Monday, August 15, 2016

Leidy Klotz's "Sustainability through Soccer"

Leidy Klotz is Associate Professor of Engineering at Clemson University. Less than a decade into his academic career, he has been awarded a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation and named to NerdScholar’s inaugural list of “40 under 40: Professors Who Inspire” for his ability to captivate and engage students. Before becoming a professor, he was a professional soccer player.

Klotz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World, and reported the following:
Ford Madox Ford was right on about Page 99 of my book. One can certainly get a feel for the entire book just by reading that page, especially if I’m allowed to add my commentary, which follows.

Page 99 begins with the end of a comparison between 1) a Czechoslovakian soccer player who pioneered a new way to take penalty kicks and 2) the grass on the sand dunes of the New Jersey barrier island where my family vacations. I use these examples to make a larger point about the sustainability concept of inertia. The Czech’s new penalty kick approach worked because he considered the inertia embedded in the soccer system, in particular the goalkeeper’s early movement. In a similar way, the dune grass works with the inertia in the beach ecosystem to help sand accumulate, more effectively protecting the island against erosion than expensive manmade structures like jetties.

So, through the soccer and sustainability stories, those who have read the entire section, not just the piece on page 99, will have learned that: “inertia is a resistance to change in the current state of motion, which means that, by using inertia, we can avoid wasted effort.” Every section ends with a summary of the main concept and a reminder of the illustrative examples. On page 99, the reminder is: “Because of inertia, simple dune grass controls beach erosion, and slow penalty kicks fool guessing goalkeepers.”

My book contains a few dozen comparisons like these, laid out to help readers understand a progression of basic sustainability concepts in a way that is hopefully memorable. Soccer is used as an analogy not just because it is the most popular sport in the world, but also because it is a free-flowing game that exemplifies many of the same systems-thinking concepts that are so important to understanding sustainability.

And so, the section that begins on the end of page 99 explains: 1) why arguably the best defender in the world was left off of Argentina’s 2010 World Cup team; 2) why lemmings jumping from cliffs are not suicidal; and 3) how these examples explain the sustainability concept of carrying capacities. If you don’t yet see the connection, you will if you read my book.
Learn more about Sustainability through Soccer at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue