Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Freedom Riders 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 Freedome Riders National Monument in Alabama. 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
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

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sustainability Case Studies Chapter 13: Small Land Holding in Karnataka, India

Small farms in Karnataka, India.
Click for photo credit.
This is the 13th 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.

The 13th chapter of the volume, titled Methods for Integrated Sustainability Assessment:  The Case of Small Holder Farming in Karnataka, South India, by Sheetal Patil and Seema Purushothaman, examines the role of small farming, and associated benefits, within the overall agricultural system present in India. Over the last few decades, India has moved heavily into the tenets of the green revolution which promotes the use of technological advances in agriculture over traditional farming. The green revolution promotes the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and new seed varieties to enhance production. While there is no doubt that the green revolution has contributed significantly to India's ability to be more agriculturally self sufficient, there is concern that many small farmers are falling behind as India's agriculture becomes more aligned with the globalization of agriculture.

A sugarcane farmer in Karnataka, India.
Click for photo caption.
As the article notes, small farmers have not seen the same benefits of the green revolution as large farmers. Even though the small farmers are often far more efficient than the larger farmers, they do not receive the same financial gains. Indeed, the situation for small farmers in India has been rather grim. Many small farmers in the author's study area of Karnataka have committed suicide as they saw their livelihoods disappear in the face of growing agribusiness in the region. The governments have reacted by trying to put value in agricultural practices that are traditional and organic.

Nevertheless, as the article points out, many of the larger companies involved with agribusiness, such as fertilizer companies, are heavily subsidized by state and national governments. This leaves the small land holders struggling with trying to keep their operations afloat. The article reviews a series of quantitative and qualitative ways that agriculture in Karnataka can be assessed from a sustainability lens. I will not go into the details here, but suffice it to say that the authors provide a unique review of how to better assess sustainability of agriculture that take into account the unique issues associated with small farmers.  The chapter concludes with a list of lessons learned that anyone involved with local agricultural planning would find useful.

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 agriculture and sustainability.

1. Where is Karnataka, India?

2. Why did farmers in the region commit suicide in such numbers?

3. What is the green revolution? How did the green revolution impact small land holders in India?

4. How does agribusiness and the globalized food system impact farmers in your area?

5. As the authors point out, national and state policy focuses heavily on agribusiness even though there is strong verbal support for sustainable agriculture. Why do you think state or national policies around food do not match stated state or national sustainable agricultural goals?

6. Which level of government do you think understands the plight of small farmers the most (national, state, or local)? Why?

7. What is bio-physical modeling in the context of assessing agriculture? Why is it important?

8. The state of Karnataka has published some sustainability goals. How do they support a drive for sustainable agriculture in the region?

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

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Will the Coronavirus Make Meatless Monday and Plant Based Diets the Norm?

Click for photo caption.
News is emerging regularly about the challenges associated with meat production facilities around the world. For example, an investigation is currently underway in Cudahy, Wisconsin around coronavirus safety for workers at the Patrick Cudahy meat packing plant and many meat packing plants have closed due to outbreaks. Shoppers have reported shortages of meat in grocery stores. 

Will these problems lead to an increase in families opting more regularly for plant based meals and even adaptation to plant based diets? As I noted in this recent post, while there are certainly many, many tragedies associated with COVID-19, there are interesting sustainability trends that may emerge once we pass the worst of it. 

Certainly there is a growing interest in finding options to the industrial food system. Many of us are getting food delivered which makes it more likely that we are trying to tune in to local food options and food systems. In addition, there is greater interest in gardening and growing our own food. In the New York area, many people have left the city for the country--some of them for good. A close friend of mine, who never really gardened before, is building a greenhouse so she can be a bit more self reliant. I am sure some of you reading this are making very different food decisions today than you did pre-lockdown.

At this moment of time, meat is not only getting a bit harder to find, it is also very expensive for people who have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is very high (as I am writing this the unemployment rate in the US is around 20%) and people do not have the funds for large quantities of meat. For them, it is not about the scarcity of meat, it is the expense. Healthy, plant based diets are far less expensive than most meat options and it makes sense for many of us to cut back on meat in order to save money.

As many of you reading this know, meat production is far harder on our planet than plant production. It uses more land, water, and energy than plant production. Meat production also is responsible for around 15% of the world's greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. 

If, as I suspect, meat consumption declines in the next few years, we will see concomitant environmental benefits such as improvement of waterways and greenhouse gas reduction. 

