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Blog: Perpetually Adolescent
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, Book Reviews - Childrens and Young Adult
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, The Windy Farm
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, Working Title Press
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I’m not big on wind. Of all the meteorological marvels on offer, it’s the least appealing to me, perhaps because I endured a few too many tropical cyclones and missing roofs as a child.
So when The Windy Farm blew onto my shelves, I instinctively hunched my shoulders and wondered what on earth could be so appealing about the latest offering by well-liked picture book team, Doug MacLeod and Craig Smith. Turns out a whole Beaufort Scales worth.
Our plucky young narrator lives with her family on the windiest farm on Windy Hill because it’s all they can afford. Their home is buffeted and bullied by incessant katabatic winds. The kind of wind that permanently bends trees into weird angles; the kind powerful enough to blow away young pigs and little girls. No one is safe from its force, no one except Grandpa who, as the illustrations subtly suggest, is so immense and heavy that he will never budge just like his favourite pig, Big Betty.
The family survive undeterred and, as is often the case, necessity becomes the mother of invention. And indeed this is the case; Mum cannily invents heavy metal shoes to anchor them all to the ground. However, in spite of their best efforts, one day they lose half their home to nature’s tempest.
Rich Uncle Jeff is no help, pointedly refusing to lend them any of his oil-amassed fortune to help fix the house. They resort to good old fashioned ingenuity and Grandpa’s power tools instead but the ensuing crippling power bill plunges them into despair (who hasn’t felt like this after receiving their electricity bill?)
Not easily defeated, Mum comes up with a wily plan; to convert the farm into a sustainable wind farm. Pretty soon things are on the up and up. The farm road is paved in tarmac and truckloads of money from all the electricity they’ve enterprisingly ‘farmed’. Big Betty, the prized pig, returns to a wind-proof sty (she was sold to pay the electricity bills) and although the need to wear heavy metal boots remains, their money worries have been swept away, just like Uncle Jeff who ‘became poor’ after the ill winds of fate blew his way. ‘Never mind,’ Grandpa sanguinely observes; no one really liked him anyway.
Doug MacLeod’s contemporary message about the power of wind and its significance in environmental sustainability drifts delightfully zephyr-like throughout this picture book. Told in a concise, witty style, The Windy Farm exposes young readers to a range of fascinating topics including the harnessing of energy, inventions, problem-solving, sustainability and endurance.
No stranger to children’s book illustrating, Craig Smith’s flamboyant, comic-book style pictures and characters are hysterical; from the very top of Windy Hill all the way down to the chooks’ little metal boots. He uses heavier gauche paint to create a deeply detailed yet fluid almost dreamy visual effect that sweeps from page to page. Movement (of the omnipresent wind), is represented magnificently with the use of acrylics. One can see and feel the air swirling through each scene. I found it astounding even though I’m not that big on wind.
Smith and MacLeod include lots of witty references to the use of nuclear power and the need to adopt a clean energy philosophy if we are to enjoy a longer, better existence than poor old Uncle Jeff.
The Windy Farm is not however a heavy prescriptive lesson in world conservation. Rather, it is a light-hearted, fanciful look at ingenuity and tenacity in their purest and funniest forms. My Miss 7 just thinks it’s very cool. Well it would be with all that wind about wouldn’t it?
Breezy, good fun, imaginative with plenty of room for thought. Plus 5s will love it even if they are not big on wind (but most are).
Working Title Press February 2013
After reading The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, (and its predecessor Oryx and Crake), I became increasingly interested in where my food comes from. Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm, posted this video. It's food for thought.
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, econommic development
, Emerald Cities
, Jon Fitzgerald
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Joan Fitzgerald is Professor and Director of the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University. Her new book, Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, is a refreshing look at how American cities are leading the way toward greener, cleaner, and more sustainable forms of economic development. Emerald Cities is very readable and Marco Trbovich of the Huffington Post wrote, “Fitzgerald combines the academic discipline of an urban planner with the rigors of shoe-leather journalism in crafting a book that documents where real progress is being made….” In the original post below Fitzgerald shares how she found the fine balance between “academic discipline” and “shoe-leather journalism”.
