Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Most Interesting Sinkhole That Formed March 30, 2016

Breaking: Big Sinkhole Opens Near Trailer Park in Tarpon Springs Florida and Why It Matters for Karst Terminology

Tarpon springs is located in the area directly to the
west of lake in the northern portion of the map. It is
in a part of Florida where natural sinkholes are
quite common. But was today's surface collapse
a natural sinkhole?
The news is here.

What is interesting about this report is that the Tampa Bay Times used the term, "hole" as opposed to "sinkhole" which is normally used in these reports. This shows a growing level of sophistication in the public and in the press on appropriate terminology for karst forms.

Many use the term sinkhole for any large hole that opens on the surface of the earth regardless of how it forms. Karst scientists prefer to use the term to mean exclusively those holes that open as a result of solution processes (usually limestone) underground. Most sinkholes form from the collapse of cavernous features in limestone areas.

However, since there are so many other types of holes that open, especially in cities, many use the term sinkhole for a wide variety of suddenly forming holes especially those that form from collapsed water or sewer lines. I am one of those people who think that the term sinkhole is a perfectly fine, although not precise, generic term for all kinds of suddenly forming holes. However, in karst settings, most understand that the term is usually applied to those holes that form naturally from underground solution.

Because it is unclear whether or not the hole formed from karst processes or as a result of the collapse of a sewer or water line, the Tampa Bay Times uses "hole" in this instance. This is the first time in recent memory that the press has made so fine and appropriate distinction. Nicely done Tampa Bay Times!

Exxon Mobil Lawsuit on Climate Change Follows Tobacco Path

Click here for photo credit.
Back in November, I wrote this piece (click here) about the efforts of New York State to bring energy companies to justice as a result of alleged deceit and denial about climate change. As I point out in the essay, the case is following the successful tobacco industry lawsuits that showed that the tobacco companies knew that their products were harmful even thought they tried to discredit scientists who did research on health impacts of smoking. The lawsuit brought forth by New York alleges that some energy companies knew that their products were causing global climate change and that they tried to suppress science and scientists.

In an article in today's New York Times (click here for the story) by John Schwartz, it was revealed that Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands are joining the lawsuit. The case may involve a criminal charge of fraud because lying to investors and other stakeholders, in this case denying the impact of their product on the environment, is illegal. One of the main areas of inquiry involves funding of groups, many of them unscientific, that sought to discredit climate science and scientists. The case focuses on evidence that Exxon Mobil knew that emissions caused greenhouse gas pollution and associated global climate change even while they tried to suppress information about the issue.

There is little doubt in the mind of many who have followed the interaction of energy companies on the issue of climate change how this case will be decided.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See March 29, 2016

Oman Looking Past Its Oil Economy to Solar -- Note to Venezuela

This neighborhood in Muscat, Oman, has tremendous potential for solar
energy development. Click for photo credit.
Reuters published an interesting article yesterday highlighting how Oman, a major oil producing nation, is looking past its oil economy toward the development of residential solar. Solar energy production makes a tremendous amount of sense given its desert setting.

For decades Oman has been one of the most interesting oil producing states in that it has always looked at oil as a temporary economic boom. The country has invested heavily in education and in diversifying its economy in stark contrast to other oil producing states. Oman's movement into solar is not especially a surprise given that it is one of the more future thinking states in the region.

The Oman example stands in stark contrast to Venezuela. This country heavily subsidizes gasoline consumption making Venezuela the highest greenhouse gas producer in Latin America. It produces 45 tons per person of greenhouse gases per year compared with the world average of 8.9. Even with all of this energy consumption, it has a highly irregular electrical system. It's major source of electricity is hydroelectric power. However, due to regular droughts, the electrical system of the country is beset with blackouts. Just last week the President of the Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, gave the country the week off to try to save electricity and reduce the demand on the grid. It didn't work and the country is now facing significant problems as the major hydroelectric dams are likely to run out of water in the next week or two. The failure to diversify its renewable energy options, particularly given that everyone knows Venezuela can expect significant regular droughts that impact hydroelectric generation, is a case study in poor energy planning.