Many who are opting or will opt to eat more plant based meals are not necessarily embracing vegetarianism, veganism, or even broad-based sustainability ideals. Instead, they are reacting to availability and pricing. Meatless Monday may become more of a necessity than a statement. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge Starts May 1st

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
It's that time!

The next 30 Day Sustainability Challenge starts May 1. If you are interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle, please join me and others as we recommit to living green. The challenge will be run on a closed Facebook group for 30 consecutive days starting May 1st. I will be live each day to provide sustainability information and coaching. You can watch my live videos any time since they will be stored within the Facebook group. Thus, you don't need to watch the videos live. I will post in the group the times that I will be live so that you can join live when you can.

The group will focus on 6 main themes during the challenge:

  • Theme 1. Greenhouse gases, energy, and climate change
  • Theme 2. Food
  • Theme 3. Sustainability knowledge
  • Theme 4. Consumerism
  • Theme 5. Waste and recycling
  • Theme 6. Transportation and community 
I hope you can join me. If you are interested, please drop me an email at robertbrinkmann@rocketmail.com to get into the group.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Air Pollution Falls in the Midst of Pandemic Lockdown

Click for photo credit.
CNN has an interesting piece here about the improving air conditions in major global cities as a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. It seems that staying home is good for the environment and reduces air pollution. The article demonstrates that components of the environment can recover quite quickly if we change our behavior. The before and after photos in the piece are worth a look and tell an important story.

When things get back to normal after this crisis, and they will at some point, it is worth considering how to change our behavior to reduce the impacts of our global culture on the environment. We need to find a way to return to normal without going back to the polluting practices of the past. There are some interesting opportunities that have emerged:

1. Can we find ways to increase the percentage of the population who work from home in order to cut down on air pollution and the need for cars?

2. Are there ways to enhance online learning so that greater percentages of k-12 and higher education operations can reduce their carbon footprints?

3. Can we curb our consumption of stuff (which we often don't really need) so that we can cut back on our increasing hunger for global consumption of natural resources?

4. Can we develop local food resiliency so that we are less reliant on global food systems for our diets?

I am sure that there are many other things we can do as a global culture to improve our environment once we are past the crisis. As many smart people have pointed out over the last two months, global pandemics tend to change our culture. We can make the environment cleaner if we recognize that we have the power to live a greener life.


Friday, April 10, 2020

The Vexing Sustainability Problem of Disposable Gloves

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
I have seen quite a number of complaints online about the new litter menace:  plastic gloves. In my own neighborhood, I have seen many gloves on the streets. I recently had a grocery delivery and the delivery person left the gloves he used in my driveway.

I get it. Folks don't want to put potentially contaminated materials back in their car. Grocery store parking lots have really been impacted by this problem.

What is the solution?

First of all, if you are a regular user of plastic gloves, there are a number of companies that will recycle them. Check out TerraCycle here for an option. You basically buy a box and fill it up. When it is full, you mail it to TerraCycle and they will recycle them for you. Kimberly-Clark has a recycling program for institutions that utilize lots of medical equipment called RightCycle that recycles plastic gloves.

It is clear that while the TerraCycle and RightCycle programs are great, they are not currently meeting the needs of the public. We need to find a way to collect these plastic gloves for easy recycling.

Perhaps we will develop used glove recycling stations at grocery stores or places of worship where we can take our used gloves. There are compostable and biodegradable plastic gloves available on the market at well. I don't know how effective they are for combating COVID 19.

It is clear we have a new plastic glove waste problem and I suspect we will have solutions to this problem soon. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

John Prine and His Influence on the Environmental Movement

Near Cumberland, West Virginia.
Click for photo credit.
Musician and songwriter John Prine died yesterday as a result of complications of COVID-19. I only saw John Prine once live back in the 1990's when he was on tour with Bonnie Raitt. I didn't really follow his career that much. However, one song of his had a tremendous influence on the environmental movement of my generation -- Paradise. Certainly he wrote other songs that were important and that had an impact. However, Paradise remains one of the most important songs that influenced many people to think about the environment in new ways.

I remember when I first heard the song in the mid 1970's. I was on a road trip with my parents to see the Appalachian Mountains. It was one of the first major road trips I took with them alone. I was the youngest of 6 kids so one of my other brothers or sisters was always with us on most excursions. However, on this trip, I sat alone in the backseat of the station wagon with books, maps, and a journal as I watched the landscape of eastern North American pass by my window.