Emerald Cities is my first true crossover book—a serious piece of scholarly research rendered as a journalistic narrative for a wider readership. In recent years, I have had plenty of practice on this front, writing several oped pieces for the Boston Globe and longer features for The American Prospect, a monthly magazine that often draws on academics to write many of its policy-oriented articles.
My journalist and editor husband, Bob Kuttner, has long urged me to discover the joys of the interview, both on the record and on background. And indeed, when you follow a formal research design or rely purely on data, you don’t get to ask impertinent questions. You are at risk of missing what is really going on.
When I first started writing more popular pieces, Bob would say, “Get some quotes” and “talk to people off-the-record.” So I did. Interviewing facilitates networking. One interview leads to another. I was intrigued at how much I learned—say about an industry such as solar or wind and the true state of play as opposed to the self-serving claims—in a few phone calls with industry insiders. If one is intellectually honest, this kind of interview is a legitimate scholarly technique as well as a tool of narrative journalism.
Journalistic reportage also helps bring prose alive. Reporting on data without bringing in a human element makes for dry reading. Another discipline of writing in a more journalistic style is that your ideas need to be compressed into a lot less space. The standard academic article is 25 pages. An oped piece is typically three typescript pages and a Prospect policy article between six and eight. It is amazing how many words some academic writers waste, telling you what they are going to tell you, then telling it, and then telling you what they told you.
The discipline of tight, lucid writing also clarifies one’s thinking process. In fact, I now require my policy students to write regular short assignments or op-ed-style pieces. At first, they hate them—they find it easier to write 10 pages than 2, which reminds me of the old saying, “I would have written it shorter but I didn’t have the time.” It does take time, and many drafts. Professor John Kenneth Galbraith, a scholar much admired for his incisive prose was once told by an admirer how “
Sometimes I love the books I read with my daughters because of the delightful, uninhibited play they inspire. Other times I love the books we read together because they engage us with something bigger; they cause us to reflect upon our actions and the world around us and encourage thoughtfulness and care. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson is a recent find that has done both these things for us.
Mama Miti is an enduring story with fable-like quality about a woman who loves trees. She knows which trees are good to harvest for firewood, which trees are best for building with, which tree leaves have medicinal properties as well as the trees which provide food for both people or animals and she happily shares this knowledge with the women she meets. In doing so, these women, armed with knowledge (and saplings!) are able to build better homes and communities, to provide more for their families and to build a more sustainable future – in fact all the things I try to do in my own small way.
It’s a fantastic book for stimulating discussion with your kids about plants and trees around you and what uses they have, what you can harvest from them, and why we might want to ensure that we continue to have plenty of trees and plants around us.
It’s a brilliant book for encouraging you to keep faith in the idea that small changes will eventually add up to something substantial that makes a difference.
It’s an inspirational book for anyone, but particularly girls wanting to read about amazing, strong women – it is actually a biography of Wangari Muta Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. I left out this fact till now as Mama Miti is one of those non-fiction books which probably provide librarians with a puzzle – should it be shelved with literature, perhaps amongst picture books for slightly older children, or on the non fiction shelves (Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca which I reviewed here is another such dilemma posing book). Mama Miti is definitely a story that can be enjoyed for its writing and resonance first and foremost – the revelation that it is actually a true story about a real woman only further delighted M (and me!)
Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are amazing – yet another reason to love this book! He has created artwork primarily using scraps of African cloth, providing his illustrations with great visual texture which reward repeated, detailed observation. The use of African fabrics paradoxically really roots Napoli’s t
**Warning: I wear my heart on my sleeve. This post has things to say and opinions (backed by science) to share.**
What’s the Point of Being Green? by Jacqui Bailey is the most depressing, worrying book I’ve read this year. It’s also the nonfiction book this year I wish all my blog readers and their kids would read.
What’s the Point of Being Green? tackles head on how you and I are slowly destroying the thing we rely on – our planet, our home, the Earth. It pulls no punches as it lucidly discusses the causes and catastrophic consequences of climate change and environmental destruction. It’s a message lots of people don’t want to hear, it’s a message lots of people outright deny, but it’s a message we all need to take on board and respond to.
With chapters on fossil fuels and their alternatives, the degradation of the natural environment and the concomitant impact on biodiversity (and why this matters), population growth, over-consumption and waste this book looks at the damage we’re doing from every important aspect.