Oman serves as a good example of how, even with energy abundance, one must plan for the future.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Growth in Top 10 U.S. Metros a Challenge for Water Sustainability

Click for photo credit.
Those of us who follow population trends have been given lots of new data recently as new figures were released recently about population changes in the U.S. For the last decade or so, it looked like sunbelt growth was cooling. However, the new data highlighted by the San Antonio Express News here demonstrates that all of the fastest growing large metros are in the sunbelt region of the U.S. In order of fastest growth to lowest, the top ten are:

1. Austin
2. Orlando
3. Raleigh
4. Houston
5. Las Vegas
6. San Antonio
7. Denver
8. Dallas
9. Nashville
10. Jacksonville

Several of these cities, particularly San Antonio, Austin, Denver, and Las Vegas, have serious water supply problems that will limit their growth. In some cases, especially Las Vegas, the regions are using water resources far beyond their natural carrying capacity. The growth in population may seem like a good idea for community boosters seeking to promote economic development, but providing water to the expanding population will be a significant challenge for water resource managers. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to continue to provide a steady supply of clean and healthy water in many of these places in the coming decades at the current rate of usage.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Top 10 U.S. States by Solar Energy Production

A solar farm on Long Island, New York, click for photo credit.
The Solar Energy Industries Association ranked the top 10 U.S. states by solar energy production as per solar capacity installed as of this month. You can read about their ranking here.

What is interesting about the list is what is missing. Florida, the nation's sunshine state, is not on the list. Nor are other sunny states like New Mexico and Utah. Clearly, state and local policies matter with solar energy. What is unfortunate about Florida is that it is not a conventional energy producing state. Thus it imports all of its energy sources. The development of solar would go a long way toward making places like Florida energy independent.

Here are the top 10 U.S. states by solar energy production:

California

Arizona

North Carolina

New Jersey

Nevada

Massachusetts

New York

Hawaii

Colorado

Texas

Did your state make the list? What local or state rules are in place that helps or hinders the development of solar energy?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online March 23, 2016

An Interview with Margaret Grundstein, Author of Naked in the Woods: My Unexpected Years in a Hippie Commune


Earlier this year I wrote a review of Margaret Grundstein's new book, Naked in the Woods: My Unexpected Years in a Hippie Commune. After I published the review, I wrote to Margaret to ask her for an interview and she was kind enough to respond to my questions. The interview is below. It provides more details on her life in the commune in Oregon, her educational background, her thoughts on hippie culture, and she gives some advice for young people interested in starting a commune today.

-----


Thank you for writing Naked in the Woods. I thought it was a fun read with some fascinating events. When I got to the point when you were about to marry Hakim, I wanted to run into the past and say, “Don’t do it!” I think most readers of this book had the same reaction. Did any of your friends or family try to talk you out of your marriage or your move toward communal living?

Hakim was a strong leader, fun, very social and generous.  He was well liked by my circle of friends and no one suggested that we not marry.  My parents may have had some reservations but they said nothing.

You lasted 5 years living in your commune. In the book, you focus quite a bit on how women reverted to traditional gender roles. Your description of how you and Carol drove miles to find a Ms. Magazine is one of my favorite scenes in the book. Of course, much of our thinking about gender roles has evolved since the early 1970’s, but when you consider the behavior of men at the time, were they aware that they were not really supportive of women in your group or did they attempt to be in tune with the women’s liberation movement of the time?

I think then, like today, men do/did their best (or not) to be supportive of women’s liberation. Women had and have to grow and as their/our eyes open, so too does that growth take place in men, or at least some men.  The nature of the land became an environmental factor that had us reverting back to the roles of several generations back.  Once we moved to the160 acres of backwoods the ruggedness of the environment, the self- imposed poverty and the need for brawn and more traditional masculine skills and mechanical ability prevailed at the expense of women’s independence.  I was the only single woman in our community once we moved from the farm to the 160 acres.  But….. I was supported by the men there and given great assistance and never felt demeaned as I worked on building my cabin, keeping my truck running and making sure I had firewood. Where I don’t think the men felt as understanding was in the case of the two new mothers. 

