Thursday, May 31, 2007

Share a car right from Helen C. White

Here in Madison we are fortunate to have a non-profit community car-sharing service called "Community Car" -- with one of the vehicles parked right in the Helen C. White parking lot, no less. A recent article in the Capital Times, picked up by UW's own Madison Commons citizen journalism site, describes the venture:

Madison's locally owned Community Car service is thriving. Started in October 2003 with 20 charter members and three vehicles, the service has ballooned to 575 members and now boasts 11 vehicles. The company is planning to bring two more cars to the University of Wisconsin campus in the fall, and by the end of the year the total fleet should reach 15, Executive Director Amanda White said.

Driving the company's success has been a patchwork of partnerships with the university, local businesses and nonprofits, as well as a strong sense of environmental consciousness from its members.

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ALA Task Force on the Environment

You can find the objectives of this group (part of the Social Responsibilities Round Table) at This page has useful links to information resources on, for instance, libraries and sustainability, and a link to a page on Climate Change hosted by the University of Buffalo Libraries.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Envrionmentalism in mainstream print culture

An interesting observation from Grist magazine:

Last year at this time, Vanity Fair and Elle tried a shocking experiment: they published green-themed issues. Could mainstream readers handle eco-news if it came in the shape of Julia Roberts and Evangeline Lilly (and, uh, Chip Giller)? Would green really prove to be the new black ink?

They could, and it would. After the success of last year's spring surge, a new crop of magazines is getting on board with the idea of going green -- if only for one issue. Glamour has just published a 10-page spread with eco-tips and an in-depth online guide. Perhaps more surprising: a recent cover story on climate change in Sports Illustrated. "We've reached critical mass," says SI Senior Editor Richard Demak. "It's time to address this in all venues -- why shouldn't sports be one of them?"

Four more glossies -- Country Home, Outside, Town & Country, and domino -- have put out green issues for April, and Elle is planning a reprise in May. "For the longest time, glossy magazines kind of stayed away from the green concept because they were a little scared of it," says Tom Farley, senior editor at Town & Country. "They thought that to go green meant that people had to wear hemp clothing or live off the grid in a yurt somewhere. As the movement has evolved, the choices have evolved too."

I actually think that mainstream print culture has attended to environmental issues previously in the last two decades, if sporadically ... but the definition of "environmental issues" and the frame in which they were addressed has likely changed. What do other folks think?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Course-related ideas

We've had several ideas about course related activities.

1. Continuing Education Services could offer a 4-6 week online course about how to reduce energy and resource consumption in a library.

2. Greg's idea (see Brainstorming) about a First Year Interest Group on "information studies and climate change," linking together, say, LIS 450 with an environmental studies course.

3. Storytelling class this summer (power of stories) and in my Youth Services class in the fall (ways to have kids reading, writing, and finding ways to act through libraries and the community).

4. In 571 have students be creating information packets, pathfinders,

5. Students could also volunteer to be part of a Help Group (or something) that offers SLIS help in showing others on campus how to start a blog or wiki, or how to locate information resources

6. A one-credit Environmental Forum (for grads or undergrads) featuring invited speakers and discussion held over the lunch hour on the lines of the Biology Forum held a few years ago on campus.

Information resource: Environmental News Network

The Environmental News Network ( is a useful resource for both wire service news (eg. AP, Reuters) and press releases from both non-profit and for-profit organizations dealing with environmental issues:

For over twenty years, the Environmental News Network ( has published news, commentary, and information about how we live on earth. Our mission is simple: to provide a global perspective on environmental issues, and to promote thought, discussion, and awareness among our readers. We accomplish this by featuring content that is balanced, non-partisan, comprehensive and educational in nature.

ENN's editorial team selects news stories from a variety of sources, including major wire services (Reuters, Associated Press, Knight Ridder/Tribune), and also features content from partner publishers, freelance journalists, and on-going research.

In addition, ENN provides a platform for organizations and companies with environmental interests through our Network News Program, which offers ENN readers diverse views on current environmental issues, public policy developments, sustainable business news, and more.

