Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sustainability Case Studies Chapter 12 - Urban Social Sustainability: The Case Study of Nottingham, UK

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This is the 12th 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.

This chapter is titled, Urban Social Sustainability:  The Case Study of Nottingham, UK by Jenni Cauvain of the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham. The chapter provides a good summary of social sustainability and why it is important to address issues of social sustainability in cities.

As many of the readers of this blog know, environmental sustainability is often the easiest of the three E's of sustainability--the other, harder E's being equity (social sustainability) and economics (economic development and green economics). This is particularly true in cities where mayors and local governing boards have control over major infrastructure such as garbage management, mass transit, and energy.

As Cauvain notes in the article, the City of Nottingham has gained a very green reputation in the United Kingdom and across the European Union. However, this reputation was earned largely due to its strength in the urban management of the environmental aspects of sustainability as described in the previous paragraph.

After a very solid review of the literature social sustainability, Cuavain then focuses on social justice and the right to the city. Many stakeholders are not equal partners in creating environmental sustainability. Plus, inequalities inherent in many cities lead to distinct issues of unsustainability in the context of poverty, social mobility and other factors which lead to social justice.

Within the case study, several variables are examined such as housing, diversity, income child poverty, and educational attainment. Excellent maps are provided and clearly demonstrate that although there has been progress in a variety of initiatives in environmental sustainability, there is a long way to go to enhance social sustainability within Nottingham. It is clear that environmental sustainability is the low hanging fruit within the context of the three E's within an urban context and that social sustainability remains difficult to attain, partly due to the structures inherent in local and federal government priorities in funding.

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Overall the chapter provides an excellent summary of social sustainability and provides a great review of how to measure and assess social sustainability within an urban context.

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 urban social sustainability.

1. Why do you think it is easier to "do" environmental sustainability in cities rather than social sustainability?

2. Why is it difficult to measure social sustainability in cities?

3. How do you think urban, rural, and suburban areas vary within the context of social and environmental sustainability?

4. Do you think cities truly have a sustainability agenda if they focus mainly on environmental aspects of sustainability?

5. What methods would you use to measure social and environmental sustainability in your community?

6. How do you think social sustainability differs from the UK to North America?

7. What are the four factors that impact segregation?

8. What is environmental sociology?


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
Chapter 7. Greenhouse Gas Management: A Case Study of a Typical American City
Chapter 9. Waste Management Outlook for the Middle East

Thursday, February 20, 2020

New Theme in Thirty Day Sustainability Challenge Starting April 1st

My next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge is starting April 1st, 2020 and will have a new theme compared with the last challenge I ran. The themes for this upcoming challenge will be:

1. Food
2. Energy and greenhouse gases
3. Community
4. Consumption
5. Clothing
6. Knowledge

If you are unfamiliar with the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge, let me describe it a bit. It is a challenge I developed that is run in a closed, private Facebook group. Participants are challenged to make a difference in their lives within the 6 themes of the challenge. I provide brief, live Facebook lectures/coaching each of the 30 days. Participants can comment and learn from each other to find ways to focus and make changes in their lives that will have substantive outcomes for the benefit of the planet.

I would love to have individuals as well as groups participate in the challenge. If you are with a community or religious organization and would like to have your members participate, you and your friends would be welcome to participate for free. I can also work out a deal for businesses that want their employees to be part of the challenge.

I started the 30 Day Sustainability Challenge to help as many people as I could to better understand the challenges we are facing with sustainability and to help them live a greener life. If you are interested, just send me your email address and I will get you in the group.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Fort Union 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 Union National Monument in New Mexico. 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.

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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
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Cascade Siskiyou National Monument
Castillo de San Marco National Monument
Castle Clinton National Monument
Castle Mountains National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument
César E. Chávez National Monument
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument
Chimney Rock National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Colorado National Monument
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Tower National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort McHenry National Monument
Fort Monroe National Monument
Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Fort Stanwix National Monument

Sunday, February 16, 2020

National Monuments Under Assault

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As my regular readers know, I am a big advocate for the protection and preservation of public lands. I have completed a series on images from the US National Parks (linked here) and I am in the midst of a series on the US National Monuments (check out the latest installment here with links to previous posts). The parks and monuments provide great opportunities for outdoor recreation, connection with nature, education, and historic preservation.

