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Archive for the 'Environmental Studies' Category

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Michael Mann Discusses Climate Change on Charlie Rose

Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, appeared on Charlie Rose to discuss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change most recent report on global warming.

Joined by Jeffrey Sachs and Michael Oppenheimer, Mann discussed what the report had to say about climate change’s impact on agriculture and extreme weather, and how global warming is likely to further impact the world’s economy in the coming years. He also considered how politicians have responded to and failed to respond to the looming challenges presented by climate change:

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Insects: A Sustainable Alternative to Meat

The following news report (see video below) includes interviews with coauthors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, scientist Arnolds Van Huis and chef Henk Van Gurp, in which they consider some of the environmental benefits of eating insects. Unlike raising livestock for food, which contributes to rising levels of greenhouse gas (see excerpt below), insects and using them for food has minimal impact.

In the following excerpt from The Insect Cookbook, the authors provide further detail about why insects are a sustainable alternative to meat:

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that livestock is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and is, as such, an important contributor to global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions include methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Simply by burping and passing gas, cattle release more than one-third of all methane emissions worldwide. Methane contributes twenty-three times more to global warming than does carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important greenhouse gas emitted by cars. Livestock generates close to two-thirds of all nitrous oxide released; this gas is 289 times more damaging than CO2. Some insects, such as termites, also produce methane, releasing 4 percent of all emissions of this gas worldwide. By contrast, the edible insects mentioned in this cookbook, such as mealworms
and migratory locusts, produce far less greenhouse gas per kilogram of product than do cows or pigs.

Livestock also produces more than two-thirds of the world’s ammonia emissions, which are one of the main causes of acid rain. Per kilogram of body weight produced, pigs produce fifty times more ammonia than do locusts.

(more…)

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Cooking with Insects — Recipes for Hopper Kebabs and Buglava

Hopper Kebabs

In addition to explaining the nutritional and environmental value of eating insects, the authors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, also provide dozens of great recipes. Below are two such recipes. Hopper Kebabs (see image above) use grasshoppers with their legs and wings removed. As the authors explain, grasshoppers are considered a delicacy in parts of Africa and clever entrepreneurs in Australia are now marketing them as “sky prawns” to help increase their popularity.

The other recipe is buglava which uses mealworms, which is rich in potassium, iron, zinc and vitamins and minerals and is also enjoyed throughout the world. Both these insects are now increasingly available for purchase in the United States and can be bought from World Entomophagy.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

TED Talk from Marcel Dicke on the Nutritional and Environmental Impact of Eating Insects

In the following video taken from a TED Talk , Marcel Dicke, coauthor of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, discusses the environmental and nutritional importance of eating insects:

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating insects. They’re much better for you than regular meat.”

The Insect Cookbook, Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke

In recent interview with the Boston Globe , Marcel Dicke, one of the coauthors of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, discussed his new book and the benefits of eating insects.

Dicke concedes that there continue to be those in the media that see his work promoting eating insects in a less than serious light. However, as he points out, eating insects can play an important role in food sustainability:

The world is facing a food security problem. We hope to make people aware, to show them there are good reasons for eating insects. We’re not telling anyone to stop eating meat completely, but about 70 percent of all agricultural land is used to produce livestock, and we’re going to have to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050. There’s no way we’re going to be able to do this.

Moreover, eating insects, which is done throughout the world, is good for you:

[Insects are] rich in minerals; they’re high in protein. In terms of nutrition, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating insects. They’re much better for you than regular meat.

Dicke also discusses which insects are best to eat and the ways in which people in the West are slowly coming around to the idea of eating them. Much of the challenge is in the presentation of dishes prepared with insects and marketing the notion of insects as palatable. As Dicke points out, contemporary Western resistance to eating insects is somewhat anomaly :

It’s in our genes to eat insects; humanoids have always done this. Around the world, 2 billion people eat them on a daily basis—there’s nothing strange about this…. In our culture, we’ve always been taught that insects are disgusting. We try to live in an insect-free world, a sterile world where everything is clean. On the other hand, this world wouldn’t be here if not for insects—without them there would be no pollination of plants.

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of The Insect Cookbook

The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet,  Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke

This week we will be featuring The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet, by Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp, and Marcel Dicke on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and indicate your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, March 28st at 3:00 pm.

In The Insect Cookbook, two entomologists and a chef make the case for insects as a sustainable source of protein for humans and a necessary part of our future diet.

For more on the book, learn how to make Hopper Kebabs and Buglava or watch a video of Marcel Dicke’s Ted Talk.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Michael Mann Takes on the National Review and Climate Change Skeptics

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

“A lot of us would much rather be spending our time doing science, but an increasingly large amount of our time is spent on defending ourselves against bad-faith attacks. Over time, I have come to embrace that.”—Michael Mann

In a development that could change the nature and tenor over the debate about climate change, Michael Mann’s suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is moving forward.