And whilst it doesn’t shy away from the problems and their enormity, the book is packed with ways we can all make a difference with tips on how we can change our behaviour and why we should change our values, open our eyes and accept what is happening.
Photo: NRDC Media
The book is brilliantly written for its target audience (fluent readers to 14, I’d say), with an urgency and liveliness that makes the book exciting and gives the reader a sense of empowerment; not only are the issues presented clearly, excitingly and thoughtfully, young readers will feel they can indeed make a difference.
M lapped the book up; she enjoyed retelling lots of facts she’d learned, and enjoyed even more “badgering” us to make changes suggested by the book, from collecting our shower water to reuse on houseplants to making sure we use lids on our pans when cooking.
The colourful illustrations, including lots of cartoons, are fun and although the book is jam-packed with information it is all presented in easy-to-enjoy chunks, great for both dipping in and out of, but also reading from cover to cover. There’s a glossary, well compiled index and a very useful list of organizations and websites to explore on the topics raised in this book.
This is a book with a powerful agenda. Some people won’t like that, but I love it. M loves it. It’s utterly depressing, compelling and essential reading.
In case you hadn’t guessed, the issues discussed in this book are ones very close to my heart. I’ve read the science, I understand what is happening, I’m frightened by the environmental changes that are taking place, but I’m trying my hardest to do what I can to keep the planet healthy for future generations.
That’s why we
Blog: Secret Seed Society
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Any idea when courgettes come into season? How about cucumbers? No? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Research shows that most people aren’t sure when most British fruit and vegetables are in season which is a real shame as it means they’re missing out on when they’re at their absolute best.
While it’s easy to enjoy blueberries with your breakfast in winter, being accustomed to buying whatever we want, whenever we want it means we are increasingly becoming disconnected from our food and its relationship with nature. Eating with the seasons means getting back in touch with nature’s rhythms and eating the right thing at the right time. What could be more delicious than a crisp salad when it’s hot and sunny a wholesome stew when it’s cold? Ask any chef and they’ll tell you that fruit and veg are at their best when they’ve just been picked, so why settle for sickly looking strawberries in Winter or unappetising asparagus in Autumn?
Reasons to eat seasonably:
1. Fruit and veg are at their freshest and tastiest when they are first picked
2. Eating seasonably is a great way of eating more sustainably
Growing fruit and veg in season requires lower levels of artificial inputs like heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year and so has a lower environmental impact.
3. Grocery bills are cheaper due in part by reduced transportation and production costs for growers. Everybody wins!
Get the whole family involved! Try cooking and eating seasonably to experience the joy of eating fruit and vegetables at their peak of perfection: fresher, tastier, better value and better for the environment. For more info check out our ‘Eat the Seasons’ page, and also our recipes page.
Our friends at Eat Seasonably also have a great interactive calendar that will keep you in the know all year through, click here to view.
Secret Seed Society, child-friendly recipes and tips for growing and cooking with kids for a healthier, happier future.
Last week Lorcan pointed to an interesting article [Even Gen X is aTwitter] with data about who’s using twitter. In addition to 57% being from California (really?) and 63% being male “…the age demographics of Twitterers show a dramatic shift. When the site became popular in early 2007, the majority of its visitors were 18-to-24-year-olds. Today the site's largest age demographic is 35-to-44-year-olds.”
David Lee King recently posted on his blog about how many patrons are already using twitter and other social media tools. “Yes, people in your community are already connecting and engaging with others via social media tools,” says David, “Are you?”
Over the last several weeks at WebJunction we received a number of support requests about user inability to view some of our videos about the new platform (here's an example with others linked here). In exploring the reasons why, we realized that some of our users in libraries still work in libraries that block access to youtube, blip.tv and the like. Reasons cited include bandwidth for networks that are already stretched. What should we say about our own Internet use and access to our IT admins? Our security and privacy colleagues? Our funding councils and governments?
Very simply, we must continue to articulate our need for access to both social media and social tools in terms of relevance to our patrons and our community. Without our knowledge of and participation in the social spheres where our patrons engage with each other, where new content is published and knowledge emerges, we can't stay relevant. And without relevance, we won't be around.
