Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Author Archives: Brandon Foreman


April 20th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)
  1. power/ability – spreads seeds
  2. name – Green Giant
  3. motto – “Seeds to make you grow big like me”
  4. outfit – Green cape with a picture of corn, shirt with a chart of fruits and vegetables
  5. appearance – Basically the Hulk
  6. transportation – dragon
  7. weakness – Unable to eat meat
  8. sidekick – Dragon – picks where to spread the seeds
  9. villain – Monsanto
  10. form/species – Human with dragon sidekick
  11. back story – Green Giant needs infinite vitamins to live


Final Project Abstract – Brandon Foreman

April 8th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Project: Economic Analysis of the Effect of Oil on the Nigerian Economy

Things to consider:

  • Timeline of events
  • Map of oil rich areas
  • Total supply capacity
  • Brief long term history of energy/oil
  • Brief history of recent oil developments
  • GDP, Infrastructure and jobs created by oil companies
  • Brief overview of Nigerian conflict
  • Impact of supply disruptions on oil market
  • Impact of supply disruptions on daily life for Nigerians


Structure: PowerPoint Presentation, Excel Model

Sources: Energy Information Administration (EIA), news reports, Wikipedia, quotes

Blog Post 9 – Brandon Foreman

March 31st, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

One particular vignette from Inhabit captured my attention: there are over one million rooftops in New York, and each year the city dumps thirty billion tons of sewage water into local bodies of water. As a response, more and more groups are installing rooftop gardens.

Immediately, I grasped the brilliance of this idea. The essence of permaculture, what easier way is there to mutually benefit humans and the environment? Rooftop landscaping could produce a massive carbon sink, save on air conditioning costs, provide new habitats to animals, as well as stimulate the psychological perk we derive from green spaces. Without limiting rooftop cultivation to simply a garden, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one day New York and our other metropoles could host a forest in the sky.

Permaculture is all about finding sustainable solutions and living symbiotically alongside nature rather than siphoning its many gifts, and large scale rooftop cultivation fits the bill. The idea is not outlandish or without precedent: the Persians were famed for their Hanging Gardens of Babylon. If people are able to recognize the ease with which such a concept can be facilitated, it might not be long before the “concrete jungle” has equal emphasis on the second word as the first.

Blog Post 8 – Brandon Foreman

March 24th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Abstract: Reading the first chapter of the Carbon Diaries introduced the possibility of living in a society drastically altered from today catalyzed by a certain occurrence. In the world presented to us, there was a great storm that ramped up pressure to cut back usage of carbon. Reflecting upon this story, I began to ponder the potential consequences of an opposite situation, where the world had tried to convert its approach towards energy; yet, as a result of a deadly explosion caused by the new approach or another failure, the world instead decided to maximize its dependence on fossil fuels, leading to extreme wealth inequality and disregard for environmental rights. The imagery of such a world is found below.

Blog Post 7 – Brandon Foreman

March 11th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Climate change reminds me a lot of the Marvel movies where there is a super-sized, evil villain who knocks down buildings, turns the sky to black, and takes an army of good guys to tackle it. They are monstrous forces and can refute any individual effort that threatens to bring it down.

While I have learned a ton from this class and can see the good that humanities can do to address climate change, I am a scientist at heart and believe in the techno-fix. The humanities is used to spread awareness, and it can do a wonderful and absolutely imperative job, but when that big battle does occur, it will be the physical tools and methods humans have developed that will ultimately fight climate change.

I wanted to take a moment to brainstorm some engineering feats that would make a difference. Trees are great, but what if, similar to a vacuum, there was a machine that could suck pollutants out of the water or carbon out of the air and use it to create materials? What if we could replicate the effects of a freezer or refrigerator on a mass scale to halt the temperature increase in the arctic? How long will it take to make corn an effective energy source? Can we adjust cattle feed so that cows release less methane?

When push comes to shove, these are the types of machines and mechanisms we will have to create in order to stop climate change. I have faith in humans to do it; still, all these projects require time and a team. The only question is if we start early enough before it is too late.

The Paris Agreement

March 9th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Paris Agreement Summary

Article 1

  • A glossary for the paper

Article 2

    • It is time to respond more appropriately to climate change through sustainability and eradication of poverty.
    • Become more adaptable and have each country work within their capabilities, whatever they may be.


  • Don’t let temperatures get 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.


Article 3

  • Countries should be ambitious and help each other out in following the Agreement.

