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?

2020 SustainRT Carbon Offsets Grant

The ALA Sustainability Round Table is excited to announce that this year it will be donating its Carbon Offset Travel Grant to help reduce the carbon footprint of the technology necessary to conduct the ALA Annual Conference remotely. In the past, SustainRT offered a $500 travel grant to offset travel costs for a SustainRT member to attend the ALA Annual Conference. However, with the ALA Annual Conference canceled and its necessary travel suspended, this year SustainRT has decided to instead contribute a $500 carbon offsets donation to Native Energy, ALA’s carbon offsets provider. This money will help to offset the carbon emissions caused by ALA members’ increased use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Native Energy is an organization dedicated to helping build Native American farmer-owned, and community-based projects. You are welcome to join ALA in supporting the important work of Native Energy by purchasing carbon offsets.

Thank you for supporting SustainRT’s work and be well!

Sustainability during Stay-at-Home Survey: Results

Some of us may now be back to working in our library branches or buildings. Others may still be working from home, or dealing with challenges from furlough to job loss to providing full-time child care while working to pivoting to all-virtual programming. No matter our current circumstances, it feels important to reflect on the experiences, lessons, and changes wrought by our times under Stay-at-Home order, especially when it comes to sustainability in our day-to-day lives! 

To this end, we’re so excited to share the responses to our SustainRT Outreach Committee “Sustainability During Stay-at-Home” Survey. More than 100 people responded, and it was a pleasure to receive these small glimpses into each other’s lives in a time when we can all feel really spread apart. 

Below, find visual representations of responses to the surveys questions, as well as some selections from all the wonderful, individualized responses we received (some are excerpted from longer passages). Thanks to everybody who participated!

 

Question 1: Have you been more conscious of/practiced any of the following sustainable behaviors during your stay-at-home time? Select all that apply.

 

Question 2: Share some more about a sustainable practice that became part of your life during Stay-at-Home, whether big or small! Tell us how you got started, what inspired you, how easy or difficult this practice is, how you feel now that you’re doing it– whatever you’d like to share.

About foraging…something I’d be wanting to learn more about. Listening to a lot of podcasts (esp. Susus Weed) and re-reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Eulle Gibbons. I got permission to pick stinging nettle from a university garden. Now I’m making uber nutritious soups, quiches, etc. Also violet leaves, garlic mustard, redbud flowers and soon linden leaves and flowers. Free, highly nutritive food all over the place! I feel grateful for the abundance of the Earth. I want to teach people about how to forage.”

“I started walking and then biking longer and longer distances. It honestly never occurred to me before. I always felt like I didn’t have enough time. In reality, biking takes about the same time as driving in many instances. But I didn’t have the mental space required to try it out until the lockdown.”

“Using a timer to limit shower time”

“I have been more conscious about providing amenities around my home to encourage biodiversity and support wildlife. I’ve created a “bird hotel” which is a series of bird feeders and hummingbird stations. I often make my own bird suet from leftover bacon grease and homemade sugar water for the hummingbirds. I also have planted many pollinator plants as part of my landscaping routine. Being at home allows me to observe the patterns of the birds more as well as provide better care for my plants….The care for the birds led to a desire to care for other species and the decision to focus on planting pollinator plants. It has been very easy to do this.”

 

Question 3: Are there any ways you’ve noticed Stay-at-Home/Covid-19 negatively affecting your ability to practice sustainable behaviors? 

Further Comments:

“I feel badly about all the plastic bags from shopping, since reusable totes aren’t allowed in our state now. We’ll save and reuse, but it still seems counter to our efforts in the last few years.”

“I’m trying to work from home which is good, except that transit ridership is way down and I’m afraid this will lead to far more car driving once the stay at home order lifts.”

“Using more toilet paper!”

“Lots and lots of wipes”

“Increased emphasis on single-use materials to prevent contamination”

“I regularly get supplies at a bulk store. COVID-19 has meant that I can’t bring my own clean containers from home, so I’m ending up buying a lot more packaging.”

Every meal at home meant running the dishwasher daily.  It broke!  The part can’t be replaced so the whole machine needs to be (and we’re washing less efficiently in the meantime.)”

