Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Green Summer Reading from Hofstra Library Special Collection Dean

Hofstra's own Geri Solomon, who is the Assistant Dean of Special
Collections in the Library and the University Archivist, came up with today's
list of summer reading. What is on your list?
After I published my recommended summer beach reading, I challenged my friends at Hofstra University Special Collections to come up with their green summer reading list. The head of the Department, Geri Solomon, sent along her list below. It has some great titles I want to read and I have always learned that librarians always know the best books.

 If you want to share your recommended green summer reading collections, send them along and I'll feature you and your list. Make sure you send in a photo along with the list so we all know what you look like. Mail the list and photo to robert.brinkmann@hofstra.edu

Dean Solomon's list:

1)      The Harder they Come, by T.C. Boyle – he writes mostly about California and its struggles with the man versus environment theme. This one is based partially on a true story of a murderer who thinks of himself as a mountain man.
2)      Drop City –by T.C. Boyle – about a bunch of hippies who decide to move to Alaska and the struggles they have there.
3)      Flight Behavior – by Barbara Kingsolver – another author who writes a cautionary tale about the impact of environment on migratory monarch butterflies.
4)      The Lacuna – by Barbara Kingsolver – a story of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo as well as Mexico in the 30’s and 40’s a wonderful political and artistic mix of environment, personalities and history.
5)      Remarkable Creatures – by Tracy Chevalier – an historical novel that is set on the coast of England and uncover a fossilized skull of an animal.
6)      The Forest Lover – by Susan Vreeland – a wonderful book about a painter that ventures to British Columbia and discovers native art.

Don't be shy! Send your summer reading lists with a photo to get featured on the blog!

Best Thing You Will See Online June 30, 2015

Electric airplane from Airbus.

It's Not Easy Flying Green

Click for photo credit.
One of the vexing issues with trying to reduce individual carbon consumption for someone like me is finding ways to deal with carbon costs of flying. I have done quite well with my gasoline consumption since we got an electric car and I do what I can do in other areas of my life. But for someone like me who travels by air quite a bit, the only option I have is to purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon costs of our flying.

However, there is hope.

Today in the New York Times, reporters Jad Mouawad and Diane Cardwell write about the efforts of United Airlines to utilize biofuels in their fleet. Right now, the amount of biofuel as a percent of their total is only about 0.2% but it is hoped that that number will increase with time.

Regardless of what one thinks about biofuels from a sustainability standpoint, this does mark the early stages of a trend of airlines looking for alternatives to traditional fuels. Right now, airline travel has the highest per person carbon cost by mile of any form of transportation. The company that United is working with creates fuels from municipal waste.

If one digs deeper, one can find that there is a tremendous movement in electric airplane technology. An all electric two seat personal airplane built by airbus was recently demonstrated at the Paris Airshow.  Plus, the Solar Impulse all solar airplane is about to complete the first around the world solar aircraft flight.  Change is coming.....

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online June 29, 2015

My go to beach on Long Island is the venerable and wonderful Jones Beach. Who knew there was a movie....

7 Top Beach Books for a Green Summer

Summer reading is not about reading the latest scientific dreary predictions of a dystopian world--that's what summer blockbuster movies are for. Summer reading should be the kind of reading that is fun and that keeps you occupied and turning the page as you get your relax on at the beach. I have created my recommended list of summer reading that should keep my readers busy. This list definitely does not include dense books like Silent Spring or depressing books like The End of Nature. Those are distinctly fall and winter books. Plus most of my readers have read these books anyway. If you haven't, you may not start your summer reading until you have completed the assignment of reading these books. No relaxation for you yet!

The list is a mix of fiction and non-fiction that should provide hours of reading (or listening) time as you watch the seagulls and the silver reflections off the waves. As a beach bum, I tried to pick books that would be fun but provide a bit of an environmental theme.

1. Blind Decent by Nevada Barr. This is a murder mystery that takes place within cave systems in Carlsbad National Park. It is a page turner. It will turn you on to the writing of Nevada Barr (one of the best mystery writer names ever) who sets her mysteries in national parks.

