Thursday, October 31, 2019

Senator Schumer Promotes Electric Car Infrastructure Bill

Click for photo credit.
The New York Times published an editorial by New York Senator Chuck Schumer promoting a proposal to rapidly increase the use of electric cars in the United States. According to Senator Schumer, "Scientists tell us that to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, the world needs to be carbon neutral — to have net-zero carbon dioxide emissions — by midcentury. At the moment, we are not remotely on track to meet that target. We need to act urgently and ambitiously, which will require building diverse coalitions of political support."

The proposal is divided into three components. The first focuses on discounts for consumers who trade in gas burning cars for electric cars. Schumer predicts that this would remove 63 million gas burning cars from the road by 2030. The second part of the proposal seeks to make electric charging stations accessible everywhere with a particular focus on rural, low-income, and underserved communities. The third part asserts that the US should be the world leader on electric car and battery production and notes that a significant amount of grant dollars will be available to retool existing manufacturing sites and to advance research in improving electric car and battery technology.

I like this proposal, but there have been some critiques of it. For example, this post notes that we should be investing into mass transit instead of car culture. The piece provides lots of good examples why we should stop funding car-based initiatives.

Regardless of your opinion of Schumer's proposal, nothing will happen with it until after the 2020 election. As he points out in his piece, Schumer will only bring the proposal forward if the Democrats win the Senate.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

4 Tips To Cut Waste This Holiday Season

Garbage starts to pile up this time of year.

Waste facilities all over the country start to see major increases in both household garbage and materials bound for recycling plants. It peaks around Christmas but doesn't really slow down until after Valentine's Day. Here are 4 tips that you can follow to try to reduce this national problem.

1. Stop buying so much stuff. As Americans, our consumerist selves are out of control. The average American has over $5500 in consumer debt which we used buy stuff we often don't need. Our homes on average have more TV's than people. As a country, we spend more on fashion accessories than we do on college tuition. A good rule of thumb to follow is to spend some time thinking about any purchase over $30 or $50. Set a household rule that everyone has to wait a week before spending over a certain amount on any one item. Ask yourself before pulling out your credit card or wallet whether or not the item will truly benefit yourself or someone you care about. In many instances, the new kitchen gadget or electronic toy isn't what will be meaningful.

2. Don't buy stuff as gifts, buy experiences. Most Americans have way too much stuff. Is it any surprise in our consumerist culture that we have shows on television focused on hoarding or on stuff people leave behind in storage units? Many of us cannot remember what we got as gifts for the holidays, but we can remember what we did and who we did it with. Perhaps it was a memorable concert or show. Or maybe it was dinner with friends. Or you might have hosted a game night to celebrate the end of the year. The point is that we don't remember stuff, we remember people and the time we spend with them. Our friends and family are the real gifts this time of year.

3. Avoid overbuying online. One of the biggest waste stream items that increases this time of year is cardboard from all of the online shopping. Before you click, see Tip 1 above. If you still want to buy the item, think about whether you can find it locally so you can avoid the waste packaging associated with online buying.

4. Don't go crazy with the food and alcohol Many of us like to cook special dishes during this season. The holidays are often considered times when we overdo the eating and cooking. Unfortunately, food waste increases during the holidays. Plus, glass bottle waste goes up. We all like to celebrate and toast the season. Plus the stress of the holidays drives some to drink and eat more than normal. With all of the consumption of food and alcohol going on, the waste can be challenging for recycling and waste systems. I am certainly someone who enjoys great food and good spirits with the season, but it is important to cook, eat, and drink in moderation and to consider the appropriate amounts to prepare when hosting a celebration in order to cut down on our own waste production.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book Tour Heads to Louisville

Click for photo credit.
I will be giving the keynote address at the Louisville Sustainability Sustainability Council on Friday, November 1st at the Louisville Zoo. If you are in the area, please stop by. For more information about the event, please see this link. My talk is titled, Seven Ways to Advance Your Sustainability Agenda in a Time of Change. It is focused on lessons learned from working on two books focused on case studies on sustainability. I will be sharing the key ways that communities moved forward with their sustainability agendas in the last few years even though there has been limited national or state support for sustainability.

Also, as I noted in this post, I am happy to provide free lectures or writing workshops to non-profit groups (including colleges and universities) in the coming year. All I ask is that you cover my travel and lodging (if needed). I will even cover the carbon costs of the travel. Please contact me for available dates.

I am really looking forward to going back to Louisville. I was there years ago. It is such a beautiful city and there are so many wonderful things happening with sustainability in the community.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Extinction Rebellion Quiz

Extinction Rebellion sign in Washington Square Park
New York City. Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
The group Extinction Rebellion has garnered considerable attention in the last year. However, very few people know that much about it. It is thus time for an On the Brink Quiz to better understand this organization that is starting to have a significant impact on our global sustainability culture. The correct responses are in the comments. Also check out previous On the Brink Quizzes after the questions.

1. Extinction Rebellion seems to be everywhere these days. I see them when I go into New York City near New York University at Washington Square Park. When did they officially start as an organization?

2. Extinction Rebellion was formed by people in one particular profession. What is it?

3. Extinction Rebellion is becoming a world-wide phenomenon. According to their Website, they are active in over 50 countries. However, where did it start?

4. The group uses a rather striking symbol with lots of punk rock colors and text. What does the symbol represent?

5. The first major action in the United States took place at this important business and tourist location. Name it.

6. One of the main organizational aspects of Extinction Rebellion is its decentralized nature. Any group can organize an event or action using the name Extinction Rebellion without permission as long as they follow the group's principles and values. If a group wanted to promote a violent action, would they be able to utilize the name Extinction Rebellion?

7. The group believes that we have had plenty of warning from the scientific community on a variety of environmental issues, particularly two main ones. Extinction is obviously one of them. What is the other issue?

8. One of the most effective protests the group organized was a Global Day of Civil Disobedience. Actions were held to draw attention to the problems around the world related to the sustainability of our planet. What was the date of the event?

9. This famous activist gave a speech at an Extinction Rebellion Protest in London where she said, "And for way too long the politicians and the people in power have gotten away with not doing anything. We will make sure that politician’s will not get away with it for any longer."  Name the activist.

10. How many branches of Extinction Rebellion have formed in the United States as of October 26, 2019?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Native Australians Close Uluru to Climbing

Click for photo credit.
The Washington Post is reporting that Native Australians have closed Uluru, previously known as Ayers Rock, to climbing. Yesterday was the last day that climbing was allowed on the mountain. Hundreds showed up to make the hazardous ascent in strong winds.

The site was transferred back to the Anangu 34 years ago. The decision to close the site to climbing was announced to the public two years ago. When the decision was announced, the Anangu asked people not to climb the mountain out of respect. However, tourists kept coming. Starting today, climbing will not be allowed.

Take a look at this statement from the board chair of the Uluru-Kata Tjutua National Park that explains the decision. It is clear that the Anangu seek to continue to welcome tourists. They are developing new activities for visitors. However, they believe the site to be sacred and want people to respect their traditions.

Native groups around the world are having mixed results when trying protect important cultural sites. The Dakota Access Pipeline in the U.S. is an example of a failed attempt to assert rights. This example from Australia is an interesting development. There are obvious clear differences in outcomes. For one, there isn't an oil or natural gas interest involved with exploiting Uluru.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Massachusetts Suing Exxon Over Climate Change Deception

Click for photo credit.
It was recently reported in Bloomberg Environment by Ellen Gilmer that the Massachusetts Attorney General is suing Exxon over its deceptive practices around climate change, specifically over the state's contention that Exxon misled investors on the financial risks the company faced around climate change.

This is a very interesting development in the whole history of legal challenges around climate change. Some may recall that Massachusetts was the lead on the famous Massachusetts et al. v. EPA case that was decided by the Supreme Court. Massachusetts and other states sued the EPA for not taking action on climate change. The states were seeing significant impacts of climate change and associated sea level rise. The court decided that greenhouse gases were within the mandate of the EPA in the Clean Air Act. You can read the court's decision here.

There are other cases that are ongoing such as one I wrote about here in which New York is the lead. The New York case is following the same pattern as the tobacco lawsuits that were famous some time ago which argued that there was an intent to deceive the public (in the New York lawsuit, the focus is on investors) on the significance of climate change. The Massachusetts lawsuit seems to be focusing on the intent to deceive shareholders on the financial risks. They are subtle differences.

The New York lawsuit opened this week and I am sure that I will be discussing the trial in future posts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Fort Frederica National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Fort Frederica National Monument in Georgia. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments.

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Tour and Speaking Engagements Around Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change

My new book, Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change is coming out in the next few weeks and I will be making several trips in the next year to promote the book and to give lectures around the country. If you are interested in having me in for a lecture, please contact me. I am not charging speaking fees for presentations to non-profit organizations like schools, colleges, universities, churches, and other groups. I just ask that you cover any travel and/or lodging expenses. 

