Saturday, April 30, 2016

Some Changes to On the Brink

Click for photo credit.
I will be taking on a new role at Hofstra University come July 1st when I become the Vice Provost for Scholarship and Engagement and the Associate Dean of the Graduate School. As a result of this, the focus of this blog will broaden a bit. It will still largely focus on environment, sustainability, and higher education. However, you may notice expanded content on higher education, particularly scholarship and engagement, since that is the focus of my new position. Given this change, this blog will no longer be a group blog. Instead, the editorial voice is mine alone. Also, of course this is my personal blog and it does not represent the opinions of Hofstra University.

Long-time readers of this site who have followed along for years will not notice any significant changes beyond the slight widening of focus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Most Interesting Thing You Will See April 26, 2016

The Solar Impulse flyover of the Golden Gate Bridge...

Solar Airplane Inspires

Click for photo credit.
On July 4th of 2015, I wrote about the successful flight of the Solar Impulse from Japan to Hawaii. Over the weekend came news that the plane made it from Hawaii to California in one of the more dangerous legs of its round-the-world tour. The trip lasted 62.5 hours and included a fly over at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the home of some of the world's top green tech companies. The flight inspired many, in part, due to its concurrence with Earth Day.

The plane was grounded for several months due to time needed to repair damage that occurred during the flight from Japan to Hawaii. The next step is for the plane to fly across North America before crossing the Atlantic.

We need a proof of concept prototype before we move forward on a technology. The first airplane, car, and television are very different from what they look like today. The Solar Impulse is showing us that clean flying is possible. The challenge will be to find ways to develop technology that can be applied more broadly.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

I Got This! Joanne Norris Sustainability Major

Check out this video from one of our terrific seniors! More about her and other Hofstra University Seniors here. She's off to Columbia this fall for her masters.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online April 22, 2016

Top 5 Ways to Spend Earth Day

Our Earth Day Festival at Hofstra this week. Note the solar powered
sound system.  Photo by J Bret Bennington.
Today is Earth Day, which has been celebrated every year since 1970. The main focus of Earth Day is to teach others about our planet. At Hofstra University, we celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday during our Common Hour when all students are out of class. Most schools around the world pick one day during this week every year to find ways to celebrate Earth Day. Below are some of the most common ways that college and universities celebrate.

1. Speakers. Often universities bring in famous speakers to discuss their research or writing on environmental issues. This year, we brought in Bob Musil who is the Executive Director of the Rachel Carson Council who spoke about his book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. He highlighted the work of many women in the environmental movement, many of whom were from Long Island.

2. Festivals. Many universities put on some type of festival or event where student clubs, departments, and community groups share information. Often these festivals include music, poetry, or art. We have been doing this at Hofstra as long as I have been here and I believe it predates me by several years.

3. Plantings. Often students and faculty will plant a tree or a garden around Earth Day. We have planted part of the Hofstra Student Garden on Earth Day in the past, although we didn't do it this year. We had such a mild spring that we planted earlier.

4. Clean Ups. Another common activity is to do a campus or neighborhood spruce up. Students and faculty work together to clean up a forgotten corner of campus or a section of a nearby neighborhood.

5. Readings. One of my favorite activities that I have participated in is a group reading of a famous environmental author such as Muir, Carson, or Leopold.

What other activities are taking place on your campus?


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See April 21, 2016

Memories of Harriet Tubman

Click for photo credit.
The news yesterday that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill in American currency brought back a flood of memories from my childhood.

I grew up in a very small village in Wisconsin (about 1500 people at the time) called Waterford. Just two miles away was another village called Rochester that had a population of about 500 people. Both villages were established in the 1800's and had very old buildings including some old hotels.

One of the oldest buildings in Rochester, the Old Union House Hotel, was supposedly a stop on the underground railroad.

When I first heard this story, I was quite young. I was intrigued. Could I go see the railroad? Where were the tunnels? I read every book I could on the underground railroad that I could find. I was always searching for photos of tracks and tunnels. Perhaps this started my interest in caves.

