Archive for October, 2014

SAIS Observer

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

The student newspaper The SAIS Observer recently conducted an interview with me about the new ERE concentration here at HNC…..  so please check that out:


Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Hopkins-Nanjing Center

I flew from Florence to Nanjing, to take up my new role as Resident Professor at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) – and began teaching less than 48 hours later. I’m teaching two new courses – one on air pollution control and the other on global energy fundamentals — and thus have a 90 minute lecture every day (for four days), and Master’s thesis advising on the fifth. So you can imagine that I’ve been very, very busy, & putting in lots of prep time…. but these courses address some really fascinating (and rapidly changing!) topics.

I’ve been extremely fortunate as well that Professor Debbie Bleviss from the SAIS DC campus has been such a tremendous help on the energy course. She’s allowed me to tap into the materials and lectures – as well as her own considerable expertise! — from a very similar course she’s offered in DC and in Bologna.

You can see one of the main buildings at HNC – the Samuel Pollard Building–in the nearby photo. My classroom (for both courses) is on the second floor; the library is on the third & fourth floors; and I live in an apartment suite up on the seventh floor, in the middle of the building and overlooking this same courtyard. My office is in the smaller two-story building on the right hand side, on the ground floor…. so you can see that my commute every day isn’t too bad at all!

During the first week we also had a session to kick off our new Energy, Resources and Environment (ERE) program at HNC, and I was honored to share the stage with Professor Bi Jun, Dean of the School of Environment at Nanjing University. Professor Bi gave a presentation that outlined some of China’s major environmental challenges, and my own focused on the role of economic mechanisms to address such challenges – much as China is currently doing with its seven emissions trading pilot projects for GHG control.

So please check out my new SAIS faculty website…. & there’s more to come!


Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

GE’s ‘Oil and Gas University’ decided to run a “second wave” instructional program this year, similar in all respects to the one given in early Spring – and so I was very fortunate to be able to come back and visit Florence again in September. There were 29 participants from 19 different countries in this program – with a particularly large contingent from the UAE. It seems that climate change is increasingly being recognized as a crucially important topic of concern for energy firms – and I obviously hope that such an increased instructional pace continues!

Every tourist in Italy (like me) has been affected in some way – whether they realize it or not – by the views of the Victorian-era art critic, travel writer, Oxford don, and all-around polymath John Ruskin. He wrote volumes and volumes about Italian cities and art, and his thinking has now permeated the very way we consider and appreciate culture in that part of the world. His 1881 book Mornings in Florence is a well-known example (and is available free on Kindle). That book outlines six artistic tours, beginning with a visit to Santa Croce, and the very first sentence of his very first tour reads:

If there is one artist, more than another, whose work it is desirable that you should examine in Florence, supposing that you care for old art at all, it is Giotto.

Giotto at the Uffizi

Giotto di Bondone was a painter and architect who is usually considered the first of the great Italian artists that brought about an Italian Renaissance. He was favorably mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and it is known that Michelangelo closely studied his frescoes. One of his principal architectural works was the bell tower (the campanile) immediately adjacent to the famed Duomo….. and his statue now stands in a place of honor outside the Uffizi. And so, on this visit… Giotto it was.

Following Ruskin’s advice, I headed to Santa Croce on the first morning of my Florence trip – although admittedly I did not “rise with the sun” to do so (staying instead at the hotel for a great Italian breakfast!); nor did I follow his recommendation to take along my opera glasses. But it was a rewarding trip nonetheless, and the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels immediately to the right of the main altar are particularly noteworthy. Giotto’s work represented a significant shift, away from the previous icon-oriented Byzantine period with its symbolism and abstract representation of religious subjects, towards one that was much more naturalistic, with more realistic representations of physical space. One of Michelangelo’s studies of Giotto’s Peruzzi Chapel work still survives, and while Giotto’s knowledge of anatomy certainly didn’t match that of his disciple — how many artists would?? – he certainly laid down a path followed by his talented successor. His work on the campanile came in the latter stages of his life, and he didn’t live to see it finished…. but I found the representations of physical space in that work very, very real as well. [And yes, I’m talking about the 414 steps I climbed to reach its top!]

Giotto’s Campanile

Despite the beauty he created, it seems that Giotto doesn’t always get the respect he deserves. There’s a wonderfully funny scene early in E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel A Room with a View (in the chapter entitled “In Santa Croce with No Baedecker”) where the young Lucy – alone at first – worried that she wouldn’t be able to know which works of art were really beautiful, the ones “most praised by Mr. Ruskin.” Ultimately led to the Giotto frescoes in the Peruzzi Chapel by Mr. Emerson (a young gentleman staying at the same pensione), they listened to a somber lecturer discussing Giotto’s technique. But the lecturer was soon interrupted, “in a voice much too loud for a church,” by Mr. Emerson’s irascible father: “Look at that fat man in blue! He must weigh as much as I do, and he is shooting into the sky like an air balloon.” [his somehat uncouth critique of Giotto’s “Ascension of St. John.”]

On a more personal level, the statue at Uffizi hints that Giotto himself was not the most handsome of men, and apparently his children were quite plain as well. There is a story that Dante once asked him how a person who created such beauty could have sired such children. His response: “I made them in the dark.”