2. Rowing the Atlantic by Roz Savage. Everyone loves an inspirational real-world action packed book that inspires one to come back from vacation with lots of energy. This book about a record-breaking trip rowing across the Atlantic is one of those.

3. Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert A. Caro. This is part of a series of books about Lyndon Johnson. Obviously this covers the years in which he served as Senate Majority Leader. The book is dense which is why I've been listening to it on long beach walks on Long Island's south shore. Johnson's work in the U.S. Senate set the stage for movement on civil rights and environmental legislation. It is a fascinating book.

4. Deceit and Denial the Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution by Markowitz and Rosner. While the subject matter isn't particularly cheery, the detailed investigative writing will keep you turning the page. I think this is one of the best and most important environmental books of the last two decades.

5. A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. This novella is a lovely story that weaves the healing power of nature within the lives of a family. This piece is the comfort food of environmental books.

6. Watership Down by Richard Adams. This book is an anthropomorphized Hobbit with rabbits. What could be better? It is one of those comfort novels. Plus, what guy academic couldn't relate to Fiver.

7. Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey. This is the first in a series of humorous environmental/crime novels by Florida writer Tim Dorsey. He has published 19 books and you will thank me for getting you into this series. Really.

I have created a widget about halfway down the right column that has all of these books grouped together. If you wish to purchase them for quick delivery via Amazon, you are just a click away.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online June 28, 2015

A song from the Camino de Santiago in reference from the earlier post from today.

Pilgrimages -- A New Poem by Noted Geographer, Stan Brunn

Sculpture on the trail of the Camino de Santiago. Click for photo credit.


Pilgrimages are to sites we consider holy

To make us feel liberating and more fully.

They may take us to a religions shrine

Where we hope our inner self will shine.

That experience may be to a religious site

Where lead us to do what’s right.

But “spiritual experiences” may take us many places

That may be “religious” with many faces.

Let’s not only consider Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Or healing places in France, Italy and rural Ireland.

But also sites and shrines in Tibet, Qum and Mecca

And those in Italy, Mexico and India.

Also Opryland, Cannes and Disneyland

And sites in Japan, Iran and Scotland.

Those who travel for eclipses and solstices

As healing and miracle places.

How about the pilgrimage to Elvis’s birthplace

As a “holy” destination many fans annually race?

Is the weekend visit to your favorite shopping mall

Really a capitalist pilgrimage enjoyed by all?

Or attending of a major sporting event in glory

That surpasses religious fervor with fun and fury.

Or a marathon swimming, jogging or bike race

Which requires stamina but brings spiritual solace.

Pilgrimages for many are a mix of fun and the serious

Spending money, releasing hormones and feeling delirious.

Some cities and countries generate much monies

By promoting pilgrimage tourist economies.

Which are far from anything considered religious

But instead reward the secular unrighteous.

                                     Stan Brunn, June 14, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Redistricting, The Hispanic Community, and Environmental Justice in Florida

Attorney and human rights advocate,
Norma Camero Reno.
One of the key elements of sustainability is equity.  The idea plays out in many different ways.  For example, if you read the book Deceit and Denial:  The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (one of the best books on environmental equity you will read) you will find that elected officials were complicit in some communities in causing serious environmental problems that impacted the lives of people who did not have strong access to political power.  That is why many have worked hard to try to break up the good ol' boy network of politics at the local level in order to try to give voice to people who have been traditionally underrepresented.

One community activist in the Tampa area is trying to give voice to a community that currently doesn't have strong representation within the elected body of Hillsborough County, the home county of the City of Tampa.  Her name is Norma Camero Reno.  She is an attorney and human rights activist.

For the last several years, she has worked with a number of community stakeholders to try to urge a redistricting of the county commission borders within Hillsborough County or to expand the number of representatives on the board to give a greater voice to the Hispanic community in the area.  The Hispanic community is split among several districts and it is difficult for them it to have a voice on key issues of interest.