But I always ran into pictures of Harriet Tubman. Her story was so inspiring. She experienced harsh treatment and was beaten when she was a young woman. When she escaped to Philadelphia, she returned to help her family and others escape slavery. She continued to work against slavery and helped to build the underground railroad (my tunnels). She served in the Union Army as a guide and spy. She worked to develop jobs for freed slaves and built a support network to aid those who escaped slavery. Her real life was an adventure story that rivaled any young boy's adventure fiction that I was reading at the time such as the Hardy Boys mysteries. Her story was real, exciting, dramatic, and had an underground railroad! Her face, in photos of those books I found in the library, with its careworn kindness and strength, was an inspiration.

I don't quite remember when I realized that the underground railroad was a secret network that helped slaves escape captivity and not a real railroad. However, in my mind, I will always remember visualizing Harriet Tubman leading escaped slaves to a vast underground subway system that led to my little rural part of Wisconsin.

I don't think I was alone in imagining the underground network of tunnels. I looked at the Wikipedia page for Rochester, Wisconsin to see if they had any information about the underground railroad and the Old Union House Hotel. They did. Here is what is posted about it:

The old Union House hotel in the Village of Rochester was a part of the Underground Railroad. The trail started there, went under the Fox River, and ended at a house on the other side.

The odd thing about this entry, besides its very odd geography (why would you need a tunnel to go from one hotel to a nearby house in a rural area), is that it squares entirely with my memory of how the railroad was discussed in my region. It was described as a set of tunnels that went underground from the hotel. It was a physical place that was localized instead of a vast national network of individuals and safe houses. Certainly the Old Union Hotel was a safe house, but I still like to imagine Harriet Tubman leading others to safety via a vast network of tunnels that ended near my boyhood home.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Carbon Neutral to Williamsburg

One of our students presenting her research at William
and Mary this weekend.
As I have noted elsewhere, I am trying to go carbon neutral with big trips that I take. Just this last weekend, I went with a group of Hofstra students and faculty to Williamsburg, Virginia to take part in the Colonial Academic Alliance annual Undergraduate Research Conference and I thought it would be a great opportunity to demonstrate how easy it is to make a big university field trip carbon neutral.

First, we need to calculate a few things and get some basic data.

The carbon sources:

We took two large transport vehicles that have about 23 MPG on the highway. We didn't calculate the exact gas milage, but I am estimating it at about 20 MPG since we hit a great deal of traffic each way.

We also took one vehicle that measured gas milage at 24.5 MPG.

One of us flew home from Norfolk and thus we had the carbon from one flight.

Calculating carbon output:

The distance to Williamsburg to Hofstra is 409 miles. Since we had two cars using 20 MPG, I need to multiply 409 by 4 to get the total number of miles for both vehicles for the round trip. This equals 1636 miles. Since both vehicles got approximately 20 miles per gallon, I can divide 1639 miles by 20 miles per gallon to get at the total gallons of gasoline used. This is 81 gallons of gasoline.

The car that got 24.5 miles per gallon did a round trip for 818 miles. I divided 818 miles by 24.5 miles per gallon to get approximately 33 gallons of gasoline. Thus, all three cars used at total of 114 gallons.
Hofstra did a great job representing our university at
the Colonial Academic League
Undergraduate Conference.

About 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced when a gallon of gas is burned. Therefore, our car portion of the trip accounted for 2280 pounds of carbon dioxide.

As far as the flight goes, I used this site to calculate that a one-way trip from Norfolk to LaGuardia Airport used 0.04 metric tons of carbon per person. This is equivalent to 88 pounds of carbon.

Our total carbon output for the trip was 2368 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Mitigating carbon:

I purchase my carbon credits from TerraPass. This is not an endorsement. I found them through a simple Web search and verified that they were a reputable company that was in business for some time. Companies sell carbon credits to individuals or industries to offset their carbon impacts. The funds go to support green energy and other carbon reduction strategies like reforestation. You can read about carbon credits here. From TerraPass, one can buy offsets in 1000 pound intervals for $5.95 each. I purchased 3000 pounds which gave us plenty of cushion for any errors. Thus, for $17.85, the Hofstra trip to Williamsburg, Virginia for 14 people became carbon neutral.

