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February 12 2014

10:52

Green taxes aren't the answer to Britain's floods, just ask Australia

Britain's flood crisis will need a firm response from Government but David Cameron should resist the urge to follow Australia's example on green taxes
    




January 23 2014

20:21

What is Wrong with Star Powered Environmental Advocacy

Environmental advocacy and star power

What harm can there be from celebrities who provide material support, raise environmental awareness and encourage ecological action? We live in a culture of celebrity worship, we are bombarded with their images in advertising, film, television and online. Whether we are consumers of pop culture or not, there is no denying that celebrities hold a lot of sway with the general public.  The fact is that television, movie and music personalities have vastly larger audiences than the most popular climate scientists.

Hanging on every word. Despite their best intentions, does star-powered environmental advocacy run the risk of succumbing to the fickle and shallow tendencies in our society?Many of these stars do more than pay lip service to green lifestyles, they show their concern for the environment by driving hybrid cars, living in green homes or changing their dietary habits. A few have even become stalwart activists.

Leonardo DiCaprio is an environmental advocate who serves on the boards of several environmental organizations. He co-wrote, produced and narrated the documentary film the 11th Hour, in which he called global warming “the number-one environmental challenge”. He has been known to drive electric vehicles including a Toyota Prius, Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma. He has also installed solar panels on his house. He has his own foundation that is dedicated to protecting the Earth’s wild places.  He is a passionate supporter of tigers and he actively works on protecting their habitats particularly in Nepal. In November 2010, DiCaprio donated $1,000,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society at Russia’s tiger summit. In 2011, DiCaprio joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s campaign to free a tiger who was languishing at a Truck Stop in Louisiana.  He has also advocated for a number of other environmental causes including access to clean water, renewable energy and forest preservation.

Matt Damon is a celebrity best known to environmentalists for his water advocacy. Recently in Davos, the movie star was honored by the World Economic Forum for his work as co-founder of Water.org, a nonprofit organization whose motto is “safe water and the dignity of a toilet for all.” During his acceptance speech he said that Water.org is extending “water credit” to poor families so they can afford to install a toilet or connect their homes to a waterline that for them is “literally a lifeline.”  Water.org has already helped more than 5 million people, and he noted that McKinsey consultants have estimated his organization could reach 100 million by 2020.

Daryl Hannah is serious about her green activism and involvement. In February 2013, Hannah was arrested in front of the white house for protesting against the Keystone XL. Hannah has been an environmental advocate for years. She has participated in many  environmental protests, including two tree sit-ins. In 2012, she spoke out against the fallacy of ‘ethical oil’, ‘clean coal’ and ‘natural gas.’ She is also the founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA), and sits on several environmental advocacy boards such as the Environmental Media Association (EMA), Sylvia Earle Alliance, Mission Blue and the Action Sports Environmental Coalition. Her website dhlovelife.com provides solutions for living a green lifestyle.

Ed Begley jr. is a longtime environmental advocate who lives in a solar-powered home and drives an electric car. Begley and his family are currently documenting the construction of a LEED Platinum-certified home for Begley Street, a television and Web series.

Cameron Diaz is another celebrity well known for her green activism. Her sustainability advocacy even attracted the attention of unlikely publications like Vogue magazine. Diaz also worked with Al Gore to raise awareness about climate change and she is allegedly one of the first celebs to buy an electric vehicle.

Hayden Panettiere has been involved in the fight to protect whales and other marine life since she was 15 years old. She filmed the slaughter of dolphins and the footage appeared in the acclaimed documentary The Cove. She is a spokesperson for the Whaleman Foundation, which works to protect whales and dolphins from the impact of climate change and fishing, and has also appeared before the U.S. Congress.

Edward Norton is very vocal about environmental concerns and he has served as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.

Natalie Portman has a long history of ecological advocacy. She is a vegetarian who has designed a line of vegan shoes. She also participated in a documentary film about gorillas.

Sting is a longtime supporter of the Amazon’s rainforests and he has established a charity called the Rainforest Foundation, which is dedicated to the protection of the rainforests and their inhabitants.

Brad Pitt has helped with rebuilding New Orleans by contributing green building materials after the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Don Cheadle has taken action against the genocide in Darfur, and he has also worked with the United Nation on climate change concerns.

Alicia Silverstone owns a home made of sustainable materials, she’s vegan and she has written a book about sustainability.

Pamela Anderson has advocated for animal rights and forest preservation. She has worked with the Inga Foundation which fights the “slash-and-burn” process of clearing land. She has also supported efforts to ban oil tankers off of Canada’s west coast.

Mark Ruffalo is a vocal opponent of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and he co-founded waterdefense.org to educate the public about fracking concerns.

Ted Danson is involved in ocean activism and he even started his own charity.

American actor Robert Redford and Canadian rocker Neil Young have been vocal opponents of Alberta’s tar sands. Redford appears in a video released by the National Resources Defense Council saying the tarsands are “destroying our great northern forests at a terrifying rate” and “killing our planet.” Neil Young put together a concert tour to help the indigenous people who are suffering from the effects of the tar sands in Alberta. He also speaks out against the Canadian government’s unconscionable support for oil interests.

There are a host of other stars who have come out in support of environmental causes including:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Christie Brinkley
  • George Clooney
  • Jessica Alba
  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • Julia Louis Dreyfus
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Tony Hawk

These are just a few of the many famous people who advocate for the environment. So how could there be anything wrong with stars who support environmental issues?

Even though our culture appears to venerate stardom, celebrities are treated like disposable commodities which are worshiped one day and forgotten the next. The hollow and transient nature of celebrity worship is at odds with the attitude required to foster global action. While the popularity of celebrities is superficial and fleeting, the environmental challenges we face demand that we very seriously take the long view.

We require the type of perspective that enables us to appreciate and act on behalf of that which is most important. Our veneration of people who are famous is a colossal bastardization of a balanced understanding of the fundamentally prescient elements that constitute a healthy planet.

Some celebrities clearly work hard on behalf of noble causes, while others may be involved for more selfish reasons. Celebrity is all about popularity, they engage a phalanx of press agents to advise them on what kind of public statements are the most politically correct for the demographic they are playing to. Few know what they really think. Regardless of what they may actually believe, people who are household names have been co opted by the public and as such, they are deprived of their identity apart from their characterizations in the popular media. They become two dimensional cutouts.

By contrast, our appreciation of climate change and other environmental issues requires that we go beyond glossy exteriors so that we can collectively get our heads around the scope of the challenges that confront us.

While some stars may know what they are talking about, others appear to have a passing interest that may be more about generating good press than genuine concern. That is not to deny that those in the public eye can sometimes help the average person to come to a better understanding of complex issues.

The point is that star worship is a reflection of our own shallowness. We do not really know these people, although we may come to know a two dimensional character they play, or what their publicists feel would be good for their careers.

It is a sad reflection on our society, but our preoccupation with celebrity is born from the same place as the impulse to exploit and dispose of our world. Our values and our priorities are out of balance and the veneration of stardom is a comes from the same mass confusion that created the ecological crisis we now face. Our interest in the lives of the rich and famous is part of the same mindlessness as the environmental nightmare we are perpetrating against ourselves and future generations.

A 2010 national survey by Rasmussen indicated that 84 percent of Adults admit that Americans pay too much attention to celebrity news and not enough attention to news that has real impact on their lives.

Our preoccupation with the habits of celebrities detracts from our appreciation of the issues that are most pressing. We do not have the luxury of willful negligence, nor can we afford to succumb to paralysis if we do pay heed to the most pressing concerns of our times. The fact is that when we feel overwhelmed or hopeless we commonly indulge in escapism which is at the heart of what celebrity worship is all about.

