Teaching resource: video on repeat flood loss properties

NRDC produced a nice video on repeat flood loss properties, centering on the testimonial of a homeowner in Louisville, KY, that would make a good addition to a lesson on flood loss or the NFIP. It really emphasizes why buyouts are increasingly important in a changing climate. You may also want to use NRDC’s Flood Disclosure Law Map and attendant resources.

Teaching the polar vortex

As anyone who follows certain presidents on Twitter knows, it’s counterintuitive: climate change is caused by global warming, but it’s terribly cold outside, and the cold spells seem to be getting more frequent. But yes, the changing polar vortex is due to climate change.

First, there is the difference between climate and weather. Weather is what we experience day to day, but climate is the larger, long-term, physical patterns that drive the weather. Any change to the climate can cause local fluctuations in weather, but weather and climate are not the same. I like to explain it to students using the old analogy: weather is whether you bring an umbrella to school; climate is whether you own an umbrella at all. You can also, under current circumstances, use “wearing snow boots” and “owning snow boots”. Continue reading “Teaching the polar vortex”

Climate visualization tools

One of my favorite ways to enhance my teaching is through the use of data visualization tools, which have become both numerous and richly detailed. I thought I would share a few that I have been using in the past few weeks, in case they might be useful.

1. Sea level rise viewer (NOAA)

There are a lot of fantastic tools at NOAA’s Digital Coast portal, but the one I use in almost all of my classes is the Sea Level Rise Viewer.

Continue reading “Climate visualization tools”

On universities and social mobility

Readers interested in higher education might take a look at the recent article by Andrew Delbanco in the New York Review of Books, Our Universities: The Outrageous Reality. One of its major points is that higher education may not be the locus of social opportunity it is supposed to be – in fact, it may be entrenching or even widening social inequality. This retrenchment of the haves and have-nots, like implicit racism, operates on a range of levels, many of which are subtle and complex.

At the top of the prestige pyramid, in highly selective colleges like those of the Ivy League, students from the bottom income quartile in our society make up around 5 percent of the enrollments. This meager figure is often explained as the consequence of a regrettable reality: qualified students from disadvantaged backgrounds simply do not exist in significant numbers. But it’s not so. A recent study by Caroline Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard shows that the great majority of high-achieving low-income students (those scoring at or above the ninetieth percentile on standardized tests, and with high school grades of A- or higher) never apply to any selective college, much less to several, as their better-off peers typically do.3 Their numbers, which Hoxby and Avery estimate at between 25,000 and 35,000 of each year’s high school seniors, “are much greater than college admissions staff generally believe,” in part because most such students get little if any counseling in high school about the intricate process of applying to a selective college—so they rarely do.

Continue reading “On universities and social mobility”