A case could be made that the men felt satisfied and strong as they took care of their women in traditional very basic male ways.  Another case could be made that for those men who did not have strong woodsmen or mechanical skills, the pressure of taking care of their partners was a heavy pressure, one that would have been alleviated in an urban society where good salaries were being earned.  After all, money can buy a lot of assistance.  

The irony for the women was that as we felt we were in the vanguard, moving forward into greater liberation, which in some ways we were, at the same time we were receding into more traditional roles from which women had been freed due to work opportunities and technology   

One of the unifying activities in the commune was drug use. You did not participate. Many in your community seemed to be damaged by drugs or it seemed as if drug use impacted incipient families and relationships. In my own experiences, I have found that in my many years in graduate school that there were several I knew who did not reach their full potential due to drug use. Upon reflection, how damaging was drug use to the overall success of the community and how do you feel about drug use today?

We were pretty mild in terms of drug use, the drug of choice being marijuana.  There were no hard drugs and only a very limited use of psychedelic hallucinogens.  In retrospect the drugs might have helped keep the group together, marijuana keeping everyone, especially the men, mellow, reducing conflict and giving them a common goal, that of having their dope patches. 

Drugs and drinking always impact any set of relationships, sometimes negatively and sometimes making things more mellow or convivial. The nature of the substance and the amount being used are the important variables.  I am a ‘clean Jean’.  It just works better for me, No moral reason for my personal choice.  I have no problem with a reasonable amount of drinking or smoking of dope.  I have no personal tolerance for excess of either, or harder drugs, in friends or others in my life. 

There is an incredible amount of drug use, soft and hard, as well as drinking that occurs in the present.  It often comes in more socially acceptable circumstances and is overlooked, while hippie era use, if not excessive is looked upon with another sort of prejudice.      

Your community formed, in part, as a reaction to tanks rolling through your campus. You dropped out in a big way by moving across the country to coastal Oregon. Yet once you dropped out, the purpose for running was gone. It seems like some of you, particularly Hakim, were defined by the political aspects of hippie culture. Once you dropped out, how did the lack of “a man” to fight against impact your group?

For me, once I dropped out and accepted it in my heart, fully and with complete belief, I didn’t need any ‘the man’ to fight against.  The goal had been achieved.  The act of living a better life was enough. 

Recently I had a reading in Langlois. I was struck by the beauty of the location, the mix of the community and the sense that in the diversity of ages and eccentricities there was a wonderful sense of community with active events that drew in so many of the dispersed inhabitants, from the fertile valley to the hidden mountain homesteads.  I felt very contained, fed and peaceful while I was there, an echo of my experience of forty years ago.

Writing a book is like painting a picture. You have to edit the scene to make an enjoyable composition. Now that the book is out, what would you have liked to include that you left out of the story?

There are always more scenes, more incidents, more memories, but I think that the points that I wanted to make were fully covered in the book.

A friend of mine is an expert on the archaeology of hippie communities. He has done some interesting research on the culture of communes based on the material artifacts that people left behind. What artifacts did you leave behind that would tell us about your community?

This is actually a very interesting question and the idea of the archaeology of hippie communities fascinating.  We left behind our cabins and some woods stoves.  The cabins may still be there, or remnants of them, and someday some hiker may find some old wood stove interior box and wonder how it got there.  I think that may be it.  There might be an old pump or an old tire somewhere.  Perhaps there was some sort of dump, just like archaeologists find in other cultures, our not being a pile of shells, but a few cans or utensils.  About five or so years after I left the main cabin burned down.   

When I was in Langlois a month ago I tried walking up to find the old place.  I went with local people who knew the woods well.  Since I left the area had been clear cut, paths overgrown, and logging roads put in place.  In spite of our efforts, following paths, and pushing through growth, we could not find the old place.  Perhaps, we conjectured, new logging roads had redefined access along with old paths and our meadow at the top of our hill, disappearing as nature worked its miracles over time.  The area was presently heavily wooded with the trees about 25 or so years old.      