In the last two weeks, major news stories broke on two fronts related to efforts to harm three US National Monuments.

First, news broke that major damage was being done to Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona in order to build the border wall. The monument is home to a range of important desert ecosystems and locations important to Native American culture and history. As this article notes: "The agency (building the wall) has consistently failed in its legal obligation to meaningfully consult with tribal stakeholders in southern Arizona." Native American burial sites are in the path of the wall and will likely be destroyed. In addition, major damage is being done to local ecosystems and there is serious concern about migratory animals, like large cats, that do not recognize national borders.

The second piece of bad news is that two national monuments in Utah have been opened up for mineral, oil, and gas exploitation. Bears Ears National Monument, which was set aside, in part, due to its significance to Native American spirituality and history, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, known for its unique arches and waterfalls, are now open for business according to this article. Both of the parks were also reduced significantly in size by the current president in 2017 in the largest downsizing of public lands in the history of this country. The main purpose of the downsizing was to allow commercial use of the property.

The US National Parks and Monuments are some of the key elements that uniquely define the United States. They are part of our collective national ethic around land. Given our current time of lawlessness and corruption, it is a good moment to reflect on the words of Aldo Leopold: "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."

Saturday, February 15, 2020

New York Joins California, Oregon, and Hawaii in Banning Plastic Bags

As of March 1, 2020, the State of New York will officially ban plastic bag use in places that collect New York state taxes. New York becomes the fourth state to institute a ban and joins California, Hawaii, and Oregon in banning plastic bags. It also will be the first state with a full ban on the East Coast of the United States.

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Individual counties can allow stores to charge for the use os paper bags, but plastic bags will be a thing of the past in New York. Of course there are some limited exceptions. For example, pharmacies can continue to use plastic bags.

The state of New York has been using about 23 billion plastic bags a year. Many of these end up in our waterways and oceans. Once set free, they can clog pipes, they can be eaten by wildlife, they can disrupt waterways, and they can become a visual blight. Sea turtles, birds, marine mammals, and fish are all vulnerable to plastic bag waste. Once they ingest the plastic, it clogs their digestive systems and they die slow painful deaths.

New York's plastic bag ban has come under some criticism. There are some who think that the ban will lead to widespread use of paper bags. Others also believe that consumers are not going to like the ban and will use reusable thicker plastic bags as disposable bags. However, when the ban went into effect in California, it cut the overall use of plastic bags by over 70%.

There are plenty of reusable alternatives to plastic bags that can be used in a variety of situations. We are all familiar with reusable grocery bags. Many of us have been using these for years. However, there are some great alternatives available for take out food, for bookstores, and a range of other situations. We just have to get used to keeping some lightweight bags handy for our own use.

As I predicted in my 2020 sustainability predictions, we are starting to see major wins on the plastic front. States, business, and countries are all working hard to reduce the amount of plastic released into the environment. It is great that New York State is part of the trend.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Egypt Struggles with Population Growth

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday on population growth challenges in Egypt. As the article notes, the rapidly increasing population is quickly eating up arable farmland and taxing basic resources like its very limited water supply. While the article asserts that the country has tried to use social campaigns to encourage smaller families, the initiatives have met with mixed success, particularly in rural communities where large families are seen as an asset.

An Egyptian street scene. Photo by Bob Brinkmann
In one of my graduate courses yesterday, my students reviewed issues of population and sustainability. They rightly pointed out that the key to stabilizing population is the development of strong educational opportunities for a population--particularly girls and women. Population growth rates tend to be highest in countries with poor educational opportunities for girls and women.

There is obviously grave concern in Egypt about its future under the current population boom (it just achieved a population of 100 million). Plus, there are questions about the stability of the Nile flow under climate change scenarios and due to the development of upstream water resources by Ethiopia. Egypt is highly dependent on imported food and other resources and will only grow more vulnerable as the population increases. Indeed, the President of the country, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his cabinet has put the country on high alert due to the population problem. The article notes that the leaders of the country look at population growth as a national security issue.

