David Roberts at Grist recently posted a good, if not entirely earth-shaking, analysis titled "Two reasons climate change is not like other environmental problems". His main points are that carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- is not like other air pollutants in that it tends to persist, and that changes to climate -- once they take effect -- are effectively irreversible in any timeframe relevant to human experience.
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March 21, 2013
March 14, 2013
From time to time, I'm invited to visit our local ag/tech college, which trains quite a number of students to enter the food service industry at levels where you never have to ask whether someone wants fries with that. Program faculty, of course, cover all the material about industry standards and standardized procedures and more-or-less standard approaches to management. But they've kind enough to ask me in to speak about sustainability considerations, and I really enjoy interacting with students who learn (and think, and create) in hands-on mode.
March 7, 2013
You've probably seen the YouTube video "Wealth Inequality in America". Certainly if you haven't, you know a student who has. It's gotten 3.5 million views just on YouTube, plus it's been replicated on a bunch of other sites. It's even been dubbed into Spanish. The video maker's point isn't just that wealth in this country is unequally distributed -- anybody with a pulse already knows that. And it's not that the inequality of the distribution is getting more extreme -- anybody who's been paying even a bit of attention over the past couple of decades knows that in her/his bones.
February 28, 2013
Giving our curriculum, our co-curricular activities and our research a regional emphasis -- an explicit awareness of, and engagement with, local geography -- can do more than just improve town/gown relations. It can position our communities to survive an increasingly challenging future, and our institutions to serve an increasingly central role in that future.
February 18, 2013
Town and gown. How long we've all heard about the tension between a college or university and the community that surrounds it. As a trope, it's been around for decades -- maybe longer.
February 14, 2013
From time to time, I rant about sustainability explicitly from the point of view of a farmer. That's because I believe that farmers -- more and more unlike the majority of folks in North America -- experience and interact with the biosphere directly. Which is not to say that we always gain great wisdom from, and exercise exquisite stewardship in, those interactions of course. But even our most ineffective (or negatively effective) interactions are -- as a result of direct physical involvement -- informed by a wider range of considerations and potential understanding than could possibly be conveyed in a YouTube video. Or a textbook. Or a lecture.
February 7, 2013
One of the key reasons that North American society has become so unsustainable in so many ways is that we don't see the results of our own decision-making processes. When I say that to folks who work to promote sustainability on campuses, the most common reaction is "right - greenhouse gases are invisible." The second most frequent response has to do with time lags.
February 6, 2013
I'm more and more convinced that assessing/accounting for environmental sustainability only makes sense at a regional scale. While "region" isn't precisely defined, it's something smaller than most nations, smaller than most US states (except maybe on the eastern seaboard), larger than a city, certainly larger than any campus. But sustainability extends beyond its environmental aspect, and for other (social, economic) forms of sustainability, the regional scale is even more critical. Certainly, it seems so in a US context.
January 28, 2013
In my last post, I talked about how having to account for greenhouse gas emissions from off-campus behaviors started me on the path to realizing that you can't build a sustainable campus in an unsustainable city (or town, or countryside). Thus, while my official charge is to change the Greenback campus, my thought process focuses more and more on changing the Backboro metropolitan area.
January 24, 2013
Stories about how communities thrive in the resource-constrained environments that islands present may provide lessons about sustainability, but those lessons will need to be ported to the mainland if they're to have any significant global impact. Happily, sustainable mainland communities and sustainable island societies may have more in common than is immediately obvious.