“Increased packaging waste from take out for two reasons: 1) you can no longer bring your own containers to restaurants when ordered food to go, 2) I have ordered take out more often in order to support independent restaurants in the hopes they will make it through (previously I rarely ordered take out unless the restaurant allowed me to bring my own container).  Another example: with the elimination of bulk bins and reusable bags, I cannot buy nuts, lentils, dried fruit, etc. from bulk bins using my own reusable produce bags. I am forced to buy pre-packaged items…I can still practice my sustainable behavior but with more effort and time (it is worth it).”

Please Participate in our Survey: Sustainability during Stay-at-Home!

The SustainRT Outreach Committee has put together this super short survey about your thoughts and experiences around sustainability during Stay-at-Home/quarantine. We hope you’ll participate, and we’ll share some responses on the SustainRT Blog to keep us connected and hopefully inspire each other to adopt or continue sustainable practices in this time of great potential for change.

Click here to participate, and thank you!

 

Sustainable Connections during Covid-19: An Interview

Interview with Queens Public Library Manager Ronglin Wan

By Kacper Jarecki

One of the interesting things about working from home is that during online meetings and video conferencing, you get to peek into people’s homes. It was during one of these meetings that I learned that one of my fellow library managers, Ronglin Wan, raises chickens from home. I thought this was really cool, and also a sustainable way to make eggs.

KJ: How many chickens do you have? Do they have names?

RW: I currently keep six hens in five breeds: 2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Barred Rock, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Brahma, 1 Black Australorp. I have not given a name to each of them yet.

KJ: What inspired you to keep chickens at home? How long have you had them?

RW: It was primarily our intention to have chickens as pets and as egg layers. Both my wife and I used to keep chicks in our childhood and loved them immensely. Chickens can be lovely creatures to observe as they forage in the backyard. But our objective is now more on the side of keeping hens for fresh, organic eggs, which provide essential nutrients our body needs. 

We bought 3-day-old chicks last April so we have had them for thirteen months now.

KJ: Where do you keep your chickens? Is it hard to care for them?

RW: We keep them in the backyard. When they were small, we let them roam in the entire yard. As they grow older, they become quite “destructive”, meaning they will eat up all the grass. Now we keep them within the back half. It is not too hard to care for them. We feed them with organic chicken feed, non GMO rice and other grains, kitchen scraps, fresh vegetables or grass from the front yard. We spend about one hour on them each day. The work includes feeding and cleaning the coop. They are easy to keep: can be kept in a coop all day, or free range. 

KJ: How often do they lay eggs? Do their eggs taste better than the ones at the store?

RW: Currently a hen lays an egg in about 30 hours. In summer when the daylight is longer, each will give us an egg a day. One interesting thing about the hens is that they tend to lay their eggs in one nest, even though I have four nests in the coop. When a laying hen is occupying the nest, another hen, ready to lay as well, waits outside, if she is a patient one, or cackles loudly and repeatedly, if she is a noisy one, or squeezes in as well, if she is a bully.

The eggs do taste better than the ones we buy in stores, as we feed the chickens with organic feed supplemented with fresh vegetables and meat. 

 KJ: How does having chickens make you feel? Do you enjoy caring for them? 

RW: Keeping chickens is fun. Some hens are very friendly; they will follow you around thinking you might toss some goodies to them. The fluffy creatures are often a pleasant sight to watch as they are colorful and lovely. 

 My wife enjoys keeping the chickens. She cooks the feed even though chickens can eat feed raw. But the hot food makes the hens happy especially in winter. 

 It is very satisfying to collect eggs in the evening. For me, the eggs are the reward for a day’s work. 

KJ: How do you like to prepare your eggs? Do you have any good recipes? 

RW: We prepare eggs in several ways, scrambled (fried or baked), poached, boiled, dropped in soup, used in making omelet, quiches, bread, cakes. 

My wife also uses eggs to make egg dumplings. She scrambles eggs in a bow, drops a tablespoonful of the egg mixture into a round scoop, heats and swirls it over flames. When the egg mixture nearly hardens over the inner surface of the scoop, she adds minced meat onto the egg sheet, and folds half of it over to envelope the meat. When the two sides sticks together with meat inside, the dumpling is done. She makes many of them and uses them in a soup. They are delicious. 

KJ: Thanks, Ron! See you at our next Managers Meeting 😉

Sustainability Book Review: City Quitters

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.