Update: let me just add that I don't care about twitter in particular. It's just a tool and one of many examples of things we should be exploring.
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Deborah Gordon is a senior transportation policy analyst who has worked with the National Commission on Energy Policy, the Chinese government and many other organizations. Daniel Sperling is Professor of Engineering and Environmental Science and Founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. Gordon and Sperling are the authors of Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability which provides a concise history of America’s Love affair with cars and an overview of the global oil and auto industries. In the original article below they look at what Washington needs to do to support sustainability.
Washington policymakers may have been backed into a costly corner on the Detroit bail out, but the real measure of their mettle is whether they can help us innovate our way out of this debacle. Automaking must undergo fundamental transformational change. The country needs a roadmap. That’s where Congress and the new Administration come in.
Over 20 years of government inaction does not instill confidence, however. Glorying in cheap oil, ignoring mounting imports, avoiding climate action, and preciously protecting U.S. automakers gave birth to Hummers while promising battery technology grew up overseas in Japan, Korea, and, increasingly, China. Few auto advances have been made. And now we’re poised to lose those gains as the venture capitial driven electric-vehicle companies that sprang up in recent years close shop.
One sure fix out of the utter mess we’re in would be to seriously raise gasoline taxes. This would change the entire oil equation, promoting sustained vehicle and fuel innovations the likes of which America has never seen. But with today’s economy bloodied and raw, this appears decidedly off the table, at least for now.
Instead, with current gasoline prices at all time lows, a minuscule 58 cents-a-gallon in 1980 dollars, the U.S. will remain hooked on oil. Priorities to accelerate the commercialization of clean advanced vehicles could be further derailed by Congress as it orders up the next fuel du jour. Corn ethanol, for example, a clear energy and climate fiasco, has long been the recipient of massive public subsidies amounting to about $10 billion in 2008. Federal commitments to clean vehicle and energy R&D, on the other hand, have dwindled to nearly nothing.
Over and over, the public interest has been swamped by regional and special interests and the private desires of consumers. This trend needs to be turned around: innovation needs to serve the public good.
California has figured out how to do this. And when it comes to cars, they have been pushing the envelope for half a century. It is now time for Washington to stop resisting a winning strategy and follow suit.
Adopting new clean vehicle performance standards is the key. The government must resist the temptation to pick winning technologies. Instead, we need innovative performance goals that let automakers and consumers decide which clean cars to commercialize. California’s 1960s pollution laws brought us the first automotive emission control, positive crankcase ventilation. Zero-emission vehicle regulations of the 1990s gave birth to the Prius. Just imagine what vehicle innovations new federal standards could summon.
The single most effective near-term action Washington can take to accelerate the development and adoption of next-generation clean vehicle technologies – electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles – with no direct cost to consumers, is to create new performance standards for near-zero emission vehicles. Each company would be required to produce a set number of near-zero emission vehicles based on their market share, with more credit given to highly efficient vehicles with longer driving ranges that are mass marketed. Such regulations focus the minds of automakers and their suppliers. Small innovative start-up companies also get into the game. New supply chains for low-carbon cars would sprout up in America. Green jobs would be created.
It’s not too late for Washington, and Detroit, to follow the leaders and reimagine our automaking future. The European Union is already pursuing a near-zero emission vehicle category with less than 50 grams of carbon dioxide pollution for each kilometer traveled (equivalent to 113 mpg for gasoline).
So, while large gas taxes are still a sensible long-term solution, Washington must give automakers clear marching orders now. Our policymakers may be risk adverse when it comes to taxation, but Congress is an accomplished regulator.
The auto bail out, volatile oil prices, conflicts in the Middle East, increasing fears of climate change, and intense competition are creating the perfect storm for transformational auto innovation. Washington must take the reins and steer entrepreneurs, engineers, and the public down the path to reinvent vehicles.
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Deborah Gordon is a senior transportation policy analyst who has worked with the National Commission on Energy Policy, the Chinese government and many other organizations. Daniel Sperling is Professor of Engineering and Environmental Science and Founding Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. Gordon and Sperling are the authors of Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability which provides a concise history of America’s Love affair with cars and an overview of the global oil and auto industries. A few weeks ago we posted an original article by these authors. Today we have pulled an excerpt from the book which looks specifically at Governor Schwarzenegger.