As far as I know, this is the first carbon neutral field trip in the History of Hofstra University. As they might say in Ye Olde Williamsburg, Huzzah!


via GIPHY

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Take on the Energy Industry and Greenhouse Gas Policy in 2013 Predicted the Future

Click for photo credit.
I ran across an old essay I wrote for the Oil and Gas Monitor on energy companies' role in developing sound greenhouse gas policy (check it out here). I noted that major energy companies with a few exceptions were avoiding the topic of greenhouse gas pollution and management, were blaming consumers for the problem, or were advocating for policy that worked for industry but did little for consumers and the environment. In the essay, I wrote that, "In the coming years, the public is unlikely to be patient with companies that deny that climate change is real or that seek to stop or limit meaningful climate change policy."

As I have noted many times on this blog, there are energy companies that are addressing greenhouse gas pollution. They recognize that their product is contributing to the problem and are trying to develop technologies to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases in the environment. However, there are other companies that historically did what they could to deny the reality of climate change and tried to deceive the public about climate change science. 

It is clear that the days of being able to get away with such corporate behavior without legal, social, and economic impacts are over. The recent lawsuits I've written about here and here against energy companies and their de facto lobbyists are proceeding and many believe that the discovery process of the legal action will reveal a disturbing pattern of trying to deceive the public for profit. 

As I noted in 2013, the public is unlikely to be patient with companies that deny that climate change is real. The evidence for climate change is overwhelming. If it turns out that some energy companies were trying to deceive the public on this very major issue, the implications of this corporate bad behavior are unpredictable. But I have no doubt that in this era of the rise of American populism as defined by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that this issue, should it proceed against the energy industry, will call into question the power of global corporate entities within our political and legal world.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fenda Akiwumi--Geologist, Geographer, and Environmental Hero

My former colleague Dr. Fenda Akiwumi was recently awarded with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas State University. I could write a great deal about Fenda's accomplishments, but the video below does a great job detailing all of her "firsts" and all that she has done to promote sustainability and environmental education in the United States, Africa, and throughout the world.

I have found that the people who often make the most positive impacts in the sustainability/environmental movement are the nicest and most modest individuals I have ever encountered. My good friend Fenda always inspired me to try to think about how my work impacted others outside of the academic world. She also inspired me to look more closely at international issues of diversity and sustainability. She has impacted many organizations around the world in profound ways.

A big congratulations to Dr. Akiwumi for her award and a big thanks from me for all that you have done to inspire me, inspire others (especially your students), and make the world a better place.



Video by vcYES Productions 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Virgin Islands Subpoenas Think Tank that Denied Climate Change

Click for photo credit.
As I have noted before in this blog, many governments and environmental groups are pushing back against the disinformation campaign by think tanks and some corners of the energy industry. It looks like big lawsuits are looming with some potential criminal charges against organizations that sought to purposefully deceive the public by denying the realities of global change science even when their own scientists acknowledged or were conducting research on climate change.

There is growing information available to the public about the role of various industries in attempting to deceive the public on environmental or health issues. Perhaps the best book on the subject, in case you are looking for background, is Deceit and Denial, the Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution. I wrote about this book last year as one of my top green beach reads. It highlights how the deception and denial tactics of industry led to deaths, widespread environmental contamination, and serious public health problems within the petrochemical and lead industries.

News came out this week that The Attorney General of The Virgin Islands is investigating the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) to assess their role (if any) in deceiving the public on climate change science and on discrediting climate scientists. The CEI has been one of the most critical voices on climate change science. A quick Internet search about them will give you plenty of information about the types of initiatives they have supported to try to destroy national and international policy efforts focused on addressing global climate change.