We need to get real and take a serious look at what is happening to the world we live in. How are we to come to terms with the work that needs to be done if we refuse to take a hard look at the facts?

Stars may be well meaning supporters of noble causes, but the way that the general public co opts their identity, artificially elevates them (and ultimately drops them), make them less than ideal representatives for environmental activism.

The cult of celebrity feeds into all that is wrong with our world. It is not that celebrities are inherently untrustworthy, the problem is that star culture exacerbates the valueless and fickle myopia of the public eye.

——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Gordon Vasquez, courtesy flickr

 

The post What is Wrong with Star Powered Environmental Advocacy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

The post Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 06 2013

12:47

Webchat: Are the oceans in crisis?

Daryl Hannah and Johan Rockström answer your questions about the state of the seas
    

September 24 2013

17:39

Fighting Aphids Naturally: How the Mall of America Handled their Pest Problem

3240104822_212aa12067Ladybugs are universally loved, rarely looked at with the same disgust reserved for other members of the bug family, like roaches or ants. Beyond their reputation as a symbol of good luck, however, ladybugs are actually quite useful; they are the natural enemy of aphids, preying on pests and providing a form of natural pest control. The Mall of America recently dealt with an aphid infestation, and they turned to ladybugs to help them control the problem.

An Aphid Invasion

The Mall of America is a huge retail space, housing an aquarium, a theme park, a golf course and even a mirror maze. In addition, it is the home to tens of thousands of plants and hundreds of trees; in addition to providing a nice atmosphere for patrons, the greenery works to purify the air inside the building. Aphids unfortunately began to thrive inside the mall, eating the plants and leaving small trails of destruction in their wake. Rather than use pesticides to reduce the aphid population, however, the Mall of America decided to take a different approach.

The Pesticide-Free Solution

More than 70,000 ladybugs were released in the Mall of America to help battle the aphids, a strategy that mall officials have turned to before to combat similar issues. Although it may seem as though releasing so many bugs would simply compound the problem, officials say that generally isn’t true; ladybugs tend to stay in one place, moving from plant to plant rather than flying through the air and bothering patrons. Unless they knew of the mall’s plans, most visitors would never realize there were so many ladybugs in their midst. In addition, the presence of the ladybugs meant that the Mall of America could avoid using pesticides to bring down the aphid population.

Concerns for the Future

For a variety of reasons, ladybug populations are dwindling in numbers across North America. Scientists speculate that part of the problem may be tied to global warming. The Lost Ladybug Project is looking into the issue in an attempt to understand what this phenomenon could mean for the future. Because these bugs are so helpful, it is important to try and understand what is happening and figure out how to reverse the trend, if possible.

Natural pest control methods, like using ladybugs to control aphid populations, are becoming more popular as businesses and private citizens alike try to avoid using pesticides as much as possible. The Mall of America is a great example of how successful this approach can be. Remember, however, that if you are faced with a particularly tricky bug problem, many New Jersey pest control companies use an integrated pest management approach that is much “greener” than simply spraying chemicals on your property.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Martin LaBar

The post Fighting Aphids Naturally: How the Mall of America Handled their Pest Problem appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 13 2013

18:32

Making Green Sexy and Spiritual

A deeper connection to love and spirituality is needed to effectively communicate sustainabiltiySustainability needs a new language that is more accessible and more compelling to the average person. Business, government, and other organizations are making strides advancing sustainability but we need wider involvement and faster growth. Although we are seeing increasing levels of environmental activism, we need to expand the message to reach a larger circle of people.

We must do more than preach solely to the converted.  The number of committed environmentalists is insufficient to induce the required changes.  At present, environmental communications are geared toward an elite group not the general population and for those that do get the message, it often fails to resonate. For those on the outside, the language of sustainability is a confusing jumble of fear-inducing figures that ultimately prove to be both polarizing and paralyzing.

We need government legislation and regulation, but if we are to bring about lasting results, we must augur change by speaking to the hearts and minds of average people. Fact based approaches have not worked and fear based approaches may make matters worse by breeding avoidance and apathy.

Making green advocacy more compelling to larger numbers of people demands new strategies that are based on more than fear, facts and figures. While the logic of sustainability is overwhelming, reason alone has proven insufficient to  change consciousness on a global scale.

Finding ways of communicating the value of sustainability to the masses is one of the most prescient issues of our time. To disseminate the message on a truly global scale, we need to tap into the positive emotional and spiritual elements of the human psyche.

The use of such positive emotional and spiritual communication is far more likely to induce people to act.

What we can learn from branding and marketing

We can learn a lot from branding and marketing experts. Whether or not we agree with the products and services they promote, we cannot disagree with the fact that many big brands have succeeded in changing both attitudes and behaviors. We need to harness this power and put it to work for the planet.

We must do a better job of communicating and marketing sustainability. We need to benefit from an understanding of the effective marketing and communications strategies employed by the big brands. As explained in a May 15 Marketing Magazine article:

“It is officially time to pass on, or at the least share with marketing, the baton of sustainability. It is also time to re-brand that baton. Reducing complex science to simple science in attempts to mobilise mainstream behaviour change has failed to deliver…”

We need to communicate in a language that is accessible to all.  To successfully communicate sustainability to the average person we need to employ language that resonates. As any marketer will tell you, consumers are more interested in what is sexy then what is reasonable.

“[A] sustainable society can be one where people enjoy high well-being and a rich culture, where we can all reach our potential and have an incredible time along the way. We need new and compelling consumer aspirations – ones that can be achieved within environmental limits, of course…The opportunity to frame a future that is sexy (and yes, of course, sustainable) is right here.”

We need to show that sustainability can be fun in addition to saving lives and radically enhancing our quality of life. To do this, we must understand that people are much more likely to respond to communications that speak to universal aspects of the human experience. namely love and desire.

Love and the desire to act

Cultivating love in ourselves and in others may seem like a tall order, but we are all born into the world hardwired with a capacity to love. We already have proof that love works to augur change. Love for the planet and each other is mobilizing environmental activists in unprecedented numbers all around the world. Eco-communities are popping up everywhere as more and more people are looking for ways to express their positive regard and make a difference. These passionate environmentally minded people are motivated by love, they care deeply about the planet and are prepared to act to lessen their impacts on the earth. Love for the earth makes us good stewards and tireless activists. Love endlessly motivates us to take the message out into our communities and into our workplaces.

Love is the most powerful motivation and it can help us to overcome both apathy and materialism. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the threats posed by climate change. However the best way to combat paralysis is to care. Caring is neither difficult nor complex and it is within all of our grasps. If we really want to forge a better world, even more than the tactics we employ, we need to cultivate the love to make the effort.

Love is an antidote to rampant materialism. Although material concerns rule the day, love ties us into a value system that runs far deeper than money. Being part of a cause greater than ourselves offers a purpose and a sense of meaning to life that material pursuits do not. Acting with an awareness of the planet connects us to our world in a deeply fulfilling fashion.

Although the benefits both personally and collectively far outweigh the sacrifice, making a more sustainable world may entail a decrement in money, power, or position. These types of sacrifices are far more readily made out of love.

Love is a primary motivator that causes people to think beyond themselves and consider the needs of future generations. Without the impetus of love it will be difficult to move beyond self interest.

Accountability through spirituality

Spirituality is a powerful tool to help people be more accountable and this will increase environmental engagement. While organized religion is dying, belief in a higher power remains strong with more than 9 in 10 Americans calling themselves believers. What is even more interesting is the fact that belief is strongest amongst those who are most likely to deny climate change (conservatives and Republicans). The inference here is that spirituality may offer an inroad through the impermeable dogmatism of climate deniers.

It is important to understand that we are talking about spirituality and not religion. Religion promulgates certain fixed beliefs while spirituality in the context of this discussion is about soul-searching and the pursuit of truth. Spirituality commonly transcends the practice of religion. The distinction is important because we need to get beyond the polarization we have witnessed with environmental evangelists on one side and climate deniers on the other.