The unlikely hero who jolted California into climate change leadership is the former bodybuilder and action movie hero Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before his election in fall 2003, California was experiencing something of a malaise. Governor Schwarzenegger resurrected a bipartisan action-oriented government and, molded by circumstance, became and environmental leader.
In signing an agreement between California and the United Kingdom on July 31, 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed, “California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming…International partnerships are needed in the fight against global warming and California has a responsibility and a profound role to play to protect not only our environment, but to be a world leader on this issue as well.”
He had come a long way in a short time. Governor Schwarzenegger’s second inaugural address in January 2007 made it strikingly clear that he had evolved into an accomplished politician. He was now focused, serious, and increasingly savvy. In the cauldron of politics, he was forging himself into a centrist politician, strongly committed to getting things done, especially on the environment. He emphasized above all else the need for action on global warming. He was using global warming as his platform to unite voters from both parties behind him-in stark contrast to what President Bush was doing in Washington, D.C.
How did this Austrian bodybuilder evolve into an environmental leader? He got his chance to govern through an extraordinary set of circumstances. In 2003, voters became disenchanted with the remoteness and single-minded fund-raising of Democratic governor, Gray Davis, and voted him out of office in a rare recall election. This election bypassed the normal process of primaries in which each political party selects a candidate. That shortcut was essential to Schwarzenegger’s election. Schwarzenegger was a moderate Republican in a state where the Republican Party has become very conservative. According to most political experts, Schwarzenegger couldn’t have won a regular Republican primary. But in a free-for-all election, he didn’t need his party’s endorsement.
In the end, the Democrats couldn’t put forth a compelling candidate, and Schwarzenegger slid into power with 48.6 percent of the vote. he had never held a government office of any type, elected or appointed, and had little policy knowledge. But he had huge name recognition as a result of his extraordinary success first as a bodybuilder, winning seven Mr. Olympia world championships, and then as a movie star, known for his Terminator action movies. He also had management savvy in building very successful businesses capitalizing on his fame, though this was much overlooked at the time. Governor Schwarzenegger resurrected a bipartisan action-orientated government and, molded by circumstance, became an environmental leader.
He entered office speaking of “blowing up boxes” of government, eliminating hundreds of boards and agencies, and bringing a new order. His style was to browbeat the legislature. The honeymoon began to fade during his first year when he provoked his legislature opponents by calling them “girlie men,” offended protesting nurses by telling them “special interests don’t like me in Sacramento because I kick their butt,” and antagonized teachers by asking voters to curtail teachers’ rights to job security. Every one of the propositions he put forth to voters in a special election in fall 2005 went down in defeat. His popularity plummeted.
He soon righted himself. He apologized to voters for not respecting them. He abandoned his more bombastic language. He engaged himself in the business of governing and forged working relationships with the Democratic-controlled legislature. His popularity was resurrected with apologies and an ability to learn from his mistakes, coupled with willful rejection of ideology and partisanship. By late 2006, his ratings were once again soaring. With a cooperative legislature, he concluded a series of legislative milestones, capped by the precedent-setting Global Warming Solutions Act. In his 2007 inaugural address, Schwarzenegger justified this landmark law on moral grounds and “because California genuinely has the power to influence the res of the nation, even the world.”
Schwarzenegger was a product of circumstances. He wobbled toward a model of leadership and innovation. He’s not an intellectual leader. He’s a problem solver with charisma and strong management and communication skills, who surrounds himself with strong, competent people, not least of which is his wife, Maria Shriver. He’s been molded by the experience of being a Republican in a Democratic state and living with a politically astute Kennedy wife. His bipartisanship was illustrated by his appointment of Terry Tamminene, an ardent environmentalist, as secretary of California’s Environmental Protection Agency and later as secretary of the cabinet, and Susan Kennedy, a Democrat and former abortion right advocate, as his chief of staff.
The governor’s desire to simultaneously achieve a healthy environment and economy in the state has resonated well. With strong support from the venture capital community and leaders of many high-tech Silicon Valley companies, he has spurred the state’s businesses to think green thoughts. His unwavering commitment to California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, low-carbon fuel standard, and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles has had the cumulative effect of convincing even the most recalcitrant company that there’s no turning back. Indeed, Schwarzenegger sees climate change policy and green tech as his legacy. The question is whether the various rules and laws and what skeptics refer to as the governor’s globe-trotting happy talk will translate into ral action and change.
