, the museum decided to get rid of the preserve to expand and build parking lots. The preserve with all of its wildness was no more.

At the time, I thought it was the wrong idea. There were options they could have employed to avoid rich gopher tortoise habitat. Just 20 years later, the museum is considering leaving behind the site, the paved over parking lots, and the community that supported it. It just feels wrong to me.

The Museum is at a crossroads. Does it remain a community-based museum focused on education of residents of Tampa or does it move to a downtown location to serve tourists and the real estate speculations of the 1%?

If it leaves the current location, it will leave a giant hole in the community. It is unlikely that any redevelopment will take place on the site for a generation or two. It will become like other throw away landscapes in many unfashionable parts of cities with abandoned strip malls and fast food restaurants.

Many have criticized our "fast" approach to life. We have fast food and fast throw away fashion. Our consumption outpaces the Earth's ability to produce resources. Unfortunately, Tampa may be in the fast museum business as well--consuming the resources of one location and moving on when winds change. Fast food is not good for America and neither are fast museums.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 28, 2015

Shadows - A New Poem by Stan Brunn


Our life is like a perpetual shadow
            With us wherever we go.
In morning, noon and night
            Wherever there is light.
Shadows are part of our silent growth and being
            Whether working in sunlight or loving in moonlight.
Shadows are ubiquitous; following us every day
            In January, October and May.
The shadow length can be short or tall
            At equator, poles, spring, or fall.
Many of us live in the shadow of others
            Friends, parents, sisters and brothers.
For some a shadow is like a mother’s womb
            For others superstition, doom and gloom.
Some have a fear of shadows or sciophobia
            In Russia, China, Ireland and Australia.
Trees, buildings and churches have shadows
As do birds, ants, blades of grass and corn rows.
We know that our life will end in perpetual shadow
            When at rest we will cease to grow.

                                                        Stan Brunn, April 28, 2015

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 27, 2015

The Shame of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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In a truly jaw dropping article from the Tampa Bay Times, it was reported that some Florida legislators, particularly Jon Steverson, the head of the Department of Environmental Protrection (!) want to allow logging and agriculture in the state parks to cover the expenses of running parks.

Here's the problem with this. 

State parks are not state forests or state agricultural holdings. Indeed, this issue of parks was settled long ago in the whole John Muir and Gifford Pinchot debacle over the Hetch Hetchy Dam.

Environmental historians will certainly understand the significance of the Hetch Hetchy controversy. However, if you are not familiar with it, let me remind you.

John Muir was very influential in setting up the U.S. National Park system. He, and many others, advocated for setting aside the land for the enjoyment of wilderness. The U.S. National Forests, in contrast, were designed to have limited uses for economic purposes such as forestry and some agricultural operations. 

But after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was on a quest for water so they could have an abundant supply of water resources in case of future fires and to promote growth.

They looked to the Hetch Hetchy Valley in the Yosemite National Park. At the time, the U.S. National Park Service was relatively new and the policies regarding land use were still being worked out. However, it was up to an act of congress to allow a dam to be built. The debate raged on for years and pitted Muir against many who sought to develop national parklands.

In the end, Muir lost the battle and the dam was built.


The battle was so fierce and the activism so strong that there hasn't been any serious attempt to develop national parks for economic purposes since then.

The state park movement emerged largely from the U.S. National Park movement. The states usually have state forests where multiple uses, including agriculture and forestry, are allowed. Since 1913, state and national parks are places that are valued for wilderness purposes. They are left alone to provide value to the greater good of the public. The national and state forests are places where limited economic activity can occur.

This move by Florida's leadership, especially Jon Steverson, fly in the face of over 100 years of environmental land management protocol. Parks are for the preservation of nature. Forests are for the protection of forests with some economic development in forestry and agriculture.

As far as I am concerned, those involved with this debacle no longer have the right to call themselves protectors of the environment. They have lost their John Muir card.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 26, 2015

Shenandoah 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 Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. 

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

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Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 25, 2015

Caribbean Clean Energy Symposium

My former USF colleague, Dr. Maya Trotz put together the video below about her experiences with the Caribbean Clean Energy Symposium. If you are interested in green energy and/or global cooperation, the video is worth watching. It provides some good context for many of the innovations taking place in the Caribbean. It also highlights some of the political challenges.

The Caribbean nations, for the most part, are not energy independent. They rely on external sources for products like oil and natural gas. For the last decade, Venezuela has been supplying considerable amount of energy to these nations via Petrocaribe. However, Venezuela is pulling back from its support of Petrocaribe due to its failing economy and social unrest.

As a result of this, Caribbean nations are looking at green energy options. The U.S. is also inserting itself in this situation and marketing natural gas alternatives as well.

The video provides great context for understanding the energy situation in the region.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 24, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Why We Need a Long Island Food Conference

A Long Island winery. Click for photo credit. 
As a lead in to the Long Island Food Conference that will be held at Hofstra University tomorrow, April 25th, I have been focusing on food issues on the blog this week. Today, I thought I would clost out this them and specifically write about why we need a food conference on Long Island via a "Top Ten List Why We Need a Long Island Food Conference. To register for the conference, please see this site. Online registration closes at noon today, but walk in registration is welcome at the event.