But it is also a human issue. Housing is scarce, there are fewer resources, and there are concerns about employment. There are also shortages of contraceptives.

It will be interesting to see how Egypt tries to change the population trends in the coming years. Other countries, like Vietnam and Bangladesh have significantly cut population growth. Will Egypt follow suit?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Ten Tips to Green Your Valentine's Day

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My very first blog post on this site focused on how to green your Valentine's Day. I asked a class that I was teaching back in 2011 about their thoughts on how to make the holiday more sustainable. The ideas they come up with are...well...interesting. Check them out on that original post here. I thought I would replicate the exercise in one of my classes at Hofstra and what follows are my student's top 10 tips for how to green your Valentine's Day in 2020.

1. Plan a romantic experience (such as a nice walk) instead of buying gifts.
2. Make a romantic dinner together at home. Bonus kisses for meatless meals!
3. Don't buy cut flowers. Buy a plant that can be enjoyed or even planted in the yard when the weather is nice.
4. If you do buy gifts, wrap them in reusable fabrics.
5. Shop locally for any gifts and avoid gifts that contribute to globalization.
6. If you buy chocolate, make sure that the chocolates have the Fair Trade seal.
7. Find a way to volunteer together. Do a beach clean up or find some other activity that will show your love for the planet.
8. You don't need to send a card that will be thrown away to send your love. Call people or meet with them to tell them that you love them.
9. Plant a tree together so you can remember your 2020 Valentine's Day for years to come.
10. Turn out the lights, lower the thermostat. Light a candle and save carbon.

Do you have any other ideas? Leave them in the comments.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Car Makers Off The Hook For Negotiating With California

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As the environmental rollbacks become even more surreal (check out this article on the opening of protected national monuments for mining and oil and gas exploitation), there is a bit of good news centered around the Clean Air Act. As this space has been highlighting for some time, the administration is seeking a major rollback of Obama era rules on greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. That is still going forward, but the good news is that the Justice Department is no longer  accusing several automakers with antitrust violations for negotiating with California in creating distinct emissions targets for vehicles.

As my readers probably know, the Clean Air Act gives California special rights to set unique automobile emissions standards due to their unique air pollutions problems. California's geography is such that air pollution can get trapped in its deep valleys thereby causing serious health problems for its residents. The current administration is seeking to strip California of this special right. However, for now, at least, car makers are off the hook for trying to work with California on pollution control. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Seeking Book Proposals for Book Series on Environmental Sustainability with Palgrave Macmillan

I am very excited about a new sustainability publication project I am working on with Palgrave Macmillan, one of the largest publishers in the world.

The project involves the production of a series of books within the broad theme of environmental sustainability that will come out over the next several years. I am currently recruiting authors and proposals. I am looking for books within a range of topics related to the theme of environmental sustainability. The field is incredibly broad and books can focus on specific scientific issues such as ecosystem management or economic and social issues such as the green energy revolution. The overarching theme is sustainability, so there is a great deal of leeway for topics.

If you have a book idea, please reach out to me and we can discuss the opportunity. I have worked with Palgrave Macmillan on a number of projects and I can attest that they are an excellent publisher they will provide a great outlet
for your work.

One of my goals in life is to get more information out to the academic world and to the public on issues of sustainability. This is a great opportunity for those of you who work within the field of sustainability to get your message out there with an outstanding publishing house.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Why Meatless Monday?

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I've been doing Meatless Mondays for years. Well, actually, it hasn't always been on Mondays, but one day each week I try not to eat meat.

I didn't create Meatless Monday.  In fact Meatless Monday is a global movement that urges people to pick one day each week to go vegetarian to help to improve the planet's sustainability.

A meatless day is nothing new. Many religions have particular meat fasting days. Woodrow Wilson in World War I asked Americans to go meatless at least one day a week. The meatless request came through again in the midst of World War II.