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Daniel Sperling is a Professor of Engineering and Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis and a Founding Director of US-Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies. He and Deborah Gordon wrote Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability which provides a concise history of America’s love affair with cars and an overview of the global oil and auto industries. Be sure to watch tonight when Daniel Sperling is interviewed on The Daily Show.
We decided it would be fun to ask Sperling some questions before and after his big television appearance. Below are the pre-show questions. Check back tomorrow to watch a clip and read the post-show interview. Read other OUPblog posts about this book here.
OUPblog: Do you watch The Daily Show and have you ever fantasized about being a guest?
Daniel Sperling: Yes, I watch, but I never even fantasized about being a guest—even though all my friends and students now say I have reached the highest state of coolness; one (young) professor friend now says he idolizes me.
OUPblog: What advice have people given you about going on the show?
Sperling: Roll with the jokes, don’t even think about trying to be funny, be succinct, know your key messages, don’t wear white shirts or patterned jackets, have fun.
OUPblog: What is the one thing you would like people to take away from your interview?
Sperling: It’s time for all of us to engage in solving the oil and climate challenges and, to quote our president, yes we can.
I know. I know. Sustainability is actually one of the big millennia buzz words, usually referring to important things like, saving our planet. Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. I get it.
But right now I'm really worried about sustaining my hair. It's all because of the gray. Gray changes everything. It makes your hair wiry. And changes the whole styling thing. It pretty much makes you reassess your haircut and ask if there isn't something that can be done because, basically, you don't want to look like your kids grandmother just yet (okay, ever!).
I've thought about dealing with the gray by going short (I have long hair).
But I had a bad experience with short. A few years ago, after I had my second child, I let my hairdresser convince me to get a bob. It would be easier than having long hair, he said. I gave in.
He did a great job. It really looked good. Amazing. Effortless.
Until I washed it.
And then all of those layers went every which way but down. Horror. What was I doing wrong? I suddenly remembered with a sinking feeling how my hairdresser had started to sweat as he dried my hair. How he'd labored at those layers. They weren't effortless at all.
Ack! How was I supposed to manage this?
I let it grow out.
Which was great until the grey started to appear. I mean, it's not exactly like it's going to go away now (despite my complaint with the gene pool. They so are not returning my phone calls).
So, color, right?
But there was that one study they did that one time that showed a correlation between coloring and bladder cancer.
I don't want vanity to give me bladder cancer.
Okay, green freak, go all gray. Easy enough. Yeesh.
But I don't want to look like Barbara Bush.
Then cut it all off!
But...um...isn't that one of those options that sounds a lot better than it looks?
Why don't men have these problems???
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By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK
Joe Smith is senior lecturer in environment in the social sciences faculty at The Open University and Co-Director of the Cambridge Media & Environment Programme which runs seminars on environmental change and development issues for senior media decision makers. Joe is initiator and chair of Interdependence Day a new communications and research project. He is also co-author (with Stephen Peake) of Climate Change: From Science to Sustainability, an interdisciplinary introduction that takes the reader from keystones of the underlying science – and not just the headlines – through to the philosophical and political consequences of climate change. In his Countdown to Copenhagen post, he talks about ‘truth’ and climate change in the light of the recent hacked emails at the University of East Anglia.
For the rest of the Countdown to Copenhagen posts, click here.
What to say about ‘truth’ and climate science in the context of what appears to be the theft of ten years worth of private emails between climate researchers by mischief-making hackers? I’m not going to comment further on the incident but it proves once again that there are some highly motivated people out there who want to tear up the narrative that climate change is human caused and requires urgent action. There are a small number of high profile media commentators who have savoured the opportunity to insist once again that climate change is a massive science fraud and big-state tax plot.
How should we investigate the notion that humans are changing the climate? Who is best equipped to advise on how to behave in an experiment that we may only get to run once? If I wanted to know about a very complex scientific problem I’d start looking for answers by running the biggest scientific peer review process in human history. The IPCC is exactly that. It was set up to do the best job possible in making sense of an enormously demanding intellectual question: does human activity influence the climate – in the past, present and future?
