Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pura Vida -- Coffee for Good

Although I've been without television for close to seven years now, I don't miss out, because friends look out for me and let me know whenever something really important is on. Two different friends let me know about this story, which aired on PBS a couple of days ago.

It concerns Pura Vida, a coffee company that was started by a former Microsoft executive and that directs all of its profits toward development projects in coffee-producing communities.

This video report describes some of the projects the company has sponsored, and explains that the coffee is sold on several hundred college campuses. Once I saw the story, I remembered buying some of this coffee at Emerson College just before heading over to the David Byrne concert last Halloween. As we move toward fair-trade on our own campus, this is one company to keep in mind!

Post-Bush Environmental Protection

Environmental policies are set by laws and interpreted by the courts, but the Executive Branch has a lot of influence over what actually happens. This five-minute report on NPR's All Things Considered provides a good overview of some of the environmental policies most likely to change as the Obama Administration reviews Bush-era decisions.

Even if no new laws are enacted, differences could be seen with respect to climate change, air and water pollution, endangered species and pesticides.

John Muir's Botanical Travels

Some of Muir's collection.
Photo: Stephen J. Joseph
I have known John Muir (1838-1914) as the founder of the Sierra Club and a leading preservationist of the Teddy Roosevelt era. For the first directorate of the Forest Service, Roosevelt pass Muir over in favor of his friend and rival Gifford Pinchot -- a conservationist rather than a strict preservationist.Muir had a strong spiritual side and is known for his very long walks in the wilderness with little more than a stick and a cup. From this On Point radio production, I learned that he was also an accomplished botanist and something of a biogeographer. This fascinating hour-long program touches on biography, botany, biodiversity, and climate change.

Wherever Muir traveled, he gathered plant specimens, often sending them to friends like post cards. The featured guest on this program is Bonnie Gisel, who searched out these artifacts for a new book. My only qualm about this otherwise fascinating program is Gisel's response to a caller who asked about Muir's role in driving indigenous people out of the Yosemite Valley. As with many biographers of great figures, she became more of an apologist than a scholar on this question, essentially explaining that Muir was less racist than his contemporaries.

See more about how Muir viewed indigenous Americans -- and how many of them view him today -- in my 2016 post Muir to the Story.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


In the summer of 2008, the BSC geography department acquired EarthView, a 20-foot-tall portable classroom in the form of a globe. Since then, I have been traveling with the EarthView team to deliver geographic education to thousands of elementary and middle-school students. In the process, we have been promoting the critical need for more comprehensive geographic education in the United States, particularly in Massachusetts.

We have established a dedicated blog to promote the program, post media coverage of the active student learning that surrounds EarthView, and field student questions. The experience of being with a giant globe typically generates many more questions than we can answer during each visit, so we are now inviting students to continue the dialog with us.