MARCH 2024

An avid reader and writer from childhood, Rachel Carson entered the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) as an English major, but quickly became enthralled with earth’s systems and switched her major to Biology. The work that Carson completed at PCW, at Johns Hopkins graduate school, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute was the foundation for her to become one of the world’s most famous marine biologists and writers.

At Miami University, English professor Michele Navakas, affiliated with the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, points to writers like Rachel Carson who use literature and art to communicate effectively about injustice. At the same time, Navakas is working on a book about the literary influences on Carson that made her an important American writer with four best-selling books. That led her to RCC President & CEO, Dr. Robert K. Musil, a former literature professor and Carson expert. Musil told her that the Rachel Carson Council archives at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia house Carson’s personal library which has gems like her dog-eared copy of Moby Dick. The two Carson mavens then collaborated with Navakas inviting Musil to lecture and talk to classes at Miami which has now become the 67th campus in the RCC network.

In this March issue of the RCC Campus Dispatch, you can see that the importance of campus research and effective science communication about the environment continues to grow across the country. Starting on the East Coast, Cornell professor, Robert Warren Howarth, documented that methane emissions from American LNG supply chains make the fuel as bad or worse for the climate than coal. This insight played a role in the decision of the Biden administration to pause approval of new liquefied natural gas export licenses in January. At Yale, Eli Fenichel, Knobloch Family Professor of Natural Resources Economics, played a critical role in new first-of-its kind guidance that provides a blueprint to assess how ecosystem services can be enhanced or diminished by federal rules. And, on the West Coast, Chapman University biologist Gregory Goldsmith and other researchers “...found that rainforest leaves are reaching dangerously high temperatures, triggering alarms about ecosystem breakdown and the dire effects of human-driven climate change.”

Effective communication and the need for solutions is also evident in the powerful photo essays by young RCC campus environmental leaders in our “RCC Fellows Speak Out” section. And, as climate change has reached a critical stage, pragmatic solutions, clear communication, and science-based policy are increasingly essential. A number of universities are now leaders in that struggle. For examples, just look to articles this month on a new academy at Carteret Community College that aims to make living shorelines more accessible, Drexel’s Anthems for the Anthropocene Contest, and the passage by student advocates at The University of Florida of a climate resolution in support of Green New Deal policies, despite opposition to climate action from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).

As in Rachel Carson’s day, all this research, education, and advocacy has helped push climate change and environmental justice to the forefront at the national level. Carson worked closely on policy with the Kennedy Administration and JFK’s Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall. Today, she would be writing about and taking hope from the numerous and continuing environmental initiatives on campuses nationwide and those at the Federal level.

Speaking of hope. Let us know about any interesting environmental research, teaching, writing, advocacy and action at your college or university. We would love to share it with the entire Rachel Carson Council network. That would give us all much needed hope.


Mackenzie Kirschbaum, M.S., is the Associate Director of Civic and Campus Engagement for the Rachel Carson Council. An advocate for environmental justice, climate change and policy, Mackenzie works to combine science, justice, and policy to advocate for imaginative solutions to environmental challenges.

How One Methane Scientist Influenced Biden’s Pause on LNG Approvals

Cornell University professor Robert Warren Howarth says methane emissions from American LNG supply chains make the fuel as bad or worse for the climate than coal.

When the Biden administration paused approval of new liquefied natural gas export licenses in January, the decision was driven by a recognition that the climate impact from the fossil fuel needs to be reassessed.


Canopy of Light

Reaching beyond the rainforest treetops to gather data in space, Chapman scientists stretch the boundaries of collaborative research, creating new landscapes for climate insight. Sometimes scientific breakthroughs start with a slingshot in the wilderness.

Deep in the rainforest of Costa Rica, Chapman University biologist Gregory Goldsmith aims high into the tree canopy and launches the weighted end of a nylon rope that will become his climbing lifeline.


YSE Economist Plays Key Role in Newly Finalized Guidance on Accounting for Ecosystem Services

How do proposed projects such as logging or new pipelines affect the benefits people derive from parks, wetlands, forests, and other natural resources? Until now, there have not been any specific federal guidelines directing agencies on how to assess ecosystems impacts. Eli Fenichel, Knobloch Family Professor of Natural Resources Economics at YSE, played a critical role in a new first-of-its kind guidance finalized by the White House in February.


Princeton Research Cited in New Coral Reef Conservation Policy in Hawaii

In January of 2023, Princeton researchers Bing Lin and David Wilcove published a paper that revealed how coastal tourism contributes to the degradation of coral reefs and marine ecosystems in Hawaii.

Almost a year after publication, Lin, Wilcove, and their research team’s paper has contributed to the passing of Hawaii’s Ocean and Stewardship User Fee that took effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

Not Just Escapism: Literature and Environment Course Teaches the Importance of Art in Crisis

On a stormy night, an undergraduate student named Rachel Carson read Tennyson’s poem “Locksley Hall” and knew her future was tied to the natural world.