For those of you who use RSS, they have a feed at:

The Colbert Report on teaching college students about global warming

Warning: Satire of university students and the global warming "controversy" ahead. (You also have to view a short advertisement.) Care of the Comedy Central program "The Colbert Report":


I absolutely agree that this is something SLIS can and should take a leadership role in ... although I'm a bit annoyed that this campus-wide initiative is only happening now that it's politically safe for UW-Madison to take the "controversial" stand that global warming is (a) happening, (b) largely human-generated, and (c) potentially disastrous and as such worthy of serious political and economic action.

One of the things we're good at here in SLIS is considering how information disparities both mirror and magnify other social/political/economic disparities. So perhaps we could initiate a discussion of both (a) what kind of information resources are important for convincing citizen, corporate, and political actors of the more developed, energy-intensive and militarily dominant nations that global warming deserves action, and (b) what kind of information resources are important for enabling citizen, corporate, and political actors from the less developed, subsistence-stretched but often resource-rich nations to build a higher standard of living and safety under environmental and energy uncertainty.

The links between information studies and environmental science are many. A quick MadCat search yielded the following examples of texts which might fit well in SLIS courses or reading groups:

- Helmut Breitmeier, Oran R. Young, and Michael Zürn, Analyzing international environmental regimes: From case study to database (Cambridge, MA. : MIT Press, 2006).

- Virginia Baldwin, ed., Online ecological and environmental data (Binghamton, NY : Haworth Information Press, 2003).

- Fernando Elichirigoity, Planet management: Limits to growth, computer simulation, and the emergence of global spaces (Evanston, Ill. : Northwestern University Press, 1999).

- Arno Scharl, Environmental online communication (London ; New York : Springer, 2004).

- US Government Accountability Office, Environmental information: Status of federal data programs that support ecological indicators (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2005).

If we think the univeristy is serious about promoting this discussion, we ought to ask Dean Sandefur for a teaching buyout for one of our faculty so they can put together a "First Year Interest Group" on "information studies and climate change," linking together, say, LIS 450 with an environmental studies course. A graduate course on the same topic, team-taught with an environmental scientist, would be a great opportunity as well -- again, if we could get some extra resources to pull it off.

Finally, I would suggest inviting Paul Edwards from the University of Michigan School of Information to give a talk at SLIS next year (STS might be convinced to co-sponsor). He is completing a book on global computer modeling and remote sensing and how cyberinfrastructure allows holistic environmental understandings of global processes to be scientifically possible and politically viable. (Similar to many arguments that Geoff Bowker made in _Memory practices in the sciences_ but more historical and more accessible, I think.) He's also a great speaker and a very nice fellow.

OK that's a bunch of brainstorming so I'll stop now.


Call for participation

Here is Professor Pawley's original call for a SLIS conversation on information studies and global warming:

Dear Colleagues,
Last week the University Committee sent out a questionnaire to faculty and academic staff as a first step towards engaging the university community in the issue of global warming. I know that many of us at SLIS are already very concerned about this, and anxious to think of ways in which we can contribute to sustainable solutions. If you haven't already filled out the questionnaire, I urge you to do so--it only takes a minute or two.

As well as responding as individuals, perhaps we can also think of ways in which we as educators and specialists in the field of information can help the university's sustainability project. I would be happy to help coordinate any effort that we decide to mount.

We have chosen "the global information environment": as one of the key areas of SLIS focus. There can be no more pressing global problem than that of climate change. A 2005 article in the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday described humanity as "Sleeping Walking to the End of the Earth" (also available at -- still an unfortunately accurate description of many people's state of awareness in 2007. Surely information educators and professionals have an important role to play in the waking up process.

I would like to start a conversation on how we at SLIS can be involved. If you agree, please let's start talking.


Christine Pawley Ph.D.

Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Studies

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This blog is a forum for discussion and action linking library and information studies with issues of global warming and environmental sustainability at UW-Madison. It is sponsored by a working group of faculty, staff, and students in the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS).

This blog is open to anyone to read. For now, however, only working group members may post new entries to this blog or add comments to existing blog entries. If you would like to become a member of our working group, please email SLIS professor Greg Downey at gdowney [at]