As explained by Mark C. Coleman, author of “The Sustainability Generation: The Politics of Change and Why Accountability is Essential NOW!,” one of the keys to getting people environmentally involved is fostering a greater spirit of accountability.

“Being accountable by being present and in the right frame of mind for sound decision-making is essential for (1) recognizing our behavior; (2) understanding the impact of our behavior on economy, environment, and society; and, (3) being able to take action through personal accountability to modify behavior to effect change.”

Spirituality is is an ego transcending journey that cultivates a sense of purpose beyond ourselves.

“Being able to think beyond ourselves requires patience, humility, a strong capacity for listening and learning, and an ability to separate ego from our true ‘self’,” Coleman explains. “Understanding that spirituality goes beyond the practice of religion, and that we all are part of a generation living within a context of time and fate which is requiring more accountability from each of us, is a perspective toward how people can begin to embrace sustainability from personal point of view.”

People are suffering from widespread disillusionment. Add to this the anxiety inducing reality of climate change and people are more likely to avoid rather than engage.  People are detached from themselves, from each other and from nature.

“The underlying power of humanity is that we are resilient and can adapt to change. But in the act of being resilient we rely on spirituality, being caring, and finding connections among one another and the world that foster sense of self, resourcefulness, and community.”

According to Coleman the answers to spirituality and sustainability are within us.

“The sustainability of our generation, and the earth, are intrinsically tied to our capacity to delve individually and collectively into spirituality. Individuals have the power within themselves to be the stewards of their behaviors, to set the standard for accountability within society, and represent a generation of enlightened individuals that can not only be resilient, but be a force for creating a better world. The generation living here and now is the Sustainability Generation. This generation will be measured not on its ability to wage war, land on the moon, or build financial wealth…From here on out the Sustainability Generation will seek out harmonizing its relationships with nature, among one another, and with God.”

The convergence of sustainability and spirituality can foster accountability and increase the will to act. Spirituality can also enable us to avoid falling victim to hopelessness and selfishness.

Deep Ecology

A direct offshoot of sustainability, deep ecology includes a spiritual element, and as such, may be a better vehicle to communicate the value of green. Deep Ecology brings together cutting-edge science, philosophy, action and spirituality. It is arguably the most holistic school of environmental thought as it is largely concerned with ecosystems and as such, it is a study of interrelationships.

This environmental philosophy is characterized by its advocacy of the inherent worth of all living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs. It further advocates that societies need to be restructured in accordance with such ideas. It holds that human destruction of the natural world poses a threat to all organisms in the natural order.

Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having the right to live and flourish.

Deep ecology is providing a foundation for the environmental, ecology and green movements and has fostered a new system of environmental ethics.

A new approach to communicating sustainability must engage people on a spiritual and psycho-emotional level. Ecological awareness must be communicated as a heart-felt mind-set that people embrace and practice everyday.

If the sustainability revolution is to expand and achieve critical mass, it must embedded into our core values.
——————
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: AlicePopkorn, courtesy flickr

 

The post Making Green Sexy and Spiritual appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 09 2013

09:51

Ignoring climate change turns world into 'dying patient', says Prince Charles

Prince of Wales attacks businesses and sceptics who ignore climate change, in clear message more needs to be done to protect environment.
    

March 01 2013

22:00

A Blog’s Adieu

The New York Times is discontinuing the Green blog but plans to press on with aggressive energy and environment coverage.

August 27 2012

19:41

Fuel Economy Standards To Save U.S. Consumers Billions, Create Jobs, Yet Republicans Say Too Expensive

A proposed rule by the Obama Administration to raise fuel economy standards for cars and “light-trucks” is facing mounting attacks by Republican lawmakers. The proposed rule would require all newly manufactured automobiles that fall under the car or light truck category to achieve a minimum gas mileage of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025.

The crusade against the new CAFE standards is being led by Republican Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa claims that the new standards amount to “coercion” of the auto industry. Rep. Issa has received more than $188,000 from the oil industry during his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Issa’s statements show how out of touch he truly is with both economics and business, as the new standards were the result of cooperation between the Obama Administration and the auto industry itself.

The new fuel economy standards have been approved by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo, who together control 90% of the United States’ auto sales market.

U.S. News and World Report details the contention over the standards, as well as the benefits for consumers:
  

Fuel economy standards have become a surprising example of tougher government rules that benefit practically everybody. In 2007, the Bush administration raised the gas mileage requirements automakers had to meet. Then in 2009, the Obama administration raised them further. Those rules, which are about to be finalized in detail, will require each automaker's fleet to average a lofty 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025—roughly double the mileage requirement of just five years ago.

The aggressive new standards are controversial, especially among Republicans opposed to activist government. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, for one, characterizes the new rules as just another effort to "insert the federal government into the life of the private sector." He has suggested that if elected, he'll roll back or even seek to eliminate federal mileage standards.

Yet so far, the new mileage rules have generated tangible benefits for consumers, with few of the downsides opponents have predicted. "Without a doubt, the new rules have been a win-win for everybody," says Jesse Toprak, of the car-research site TrueCar.com. "It's a win for consumers, a win for manufacturers, and a win for the environment."

Boosting fuel economy by four or five miles per gallon might not sound earth-shattering—until you bank the savings. A 5 mpg improvement would save about $525 per year for a motorist who drives 15,000 miles annually, if gas were at $3.50 per gallon. With gas at $4 per gallon, the savings would amount to $600 per year.
 

But the benefits of the new standards extend far beyond personal bank accounts. Reports show that the new fuel standards would create an estimated 700,000 new American jobs.

Republicans like Darrell Issa claim that the $192 billion price tag that the standards impose on industry is too lofty to incur right now, but that view is incredibly short-sighted and dishonest.

The new standards will save a projected $1.7 trillion for U.S. consumers by the time of full implementation, meaning that the investment will pay off tenfold. Additionally, by the year 2025, reports show that consumers will be saving an average of $8,000 a year per vehicle.

Issa is not alone in his crusade against the new standards. Joining him in the fight is Republican Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania, who happens to have amassed his $11.9 million personal fortune from the car dealerships that he owns in Pennsylvania. Kelly made the following statement about the new standards: “The new CAFE standards will limit choice, compromise safety, and increase costs to millions of Americans.”

Unfortunately for Kelly, there are no numbers or statistics to back up any of these claims, particularly his statement about compromising the safety of consumers. Safety and fuel economy aren’t two things that are directly related, so it would be interesting to find out where he pulled that from.

Again, all of the major automobile makers have signed onto the new standards, and agree they are necessary to save consumers money, to help their businesses survive in a competitive economy, and to help reduce air pollution emissions.

The only people who stand against the new standards are the politicians beholden to the dirty energy industry.

August 17 2012

22:32

Recommended Video Series: Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something! (about climate change)


Five Common Myths Skeptics Use About Climate Change

I recently discovered a YouTube video series called Don’t Just Sit There Do Something!  The series is produced by Joylette Portlock, a Stanford and MIT-educated scientist, in conjunction with her website DoSomethingAboutClimate.com. Her videos combine information and action tips to help her audience learn about climate change while offering simple action steps individuals can take to do something about it. All with a dash of humor. Good work Joylette!

In the episode below she discusses the top five most common myths from skeptics about climate change.

August 13 2012

17:04

What To Expect When You’re Electing: Representative Paul Ryan

With the selection of Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan has his running mate, Mitt Romney has effectively pushed his campaign into the climate change denying fringe. While Romney hasn’t been considered a friend of the environment since he began running for national office, his tendency towards flip-flopping made some of his more extreme, anti-environment positions rather toothless. But Paul Ryan is someone that isn’t just all talk, and what he’s saying will be a disaster for our environment.