Things are moving fast on the legal efforts to bring to justice organizations that sought to deceive and deny the science of climate change to the public. I am sure this is not the last we will hear on this issue as the world continues to see the impacts of climate change. Everyone, particularly those in vulnerable coastal areas like The Virgin Islands, will be looking to find out who is responsible for trying to stop effective policy back in the 1990's and early 2000's when we had a chance to develop sound agreements.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Top 20 Hofstra University Legends

A photo of some of Mrs. Hofstra's cats.
Photo courtesy of Hofstra special collections.
Every semester or so I like to do a post on Hofstra University legends. This is the third installment with some additions from previous posts.

Universities always are associated with legends--fantastical tales of the past that may or may not be true.  Hofstra is no exception.  After 5 years at Hofstra it seems a good time to review some of the legends that I've heard on campus. 

To stir up trouble, I also included a few that are not completely true. See if you can discern the factual legend from the possible legend and the absolutely false legend. Look in the comments to check your answer.

One of Hofstra's legends.  This is the famed "Hofstra
Tulip".  Photo by Bob Brinkmann.

1.  Mrs. Hofstra left part of her fortune to her cats.

2.  The New York Jets once had offices in the Medical School.

3.  Mr. Hofstra avoided going down in the Titanic by choosing to go to Canada on a business trip.

4.  Charles Lindbergh took off to Paris on his famous Atlantic crossing from airstrips that now are parking lots on the residential side of campus.


5.  There is a tulip planted for every student on campus in the campus arboretum.

6.  The famous planner Robert Moses resigned from the Board of Trustees when the university decided to build dormitories.

7.  Francis Ford Coppola was the first student to direct a major theater production on the Hofstra campus.

Dr. Bret Bennington wearing Mr. Hofstra's
traveling cap.

8.  Calkins Hall was once the gym.


9. Each year, a faculty member is selected to wear Mr. Hofstra's special traveling cap that he wore on train trips to California to inspect his western properties.

10.  The first official team sport at Hofstra was polo, which was first played on campus polo grounds (now the quad) in 1936.


11.  A secret tunnel connects the north and south side of campus under Hempstead Turnpike. 

12.  Hofstra was once part of NYU.

13. Hofstra's arboretum is used as a cemetery for faculty.

14. The Hofstra Alma Mater, Blue and Gold, was written by an American Idol contestant.

15. All the the past Presidents of Hofstra share the same middle name, William, which is the same name as Mr. Hofstra and the same name as the male mascot of Hofstra University.

16. The original team name of Hofstra's male sports teams was the Flying Dutchmen.

17. One of Hofstra's dorm towers is built around a smokestack.

18. Roosevelt Hall originally was located at Sagamore Hill, the home of Teddy Roosevelt near Oyster Bay, Long Island, and was moved to campus in 1976 to celebrate the bicentennial. It once housed President Roosevelt's extensive animal trophies, guns, and uniform collection.

19. Martin Luther King was granted an honorary degree from Hofstra in 1965.

20. Before an exam, it is considered good luck to rub the head of the statue of the professor reading in the Calkins Quad.









Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reflections on Writing Introduction to Sustainability

Last night, when I got home for a late meeting on campus, Mario had a glass of champagne ready for me. I couldn't figure out why. It was a long day on campus that was bookended by early morning and late afternoon classes followed by a meeting of the Long Island Food Coalition in my office suite. I was more ready for sleep than I was for a glass of champagne. Finally, after dancing around the purpose for the champagne, Mario told me there was a box for me. It was delivered by DHL and came straight from John Wiley in Oxford, England. At long last, the hard copies of my new textbook, Introduction to Sustainability arrived.

I am a bit nervous about its publication because it is the first major introductory textbook on the topic.  There is a responsibility involved with publishing the first of anything and one cannot help but hope that it makes a contribution. My book takes a distinctly positive "change the world" kind of approach in a time period when many environmental problems are accelerating. It may seem a bit positive, if not downright cheery at times about the kinds things that are being done to make improvements. It is a glass half full survey of natural and social science themes in sustainability including water, food, energy, environmental justice, transportation, green building and planning, green business, and economic development. It even includes a chapter on sustainability on college campuses and what students can do and how they can get involved in sustainability initiatives. Of course it provides a definition of the field and summarizes its historical development. It takes this positive approach to try to show students how changes can be made for the betterment of the environment and society. It encourages them to be agents of change in small and big ways.