City Quitters Book — Karen Rosenkranz

City Quitters: An Exploration of Post-Urban Life

by Karen Rosenkranz

Reviewed by Kacper Jarecki

City Quitters is a high-quality book with glossy paper and beautiful photographs. As the title suggests, this book follows people who have “quit” city life to move to the countryside. It is a work of nonfiction. There are 22 personal stories of various people and what motivated them to change their lifestyle. What is also interesting is that there are small towns in 12 countries featured here, including America, Portugal, Japan, China, India, Brazil, and more.

I really enjoyed living vicariously reading stories of these different people: usually taking a chance to just leave it all behind and start anew. Some underlying themes that I saw were the affordability of living in the countryside. Having more time to engage in creative endeavors. The quietness. The ability to just go for a walk in the wilderness anytime. Reading this book and looking through the pictures was relaxing and felt like a breath of fresh air.

One story here featured someone who moved from New York City to Aresus, a small town in Italy with only 6 people! I can’t imagine doing that, but it certainly was fun reading about it. This same person was a graffiti artist, and there is even a picture of him doing graffiti on a cactus, drawing a smiley face on it with spray paint. I guess you can take a person out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the person, lol. I was even surprised to learn of another person moving to Hudson, NY, a small artistic community, about 2 hours away from where I live (and where I want to visit now). She left the city because it was just too expensive for her. She talked about being able to follow her dream and open up her own restaurant with her partner. She mentioned how affordable it was and how people in the community went out of their way to help her. If you saw the pictures, the design of her restaurant is very unique. She really had a very particular vision and I’m happy for her to be able to bring it to life, whereas in New York City, she would probably have gone deep in debt and spent countless hours, just to find a small place to rent. This is just a small sample of the stories. There are many more including someone who built her own home in the trees, a couple who decided to raise their kids to be closer to nature, someone (a skateboarder) who wanted to grow his own food…

After the end of every chapter is a web page link or resource so that you can learn more about the person featured, and possibly even get in touch with them. I love books because they can take you anywhere, and it is so inspiring to read about people taking a chance to turn their fantasy to reality. This book is not meant to be read in one sitting. Whenever you need a break from that big city life, you can just read a story at random, and feel a little better. The one thing I will say, is that most of these people in these pages seem to be artists or designers who can work remotely. Although I don’t exactly see myself in their shoes, I do enjoy reading about them.

 

Discussion questions:

  •         Out of the 22 stories in the book, which one did you relate to the most, and why?
  •         What are the benefits of living in a small town? What are the drawbacks?
  •         If you had a choice of a small town, what kind of town would you like? For example, would you like to live close to the beach, the forest, the desert, the mountains, an island?
  •         If you could try living in any country besides your own, which one would it be? Why?
  •         Many of the people in the book strive to be self-sufficient. Do you ever see yourself growing your own food? Making repairs to your own house? Would you be willing to learn?
  •         Cities usually have jobs, and if you want to leave the city, an entrepreneurial spirit is helpful to be able to get by. If you could create your own business, what would it be?
  •         Many people in this book talk about having more time after moving to the countryside. If you had more time, what would you do? What kind of hobbies or projects would you pursue?

Sustainability Book Review: The Big Thaw

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.

Image result for the big thaw

The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon, Modern Science, And A Race To Save The World

By Eric Scigliano, Chris Linder, et al.

Review by C. Daetwyler

Like so many of the best reads, I came across The Big Thaw while browsing in search of something else entirely, but it was a fortunate find indeed. A book on geoscience research in Siberia might not be the first thing to grab your attention, but it is well worth checking out.

This book introduces cutting-edge research on climate change in the Arctic, focusing on the work of the Polaris Project of the Woods Hole Research Center. It deals with big issues – carbon sequestration, the loss of permafrost, biome change, and how it could affect the future of the planet. But it is, ultimately, a hopeful story, about the people working diligently to understand the environment and learn about and adapt for the future. And the story goes farther afield, to look at the impact of change in other parts of the world.

The Big Thaw, for all its science, is really a collection of very personal stories. We are introduced to the lives of individual scientists, from senior scholars to young students; learning about what brought them to Siberia, and the importance and the adventure of their work.

Additionally, this is a beautiful book. Chris Linder’s photography takes us on an adventure through the Siberian wilderness, from forest to marsh to ice-filled cave, from grand panoramas to intimate shots of single flowers. But even more, what caught my attention are the portraits of scientists at work, of the daily lives of the scientists and students exploring the world and their hands-on experiences getting literally down and dirty with climate change.