While Ryan isn’t necessarily a complete climate science denier, he is certainly classified as a “skeptic,” and oftentimes has used anecdotal evidence to say that we’re making too much of a fuss over something that may or may not be happening.

Let’s start by following the money on Rep. Paul Ryan. Since 1989, he has received $65,500 from Koch Industries, making them his sixth largest campaign donor. In total, he has pulled in a little over $244,000 from the oil and gas industries.

Those finances are clearly represented in his voting history in Congress. Here are a few of Ryan’s most anti-environment, pro-industry votes since being elected:

2000 – Voted against implementing Kyoto Protocol
2001 – Voted against raising fuel economy standards
2001 – Voted against barring oil drilling in ANWR
2003 – Voted to speed up “forest thinning” projects
2005 – Voted to deauthorize “critical habitats” for endangered species
2005 – Voted to speed up oil refinery permitting
2008 – Voted against environmental education grants
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for renewable energy
2008 – Voted against tax incentives for energy conservation
2009 – Voted against enforcing CO2 limits for air pollution
2011 – Voted NO on allowing EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
2011 – Voted YES to opening up the Outer Continental Shelf for oil drilling
2011 – Voted to eliminate climate advisors for the president
2011 – Voted in favor of allowing Keystone XL Pipeline


Ryan’s proposals and voting history are clearly being dictated by the Koch brothers, and the money that their companies continue to throw behind Ryan’s campaigns. But his actions in Congress are almost docile when compared to his activities outside of Washington, D.C.

From Think Progress:
  

In a December 2009 op-ed during international climate talks, Ryan made reference to the hacked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit emails. He accused climatologists of a “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion,” in order to “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” Because of spurious claims of conspiracy like these, several governmental and academic inquiries were launched, all of which found the accusations to be without merit. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]

In the same anti-science, anti-scientist December 2009 op-ed, Ryan argued, “Unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow.” Ryan’s line is especially disingenuous because he hasn’t been trying to sell climate action, he’s been spreading disinformation. [Paul Ryan, 12/11/09]
 

But the story of Paul Ryan goes much, much deeper than this. It turns out that Ryan is a huge fracking supporter, and isn’t just to benefit his benefactors. Ryan actually has a financial stake in companies that are currently pillaging the state of Wisconsin. From Badger Democracy:
  

Ryan’s 2011 SEI shows his most significant interests are in four companies, all owned by his father-in-law, Dan Little (according to Oklahoma Secretary of State corporate registration). Little is a prominent oil industry attorney (who refused comment to Badger Democracy). The total value of these interests are $350K – $800K, with annual profit of $40K – $130K:

Ava O Limited Mining Co (8% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $15K – $50K in profit.

Blondie & Brownie, LLC (10% interest) – valued at $100K – $250K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Little Land Co., LLC – valued at $50K – $100K; paying out $5K – $15K in profit.

Red River Pine Timber (7% interest) – valued at $50K – $100K; no reported profit or interest.

Also owned by Ryan are Mineral Rights in Oklahoma valued at $50K – $100K; and returning $15K – 50K in profit last year.

An examination of Ryan’s 2000 SEI and 2007 SEI show a large increase in the value of these investments. This increase corresponds directly with Ryan’s growing power over the Federal Budget process.
 

No matter how you look at it, Paul Ryan is an environmental disaster. His personal and professional wealth both hinge upon investments in the dirty energy industry, and his track record as a U.S. Representative shows how this will affect his policy decisions.

August 11 2012

17:59

Romney’s New Campaign Strategy: Attack Green Jobs During Massive Unemployment

Since President Obama took office, industry-funded think tanks and faux grassroots organizations, along with oil-friendly politicians have been collectively demanding to know “where are the jobs?” And with last month’s jobs report showing an increase in the U.S. unemployment rate (even though there was a net job gain for the month, making 28 consecutive months of private sector job growth) it would be unwise for any politician seeking national office to attack programs to put Americans back to work. But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is doing exactly that.

On the campaign trail recently, Romney took a few jabs at Obama, claiming that the president has an “unhealthy obsession with green jobs,” a claim that numerous media outlets are warning will not resonate well with the American public.

The Associated Press points out, as we mentioned last week, that Romney’s energy plan (which is being guided by industry insiders) would cut tax breaks for renewable energy sources like wind energy, while expanding tax breaks for oil companies. AP also noted that the American public, by a two-to-one margin, favor renewable energy over fossil fuels, showing that Romney’s positions go against the majority of Americans.

While most media outlets have only given cursory attention to Romney’s comments about Obama’s alleged “obsession” with green jobs, it's not a remark that should be taken lightly. In fact, it tells us a lot about what we can expect from Romney should he win the presidency.


The green economy is one that has never really been given a chance to survive in our "free market system." While stimulus money has flowed to many renewable energy companies, the lack of a green infrastructure has caused these projects to remain stagnant.

Investment in green jobs shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We could create millions of American jobs – jobs that can’t be outsourced; We could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and reduce our oil imports from hostile nations; And we would help reduce the country’s carbon footprint. None of those are partisan issues, as both major parties have talked about the need to do all of the above.

That’s not hyperbole, either. Studies abound about the benefits of investing in a green economy. But they also all say the same thing – More has to be done to create a delivery system for renewable energy. At the moment, there is no major infrastructure for delivering renewable energy to the masses, leaving the vast majority of the country reliant on fossil fuels to power their lives.

There are very few, if any, drawbacks to investing in clean energy, green jobs, and renewable technology. The benefits listed above should be enough to get any American on board, as long as that American isn’t a fossil fuel CEO.

Following the money on the issue helps us understand why we’re still so far behind in the green economy sector. USA Today has the numbers:
  

Last year alone ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute, the trade group that represents these energy giants, used $66.2 million for lobbying efforts, nearly 44% of the $150 million total spent by the oil and gas industry, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Collectively, nearly 800 lobbyists worked on behalf of oil and gas interests in 2011.

The total towers over the $53 million spent by what the center classifies as the "miscellaneous energy" industry — which counts the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the American Wind Energy Association as its members. The grouping includes 751 lobbyists.
 

The Obama administration has also met fierce opposition on their renewable energy and green jobs investments by industry-funded think tanks and astroturf organizations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. These groups are able to outspend their green counterparts, and in Washington, D.C., that gives them access to a much larger microphone.

And that brings us back to Romney. He’s already shown us that he’s willing to employ dirty energy industry insiders to craft his energy policy, and his claims about Obama’s “obsession” with green jobs is an extension of his pandering to the oil and gas industries. After all, they have the finances that he needs to keep his campaign alive through November.

Reports from earlier this year tell us that at least 3 million American workers are employed in the “green economy” sector, most of which are with private sector firms. Romney’s attack on Obama is an attack on the 3 million workers in this industry.

August 08 2012

18:56

How Morality Can Win the War on Climate Change


Finding a moral imperative to fight climate changeThe climate movement must go beyond preaching economics and explaining science, we must create a moral imperative that compels us to act. To get people involved in the war on climate change we must weave environmental awareness into our codes of conduct.

The reasons why more people are not demanding action on the environment is a glaring moral failing. If we are to see a critical mass of support for efforts to combat climate change, we must understand that in addition to an economic and ecological crisis, we are also facing a moral crisis. To bridge the gulf between morality and climate change we need to go to the places where morality still has value.

Religions are a primary source of ethical conduct, and as such they are an ideal platform for communicating a moral argument. Although governments and businesses have a central role, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship may be the best venues for disseminating the moral dimension of the climate change issue.  We need to tap into the deeply embedded preexisting morality of the vast majority of people who consider themselves followers of religion. (Even those who do not subscribe to religion also respond to moral arguments about the need for action on climate change).