Article 4

    • Reach peak emissions ASAP, then rapidly reduce.


  • Each nation sets a goal beyond its current capabilities.
  • Developed countries take the lead, support developing.
  • Report information on progress with transparency every 5 years.


  • Time frames TBD by the conference.
  • Responsible for own emissions level.
  • Economy-wide changes if achievable.

Article 5

  • Preserve large forests – properly incentivize stakeholders to do so, perhaps through monetary conservation

Article 6

  • Countries acknowledge that action is voluntary
  • Countries will face adaptation costs and any proceeds obtained can be used to offset these costs
  • Countries should use a variety of methods to achieve their planned contributions

Article 7

    • Countries need to adapt to prevent climate change
    • Adaptation costs in the present will greatly reduce adaptation costs later on
    • Countries should cooperate to share research and techniques


  • Developed countries should assist less developed countries


  • The UN will lend support
  • Natural resources must be properly managed
  • Adaptation efforts will be recognized by the “global stockplace”

Article 8

  • All parties recognizing the need for addressing loss and damage to climate
  • The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts is the overseeing body for the Paris Agreement
  • Detailed out ways they can cooperate such as early warning systems, “comprehensive risk assessment and management”

Article 9

  • Developed countries have to provide the resources to assist developing countries in their efforts
  • Developed countries should lead the way for “climate finance” for resources, instruments, etc.
  • Need to communicate efforts for qualitatively and quantitatively providing aid to developed countries biennially

Article 10

    • The agreement highlights the nations sharing a long term vision and coming to a unanimous agreement to use technology in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • They will strengthen cooperative action on technology development and transfer.
    • The Technology Mechanism established will thus serve the agreement, working in accordance to the Technology Framework.
    • Accelerate, encourage and enable innovation


  • Excessive jargon, repetition and ambiguous claims of what to do. No concrete plans in accordance to their “long term vision”


  • Important: To support developing nations.

Article 11

  • Calls for the need of capacity building in high risk areas ie. developing countries, and those who will be most adversely affected by climate change.
  • Says developed countries should enhance support for capacity building in developing countries
  • Last line says they will discuss/agree to all the above at another meeting?

Article 12

  • Says: Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.
  • Reiteration of previous statements.

Article 13

    • Repetition of points that call for a mechanism of transparency and extending support to developing countries for the implementation of this article.


  • Important: Says that each party shall regularly provide the following information:


    • (a) A national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, prepared using good practice methodologies accepted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement
    • (b) Information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving its nationally determined contribution under Article 4. 8. Each Party should also provide information related to climate change impacts and adaptation under Article 7, as appropriate

Article 14 *mutatis mutandis

    • Countries “shall periodically take stock of the implementation of this Agreement to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of this Agreement and its long-term goals”


  • Updates every 5 years, starting from 2023


  • These updates will help inform future action

Article 15 *mutatis mutandis

  • Basically, whatever mechanism to facilitate compliance to this agreement will be followed
  • The mechanism is a basically a committee that the Paris Agreement will form, that will check upon progress?

Article 16 *mutatis mutandis

  • Article basically says that anyone who isn’t part of the Paris Convention is allowed to view as an observer. Some other specific classifications are given to others…but everyone is free to view ultimately.

Article 17

  • “The secretariat established by Article 8 of the Convention shall serve as the secretariat of this Agreement.”

Article 18

  • “The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation established by Articles 9 and 10 of the Convention shall serve, respectively, as the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation of this Agreement.”

Article 19

  • Subsidiary bodies can be established by the countries in the Paris Agreement if necessary

Article 20

  • “This Agreement shall be open for signature and subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by States and regional economic integration organizations that are Parties to the Convention.”
  • It shall be open for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017.

Article 21

  • “This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.”
  • Definition of what total greenhouse emissions emissions

Article 22

  • The provisions of Article 15 of the Convention on the adoption of amendments to the Convention shall apply mutatis mutandis to this Agreement.

