Environmentally Conscious Must-Reads

A recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that we are headed for a global warming crisis much sooner than previously predicted. Prior to this new report, environmental scientists considered the threshold for code-red climate change to be a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, the IPCC has found that the threshold is more accurately 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. If we carry on as we are without rapid and large-scale changes to protect the environment, scientists give the year 2040 as the benchmark for a global warming crisis. This would mean a widespread death of most coral reefs, more frequent wildfires, worsening food shortages, rising sea levels threatening coastal cities, increased rates of poverty and decreased access to natural resources.

During times like these, we can feel powerless in making a difference regarding these issues that seem so much larger than what’s in our control. The first step, and one we can all take, is getting educated on this pressing matter. Cornell University Press’ motto is, “Changing the World One Book at a Time.” In applying this attitude to the growing climate change problem, we’ve compiled this list of environmentally conscious must-reads.

 

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It is not a question of whether the planet is sustainable; the challenge facing life on Earth—and the life of the Earth—is whether an expanding and high-consumption species like ours is sustainable. Only new resources, new priorities, new policies and, most of all, new knowledge, can reverse the damage that humanity is doing to our home—and ourselves. A sustainable human future, Rhodes concludes in this eloquent, sobering, but ultimately optimistic book, will require a sense of responsible stewardship, for we are not owners of this planet; we are tenants.

“It’s impossible to grasp the whole planet or integrate all the descriptions of it. But because we live here, we have to try. This is not just an artistic compulsion or an existential yearning, still less an academic exercise. It’s a survival issue. This is the only planet we have. We’re stuck here, and we don’t own the place—it would be the height of arrogance to assume that we do. We’re tenants here, not owners, but we’re tenants with hope for a long-term tenancy. We want to extend our lease just as far as we can.”—from Earth

 

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Addressing participatory, transdisciplinary approaches to local stewardship of the environment, Grassroots to Global features scholars and stewards exploring the broad impacts of civic engagement with the environment. Chapters focus on questions that include: How might faith-based institutions in Chicago expand the work of church-community gardens? How do volunteer “nature cleaners” in Tehran attempt to change Iranian social norms? How does an international community in Baltimore engage local people in nature restoration while fostering social equity? How does a child in an impoverished coal mining region become a local and national leader in abandoned mine restoration? And can a loose coalition that transforms blighted areas in Indian cities into pocket parks become a social movement? From the findings of the authors’ diverse case studies, editor Marianne Krasny provides a way to help readers understand the greater implications of civic ecology practices through the lens of multiple disciplines.

 

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In Citizen Science, experts from a variety of disciplines—including scientists and education specialists working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where many large citizen science programs use birds as proxies for biodiversity—share their experiences of creating and implementing successful citizen science projects, primarily those that use massive data sets gathered by citizen scientists to better understand the impact of environmental change.

 

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In a speech delivered in Japanese at Cornell University, Naoto Kan describes the harrowing days after a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In vivid language, he tells how he struggled with the possibility that tens of millions of people would need to be evacuated. Cornell Global Perspectives is an imprint of Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. The works examine critical global challenges, often from an interdisciplinary perspective, and are intended for a non-specialist audience. The Distinguished Speaker series presents edited transcripts of talks delivered at Cornell, both in the original language and in translation.

 

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Throughout the twentieth century, despite compelling evidence that some pesticides posed a threat to human and environmental health, growers and the USDA continued to favor agricultural chemicals over cultural and biological forms of pest control. In Ghostworkers and Greens, Adam Tompkins reveals a history of unexpected cooperation between farmworker groups and environmental organizations. Environmental organizations and farmworker groups also acted as watchdogs, monitoring the activity of regulatory agencies and bringing suit when necessary to ensure that they fulfilled their responsibilities to the public. These groups served as not only lobbyists but also essential components of successful democratic governance, ensuring public participation and more effective policy implementation.

 

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City of Forests, City of Farms is a history of recent urban forestry and agriculture policy and programs in New York City. Centered on the 2007 initiative PlaNYC, this account tracks the development of policies that increased sustainability efforts in the city and dedicated more than $400 million dollars to trees via the MillionTreesNYC campaign. Lindsay K. Campbell uses PlaNYC to consider how and why nature is constructed in New York City. Campbell regards sustainability planning as a process that unfolds through the strategic interplay of actors, the deployment of different narrative frames, and the mobilizing and manipulation of the physical environment, which affects nonhuman animals and plants as well as the city’s residents.

 

Brenna O’Donnell is a publicity intern in the marketing department of Cornell University Press and strong advocate for environmental policy reform.

 

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Environmentally Conscious Must-Reads

Can Books Save Our Oceans?

Ocean plastic has been bothering me. It’s been bothering lots of people, obviously, because it’s a really bad thing.

I saw that the new Real Madrid alternative kit is made completely from ocean plastic, and it made me think about ways in which books could be made so that they have less impact on the environment.

Could book covers, for example, be made from ocean plastic rather than cardboard? Is anyone producing ink that uses this kind of waste? How could we produce printed books more sustainably? Can we drift away from traditional manufacturing methods, showing our commitment to environmental stewardship? These aren’t questions to which I have answers, but they do all intrigue me.