The events leading up to the suit were recently covered in Kurt Eichenwald’s article in Newsweek. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, has long been accused of misrepresenting scientific data by climate change skeptics and denialists. These accusations reached a fevered and rather ugly pitch when Rand Simberg of the CEI equated Mann, who teaches at Penn State, with Jerry Sandusky. Simberg wrote, “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”

The CEI’s article was picked up by Mark Steyn, a writer for the National Review Online, who in addition to picking up on the child molester references, also said that Penn State failed to adequately investigate Mann’s scientific work. Citing libel, Mann has since sued both the National Review and the CEI, who initially wanted the cases thrown out, citing their first amendment rights.

Michael Mann, along with other scientists, has long contended that climate change denialists and skeptics have misrepresented scientific findings as well as e-mails exchanged among climate scientists. As he recently argued in the New York Times , Michael Mann believes it is time that scientists become more active in fighting back the efforts of climate skeptics.

Eichenwald concludes his article by writing:

Mann says he is frustrated about the bitterness of the years of disputes between climatologists and the skeptics but now accepts that responding to attacks will be part of the job for all of them.

“A lot of us would much rather be spending our time doing science, but an increasingly large amount of our time is spent on defending ourselves against bad-faith attacks,” he says. “Over time, I have come to embrace that.”

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Pete Seeger and the Hudson River

Pete Seeger

The recent death of Pete Seeger has produced not only an outpouring of tributes for his contributions to American music but also to his work in helping to clean and preserve the Hudson River. In the following passage from The Hudson: America’s River, Frances Dunwell recounts the beginnings of Seeger’s environmental activism and the role these efforts played in the creation of the first Clean Water Act:

This was not the end of the problems on the Hudson, however. Though Rockefel­ler had secured passage of a bond act to clean up the state’s rivers, it took time for sewage treatment plants to be built. The Hudson’s waters were still a “torrent of filth.” A few summers after the 1965 Pure Waters Bond Act passed, state biologists found zero oxygen in the Hudson around Albany and no living fish.

Folksinger Pete Seeger, in Beacon, New York, was one of those who decided this should change….

In 1969, Seeger proposed to a friend that they get a few hundred families together to build a replica of a Hudson River sloop. At first, it was to be just a boat for sailing, a loving tribute to the sleek and beautiful ships that crowded the Hudson during the age of sail. As Seeger later recounted: “It really seemed a frivolous idea. The world was full of agony; the Vietnam War was heating up. Money was needed for all sorts of life and death matters, and here we were raising money to build a sailboat.” However, the idea soon crystallized around building the boat to save the river, to have it be owned by its members, to be “everybody’s boat.” It would be called the Clearwater.

To help raise money, the Saunders family of Cold Spring and the Osborn family of Garrison offered their lawns for a series of song festivals where Seeger, Arlo Guth­rie, and others performed. The first concert drew 150 people and raised $167. Four months later, 700 people showed up—and by the end of the year, $5,000 was in the bank. By 1969, $140,000 in donations and loans were paid to the Gamage shipyard in South Bristol, Maine, which constructed the boat, and on June 27, the sloop Clearwater set sail down the Damiriscotta River and out to the Atlantic coast for its home port on the Hudson, piloted by a skilled captain and crewed by 11 talented musi­cians, including several who knew little about sailing. The boat stopped in Boston, where the crew sang to 10,000 people. A few days later, it sailed into Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport. In early September, it arrived in New York harbor and tied up in Manhattan at South Street Seaport, where brass bands played, and Mayor Lindsay gave his official greetings as press helicopters zoomed overhead. Soon photos of the sloop appeared in newspapers around the country, and the boat became a sym­bol for an emerging movement to clean up the nation’s waterways. The Clearwater organization’s membership grew to 2,500, and the sloop sailed up and down the Hudson, promoting a message of hope. Crowds joined in with Seeger to sing the re­frain of his 1961 song:

Sailing up my dirty stream,
Still I love it, and I’ll keep the dream,
That some day, though maybe not this year,
My Hudson River will once again run clear.

(more…)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Michael Mann on the Responsibility of Climate Scientists

Michael Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (now available in paperback), argues that scientists can no longer stay on the sidelines when it comes to debates about climate change.

For his own part, Mann has been thrust into the fray over climate change after a study he co-wrote which led to being “hounded by elected officials [and] threatened with violence.” Mann continues, “Our ‘hockey stick’ graph became a vivid centerpiece of the climate wars, and to this day, it continues to win me the enmity of those who have conflated a problem of science and society with partisan politics.”

Initially, Mann did not want to be part of the debate, fearing, as many scientists do, that it would compromise his objectivity “to wade into policy matters or the societal implications of our work.” However, with the stakes so high, Mann now argues that position is no longer viable given the threats of global warming to the planet.