My first look at the book.
The book also has an international focus so that it can be used in classrooms all over the world. I used many examples from across the planet. I also tried to make the book personal, and hopefully more interesting than other standard textbooks, in discussing many of the issues that I confront in my own life. It asks students questions along the way about their role in society and about the choices that they make.

This blog has been extremely helpful in writing the book. It helped me organize some of the content that I used in the book and it kept me writing. In the book, I encourage students all over the world who use the text to visit the blog for more information. For writers who are stuck or nonproductive, I think blogging helps to clear cobwebs and build skills. I am a word goal writer and try to write (outside of this blog's informal writing) 1000-2000 words a day that go into some of my article or book projects. Blogging nearly daily helped to build the habit of writing that allowed my writing productivity to increase.

I first conceived of this book a few years ago after building course material on the topic for a few years. The text is about 180,000 words and it has dozens of figures and photos. It was a big undertaking that involved a great deal of writing in my home and campus offices and in libraries in Long Island, Greece, Oxford, Wisconsin, New Mexico, France, China, and Florida. I had the assistance and support of many colleagues, students, friends, and family members. I am so grateful to all of them.

I am sure that as Introduction to Sustainability gets out into the market, readers will point out flaws and find errors. Hopefully, there will be a second edition where improvements can be made.

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Review of Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region

Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region by Christopher J. Manganiello. The University of North Carolina Press, 320 pages.

I always lived near rivers. In Wisconsin, our home was near the Fox River in Racine County and my family had a summer cottage and farm near the Peshtigo River in Marinette County. When I moved to Florida in 1990, I lived near the Hillsborough River. Each of these streams was altered in some way by dams. The Fox River had an old dam that was important for flood control and milling. The Peshtigo River in far northern Wisconsin was dammed for hydroelectric power production. I spent many hours swimming and fishing on the reservoirs (Caldron Falls and High Falls) created by the dams. The spring fed Hillsborough River in Tampa was dammed for flood control and to maintain a steady water supply during Florida's pronounced dry season. If you think about rivers you know well, you will find that like my rivers, they too have been altered in some way. According to Christopher Manganiello in his new book, Southern Water, Southern Power: How the Politics of Cheap Energy and Water Scarcity Shaped a Region, the American south contains some of the most altered drainage basins and river systems in the world.

Manganiello's book takes an historical approach to the development of water resources in the south in that it transports us to the earliest days of water resource development in the region and then brings us forward in time to the new south era (1890-1930) and sunbelt south (post 1930) to nearly the present day. He takes a distinctly geographic approach in the book in that he focuses largely on streams in the Savannah River basin. In this masterfully researched book, Manganiello provides comprehensive historical case studies that weave together a number of important issues ranging from energy and development to government and access. Southern Water, Southern Power is a book that anyone who works in the field of water resources should read.

One of the book's major themes is historical landscape transformation associated with the development of drainage basins, particularly stream valleys for hydroelectric production. While many are aware of the spectacular dams of the west, such as Hoover Dam, the south, in fact, has more dams and more intensely altered landscapes as a result of development of southern rivers. While this transformation is significant, it has to be noted that the south goes through wide water boom and bust cycles that encouraged this transformation as regions sought to store or remove water depending on the season's hydrologic conditions.

Another major theme of the book is energy. With the exception of some areas of Appalachia (coal) and the lower Mississippi Valley (oil), the south is energy poor. Many saw the opportunity to develop the south's rivers for hydroelectric energy production as a means of broader regional economic development a la the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This so-called white coal energy was used to promote economic development in areas that did not have nearby energy sources. Unfortunately, due to the notoriously irregular rainfall in the region, the dams did not supply a steady supply of energy and other energy sources had to be developed. As a result, the region is now home to not only many hydroelectric systems, but also clusters of nuclear power plants.