I have a number of lectures available ready to go from the book that I have tailored for the public and others that are more appropriate for a university colloquium. I also have lectures ready to go for youth groups. My lectures tend to focus on not just the problems we are facing with environmental sustainability but also the solutions that we have available to us. There are lots of great things happening around the world that can be celebrated and my goal is to encourage people to make small and big changes in their lives and in their organizations to improve planetary sustainability while also being cognizant of the real existential issues we are facing. 

I can also provide writing or blogging workshops that focus on writing productivity, document production and publication, scientific communication for public consumption, or how to use social media as a graduate student or faculty member.

If you reach out, I can provide more details via email or phone.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Public National Forests in Alaska Likely to Open to Development

A view in the Tongass National Forest.
Click for photo credit.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the US Forest Service is recommending the opening of roadways in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. This is one of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the United States.

The forest is home to extensive old growth forest and a myriad of unusual plants and animals that adapted to the unique conditions in the region. Located along the coastal mountains of southeast Alaska (the panhandle of the state), the forest contains a wide array of biomes including rainforest, alpine forests, and coastal swamps. Roadbuilding will facilitate forestry and a range of other economic activities.

Roadbuilding and subsequent deforestation of the landscape will certainly cause environmental problems in the region including erosion, water pollution, and habitat destruction. How we manage our public lands has long been a matter of public debate. See this post for a bit of background on this issue. The opening of the forest is yet another of the environmental protection rollbacks undertaken by the current administration.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Climate Change, Conflict, and Forced Migration

Click for photo credit.
On Wednesday, October, 23, I will be part of a panel on Conflict, Climate Change, and the Crisis of Forced Migration at Hofstra University. The event is part of the seventeenth annual Day of Dialogue at Hofstra University that is organized by the Center for Civic Engagement. Each year, the Center selects a pertinent topic to have a day-long conversation around a topic important to society. The event is timely given the significance of climate change in our present global culture.

I will be covering some of the material from my forthcoming book, Environmental Sustainability in a Time of Change available here. Specifically, I will review some of the science and policy of climate change, the differences between surfing and suffering sustainability, and the nature of how climate change is leading to forced migration in many parts of the world--perhaps in your backyard. Climate change is impacting many people without many of us realizing it is happening.

I will be joined by fellow panelists William Hartung, the Director of the Arms and Security Policy at the Center for International Policy and Laurius Wren the Director of Hofstra's Asylum Clinic in the Maurice A. Deane School of Law.

If you are on or near Hofstra University on Long Island next week, please stop by. For more information, see this link here.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Thinking About Suburban Sustainability

My colleagueSandra Garren and I are completing an edited volume on suburban sustainability that will be published by the University Press of Florida next year. The book will contain 17 different chapters, each of which focuses on a range of sustainability issues ranging from environmental justice to greenhouse gas management. It will be the first major book on sustainability in the suburbs ever published. Winding down the book has kept me preoccupied over the last several days (thus the light blogging) over the ways that suburbs can become more sustainable.

Click for photo credit.
As we point out in the book, sustainability in cities is relatively easy when compared with the suburbs. They have the advantage of a strong central government, a rich treasury, and an engaged population. Suburbs tend to have weak limited government, a modest tax base, and a citizenry that is not all that well informed on sustainability issues. Plus, cities have dense infrastructure that can be subtly tweaked to make big gains. The infrastructure of suburbs sprawls and little tweaks do little things.

Yet, it is important to not discount the suburbs. They cover vast areas of our planet. Indeed, their geographical footprint is much larger than that of cities. Yet, we tend to focus our attention, and in the academic world, our research, on cities. That is why I am so happy this book is coming out at this moment in time when there is a much more comprehensive examination of how we can make our planet more sustainable.

Look for more information about this book in this space closer to when it comes out next year.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sustainability Case Studies--Chapter 7. Greenhouse Gas Management: A Case Study of a Typical American City

Click for photo credit.
This is the seventh post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

Today's post is on Chapter 7, Greenhouse Gas Management:  A Case Study of a Typical American City by Rachel M. Krause and J.C. Martel of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas. Greenhouse gas management is growing in importance around the world given our pressing issues with climate change and this chapter provides an excellent case study from Kansas City, Missouri.

The Chapter starts with a rich background on a variety of issues associated with climate change and greenhouse gas management. It provides scientific background on the topic and highlights how to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions. Following this, the background section also provides a summary of climate protection efforts at different levels of government:  international climate agreements, U.S. Federal policy, U.S. state and regional efforts, and municipal climate protection efforts. This summary of government approaches to climate protection efforts is one of the best summaries out there. It asserts that while there are some strong international efforts, U.S. federal policy is weak and state policies are scattershot. Much of the heavy lifting on climate change policy is actually occurring at the municipal level.