Article 23

  • Article 16 will apply mutatis mutandis (Latin phrase meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”)
    • In other words, it isn’t done yet and obvious changes still have to be made
  • Future changes, additions, or annexes to the agreement will only be lists, forms and any other scientific, technical, procedural or administrative material

Article 24

  • The part of Article 14 relating to settlement of disputes is also mutatis mutandis

Article 25

  • Each party gets 1 vote
  • If the EU or another organization consisting of a collective group of countries votes, it gets as many votes as it has member countries, but only if none of those countries vote independently

Article 26

  • The agreement is entrusted to the Secretary-General of the UN (in legal terms, he is the Depositary) since it is a multinational agreement

Article 27

  • No reservations may be made to the agreement, meaning that no countries may place caveats on their ratification

Impact Analysis – Ryan Bronstein and Brandon Foreman

March 4th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Mexico City Water Crisis

Welcome to Iztapalapa, one of the sixteen municipalities of Mexico City. As the most populous borough of Mexico City, Iztapalapa is home to 1.8 million residents with a population density of 40,000 people per square mile – approximately 150% of the density of New York City. It is also the poorest neighborhood in Mexico City. The archetypal image of an urban slum, the city’s residents all share the same obsession, an obsession that permeates every action, movement, and thought: clean water.

        Growing up in Iztapalapa, or any other of Mexico City’s impoverished boroughs, citizens might incredulously chuckle at the idea that the brown and gray landscape they find themselves living in, with the faucets in their homes that are either broken or dry, was once a breathing civilization upon an even livelier lake. Indeed, this was the case until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century and drained the lake for their own well-being, filling it with concrete. Now, centuries later, millions of people still yearn for this lost water.

        For a country striving to emulate the success of its neighbors, Mexico’s government maniacally refuses to commit resources to solve a 20th century engineering problem. After expelling the clean water that naturally resided within the city, the capital – located more than two kilometers above sea level – has not found a way to effectively retain and recycle rain water. Moreover, their sewage system is a travesty, and the city is forced to discharge billions of gallons of dirty water through artificial canals that leak and pollute the surrounding land and rivers. Consequently, they face the challenge of bringing clean water back to the city, consuming a tremendous amount of energy and capital required to pump the water towards the highland metropolis, opposing gravity the entire passage.

        Once that water makes its way (back) to the city, one can imagine it is in high demand. Mexico City boasts a population of nine million; thus expectedly, just as there exist impoverished neighborhoods such as Iztapalapa, there are wealthy neighborhoods, such as Miguel Hidalgo and Cuajimalpa, located westward, closer to the water reservoirs. Here, the amenities include aesthetic golf courses and a water pressure of 14 kg/cm2, a rate 28 times that of Iztapalapa (Watts 2015). These districts also claim the lowest water prices in the city.

        For those living in poor neighborhoods, but in particular Iztapalapa, local wells continually prove themselves to be unreliable. Most days, water will not even come out of the tap, and when it does, its yellow tint and smell of hydrogen sulfide are enough to dissuade even the most dehydrated people from quenching their thirst with its almost certain disease-ridden water. Additionally, what cannot be seen or smelled also pose dangers. The local water is known to contain high levels of toxic chemicals – such as magnesium, nitrogen, and sodium – which can only be removed at prices which the town struggles to afford. Consumption of such water could lead to diarrheal diseases, chronic kidney disease, intestinal infectious diseases, and lower respiratory infections, responsible for approximately 8% of Mexico’s total burden of disease, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME 2015). Furthermore, these contaminants make their way to the food supply through irrigation, thereby increasing the occurrence of disease and leading to crop kills. In fact, in the town of Endhó, farmers are no longer able to grow tomatoes due to the high concentration of heavy metals (Watts 2015).

        As a result of its contaminated wells, Iztapalapa is forced to bring in water from the dam in the wealthy city of Cutzamala, located 150km away, through a series of pipelines. Nevertheless, the water they receive from these pipes can be thought of as nothing more than the leftovers of the wealthy neighborhoods. The little water that enters Iztapalapa only does so after flowing through fissured, eroded pipes that cause leaks and add heavy metals and other contaminants to the water. Thus, the most populated borough of one of the most populated cities in the world is left with a shortage of dirty water.

        Other than leaks and a small supply to begin with, there are a number of confounding factors affecting the diminished water supply of Iztapalapa. First of all, Mexico City lacks large-scale wastewater reclamation and rainwater collection processes, forcing it to drill into aquifers to meet the high water demand. This is important because Mexico City is located upon clay beds, and when drillers break through the clay, the ground is susceptible to fissures. In fact, the fissures and fragments have become such a pervasive problem that Mexico City is sinking up to nine inches per year in some regions. Even worse, it is sinking unevenly due to the composition of volcanic soil within the ground. Therefore, the pipelines that rely on gravity to bring water to towns like Iztapalapa become greatly imbalanced and cannot transport water as efficiently.

