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February 07 2014

20:27

Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy

tar-sands-vs-renewable-energy-main

A head-to-head comparison demonstrates the overwhelming superiority of renewable energy over the Keystone XL. If approved, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas. In addition to risks from spills and potential water impacts, the pipeline will facilitate the mass extraction of Canada’s global warming causing tar sands.

The Earth is getting warmer and we know that this will have calamitous costs, we also know that fossil fuels are the principle source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Increased levels of GHGs have significant harmful impacts on our health, our environment, and our climate.

We are currently on track for catastrophic global warming if we continue with business as usual. If we want to have a shot at keeping global temperature increases under the internationally agreed upon upper threshold of 2 degrees Celsius, we must radically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

We cannot afford to add more than 310 gigatons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, if we are to keep warming within two degrees C. We have already emitted 530 gigatons of carbon, and according to the IPCC’s latest report we can only add a total of 840 gigatons of carbon, that leaves us with a carbon budget of 310 gigatons. We will not be able to stay within our carbon budget and move forward if we move ahead with the Keystone XL.

To keep global temperatures below this threshold we will need to abandon much of the world’s fossil fuel reserves. This is particularly true of tar sands oil which has a far higher emissions profile than traditional oil.

If we are to meet growing energy needs, we will need to ramp up our use of renewables. While this entails considerable investment, it is far less than the combined costs of a significantly warmer world.

Emissions from the tar sands

If approved the Keystone XL pipeline will be a game changing contributer to climate change causing emissions. According to the NRDC report, tar sands oil emits 81 percent more emissions than conventional oil. If the Keystone XL goes forward a Sierra report claims it will generate 181 million metric tons of carbon, an emission load which is the yearly equivalent of building 51 new coal-fired power plants or putting 37 million additional cars on the road.

The State Department report

The State Department’s latest report on the Keystone XL does a very poor job of detailing the pipeline’s emissions, oil spill risks, and threats to water resources. The NRDC showed how the pipeline would increase U.S. carbon emissions by between 935 million and 1.2 billion metric tons over the project’s 50-year timeline. This is far more than indicated in the State Department’s report.

The Canadian province of Alberta, home of the tar sands, has a long history of pipeline explosions and spills. In the case of the Keystone XL, a spill could jeopardize a number of rivers and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water and irrigates agriculture in parts of eight states. In 2013 alone, TransCanada, the company charged with building the Keystone XL, had 14 U.S. spills in a single year.

Pipelines are not only dangerous for the environment, they also kill and injure people. Since 1986, according to a ProPublica investigation, U.S. pipeline accidents have killed more than 500 people, injured over 4,000, and cost nearly $50 billion in property damages.

The State Department report claims that Canada’s tar sands will be exploited whether or not the pipeline is built. However, this is refuted by a Sierra article which states that the Royal Bank of Canada believes blocking Keystone XL would significantly inhibit Canada’s tar sands development.

Overview of the benefits of renewable energy

Renewable energy provides substantial environmental and economic benefits, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists this includes:

  1. Little or no greenhouse gas emissions: According to data aggregated by the International Panel on Climate Change, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable energy which includes manufacturing, installation, operation and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning are minimal. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) explored the feasibility and environmental impacts associated with generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and they found that global warming emissions from electricity production could be reduced by approximately 81 percent.
  2. Improved public health: Implementing renewable energy and transitioning away from fossil fuels will significantly reduce air and water pollution from fossil fuels which lead to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer. There is evidence to show that replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy can increase worker productivity, decrease premature mortality and significantly reduce overall healthcare costs.
  3. Vast inexhaustible supply of energy: The 2012, NREL study found that renewable energy can supply 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually which amounts to 118 times the nation’s annual electricity consumption.
  4. Stable energy prices: Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is providing affordable electricity across the country right now, and can help stabilize energy prices in the future. While renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, once built they operate at very low cost and, for most technologies, the fuel is free. As a result, renewable energy prices are relatively stable over time. Prices will also benefit from the increased competition that is afforded by scaling renewables. Further, renewable would decrease costs to utility companies that currently spend millions of dollars on financial instruments to hedge themselves against fossil fuel price volatility.
  5. Reliable and resilient energy system: Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure than fossil fuel powered systems because they are distributed and modular. To illustrate the point, a Renewable Energy World article cites a study which showed how Hurricane Sandy damaged and disrupted fossil fuel powered electricity generation and distribution in New York and New Jersey, while renewable energy projects in the Northeast weathered the storm with minimal damage or disruption. This is of great importance as we expect to experience more extreme weather due to climate change. Unlike fossil fuel or nuclear power, wind and solar do not require water to generate electricity which makes them better able to deal with issues of water scarcity.