When you left Yale to start the community, you must have known about the dismal success rates of utopian communities. Of course, there is nothing like love and youthful optimism to make one hopeful about the future. How much did you, Hakim, and others study about utopian communities and communal living before you set off on your adventure?

When we headed west we had no plan, no clear idea of what we were doing and no research.  Maybe Hakim had a better sense of his vision.  I was not sure but felt committed to some vague idea of rural living, or a new life, that was enough to get me moving but not enough to form a specific picture.  That may seem hard to believe, but it is true.  I don’t think any of us had a clear plan or picture.

After I read your book, I did research on you. I learned that you did your undergraduate degree at Goddard College. Aha! I said. It makes sense. I visited Goddard with a friend of mine who returned for a class reunion. She majored in photography, graduated a few years after you, and probably had some of the same professors. We ate dinner in the vegan cafeteria and we saw a performance by another noted Goddard graduate, Paul Zaloom. The university is really a special place that fosters creativity. I’ve never seen a university quite like it. How did your experiences at Goddard shape your overall outlook during that era when you decided to drop out?

I don’t know how much Goddard shaped my outlook or the fact that I ended up at Goddard showed the shape that my outlook might form. Goddard spoke to something in me, at a time when I was just becoming instinctively aware of that part of myself.  Certainly Goddard helped to feed the hands on, experiential, community oriented, appreciate the grandeur of the natural world part of myself.  

When I was at Goddard it was in the throes of a huge change.  The campus had grown and expanded from its original home on the site of the old seminary to include a new library on what was called the north campus, I believe, and new small dorms.  At the same time the Goddard was going a bit more mainstream, enlarging and investing, the world was turning upside down and the left wing, beatnik, liberal population which it had served, often an older group, had been replaced with a younger generation that was experimenting with drugs and feeling the changes that were sweeping the world.  I was there from Sept. 1964 through January, 1967 I believe.   

At the end of the book we learn that it took you 30 years to return to the Oregon mountains where you spent 5 years in the commune. In those 30 years, you became a business owner, a mother, a writer, and a professional marriage and family councilor. I have been wondering how much of your hippie outlook you maintained over the years. It seems as if you closed a screen door on the past. You let the patchouli waft through the screen but keep unpleasant aspects of the past out. How much of a hippie are you today?

Who knows what a ‘hippie’ is?  I have tried in my book to demystify and remove some of the stereotype of the word, but yes, in truth it does have a ring.  I am still a ‘hippie’ at heart in the same way that it speaks to part of my essence, just as being at Goddard spoke to that as well.  I still value community, connection, the natural world, questioning the strictures of traditional society, while also being a strong participant in it.  I still seek utopian goals, or look to make myself a more full and balanced being while providing opportunities for others to do the same through my therapy practice and my preschool.  It is always an imperfect work in progress, both the traditional accommodations as well as the strivings for something better. But…..I am very satisfied and am a lucky woman, who looking back can see that I have feet planted in two very different worlds and always have. I am very competent in the traditional world, and long for more.  I struggle and challenge and question and doubt and I move forward, always, I realize remaining the self that was always there.

What advice do you have for young people interested in starting a commune?

I read a great article yesterday about communal household forming for young people in my home town, Los Angeles.  I see small communities forming in Portland with two residences on the same property.  Old communes continue to exist and thrive.  New forms seem to develop and carry out the need for a feeling of being connected in more intimate ways than living alone in single homes.  I have no advice except to do it.  Each generation will find its own way.  Don’t be afraid.  Errors will be made.  Realities will be confronted.  It is not unlike marriage.  But still, the need, the desire and the dream can be honored and explored

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Thank you for this opportunity.

______

Click here to purchase Naked in the Woods.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online March 22, 2016

In follow up to today's post, here's a python mating ball in the Everglades...

