|A 2011 vanity book the NYPL published about itself. Its title, "Know The Past, Find The Future" is now ominously ignored when it comes to climate change and other issues.|
Do you know enough of what you need to know, have access to everything you need to know about climate change?
How much do we really need to know. . how much information should be at our disposal on the subject. . . if climate change could result in the end of the human race?. . . Or, almost as bad, if it could soon bring about the mass extinctions of many of the world’s species?*
(* One snapshot: A week ago, Wednesday, January 29, 2014, the New York Times had stories about penguin populations dying because of heat and the extraordinary reduction of the Monarch Butterfly populations.- For Already Vulnerable Penguins, Study Finds Climate Change Is Another Danger by Henry Fountain, - “Since 1987, the number of breeding pairs in the colony has declined 24 percent” and Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions, by Michael Wines- “the span of forest inhabited by the overwintering monarchs shrank last month to a bare 1.65 acres. . At their peak in 1996, the monarchs occupied nearly 45 acres of forest.”)What if many important things you could learn about climate change and its possible solutions were being eliminated from libraries? That would be very sad.
One thing that would make that even sadder: There are those who, probably correctly, theorize that there will be no one silver bullet that addresses climate change challenge, that our answers to climate change will involve a mosaic of solutions, a myriad of approaches locally tailored and designed. . . . Solutions will not be handed to us top down: Everyone’s participation will matter. But what if our common resources for discovery and self-education like libraries are being removed?
CHAPTER ONE: The Canadian Government Destroys Libraries and Records That Furnish Information About Climate Change.
It has recently been revealed that Canada’s government is busy destroying irreplaceable climate change data in Canadian libraries that was collected at taxpayer expense and gathered over more than a hundred years. Canada has the world’s longest coastline and, as should be readily noticed, much of that coastline travels up into the Arctic where some of the fastest, most important climate change is taking place. See: What's Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries? Scientists reject Harper gov't claims vital material is being saved digitally, by Andrew Nikiforuk, December 23, 2013, The Tyee.ca, and Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives, By Cory Doctorow at 12:00 pm Sat, Jan 4, 2014.
Let’s go back just a few months before the Canadian library destruction was disclosed to put that disclosure in context. Led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the current Conservative government in Canada, which embraces fossil fuel resource extraction from Canada’s tar sands has been criticized, including in a New York Times editorial for muzzling scientists in, “an attempt to guarantee public ignorance”:
. . to make sure that nothing gets in the way of the northern resource rush — the feverish effort to mine the earth and the ocean with little regard for environmental consequences. The Harper policy seems designed to make sure that the tar sands project proceeds quietly, with no surprises, no bad news, no alarms from government scientists. To all the other kinds of pollution the tar sands will yield, we must now add another: the degradation of vital streams of research and information.(See: Editorial / Notebook: Silencing Scientists, by Verlyn Klinkenborg, September 21, 2013. See also: New York Times criticizes Harper government’s alleged muzzling of scientists to protect oil sands, Michael Woods, Postmedia News, September 22, 2013. Mr. Klinkenborg, author of the Times editorial, is a member of the Times editorial board.)
Here is some of what is in the December article in the Canadian news magazine The Tyee about how the Harper government, whittling nine regional Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries down to two, seems intent on destroying records:
Scientists say the closure of some of the world's finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.The idea that some of these records were “scavenged by . . environmental consultants” as reported by The Tyee is scary when you consider that “environmental consultants” are usually paid for their work, too often by polluting industries, and it is disconcerting to think of all the available information migrating into a private sector inclined to cherry-pick what gets made public as was the case when BP payrolled a vast proportion of the scientists investigating its massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters . . .Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.
* * *
The Department has claimed that all useful information from the closed libraries is available in digital form. This is simply not true. Much of the material is lost forever.
Local staff in the regions were given a brief opportunity to scavenge through the piles of books, journals and documents not wanted by the remaining two DFO Science libraries. Books and other library material already on loan to researches were never recalled, indicating a chaotic and haphazard process.
* * * *
Some of the research scientists interviewed questioned the legality of what they saw happening, accusing the Harper government of "libricide."
. . .the Canadian public lost critical environmental and cultural baseline data more than 100 years old. .
* * *
In a private email originally sent to a colleague and then shared with The Tyee, one scientist compared the dismemberment of the Freshwater Institute library last week to a rummage sale: "I did manage to salvage a few bits and pieces, one of which was a three volume print version of the data that went into the now extinct DFO toxins database."
The scientist suggested "that interested individuals should drop-in and loot [the] library before the bonfires begin."
Kelly Whelan-Enns, head of media and policy research for Manitoba Wildlands, spent two days at the library trying to salvage maps from the 1900s and wildlife data from the 1920s.
* * * *
"Through a misguided policy purportedly driven by the desire for cost savings in the public service, and I believe this was only one reason for this action, we have trashed a network of world-class marine and fisheries libraries, the envy around the world. The rest of the world cannot believe what is happening in Canada on this issue."
* * *
The Freshwater Institute library held collections dating back 100 years, on the quality and state of freshwater systems in central Canada, the Great Lakes and the Arctic.
* * * *
'It must be about ideology': Hutchings
Hutchings said none of the closures has anything to do with saving money, due to the small cost of maintaining the collections. He, like many scientists, concludes that Harper's political convictions are driving the unprecedented consolidation.
* * * *
Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of "fear and insecurity" within the Harper government, "about how to deal with science and knowledge."
* * * *
"There is a group of people who don't know how to deal with science and evidence. They see it as a problem and the best way to deal with it is to cut it off at the knees and make it ineffective," explained Hutchings.
* * * *
The cuts were carried out in great haste apparently in order to meet some unknown agenda. No records have been provided with regard to what material has been dumped or the value of this public property.
The Cory Doctorow article on the Canadian library destruction observes:
An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age.It’s little consolation that a copy of the logs was later found overseas.
Further gory details about what is happening in Canada appear in these other recent Tyee articles: Dismantling of Fishery Library 'Like a Book Burning,' Say Scientists- Harper government shuts down 'world class' collection on freshwater science and protection. By Andrew Nikiforuk, 9 Dec 2013, TheTyee.ca, Gutting of Fisheries Act a 'politically motivated abrogation': biologists, By Andrew Nikiforuk, October 31, 2013, The Gem of Canadian Science that Harper Killed- Experimental Lakes Area was world famous; its findings might have saved Canada billions. By Andrew Nikiforuk, 23 May 2012, TheTyee.ca, Harper's Seven-Year War on Science- Chris Turner's treatise on Tory anti-empiricism should spark outrage. But those in power won't see it. By Crawford Kilian, 1 Nov 2013, TheTyee.ca, 'The Death of Evidence' in Canada: Scientists' Own Words- Data distorted for 'propaganda' and other complaints against the Harper government made at last week's Ottawa rally. By Katie Gibbs, Adam Houben, Jeff Hutchings, Arne Mooers, Vance L. Trudeau and Diane Orihel, 16 Jul 2012, TheTyee.ca
CHAPTER TWO: Libraries in New York City and the Ephemerality of Records About Climate Change.
These articles about the Canadian libraries brought to mind the fact that a friend of mine, after attending a conference dealing with the weather, told me that one of the conference speakers had complained that records the speaker had consulted over many years respecting New York climate history were no longer available at the NYPL’s 42nd Street Central Reference Library. He alerted me because, in New York, as part of Citizens Defending Libraries, which I helped co-found, we have been very concerned and keeping track of the way that books and resources are disappearing from New York City’s libraries.
When we met with NYPL Chief Operating Officer David Offensend on May 30, 2013 to discuss this and other problems of the NYPL’s “Central Library Plan” that sells off and shrinks libraries while wrecking the research stacks at the reference library I brought up the subject of climate records.
When I asked Mr. Offensend whether climate change records would be in the science library (SIBL, the Science, Industry and Business Library, completed in 1996) intended to be sold off as part of the Central Library Plan’s consolidation and shrinkage of flagship libraries, he told us that he didn’t know where the climate change books were. I told him that my attention had been directed to the fact that information about climate change that was readily available in the 42nd Street reference library wasn’t available anymore. He answered: “I am not familiar with what’s going on with any particular subject area.”
Of course, those dismantling physical libraries or making them smaller will talk about the shift to electronically available information which Mr. Offensend told us was “more efficient” to purchase and he assured us that when it came to research materials “little is really culled out.”
|Weather historian Stephen Fybish in a WPIX video.|
For instance all the stories below are from the New York Times:
The old adage is that `everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.’ One hopes that doesn’t translate into our doing nothing about climate change. Mr. Fybish, studying and synthesizing information, does a lot more than most of us. You may speed-read the rest of this "Chapter Two" of this article or skim parts of it, unless you are interested in the intriguing details of how libraries are used to keep history and facts straight and sometimes rescue them from oblivion as seen through the prism of just one man's investigation of local climate records.• January 28, 2014, New York Today: It’s Freezing (Déjà Vu), by Andy Newman and Annie Correal.With Groundhog Day around the corner, it is a good time to remember that weather patterns tend to repeat themselves. . . .. . .By January’s end, if the forecast holds, there will have been 15 days with temperatures in the teens or lower.That’s the most since 2004, according to Steve Fybish, a weather-statistics obsessive whom we consult on such things.• December 17, 2013, New York Today: Again With the Snow, By Andy Newman. . . the fourth measurable snowfall in a 10-day stretch of – can it be? — autumn.Stephen Fybish, a freelance weather historian, could not locate any precedent for it in his voluminous records.“For four days to have measurable snow before winter is very rare,” he said. . . . .Another tidbit from Mr. Fybish: The last 13 times there has been eight inches of snow in December, at least 17 inches more has fallen from January onward.The expected high of 33 today would also make it the 11th straight day with colder than normal temperatures.• July 19, 2013, When New York Baked for 12 Sweltering Days, by James BarronCon Edison, which said there have been seven seven-day heat waves since 1896, listed only one nine-day heat wave on its PowerPoint slides, the one in August 2002.Stephen Fybish, an amateur weather sleuth who lives on the Upper West Side, remembers others — nine-day stretches in July 1966 and July 1944, when he was 7.• February 25, 2013, Weather- Link Eyed Between 1908 Siberian Fireball and Record Heat in New York, by Andy Newman. . the Tunguska Event. . . was immediately followed by one of the hottest Julys ever in Central Park. . .Even more curious, Mr. Fybish has discovered, July 1908 set a 52-year record for highest average barometric pressure in Albany, Nashville, Denver, Omaha and Marquette, Mich., among other cities.
Mr. Fybish told me that he used to regularly access the city weather records of Central Park’s Belvedere Castle weather station for the period 1869 to 1940 at the 42nd Street Central Reference library quickly and without difficulty but that because those records were moved to New Jersey he now had to wait "3 to 4 business days" every time he had need to consult them. He described this and the fact that he can’t find material he used to be able to find as “extremely distressing” saying that it “discourages the research.” Mr. Fybish said he also goes to SIBL, the Science Industry and Business Library at 34th Street to do research where materials are also not as available as previously and may now have to be ordered from New Jersey or printed out in more limited forms from electronic sources.
It is not just whether information is available but the forms in which it may be available that make it valuable. Mr. Fybish explained how he prized certain summaries that had been compiled in the past, so much so that he has some taped to the wall in his bathroom. He said he felt somewhat guilty that he had records in conveniently accessible forms that he didn’t think could be found in the libraries anymore.
He explained how it was a loss that the Mid-Manhattan Library no longer had the pages of the New York Times index that made information available alphabetically for a given year, because there’s “no replacement for having a big fat alphabetical index.”
Mr. Fybish said that he had been able to find some other things he was looking for because he had the help of a trained librarian. In the example he gave the help was from a friend who was a retired librarian. (It is unfortunate that these days we have to increasingly wonder whether there is any kind of librarians around other than retired.)
Another example of a way that a still different presentation of New York Times information could be valuable according to Mr. Fybish is the three CD set of all the New York Times front pages through 2009. Mr. Fybish also used to research materials (“live copies” of the New York Times and Herald Tribune from the 1930s) that the NYPL kept in its now sold-off 42nd Street Annex building. I told him I knew that when the New York Times donated a substantial potion of its `morgue’ (newspaper vernacular), an excellent resource of clipping files,* they were kept at the Annex. Mr. Fybish never had the benefit of coming across them. Neither of us can tell you where they are now. Mr. Fybish hopes the “live copies” of the newspapers he used to find in the Annex have at least been sent to New Jersey rather then being “neutralized,” totally destroyed.
(* Though the story is that William Randolph Hearst forbade his papers from keeping a morgue file on him, my grandfather was President and General Manager of the Hearst Organization and when, in my youth, I went to visit the Hearst Chicago American newspaper and met one of my grandfather’s former secretaries, one of the staff’s first instincts was to bring up the paper’s morgue files on my grandfather, then deceased, for my inspection and edification.- BTW: The link in this footnote to Time Magazine won’t fully work unless you make a payment so you may want to try going to the library instead.)Mr. Fybish uses other libraries in New York as well. He is able to find useful New York City Health Department Reports in city’s Municipal Library at Chambers Street although the hours are limited, the photocopier expensive, and he notes that he also can’t find all the records there that he used to be able to. Mr. Fybish is a graduate of Columbia and says he has been able to do so some good research at the Columbia University Geology Building on the 116th Street campus inside the Schermerhorn building. (The general public does not tend to have ready access to university libraries.) Fybish also mentioned his regard for the natural History Museum Library.
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898” to remember the Revolutionary War year of 1780 when the British moved troops, two 2-ton cannons and eighty sleighs of provisions from Manhattan to Staten Island over the frozen river ice: Wednesday, September 29, 2010, Brooklyn Tornadoes and a Cool-Headed Appraisal of Weather Weirding in New York.
Mr. Fybish informed me that he was once able to let Mr. Wallace know that he found three weather mistakes or oversights in Mr. Wallace’s book that I then myself looked for in the book: 1.) Wallace writes that in the winter of 1779-80 “snow fell almost every day from early November to March”- no way says Fybish 2.) for December of the winter of 1835-36 the book gives a figure ten degrees lower than actual “it would bottom out at seventeen degrees below zero” p. 594, 3.) There’s no mention in the book’s index of the Blizzard of 1888 (an impetus for building the underground subways completed soon after)- I actually found two (unindexed) mentions of the blizzard on page 1067 (accompanied by a sketch- explaining why wires once on poles were buried) and page 1149.
|The Blizzard of '88- From Wikipedia|
|In Mr. Wallace's "Gotham," an unindexed reference and picture respecting the '88 blizzard|
(* For instance: "The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History Paperback" by Edward Robb Ellis, 1997- “It had been the mildest winter in seventeen years.”)Sorting out the true story of that particularly fabled event furnishes more than one signal of how treacherously ephemeral the records connecting us to our past can be: While Mr. Fybish’s correction of the January 12, 1996 New York Times story about the weather can easily be found on line, the actual 1996 Times article he corrects ("When Winter's Reality Hits Home- Editorial Notebook, Jan. 11") cannot be found on line! Maybe that missing article can be found in the library as would once surely have been the case, . . . Or is it gone, perhaps for good?
|George Templeton Strong- from Wikipedia|
Weather records are disappearing not just from the libraries. Fybish provides some irksome and unsettling information about how weather history is not so rock solid stable at the National Weather Service, mostly hailing back to the era of Harold Maurice Gibson, New York City's chief meteorologist at that NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) agency in the 1980s, whom Mr. Fybish recalls as having been a “pal” of Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens. (Before landing in New York, one of Mr. Gibson’s many stints was reportedly forecasting “weather for fishermen in Anchorage.”)
|Frank Sinatra- From Wikipedia|
According to Mr. Fybish, somewhere around a decade ago NOAA and the weather service office that is part of NOAA made a change in the way they report snowstorms so that the record for snowfall for a storm that lasts over a day only reports the total snowfall for the first day of that storm. Fybish points out that by contrast, the old method of reporting for the entire storm is still used for regular precipitation. Heavier snowstorms, the result of more moisture in the air, can indicate global warming.
It’s a bit esoteric, but Mr. Fybish can also explain how some of the weather statistics reported these days are not the same statistics that were previously reported for the same days in the past. He said he noticed that they can be a degree or two different: “sort of a distortion.” This is likely particularly to come into play when reporting the lowest temperatures of bygone years, tending to exclude some minimum cold records. Some other past statistics are being banished from the records. (Like Barry Bonds home runs?) Mr. Fybish tells about how at one point the National Weather Service decided that the accuracy of certain of the Central Park records should be “disrespected” and how that means that certain precipitation records are now treated as blank.
Says Mr. Fybish:
The most egregious result of whatever he [Harold Gibbons] was doing was he announced right before New Year of 1983 going into 1984 that the Central Park precipitation records needed to be invalidated because there had been something going on with the tipping gage that caused the rainfall totals to be greater than they should have been. So from that time on when you look at one of these annual reports which covers thirty years, the year 1983 is a blank on the precipitation part of the report, not on the temperature or the snow. But it turned out in later years [another analysis determined ] for all we know the rain gauge may have given less than the amount . . .Mr. Fybish comments, the facts were that “all around the area” those keeping records “had their wettest year in 1983.”
What you understand the records to be may even depend on whether you are getting them from the national service or from those working at Central Park. Mr. Fybish is inclined to solutions that give more information but footnote what has been called into question even if it formatting it for presentation thereby become a greater challenge.
|It's not really about remembering Tex Antoine and "Uncle Wethbee" says Fybish|
Naturally, many people have been discussing with Mr. Fybish this year’s unusual January, given the attention that has been grabbed by the “polar vortex” wandering deep into the south of eastern North America. While it’s made things cold here this winter there is thinking that it is nevertheless a product of global warming or climate change because climate change has resulted in a less swift, less stable jet stream, meaning that the planet’s northern cap of cold air doesn’t sit as neatly or securely in place over the planet’s North Pole as it used to.
That wandering jet stream explanation could account not only for the cold in New York this year, but also for the winter of 2011/2012 when it was exceptionally warm here (vying with 2001-02 for the warmest New York winter ever, but Europe, (France, the Ukraine, Poland, Bosnia, Serbia, Switzerland, Italy Russia) was in the grip of frigid temperatures.
Mr. Fybish doesn’t weigh in on the science of causation. He's aware of various theories, but that's not his expertise. Mr. Fybish instead dedicates himself to being a very careful noticer of what our experience of the weather has been over the many, many decades for which we have records. Others, perhaps engaging supercomputers to model the weather, may tell us why, but Mr. Fybish’s is the one who will tell us that while this January’s polar vortex weather with “all the curious things that happened this month” was cold, New York’s coldest January of this century so far was January, 2004, which was the second coldest of any since 1920, hitting 1 degree twice and 2 degrees once with 23 days of a minimum temperature of 20 degrees or less and 21 days that were 19 degrees or less.
Mr. Fybish has been collecting his own library of materials for years including his own notebooks and materials he has rescued from destruction by others. I asked him if he had given any thought to where he would bequeath these materials in he future, myself knowing that renowned biographer Edmund Morris had testified that, because of the NYPL’s poor treatment of research materials, he was changing the plans he once had to leave his own materials to the NYPL. Mr. Fybish volunteered that he had given some thought to leaving his materials to the NYPL, then self-editorialized with a quick sarcastic “Ha-ha!”
Mr. Fybish, intensely using and caring a lot about libraries, knows a lot about them. So it was that he knew about Nicholas Baker, author of “Doublefold” and of the article we will review next before I brought it up.
CHAPTER THREE: The San Francisco Library Destroys Its Books (Including Books Regarding Climate Change?)
Reckless bulk destruction of rare and valuable books and information that was meant to be safely preserved in libraries reminded me of Nicholson Baker’s 1996 account in The New Yorker of how substantial holdings of the San Francisco Public Library were trashed and sent to landfills when the library moved in order to shrink itself into what was supposed to be a technologically improved `library of the future,’ going broke in the process by doing so! See: Letter from San Francisco: The Author vs. The Library, by Nicholson Baker, October 14, 1996.
The description of the more recent Canadian carnage reminded me of the San Francisco wreckage, and also set me wondering if unique and hard-to-obtain climate records had been destroyed in that devastation as well. How legitimately might we hope that what was destroyed to the north in Canada might be found in back-up form in San Francisco further down the North American Pacific Coast?
I went back to reread Nicholson Baker’s article. Certainly, climate change records were not his particular focus; his focus was the general destruction of research library materials, often one-of-kind and invaluably important for knowing about the past.
Nevertheless, in writing with general broadness and somewhat anecdotally to describe what sorts of things were vanished from the San Francisco Public Library, Baker makes it appear very likely that books concerning zoology, biology, the natural world, with records and information relevant to climate change probably did disappear.
Baker indicates that he thinks that books on “cell biology” together with books about “Elizabethan poetry,” “model trains,” and “pets” were all given short shrift in the way they were treated “because they represent the old-fashioned public library of knowledge, with its space-intensive storage needs.” Baker picks one particular vanished book to speak about: “Garden Friends and Foes,” by Richard Headstrom, because of its metaphorical value to Baker's argument. The book is about weeds and throwing out books in a library like the San Francisco library is sometimes referred to as “weeding.” “Weeds” are what supposedly lack value, but, as Baker quotes from Headstrom’s book to make the point: “If you were asked to prepare a list of weeds and compare it with one prepared by somebody else, they would probably not be completely in agreement.”
In other words, weeding must be done carefully. Writes Baker: “You must be mindful of the traditional strengths and weaknesses of your library, and the myriad and secondary ways in which an out-of-date book may enlighten the historically curious”- and as Baker cautions “if your potential weed is outside of your main area of knowledge” you have some self-education and research to do beforehand.
Baker's metaphorical zeroing in on the discard of a book about "weeds" (who wants a book about "weeds") as a book that could have relevance and value in unexpected and secondary ways could be on target when it comes to climate change in ways Baker probably didn't think about: “Weeds,” and the study of them may turn out to be highly relevant to the study of climate change, to understanding climate change, fighting it and to providing certain possible solutions. See the New York Times: Can Weeds Help Solve the Climate Crisis? By Tom Christopher, June 29, 2008.
In other words, mankind’s close observance of nature, in all sorts of ways, is important to this kind of science. Other books Baker notes the elimination of: The last copy of Darwin’s “The Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants” (in a 1901 edition), “Rivers of North America” from 1907 and “The Way to Study Birds” from 1917. In fact, when it comes to birds, Baker notes “I found so many old books about birds” (and ethics) “in the Discard Room.”
The overhaul at S.F.P.L also meant that other relevant books, those actually still there, were more difficult for patrons (including those interested in birds) to access and refer to (“Patrons who want to consult these materials must make a special request and wait until the next day”): “John Gould's eight-volume 'Birds of Australia'” (a set of which sold at auction last March for over a quarter of $1 million)” and “Bligh’s `Voyages to the South Seas.’” That’s Bligh as in the dictatorial Captain Bligh who ruled over the ship the “Bounty” and the mutinous crew that included Fletcher Christian.
Elimination of “Garden Friends and Foes” was not likely because the book would be readily available elsewhere or because this book or other books of Headstrom* didn’t have value. According to Baker:
There are now no copies of “Garden Friends and Foes” on the shelves of San Francisco Public Library. There are no duplicates of it at the University of California at Berkley or at Davis or at Stanford. There are copies of a number of Headstrom’s other books in the S.F.P.L.’s collection— he has written about spiders, lizards, birds, and insects and even “A Complete Field Guide to Nests in the United States”— but books like this sole copy of his work on weeds were weeded. Why?
(* Richard Headstrom “(1902-1985) published many books related to nature and natural history. He began his writing career while teaching for more than twenty years high school chemistry, physics and biology. He also worked as a curator of botany at the 'New England Museum of Natural History', and curator of entomology at the 'Worcester Museum of Science and Industry'. He was also a columnist for the Boston Globe, the Boston Transcript and the Worcester Telegram.”)“Getting into the weeds,” or “weedy” is currently a slangy colloquialism for veering into details that take one away from telling more conveniently simple narratives. Rather than implying that details and their complexity lack validity the phrase tends to assume that the limitations of the listener taking in a story must be catered to. . . . But conforming facts to attractive narratives isn’t always good for science.
The New York Times just recently ran a story about how Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis concluded, after studies of the scientific literature, that currently “most published findings are probably incorrect.” Reportedly, after examining “more than a decade’s worth of highly regarded papers” Dr. Ioannidis found “that a large proportion of the conclusions were undermined or contradicted by later studies.” Buttressing the finding, the article describes the experience of drug scientist C. Glenn Begley:
He and his colleagues could not replicate 47 of 53 landmark papers about cancer. Some of the results could not be reproduced even with the help of the original scientists working in their own labs.(See: Science- New Truths That Only One Can See, by George Johnson, January 20, 2014.)
Why? Human nature and the almost inevitable attraction of certain predetermined narratives:
. . many hypotheses already start with a high chance of being wrong. Otherwise proving them right would not be so difficult and surprising — and supportive of a scientist’s career. Taking into account the human tendency to see what we want to see, unconscious bias is inevitable. Without any ill intent, a scientist may be nudged toward interpreting the data so it supports the hypothesis, even if just barely.This reminds us how urbanist and thinker Jane Jacobs consistently approached her examination of subjects with a rigorous insistence on direct observation, routinely skeptical of the pronouncements of `experts' and their ability to self-delude. Jacobs as rigorous and hard working was she was, like Mr. Fybish, was never certified as an expert in any of the areas she passionately researched.
The effect is amplified by competition for a shrinking pool of grant money and also by the design of so many experiments — with small sample sizes (cells in a lab dish or people in an epidemiological pool) and weak standards for what passes as statistically significant. That makes it all the easier to fool oneself.
Paradoxically the hottest fields, with the most people pursuing the same questions, are most prone to error. . .
By no means am I venturing that the general climate science of today be targeted for any special skepticism. I personally believe quite the opposite: We need to discount the climate science deniers, pretty much utterly, as a small smattering of virtual nuts, who claim credentials and expertise while being almost entirely financed by the fossil fuel industry. The case I am trying to make is that with science in general we need to be ever ready to return to original observations. We can't blithely rest assured that the latest pronouncements of the experts of today are correct, superseding all that has gone before. That's something that Mr. Fybish and Ms. Jacobs have both demonstrated.
CHAPTER FOUR: Modern News and the Internet as Our Future Source For Knowing Things.
Are there are those who think that as things are eliminated from the library we will forget things and lose our bearings? The United Nations just appointed fracking-endorser Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York as its `Climate Change Envoy’ in which capacity he is to be:
responsible for nudging cities around the world to take steps to combat climate change, helping to “raise political will and mobilize action among cities”(See: Bloomberg Picked to Be Climate Envoy, by Somini Sengupta, January 31, 2014.)
Secretary of State John Kerry said “I can’t think of a person better suited for this important new role.” Really?. . . Despite Bloomberg’s being a very environmentally ambiguous fellow? Bloomberg was mayor of New York for twelve years. He was more or less the opposite of an environmental mayor and didn’t launch his ballyhooed environmental initiates until spring of 2007, pretty much halfway through that twelve year tenure, a year after Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” film documented Gore’s long running lectures on climate dangers. See: Monday, November 2, 2009, On Your Way To Vote, We Quizzically Ask: How “Green” Is Our Bloomberg? and Saturday, April 23, 2011, A Post-Earth Day Post: Bloomberg, His PlaNYC 2030, His Environmental Creds (Credentials and Credibility) and Population Projections.
|Bloomberg- 2009 photo to promote him as an `environmentalist'|
John Kerry’s adoption of the platitudinous script for this alternate realty, “I can’t think of a person better suited for this important new role,” is particularly dismaying because as Secretary of State Kerry is supposed to arbitrate what is reality in terms of climate change respecting the environmental effect of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline intended to deliver tar sands oil from Canada. He is supposed to tell president Obama what he thinks and both activists and the fossil fuel industry are seizing upon the influence of his determinations as key.
|February 3rd in Union Square, New York, one of the many demonstrations that evening around the country against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline|
In New York, selling off of New York City libraries, shrinking the library system, dispensing with ready access to books (and the variety of information they provided) was part of the Bloomberg administration’s agenda. The indicators are that the principal goal was to hand out real estate deals to developers, not to make the public more stupid about climate change or another particular matter. But will we lose our grip on the realities of the past if the Bloomberg agenda for selling off and shrinking the city’s libraries proceeds as was intended when he was in office?
Are other libraries in the U.S., as in Canada, being purged of information with the same Orwellian objective of preventing the public from knowing what it needs to know? It may not be that simple or stark but those cutting back on libraries likely see little problem with libraries that streamline mankind’s collected body of historical knowledge down to what the public `needs to know', just to what a business efficiency expert thinks people `should know.' It certainly results in more manageable narratives that are easier to control and more likely handed out top down, narratives more likely to be in sync with the latest edition of PR stories those ensconced in society's upper ranks are handing out.
But what is really going to serve us best at a time when we need to develop new solutions? Don’t we need libraries with depth and diversity?
In her 2000 book, “The Nature of Economies,” Jane Jacobs, consistent with her earlier writings about how the jumbled and clustering activities of cities generate civilization and progress, made the case that “development,” which she proposes is a naturally and organically evolving process isn’t linear in nature, that like a natural ecosystem, it comes from the mixing of different `genetic pools’ of ideas and information, different ways of working and doing things (p.28-29). These `genetic pools’ include, among other things, old information and old ways of doing things that hopefully won’t be lost: Be careful of what you generalize to deem “obsolete” she warns because “even the most obscure and frivolous” things are “potentially economically fertile, provided that somebody who needs them can find them.”
“The Nature of Economies,” is written in the form of a Socratic dialogue where different characters express Jacobs’ ideas:
. . . development can’t be usefully thought of as a ‘line,’ or even as a collection of open-ended lines. It operates as a web of interconnected co-developments . . . (p.19)Jacobs writes, at one point, about how discrimination, selectively removing resources and opportunity from segments of the population, impoverishes the overall economy. Her words may also pertain to the effects of removing books from libraries, particularly when there are less advantaged segments of the population that rely on them most heavily.
. . . the richest— which means the most expanded— economies are diverse economies. The practical link between economic development and economic expansion is economic diversity. Here’s the principle, which applies to both ecosystems and he economics of settlements: Diverse ensembles expand in a rich environment, which is created by the diverse use and reuse of received energy. (P.63)
Now suppose portions of a population are prevented from exercising economic creativity and initiative because of discrimination attached to gender, race, caste, religion, social class, ideology, or whatever. This means that the kinds of work those people, do are automatically sterilized, so to speak. . . . If categories of people doing specific kinds of work can’t use those kinds of work as bases for development, it’s unlikely anybody else in the economy will. (P.32)In terms of ensuring diverse contributions from all sectors of society, it is not much consolation that somebody trimming the library down (with a corporatist bent) thought they knew the value others would find in what might be kept.
Libraries are about the societal sharing of resources. Jacobs writes about “the practice of sharing” as potently serving “economic development,” going way back to our origins:
By that I don’t mean random or inadvertent sharing but calculated, intended sharing as an institutionalized social practice. Along with us, our closest primate cousins, the chimpanzees and bonobos, go in for deliberate, socially formalized sharing. This suggests that the practice may go back to an ancestor common to the three of us, back to prehominid times. (p. 27)Towards the end of her “The Nature of Economies,” Jane Jacobs wrote about the manifestation of environmentally preservationist instincts in the human race being important to its survival.
Jacobs addressed herself to the environment in earlier books as well. In her “Economy of Cities” she observed that the most ruthless depredations of the environment are symptomatic of stagnating societies that are failing to develop in dead-end folly (p. 117) “where people exploit too narrow a range of resources too heavily and too monotonously for too long,” without repair or developing alternatives.
Looking back over the entire history of mankind for her evidence she sees appalling destructions of the environment (p. 118):
. . Common sequels in the past have been deforestation, complete destruction of wild life, loss of soil fertility and lowering of water tables.Her later “The Nature of Economies,” presents a more evolved discussion of humankind’s relationship with the environment, or should I say one that speaks to the issue of our evolution. She takes on Darwin’s famously “unsolved puzzle” concerning altruism (p. 124), asking whether the evolutionary “survival of the fittest” falsely constricts to a definition of competitive top-dog success where our ‘selfish genes’ dictate that individuals must strive to succeed at the expense of all those around them. That is not, in fact, the way that humankind has evolved.
This significant question has been tackled by the `Beautiful Mind’ of John Nash (b. 1928), the Nobel Laureate in Economics and by chemist, scientist, and mathematician George Robert Price (1922-1975- see: The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness, by Oren Harman). Jacobs remarking on some of the thought given to the question, references the attempt to solve the puzzle with game theory models. (It is interesting how, despite caparisons that can be drawn, Googling the names of Nash and Price in combination generates so few hits.)
Considering the work of game theorists, Nash or Price, we are likely to focus on the relationships and sacrificing balances between competing individuals of our species, but Jacobs speaks of the human race as having co-evolved in symbiotic relationship with the environment and other species such that our “fitness of habitat maintenance” and “habitat-preserving traits” must be “important evolutionary assets” to our race, including our “capacity for aesthetic appreciation” as a trait to “check habitat destruction.” In Jacobs' view the fittest environments are the most rich and diverse environments.
One oughtn’t to doubt the truth of what Jacobs asserts about humans co-evolving as symbionts living in coordinated concert with the other organism of the environment. It happens at all levels. As evolved, humans can’t produce all the vitamins we need to survive: We symbiotically rely on bacteria in our gut to produce Vitamin K while we and the other primates also rely on other organisms like citrus plants to produce Vitamin C so that we don’t get scurvy.
Does Jane Jacobs offer insights that could help us understand and respond to climate change? Probably. Are you going to be able to get those insights at the library? Maybe not.
. . . I went to the Brooklyn Heights Library, at least the second most important library in the Brooklyn library system, a flagship and destination library that the Brooklyn Public Library is proposing to sell-off for shrinkage. Of the seven books that Jane Jacobs wrote, the library had only one copy of one them, “Systems of Survival” (1992) which I actually wrote about in connection with the moral issues surrounding the proposed sale of that destination library.
Another three of Ms. Jacobs books were supposed to be on the shelves there, but weren’t. “The Nature of Economies,” written about in this article and “Cities and the Wealth of Nations” (1984) were supposed to be in the Business and Career portion of the library. The Business and Career portion of the library may largely cease to exist if the BPL follows through with its plans of exiling the section when it shrinks the library.
|It is not as if the shelves of the Brooklyn Heights Library don't have room (see above) for putting the books of Jane Jacobs where they are supposed to go. Click here to see many more picture of the library's now empty shelves and the emptying shelves of other NYC libraries.|
“The Economy of Cities,” the book that I quoted from above about the environment, would only be found in the Main Library several subway stops away from downtown, the same with Ms. Jacobs’ last book, “Dark Age Ahead” (2004).
Apparently nowhere in the system can you find Ms. Jacobs’ third book, “The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty” (1980 republished in 2011 with a 2005 interview) in which she offers analysis to understand Canadian government and politics, including the pull on the government of the resource extraction constituencies:
To understand . . . we must be aware of Canada's customary view of economic life and it's traditional approach to economic development. Canada exploits and exports resources, to the neglect of developing industries and services based on manufacturing or inventions requiring manufacturing. . . .
The experience of Canada has been that the largest and most quickly obtained fortunes, whether public or private, come from resources . . . Canada's get-rich-quick experience with resources has shaped all the countries major institutions. . . It has shaped the way venture capital and subsidies are used, the types of development schemes contrived, and the assumptions of almost everyone in authority. These are not easy things to change.
When a single dominant approach to economic life and wealth has been pursued as consistently and as long as it has been here, the experience gets thoroughly built into how things work. Dazzling sums of money are available for resource exploitation and for vast construction projects associated with them. . . pipelines, refineries . . .
. . . pitifully little . . . goes into initially modest innovative work.
|It is not as if Jane Jacobs books take up a lot of shelf space. For reference, three of books above, the two biggest, beside the rest of an entire Jacobs home library collection are not by Jacobs.|
|California's Central Valley grows a third of a third of of all the nation’s produce, one third of all the nation's fruit and vegetables?|
What about the Southern hemisphere where on November 8, 2013, (our fall their spring) Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest cyclone to hit land in recorded history devastated the Philippines? Now, it's summer in Australia and there is record heat there as well as fires. Bats are dropping dead from the sky, over 100,000 dead, because they simply fail when the temperature exceeds 109 degrees Fahrenheit. Kangaroos, parrots and emus are also dying. Maybe you knew about the 2014 Australian heat wave because of reports of the fainting hallucinating tennis players* and the melting plastic water bottles. (2013 was Australia’s hottest year on record.) Does heat in Australia mean that the other side of the Southern Hemisphere will be cool? One might hope unless you have caught up with the news about the heat waves in Argentina (104̊F and 113̊F), Uruguay, and Brazil.
(* At the same time we are running out of venues cold enough to host the Winter Olympics.)New Zealand? Not in the news with any reports of excessive heat as far as I can see.
Frankly, despite being able to inform myself that the heat down in Argentina turned into an unfortunate confrontation between 70 swimmers and a school of piranhas trying to share the same river, I find the availability of information on the internet a bit thin. While I don’t know exactly what figures would be completely accurate I know that very few companies own far too much of the media.
Making things potentially worse in terms of getting information that isn’t corporately moderated, only a few days ago this past January a federal appeals court ruled against the Federal Communication Commission's.(F.C.C.) regulations requiring "net neutrality," a ruling it is predicted will "give large, rich companies an unfair edge in reaching consumers" allowing different "companies to pay to stream their products to online viewers" faster and preferentially. Essentially, the internet will be treated as privately owned and, accordingly, because the internet "is not considered a utility," corporations seeking profits will be free to prefer what gets through on that basis. Could things be getting even worse than this? There are books to read on the subject.
How might we envision that the mosaic of locally tailored solutions to climate change might be created? If we recognized the true cost to society of fossil fuels by imposing a substantial immediate tax on fossil fuels as we probably ought to do to discourage their use, shifts would be going on everywhere, all of them trending toward solutions of differing ilk. We could flatter capitalist thinkers by speaking in terms of "harnessing the power and creativity of capital markets," but it is really a question of unleashing the creativity and collective power of human individuals, provided we supply those many individuals with appropriate resources. The resources I am talking about, of course, include libraries.
We now spend somewhere upwards from 8% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP*) on energy. I go by figures (see chart below) of the Institute for Energy Research. Although, the Institute for Energy Research (like the American Energy Alliance) seems to have been created backed by Koch and fossil fuel industry money for the purpose of climate science denial, their figures on this one particular score appear sufficiently reliable for our immediate purposes here.
(* GDP can be a misleading way to consider energy production. If someone make energy for you in Niagara Falls and sells it to you, it will be included in GDP. If you make energy for yourself at home with a solar panel or if you conserve it with long-life, energy-saving light bulbs or smart practices that will not be included in GDP.)
interactive map that was its source).
Is it true that "Most cost estimates clustered between 1 and 2 percent of the world's gross domestic product"? (See: Economic Scene- Counting the Cost of Fixing the Future, by Eduardo Porter, September 10, 2013.) A report in Business Week says "Climate change and pollution related to carbon-dioxide emissions are reducing the world’s gross domestic product by 1.6 percent a year" currently and if unchecked could "cut global GDP by 3.2 percent a year by 2030." The Environmental Defense Fund citing a Tufts University report and the National Resources Defense Counsel give figures of "3.6 percent of GDP" or possibly higher.
Says the NRDC report:
New research shows that if present trends continue, the total cost of global warming will be as high as 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Four global warming impacts alone—hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs—will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today’s dollars) by 2100.The journal "Nature," in a July 2013 report, found that global "costs would vary between $10 trillion to $220 trillion, depending on the emissions reductions that are put in place during the same period for other greenhouse gases, such as CO2."
To put that in perspective, U.S. GDP is $15.68 trillion if you refer to the chart below.
4.35% of our GDP on military spending. (So as not to double count let's acknowledge that figure includes money already acknowledged as part of the GDP spending on energy.) That 4.35% of GDP is the calculated figure used by the CIA for ranking purposes, but it is not clear that it includes what we spend on the CIA itself or the NSA to be secure. What we spend on the NSA is secret. By the calculation of some we spend more than 50% of our discretionary U.S. spending on the military.
In a study by the National Research Council commissioned by the C.I.A. it's forecasted that accelerating climate change:
will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe. . .(See: Climate Change Report Outlines Perils for U.S. Military, by John M. Broder, November 9, 2012.)
. . clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems.
The Pentagon now has an "Arctic Strategy" because "as rising global temperatures shrink the polar ice. . Russia, China and other nations" will "compete for economic opportunities and influence in the region."
Discussing the issue in the fall, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:
noted that tourism, shipping and commercial fishing might gravitate toward new Arctic sea routes, but he underscored in particular what could happen as nations vied for the region’s vast quantities of oil and gas.(See: Pentagon Releases Strategy for Arctic, by Thom Shanker, November 22, 2013.)
“A flood of interest in energy exploration has the potential to heighten tensions over other issues,” Mr. Hagel said. Multilateral security cooperation will be a priority, he added, as “this will ultimately help reduce the risk of conflict.”
There are plenty who will asset to you that the expensive cost of recent wars fought by the United States, particularly the last two Iraq wars had a lot to do with fossil fuel oil people were after. It’s estimated the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion. Whatever you calculate the unreimbursed cost of the short first Iraq war to have been, it is important to remember that in ways it helped led to the two following wars.
That's the kind of money we are spending on energy, and energy from fossil fuels, that create climate change: many thousands of dollars per capita and well over 10% of our GDP. On libraries that could be furnishing and incubating clever solutions for smarter, cheaper energy use, helping us to properly understand the challenges while solving many of the world's other problems at the same time we spend $36.18 per capita on U.S. citizens with expenditures varying by state, with some states spending as low as $15.99.
In other words, in contrast to vast devotion of societal resources to energy and everything else that hangs in the balance, we are spending on the order of 00.08% of our GDP, an almost incalculably small fraction, on libraries even though they may be the source of many of society's answers. Instead of believing that knowledge and information and the accumulated wisdom of the past can provide answers, we now seek to shrink away and destroy libraries, and in the case of Canada's environmental libraries it's because those libraries are telling us the truth we need to confront and deal with.
Do those running the libraries where I live in New York City have a vision of how libraries relate to this era of climate change? They do!. . . But only sort of. The vision offered by the NYPL and BPL is not one where we all fan out as capable citizens using the libraries as libraries- the way libraries were always intended to be used- (together with other resources) to save the environment, creating solutions and protecting the world from climate change. In the vision offered by the library administrators, the general populace isn't offered the chance to arise as heroes of their own tale; Instead, more paternalistically it is envisioned that New York City libraries will be converted to the new use of housing our assaulted populace in “cooling centers,” “cooling stations,” and “hurricane/emergency relief centers.” (See: Thursday, October 3, 2013, Michael Kimmelman’s Scary Tightrope Act On Library Design: A Dance With The PR Machine Of Library Officials Intent On Selling Off Libraries.)
There is an accentuating problem in this regard. Library administrators are using this new vision as a reason to sell and shrink libraries:
Everyone knows that going back to the sudden secretive sale of the Donnell Library there hasn’t been a library that library administration officials have wanted to sell or destroy (including the stacks of the 42nd Street Central Reference Library) where they don’t blame theoretically problematic air conditioning. They argue that the air conditioning can’t be fixed, but must be fixed, so they say that the ownership of the real estate must be turned over to developers. Witness the current shenanigans respecting the intentional overestimation of air conditioning repair costs and refusal to repair the air conditioning with respect to the Brooklyn Heights Library. The air conditioning `broke down' just months before Brooklyn Public Library officials were about to make public their longstanding (going back to 2008) secret plans to sell that library.The interim result is that the public swelters more as climate change ushers in hot days as the library officials refuse to fix or upgrade air conditioning, trying to force public assent to the proposed real estate deals.
Here is another link that can be made between climate change and Bloomberg's developer-driven library sales: One of the trustees of the NYPL who has been key to pushing the NYPL's Bloomberg-blessed sale of its precious library real estate is Stephen Schwarzman, head of the Blackstone Group, the "largest real estate investor in the world." When he is not pushing the Bloomberg agenda of selling libraries for real estate deals, Schwarzman, like Bloomberg, is promoting hydro-fracking, a fossil fuel industry in which he invests heavily. (See: Saturday, June 22, 2013, On Charlie Rose NYPL Trustee Stephen Schwarzman Confirms Suspicions: His $100 Million To The Library Was Linked To NYPL’s Real Estate Plans.) . . .
. . A third leg of this stool: Mr. Schwarzman has been cited in two Paul Krugman columns as an example of a plutocratic class warrior who believes that the 1% must retain their supremacy over the rest of society, winning at any cost. (See: Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted, September 26, 2013 and Paranoia of the Plutocrats, January 26, 2014.)
|How is it that libraries and civilizations end? Drawing by Simon Verity.|
We also have some historical notions about how civilizations have crashed and burned when they have let their great libraries fall to ruin or destruction. See: See Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries throughout History, by Lucien X. Polastron (2007).
But now in a fit of digital, real estate-grabbing fashion that may pass soon enough, recognized as transient folly, we risk what we have preserved through generations.
Similarly, the carbon we are now releasing with the extraction of fossil fuels from the earth has been sequestered, buried underground for hundreds of millions or, as the case may be, billions of years and thus with that carbon out of the atmosphere the earth's climate has been the hospitable home of our homo sapiens race for 200,000 years. Now, taking extraordinary risk, we are making a break from that past.
(* Most coal was sequestered starting about 400 million years ago. Coals have been discovered in rocks as old as the Precambrian, but it was not until the Devonian Period (some 400 million years ago) that woody plants became abundant on land and peat deposits were able to accumulate enough to make a minable coal. The deposit of significant quantities of oil underground goes back even further, 2.5–2 billion years to the Archean-Paleoproterozoic transition. Then a radical modification in recycling of organic matter, and the Shunga Event—the accumulation and abundant deposition of unprecedented anomalously organic-carbon- rich-matter sediments forming petroleum source rocks and the inferred generation and migration of the oldest known significant volumes of oil/petroleum.)And we should remember that climate change, like the destruction of the great libraries of history, has also been associated with the demise of civilizations, sometimes for similar interrelated reasons. See: Climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, by Emily Sohn, January 21, 2014.
It may seem impertinent and shrill to suggest that cutting back and eliminating libraries could bring about the downfall of our civilization claiming that the climate change threatening our species and the rest of the world will be likely be exacerbated as a result . . . But it is highly reasonable to believe, as I do, that the answers to climate change will ultimately involve a multiplicity of individuals and talents and a mosaic of solutions, locally developed and fine tuned to address challenges in all sorts of specific and different ways. Seeking all the solutions we can has got to be essential, even a question of survival. Libraries will assuredly be important in the mix contributing to those solutions. Also contributing will be the significant and due respect for knowledge and information that libraries represent and deserve.
Here is one way I am personally working towards solutions locally in New York City. As part of Citizens Defending Libraries we are working to make sure that the Bloomberg agenda for selling off New York City libraries ends with Bloomberg's very recent departure. Towards that goal we stood with Mayor de Blasio this summer when de Blasio was a candidate calling for a halt to the sales. We helped elect Public Advocate Tish James and other candidates running for office who opposed the sales. Our work is not done. Though Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, and although his administration is being replaced, library officials (including some officials previously appointed and left behind by Bloomberg) have announced that they intend to work to lobby Mayor de Blasio and the other officials who were elected opposing library sales to get those elected officials to change their minds. Our job is now is to keep the spines of our newly elected officials stiff, representing the voters who put them into office.
Some good news in this regard: Recently elected City Councilman Costa Constanidis, is the new head of the City Council subcommittee on libraries and he is holding hearings on libraries. He, along with the new City Comptroller Scott Stringer, will be investigating how the city's libraries were run under the Bloomberg administration with a focus on whether the trustees were truly attending to the public interest. One thing making this especially good news: Councilman Constanidis, a lawyer, came into office elected partly on the basis of his background as an “environmental activist.”