Religious leaders from all the major traditions see action on climate change as a moral imperative. As reviewed in an extensive list of Climate Change Statements, all of the world’s major religious traditions espouse a harmonious relationship between people and the planet.

One group called Interfaith Moral Action on Climate  is a collaborative initiative of religious leaders and groups that are promoting a moral call to action on climate change. This group feels compelled by their “traditions and collective conscience to take action on this deeply moral challenge. [They] believe that a moral voice is essential in inspiring action on climate change, since scientific and economic arguments alone have not moved the United States to adequately address this deepening crisis.”

Interfaith is calling for policies that dramatically reduce wasted energy, support renewable energy and phase-out all fossil fuel subsidies. Despite the radical change they advocate, their message is positive. They seek a “brighter vision” to unite the world around “a set of clear widely held moral principles.”

Their third guiding moral principle is to protect the Earth, they reiterate the aboriginal beliefs that we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and all of its creatures and processes.  Interfaith’s vision advocates a moral response to climate change while acknowledging scientific research.

They have circulated their Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, and an Interfaith Statement on Climate Change was submitted by representatives of the world’s religions at the COP17 in Durban, South Africa.

“We recognize that climate change is not merely an economic or technical problem, but rather at its core is a moral, spiritual and cultural one. We therefore pledge to join together to teach and guide the people who follow the call of our faiths.”

In an article titled “Rekindling the Moral Call to Action,” climate change is construed as a “fundamental moral and humanitarian issue.”  The article urges action from leaders and works towards a unified effort to combat climate change.

On July 23rd,  2012, there was a phone conference briefing on “How to Communicate about Climate Action as a Moral Imperative.” The event was co-hosted by Climate Access, US Climate Action Network, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change, and the National Climate Ethics. The speakers indicated that we need to create a moral movement that urges people to take personal responsibility and choose sides on the issue of climate change.

Even American Evangelical Christian Leaders have clearly articulated a moral argument for supporting action on anthropogenic climate change. They state that their Christian moral convictions demand their response to climate change. They go on to advocate national legislation in the U.S., requiring emissions reductions through market based mechanisms like cap-and-trade.

As reviewed in a Guardian article, NASA scientist Jim Hansen calls climate change a moral issue on a par with slavery. He is calling for a global carbon tax and sees inaction on climate change as an “injustice of one generation to others”.

Morality is also the key issue in an article titled Why Few Americans View Climate Change as a Moral Problem by Ezra Markowitz. He is a doctoral candidate in Environmental Sciences at the University of Oregon and a research fellow with the Climate Shift Project at American. In a 2012 publication Markowitz points to an absence of strong moral intuitions on climate change.

Markowitz and his colleague Azim Shariff have published research on the moral psychology of the public (dis)engagement with climate change. Their new paper in Nature Climate Change is called Climate change and moral judgment.” In the paper, Markowitz and Shariff explore six reasons why climate change is not a more common moral issue and six strategies that may help to compel us to act.

According to these researchers, the human moral judgment system fails to acknowledge climate change because: Climate change is complex, distant and abstract; it represents an untraditional type of moral transgression where it is sometimes hard to attribute blame; people have an aversion to guilt; they see the future as uncertain and they fail to identify with victims of climate change. Finally, concerns about climate change are not at present core moral values.

To help people engage efforts to combat climate change, the authors recommend that we use existing moral values. They go on to suggest that we should focus on communicating the problems that climate change will wreak upon future generations, rather than on the potential benefits. The idea here is that it is counterproductive to focus on “extrinsic motivators” for action on climate change (i.e. economic growth and jobs). According to the researchers, it weakens moral engagement by deemphasizing intrinsic values and non-materialist motives.

The research indicates that it is more productive to use messaging that generates positive emotions (eg: hope, pride and gratitude), rather than negative emotions (eg: guilt, shame and anxiety). The study reports that we need to expand our group identity, incorporate shared goals, and finally, we need to highlight positive social norms where pro-environmental action is lauded.

“The point I want to drive home is this: truly engaging with climate change as a moral issue—really feeling its moral significance viscerally—is no easy feat” Markowitz said, “regardless of how often we hear about the people and animals that will be harmed or the injustice of richer individuals and nations misappropriating a life-sustaining, common resource.”

We will need to be creative and develop evidence-based approaches that help people to understand climate change as a moral imperative. Despite the subtle psychological nuances needed to effectively communicate the point, the moral argument is capable of unleashing unprecedented activity.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Mal B, courtesy Flickr

August 06 2012

16:40

House Republicans Sacrifice Human Health For Alleged Job Creation

With July 2012 officially behind us, the U.S. jobs report for the month has economists and politicians concerned about the employment situation in America. And even though the economy added 163,000 jobs (economists had predicted only 100,000 jobs to be added for July,) the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate both crept slightly upwards. And with national elections coming up in three months, poor jobs numbers could be bad for our health.

If history is any indicator, Conservative politicians and think tanks will use last month’s poor jobs report in an attempt to provide massive giveaways to their friends in the dirty energy industry. They attempted the same thing after below-average job growth in May of this year, claiming that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would be the job boon that Americans desperately need.

But Republicans in Washington didn’t wait for a bad jobs report before they started planning their dirty energy bonanza, but its likely they will use it as a catalyst to gain more support for their disastrous plans.

In mid June of this year, Republicans on the “House Energy Action Team” (HEAT) proposed a set of bills that would destroy many of the safeguards that are currently in place to protect our environment and our personal health in order to make things “easier” for businesses to create jobs without worrying about those pesky safety standards. What the package of legislation is really about is repaying HEAT members’ financiers from the dirty energy industry who stand to save a ton of cash by destroying regulations.

The legislation package would remove many current existing safeguards for environmental and public health until the unemployment rate drops below 6%, a rate that hasn’t been seen since July 2008, when it was 5.8%. Since that month four years ago, the rate has stayed consistently above 6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


When I wrote about the legislative package back in June, I focused mainly on the ties to industry of the bills’ sponsors. Recently, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards put together an analysis of the safeguards and regulations that the bills would removed if passed:
  

The House of Representatives will soon consider a radical bill proposed by Republican members: ‘‘Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act’’ (H.R. 4078). This bill is made up of provisions H.R. 4078, H.R. 4607, H.R. 3862, H.R. 373, H.R. 4377, H.R. 2308, and H.R. 1840 which would, in an unprecedented move halt all regulatory action on national safeguards that protect the health and safety of Americans and bolster the nation’s economy.

Combined, these provisions would halt or delay virtually ALL regulations and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down crucial safeguards that give Americans confidence in the products at the grocery store, the safety of their workplaces, the cleanliness of the water system, the soundness of our financial system, and the safety of vital infrastructure…

Public Health and Clean Air – These bills would continue to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing standards defining power plants, industrial boilers, process heaters and cement plants compliance with the Clean Air Act. Those structures are the largest emitters of mercury and toxic air pollutants. Compliance would curb their harmful impact on the respiratory health of millions of Americans.

Food Safety – Each year, 1.2 million people get sick, 7,125 are hospitalized, and 134 die from foodborne illnesses contracted from contaminated produce. Illnesses and food recalls also hurt the U.S. agriculture and food industries. The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed with support from both industry and consumer groups, calls for new regulations on produce handling on large farms and an inspection system for foreign farms to be in place by 2013. Its implementation depends on rulemaking that would be blocked by the proposed bills.

Workplace Safety – Beryllium, a toxic substance (lung cancer and other fatal and chronic diseases) exposed to workers in the electronics, nuclear, and metalwork industries. Current1950s-based standards allow workers to continue to be exposed to levels higher than ruled safe for nuclear power plant workers. The three proposed bills would stop the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from updating exposure standards to protect all workers.

