Friday, July 31, 2015

Best Thing You Will See Online July 31, 2015

A flyover of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Wrangell-St. Elias 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 Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. 

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.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Best Wisconsin Video You Will See July 30, 2015

Blaze orange....

Killing for Sport Follow Up

Someone sent me a question on my post, Killing for Sportthat I posted yesterday. They wanted to know what I hunted.
My dad (left) and my brother Charlie with a deer and our dog Lola
in northern Wisconsin.

I haven't hunted since I was in college. Hunting is something we did as a family and most of my experience with hunting was as a child. My family has hunting land and a cabin in northern Wisconsin that we call The Farm. Part of the 120 acres is a former dairy pasture but most of it is wooded and there is abundant wildlife including deer, bear, and a variety of wild cats like bobcat. We didn't go there just to hunt. We also went fishing, built things, cut firewood, and collected mushrooms, berries, and nuts. We spent many weekends and large chunks of the summer in the area.  We had a wonderful time. Most of the hunting we did as a family was for deer although in southern Wisconsin my brother Charlie and I would go squirrel hunting once in a while. We ate the squirrels we shot. But of the two of us, Charlie was the real hunter. He loved it. As the youngest in the family, I tagged along and tried not to make too much noise.

My brother John and my Dad. I'm sure the catch was made into a fish fry.
The deer that were shot were dressed in the field and they would hang from a tree to dry out for a few days if the weather was cool. Then, we would take the carcass to a local butcher where he would cut it into steaks and chops and turn some of it to hamburger, sausage, or jerky. Every butcher shop in Wisconsin has their own way of butchering and their own recipes for sausage and jerky. There is a tremendous variability in the way the deer are processed--which leads to a bit of friendly competition over who has the best deer or jerky meat among families. The skin would be salted and sent to a processing plant to be tanned.

My brothers, brothers in law, and nephews enjoyed hunting a bit more than I did. They are wonderful people and ethical hunters. I always loved the company and good times with family, but I was more into books than hunting. I stopped going years ago but the rest of the group still enjoys it. There is no doubt that the time I spent hunting and more generally in nature with my family had a great impact on my environmental outlook and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend so much time outside when I was young.

My parents with their catch.
Hunting is a very big deal in rural Wisconsin. If you watch a Green Bay Packer home game in the winter, you will see that a large chunk of the stadium is wearing blaze orange jackets--the required color one has to wear when deer hunting during rifle season in Wisconsin. For many people, their orange hunting jacket is the warmest jacket they own and thus serves as their main winter coat.

In the fall during hunting season you will also see cars with deer strapped to the top driving from the hunting lands back to more urbanized areas. During opening weekend of rifle season, the weekend before Thanksgiving, the traffic leaving Milwaukee can get a bit intense as many work their way to the northern part of the state. Many hunters take the week off and come back to their families on Thanksgiving Day. It is a distinct cultural phenomenon that is unlike anything I've seen anywhere else in the U.S.

In Wisconsin last year over 600,000 deer rifle season hunting permits were sold and nearly 200,000 deer were killed. Note that this number of permits is approximately 1/10th of the human population of the state of Wisconsin. While hunting is thought of as traditionally a male domain, roughly 35% of first time hunters are female.

Top 10 Hofstra Student Garden Facts

From left to right: garden manager, Joe Murphy, me, stormwater research
assistant Lauren D'Orsa, and stormwater research assistant Keshanti Nandlall.
Photo by Michael O'Connor.
The Hofstra Student Garden is looking great this year under the care of garden manager, Joe Murphy. We had an open house yesterday to show off the garden and it was a nice success. I made a flier that listed the Top 10 Hofstra Student Garden Facts and I thought I would share them with you:

·        The first student garden was founded at Hofstra by Professor Cynthia Bogard. Since 2011, the garden has been managed by Sustainability Studies students and clubs.
·        The first garden was located at the Netherlands. This garden closed last year due to accessibility issues.
·        The current garden has been in use for the last three years and was dedicated by noted urban agriculturalist Will Allen.
·        It is used by classes to learn about urban agriculture.
·        It is used by students to give workshops to children.
·        Global Teacher Prize winner Steven Ritz helped with a workshop in the garden in April.
·        The garden uses no herbicides or pesticides.
·        The student managers are paid by the National Center for Suburban Studies.
·        All food grown at the garden is donated to The Mary Brennan Inn, a local shelter

·       A new shed and hoop house will be built in the coming year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Saddest Thing You Will See Online July 29, 2015

The late Cecil.