This book can be an important part of any collection. It’s a gorgeous and engaging book, and a great introduction to a not always well understood aspect of climate science. It’s also an important chance to see the diversity at work in the field, as people from all walks of life work together to understand this fragile environment, and hope for the future.

 

Book Discussion Questions:

  1. The book talks extensively about the impact of climate change not just in the Arctic, but around the world. What changes have you seen in your community?
  2. There are profiles of a number of individual scientists and students in the book. Did any strike you as particularly interesting? Who spoke to your own experiences? 
  3. If you had an opportunity to go to Siberia to work with the scientists, would you do it? Why or why not?
  4. What photos stood out for you? Do you feel like looking at photos gave you a better sense of connection with the story?
  5. What can you do as a “library scientist” to combat climate change?

2020 SustainRT Election: Candidate Statements

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The 2020 SustainRT elections are coming right up! The elections will open on March 9, 2020 and close at 11:59 p.m. on April 1, 2020. Click on the link below to learn more about the candidates by reading their candidate statements.

SustainRT 2020 Candidate Statements (PDF)

 

Sustainability Book Review: No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

As a new, reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will be posting reviews of books related to sustainability. Enjoy our first review, written by Kacper Jarecki, below! Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

No One is Too Small to Make a Difference

Image result for no one is too small to make a difference

By Greta Thunberg

Review by Kacper Jarecki

I like to pet-sit since I enjoy making new animal friends. Over the holidays I was pet-sitting 2 cats in someone’s home. It was here that I saw Greta Thunberg’s book for the first time. The book is small – 106 pages, so it’s easy to pick up and start reading.

Greta’s personal story is very inspiring. She was born in 2003 and from a young age took a stand based on her belief of what is right. She has Asperger Syndrome. Now she is famous world-wide, even getting a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. She started getting attention in 2018, refusing to go to school at 15 years old to instead strike in front of Parliament in Sweden, her home country, holding up a sign to protest a lack of action on climate change. Since then, she’s given speeches world-wide – in the UK, Poland, Germany, France, USA, and more.

Greta’s speeches are collected here. Her style is very conversational and hard-hitting, for example, making a metaphor for global warming that “our house is on fire” (p.17) and “I want you to panic” (p.22). She also includes pertinent facts, many of which I didn’t even realize, such as that scientists estimate that 200 species go extinct every day (p.7). Greta is definitely capable of giving memorable quotes and keeping the reader’s attention engaged.

Besides being a primer on climate change, Greta also discusses overcoming hardships, such as her parents’ refusal to support her, to having Aspergers, to getting bullied on Facebook, not to mention the dire future she may inherit from the catastrophic effects of climate change. She writes “hope is something you have to earn” (p.38). Reading this book is a great motivation to go out and stand up for what you believe in.

Greta’s book is a great addition to any library. The book at full price is only $10, so any library with budget limitations can still easily obtain a copy. It appeals to a large audience from older kids to adults, and I can tell you from personal experience that cats will enjoy sleeping on the book while you are reading it.

 

Book Discussion Questions:

  1.       Greta writes “Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift” (p.28). What makes you unique and how do you use your gift to make the world a better place?
  2.       “What do we want the future living conditions for all species to be like?” (p.54). Describe what a perfect future would look like from your perspective.
  3.       One of Greta’s speeches is titled, “Can You Hear Me?” (p. 55). If you could say one thing to everyone in the world, what would you say?
  4.       Greta expressed anger at the previous generation for not doing enough to combat climate change and leaving a mess for future generations. When you were in your teens, what did you rebel against? Would the teen version of you approve of your current self?
  5.       Which speech of Greta’s is your favorite? Do you have any favorite quotes?

SustainRT Midwinter Sessions

Happy New Year! If you are heading to Philadelphia for ALA Midwinter, we hope to see you at the following SustainRT or sustainability related programs:

1/25, 10:30am in PCC 201 A/B/C, Sustainability Is Now a Core Value. So… Now What? (Event Link)

1/25, 3:00pm in PCC 117, SustainRT’s Member Meeting (Event Link)

1/26, 2:30pm in PCC 117, SustainRT’s Sustainability Programming in Libraries Discussion (Event Link)