Energy and Environment – The proposed bills would block the U.S. Department of Energy from implementing the Energy Security and Independence Act, delaying for five years updates of energy efficiency standards for a wide range of products. The estimated lost savings for the U.S. economy would be $48 to $105 billion. The bills also would halt the Federal Trade Commission’s rulemaking for energy efficiency labeling designed to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive claims about product energy savings.
 

In addition to these measures, some of the bills in the package would reduce benefits for our veterans, and loosen the already lenient rules regarding the approval of medical devices in America.

If passed, these laws would sacrifice the lives and well being of American citizens based solely on the hope that companies will create more jobs. To the House Republicans who proposed this legislation, their faith in corporations to “do the right thing” is greater than their belief that every life is sacred and worth protecting.

But the most important thing to remember about their proposals is that they won’t work. As I have pointed out over the years, regulations are not destroying jobs, nor are they hindering job creation. In fact, tightening safeguards would actually lead to greater job creation than destroying regulations.

Talking points aside, House Republicans are also overlooking the fact that destroying safeguards will also have a devastating effect on the fragile U.S. economy. Studies tell us that for every dollar spent on safeguards and regulations, an economic benefit of between four and eight dollars ripples throughout the economy. To put it simply, every dollar spent on regulations has a minimum return of 400% for the U.S. economy. Any investor could see that this would be a wise decision.

In addition to the lost investments, we have to look at the jobs that would be lost by doing away with regulations. Delaying implementation, or doing away with completely, the Clean Air Act standards could cost our economy an estimated 1.5 million jobs.

And those numbers are just the ones on the surface. We would also have to factor in the economic impact of health and environmental degradation that would be placed on the economy if these safeguards were removed. It is a fact that U.S. taxpayers already pay for healthcare costs related to air pollution, estimated to be about $50 billion a year. Environmental costs shifted to taxpayers also total in the billions a year, as seen with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Exxon Valdez spill (every disaster has costs that are shifted to taxpayers, those are just two of the largest examples.)

And again, all of these costs and dangers that will be imposed on the American public are only in the HOPE that corporate America will create more jobs. After analyzing all of the available information about regulations and job creation, its clear that repealing these safeguards will do little, if anything at all, to spur job growth in America. On the other hand, tightening these safeguards and fully implementing ones that have been delayed would provide an enormous benefit to both our health and our economy. But the dirty energy industry only thinks about their profits, not what happens in the world around them.

August 01 2012

18:14

London 2012: The Greenest Olympics in Modern History


The London Olympic Games are the greenest games in the modern eraThe London Olympics of 2012 are making history as the most environmentally responsible Olympics of modern times. Previously, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics held the distinction of being the “greenest Olympics ever” boasting LEED certified buildings and the construction of a hydrogen highway. Now London is on track to soundly best Vancouver’s achievements and make the 2012 Games the most sustainable ever. According to a report titled “Olympian steps for sustainability,” by Jones Lang LaSalle, London has succeeded in staging the greenest Olympic Games in history.

The environment was at the heart of London’s bid for the Games seven years ago. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is the public body tasked with developing and building the low waste and reduced carbon venues and infrastructure for the Games. The ODA has worked hard to on carbon mitigation measures as they are legally bound under Section 106 agreement [Schedule 11] to reduce carbon emissions “50 percent by 2013”.

As reported by Bloomberg, between March and April, the ODA cut their projected carbon footprint by an additional one fifth (315,000 metric tons of CO2 down from 400,000 metric tons).

The Olympic Authority has a decentralized energy network that is designed to save up to 30 percent on electricity and heating. Energy company EDF was expected to provide 24 MW of energy from renewable sources. As it stands now, the Olympic Park will get about 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources including solar panels, biomass boilers, and small wind turbines.

The ODA is also focusing on greener transportation in the construction phase. As reported in the London 2012 Sustainability Report, the Olympic Park reduced transport emissions in the building of facilities by moving at least 50 percent of all construction materials by water or rail. Most of the building materials for the Aquatic Center including the 866,000 tiles needed to line the pool and locker rooms were delivered by more efficient and less carbon intensive trains rather than by truck.

The ODA has exceeded its ambitious targets for waste recycling and reuse. A total of 98 percent of demolition materials used were recycled and they sent zero waste to landfills. About 99 percent of the waste created when building the venues was reused or recycled. They cleaned up all the contaminants on site, instead of putting soil laced with gas, tar, oil, solvents, lead and arsenic in landfills.

Every building and stadium meets specific sustainability targets, one of these targets concerns water conservation. The London Games have a water reduction goal of 40 percent. To help achieve this goal, rainwater is being collected and each new building has a dual water system with separate supplies of drinking and recycled water.

The ODA sourced 25 percent of their materials through recycling, and they made food packaging that cannot be reused or recycled from compostable materials such as starch and cellulose-based bioplastics.

The wood used in construction of onsite buildings is from sustainable sources. The Olympic Park was the first ever to receive the joint PEFC/FSC project chain of custody certification.

As reported by Environmental Leader, London has partnered with World Wildlife Fund and BioRegional to create One Planet Olympics, a program that addresses energy carbon, water, waste reduction, biodiversity and public health.

The Olympic authority for London 2012 is also designating 45 hectares of wildlife wetland habitat and 675 bird nesting boxes in the Olympic Park for local wildlife. In addition, the River Lea waterway has been completely cleaned up and a total of 300,000 wetland plants and 2,000 native trees have been planted.

Corporate players are also finding sustainable ways of supporting the London Olympics. BMW is leading the way by providing a fleet of more than 3,000 low-emission, diesel, hybrid and electric cars, motorcycles and bicycles and Coca-Cola has promised to recycle all clear plastic PET bottles used at the London Games.

As reported by Inhabitat, the London Olympic Park is a showcase for green design. The Olympic Stadium is the lightest ever built and has a wide range of sustainable construction features, including rainwater harvesting, a PVC fabric roof and extensive use of recycled materials.

The building that required the majority of the wood used is the Velodrome. It utilized 5,000 sq m of western red cedar, 56km of Siberian Pine and 17km of recycled steel cables. This light weight building also incorporates natural ventilation so there is no need for air conditioning and the ODA used natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. A rainwater harvesting system also reduces the amount of water needed for toilets and irrigation.

The lightweight Olympic basketball arena is a temporary building that is easy to dismantle and reassemble elsewhere. This ensures that the arena will go where it is needed and not be an underutilized structure that serves little purpose once the Games are over.

The Aquatic Center’s ceiling was build out of sustainably sourced Red Lauro timber. The exterior was constructed with lower emission precast modular blocks of concrete and the interior stands are made from steel and phthalate-free PVC wrap that will be recycled after the Games. The 160,000 tonnes of soil that was removed to make way for the three pools at the center was reused in the landscaping of the park.

The 114.5 meters high ArcelorMittal Orbit is a spiraling red steel tower that provides views of the Olympic Park, it was constructed out of 60 percent recycled steel. All of the main arenas for the London Olympics represent the future of sports venues and as such, they have been awarded the BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

Despite these successes, there have been some criticisms. Although ODA was tasked to build infrastructure that used renewable sources for 20 percent of energy needs, it did not succeed. A recently published report compiled by BioRegional and WWF-UK concluded that the Games failed ”to meet the renewable energy targets set out in the bid.”

The ODA was counting on a twenty percent renewable energy, which was supposed to contribute to the overall 50 percent carbon reduction target. But problems with a large wind turbine left them with 13 percent less renewable power than they were expecting. To compensate they added an additional 2 percent by placing solar panels in the parking lot, leaving them with roughly half the renewable energy they had hoped for. The net effect of the failure to generate large scale wind power is 1,100 metric tons of CO2.