Here are my top 10 reasons why Long Island needs a food conference.

1. Long Island is a well known food region. It has excellent farms and fisheries. It is known for its truck farms, agritourism, and shellfish.

2. Long Island has historically been a major center of agriculture. Today it has some of the highest value of agricultural products when compared to all other regions of New York. In the past, it was a major national producer of potatoes, oysters, and ducks.

3. Long Island has food deserts. While Long Island has some of the best specialty grocery stores in the world, it also has many food deserts where local residents do not have access to clean and healthy food. We also have many involved with food activism who work hard to feed the hungry across the island.

4. Community sponsored agriculture is growing rapidly. Many Long Islanders are joining community sponsored agriculture farms where members pay a subscription to gain access to local food.

5. Long Islanders seek high quality food. There is no doubt that Long Islander expect good food in grocery stores and restaurants. The food conference highlights this interest in good food. There is a very strong slow food movement across the island.

6. Long Island is home to many well regarded chefs and food writers such as Ina Garten and Tom Colicchio.

7. Long Island is home to some of the best restaurants in the country.

8. Long Islanders are some of busiest people on the planet. How can they find time to get access to clean and healthy food? A conference provides opportunities to learn how to prepare high quality food at home and how to gain access to good products.

9. As an island with a sole-source aquifer, there are many environmental challenges that Long Islanders face. How can we produce food on the island without harming our environment.

10. With all of this interest in food across the island, we need to organize into a food coalition to create better communication on food issues across the region.

If you have any other reasons, please add your thoughts in the comments section of the blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online April 23, 2015

Food and Greenwashing

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As a lead in to the Long Island Food Conference that will be held at Hofstra University on Saturday, April 25th, I will be focusing on food issues on the blog this week. To register for the conference, please see this site.

Today, I thought it was worth pointing out how some food companies greenwash their products. Greenwashing is the process by which products or organizations are given a marketing mantle of "greenness" without broad evidence that the product or organization is green or sustainable.

We've all seen evidence of greenwashing. It can come in the form of eye rolling hubris--such as when a company or product known for polluting claims that their products are "green". Or it can be more subtle--for example when a food that contains all kinds of chemical preservatives is called "all natural".

The online magazine Grist published a roundup of Earth Day tweets yesterday from a number of organizations not particularly known for their greenness. Check it out here. Some of them are really quite funny, but sad at the same time. There is just something wrong with Burger King celebrating Earth Day with a photo of a hamburger with a map of the world made out of ketchup.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See April 22, 2015

The first Earth Day in Philadelphia. How far we've come.

Earth Day 2015

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Every April 22 people from all over the world focus on celebrating Earth Day. It first started in 1970 in the United States as a way to focus teaching on environmental issues. Since then, it has grown to an international exercise that brings us together to teach as well as discuss local, national, and global sustainability. Find something to get involved with in your community. Here are the main events I'm part of:

1. For years, students at Hofstra University have been organizing an Earth Day Festival. Today, it is being held on the Quad from 11:15-12:45. It brings together green groups from on and off campus. There will be music, classes, events, food, and lots of like minded people to share ideas. For more information, see this site.

2. As I have been blogging about all week, the Long Island Food Conference will be held at Hofstra University on Saturday, April 25th.   To register for the conference, please see this site. The keynote speaker will be Stephen Ritz from the Bronx Green Machine.

3. On Sunday, April 26, the Unitarian Universalist Church at Shelter Rock will be holding a climate justice fair. I will be present to answer questions about climate change and generally serve as a scientific expert for the event. Find more about this event here.

Check out your local area, or do something on your own. Some ideas to celebrate on your own? Read a good environmental book. Watch a documentary on food or energy. Start your garden. Do some spring sprucing up of your neighborhood by picking up trash in parks or along roadways. Educate yourself on an environmental issue like water quality or green energy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Imaginary Geographies I: U.S. Politics. A New Poem by Stan Brunn

Imaginary Geographies I: U.S. Politics

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Sometimes it is useful to dream and think of processes and fantasies

            About “what if” and imaginary geographies

While such ideas may never see the light of day

            They may happen if progress and our dreams hold sway.

Let’s think about the impacts of some on the U.S. political scene,

            Both subtle and dramatic from what is and long has been.

What about requiring mandatory voter registration and voting

            Which would certainly usher in new electoral geography history?

Or reducing the number of Kentucky, Texas and Georgia counties

            With small populations, low incomes and social disparities?

What about welcoming multiple and competitive political parties

            Where citizens  can easily switch allegiances and party loyalties?

And switching the election dates from wintry early November    

            For better turnout to a spring month or even September?

And scheduling regional primaries on different dates

            To reduce the unfair impacts awarded small states.

And giving DC and Puerto Rico statehood and representation

            And designing a new flag for this overdue celebration.

That Vermont and California continue to elect the same number of senators

            Illustrates an agrarian legacy that unfairly favors small state legislators.

What would happen if half the governors and Congress were women

            Might some kinder and gentler politics might happen?