The frenzy of dam building throughout the region created a conflict over who was going to build dams and manage the energy. Was it going to be a private or public effort? If it was a public effort would it be the Army Corps of Engineers, the TVA, or would it be state or local initiatives? If it was a private effort, how would the usage of water be regulated? These issues mattered since each organization managed water resources differently. Many intergovernmental and public/private partnerships emerged during this period that significantly transformed the region's landscape and political environment. The role of politics was strong in determining what got build, by whom, and where.

Another important theme in the book is access to water. There are many competing interests for southern water: hydroelectric facilities, agriculture, thirsty cities, industry, and recreational activities. Different rivers, and different segments of rivers, all have unique development trajectories that privileged one activity over another. The book's case studies clearly show how politics and money influenced local choices and hydrologic development.

While the book highlights human influence on the streams, it must be stressed that rivers are natural things and react in their own way to human influence. Much of the southern river developments outlined in the book made the region less sustainable and out of whack with natural cycles. In some cases, nature fought back and caused significant challenges for developers. In other situations, the story is still to be played out as reservoirs slowly fill with silt and as subtle climate shifts change rainfall patterns. Yet the degree of development of southern rivers makes one consider how much engineering we have done to the environment and how we are more vulnerable to natural disasters as a result of the changes wrought on the landscape.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it. However, I do have some critiques. The book contains only 5 illustrations and 4 maps. Given that the book covers a wide swath of time and place, there are many individuals and locations mentioned in the text that interested me. I found myself going online to find images of key actors or places. Since the book covers hundreds of years of history, I found myself wondering what images might exist in archives and special collections in the libraries throughout the region. I wish the author included some of these images and provided more geographic context in the maps. The addition of figures would have helped immensely since I found the writing dense at times. While I recommend the book for anyone interested in water resources, the general public may find it somewhat challenging due to the density of the writing. The addition of more maps, photographs, tables, or data would have made reading the book a more interesting and pleasurable experience.

I also take issue with the term Southern in the title. The south is sometimes a contested term in that what is southern to one person is not fully southern to a next. For example, some believe that West Virginia, Texas, or Missouri are southern states while to others, they belong in distinctly different regions. However, the south typically includes Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. When I picked up Southern Water, I thought the book would be about the entirety of the south. Instead, it focuses largely on a portion of the core of the south in North and South Carolina and Georgia. Given the complexity of water issues in other regions, particularly the karstic challenges of Florida and the highly complex hydrologic systems of the Mississippi Valley, I wish the book didn't have such a bold promise of reviewing the entirety of southern water issues.

Regardless, Manganiello's book is a fantastic addition to not only the topic of water in the south, but also environmental history in general. The case studies presented help to understand why water is so important to the region and its significance in the history of the United States.

Links to previous to On the Brink book reviews are found below.

Naked in the Woods: My Unexpected Years in a Hippie Commune 
William Cullen Bryant: Author of America

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Most Interesting Thing You Will See Online April 3, 2016

Oklahoma City Changing Car Culture, a Lesson for Long Island and Other Regions

The Oklahoma City River Walk. Click for photo credit.
I remember the first time I was in Oklahoma City I was amazed by how sprawling it was. I thought it would be a smaller western town, but found instead that it had a considerable footprint due to growth that occurred concomitantly with the automobile. Instead of sidewalks and storefronts, the city was full of roads and strip malls. In part because of this development, Oklahoma City is often on the lists of the fattest cities in the U.S. and was once called the "Worst Walking City" in the U.S.

An article in Mother Earth News highlights how all of this is changing. The city has built miles of bike lanes and trails. It is promoting walkable development. Due to a number of bike and pedestrian fatalities, the city is implementing a Vision Zero campaign to cut fatalities to 0. Plus, the city is expanding a Safe Routes program that promotes safe walking and biking routes for children to schools.

Oklahoma City realized that they had a problem and they are working hard to fix it.

Since September, Long Island has had 44 bike or pedestrian fatalities. Perhaps Long Island, and other regions with similar problems, can learn something from Oklahoma City.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

North Carolina Farms Transform to Solar

A solar farm in North Carolina. Click for photo credit.
Bloomberg published an interesting article recently about how some farmers in North Carolina are getting long-term contracts with solar companies to transform portions of their farm to solar energy production. The farmers are earning up to $700 an acre for annual rent which is much higher than what they can make growing crops (up to $102 an acre).

