Welcome New SustainRT Steering Committee Members!

Welcome to the new SustainRT Committee Chairs and Steering Committee members!

This summer, SustainRT welcomed new members to both the Steering Committee and to the roles of Chair and Co-Chair to other standing committees. Please join us in welcoming:

  • Jenn Stayton from the University of North Texas, as our Secretary. She replaces Lisa Kropp of the Lindenhurst Memorial Library in NY, who moves into the Coordinator Elect position.
  • Casey Conlin of the Mid Hudson Library System in New York, assumes the role of SustainRT Coordinator. Uta Husson-Christian moves into the role of Past Coordinator, serving from Oregon State University.
  • Two new Member-at-Large terms began this year. Genee Bright of the New York Public Library, takes over the final year of a vacated term, while Vivienne Byrd of Los Angeles Public Library assumes a two year term.
  • Ed Garcia, from the Cranston Public Library  is the new liaison to the ALA Executive Board – an important position that helps keep SustainRT front and center within the ALA.

Matt Bollerman, CEO of the Hauppauge Public Library in NY, remains active as SustainRT’s ALA Councilor. And we are lucky to still have Marcia Bailey from the University of Michigan, serving as the Treasurer for another term.

SustainRT hosts six very active committees, and the Chairs and Co-Chairs of these committees engage members, move the work of SustainRT forward, and continue to keep sustainability in libraries at the forefront of our work. 

Kacper Jarecki of the Queens Library System, in NY, is back for another year of chairing the Booklist Committee. This committee publishes a “Top Ten” list of children’s books focusing on sustainable issues each year around Earth Day. They are also tasked with keeping the Zotero Library updated. The Zotero Library houses many articles, resources, and other information on sustainability that pertains to libraries.

Mandi Goodsett of Cleveland State University in Ohio, and Beth Stout of Indiana University East, chair the Outreach Committee. The committee does a fabulous job marketing the work of SustainRT, along with other sustainable information and resources across the field. They organize Facebook, Blog, Instagram and Twitter posts, along with posting to ALA Connect on behalf of SustainRT.

Laura Ploenzke of the Avon Lake Public Library in Ohio, returns for another year chairing the Governance Committee. This committee works closely with the SustainRT ALA Councilor, moving forward the Task Force on Sustainability recommendations, as well as ensuring that SustainRT has a voice with the ALA Executive Board.

The Online Education Committee welcomes new Chair, Sarah Joy Hrachovy, from the Concordia University Irvine. She will be working with committee members on a series of webinars for SustainRT members to help educate and guide us on sustainable practices and programs.

Tara Lingg of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library, in NY, takes over as the Chair of the Programming Committee. This committee ensures that SustainRT has quality, innovative and interesting programs and discussion groups at both MidWinter and Annual conferences.

The Membership Committee also has a new Chair – Britt Fagerheim, of Utah State University. With changes coming soon to ALA’s structure and membership base, this committee will be working hard to ensure that SustainRT has the minimum number (and beyond!) of paid membership necessary to remain an active roundtable within ALA.

With so much going on, there is always an opportunity to both join SustainRT if you aren’t yet a member, and to volunteer for a committee! In fact, the Steering Committee recently voted to approve a new Awards Committee that will administer the awards and citations of the roundtable, while supporting and promoting sustainability in libraries by recognizing exemplars and best practice in the field. Interested in learning more about serving on the Awards Committee? Email SustainRT Coordinator Casey Conlin at cconlin@midhudson.org for more information or to apply.

Sustainability Book Review: Poisoned Water

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

Review: Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson (May 2020; Bloomsbury Children’s Books).

Submitted by Mary Callahan, Queen Public Library

At a time when conversations about systemic racism are taking place across the country, Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson is a reminder that environmentalism cannot be extricated from the quest social justice.

The source of the water that gives this book its title was indisputably the polluted Flint River, but, as this book clearly describes, the environmental issues of the Flint water crisis were inextricably linked to issues of race and class.

‘The book has been labeled “for young readers” (ages 10-17) by its publisher, but its subject matter seems more suited to teens than younger readers. In fact, adults looking for a straightforward and engaging overview of the story will find it here. In clear prose, the authors document the events and decisions that led to the water crisis in Flint Michigan and the ways in which the city’s residents—many poor and people of color—struggled to have their concerns about the city’s polluted water supply addressed.

The decision to change Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River had its roots in the economic disaster created by massive layoffs at General Motors, the company that was responsible for the growth of Flint and the source of its nickname, the Vehicle City. In 2011, the city, in massive debt, was placed under the supervision of a series of governor-appointed emergency managers whose primary focus was saving money. The water crisis began as a cost-cutting plan. For the preceding 50 years, Flint’s drinking water was taken from Lake Huron and processed and piped in from Detroit. But as Detroit’s water rates increased, Flint officials decided to save money by creating a new pipeline that would deliver water directly from Lake Huron to the Flint, bypassing Detroit. During the two to three years the new pipeline was being built, Flint’s water would come from the Flint River.