Florida Scientists Interrupt Python Mating Balls with Snitches

Click for photo credit.
The exotic Burmese python has caused terrible ecosystem damage in Florida in recent years. I've written about this before here, here, and here. In a new article from the Miami Herald by Jenny Staletovich (found here), we learn that scientists are sending out male snitch snakes (their words, not mine) that have tracking devices inserted into them. The males meet up with other males and one female in mating balls (again not my words) around Valentine's Day and thereby, through their tracking device, give away the snake cluster to scientists for capture. To date, over a ton of snakes by weight have been captured in Florida in a relatively small area using the tracking system.

The challenge with keeping the python in check is that a pregnant snake produces 24-72 eggs. A ton of snakes is a lot of snakes, but it just a drop in the mating ball bucket. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See March 20, 2016

In follow up to today's earlier post...

The Vexing Problem of Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee. Click for photo credit.
Until I moved to Florida, I always lived near large lakes. I grew up about 20 miles from Lake Michigan. My father would take us fishing along the shore on occasion or he would rent a charter boat for a day of family fishing. We also had a cabin near Caldron Falls and High Falls, two large reservoirs on the Peshtigo River in Marinette County, Wisconsin. I did my undergraduate degree in Geology at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh--a city tucked between the massive Lake Winnebago and its smaller companion, Lake Buttes des Morts. I love to be near lakes. When I moved to Tampa, Florida, for my first job as a college professor, one of my first day trips was to visit Lake Okeechobee.

All of us have seen the lake on a map. It is the 7th largest freshwater lake in the U.S. and is approximately 750 square miles in area. It stands out as an odd central punctuation mark in the lower portion of Florida's pendulum peninsula. It feels like a cycloptic eye of a deep water creature compared to the more emotive facial forms of the Great Lakes--the eyebrows of Lake Superior and Huron and the laugh line of Lake Michigan. While Florida is full of lakes, Lake Okeechobee is unlike the others. It is an odd feature in a state full of odd features.

When I visited Lake Okeechobee for the first time, I was full of anticipation. As a geography nerd, I like to check off important places off my bucket list and the lake was on it. It was such an important place for anyone like myself interested in water resources. The lake is part of American environmental history.

As I approached it on a hot October day, I was surprised to find a vast wall of earth separating me from the lake. While I knew that a levee surrounded it, I didn't expect the wall to be so large. It is impossible to get a glimpse of the lake as one draws near. Of course it is surrounded by levees to avoid flooding.

It reminded me of the levee walls around many rivers in the American South. One can drive right next to a river for tens of miles without seeing anything but high earthen levees that keep the water away from the flat agricultural floodplains during high water seasons. Marjory Stoneman Douglas famously called the Everglades a river of grass. Lake Okeechobee, as one component of the Everglades, is treated very much like a southern river in its hydrologic engineering.

Under natural conditions water flows into Lake Okeechobee from the north, mainly via the Kissimee River which now drains Orlando and a vast area of agricultural land. Due to urbanization and agricultural runoff, the water is now polluted with a nutrients and a number of other contaminants. Prior to building the levee around the lake, clean water would flow out of the lake via a vast sheet flow system that brought water to the Everglades.

It is worth noting that the lake did not form from a sinkhole collapse like most of the other lakes in Florida. It is a low area in a deltaic feature that makes up South Florida. Like Lake Pontchartrain in the Mississippi Delta, Lake Okeechobeee formed as sediment deposited around the lake from fluvial deposition. The sedimentation eventually cut the lake off from the sea. The low area of the lake became a key flow through point of water that washed across the state as a result of abundant subtropical and tropical rainfall that fell in the lake's watershed. As the water flowed south toward the sea, it carried sediment with it that helped to build up the south Florida landscape.