As global population has increased in the last few decades, more and more people are eating meat. Today, roughly 60% of our agricultural land is used in beef production (grazing plus feed production), even though beef only supplies 2% of the world's calories. Plus livestock production is responsible for about 15% of the world's greenhouse gases.  Beef production also uses more than ten times the water as crops like grains. Widespread meat production is helping to drive our planet into unsustainable conditions. As I pointed out several times in the blog over the last few months, meat consumption is ultimately behind the fires we have seen in the Amazon rainforest.

Many people love meat and I definitely do not want to throw any stones in your direction if you are one of them. However, all of us can opt to go meatless once a week without it impacting our diets in major ways. It is the right thing to do for the planet.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Greening Football: 10 Tips to Make Professional Football More Sustainable

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In February of 2018, I wrote a piece called 5 Tips to Make Professional Football More Sustainable. I decided to edit it and expand it to 10 tips and republish it here given that it is Super Bowl weekend.  Can you think of any other ways you would improve the sustainability of professional football?
I have written quite a bit about sustainability and professional sports over the years. My research has shown that baseball is one of the greenest sports while surprisingly soccer tends to lag. Unfortunately, American football is rarely engaged on the issue. Given that it is   Super Bowl weekend, here are my 10 tips to make professional football more sustainable.

1. Engage with the community on sustainability. Professional football tends to focus on youth education and sports for community outreach. Given the many sustainability issues in football communities (such as climate change in Miami), sustainability initiatives would be welcome. Baseball teams around the country take on topics like water conservation, climate change, and environmental justice. For example, the Minnesota Twins baseball team works on a variety of community sustainability issues in the Twin Cities. Professional football should get in the game. They have a big audience and could do more. It is great that education is a big component of Professional football's community mission. They would score a field goal by focusing on environmental education.

2. Green the stadiums. Many new stadiums are LEED certified green buildings, including some football stadiums. As long-time readers of this blog know, the greenest buildings are the ones that are not built. Many stadiums could go for green retrofits or improved green infrastructure instead of a demolition. You don't need to build a new stadium to score a green touchdown.

3. Cut parking and enhance mass transit. Professional football stadiums and their giant parking lots can be wastelands except for the few days of the year when teams play. The land use does little to enhance the local community. Teams should focus on finding ways to improve their zone offense and use mass transit to bring attendees to their stadium. 

4. Make the stadium footprint multi-use. What I mean by this is that parking lots and the stadium itself offers little benefit to a community. Stadiums should be integrated into multi-use facilities that offer housing, commercial activities, and even office space for businesses. The more housing and commercial activities that huddle near stadiums, the better it will be for local communities. 

5. Provide organic and local food options. Many baseball stadiums now offer local and organic food to provide healthier and greener options. Some football vendors do the same, but it is really a hit and miss situation. It would not be a bad idea for football owners to tackle this issue.

6. Go carbon neutral. Many organizations have committed to going carbon free. Considering the travel of players and attendees, lighting, and a number of other carbon intensive activities associated with professional football, there is great gain to be made if teams commit to going carbon neutral. This could be done by buying carbon credits, enhancing solar power, and energy conservation. Since football teams are in the public eye, they could serve as an example to other organizations on best practices. The current federal government is really fumbling on climate change. State and local governments in partnership with industry are in full on blitz mode to get us into the carbon reduction zone. Professional football should join the team.

7. Make rings, trophies, and other awards out or recycled materials. The awards at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be made out of metals recycled from electronic waste. The symbology of this choice is important. Professional football tends to focus on over the top glitz and glam with mega rings and giant awards. I would make the NFL a green MVP if they would choose recycled materials for its awards.

8. Be part of the electric car revolution. Many stadiums now provide electric car charging stations. However, the electric car market is growing rapidly. Teams should commit to greatly expanding the electric car infrastructure in their parking facilities to help our country make a major play for the future.

9. Zero plastic. Stadium vendors sell lots of great food and drink. However, much of it is sold using plastic vessels. There are no-plastic alternatives for these vessels and teams should make it a requirement that their vendors go plastic free if they want to get into the end zone.

10. Cut the airplane flyovers. I know they are exciting, but they are also incredibly carbon intensive. Be creative and find another exciting pre-game activity that captures the attention of the audience. Teams can avoid the carbon penalties through creativity.