According to a 2010 estimate, the Games will generate a total of 3.45 million tons of CO2. The total emissions that will be released into the atmosphere from spectators traveling to the Games are estimated to be seven hundred thousand tons. To address these and other sources of emissions, carbon offsetting is being used. One of the carbon offset projects involves providing enhanced energy efficiency for 2,800 local nearby homes and 12 schools. While the 50 percent reduction target is being met, the whole concept of carbon offsetting is commonly criticized by environmentalists.

Another issue that earned the ire of environmentalists is the fact that the metals used to make the medals came from a Rio Tinto mine, which has caused life-threatening air and water pollution with its mines around the world. Rio Tinto has also been accused of mistreating workers and driving pay below a living-wage.

The so called carbon neutral Olympic flame has also received criticism after being flown from Athens to the UK in a gold-painted private jet known as The Firefly.

Despite these imperfections, Inhabitat’s Leon Kaye reports that “no Olympic organizers have worked harder to make this massive event more environmentally responsible than London 2012.”

All of these efforts come with tremendous cost almost quadrupling the Game’s initial budget of $3.5 billion. The revised budget now stands at $13.94 billion. Although way over budget, these efforts have succeeded in substantially reducing the Olympic footprint.

A recently published report compiled by BioRegional and WWF-UK concluded that,”London 2012 is the Olympics that sets a new sustainability standard for future Games”. According to the report, “London 2012 chose to target the highest levels of resource efficiency and waste management…[and] all the core targets are either achieved or on track.”

You would have to go back thousands of years to find an Olympic Games with a smaller environmental footprint. This is the first truly sustainable Olympic Games of the modern era and it sets a precedent that is sure to be eclipsed by future events.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: id513128, courtesy Flickr

July 30 2012

18:26

Brazil: Belo Monte Dam Threatens Forest, Wildlife, and Indigenous People


Pristine sunsets on the Xingu River in the Amazon may become a thing of the past if the Belo Monte and hundreds of other dams are allowed on the riverGuest post by Nathan Gallagher

The Belo Monte dam project is now underway on the Xingu River in the Brazilian State of Pará.  The current dam project will flood native people’s lands and other land currently housing poor Brazilians in the City Altamira who all rely heavily on the river for their livelihood. The flooded forest will decompose and release methane gas into the atmosphere and destroy the rocky breeding grounds of certain fish used for food. The dam will furthermore reduce the flow to almost zero in a 100km bend of the river destroying local fishing and devastating species of animals and plants. The forest and wetlands on this stretch of the river will also be irrevocably changed if the dam is completed, faced with almost no water much of the year.

Electro Norte Energy Company is spearheading the project, supported in part by the Brazilian government. But there is outside support for the project from all over the developed world. Companies from the United States, Germany, Austria, France and China support the project. The Brazilian government sees this dam project, and the planned 130 additional dams, as economic development. Currently 30 percent of Brazil’s energy use goes to its top 6 industries. Among those are aluminum, steel, and paper production.

The population claims that the money offered to relocate citizens from the areas affected by the project falls short. Apart from claims that the money will not be enough for current residents to live elsewhere many residents are aging and worry they will not be able to find work in the city. Many are uneducated and have learned to live from fishing the rivers or growing crops in the locations to be destroyed by the dam project. Some citizens have been targeted by dam supporters destroying their crops or their homes in order to get them to leave quietly.

The Government’s rhetoric is very closed. They insist that they have done everything necessary to ensure that indigenous people are not harmed, and have gone as far as claiming that Indigenous villages will not be affected under the current plan. The government has been consistent in the viewpoint that indigenous people have no right to their way of life and if the government Brazil wants to build a dam then it will build a dam. Time after time the government has been invited to meet with tribal leaders and has failed to show up.

Voices from across the globe calling for an end to the Belo Monte Dam

The Kayapó People are the subject of a recent documentary titled Belo Monte the announcement of a war which can be seen in full on Youtube. The Kayapó tribe is just one of 25 different ethnic groups in the Xingu basin whose lands will be flooded or cutoff from the river.  They are currently staging an occupation of the construction site and are prepared to fight if necessary to protect their home. In early July occupiers from local tribes dug a trench through the existing dam site. Many groups and supporters including James Cameron, director of Avatar (based on the real plight of tribes in the Amazon) believe that if enough support and outcry from outside builds then developed nations will be forced to pull their financial support for Belo Monte. You can find out more by visiting amazonwatch.org.

-Nathan Gallagher

Main image credit: International Rivers, courtesy Flickr

Infographic by Nate Gallagher 

May 09 2012

18:02

European Elections and Sustainable Development in America


European voters rejected austerity in favor of growth. What will that mean for sustainable development in the US?In Europe, voters have chosen growth over austerity and this has implications for the U.S. economy and sustainable development. The Greek and French electorate’s rejection of austerity will have a dramatic effect on European spending, including investments in sustainability. These changes can also be expected to reverberate across the Atlantic.

In France, Francois Hollande’s presidential victory has derailed Nicholas Sarkozy’s austerity policies and in Greece, the parties supporting the international rescue package have lost control of parliament. In both countries, voters decisively said no to austerity and yes to growth.

France and Greece Choose Growth over Austerity

Both France and Greece appear to be doing a 180 on austerity. Hollande has been critical of the austerity policies central to European bailout deals. He promises to ease austerity measures and increase taxation on the wealthy. Hollande has pledged to renegotiate the European fiscal pact that was signed in December 2011 and he wants to issue common European bonds to finance growth through investment in sectors like renewable energy.

Investment in renewable energy is only one of several commitments that have pleased France’s Green Party (which received 2 percent of the French vote). During the campaign, Hollande promised to diversify France’s energy, including promises to cut the country’s nuclear dependence in half by 2025. He also vowed to increase renewable energy and respect France’s international engagements to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will help France reach and perhaps even surpass its EU-backed sustainability goals of 20 percent by 2020. Greenpeace France notes that the newly elected President of France has called for the EU to increase its GHG emissions target to 30 percent by 2020.

Prior to the election, France’s right leaning Sarkozy government was criticized for doing little for the environment. In an October, 2011 article published in the French daily Le Monde, MPs from the “ecological” wing of the Socialist party derided the center-right’s environmental record. They chided the “environmental passivity of the right” saying that after 10 years of leadership, “France invests nine times less than Germany and five times less than China in clean energy.”  They further drew attention to the fact that there are no French businesses among the top 10 producers of wind turbines or photovoltaic panels. They also pointed out that in terms of wind production per inhabitant, France was in thirteenth place in Europe and the country had no offshore wind developments.

The fate of Greece is much less certain. The results of Greek parliamentary elections are inconclusive, fueling fear that Greece will become the first developed nation to default on its debt.

If a coalition government cannot be formed, Greece will go back to the voters some time in June, but this will be too late for the bailout package being offered by the EU. If Greek political leaders cannot form a government, the country will default on its debt and cease to be part of the EU. This will have a calamitous impact on the economy of the entire continent and the wider world. Whatever the future holds, it is now clear that Greeks have refused austerity.

Rio+20

All of this intrigue takes place just ahead of the Rio+20 conference, which will take place on June 20 – 22, 2012. This is the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972. The summit brings together at least 100 global leaders and 50,000 participants from around the world, including corporate executives and representatives of various social movements. Participants will focus on growth, and address specific concerns as they relate to oceans, food, energy, biodiversity and climate. The summit aims to find ways to support sustainable development.

U.N. Secretary General Bank Ki Moon wants to bring sustainable energy to even the most remote corners of the planet and 3,000 scientists will present a new science for Planet Earth at Rio 20 known as the State of the Planet Declaration.