What is interesting about this story to me is how this fits within the broader southern energy narrative. The south has very limited local energy sources. Sure, some areas of the Appalachians have coal, but coal is the fuel of the past. Also, some areas in the Mississippi Valley have oil, but that is a global resources. In terms of local energy sources, the south has relied largely on hydroelectric power as their main local source of local energy. However, the south's subtropical environment naturally goes through boom and bust cycles that cause problems for producing a steady supply of energy. In the 1900's the south built large nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas power plants that relied heavily on imports in order to provide a steady supply of energy to fuel that century's sunbelt growth. The solar farm initiative in North Carolina could be the start of a new era for southern energy production.

The timing is good for the advance of solar in the south. Crop prices have fallen and farmers are struggling. Solar energy production provides a path for rural economic development at a difficult time for the region.

Friday, April 1, 2016

On the Brink Purchased by New York Post

Click for photo credit.
The readership of On the Brink has been growing tremendously in the last year. This site had more visitors in March than any other month in the blog's history (up roughly 33% in one month). This is in part because On the Brink won the first ever Pulitzer for Blogging last year (see the notice of this here), but also because the content of the blog has expanded significantly. A big welcome to all new readers and a hearty thanks to long-time readers of the blog for sticking with me over the years.

I have had many offers lately to purchase the content of the blog (and my services as editor) by some large media outlets. I even had one offer to turn the blog (and my life) into a reality TV show for a channel on cable that focuses on things like discovery. However, none of the offers were particularly interesting until recently.

That is why I am so excited to announce that On the Brink was just purchased by the New York Post. The Post, which was founded by Alexander Hamilton and which was once edited by one of my personal literary heroes, William Cullen Bryant, is one of the oldest newspapers in the United States and one of the most influential papers in the country. In recent years the content of the paper has gone somewhat tabloid and the owners are hoping to change things up a bit by adding a "Green Page" that I will edit and that will include new content as well as some of the older content from this blog. The Post's editorial board believes that they can elevate their profile by focusing more on the environment and science in general.

While much of the writing will be the same, the headlines will be a bit, well, in line with the Post's famous tabloid-like eye candy. In fact, one of the things The Post asked me to do before they finalized the deal was to write some potential headlines that are in line with The Post's current editorial policy to see if I would fit in with the paper. 

While some of you may think working with this outlet compromises scientific integrity, I feel that this is a wonderful way to get more scientific and environmental information out to the general public. 

Just to get you prepared for what the future holds for On the Brink, here are some of the article headlines I pitched to The Post's staff:

Does Feeling the Bern Lead to Climate Change?

Kanye and Kim's Favorite National Monument

Sinkhole Shaped Like Middle Finger Found in Florida

Hillary's Electric Car Problem

de Blasio Names Subway Rat a Protected Species

Oil Industry's Slick Response to NY Climate Lawsuit

The Post's Green Guide to Brooklyn Nannies

Environmental Justice Neighborhood or Gentrification? Take Our Quiz!!

Clothing Optional Rooftop Gardens of New York (Page 6 for photos!)

Special Fold Out! Queens Hiking and Camping Map!

Vandana Shiva's Wild Night at Veggie Club in SoHo (Page 6 for photos!)

New York's Top 10 Microgreen Pubs

7 Ways that Woody and Soon Yi Repurpose Plastic Bags

Sad Bill McKibben Contemplating 10 Foot Sea Level Rise

Mets vs. Yankees: Which Team Strikes Out on Sustainability?

The Hazardous Materials Workers Responsible for Donald Trump's Hair

The Tragic Last Days of the White House Organic Garden

East River Earns LEED Certification


While I am a bit private about the compensation for this deal, some of the details can be seen here.

(NOTE: UPDATE. This post was written on April 1st, which is April Fool's Day in the United States. This is a day in which people like me pull pranks on others. This post is an April Fool's prank.)