        Human-caused climate change is also exacerbating these issues by simultaneously increasing the demand for water and decreasing its supply. Through the burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Iztapalapa is experiencing aridification, which makes raises the heat and incidents of drought. Thus, in the midst of desert-like conditions, when the citizens need water most, more water is being stolen away through evaporation. To compound the problem, the dam in Cutzamala that brings water to Iztapalapa is on its way towards drying up. This leads to an increased need for digging to tap aquifers, which in turn leads to more land sinking. The impact of this subsidence cannot be overstated. There have been 15 elementary schools recorded to have crumbled or caved in as a result of the cracks in the ground. It follows that experts predict that ten percent of Mexicans ages 15-65 could try to emigrate north in response to the subsidence, unpredictability of floods, and the recurrence of droughts (Kimmelman 2017).      

If ten percent of citizens do become climate refugees, what becomes of the other ninety percent who remain in their homes? How does their future look? Unfortunately, it appears bleak. Mexico has already seen tensions rise through several protests, including the hijacking of water delivery trucks led by citizens claiming their pipes have not brought them water for weeks at a time. Moreover, all signs point to this water disparity growing as a result human-induced climate change, increased water demand, decreased water supply, and Iztapalapa’s increasing population growth. One environmental scientist, Juan Jose Santibanez, has already made a bold prediction for the city’s bleak future in an interview with PBS: “There is a very high probability that, by 2020, there will be a mini-revolution, at least in Mexico City”. At stake is the health of citizens without access to clean water as well as those with access as violent conflict may occur to end this disparity once and for all. Consequently, a bigger picture shows us that what is really at stake is the health of Mexico City’s civilization and environment, especially considering that in perhaps every war, it is both the social institutions and physical environment that become ravaged.

        There are ongoing debates as to how Mexico City’s dangerous future can be avoided. One in particular is over the importance of rainwater collection. Systems for effective rainwater collection can be very expensive for impoverished areas. Of course, the Mexican government could fund such systems; however, there are many complications. First of all, the government is not incredibly liquid, as it is dealing with a current account deficit that is 2.7% of its GDP. Secondly, the effectiveness of rainwater collection is still under large scrutiny in part due to climate change. As stated earlier, climate change is causing desertification, but also unpredictable flooding. It is not known whether rainwater would be a reliable, consistent source of hydration. Scientists predict that rainwater could provide anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the city’s water needs, a range that is supposedly too wide for politicians to confidently invest in rainwater collection systems.

Other proposed solutions have been to repair leaks in the poorly constructed pipelines and increase the use of recycled water. Nevertheless, such projects would be devastating to Mexico’s budget. This raises perhaps the most crucial debate centered around the water crisis of Mexico City: is clean water a basic right to all people regardless of socioeconomic background? If so, the Mexican government needs to ensure access to clean water to every citizen. Whether through out-of-pocket funding or foreign aid, the water crisis must be resolved. On the other hand, if accessible clean water is not deemed a basic right, then Mexico can continue on the track it follows today: the privatization of water. One of the leading political ideologies pertaining to water comes from Mexico’s center-left political group which proposed the General Water Act that allows private firms to control the water supply system (Watts 2015). This proposal quickly led to massive demonstrations across Mexico this past January, particularly in Tijuana. Citizens fear that privatization would increase the price of water and further the disparity of water accessibility that exists between the upper and lower classes. As the water crisis and ensuing violence continue to grow each day, somebody – whether it be a public or private organization – must write the checks and bring water to Mexico City before supplies completely run out.

Of course, it would be wonderful if the Mexican government would declare clean water a basic right and could deliver it to all its people. Though this appears highly improbable today as the government moves towards privatization, such a declaration is not entirely out of reach. By applying the ecological humanities, strides can be made in this direction. By daring to ask questions related to ethics and human nature, going against the status quo, this area of study brings to the table discussions that have not otherwise been had. The ecological humanities would explore the golden question of who should have access to clean water, provide an understanding as to why this water disparity exists today, and through the application of persuasive, honest literature, it could reshape perceptions of accessibility to a more equitable, healthy form. The Mexico City water crisis is an extremely complex issue with no simple solution. In order to understand the full scope of the problem and thus respond accordingly, its analysis cannot be limited to just an economic or empirical approach. The social circumstances that developed this disparity must also be explored, and this starts by gaining an understanding of the human to human interactions and attitudes that allowed this conflict to occur in the first place.