Pros and cons of renewable energy

While there are many very serious problems associated with the Keystone XL pipeline and the dirty bitumen it will carry, a balanced assessment of renewables make a strong case for clean energy. As summarized in an EEP article, renewable energy offers a slew of useful benefits.

Wind

Pros: U.S. onshore wind resources have the potential to generate almost 10,500 GW of electricity, 175 times more than the current installed capacity of 60 GW. Based on the average U.S. electricity fuel mix, a one MW wind turbine can displace 1,800 tons of CO2 emissions per year. With a wind power capacity of 300 GW, 825 million metric tons of CO2 emissions could be avoided annually. Most importantly, wind turbines generate very little emissions. Wind emits only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: They generate noise pollution and can prove deadly to bats and birds.

Solar

Pros: Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules covering 0.6 percent of U.S. land area could meet national electricity demand. While solar PV modules produce no emissions during operation. Solar emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Solar PV modules require toxic substances (e.g., cadmium and selenium) in their manufacturing.

Biomass

Pros: Biomass has low net C02 emissions in comparison to fossil fuels. At combustion, it releases only the CO2 it previously removed from the atmosphere.

Cons: Additional emissions are associated with processing. Land use is another problem as it requires 124 acres of land to generate one GWh of energy per year and using crop land to grow fuel can adversely impact global food production.

Geothermal

Pros: U.S. geothermal power offsets the emission of 22 million metric tons of CO2, 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 110,000 tons of particulate matter from coal-powered plants each year. Geothermal emits only 0.1 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: Some geothermal facilities produce solid waste such as salts and minerals that must be disposed of in approved sites, but some byproducts can be recovered and recycled.

Hydropower

Pros: Electricity generated from hydropower is virtually emission free. Hydroelectric power emits between 0.1 and 0.5 pounds of CO2E/kWh.

Cons: significant levels of methane and CO2 may be emitted through the decomposition of vegetation that is flooded by the dam. Other environmental concerns include fish injury and mortality, habitat degradation, and water quality impairment. However there are technologies that can help to minimize some of the adverse consequences including “fish-friendly” turbines and smaller dams.

Overall the pros of renewable energy far outweigh the costs.

Declining cost of renewables

The cost of renewable energy has been steadily declining and as we scale renewables this price will continue to decline. The more we produce the lower the cost. As it stands now wind power is currently competitive with fossil fuels and solar has achieved grid parity with coal. Long-term wind contracts are now more than 40 percent cheaper than they were just three years ago and the average price of a solar panel has dropped almost 60 percent since 2011. The cost of generating electricity from wind dropped more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2012 and more than 80 percent since 1980. The cost of renewable energy will decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale. These costs could be further reduced with the help of standards. A 25 percent renewable electricity standard would lead to 7.6 percent lower electricity prices by 2030.

Renewable energy currently provides only a tiny fraction of its potential electricity output in the U.S. But a plethora of studies have demonstrated that renewable energy can be rapidly deployed to provide a significant share of future electricity needs.

Rather than supporting Canada’s exploitation of the tar sands, the U.S. should be resisting their northern neighbor’s reckless obsession with hydrocarbons. In addition to scaling renewable energy, the most important single thing that the U.S. can do is to deny Canada a market for its dirty fuel.