She went on to write Silent Spring, the book that helped begin the American environmental movement and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.


Rachel Carson in Miami?

Rachel Carson grew up on a small farm near Pittsburgh, not far from Ohio. But, as far as we know, she was never present at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio until Rachel Carson Council President & CEO, Dr. Robert K Musil spoke there at the invitation of Carson scholar, Dr. Michele Navakas. Carson, the marine biologist and best-selling author of ocean books like The Sea Around Us, did, however, go to Miami, Florida, where she donned a diving helmet and plunged into Biscayne Bay to gain the perspective of the creatures who inhabit the underwater world.

New Research Shows How the Meat Industry Infiltrated Universities to Obstruct Climate Policy

New research sheds light on the scope of the livestock industry’s influence over prominent agricultural research centers at two public universities. In a paper recently published in the journal Climatic Change, researchers detail how the meat industry funds credentialed academics to “obstruct unfavorable policies,” especially those targeting the industry’s largely unregulated methane emissions.

Student-led Climate Action is Flourishing in DeSantis’s Florida

As Gov. Ron DeSantis tries to block the clean energy transition, University of Florida students are adopting Green New Deal measures and showing how public schools can lead on climate.

The University of Florida made history last month when its student senate became the first at a public university to pass a climate resolution in support of Green New Deal policies.

Vanguard is Threatening My Farm in Appalachia

For over a century, my family has taken care of farm land in Virginia. I have always seen my role as passing on my farm to the next generation.

But for the past decade, two fracked gas pipeline projects have tried to get in the way of that dream, and the government and financial institutions have backed them. The worst part is that it’s all for a high-risk investment during a climate crisis.


If Trump Wins…

His allies are preparing to overhaul higher education. The sector is woefully ill-prepared to defend itself.

What if Donald Trump is re-elected as president? As unpleasant as it may be to contemplate, it’s an increasingly likely possibility that would be a disaster for higher education. Trump leads Biden, according to recent polling. And yet the sector’s response, so far, has been to sleepwalk into the election. It’s time for us to wake up.

YSE Launches Database Highlighting Environmental Professionals of Color

The database establishes a repository of profiles on professionals from across the U.S. who contribute to the environmental, health, climate justice, and other related fields.

The Yale School of the Environment's  Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Sustainability Initiative (JEDSI) has launched a database detailing the careers and personal stories of more than 200 environmental professionals of color in the United States.


Biden Calls for Greater Support of HBCUs, HSIs, and MSIs

When President Biden addressed over 32 million viewers for the annual State of the Union (SOTU) last week, he used the occasion to issue a full throttle support for higher education.

While speaking on his administration’s accomplishments in his last four years of service, Biden also addressed what he called “the future of possibilities we can build together.”


Appalachian Voices Releases New Report on Energy Technology Transition and Community Engagement in SW Virginia

The report, “Modeling a Just Transition in Virginia’s Coalfields: Engaging Community Stakeholders on Emerging Energy Technologies,” is based on the results from a community survey conducted in partnership with the Appalachian Center for Civic Life at Emory and Henry College. The report also details best practices for community engagement for energy projects and highlights the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia’s efforts.


Preparing Urban Leaders for Climate Challenges

The Yale School of the Environment is launching an online certificate program to help urban policymakers and practitioners implement innovative climate solutions. Cities are responsible for about 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and in the next 25 years the population of urban areas is expected to increase by 2.5 billion, straining infrastructure, energy systems, and ecosystems. As urban areas grow, they also are contending with the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, flooding, and extreme heat.

Low Grade? Arizona Bill Would Let Students Allege ‘Political Bias’

Legislation that’s near passage in Arizona would create a “grade challenge department” for public universities. It could force professors to change students’ marks.

Republican lawmakers in Arizona have proposed creating a “grade challenge department,” to which public university students could complain that their professors gave them low grades because of political bias.

Maryland or Massachusetts: Who’s Better at PFAS Regulation?

Last year while taking a class at MIT on water, health, and the environment, I produced a water vulnerability map of Massachusetts along with my group.

We looked at such variables as sole source aquifers, hurricane inundation zones, superfund sites, social vulnerability, and military bases. Using these factors, we identified six municipalities that were considered the most vulnerable.


Can We Save the Mississippi?

The coastal United States has faced increasing threats due to climate change, with sea level rise, intense storms, and flooding battering the coastline.

Louisiana is on the frontline of these threats.

Since the 1930s, the state has lost almost 2,000 square miles of land. Some areas on the state’s coast are already grappling with the question of continuing to restore the land or retreat to avoid greater risks.


Rachel Carson Writes, a War Against Nature is a War Against Ourselves

Two summers ago, I navigated a rocky street in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank of Palestine. A local led me and a dozen other UNC students through the neighborhoods in the early light, pointing out brick apartment buildings housing multiple generations of refugees. I looked up through stacks of balconies and clothes hanging to dry in the salty Mediterranean air and spotted two Palestinian children sitting with their legs threaded through the balcony railings.

Virginia Officials Scrutinize Two Universities’ DEI Course Syllabi

A spokesman for Governor Glenn Youngkin invoked concerns about “core curriculum mandates that are a thinly veiled attempt to incorporate the progressive left’s groupthink.” Two universities’ diversity education initiatives may be in peril. Republican politicians have targeted diversity, equity and inclusion in state after state. They’ve passed laws to limit, defund or outright ban related programs. They’ve demanded information on universities’ DEI expenses and their numbers of DEI positions.


Alabama Governor Signs Law Banning College DEI Funding

The legislation, which will take effect Oct. 1, reflects a broader trend of state bills moving to limit or prohibit diversity programming in public education.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a law on Tuesday that will ban public colleges from funding diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, continuing a nationwide push by conservatives to remove such programs from higher education.

Introducing the Climate Creators to Watch in 2024

Happy almost-spring, Optimists! We're still on hiatus over here at The Climate Optimist, but our third annual list of social media creators to watch is too good to keep to ourselves. These creators make content that's innovative, optimistic, and likely to inspire climate action—our favorite kind! Our team at Harvard Chan C-CHANGE and our friends at Pique Action are recognizing 17 creators this year—including artists, activists, ocean lovers, trash pickers, sustainability hackers, and more.

Express Your Thoughts About Climate Change in the Anthems for the Anthropocene Contest

Students at Drexel University can lift their voices — and musical compositions — in the conversation about the environment and climate in the third annual Anthems for the Anthropocene contest. It’s a chance to come together with fellow students and music-makers and create a song about facing climate change that inspires and empowers listeners. Now in its third year, the Climate & Sustainability team’s contest invites students to respond to a creative prompt to write and record a song in just a couple weeks.

Hundreds of Birds Were Found Dead in New Haven Within Weeks — But There’s Hope to Stop It

Mixed with contrasting styles of gothic and more modern, glass-based architecture, Yale University’s New Haven campus presents stark contrasts to bird safety.

Gothic architecture is generally bird-friendly. However, large buildings covered in glass can be deadly – and a study has shown just how dangerous it’s become.

Academy Aims to Make Living Shorelines More Accessible

A team of educators and scientists is combining efforts to build a program that makes small-scale living shorelines a practical option for waterfront property owners.

The N.C. Living Shoreline Academy held its first introductory course last fall at Carteret Community College in Morehead City and is getting ready to offer it again, along with the new structure and design course.

Free Student River Cruise

The Rachel Carson Council (RCC) invites you to join us, Saturday, April 20, 2024, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., for our FREE springtime cruise aboard the Cape Fear Riverboat, Henrietta, with RCC President and CEO Bob Musil. Also aboard will be noted NC Coastal Ecologist, Andy Wood. Reserve your place NOW for this important opportunity to learn about the ecological and climate effect of clear cutting North Carolina forests to produce wood pellets to be sent to Europe to make energy.

RCC Fellowship 2024-2025

The RCC National Environment Leadership Fellowship (NELF) Program is designed to identify outstanding students with a passion for environmental education, organizing, and advocacy and provide them with financial support to carry out valuable projects and campaigns on behalf of the RCC. To apply to the program, students propose projects that are focused on sustainability and environmental justice to be carried out from their campuses and their communities.

RCC prides itself on its National Campus Network of 67 colleges and universities. We are working to engage faculty members, students, and administrators in our efforts for a more just and sustainable world. With our growing fellowship program, our presence on campuses across the country has never been greater. Contact RCC today to bring our staff to your campus for lectures, workshops, or meetings to help find the best ways to engage your faculty and students in the efforts against climate change, environmental justice, and the work of the Rachel Carson Council.

Campus Visits with RCC President, Dr. Robert K. Musil

RCC President & CEO, Dr. Robert K. Musil, a national leader in climate change, environmental justice and health is again available to book for in-person campus speaking events! Musil has been called “informative, challenging and inspirational all at once.” He is “motivational” with “intellectual depth” and “extraordinary impact.”

Dr. Musil is available for campus lectures and visits involving classes, meetings with campus and community groups, consultations with faculty and administrators, or for Earth Day, Commencement, and other special events. Stays range from one to three days. Reduced fees are in place for 2024-2025 and can be designed to meet reduced budgets.

To arrange a campus visit with Dr. Musil, contact the RCC President’s Office at

The RCC also offers talks, classes, and workshops on student engagement, activism, sustainability, and the RCC Fellowship program with: Associate Director of Civic and Campus Engagement, Mackenzie Kirschbaum; Associate Director of Communications, Claudia Steiner; and Research and Policy Associate, Theo Daniels.

To arrange, contact Associate Director of Civic and Campus Engagement, Mackenzie Kirschbaum.


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