However, some of Europe’s key players will not be attending the Rio Conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not attend nor will British Prime Minister David Cameron. Despite rearranging the summit’s dates so they would not coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Cameron announced he will not be attending Rio. US President Barack Obama is also likely to stay on the campaign trail rather than go to Rio.

Whatever happens in Rio, the elections in Europe have changed the political map and this has implications for the forthcoming American election.

Sustainable Development in America

Austerity in Europe was not good for the growth of sustainability or the American economy and social unrest born of economic hardship compounded the problem. The end of austerity is good news for advocates of sustainable development and those who want to see more growth in the American economy.

In Europe, government investment to stimulate growth will benefit the American economy. It may also make it easier for the Obama administration to increase its commitment to sustainable development. As should be obvious to all with even a passing interest in American politics, when it comes to sustainable development, the Democrats are the only game in town.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has an economic strategy that has austerity at its heart. Events in Europe may encourage Americans to question the Republican vision for America. According to the European narrative, spending cuts further slow the economy and actually increase debt. This puts Republicans squarely at odds with the new economics sweeping across Europe.

As stated by Richard Eskow, a senior fellow at the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, this should bode well for the Democrats:

“This should be the Democrats’ moment, a time to make political gains in the most honorable way possible: by fighting for what’s right. Today’s radical Republicans want to destroy government and slash the very spending that’s needed to rescue the economy. The GOP is even rejecting the common sense spending on roads and bridges embraced by past Republicans from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. As austerity measures eviscerate Europe’s economy and undermine the political popularity of its leadership, this should be the Democrats’ finest hour. Unfortunately, too many Democratic leaders have preferred to echo the austerity rhetoric of their Republican opponents — and of Europe’s embattled leaders. The president’s last debt deal with John Boehner was a milder version of European austerity, and it slowed our country’s tentative growth. And yet he’s reportedly pushing for another “Grand Bargain,” leaving him with a muddled economic message, and Americans in a prolonged state of fear.”

There is reason to believe that Americans may support government spending at least until there is stronger growth and more jobs. Americans may very well follow the French and the Greeks who have chosen to abandon austerity in favor of growth.

The near term fate of sustainable development hinges on governments adopting a policy of growth rather than a policy focused on austerity.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: National Post/Getty Images

May 08 2012

00:02

Heartland Institute’s Unapologetic Stance to Enormous PR Blunder Exposes – again – Lobby Organization’s Intellectual Dishonesty


The Great Heartland PR Blunder of 2012It is no surprise that the Heartland Institue would yet again engage in intellectual dishonesty and scare tactics in its ongoing attempt to confuse and manipulate populate opinion on climate change – they’ve been doing it for years. What has startled everyone this time, from supporters to critics like us, is the boneheaded blunder and pointless tastelessness of the short-lived Chicago-area billboard campaign from the anti-science lobby group Heartland Institute.

What began on Thursday morning ended on Thursday afternoon last week, in what Heartland president Jose Bast characterized as an “experiment,” as they prepare for their seventh annual climate change conference – a denial extravaganza featuring some of the foremost voices in anti-science and denialist rhetoric.

“I feel blindsided,” said Donna Laframboise of NoConsensus.org, a scheduled speaker for the conference until she cancelled in protest of the offensive Great Heartland PR Blunder of 2012.

“Suddenly, we were all publicly linked to an organization that thinks it’s okay to equate people concerned about climate change with psychopaths,” writes Lamframboise. “Forget disappointment. In my view, my reputation has been harmed. And the Heartland thinks it has nothing to apologize for?”

A scrolling collection of quotes on NoConsensus includes the very apt question “Should we believe whomever shouts the loudest?”

Heartland's bombast is comicalLamfromboise is just one of several sponsors and supporters that are considering or have already ended their relationship with the Heartland Institute. A Washington D.C.-based arm of the organization involved in insurance reform issues simply up and left, abandoning ship and closing up shop in the wake of reaction from insurance companies and other corporate supporters to the ad campaign.

What also shouldn’t surprise anyone is Bast’s unremitting defiance and refusal to apologize. He needn’t apologize to me. To critics like me that work to expose the Heartland Institute for what it is, such startlingly ill-advised publicity campaigns are a God-send. They do our work for us. Bast should apologize to his supporters, without whom Heartland can claim any credibility to anyone.

Anthony Watts, publisher of the leading climate denial website WattsUpWithThat, claimed that the gaffe is a result of “battle fatigue.”

If that is the case, it is from a battle of the Heartland Institute’s own making.

Additional source:
ClimateWire (subscription required)

Do you want to be associated with this guy?

May 04 2012

17:26

75% of Americans Support Regulating CO2; 60% Support Carbon Tax


Two-thirds of Americans support regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, a majority support a carbon tax as a means of doing so.The following post is republished from my colleague Zach Shahan, site director for CleanTechnica.com. Zach explores the disconnect between the GOP “party line” on taking action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, clean energy development and what people actually want.

May 03 2012

15:37

EarthTalk: The Deep Carbon Footprint of Water Managament


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the collection, distribution and treatment of drinking water and wastewater in the U.S. uses up significant amounts of energy and releases some 116 billion pounds of carbon dioxide each year -- as much global warming pollution as 10 million cars on the roadEarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I read somewhere that our various systems for collecting, distributing and treating water are very energy intensive and, as such, contribute significantly to global warming. How does that happen and what can we do to correct such problems?            – Marina Shaw, Monroe, CT

It’s true that the collection, distribution and treatment of drinking water and wastewater in the U.S. uses up significant amounts of energy and releases some 116 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year—as much global warming pollution as 10 million cars on the road—according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nationwide, around four percent of power generation is used for water supply and treatment, but in certain drier parts of the country that number is far higher. For instance, in California the water sector is the state’s largest energy user, accounting for some 19 percent of total electricity consumed there.

The key to staving off water emergencies is to use less. “Reducing water consumption saves energy because less water needs to be treated and pumped to end users,” reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Moreover, when energy use is reduced, water is saved because less is needed in the operation of power plants.” Some thermoelectric power plants, for example, use some 100 billion gallons of fresh water each day, which translates into 25 gallons to produce each kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Another way to reduce waste is by fixing leaky aging water pipes throughout the U.S. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that many drinking water systems across the country lose as much as 20 percent of treated drinking water each year due to leaks in their pipe networks. Making a concerted effort to fix these systems would go a long way toward preserving our aquifers.

Water waste can also be reduced significantly if new buildings and developments integrate so-called “low impact design” concepts into the planning stages, whereby the landscaping surrounding structures is designed to mimic the natural hydrology of the site, including strategically placed native plants, rain barrels, green roofs, porous parking lots and roads, etc. The idea is to retain rainfall on site where plants and soil can filter pollutants out naturally or where it can be re-used in gray water applications (such as for landscape irrigation or water for toilet flushing). Especially parched parts of the country can recycle and reuse wastewater on a larger scale to avert the costly importation of more fresh water.

Much water is also wasted in agriculture. Farmers can help by adopting any number of efficiency measures at their disposal, mostly in the realm of efficient irrigation technologies. “Switching from flood irrigation to drip irrigation, for instance, can increase water use efficiency as much as 40 percent,” reports NRDC, adding that even small changes can mean a 10-15 percent gain in water use efficiency on farms.

And everyone can do their part by turning off the water while brushing teeth or shaving and limiting the length of showers and the amount of lawn watering we do. Beyond these little things, home- and business-owners should consider investing in water fixtures that meet the EPA’s more rigorous water efficiency “WaterSense” standards (look for labels accordingly). To qualify for the label, fixtures must be at least 20 percent more efficient than current standards specify, while performing as well or better than less efficient counterparts. The price of WaterSense fixtures may be slightly higher, but most consumers will make up the difference quickly if they are replacing older inefficient faucets, taps or toilets.

——————-

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

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