Recently, Hillsborough County, Florida, considered a redistricting proposal in order to provide greater representation for its citizens.  The charter of the county has three at large seats as well as four district seats.  Since the charter was set up, the population of the county doubled.  When it was established, one elected district commissioner represented approximately 150,000 people.  Now, one represents approximately 300,000 people.  To put this into perspective, this is just under the number of people represented by a Florida state senator and about half the number of people represented by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In other words, there are a lot of people represented by one elected official. Most local governments around the country provide greater access to government through local officials.

The redistricting plan that was urged by Reno and others in the Tampa area was voted down by commissioners.  The leaders traditionally select district maps that split the Hispanic community.  One district now extends from the northwest suburbs, to the airport and Westshore business district, through downtown Tampa and South Tampa, and all the way to the south through a rural agricultural portion of the county in a design that is a bit odd.

The districts have changed over time and have been approved by the dominant political party, as is typically done in many areas.  This tends to keep the existing leaders in power.  What is interesting about the situation in Hillsborough County now, however, is that the demographics of the county are so very different from the demographics of elected officials.  Just take a look at this ethnic breakdown from the most recent census:

The elected body of the County Commission includes only
one person of color, even though about half the population
of the county is Hispanic, black, or Asian descent.
White non-Hispanic:  53%
Hispanic, Black, and Asian 47% (Hispanic 26%, Black 17%, Asian 4%)

Now Reno and others are urging the board to consider an expansion to allow greater representation.

Norma Camero Reno and the Hispanic community in Hillsborough County have been working very hard to either force redistricting or to increase the number or representatives on the board to allow greater access to power.  There is no doubt that people from different ethnic groups can represent the interests of other ethnic groups with distinction and honor.  However, in the minds of many activists in the Tampa area, there is a clear effort to try to limit access to power in this situation.  The League of United Latin American Citizens has taken notice as have many other groups in the region including the Hispanic Allliance of Tampa Bay.

When one thinks of Hillsborough County, one thinks of a vibrant multicultural community that is home to one of the most diverse cultural mixes of people in the world.  It just isn't represented in the body of its elected officials in Hillsborough County. 

The reason that this matters from an environmental perspective is that as was pointed out in the book noted in the introductory paragraph of this post, and by noted author Robert Bullard, minorities often see disproportionate impacts of environmental pollution or problems.  If they don't have a place at the table in local decision making, there are likely to be broader discriminatory issues of one type or another.

I have been reading the biography of Lyndon Johnson over the last month and it discusses some of the major civil rights battles in the south in the 1950's and 1960's. Can anyone truly question whether a lack of Hispanic representation in a county that is over 25% Hispanic is a civil rights issue in today's world? I believe that Lyndon Johnson and others would be leading the charge for equality in Hillsborough County.

Some in the Tampa area have accused Norma of trying to insinuate a Democrat into the County Commission (there are 2).  Hispanics in the area tend to vote Democratic. However, what most people don't often know is that Norma is a Republican who is working on behalf of the Hispanic Community, not any one political party. She doesn't care if the representation is Democratic or Republican. She just seeks fair representation.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sustainability and Sports Stadia

Click for photo credit.
I am highlighting pieces that were published in the latest issue of the journal, Suburban Sustainability. Previous posts can be seen herehere, and here.

Today's article is by Aquino and Newari and focuses on sports stadia. Check it out here. Those of you interested in green building design or sports and sustainability will find it interesting.

Sports teams around the world are finding ways to contribute to sustainability initiatives. They often do this through educational project, but they also provide opportunities for citizens to see good sustainability behavior when they come to events in sports facilities. Currently attendees of professional sporting events have the opportunity to see green energy initiatives, waste management, and sustainable food projects that can inspire them to make changes in their own behavior in their homes or businesses.

The paper is one of the more comprehensive looks at how professional sports is advancing the sustainability agenda. It also suggests ways in which they could do more.


Note, the journal is looking for new submissions for upcoming issues. If you are a professor looking for an outlet for your sustainability research, please consider submitting your work here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sustainable Development for People or Profit

Click for photo caption.
I am highlighting pieces that were published in the latest issue of the journal, Suburban Sustainability. Previous posts can be seen here and here.