While the rampant exploitation of Canada’s tar sands oil means “game over” for efforts to combat climate change, renewable energy offers a secure, clean, and healthy solution to America’s energy needs.

——————–
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: lamoix, Howl Arts Collective, courtesy flickr

 

The post Keystone XL vs. Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 15 2013

19:19

ALEC Must Die

ALEC seeks to thwart open democracy and progress on clean energy and climate actionThere is a sinister force that is corrupting American politics by giving the most environmentally destructive elements of Big Business significant control over state legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) turns 40 this year. This organization is composed of large corporations and state lawmakers. They draft environmentally harmful model laws that have been adopted in state legislatures across the country.

ALEC describes itself as “nonpartisan public-private partnership” and is registered as a not for profit organization. While the organization enjoys 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, many groups see it as little more than a front for one of the most powerful and influential lobby groups in America.

The threat to America’s democracy from ALEC should not be underestimated as this is a well-funded and well-coordinated organization that has a proven track record of successfully manipulating state legislatures.

According to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ALEC continues to hold sway over statehouses across the country. In total, CMD identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced in state legislatures during the first seven months of 2013. At least eighty-four of these measures have become law.

As reviewed in PR Watch, ALEC’s real mission in state legislatures is, “to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests,” says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at Greenpeace.

Fossil fuel lobby

One of the most egregious threats to the public interest comes from the fossil fuel industry’s involvement with ALEC. “Disregarding science at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil fuel industry,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Corporate sponsors of ALEC include the leaders of the fossil fuel industry. Companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Peabody Energy, BP, Shell, Chevron, TransCanada and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, as well as industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide almost all of ALEC’s funding.

ALEC’s goals are clear, they seek to provide financial rewards and protections to the companies that they work with.

According to Calvin Sloan, a legislative researcher with People for the American Way, corporations pay $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC. The purpose of the ALEC meetings is to instruct lawmakers on policy initiatives, which according to Sloan is “a fossil fuels-funded agenda.”

“They [ALEC] have participating corporations like fossil fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states within a year,” Sloan said. “It’s part of an overall framework of corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”

ALEC supports some of the most destructive fossil fuel legislation ever tabled including bills supporting coal, fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  It should come as no surprise that TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is also a member of ALEC. The company even sponsored an expense-paid trip called “ALEC academy” for nine ALEC-member state legislators. Following the trip, some of those in attendance introduced resolutions backing the pipeline in their state legislatures.

According to CMD, 77 ALEC bills promoting fossil fuels and undermining environmental protections were introduced in 34 states in 2013. At least seventeen of these measures have become law.

Climate change denial

ALEC’s activities extend beyond support for fossil fuel interests and encompass climate change misinformation. The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act which passed in at least four states, teaches children that climate change is a “controversial theory.” (The truth is that with 98 percent support, there are few theories that have garnered more support from scientists than anthropogenic climate change).

ALEC is a leading organization that actively denies the veracity of anthropogenic climate change and opposes limits on climate change causing emissions. At the 2013 meeting of ALEC, climate change was one of the items on the agenda.

One of the speakers at this year’s ALEC meeting was Joe Bastardi, he is a leading climate change denier and television weather forecaster who frequently comments on Fox News. He has called human-caused global warming an “obvious fraud.”  This year, Bastardi was the speaker at a plenary breakfast meeting misleadingly titled “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” In 2011, he spoke about “The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2″ at ALEC’s annual meeting.

As reported in a May 2013 Forbes article, Bastardi says that “blaming turbulent weather on global warming is extreme nonsense.” While many have speculated as to whether he is willfully ignorant, willful, or just plain ignorant, as a meteorologist Bastardi should know better.

Opposition to renewable energy

ALEC does not only work in support of dirty hydrocarbons, it also is working to snuff out renewable energy. “ALEC’s long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation,” says Gibson.