The dominant model of science is one of aggressive (individual or lab based) competition to get the most convincing arguments supported by publicly published evidence, and to break new ground with original and supportable arguments. As an outsider looking in I think that that can be an unproductive form of ‘knowledge generation’, but one thing for sure is that it isn’t designed to produce consensus around such a complex topic as climate change. The IPCC is a review process with only a very small secretariat, and the thousands of scientists who generate the work across many disciplines that make up the raw material of the review are all highly competitive. The IPCC reports should be all the more disturbing for the fact that they point to so much willingness to agree within the science community on the headline themes.
Why then does a substantial minority of the population feel more confidence in Lords Monckton or Lawson, or the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips? It is the intellectual equivalent of backing a Sunday pub team of vain injured veterans against Real Madrid’s best side. We’ve all got pretty good feeling for who has the better f
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By Kirsty McHugh, OUP UK
In the last of this week’s Countdown to Copenhagen blog posts, Gordon Wilson of the Open University writes about public action and climate change beyond the COP15 summit. He is Senior lecturer in Technology & Development, and has been writing and researching on development issues for many years. These include technological capabilities, professional expertise and practice, knowledge production through active social learning, and science and technology for development. He has also written extensively on sustainable development. He is one of the editors of Environment, Development, and Sustainability: Perspectives and cases from around the world.
Click here for the rest of the Countdown to Copenhagen blogs.
World leaders at COP15 may or may not put their pens to a deal where it is worth waiting for the ink to dry. But to place too much reliance on anything that raises hopes is more than creating a hostage to fortune. It amounts to abrogating our responsibilities as citizens through setting up straw people who fall down when they fail to deliver.
The history of public policy and action has shown that they are rarely the sole acts of benign, neutral government drawing the right conclusions from technical analyses. More likely they represent a process of more-or-less ruly accommodations between many players and their different interests. Governments may be the most important of these players, but they are not the only ones. The history of public health initiatives in 19th century UK provides a useful lesson in this regard, the favourable social indicators of the Indian state of Kerala compared with the rest of India another. There is no reason to suppose that these lessons of how public needs come to be defined do not also apply to the international arena.
With respect to climate change, we owe a great debt to the scientists who created a consensus under the umbrella of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and who have ensured that the issue is on national and international agendas. We should not forget, however, the potential role of informed citizens operating individually or collectively in defining public policies and actions. This role is more than ‘green’ behaviour in terms of, for example, doing our bit to reduce carbon footprints. It is also more than our right in many countries to elect and de-elect our governments, important as that is. (In any case, at an international scale, a world government that is democratically accountable is not even on the radar.) Nor does it necessarily concern our ability to mount 10, or even 100, demonstrations relating to Copenhagen. It does concern, however, our abilities to apply individual and collective pressure through a combination of working with, and where necessary confronting, governments and their international manifestations, and demonstrating alternatives.
I stress the qualifying adjective ‘informed’ which I don’t restrict to citizen understanding of the science of climate change and its likely impacts, nor of the social science of understanding socio-economic impacts. Such understandings are undoubtedly necessary to be ‘informed’ but they are not sufficient. Knowing the ‘facts’ is neither enough to change personal lifestyles nor to change po
Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment, and is held annually on April 22. Although it originated in the US, it’s now celebrated in many places across the globe. And to help you get involved with your kids, here’s Andi’s selection of exciting books and her reviews of them:
The Lorax by Dr. Suess
I consider this to be the classic environmental education fiction story and have read it to countless numbers of children of varying ages and all have found something that they like about it (would you expect anything else from Dr. Suess?) The story of the Lorax is told by the Once-ler, an unknown creature who lives in an old boarded-up house in the middle of a barren land. The story is about a beautiful landscape that is threatened when someone decides to use the tufts of the beautiful Truffula trees to make Thneeds (something that everyone needs) and the Lorax who “speaks for the trees” tries to stop the destruction of the forest and ponds and fields of his beautiful land. It is full of the rhyme typical of Suess books, and although the land is decimated at the hands of the Thneed creator, the last page is one of hope.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
This story takes place in the rain forest, where the great Kapok trees rise high into the sky. The story is of a man who enters the forest with his axe, ready to cut down one of the giant trees. He soon grows tired, and is lulled to sleep by the heat of the forest. While he sleeps, the animals of the rainforest appear one by one and whisper in his ear, asking him to save their home. It is wonderfully illustrated with the bright plants and animals of the rainforest coming alive on each page.