Today, I am discussing Eric Weaver's article, Sustainable Development for People or Profit. This is largely a thought piece that asks the question how can we truly find ways to avoid disaster via sustainable development. Weaver notes that many problems have been identified that pose challenges for the long-term survival of the planet-particularly at current consumption and population growth rates.

Plus, he notes, current development strategies do not fully embrace sustainability. Indeed, they often run counter to sustainable development strategies by projects that need or consume huge amounts of resources or that in some way harm local populations. The article concludes by asking whether or not alternative agriculture could replace the modern industrial agricultural system by decentralizing food supply systems.

The article poses a number of interesting questions and splashes some cold water on those of us who believe that there are sustainability solutions within our current way of managing the earth. Weaver is pessimistic about the long-term outcome under current consumption trends.

There is no doubt that food is one of the more worrisome aspects of sustainability given our massive population. The large global food system is largely responsible for feeding our growing population. However, this global food system is criticized by many as being poor stewards of the land with greater concern for profits than people and the environment. Weaver is seeking to understand if there are new ways to reconnect people to food thereby cutting off the local consumer from the global network.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Silent as Cemeteries. A New Poem by Stan Brunn

Click for photo credit.

19 June 2015

Written after a spate of senseless killings in schools, shopping centers, churches, restaurants and public gathering, which call into question “gun rights” (actually wrongs) and gun ownership and use.

Silent as Cemeteries
Where is our sense of collective goodness and conscience?
To speak out against rampant criminal gun violence?
Where more “talk” is about “gun rights” liberties
Than the deaths of innocent fatalities.
What about the loud silences of pro-gun lobbies
Bullying aggressively those cowardly law-making buddies?
No forthcoming public words expressing sincere remorse
Or initiating or advocating a human-caring discourse.
These groups are like silent like tombstones in a cemetery
Unresponsive, deafening and showing little concern for humanity.
What do “pro gun” advocates do about senseless killings?
Find support for gun ownership in constitutional beginnings.
Head for the tall grass with no words of empathy
Not leading public protests with grieving or sympathy.
Certainly, some must wonder how many more deaths
We will have before seeing enforceable corrective acts.
Police and justice officials are also silenced and dumbfounded
By advocates believing gun ownership is legally grounded.
How many more friends, children, husbands and wives
Have to experience hate crime deaths with shortened lives.
Killing others is definitely a mental illness problem
So perhaps is owning a licensed/unlicensed hand gun.
Most gun deaths involve family and friends
Who fail to resolve conflicts and make amends.
Did our founding fathers (not mothers) worship the gun
Or have we misinterpreted ownership of a lethal weapon?
Do religions contribute more towards violence
Than accepting others and inner peace?
We need lawyers, clergy and educators to take a stance
To break the silences of violence acceptance.
Practicing greater compassion, love and sympathy
Will definitely contribute towards a more humane geography.

                                                                                                            Stan Brunn

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shaped by "The Human Age"

Hello On the Brink Readers!

I haven't posted here in a while, I've had a very busy year. Last summer I helped write a book. This summer, I'm reading a fabulous book- one that is so great, that I want to share it with you here- even though I'm not quite finished with it. Diane Ackerman's 2014 book The Human Age: the World Shaped by Us is a love child of sustainability science and a Baroque tapestry.

She chronicles the rise of the Anthropocene with vivid, rippling, elegant prose. "A patch of water fizzing like frying diamonds in the sun," indeed! More importantly, her work squirms with abundant, delightful, and exquisitely detailed hope. From city green walls to frigid oceanic kelp gardens to de-extinction, her various encyclopedic episodes about Earth and its inhabitants read like poetry but describe ingenious solutions to many of our most entrenched and looming problems. This is a chronicle of how we can harmonize our best qualities, and mend our mistakes.

I am reading it slowly, 
savoring its imagery and inspiration, and already looking forward to reading it again. If you have any interest in the relationship between humans and the planet we live with, and the sustainability of that interaction, you should read this book!