If scientists choose not to engage in the public debate, we leave a vacuum that will be filled by those whose agenda is one of short-term self-interest. There is a great cost to society if scientists fail to participate in the larger conversation — if we do not do all we can to ensure that the policy debate is informed by an honest assessment of the risks. In fact, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility to society if we remained quiet in the face of such a grave threat.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Steven Cohen on the Lessons of Superstorm of Sandy

Steven Cohen, Superstorm Sunday

“In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.”—Steven Cohen

In an essay for The Huffington Post , Steven Cohen, author of Sustainability Management: Lessons from and for New York City, America, and the Planet and executive director of The Earth Institute, examines what has been and what should be learned a year after Superstorm Sandy.

Cohen begins by recognizing the extraordinary efforts of both first responders and ordinary citizens in banding together to help those in need. The effort to bring relief to those affected by the storm even brought New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie and Barack Obama together in a rare example of bipartisanship. Cohen writes, “One key lesson learned: [America] is a place capable of enormous generosity and humanity.”

New York and New Jersey have also installed plans to help protect their shore communities in the case of another superstorm, which, according to Cohen is likely to happen due to global warming. Building codes have been changed and dunes, engineered barriers, and green infrastructure are being put into place which will absorb the energy from the next storm.

However, more needs to be done. Cohen argues we need to better prepared. Generators must be at the ready, underwater tunnels need to be closed, and power lines need to be shored up. Moreover, a kind of trust fund needs to be created to avoid having to pass legislation to provide emergency relief. Too many people, particularly those in the middle- or working-classes, have had to wait to have their houses rebuilt. Cohen argues:

It remains obvious that we need to develop a new national tax to create a trust fund exclusively devoted to community reconstruction after natural or human-made disasters. Funding must be provided to everyone meeting specific, predetermined, criteria. We need to end the degrading and disgusting spectacle of Congress struggling to pass a new funding bill after every disaster… With climate change, increased urbanization and increased population, we are going to see more frequent, intense, and destructive storms. This is a new situation that requires a new funding stream—a new tax—to handle it.

Climate change, Cohen warns, means more storms like Sandy necessitating that we must find ways of adapting. He concludes by writing:

Sandy was a transformative event that changed our view of how the world works. We now have a mental model of what can happen when our shoreline defenses are overwhelmed. The next time we are tracking a storm on the Weather Channel, we’ll know what we need to do if the eye of the storm is aimed at us. Moreover, we know that the reason this is happening is because our planet is getting warmer and the probability of more intense and frequent storms is growing. In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Michael Mann Discusses Climate Change on Hardball and Al Jazeera America

Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines has become one of the leading spokespeople about the science and dangers of climate change as well as the dangers of climate change denialists. Indeed one of the best ways to keep up with news about climate change and distortions about climate change is through Michael Mann’s twitter account.

With the recent release of a draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Michael Mann appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to talk and debate climate change:

He also appeared on Al Jazeera America:

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Michael Marder and Monica Gagliano: How Do Plants Sound?

Plant-Thinking

Today, we have a guest post from Michael Marder, IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country and author of Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, and Monica Gagliano, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Evolutionary Biology of the University of Western Australia. In their post, partially inspired by a video of the “Singing Plants at Damanhur,” Marder and Gagliano discuss recent evidence that suggests that plants “produce sounds independently of dehydration and cavitation-related processes.”

While walking in a forest on a sunny day, we imbibe a whole symphony of sounds: the chirping of birds, the soft rustling of the breeze in the leafs, the flowing of water in a creek… In the midst of this rich acoustic ensemble of organic and inorganic nature, the plants themselves appear to be silent. As French poet, Francis Ponge simply expresses this in “Fauna and Flora,” “they have no voice”, ils n’ont pas de voix. Ponge’s statement, confirmed by our experience of a promenade in a forest, is so obvious, and yet so far from the truth!
(more…)

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

David A. Nibert – New Welfarism, Veganism, and Capitalism

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway by 1 PM TODAY for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today, in the final day of our Book Giveaway, we have “New Welfarism, Veganism, and Capitalism,” another excerpt from Animal Oppression and Human Violence. In this concluding chapter, Nibert explains why veganism is a global imperative, and how we can work around the barriers to this goal thrown up by the capitalist system.
(more…)

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

David A. Nibert – A History of Domesecration, Part 2

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today we have the second half of a guest post by David A. Nibert (read the first half here). In this post, Nibert argues that the pervasive presence of domesecration in modern society has profoundly negative effects on humans as well as animals.

