An Horizon, a Porthole, and a New Book

Janine Selendy is what one might call an “accidental altruist.” Early in her teen years, she came face-to-face with the astonishingly poor living conditions faced by people living in Iran. This pivotal experience led Selendy away from her intended career in diplomacy and into a very busy life aimed at changing people’s lives at the level of their basic needs.

Selendy initially set out to become a doctor, and she soon began to participate in environmental health work such as the cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson river. However, the more she interacted with scientific literature, the more frustrated she became that the literature seemed filled only with negatives and problems, yet rarely addressed solutions or emphasized what was already being done about these problems.

To fill this gap, Selendy founded Horizon International, a non-profit organization based at Yale University which addresses health, environmental and poverty issues. In an era before the internet, Selendy also capitalized on the power of television to enlighten and inform a wider audience on these important issues, and to date she and her team have produced over twenty documentaries.

Next, Selendy and the leaders of Horizon International also sought and received funding from the National Science Foundation to create a program that would provide educational games and multimedia for young people. They named this website “Magic Porthole” because, “if you come in here, you don’t know what you’re going to find next!”

Amidst all of this activity, Selendy has also managed to find the time to edit a book, Water and Sanitation Related Diseases and the Environment: Challenges, Interventions and Preventive Measures, which will be published by Wiley next month (July 2011). The book chapters are authored by an array of high-profile scientists and public health leaders and cover topics that range from “water and war” to “diarrhea and nutrition.”

Selendy discusses her history, work, and aspirations in live interview hosted on the website Listen and download the MP3 here.

Read a more detailed biography of Selendy here.

Find out more about Selendy’s book here.

EVENT! Climate Change, Science and Society: A Multidisciplinary Discussion

This special event will explore the topic of climate change from diverse disciplinary perspectives, illustrating that this phenomenon is not simply a scientific problem, but a social and economic one as well.

Presented by:

The Hot Topics in Green Science and Sustainability Discussion Group
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

When: Wednesday June 1st, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: The New York Academy of Sciences
(7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street, 40th floor, New York, NY 10007-2157)
Moderator: Sarah Andrus, John Wiley & Sons Inc.


Dr. David H. Rind

Dr. Steven Rose
Senior Project Manager, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Lauren Chambliss, M.A.
Assistant Director, Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station

The Warming Papers

Last month, Wiley released The Warming Papers, a concise, comprehensive collection of scientific papers that make up the foundation of the global warming forecast. We sat down with Dr. David Archer, one of the book’s two editors (the other being Dr. Ray Pierrehumbert), to find out more about the planning processes behind this sort of collaboration, as well as his own thoughts on global warming.

  • Climate change science is notoriously complex, taking account of many factors. What strategy did you use to organize the content?

Generally there is a physical domain, concerning the energy balance of the Earth as it is affected by light and heat, and a chemical domain, concerning the carbon cycle and the possibility of human activity altering it.

  • How did you go about deciding which papers to include in this book?

We chose seminal papers, the first ones to explore big ideas, rather than, say, the most recent or most current paper on the topic. And we limited papers to those concerning global warming—a human impact on climate, in particular—rather than climate science more broadly.

  • You wrote The Long Thaw, about how humans have affected climate change. How would climate change have progressed differently without the interference of modern technology and industry?

It would be somewhat cooler today if not for human activity, and humans have the capacity to derail the glacial cycles, at least for a while (geologically speaking).

  • What advice would you give to a lay person confused by the conflicting claims of climate scientists on the one hand and climate skeptics/deniers on the other?

Follow the money.

  • What are your views on geoengineering?

Geoengineering could work as a temporary band-aid to cool things down for a few decades while we actively remove CO2 from the air. The U.S. will have to pay for a quarter of it, because that is how much of the mess we made. But since fossil fuel CO2 continues to warm the climate for hundreds of thousands of years after it is first released to the atmosphere, geoengineering is not a “fix” for global warming. It leaves the planet on life support, an unstable and unfair legacy for future generations.

  • If you could work in another field or discipline in science, what would you choose and why?

I love the natural stability that arises in Earth system processes. I could have gone in the direction of instrumentation and making measurements; it would be fun to remote-control fly an unmanned airplane in the Martian atmosphere, for example.

Check out another book by this author:
Global Warming: Understanding the Forecastby David Archer