Killing for Sport

Click for photo credit.
I grew up in a hunting family. Along with gun safety and laws, we were taught that we only killed what we could use. We ate most of everything we hunted and saved the hides for making stuff. Everything we hunted was legal and on our own land. We had a distinct environmental ethic around hunting since if we took too many animals, there would be problems for hunting in subsequent seasons.

As many know, hunters usually make the best conservationists. Just take a look at Ducks Unlimited, a hunting group which advocates for the preservation of wilderness, particularly wetlands.

I have never understood trophy hunting or the kind of hunting where guides take you to places where they have set up a poor creature for killing after baiting it for a period of time. This kind of hunting seems wasteful and dishonorable.

One of the conservation world's great founders, Teddy Roosevelt, was known as a big game hunter. Yet big game hunting seems starkly anachronistic in our current era. Rooms full of dead animals are certainly cause for critique, not praise in today's world of limited natural habitat and enlarged endangered species lists.

Of course the Internet is buzzing over the Minnesota dentist who killed a beloved African lion. There is not much to say on this issue that hasn't been said in the last day or two. I just hope that this kind of action sheds light on unethical hunting practices and prevents others from going on this type of hunting trip.


Note: follow up to this post here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 28, 2015

National Parks in a Haze

Haze over the Grand Canyon. Click for photo credit.
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article today about pollution woes in the national parks in California. Four of the parks have air pollution problems, particularly ozone, that make them unhealthy for visitors.

The parks are planning how to eliminate pollution, but it is difficult to manage air quality in parks in an arid environment downwind from major population centers. Some of plans predict cleaner air in a century, long after everyone reading this will be dead.

I remember the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. It is a spectacular place. However, haze, originating from urban pollution sources further west, hung over the canyon. Until we get off of particulate and ozone producing energy sources we will continue to have these problems.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 26, 2015

Block Island post card:

Rhode Island's New Offshore Wind Farm Underway

Block Island, Rhode Island. Click for photo credit.
The New York Times last week published an article about a new offshore wind farm that is being built off the shore of Block Island in Rhode Island. The Atlantic winds are perfect for offshore wind power generation. This is one of the first offshore wind farms to be constructed off the U.S. Atlantic shore. It is a modest undertaking with only 5 turbines. However, those five turbines will power thousands of homes.

There are plans to build hundreds more turbines in the waters between Massachusetts and Long Island. However, there is strong opposition from various stakeholders. Fisheries groups are worried about the impact of the structures on fish populations. Local residents are worried about their viewshed. Plus, the U.S. is now a major producer of traditional energy sources and these sources remain relatively cheap for us and wind has to compete in a difficult economic market.

This small farm in Rhode Island is a first step in developing what will likely be one of the most productive wind generating regions in the nation.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 24, 2015

New natural gas power plant in.....KENTUCKY.

Blowing Hot Coal Air

Click for photo credit.
As I mentioned in a piece I wrote on the Supreme Court's recent decision on the EPA's greenhouse gas rules, there is a great deal of hot coal air, or heated rhetoric, taking place around the issue of climate change policy that is truly misplaced. This article from the Washington Post by Joby Warrick confirms what I have been saying. There is no federal war on coal. Indeed, some of the coal states, including Kentucky, have been moving forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for some time and it looks like the majority of the states will be on target to meet new EPA guidelines.

Here's the thing. The Federal Government is often the slowest to act on these types of issues. Indeed, for decades, state and local governments have been doing the heavy lifting on greenhouse gas pollution policy. The Federal Government is late to the game.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 22, 2015

In Climate Ping Pong Policy, the Pope Serves to Cities

Click for photo credit.
Three broad climate change policy trends have emerged in the last two decades. Let me review them.

1. Global policy. After the success of the Montreal Protocol in reducing chlorofluorocarbons, the world sought to build consensus around greenhouse gas reductions via the Kyoto Protocol. This initial process met with limited success. There have been subsequent efforts at global agreements that are mildly successful. The same is true of some regional agreements among nations. 

2.National policy. The implementation of national greenhouse gas policy and climate change policy varies widely from country to country. In the U.S., we did not have any real effort on greenhouse gas reduction until the end of the G.W. Bush presidency and the start of the Obama presidency. While efforts have been made in the last 8 years, we still do not have a strong national greenhouse gas policy or national consensus on how to build a policy.