Through legislation called the Electricity Freedom Act, ALEC sought to prevent states from requiring energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources. Because the Electricity Freedom Act failed to gain the support of state legislatures, ALEC is modifying its plan of attack against renewable energy standards. At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC introduced a bill called the Market Power Renewables Act, which seeks to undermine the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.

As explained by PR Watch, this legislation “would phase-out a state’s RPS and instead create a renewable “market” where consumers can choose to pay for renewable energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy investment necessary to continue developing the technology and infrastructure that will drive costs down.”

Opposition to emissions reduction

ALEC has drafted laws that seek to oppose state efforts to reduce emissions. This includes a model bill titled, “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”, which opposes limiting climate change causing carbon emissions.

ALEC bills have not only opposed efforts from state agencies to regulate pollution, they even tried to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, ALEC’s goal is to undermine emissions reduction efforts and to continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Resistance to limiting atmospheric CO2 represents a serious threat to global health as it is widely understood that failure to reign in carbon emissions will have catastrophic consequences.

Control of water, land and information

An ALEC bill titled “Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act” would give for-profit companies control over wastewater treatment and drinking water. Another ALEC law titled “Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act” would give states access to resources in federal lands that are protected as wilderness preserves.

In addition to promoting anti-environmental bills, and seeking control over resources, they also craft legislation to control information and help industry escape public accountability. ALEC’s Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act would quash the First Amendment rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder for them to document issues associated with food safety and animal cruelty.  This is similar to Utah’s ag-gag law of 2012, which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who filmed the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. This ALEC model bill could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience.

Click here to view the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bills.

Growing resistance

The American public is increasingly aware of ALEC’s activities. As ALEC gathered for its 40th annual meeting in Chicago on August 7, they were met by protesters who marched outside the Palmer House Hotel where the meeting was held. The thousands who demonstrated included environmentalists, union members, civil rights activists, and social justice campaigners. Although this was not the first protest against ALEC, it was the largest to date.

Groundbreaking news coverage has helped to expose ALEC. Some of the most inclusive coverage of ALEC was provided by the CMD in the 2011 piece titled “ALEC Exposed.” Another was a documentary from Bill Moyers & Company titled “United States of ALEC.

One of the ways that ALEC has managed to wield so much power is by virtue of the fact that they have always functioned in the shadows. However, people are increasingly coming to terms with the nefarious ways in which ALEC threatens democracy and efforts to combat climate change.

The normally clandestine activities of ALEC are no longer hidden under a blanket of secrecy. Companies are increasingly understanding that involvement with ALEC is a PR liability.  Already, there have been a number of big multinationals that have withdrawn from the organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, almost 50 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership and national campaigns are encouraging others to abandon ALEC.

After four decades of covert operations, ALEC is starting to feel the pressure from public scrutiny. Although ongoing resistance can be expected from the fossil fuel industry, public awareness can divest ALEC of its influence over state legislatures.

Shinning a spotlight on ALEC’s activities will kill the succubus that is draining the lifeblood of America’s democracy.
——————-
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.

Main image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy flickr
Featured image credit: Light Bridgading, courtesy flickr

 

The post ALEC Must Die appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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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 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

March 16 2012

18:53

Charity Water Update: Success in Ethiopia


Children now have access to safe, clean water in Ethiopia Water changes everything

Last month we introduced our readers to Charity Water, a non-profit group with a mission to help bring safe, clean water to developing nations. In September, Charity Water launched a fundraising campaign for two new drilling rigs in Tigray, Ethiopia.

The initial goal was to raise $1.2 million. Generous donors met that challenge and then some, surpassing the goal with an additional $284,638. And then one donor matched the original $1.2 million to fund a second drilling fleet. Then another donor offered to pay the costs of getting the rigs shipped and through customs.