Throughout this paper, the term “crisis” was used to describe the water disparity of Mexico City, highlighted by the town of Iztapalapa. This term is fitting in the present as low-income citizens suffer diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, and decreased productivity as a result of their dehydration and the contaminants in the little water they have. Nevertheless, this term is on the verge of being replaced. If the Mexican government does not provide its citizens with one of their most basic rights in the access to clean water, then a new term could arise, and the “Mexican Water Crisis” could become the “Mexican Water Wars.”


Works Cited

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBDCompareDataVisualization. Seattle, WA:        IHME, University of Washington, 2016. Available from http://         vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare. (Accessed March 2nd, 2017).

Kimmelman, Michael. “Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis.” The New York  Times. The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

“Mexico City faces growing water crisis.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

“Mexico Current Account to GDP | 1980-2017 | Data | Chart | Calendar.” Mexico Current        Account to GDP | 1980-2017 | Data | Chart | Calendar. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

Watts, Jonathan. “Mexico City’s water crisis – from source to sewer.” Mexico City live. Guardian        News and Media, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.


Blog Post 6 – Brandon Foreman

February 24th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Blog Post 6

The following quote from Before the Flood really struck me: “What the U.S. is doing to the rest of the world is criminal”. For the first time, I considered the idea that there were winners and losers of climate change. After doing some research, I was unsurprised to confirm rather easily that the average American has a carbon footprint much greater than a resident of any other country in the world; yet, a heavier discussion exists that climate change has disproportionate effects on the poor.

How can this be? There is no single answer that sticks out the most. Damage resulting from natural disasters places the greatest burden on those that do not have the resources to protect themselves nor possess the clout to garner political attention. Rises in temperature will target the world’s poorest farmers in the hottest and driest areas, whose land will no longer be suitable for growing crops. Consequently, food prices will rise; the poorest spend the highest portion of income on food.

What can be done to address this inequality? An obvious answer is to say, “stop climate change”, but certain effects of climate change are already certain. The Red Cross exists, but it only seems to act after disaster has struck. Without money or power, the future seems bleak.  However, it is the people who change institutions. People that band together can create power, and If the poorest in each region unite to share their plight and bring it to the footsteps of their governments, who is to say they will be dismissed?


Works Cited:

Bullard, Gabe. “See What Climate Change Means for the World’s Poor.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 23 Feb. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/151201-datapoints-climate-change-poverty-agriculture/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Climate Change: the Poor Will Suffer Most.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2014, www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/31/climate-change-poor-suffer-most-un-report. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017.

Blog Post 5 – Brandon Foreman

February 17th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Phone in the Anthropocene

Brandon Foreman


When they think of me

they think of despair

Oh, how can this be?

I was always there


They say it was radiation

A blessing turned to assassin

Now, all I know is stagnation

Once a third arm, I’m unfastened

Blog Post 4 – Brandon Foreman

February 9th, 2017 | Posted by Brandon Foreman in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Prompt: Critical or creative response to Oil on Water, Pumzi, and “The Petrol Pump”

Watching Pumzi in class today sparked some thinking about existentialism. If humans could start anew, living in a bounded area, couldn’t any animals (even besides humans) have begun civilization in a similar manner? An even better question might be: couldn’t such disaster, whether leading to full extinction or not, have happened before?

After all, the earth is very old. Some say it is hundreds of millions of years-old, but we truly do not know how it came to be. Due to the abundance of time and natural disturbances, how can we possibly conclude that another civilization, in human or other form, did not occupy the earth just as we do or did not make the same technological advances as us? Whatever sparked life as we know it on earth could potentially ignite it again, especially long after humans become extinct.

Furthermore, an article that appeared last year in the New York Times examined the possibility that civilizations may have existed on other planets. Almost all stars (such as the sun) host a solar system including planets, and about a quarter of those planet contain sufficient liquid water for life to form. As a result, the probability of other life is much higher than initially imagined.

This brings about a laundry list of questions: How would we interact with other civilizations? What would be our rationale for communicating with them? What could we learn about life, and do we want to learn it?

We cannot help but wonder about life and its origins. What we do know, however, is that humans have tried to manipulate almost everything that they have come across. Thus, we should keep in mind that if we do ever learn about life or other civilizations, we should do so with extreme care.


Works Cited:

Frank, Adam. “Yes, There Have Been Aliens.” New York Times, 16 June 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/opinion/sunday/yes-there-have-been-aliens.html?_r=0.