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Photo by Unsplash

Sustainable, environmentally friendly books exist, of course; they’re called ebooks! But that’s not what I’m thinking about. Making print books friendlier to our planet seems like a smart thing to do. Recycled paper is great, but even with that there are concerns about the footprint it leaves. Coming up with a way to make more bits of the book itself from materials that are killing our planet on a daily basis could create a business (and jobs) for people and would make the things we all love that much lovelier.

3D printers can use ocean plastic to make the “ink” they need to create things. In fact, could covers be produced by 3D printers? How cheap and effective is that? There’s printing ink made from car exhaust! Yes, that’s a thing. Could we use that? Hemp used to be the primary source material for making paper. Is that an option we could return to? Is it any better than other paper? Can that ocean plastic be made thin enough that it could be used as a paper replacement?

The marketing and branding return on such an investment is obvious: we’re making books that help clean up our oceans! And I think we’d gain some sales even though, at least to start with, we’d have to increase the price on such books because I’m guessing it would cost more to create plastic covers than it does to create cardboard ones. Would we also gain authors who just have to be published by the most Earth-loving UP on the planet? But that isn’t the main reason to contemplate this kind of sea change (sorry) in the manufacturing of books. If we can help take plastic out of the ocean, that would make everything we do better. And, because we’re talking about books here—a thing that book lovers just hate to part with—, it’s not like we’re going to replace the ocean plastic we remove with the plastic from the books when someone is done reading them!

Lots of questions, few answers here. I’m just pondering what might be possible and in the meantime, putting in place these fifteen ways to reduce my plastic consumption.


 

About the author of this blog post: Martyn Beeny is Marketing and Sales Director of Cornell University Press. He is struggling with the idea that he wrote a blog inspired by Real Madrid. Gooner for Life.

Can Books Save Our Oceans?

The power of activism: speaking out for clean water in the Hudson River

Earth Day 2018 is around the corner. What can we take from it this year, what can we repeat from the past, and what can we do differently? The story of the Hudson River presented by David Schuyler in Embattled River is a great place to start. An investigative narrative filled with lessons to be learned, it is a call to action for all of us who want to live in harmony with nature, and an example of how important it is to raise one’s voice when it comes to leading change.

My dirty stream

Named Mahicantuck (or “river that flows two ways”) by native peoples long before Hudson’s arrival, the Hudson River has been a key battleground in modern US environmentalism since 1962, when Consolidated Edison announced plans to construct a pumped storage electrical generating power plant at Storm King Mountain. But the pollution and bleak future of the Hudson River was as clear as water even before that, and by 1950, the impact of humans and our abuse of the river’s natural resources was evident.

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Still waters run deep, and a loose coalition of activists were ready to act and defend the river. Led by Scenic Hudson, and later joined by groups such as Riverkeeper, Clearwater, the Hudson River Valley Greenway, and the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, the coalition won the first of many legal and publicity battles that would halt pollution of the river, slowly reverse the damage of years of discharge, and protect hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped land in the river valley.

As Schuyler shows, the environmental victories on the Hudson had broad impact. In the state at the heart of the story, the victory resulted in the creation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (1970) to monitor, investigate, and litigate cases of pollution. At a national level, the environmental ferment in the Hudson Valley contributed directly to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the creation of the Superfund in 1980 to fund the cleanup of toxic dump sites.

An ongoing battle

As a result of the Clean Water Act and some enforcement by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Hudson River is cleaner than at any time since the dawn of industrialization in the nineteenth century. But the presence of so many chemicals in the water and the flesh of the fish that inhabit it—many of them known carcinogens—makes the efforts of the river’s defenders an ongoing battle, and today the struggle to control its uses and maintain its ecological health persists.

An arm of the sea where salty sea water meets fresh water running off the land, the Hudson River plays a pivotal role in the emergence of modern environmentalism in the United States. Embattled River is proof of what can be achieved when environmental activists stand for nature, and the stories of the pioneering advocates told by Schuyler provide lessons, reminders, and the inspiration to celebrate this Earth Day.

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Featured event:

Join the Olana Partnership from Saturday May 26th onwards, and be part of its First Ever Facebook Book Club with author David Schuyler, to discuss his newly published book Embattled River.

 

 

 

Recommended song  for this post:

 

About the author of this blog post: Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. She is passionate about sustainability and the environment, and as a kid was obsessed with a book called Mi hermana Clara ecologista.

 

 

 

 

 

The power of activism: speaking out for clean water in the Hudson River

Your Job or Your Water: Watersheds amid the “Economy Vs. Environment” Conflict

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Lake Tear in the Clouds, Hudson River headwaters

The need for improved water resource protection is urgent, yet land-use activities increasingly imperil our water supplies. With that in mind, we’re excited to present the final installment of a three-part blog series, “Watershed Paths to Water Protection,” on citizen stewardship of water resources by Karen Schneller-McDonald, author of Connecting the Drops: A Citizens’ Guide to Protecting Water Resources.

We’ve all heard the message: Natural resource protection (including regulations) raises taxes, costs jobs, and discourages economic growth. Environmental degradation may be the price you have to pay to retain your job and standard of living.

In this series, we’ve had a look at watershed science, community partnerships, and watershed groups and their goals: clean drinking water, reduced flooding, healthy ecosystems. A major obstacle to achieving these goals, no matter where we live, is the “environment vs. economy” argument framed as a zero-sum choice. Continue reading “Your Job or Your Water: Watersheds amid the “Economy Vs. Environment” Conflict”

Your Job or Your Water: Watersheds amid the “Economy Vs. Environment” Conflict