The switch occurred in April 2014. In the ensuing year and a half, polluted river water, further tainted by the city’s improper chemical treatment and aging water pipes, poisoned thousands of Flint children with lead, resulted in an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, and caused countless other health ailments. But while Flint residents raised their concerns about the water almost immediately, the water supply was not switched back to Lake Huron for 18 months—until October 2015—and the effects on the city’s water system and its residents still linger.

Cooper, a journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, conducted extensive research into public records, news accounts, and emails. But the story is primarily focused on the experiences of city residents who tried to get city, state, and federal officials to address the problem. The indifference of the local officials is mind-boggling: although they were repeatedly presented with samples of off-color, foul-smelling water; with tests revealing high lead levels; and even with clear evidence that the water corroded metal parts at a GM factory, they refused to admit the water posed a danger to people. (Eventually GM arranged to get its water from Lake Huron, but the city would not do the same for the residential water supply.)

Poisoned Water is a testament to the power of grassroots activism. It recognizes, in particular, the leadership positions played by many people of color in Flint. These leaders, the authors note, were often overlooked in earlier reports on the Flint water crisis. As Curt Guyette, a journalist who covered the water crisis story for the ACLU notes, “A lot of people who were never before at the same table came together and worked together really effectively to bring this crisis to the attention of the world.” He added, “It was the residents who saved themselves. That’s the really inspiring aspect of this story… We can save ourselves.”

As much about government mismanagement as it is about water pollution, Poisoned Water draws a timely connection between the environmentalist and social justice movements. As co-author Marc Aronson said in an interview with Publishers Weekly, “As we think about preserving the Earth and our relationship with it, we shouldn’t separate concerns of environmentalism and ecology from the power structures in our world. Those who are most victimized are those with the least power.”

For further reading about how Flint is navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, check out this photo essay published by the New York Times.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much did you know about the Flint water crisis before reading this book? Were you surprised by anything that you read?
  2. Why do you think officials were so slow in responding when Flint residents complained about the water from the Flint River?
  3. Do you think the Flint water crisis was an environmental crisis or a political one?
  4. Can you think of other environmental crises that were caused or complicated by political issues?

Sustainability Book Review: The Uninhabitable Earth

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Book Review by Kacper Jarecki

It’s easy to take things for granted – and possibly the biggest thing we take for granted is planet Earth. This non-fiction book is a real eye-opener because it shows us that Earth as we know it, may not be around for much longer. During this time of the pandemic, we are already experiencing and adjusting to new realities of everyday life. However, according to David Wallace-Wells, this might just be a walk in the park compared with what’s to come.

This book does not pull any punches, David Wallace-Wells does not spare us one bit, starting with the title itself. In the first page he writes about the 5 mass extinctions that have already occurred on this planet. I didn’t know there were that many, I only knew about the dinosaurs! A few pages later on page 6, he writes, “whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia, south of Siberia would be rendered uninhabitable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding” by the year 2100 if the global temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius. That there may be 200 million climate refugees by 2050. That conflict and warfare between countries could double as countries strive to gain access to more and more limited resources.

David Wallace-Wells writes that instead of dominating Earth, we are actually arming it through pollution, and turning it into an “angry beast” or even “war machine.” David Wallace-Wells even debates whether it is moral to reproduce and have children in this climate where so many things can go wrong. He decides to have hope and he does have a child, named Rocca. Fortunately, we still have a small level of control over what happens. He writes on page 30, “Each of us imposes some suffering on our future selves every time we flip on a light switch, buy a plane ticket, or fail to vote.” He cites ways cities in the future will compete to be greener (since they will have no choice), like banning cars, and having local vertical farms so food won’t have far to travel.

Most of this book describes the multiple horrible ways that global warming will affect Earth including droughts, floods, fires, new deadly virus and bacteria strains, and much more. If you are a fiction writer, this book certainly provides different worst-case scenarios you may not have imagined. The scary part is that this may be real. However, if the author can still have hope and be optimistic after writing this, then we as readers should be hopeful too, and not just hopeful, but inspired to take an active part to save Earth, not just for ourselves, but for all the creatures who call Earth home.

Discussion Questions:

1.       Which facts in the book surprised you? For example, I didn’t know about the “Great Pacific garbage patch” twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean.

2.       Which of David Wallace-Wells’s scenarios scares you the most?

3.       What are some things you are doing now to help combat climate change?

4.       Is there anything more you can do?

5.       Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Earth? Do you think things will get better or worse, and why?