3. Local policy. State and local governments around the world also have highly variable climate change policies. For example, in Florida, some cities and small towns have made great efforts to reduce greenhouse gases while others have done little or nothing. Thus, this local approach is on the whole modestly successful.

Because the United States did not have strong national policy prior to President Obama, the door was open for local governments to lead. Many cities and states (particularly New York City and the State of California) have made tremendous efforts to achieve real meaningful reductions of greenhouse gases. Yet now that the Federal government is taking some well publicized baby steps, the efforts of local governments seem to be dwindling and losing the public's attention. 

The Catholic Church, which has spoken out about climate change since the days of John Paul II, recently held an event for world mayors to try to invigorate the role of cities in reducing greenhouse gases. You can read about it here.

We will see if this effort produces any fruit. In the mean time, the science continues to show serious problems for the future. To check in on some of the discussion of climate science by some of the best in the biz, check out this blog. Also, Bloomberg Business published a very cool visualization that tackles the various theories about the temperature increases we have been seeing. Check it out here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 21, 2015

Things that Happen When You Move From Florida to New York

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird and just started reading Go Set a Watchman and I've been thinking a great deal about the south (more on that in an upcoming post). I lived in Florida for 23 years and my father, to me, was southern. He was from rural Missouri and seemed distinctly southern compared to my northern Midwest upbringing in culturally distinct Wisconsin. In other words, I have a bit of the south in my bones.

In the midst of all my southern thinking, BuzzFeed published a very funny listicle titled 18 Things That Happen When You Move From The South To the North. Of the 18, several resonated with me:

1. People stare when you say "y'all". How true. Y'all is my favorite southern invention and I find it highly superior to the more northern "youse" or "youse guys".

5. You'll miss the beaches you used to visit. I love Long Island's Jones Beach but it is nothing compared to the quiet beaches of the Gulf Coast.

6. You'll learn to shop in smaller markets, New York desperately needs a Publix. While the smaller Italian grocery stores are wonderful, the larger stores do try, bless their hearts.

7. People are shocked at your politeness. When I first moved here I said hello to people I saw on the street. They thought I was a freak. Now I try not to make eye contact.

Our Florida home. Photo by Mario Gomez.
9. Sweet tea is just not an option that's available to you. Let's just say that you take your life in your hands if you order iced tea in a restaurant in the north. Once I asked a waiter if the restaurant made their own tea. He said they did. When it arrived, I found out they made it by mixing powdered iced tea mix with water. Anyone from the south should not order iced tea in the north. You will be disappointed over and over again.

11. While everyone else is dying from the summer heat, it won't bother you at all. So true.

I thought I would add a few to the list with a bit more Florida focus.

1. People will not understand why you left the sunshine and think you went loco.
Live oaks and Spanish moss. Photo by Mario Gomez.

2. You cannot understand why people pay so much for oysters, shrimp, and scallops.

3.  New Yorkers think Floridians are from Mars and assume you have a crazy streak.

4.  You think most New Yorkers could spend a week at the beach to slow down a bit.

5. You have to change your  tropical wardrobe for one that has various shades of black.

6. You admit that New York has the best delis and Italian food while recognizing that Florida has the best seafood.

7. You feel the pull of history in different ways. Florida has a more modern local government system but the state's culture is partially tied up in the vagaries of the Confederacy. New York has a more progressive state government system but the local governments are tied up with the vagaries of Colonial era home rule government.

8. Cauwfee.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 20, 2015

Long Island Food Coalition Offers Nassau County Farm Tours

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
The Long Island Food Coalition is leading a tour of three North Shore farms in Nassau County on Saturday, August 8, 2015 from 10am-3:30 pm.  The charter bus trip, which starts and ends at Christopher Morley Park, costs $50 per tickets and $90 for couples.  The price includes a lunch at the iEat Green Homestead of noted food expert and chef, Bhavani Jaroff.

The tour will take attendees to the following farms: Orkestai Farm at Planting Fields Arboretum in Upper Brookville, Youngs Farm in Old Brookville, and Three Castles Farm in Old Westbury. Plus, Jaroff will give a tour of her homestead where she grows food for her catering business and for her farm to table cooking classes.

Each farm approaches agriculture and food in different, yet sustainable ways.

Orkestai Farm is a non-profit ecological farm community that explores relationships between ability, ecology, agriculture, and art. Youngs Farm is one of the last remaining food producing farms in the Gold Coast region of Long Island and is known for its farm stand and store. Three Castles Farm provides food to local farmers markets and also operates a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) operation.

