Notebook

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.

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New compendium of tools for post-disaster recovery (and vulnerability assessment)

The result of a grant from the Institute of Structural Engineers, Laura Howlett of University College London has written a report detailing currently available tools for post-disaster recovery. It’s titled “Measuring Recovery: signposts to good practice” and can be downloaded from the EEFIT Grants website, here.

Significantly, many of the tools work not only for post-disaster recovery but also pre-disaster vulnerability assessment, making the report useful for a range of academics and professionals working on either prevention or recovery.

Weekly Productivity Template

Summer should be the time for academic writing, but if you’re a teaching oriented person (as I am), it’s very easy to become consumed with teaching-related tasks. In many ways teaching is more seductive to me during the summer because it’s when all the fun planning happens for the new classes I’m teaching in the next year – textbook and article selection, puzzling out the right pedagogical tools to employ to engage students in the material, dig around the internet for new case studies, demonstrations, and games. All of that is so fun and writing doesn’t get any easier just because it’s the summer.

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Two new climate change educational resources

A coalition of environmental research institutions in Ithaca, NY have produced a resource for high school science teachers teaching climate change. You can download it for free from their website, or order a paper copy for $25, and they are also running a crowd-funding campaign to send a copy to every high school science teacher in the US.

There’s also a new MOOC available via Coursera for the general public who are interested in climate change, want to take action, but don’t feel like they know how to do it. I think it costs something to take the course, but there are scholarships available. The course was developed and is taught by professors from the University of Michigan and elsewhere. I particularly like this idea because it focuses not just on education, but on how individuals and groups can take action to address climate change.

An Open Letter to the New York Times

 

In response to Bret Stephens’ debut as an op-ed columnist. NB if you want to voice your concern about the Gray Lady employing this person, there is an online petition protesting Stephens’ appointment.

To the Editors of the New York Times

As a climate scientist, I was unnerved by your appointment of Bret Stephens as a new op-ed columnist. However, as a long-time reader of the New York Times, I decided to trust your judgment.

However, Stephens’ first column indicates that your judgment has failed, and your willingness to court controversy and indulge the anti-intellectual bias of the right wing is now an abdication of your responsibility to fact-based journalism. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the New York Times”

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.

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