In the United States, the relentless quest for profits through the exploitation of domesecrated animals was primarily responsible for the continual expropriation of Native American lands for expanding ranching enterprises. Once indigenous peoples, buffalo and other “obstacles” were cleared from the Great Plains – territory U.S. leaders once promised to Native Americans in perpetuity – wealthy investors flooded the region with cows and sheep. Railways and giant slaughterhouses, constructed and staffed by oppressed immigrants, allowed the rise of the powerful U.S. “meat” industry. Not long after Blackmar’s drivel about the “service” animals were “rendering” to humans, Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle provided a true picture of the nightmarish condition of domesecrated animals in Chicago slaughterhouses and the predatory treatment of the workers there.
(more…)

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

David A. Nibert – A History of Domesecration, Part 1

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today we have the first half of a guest post by David A. Nibert, in which he explains how he first came to be aware of the issues he discusses in his book, and delves into the history of the phenomenon of “widespread and systemic oppression of other animals by humans.”

I never thought much about other animals or food production when I was younger. As a college sociology student in the early 1970s, I learned about racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression – but scarcely a word was mentioned about the oppression of other animals. Professors spouted the traditional prattle about the virtues of animal “domestication” and the “mutually beneficial partnership” that resulted. This perspective has remained largely unchanged for decades and reflects a statement made in 1896 by Frank Wilson Blackmar, who later would become president of the American Sociological Association.

The domestication of animals led to a great improvement in the race. It gave an increased food supply through milk and the flesh of animals. . . . One after another animals have rendered service to man. They are used for food or clothing, or to carry burdens and draw loads. The advantage of their domestication cannot be too greatly estimated.
(more…)

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Read the Introduction of Animal Oppression and Human Violence

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Today, we have Nibert’s Introduction to Animal Oppression and Human Violence, in which he explains his argument against the “obvious and unassailable” view of the positive role that domesticating animals has played in human development. And be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence.

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, by David A. Nibert

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert. Throughout the week, we will be featuring the book and its author here on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on April 19th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Our giveaway is now complete and the winners have been notified via email. Thanks to all who participated!

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Vivien Gornitz on Rising Sea Levels in NYC

In the following excerpt from Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future, Vivien Gornitz examines how New York City is reacting to and planning for the possibility of flooding due to rising seas. (To read the excerpt in a full screen, click on the icon on the lower right-hand corner)

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Vivien Gornitz — Toward an Aquatic Future

“Could future greenhouse gas-induced global warming push the Earth’s climate system into an unstable mode, triggering a catastrophic meltdown of the polar ice sheets?”—Vivien Gornitz

Rising Seas, Vivien GornitzThe follow post is from Vivien Gornitz, author of Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future.

Superstorm Sandy, although a rare and freakish event today, was a rough taste of what may await us as ocean levels continue to rise. New York City is no stranger to tropical cyclones, in spite of its northerly location. The surge from a hurricane in 1821 reached 13 feet in 1 hour and flooded parts of lower Manhattan as far north as Canal Street. In 1893, another hurricane submerged southern Brooklyn and Queens, erasing a small barrier island off the Rockaways. During the twentieth century, the “Long Island Express” (1938), hurricane Donna (1960), and the weaker hurricane Gloria (1985) created extensive damage on nearby Long Island and in New Jersey. Even winter nor’easters, such as one in December, 1992, flooded low-lying neighborhoods and seriously disrupted ground and air transportation. But the fury and destructiveness of Sandy topped these all, aided by the historic 1.4 foot rise in sea level since the mid-19th century.

At least eight times during the last million years, vast ice sheets blanketed much of the Northern Hemisphere and subsequently retreated. Both sea level and greenhouse gas concentrations fell during the ice ages and rose again as the ice sheets shrank. Sea level climbed 13 to 20 feet higher than present during the last warm interglacial period, 125,000 years ago, but then dropped 394 feet (120 meters) at the peak of the last ice age, around 20,000 years ago. Once the ice sheets began their retreat, sea level rose rapidly and climbed still faster in several episodic spurts. After the ice melted, the sea reached nearly its present height by 7,000 to 6,000 years ago, fluctuating at most by a few feet since then.

Climate skeptics like to point to past wide variations in climate and global sea level as proof that we are merely experiencing yet another natural variation. Anthropogenic atmospheric greenhouse gases are heating the Earth. Carbon dioxide (394 parts per million in 2012, http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/) approaches levels last experienced in the balmier Pliocene epoch, around 3 million years ago, when sea levels stood over 66 feet (20 meters) higher than present. Temperatures now reach 1.0 F (0.6 C) above the mid-twentieth century average, with the nine warmest years in the 132-year record occurring since 2000 (http://giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20130115/). The climatic effects are most pronounced near the poles and on lofty mountaintops.

(more…)

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Book Giveaway: “Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future” by Vivien Gornitz

Rising Seas, Vivien Gornitz

This week our featured book is Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future, by Vivien Gornitz.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring the books and their editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Rising Seas: Past, Present, Future (Click here to read an excerpt.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on April 26th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!