The levee wall around Lake Okeechobee. Click for photo credit.
Of course, as people moved into south Florida, they wanted to stop the natural flow of water out of Lake Okeechobee. Zora Neale Hurston's book, Their Eyes Were Watching God highlights the dramatic events associated with massive flooding that can occur south of the lake during hurricanes. Engineers solved the problem by building a levee and by streamlining flow out of the lake via canals and enhanced drainage, most notably through the Caloosahatchee River which flows from the lake to the Fort Myers/Sanibel Captiva area of the southwest Florida coast.

Of course when we engineer things like the water system of Lake Okeechobee, new problems emerge. The Tampa Bay Times published an interesting article by Leonora La Peter Anton and Craig Pittman this morning that brings together many of the challenges associated with managing water resources in south Florida. Recently Lake Okeechobee filled and caused flooding in the surrounding areas. To alleviate the problem, water managers released tremendous amounts of water into the Caloosahatchee River. Due to the poor water quality, many creatures were killed and ecosystems damaged as the water made its way to the sea. You can read the details here. The beautiful vacation spots of Sanibel and Captiva were impacted.

Sometimes when we engineer nature, we move a problem from one location to another. In this case, the area around Lake Okeechobee was saved. Yet through this protection, damage was done to another part of the state.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online March 19, 2016

In follow up to today's post. Some of the info presented on climate change is out of date as per the new Gallup poll...

Americans No Longer Doubt Climate Change

Click for photo credit.
The scientific community has been unequivocal about climate change for many years. The consensus view is that human's are causing climate change as a result of greenhouse gas pollution and that we are already feeling the impact with our unusual weather. We are also already seeing sea level rise in many parts of the world. These impacts will accelerate in the coming years. We are also likely to see shifts in agriculture and ecosystems. You can read the latest scientific assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change here. If you take the time to read it, you will see why scientists cringe when we hear politicians state that they don't believe in climate change or that it is not caused by human activity. The evidence is really overwhelming.

For decades, some Americans in positions of political or cultural prominence loudly pushed back against the scientific consensus. Many of these individuals had strong ties to traditional energy companies. They were able to impact public opinion to the point that it has been impossible to get the U.S. congress to budge on any climate change policy. In some states, legislatures have made it illegal for workers to discuss climate change in efforts to impact public opinion.

While these efforts may have slowed the acceptance of climate change in the general public, a new Gallop Poll of the American public demonstrates that 64% of Americans are worried a great deal or a fair amount about global climate change and that 65% of Americans believe that climate change is caused by human activity.  The poll demonstrates that Americans have shifted significantly in their viewpoints on climate change. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Best Thing You Will See Online March 18, 2016

In follow up to today's earlier post...

Newsday Calls for Plastic Bag Ban on Long Island

Click for photo credit.
Living on an island like Long Island, one cannot help but have a relationship with the ocean. It is part of life in one way or another. You have to cross it to get to the continent or another island like Manhattan or Staten. You work on it as in the case of those who work in the fishing industry. Or you enjoy it like I do by boating or enjoying the view. Some of us worry about it due to pollution, global climate change, or ecosystem destruction. Just last night, as I was celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a friend at a local shoreline restaurant, a stranger chatted with us, and as will happen on Long Island, the topic of ocean pollution came up. Last night, the conversation was all about mercury pollution. While chemical pollution is a problem, one of the most persistent visible pollutants in our coastal waters is the ubiquitous plastic bag.

Click for photo credit.

The first time I really saw the impact of plastic bags on the environment was in Yemen in the late 1980's. Yemen doesn't have organized waste handling in most of the country and there are many informal dumps. It is an arid land, so most of the organic waste desiccates or rots and the rest of it stays put. However, due to the lightness of plastic bags, they get blown around all over the place. Since Yemen has a fair amount of succulent and cactus plants, the bags get lodged on the plants where they create a significant blight. Anyone who has traveled in the developing world has seen the problems associated with plastic bag pollution. I remember traveling in a beautiful area of Transylvania in Romania where the mountains were spectacular but where the the valleys were thick with discarded plastic bags.