Coal production in Muhlenberg, Kentucky.
Click for photo credit.
We traveled all over Appalachia that week although we spent most of the time in West Virginia seeing the sites. It was great fun to have that time with my folks and the trip would have been memorable just for that experience. We stayed in hotels along the way. One night, I think we were somewhere near Cumberland, West Virginia, we stayed in a hotel that had a restaurant and bar attached to it. That night at the bar there was a band. We went to dinner and stuck around the bar to listen to the music.

My father, who was a professional musician early in his life, loved music and frequently played guitar and sang at home with the family. He also relished live music and the band that night played a mix of country, bluegrass, and rock. One of the songs they did was John Prine's Paradise. It was out on Prine's first album in 1971 and covered by John Denver on his hit album Rocky Mountain High in 1972. I didn't know the song, but the lyrics struck me greatly since it focuses on mining in the Appalachians and I was in the midst of those very mountains.

My dad playing mandolin at a family gathering.
The lyrics, which are linked here, tell the story of a young man longing for a natural landscape in western Kentucky that was lost due to coal mining. The mining, it turns out, is seen to some as part of the progress of man while to others the land and its communities are forsaken. The song's lyrics capture in high definition the range of issues associated with modern sustainability. It provides witness to the loss of natural landscapes and loss of communities as we advanced into our modern technological society. I have spoken with many environmentalists around my age who were also influenced by the song. It is still regularly performed and it is part of the history of the environmental movement.

The song is important for not only clearly articulating the impacts of the destruction of landscapes, but also for being one of the key pieces of music that reflects a certain type of rural environmentalism. It must be remembered that the environmental movement of that time was largely a white middle class movement that was highly suburbanized and becoming urbanized. This song captures a more rural sentiment that was not widely part of the environmental canon of the 1970's.

Since the night I heard the song with my parents, I have probably heard it dozens of times by a number of different types of bands. Each time I hear it, the song brings me back to that night in West Virginia. It also reminds me why I do what I do.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

30 Day Sustainability Challenge Delayed Until June 1

Photo by Bob Brinkmann.
Given the many issues with the coronavirus, I decided to delay the April 30 Day sustainability challenge until June 1st. I will provide more information in the coming weeks. If you are interested in being part of the June round, please drop me an email at robertbrinkmann@rocketmail.com

The challenge will focus on 6 pillars of sustainability:  

  • Energy and greenhouse gases
  • Food
  • Community
  • Pollution and water
  • Knowledge
  • Transportation
I hope that you can join me. The challenge is run on a closed Facebook group with daily scheduled live coaching that can be seen at any time.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Riskiest Fire Days Doubled in California Since 1980

The Woolsey Fire in 2018. Click for photo credit.
Scientific American is reporting that the number of high risk fire days in California has doubled since 1980. According to the study noted in the article high risk days are associated with warm and dry conditions and high winds.

The Mediterranean climate found in California is typified by warm dry summers and mild wet winters. However, in the last few decades, the dry season has extended into the start of the wet season putting California at greater risk. In addition, the dry season has extended into the time when California sees some extreme windy conditions which makes the situation even more problematic.

The study noted that the 5 warmest years in the state occurred from 2014 to 2018--a period associated with some of the most costly and deadly fires in the state's history including the devastating Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire.

The article notes that the state will continue to experience these types of extreme events and things may get worse as the climate continues to change.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Administration Moving Forward on Rollback of Fuel Efficiency Standards for Automakers

Click for photo credit.
Lost in the midst of this crazy Covid-19 time we are all living through was this New York Times report that highlighted that the current administration was seeking a rollback of auto efficiency rules. This is part of a broader attack on fuel efficiency of vehicles that I have written about here, herehere, and many other places in this blog.

The new rules will allow automakers to build heavier vehicles that pollute more. As the article notes, the new rules are not really supported by automakers and they are not economically great for consumers. The rules are, however, good for consumers who want to buy big gas guzzling cars and trucks.

Most of this administration's environmental rules, including this one, are likely to end up in court due to their lack of scientific support and due to the fact that they are unpopular with states and with manufacturers. Plus, with the likely change of president in the coming election, it is doubtful that these rules will ever go into effect.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Fossil Butte 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 Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming. 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
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