The chapter than moves into the case study of greenhouse gas management in Kansas City. After receiving criticism that it wasn't doing enough to address climate change, the city moved aggressively in the last fifteen years to combat the problem. It hired key staff, reorganized government, and set aggressive greenhouse gas targets. The mayor appointed an 11-member steering committee to work on climate change policy which was supported by four technical work groups and 100 community volunteers. A climate protection plan and a greenhouse gas inventory were initially created and follow up plans and reports were created including a follow up aspirational goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of 2000 levels by 2050.

Click for photo credit.
The chapter goes on to review the steps the city took to try to achieve their goals. The city divided their efforts into two phases. The first phase focused on city operations and the second phase broadened this phase to include the broader community. Strong focus was placed on improving energy efficiency in buildings and in constructing retrofits when necessary. In addition, efforts have been made to reduce on-road greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The results have been positive, but the city is not on track to meet it's goal. However, the city operations have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25% of its 2000 baseline which means that the city operations are on track to meet their goal.

The chapter then moves into Lessons Learned and Challenges and Barriers sections. One of the most important factors in Kansas City's recent success is that it had strong leaders who worked as policy entrepreneurs to promote the initiative. These leaders have been able to prioritize environmental initiatives and create a stable institutional framework as well as dedicated financial support. The leadership empowered city employees to follow. The initiative was also supported by community partners and important stakeholders like The Chamber of Commerce and Kansas City Power and Light. Three particular challenges were noted, however:  data collection, sound budgeting, and political (liberal urban initiatives in a conservative state).

Overall, the chapter provides one of the most interesting case studies on greenhouse gas management that I have seen. Because it also contains excellent background information on greenhouse gas policy and climate change, it is an excellent choice for supplemental reading on any unit on greenhouse gas policy.

---

Click here to for more information about the book
.

Here are some discussion questions that can be used when using this chapter in a lesson on energy planning, renewable energy, or sustainability management within local governments.

1. In the introduction, the chapter discusses the different types of activities associated with climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Describe the differences.
2. What is a carbon dioxide equivalent?
3. Compare and contrast U.S. and global climate change policy.
4. Why are cities the crucible of climate change protection efforts in the United States?
5. Describe three main initial decisions that Kansas City took that influenced its climate change trajectory.
6. Describe Kansas City's greenhouse gas mitigation efforts. Were they successful?
7. How important do you think it was that the city worked with key stakeholders like Kansas City Power and Light and the Chamber of Commerce?
8. If you were to recommend next steps for the city to take to enhance its greenhouse gas initiatives, what would you recommend?

--

Previous posts in this series:

Chapter 5. Drinking Water Infrastructure Inequality and Environmental Injustice:  The Case of Flint Michigan
Chapter 6. Sustainable Renewable Energy:  The Case of Burlington, Vermont

Friday, October 4, 2019

Baba Brinkman Brings Rap Cycle to SoHo

Baba Brinkman. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Baba Brinkman, who my long-time readers know for his work on the Rap Guide To Climate Chaos and who I interviewed here, is in the midst of an epic run at the SoHo Playhouse of his Rap Guide Cycle which includes his Rap Guide to Climate Chaos, Rap Guide to Culture, Rap Guide to Evolution, Rap Guide to Consiousness, and Rap Guide to Religion. You can find out about tickets here.

What is interesting about this run is that it is the first time in the history of New York theater that a 5-show cycle event has ever been staged. There are many examples of 4 show cycles (Wagner's Ring Cycle comes to mind) but this 5 show cycle is unique.

I caught the newest of the shows, the Rap Guide to Culture, recently. It covers a range of topics related to what we know about culture and Baba dives into some challenging topics such as race and gender in fresh ways. The show also has a bit more freestyle than some of his other shows which provides an opportunity for him to showcase his impressive rap skills.

If you get a chance, check it out. The run closes this month, but there is still time to see the cycle.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

Today I continue my series on all 129 U.S. National Monuments. This is in follow up to my series that featured open access photos of all of the U.S. National Parks. In the coming years, I will highlight open access images all of the U.S. National Monuments in alphabetical order.

Today's featured monument is Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado. This is not one of the monuments that was under review for delisting as per executive order by the president. Following the photos is a list of U.S. National Monuments previously featured on this blog.

Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.
Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.

Click for photo credit.
Previous On the Brink posts on the U.S. National Monuments.

Admiralty Island National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
Agua Fria National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
Aniakchak National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Basin and Range National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument
Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Booker T. Washington National Monument
Browns Canyon National Monument
Buck Island Reef National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument
California Coastal National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument