June, 2022

Prof. Richard M. Robinson, PhD
Department of Business Administration,
SUNY Fredonia

June, 2022


A New Book

I have recently signed a contract to write a new 400-page volume for Palgrave-Macmillan titled Environmental Advocacy and Local Restorations. It focuses on the Areas of Concern Program for restoring locales along the Great Lakes. There are 48 of these “areas,” but I will focus on eleven. These areas are to be restored with the involvement of local environmental advocacy organizations along with the EPA and state organizations who generally provide the scientific expertise necessary for effective remediation. The interactions between these various groups have worked well in some locales, and perhaps not so well in others. The funding, the management of the restorations, the political interactions, plus the planning and design of these restorations, all pose the problems to be investigated.

This new book is to be completed in June, 2023. It will be published in Palgrave’s Environmental Theory and Politics series. It will require that I travel a great deal, and interview many of those involved. The areas of concern (AOCs) to be investigated include:

  • four in the Detroit area (the Detroit River AOC, the River Rouge AOC, the Clinton River AOC, the River St Claire AOC),
  • two in the Cleveland area ( the Cuyahoga River AOC, and the Ashtabula River AOC),
  • one south of Chicago (the Grand Calumet River AOC),
  • two in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula (the Muskegon River AOC, and the Saginaw River and Bay AOC),
  • one in the Duluth area (the St. Louis River AOC),
  • and one in the Milwaukee area (the Milwaukee Estuary AOC).

For the last few chapters of the book, I plan an examination of three areas outside of the Great Lakes Basin (the Mystic River in Eastern Massachusetts, the Housatonic River in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, and the Penobscot River in Maine). To what extent can the lessons from the areas of concern program apply to the restorations of these three rivers? This is a relevant question I must investigate. Federal funding under NOAA’s relatively new “Urban Waters” program may apply here, and this will be explored. All three of these New England areas have strong local environmental advocacy organizations that could lead effective restorations provided they have the funding. This will be the ultimate question explored by this new book.

Problems in Iowa

Iowa has despoiled its water. This is the message of a brilliantly important article by Charlie Hope-D’Aniere in the Spring, 2022, issue of Sierra¸ the magazine of the Sierra Club. The article is titled, “The Trickle-Down Effect: If Iowans want clean water, they are going to have to fight for it.” I argue that the movement that Hope-D’Aniere is contributing to is a clear extension of the one spawned by Rachel Carson in 1962. Carson woke us to the problems of overuse of pesticides. Now we must tackle the corruption of our water supply by overuse of weed killers, pesticides, and fertilizers. Hope-D’Aniere’s article warns us of the severe health effects that have arisen from this problem in one of our most agricultural states.

A big part of Iowa’s problem stems from its development of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). I wrote about this in Chapter 9 of Environmental Organizations and Reasoned Discourse (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2021). But the problem of overuse of chemicals and fertilizers stems from more than the state’s CAFOs. Smaller farms are also contributing to this problem. Hope-D’Aniere points out the possible use of “buffer” zones along crop fields and feeding areas to mitigate the problem. The recommendation is that federal subsidy programs should require these buffers and restrict overuse of chemicals and fertilizers. Otherwise, the externalities are overwhelming and destructive for all downstream users. Water is a public good! This is even true of well water since it generally comes from a shared multi-user aquifer.

Solutions of these tragedies-of-the-commons always involve collective action and regulation. The EPA reached such a solution with its “consent decree” involving a similar problem in the Chesapeake Bay. (See Chapter 9 as cited above, and also p. 261 of Chapter 10.) The same sort of agreement must now be established for the whole Mississippi River Basin. But Hope-D’Aniere ties the contamination problem to the Iowa Farm Bureau with the statement,

“This leads some critics to conclude that lobby groups (the Federation of Farm Bureaus) oppose regulation so vehemently not because it would hurt farmers but because it would cut into the bottom line of the businesses that fund the lobbying – specifically the seed and chemical companies and the live stock companies, whose business models depend on wanton manure spreading.” (p. 25, parentheses added)

My Chapter 10 of Environmental Organizations focuses on the “Dead Zones” created by this contamination problem, namely that the overfertilization causes the algae blooms that result in these “dead zones.” They occur in Iowa’s rivers, but gigantic versions occur at the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico. Why? The pollutions flow from the agricultural areas of the upper and mid-Mississippi Basin, and then into the Mississippi and the Gulf.

Chris Jones of the University of Iowa’s Institute of Hydraulic Research writes a popular blog on Iowa’s water pollution problem. David Cwiertny of the University of Iowa’s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination also contributes to this effort. The problem is massive. We must confront it!

The New Text

My new text, Business Ethics: Kant, Virtue and the Nexus of Duty (Springer, January 2022), is doing well with over 2,300 sold. Of course, most of these are in digital form. Any instructors who adopt this text (or some of its chapters) are welcome to contact me with any suggestions, or to have me furnish an updated list of my own questions and assignments. I have also posted videos of my lecture presentation which instructors can use. These are links to You Tube videos. I certainly welcome any suggestions or videos from other instructors. Others might well have better lectures on the subjects of the various text chapters than my own efforts. I am willing to communicate this and recommend these efforts of others. So, please let me hear from you!

Prof. Richard Robinson

SUNY Fredonia