This tour is a new initiative for the Long Island Food Coalition which is made up of several groups seeking to promote coordination of food and agriculture initiatives across Long Island. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the farmers and learn about growing methods.

The Long Island Food Coalition will offer a tour of some of Long Island’s South Shore farms in the early fall.

Tickets can be ordered on this Website  or by calling (516) 626-0908.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Wind Cave 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 Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. 

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.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park
Olympic National Park

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Best Thing You Will Hear Online July 18, 2015

More coal....

The Fire of the Coal Economy Dims

Click for photo credit.
The New York Times has a great article on the current state of the coal industry in the United States. Check it out here.

Although coal is still the biggest producer of electricity in the United States, the industry is hurting for several reasons:

1. There is an abundance of domestic natural gas from fracking in the U.S. that is taking a larger share of the electrical production market.

2. Renewables are taking a larger share of the energy market.

3. New greenhouse gas emissions rules are making coal more expensive to burn in power plants.

4. Countries like China are trying to reduce pollution and thus are not importing as much coal.

5. The strong dollar makes exporting anything from the U.S. difficult. U.S. coal is expensive on the global market.

Many lives and businesses that depended on the coal industry have been impacted by all of these problems. The article does a great job highlighting the challenges that businesses and individuals are facing in these transitional times. In many ways, it reminds me of what the Midwest went through in the late 1970's and 1980's as it transitioned into a post-industrial economy.

There are a number of organizations working toward improving the situation by promoting economic economic redevelopment in the region. See here and here for example. While I am sure that much more could be done to help the economic redevelopment of the region, it is disappointing that the Times did not point out or describe the efforts to help the region find other economic opportunities.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

10 Weird Summer Campus Facts

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I have been working quite a bit in my office over the summer. Although I am not teaching or on payroll, I do try to come in a few days a week to write, catch up on email, and attend meetings. Campuses have a different feel over the summer than during the rest of the school year. Here are 10 weird facts about college campuses in the summer.

1. College campuses get taken over by the elderly. They are here for elder hostel or other summer courses. But you will see more grey hair than normal. 

2. Wildlife returns. Since there are fewer people on campus, you will see more animals than ever. 

3. Workaholics abound. I see the same handful of faculty over and over again. 

4. Meeting mania. Once they know you are here, there’s no escaping them. 

5. Camptown. University campuses often have large groups of young people on campus for athletic or academic camps. You can get stuck in traffic if you get caught up in the bus loading/unloading.

6. Seasons in the sun. Campus grounds come alive in the summer and are at their most beautiful—just when most people are away. Many tourists come to visit campuses just to see them this time of year. 

7. Schmoozalicious. While most faculty and students are away, administrators have to be around. It is a great time to run into them on campus and talk about your latest project. 

8. The legs have it. Tired of seeing profs in suits and tweed? Come on campus in the summer and see them in shorts and t-shirts. 

9. Plastered. Most building maintenance is done in the summer. You’ll see armies of custodians and craftsfolks working on floors, walls, lighting, etc. 

10. Here’s Johnny. Working on campus can be a bit creepy—like The Shining—in that one is often the only person in a giant campus building. Many of us keep our doors locked. It’s better to make an appointment than stop by. We assume any visitor has an ax.

Bonus weird fact! Summer lasts from June through August on college campuses. However, to professors, that time period feels like two weeks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Best Thing You Will See Online July 15, 2015

I just finished reading Robert Caro's book, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson. One of the most interesting themes of the book is the issue of Civil Rights. What I gathered from the book is that Eisenhower and Nixon wanted to go much further in the late 1950's, but that the Senate, under Lyndon Johnson, prevented significant progress. Johnson gave very limited ground near the end of his Senate Leadership only on pragmatic grounds so that he could be considered a national candidate that supported Civil Rights. However, it is clear that Eisenhower and Nixon were far more supportive of broader and more expansive Civil Rights far earlier than Johnson and the Senate.

New Park Series Starts with Eisenhower Park

This park gets points for this giant map of Long Island.
Photo by Bob Brinkmann
I am just about finished with my National Park series highlighting open access photos of our national parks. I am introducing two new series today one of which begins with this post.

The first series will be similar to the National Park series except that it will highlight the National Monuments of the United States. This series will commence when I conclude the National Park Series later this year.

The second series focuses on state and local parks. The series will have some brief text and links along with photos of state and local parks I visit around the U.S.