But the problem is not just one of the developing world where there is limited garbage collection. It is a problem in the U.S. as well. Each year across Long Island tens of thousands of plastic bags are collected during coastal clean ups. Many communities across Long Island have moved to try to ban plastic bags in retail settings. Yet since we have hundreds of local governments across Long Island, the scattered approach will have minimal impact unless the region works together. That is why Newsday, Long Island's major paper, has called for an island wide ban of plastic bags. You can read the editorial here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online March 17, 2016

In follow up to today's earlier post, here's a brief video about marine renewable energy research in Ireland.

Ireland Not As Green As You Think

Click for photo credit.
An editorial in The Irish Times highlights that Ireland is not meeting projected targets on greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the issues of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are not part of the major political dialogue in Ireland.

Sound familiar?

In the U.S., there is little discussion in our current election cycle on how to deal with global climate change. Some candidates even deny that climate change is real or that our current challenges with climate are caused by human activity.

The U.S. and Ireland have long had strong ties. It is unfortunate that one issue that ties us together is the inability to politically address the environmental challenges of greenhouse gas pollution.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See March 16, 2016

In follow up to today's earlier post...the U.S.'s first LEED Platinum skyscraper.

Green Building Quiz

My students taking photos inside the U.S.'s first skyscraper
to earn the top rating from LEED. Which building is it?
It has been months since the last On the Brink Quiz. As spring approaches, the construction season is right around the corner. It seems like mid March is a good time for a Green Building Quiz. The answers to the quiz are in the comments section. Also, links to other On the Brink quizzes follow the questions. Good luck!

1. In the United States, the main green building benchmarking systems is called LEED. What does LEED stand for?

2. What organization certifies LEED buildings?

3. LEED buildings are certified into categories with metal names. Name these categories.

4. The LEED rating system is often criticized by people who concern themselves with equity issues in urban planning. Why?

5. What was the first skyscraper in the U.S. to earn the highest LEED rating and when did it earn the award?

6. Trick Question Warning!! What is the greenest building in the world?

7. What is the name of the main green building rating system in Europe?

8. Historic preservation is a key element of green building policy. By not building a building (see Question 6) you are saving resources. What is the name of the main organization that has been working on historic preservation in the U.S. since 1949?

9. Site selection is a key element for which one can earn points in most green building systems. For example, by choosing to build on a brownfield, one avoids developing on greenfield. What is a brownfield and what is the difference between a brownfield and a greenfield.

10. Most green building benchmarking systems take into consideration the life cycle of a building. What are the main elements of a building's lifecycle that can be evaluated in a rating scheme?

11. PassivHaus is a green building rating system that was introduced in Germany in the 1990's. What distinguishes this rating system from others?

12. What organization started the Energy Star system that rates the energy efficiency of electronics used in a wide variety of residential, commercial, and industrial applications?

13. What state in the U.S. has the most certified LEED buildings?


Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online March 13, 2016

In follow up to today's post...

When Governments Lose Control of Environmental Regulation--The Case of Southern Venezuela

Click for photo credit.
About a week ago 28 miners were killed in southern Venezuela. The deaths were reportedly a brutal attack with some of the miners shot and others killed with chainsaws. Mining in this part of the country is run largely by mafia like gangs who are linked with the government and the military. The deaths are clearly associated with some sort of conflict over mining.

In many ways it reminds me of the days back in the 80's when right-wing gangs linked with organized crime were causing havoc in Central America. Today, it is the socialist Chavista government that is taking the heat. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The government of Venezuela is often called a kleptocracy or a narcostate due to widespread corruption. So many officials have earned great wealth while in power and have disregarded their public duty. The death of these miners is just a symptom of the problem. There is very little environmental regulation in the region and there is great concern over long-term environmental pollution of the fragile ecosystems of southern Venezuela and the health of indigenous populations in the area.

A newspaper editor in Venezuela was just sentenced to four years in jail for publishing accounts of corruption in the mining sector of that country. As a result, many doubt that the government will effectively investigate the miners' deaths and protests have erupted in southern Venezuela. Many have called on international groups to investigate the murders and to put a stop to the illegal mining that has caused so much environmental disruption and human misery.