Perceptions of Climate Change in Suburban Florida

Click for photo credit.
The political dimensions of climate change are changing. There is a tremendous body of scientific work on the subject and it is harder for leaders to challenge whether it is happening and it is harder for them to negate the impact of humans on the planetary climate system. This is, in part, because the population of the U.S. is becoming much more aware of climate change issues.

Christopher Metzger in his article in the journal, Suburban Sustainability, looks at a subset of the population, suburban Tampa, to examine perception of climate change in a distinct suburban setting. You can download the article for free here. He conducted dozens of interviews in the study.

I will not go into all of the details of the article. However, it is worth noting two points that stood out to me. Suburbanites generally felt that they were not feeling or were unlikely to feel direct impacts of climate change. They conceptualized the problems, such as melting of ice caps, as distant problems. I found this interesting because it verifies other research that has been done on suburban communities. In many ways, some in the suburbs distance themselves from broader societal or global problems--whether it is poverty or global warming.

Second, the suburbanites in the group looked to government to protect them from environmental problems. They were distrustful of private companies and looked to organizations like the EPA to find the right approach to protect the country from any environmental issue.

There is much more that one can get out of the article, but considering these two points, there seems to be support in the suburbs for federal regulation to manage problems associated with climate change.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Issue of Suburban Sustainability Out

Check out the new issue of Suburban Sustainability that is available online. Over the next several days I'll be writing about the three articles in the issue. Stay tuned!

In the mean time, we need more submissions from professors and graduate students. If you have an article you would like to submit, please do so here. I am also looking for groups of papers from conferences or symposia.

The suburbs are one of the least studied landscapes on the planet. We need greater scholarship on how to make these landscapes more sustainable.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Worst Thing You Will See Online June 17, 2015

DDT in Africa

DDT and Breast Cancer

Mothers exposed to DDT in the 1950's and 1960's
passed on breast cancer risks to daughters according
to a new study. Click for photo credit.
The Washington Post published an interesting article today by Ariana Eunjung Cha highlighting the link between a mother's exposure to pollution (DDT) and the breast cancer risk of her daughter.

The article is based on a study that was published in The Journal of Clinical Endochrinology and Metabolism that focused on the analysis of thousands of daughters of thousands of women who were known to be exposed to DDT in the 1950's and 1960's when DDT was common in fats of animals. The DDT that was sprayed as a pesticide became concentrated in animal fat. Thus, it was often found in butter, cheese, and meat. DDT was banned in 1972 and research has shown that environmental exposure of DDT did not cause cancers in women who were exposed during the era of DDT use.

However, it is clear now that exposure is causing cancers of daughters born to women who gave birth during the era of exposure. It is believed that in vitro exposure to DDT is the culprit. Women who had DDT in the blood while pregnant have a four fold increase in breast cancer. Those born to women with high exposure to DDT had more advanced breast cancer problems.

This study demonstrates the complex nature of environmental toxicology and public health. Each year we are creating new chemicals and releasing them to the environment. We just do not know the long-term and generational impacts of these emerging pollutants on human health.

Of course DDT is banned in the U.S. However, it is used widely in many parts of the world to combat Malaria. Some have argued that we need to bring back DDT to combat insect borne diseases. I imagine that the news on second generation cancer risks might slow the pro-DDT camp's efforts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online June 16, 2015

From the Catholic Climate Covenant folks:

Pope Francis Frank on Climate

Click for photo credit.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner and John Hooper via The Guardian are reporting on a leaked Vatican Encyclical that was penned by Pope Francis. The contents have the potential to be a game changer.

Here's why based on The Guardian's interpretation of the article.

First of all, the Pope makes clear that our current round of accelerated climate change is caused by human activity.

Second, he states that climate change is an ethical problem that has to be addressed by changes in our society. The article quotes the pope as stating, "Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption..."

Third, he calls out the climate denial community. He expresses frustration that there are willful efforts underway to negate science. He notes that some of this is intentional in order to gain profit on climate damaging products while other denial is based on ignorance. The Pope is also critical of those seeking a technical fix to the problem. He maintains that the largest issue is one of consumption and lifestyle. Indeed, he is critical of carbon credit schemes and suggests that they are a cover for extreme consumption.