The old men and the sea. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Today starts the series on state and local parks of the United States. Today we visit Eisenhower Park which is a Nassau County Park near the center of Long Island. This is one of my go-to parks for running or walking. It was founded in 1944 when the county took over a failed country club. The park was originally called Salisbury Park but was renamed Eisenhower Park in 1969.

This is a hard working park. It is very popular for sports activities and has a natatorium, ice rinks, baseball fields, a golf course, tennis courts, lots of running and walking paths, playgrounds, picnic grounds, and several memorials including a 911 memorial.

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

A giant natatorium is very popular. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Trapeze classes anyone? Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
There are more baseball fields than I can count. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
The 911 Memorial. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Iran Deal Hits Close to Home

The grave of Leland Holland at Arlington National
Cemetery. He was held as a hostage in Iran for 444 days.
He and the other hostages were never given the right to
sue for damages and were never appropriately compensated
for the losses to him and his family. Leland is the father of
my sister in law.Photo by Rose Brinkmann.
The current Iran deal makes me queasy.

It is not over whether or not the Iranian government can be trusted. It is over the Iranian Hostage Crisis that took place over 444 days from 1979-1981.

In 1979, I was starting my first year at UW-Oshkosh. During that academic year my brother Jim started to date a really terrific woman and they became engaged. She happened to be the daughter of one of the hostages held in Iran. They were married after her father was released.

When I attended their wedding in Washington D.C., I also attended some of the hearings that were held in the State Department on the hostage crisis. I met some of the other hostages.

They experienced all types of torture: mock executions, isolation, and beatings. It was as bad as you can imagine.

What most people do not understand is that as a condition of release, the U.S. Government signed an agreement with Iran that took away the rights of the hostages to seek damages and compensation from the Iranian Government.

According to some reports, Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of State that negotiated part of the release, told the hostages not to worry about compensation. The U.S. government would cover the compensation costs.

That never happened.

The hostages were given the equivalent of back pay, but that was it. No pay for damages. In the 36 years since the crisis happened, the hostages were not given any compensation for the horrors they endured in the name of the U.S. Government.

There are some who are trying to do the right thing and force the Iranian government to provide compensation as part of the nuclear deal. It doesn't look like this happened as of this morning's newspaper accounts of the deal. There are also some trying to get compensation from the U.S. Government. You can read a summary of these efforts here.

For over 35 years these families have lived with the fact that their government gave up one of their most basic constitutional rights as a citizen: the right to redress grievances. It was a bitter pill.

In the heat of the moment, it was exciting to see the release of the hostages in 1981. Yet we learned that the devil is in the details and that their release was earned at great personal cost to the hostages. It is this devil that makes me queasy about the current agreement.


Update: My sister in law sent along this note to me and agreed to let me publish it:

There will forever be that moment in my life that takes my breath away, not in a good way, unfortunately. I equate it to a victim who upon occasion has a 'flashback' (for lack of a better term) that causes them to freeze in their tracks, stops their heart, their breath. Steals their ability to think of anything except that horrible moment where they were the victim. Now, take that moment and extend it over 444 days and 35 years since that moment when the phone call came to my Mom in the early hours of the morning to let us know that my Dad had been taken hostage along with the rest of the American Embassy staff and a few guests. Worse yet, realize that I was a child of a Hostage. I had lived there, knew the Embassy Compound well and Tehran was my home. I was not a Hostage. Can you imagine the horror they endured for 444 days? Unfortunately, from November 4, 1979 through today, and every day between, I can all too easily imagine what they went through. It will haunt me and my family until the day we die. Today is no different, only more so, because of the agreement with Iran. There is no peace for my father or the other Hostages in the 'deal' with Iran.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lake Michigan Water on the Rise

Green Bay, Wisconsin in February 2014 from the Space Station.
Click for photo credit.
Check out this article from the Green Bay Press Gazette by Karen Yancey about the rapid rise in the Great Lakes. Water levels have gone up about 21 inches in the last year. It wasn't that long ago that the lakes were at historic lows. It is easy to point fingers at these changes and blame climate change. However, these changes are within normal fluctuations.

What is fascinating about such rapid environmental change is that it demonstrates how rapidly conditions in large water bodies like the Great Lakes can change. We saw this in Asia at the Aral Sea when irrigation schemes cut off normal water flow the the sea. The waterway nearly disappeared. Of course, this change was entirely anthropogenic.

The changes in the Great Lakes, however, seem to be largely natural phenomenon. While there is some water level control via shipping dams, the rapid rise is within the expected range of what can happen naturally.