This morning among other stalling tactics I have been practicing while I stubbornly resist finishing my now-overdue article for NextSpace, I scanned the interesting articles in the latest two print magazines to hit my desk: American Libraries and Governing. Both had cover stories on environmental topics, which was not surprising as Earth Day is in April, spring is finally coming, etc.
So after I mopped up the drool from all the great green library architecture featured this month, I flipped over to Governing, to see that Fayetteville, AR has hired a person to help them be greener in the city government. And the guy has become known as Mr. Sustainability. AND he's all of 30 years old. How cool is that?! Nice that he's gotten some recognition for his work, and I hope it inspires some of us to be greener in our workplaces, too. Do you turn your monitor off at night? Flip the lights out? Walk occasionally, instead of always riding the elevator?
It strikes me that libraries are part of a not-so-big, green lifestyle by implicit design: you don't need to own the book in order to read it, absorb its knowledge and share it with others.
May be we should start capitalizing on our built-in green-ness, in addition to our beautiful new LEED-certified buildings. Can you appoint a Mr. (or Ms.) Sustainability for your staff? Or maybe it's a rotating distinction, that different staff members (or a volunteer!) wears for a couple of weeks, notes behaviors, and then suggests easy changes.
If you have a cotton/canvas library bag available for sale, why not team up with local grocery stores and make you bag available for purchase at the grocery store check-out? Whole Foods is aiming to be plastic-bag free by Earth Day. If they can do it, so can your grocery.
I am an online community builder for librarians. In short, my job, my actual job, is to help librarians find and connect with each other online. I've said many times that I think I have the best job in library land. Sometimes, honestly, like today, it's not all that. It's not that I get discouraged, though sometimes that happens too, as I'm sure happens in the course of many of our day-to-days, but rather that I find my job very, very difficult. Head. Banging. Against a Wall. Difficult.
The parts that are most challenging for me have to do with resources. In our environment, as in most, resources are limited, and even though my particular project is considered well-funded, and indeed we are, it is a constant struggle to align those resources towards absolute efficiency and effectiveness. Of course, resources aren't just the dollars. There's also our time and our staff. I work really hard, and I know the team that I work with works really hard, to try and make the best decisions that we can about how to line things up effectively. Still, things are changing around us so rapidly. The plans we make are almost never exactly manifested. We always dream much bigger than we're able to implement. We always want to do more than we're able to in a day. By the time we're implementing there are three, five, or ten more things we wish we would have known. How can we be more clever? do this smarter? start that sooner? (And I'm not even really talking about the technology here. I'm talking more generally, about every aspect of the work.)
The other thing is that everybody cares so much about this work. In some ways I think it's a burden to feel so passionately about libraries and community. I often wonder if caring about the work as much makes me less effective. Am I missing something by taking things as seriously? How can I infuse humor, light, and even some degree of dispassion into my work so that I can be as personally nimble as the technologies I use and advocate for?
One of the best books I've read on libraries and change is "The Thriving Library" by Marylaine Block. I love this book. She outlines the things that "thriving" libraries are doing - not as a recipe, but as an example of some things that we can draw into our own libraries and communities. Come to think of it, Robert Putnam does the same thing in his work "Better Together" where he looks at successful community building projects and says 'here are a few things that work. it's not a recipe. just something to think about. something to try.'
So fine, there's no recipe. There's no perfect process, no perfect "plan for results". I think I can deal with that. And maybe things get easier as you gain experience and move through your career, (and perhaps that's another story). In all, I'd still say I have the best job EVER. I even know somewhere that the fact that it's difficult for me, that I'm constantly feeling like I'm new at this and that there's a lot to learn, is part of the reason it's such a great job for me.
But maybe tomorrow could be easier. Maybe tomorrow my cleverness could just swoop in and *poof!* solve the tough questions currently in front of me. Shoot, it wouldn't even have to be my cleverness. It could be yours. Please?