Higher Education and the Gift of Desperation

A version of this appeared in Medium 17 July 2018. 

1_l4G88i80VlcMfTcpvkRpOQ.jpegA fully integrated complex adaptive system. Angel Oak, S. Carolina


“….. a faltering economy has raised questions in the public’s mind about the value of a college education and every revenue stream upon which institutions of higher learning depend has come under pressure.” – Drew Faust, President of Harvard 2013


 

I recently helped to conduct a workshop for a group of faculty facing large program cuts at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. UWSP will eliminate 13 majors, including English, history, philosophy, art, sociology, political science, geology, geography, Spanish, German, and French. Layoffs of tenured faculty are unavoidable and imminent. To justify the cuts, system administrators cited large budget shortfalls and falling enrollment. My colleague and I brought current thinking on curriculum design and program development to help this coalition of the willing envision a future. The situation is dire and it is legitimate to ask why upper administration had not long ago taken steps to cushion the blow of downsizing. Continue reading “Higher Education and the Gift of Desperation”

Community Adaptation in the Anthropocene

A version of this appeared as a special to the Gainesville Sun on 23 September 2018.

 

Lake Okeechobee showing algae bloom from space July 2016. NASA Earth Observatory.

 

Ecological collapse in Florida is not hypothetical. It is happening now in south Florida where population pressure and the interests of agriculture have resulted in the annual recurrence of the biggest pollution catastrophe in the history of our state. It is happening now in our springs, streams, and lakes where nitrates have disrupted the normal ecological processes that kept these bodies of water crystalline. It is happening now as political and financial interests continue to delay and derail our ability to respond to ongoing climate and ecosystem disruptions. Continue reading “Community Adaptation in the Anthropocene”

The Long Game: Facing Reality in the Environmental Century

170907084916-01-golf-wildfire-trnd-super-teaseGolfing while the mountains burn. Photo from Beacon Rock Golf Course.

Personally, I would rate the likelihood of staying under two degrees of warming as under 10 percent. – Michael Oppenheimer 2017

Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.  – Thomas Merton


Under a concrete sky on 5 November 2014, Michele and I awoke to realize that Paul LePage had been re-elected as governor of Maine. Once again, Mainers had split their votes three ways and LePage was elected by a minority of the voters to another four-year term. We were deeply disappointed because during his first term LePage had made clear his disdain for environmental concerns. Little did we know that the next few years would make LePage’s first term look like the good old days. Continue reading “The Long Game: Facing Reality in the Environmental Century”

Hurrichange is here: Denial in the time of accelerating climate change

 

170907-hurricane-irma-katia-jose-satellite-njs-406p_c8851aa4245f314c3e93bb62fae72af6.nbcnews-fp-1200-80011:15 am EDT September 7. NOAA.

“So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic, you don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere.”
Rush Limbaugh 7 September 2017 a day before he evacuated from his South Florida home.

Late last week I left my comfortable, dry, overpriced apartment in Alexandria, VA, to return to my home in Gainesville, FL, to face Irma with my partner Michele and our dogpersons, Heather and Keeper. As I write this Sunday morning, projections continue to indicate that winds in North Central Florida will exceed any in memory for this region. It is likely that the destruction of infrastructure in the region will be severe. Lives will be lost. My heart goes out to those in Ft. Myers, Tampa, Sarasota, Cedar Key, and all the west coast communities likely to be devastated by this monster. Yesterday, our climate denying governor, Rick Scott, announced with great authority, “The storm is here,” while earlier in the week two of Florida’s federal representatives voted against a debt ceiling bill that included relief for victims of Irma. Continue reading “Hurrichange is here: Denial in the time of accelerating climate change”

Ecology, Loss, and Triage

Rainforest-burning-NASA-2014Amazonia burning. NASA Earth Observatory 2014

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.”

–Anne Frank

On Sunday, 30 April 2017, the New York Times reported that global marine fisheries are being pushed to the brink. This and countless other imminent losses prompt me to once again point out that management of the global biosphere is necessary if we are to have any hope of controlling climate change and feeding ourselves. Human impacts on ecosystems are pushing the living planet into a new regime characterized by disrupted ecological relationships and accelerating extinctions on local, regional, and global scales. Ecological disruption causes ongoing positive feedbacks from widely-distributed natural sources of emissions, thus further disrupting the climate system. Globally, we are approaching a state of unmanageability on many fronts. Continue reading “Ecology, Loss, and Triage”

On the Fear of a Backlash Against Science

DC-march-for-Science-22-April-2017Assembling on the National Mall before the March for Science 22 April 2017.


‘Science is my passion, politics, my duty’  

Thomas Jefferson

On Saturday I joined more than 20,000 scientists and supporters of science to March for Science in a soaking rain on the National Mall in D.C. The experience was exhilarating and inspiring. It was a much needed antidote to constant stream of bad news for our environment emanating from the White House and Congress. These days, I sometimes feel as though we are entering a dark time when reason and learning will be driven from the mainstream of public discourse. The March for Science showed that we have strength in numbers and that scientists can, at least for this golden moment, stand united. Continue reading “On the Fear of a Backlash Against Science”