Fourth, Francis calls for a global body to address issues of pollution and development in poor countries.

I am sure when the final draft is released that there will be much more to ponder from the document. However, in the mean time, the Church's position on climate change, which was already clear to many of us in the climate community, is now unambiguous.

It will be interesting to see how Catholics in the climate denial world address this document.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Water Entitlement

Click for photo credit.
One of the  themes that is emerging in our modern culture is the issue of middle class and wealthy entitlement. By entitlement, I mean that there are many who feel like societal rules, both written and unwritten, do not pertain to them.

You've all seen entitlement in action in small ways.

The entitled set are those who skip lines and demand attention in stores. They are the ones who are texting while driving 45 miles an hour in the fast lane. You can see them in restaurants talking loudly on their phones while everyone else is trying to have a conversation. They only see their needs and wants regardless of the needs and wants of others around them.

This article from the Washington Post by Rob Kuznia brings forth another example of entitlement--water entitlement. It highlights a wealthy community in drought-stricken California where severe water restrictions are in place. The amount of hubris exemplified in this article is quite stunning and an example of a major divide that is emerging in our country that many have been writing about for the last few years. Some individuals highlighted in the article believe that they have a right to more water than other Californians so they can take care of their high-end suburban estates.  

There is no doubt that water needs of larger estates are greater than those of smaller property owners. But the lack of a sense of responsibility or concern for the greater good displayed by many points to the water entitlement issue. It was stated clearly in the article that many believe that if one has money to pay for water, one should be able to have as much as one wants. Of course, using basic economics, this will drive up the cost for water under a time of scarcity--which makes it harder for poorer communities to provide a steady supply of water in a time of drought.

As income divides continue to pierce the fabric of American society, water entitlement is just one symptom of a greater problem. There are many many who have been left behind in the last few decades as a small number of people have taken larger slices of the American pie.  We are not at a point where citizens with pitchforks and watering cans are invading gated communities. But the hubris of the entitled sets the stage for greater societal troubles in the future on shared resources.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online June 14, 2015

To go with today's poem.

Map Your Future in Pencil a New Poem by Stan Brunn Inspired by Jon Bon Jovi

7 June 2015
This poem was inspired by a line from the popular American singer and activist, Jon Bon Jovi who made it at the commencement speech he delivered at Rutgers University-Camden, New Jersey, 21 May 2015. His line was: “It’s OK to map out your future, but do it in pencil.”  It speaks to a future that all of us need to keep in mind, regardless of age, occupation, gender, ethnicity, or political persuasion.

Jon Bon Jovi. Click for photo credit.

                              Map Your Future in Pencil

Where will you be – expect some real surprises!!
What will be your political views – be prepared for some changes!!
Who will be your closest friends – expect some from across the globe!!
Where will you be living AND wanting to be with you – you just don’t know!!
What kind of jobs will you have - cross out any plan at least five times!!
Where will you retire – consult an atlas for ideas!!
What your children may do and be – expect some shocking revelations!!
Who wants to take care of you – you just don’t know!!
Whom will you take care of – expect some surprises!!
What will you look like in 50 years – genetics don’t tell everything!!
What kind of person will you be in 2025 and 2050 – don’t consult a palm reader!!

Expect some days and years of uncertainty
Perhaps, poverty in spirit and physical misery
But also adventuring, jubilation and harmony
Healing, hope and spiritual recovery.
Others will be expect of you more than you know
As they, with you, also want to grow.

It will contain many an unexpected twist and turn
As you constantly grow, learn and relearn.
And times of erasing, stopping and then restarting
But also places of backpedaling, jumping and reflecting.
Make sure you always carry plenty of pencil
The instrument helping you attain your potential.
And don’t apologize for plenty of erasures
To map both your adversities and your pleasures.
Your final life map has not yet been made
Because you don’t know where you will have moved or stayed.
                                                                                          Stan Brunn