And if court justices and Congress members retired at age 70

Those younger would be given more opportunity.

With the Supreme Court sometime outlawing blatant gerrymandering

            We might see an end to unfair voter redistricting.

And how about doing away with the antiquated Electoral College

            An agrarian institution with unfairness that many acknowledge?

The changes above will never come easily in our evolving multi- nation

            Because parties, lawyers and politicians will likely protest with passion.

Political impacts will challenge our status quo and traditional theories

            And teaching about elections, cultures and political geographies

With a result that future generations may study some entirely new states

            Perhaps only sixteen with new names, boundaries and voter participation rates.

                                                                        Stan Brunn, 19 April 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Podcasting for Your Life-Food Activists Take to the Air

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As a lead in to the Long Island Food Conference that will be held at Hofstra University on Saturday, April 25th, I will be focusing on food issues on the blog this week. To register for the conference, please see this site.

Today's focus is on all of those communicators who work on food activism. While there is plenty of television that shows us great restaurants, how to cook food, and food competition, there are few sources of information about food and sustainability.

Today, I thought I would three interesting sources that deal with very different issues.

First is iEatGreen a Website and Radio show run by the very energetic Bhavani Jaroff, one of Long Island's leading voices on food and sustainability. Check out her site with a link to her radio show here. I love her show in that it reminds me of the radio shows around food from my childhood. It starts off with an update from Bhavani on what is happening in her world and then moves on to food related events going on in the New York and Long Island region. Following this brief introduction, she discusses a recipe of the week. What I like about the recipe discussion is that she is very practical in her approach. If you don't have one item on hand, she provides alternatives. After discussing the recipe, she has an interview. Over the years, she's interviewed most of the major players on food in the country. The archives of her podcast are a who's who of the food and sustainability world.

Second is Ellen Kamhi from the Natural Nurse Podcast. Ellen is a professor and nurse who has a strong expertise in natural herbs and health. Her podcast often focuses on the link of diet and health. Check out her Website with a link to her show here. She often covers some of the more interesting issues that are emerging in the link between food and health.

Third is a blog and radio show called Green Inside Out with Beth Fiteni. Check out her site here which has a link to her radio show archives. Beth covers a broad range of sustainability issues on her show and blog. Food is a common topic and her shows are always fascinating.

Some of these podcasters will be at the Long Island Food Conference. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See April 18, 2015

Food Activism-The Example of The Long Island Community Agricultural Network

Photo by Bob Brinkmann
As a lead in to the Long Island Food Conference that will be held at Hofstra University on Saturday, April 25th, I will be focusing on food issues on the blog this week. To register for the conference, please see this site.

Today's focus is on food activism via the example of the Long Island Community Agricultural Network (LI-CAN). This group formed with intellectual and muscle support from the proprietors of Fox Hollow Farm, Larry Foglia and Heather Forest.

LI-CAN formed in part due to the desire to recreate agricultural landscapes in suburban communities of Long Island-particularly in some of the poorest areas where there were problems with access to clean and healthy food. Their mission states that:

LI-CAN’s mission is to increase public awareness and knowledge of the art and science of sustainable agriculture and of its connection to individual, community and global health, well-being and food security. These goals will be implemented through community gardens, educational outreach workshops and communications, and facilitation of equitable community access to agricultural resources such as mentors, land, tools, seeds, and soil amendments.
The group has two gardens they manage: Gateway Park Community Garden and Cliff Soergel Memorial Garden. 

But what makes LI-Can so interesting to me is that they will work with schools and churches in developing their own community gardens--thereby diffusing the idea of gardening throughout Long Island.

What kind of food activism is happening in your community around gardens and food? You can learn more about food activism by attending the upcoming Long Island Food Conference at Hofstra University.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See April 17, 2015

Slow Food

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As a lead in to the Long Island Food Conference that will be held at Hofstra University on Saturday, April 25th, I will be focusing on food issues on the blog this week. To register for the conference, please see this site.

The slow food movement started in Italy in the 1980’s as a distinct reaction to American style fast food that was invading Europe at the time. Many were concerned that with the advent of McDonalds in places like Rome and Paris that Europe would lose its local culinary traditions.

Slow food events often allow members to try different
types of products from local vendors.
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Those involved with slow food focus on local food traditions that support the environment. It is different from other types of food organizations in that it doesn't always take a stand on vegetarianism, organic products, or most farming practices. Instead, the focus is on the culture of food, clean and healthy food, and local food traditions. You can read about the international movement here.

Since its formation, the slow food movement has taken off and there are chapters of the organization all over the world. You can find your local chapter in the United States hereLocal chapters have meetings, organize food events, and focus on food issues in their communities. It is a great way to get involved in the food and environmental movement.

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In addition, local slow food chapters often partner with other organizations to promote better food and farming policy in their region. There are also national and international scale meetings where members of local chapters can meet with national partners.

For example, my local chapter, Slow Food North Shore, recently organized the second annual Long Island Film Feast which featured short films on food issues of importance on Long Island as well as food and drink samplings from a number of local food providers.  

Slow Food North Shore will be at the Long Island Food Conference. Hope to see you there!