The first drilling rig is up and operational, and wells are already bringing water to communities that until now struggled every day to find enough clean water. Together the two drilling fleets will drill wells bringing water to 80,000 more people every years for the next 15 years. That’s good news because water changes everything.

September Campaign 2011 Rig is drilling in Northern Ethiopia! from charity: water on Vimeo.

Image credit: SocialEarth

January 19 2012

22:42

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Blocked – For Now


The Obama administration blocks the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - for nowResponding to a mandate laid down by conservatives in Congress last month for a decision within 60 days, the Obama administration denied the permit for  construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The proposed route for the 1700-mile pipeline would stretch from Canada to Texas, crossing through sensitive areas including Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the vast Ogallala Aquifer that supplies fresh water to millions of Americans.

The Obama administration had originally said it would postpone a decision on the project to 2013, after the presidential election later this year, but Republicans in Congress attempted to force Obama’s hand by moving the deadline to within 60 days, and that the president responded well ahead of that deadline.

While environmentalists applaud the decision to block the pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands oil, the production of which produces more carbon emissions and environmental destruction than “conventional” oil, many are concerned that the Obama administration will eventually approve the project in some form.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline,” Obama said in a statement, “but pertains more to the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.”

Republicans in Congress vow that the fight for the tar sands pipeline is “far from over” and Keystone’s TransCanada has said it will immediately apply for a new permit to build the pipeline.

Job claims inflated

The official State Department report to Congress released yesterday also characterized claims that the pipeline would create 100,000 jobs as “inflated,” saying instead that the project would have no “significant impact on long-term employment in the United States.”

The report says that instead that the project would only create between 5,000 to 6,000 temporary jobs lasting only two years.

Undermining U.S. energy security

A report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that heated debate over the project has obscured the true intent of the pipeline: to export Canadian oil to the world market via the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“Canada isn’t even producing enough oil to fill its existing pipelines,” says the NRDC, “which are running half-empty.”

The real reason for the big push to build the pipeline across America’s heartland is not to enhance U.S. energy security, but to grow oil company profits by exporting oil to international markets through Gulf Coast refineries in tax-free Foreign Trade Zones.

Obama’s commitment 

One thing conservatives in Congress and environmentalists do agree on is that the Keystone pipeline story is far from over. Today’s rejection of TransCanada’s permit by the State Department is just as much a rejection of acting on the GOP’s attempt to mandate a timeline than of the idea itself.

“I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil,” Obama said in his statement.

So while today those that voiced their concerns and made clear their opposition can celebrate a “victory”, bringing to heel what many considered a “done deal,” the fight for America’s sustainable energy future is far from over. The Keystone XL pipeline is but one small battle, and only temporarily won.

Image credit: National Geographic

January 04 2012

15:16

The Year in Review: Popular Efforts to Combat Climate Change in 2011


Popular efforts to fight global warming increased in 2011Last year saw a significant increase in popular efforts to combat climate change. From protests against the Keystone XL pipeline to campaigns that pressure businesses to engage more sustainable practices, people are standing up in support of efforts to combat climate change. Last year, we also saw an unprecedented number of people getting involved with environmental events, protests and social activism. Although the Occupy Movement may have lacked a clear environmental focus, it did underscore the growing popularity of grassroots protests.

Keystone XL Pipeline

According to the Guardian, the Keystone XL pipeline protests that took place from August 20th to September 3rd were, “the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in US history.”  Thousands of people, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen protested at the White House, demanding that President Obama reject the tar-sands oil pipeline.

On Monday August 28th, more than 60 religious leaders made their voices heard in front of the White House. Nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also joined the protest against the Keystone XL.

Weeks of protest and the arrests of 1,252 peaceful protesters did not deter people from opposing the pipeline in Washington. McKibben reportedly said the pipeline galvanized U.S. action on climate change.

On Sunday, November 6th, another protest was held to stop the tar-sands pipeline. As many as 15,000 Americans encircled the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL project. This was described as a historic defining moment in the push to move beyond oil.

On November 10th, President Obama announced that he would put the future of the planet ahead of Big Oil. Citing climate change, Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline project back for review until at least 2013.

Even though Republicans are resorting to blackmail to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track, the success of the anti-pipeline protests represent an important victory for those involved in the struggle against climate change.

Arab Spring

Corruption and misuse of natural resources were some of the factors that fueled the uprisings in Arab states. The Arab world is facing numerous environmental problems including air pollution, water scarcity, desertification, waste management, loss of arable lands and marine degradation. Popular movements in the Arab world succeeded in changing the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. There are early indications that the environment could benefit from the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring has attracted a $550 billion investment that promises to bring sustainable energy to the region. The world’s most ambitious solar project could start producing energy as early as 2015 in the region.

Paul van Son, the managing director of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), told Reuters that interest in the project to turn sunshine into energy has grown with the spread of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East.

Before the Arab Spring, there were concerns about the political stability in the region. “We like the Arab Spring because it has opened up a lot of ideas and generated support for the project,” van Son said. “We’re very supportive. The democratic structures fit very well with ours.”

Renewable energy projects could help the economy and create jobs in the country and throughout the region. van Son said he hopes Desertec can help bring Mediterranean nations closer together. “I believe large infrastructure projects like this can contribute to stability. It’s about the development of new industries in the region, investment, job creation and the transfer of knowledge and know-how,” he said.

The first 150 megawatts power plant will be built in Morocco and it could be generating power by 2015 or 2016, with further projects planned in Tunisia and Algeria.

COP 17 

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 in what was called the “Global Day of Action,” about 20,000 people from all over the world took to the streets calling for action in Durban. Protests, marches and rallies around the world demanded “climate justice.”

“We march today to show our outrage. We want to give the ministers…a clear message: You cannot continue to make excuses,” said Action Aid international climate justice coordinator Harjeet Singh.

“We demand urgent and strong action on climate change. We can’t just keep talking and keep wasting time,” Singh said. And Greenpeace said, “it is time to listen to the voices of ordinary people not polluters.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the protesters in Durban: “You know where we stand, here with you.”

Although expectations for COP 17 were low, people came together and helped to force governments to sign-on to a binding agreement.

Local Protest Goes National

Michigan State University (MSU) students have been protesting the fact that they have the largest on-campus coal plant in the nation.

“Coal is harmful to our environment and us, but not everyone knows. I think it is important to raise awareness of the problem so it can be fixed and the damaging effects of coal can be stopped,” said student activist Kendra Majewski.

Even though three students were arrested at a sit-in, MSU activists have indicated that they are going to keep demanding clean air for their campus. In October, hundreds of campuses across the nation joined in on the demonstration against the university to show support for the Quit Coal campaign known as 100 Actions for 100% Clean Energy.

Students across the country are now engaged in telephone protests directed at the MSU president’s office. They are requesting that the president reconsider her position and commit to using 100 percent clean energy at Michigan State. This campaign illustrates that local issues can quickly gain national support.

Although MSU has not yet agreed to close its coal plant, the university has taken other steps to become more sustainable, including plans to have all new buildings become LEED-certified.

Environmental Events

There have been a number of environmental events in 2011, which were supported by an ever growing number of people. Global Green’s I Am Fighting Climate Change video contest asked people to document their individual actions to fight climate change. Global Green asked people to come together to help stop climate change and demand that leaders invest in green technologies and green jobs.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsored an event in the US and Canada that promoted the bicycle as an option for commuting to work. In 2011, Bike to Work Week was held on May 16th through the 20th. On June 5th the annual World Environment Day (WED) event became the largest and most widely celebrated WED event ever.

On June 15th, Global Wind Day raised worldwide awareness about wind energy. Thousands of public events were held in the US and around the world.  On Saturday June 18th, Canada, the US and the UK (November 19th in Australia) celebrated SolarDay. The 2011 SolarDay events were held by cities, non-profits, companies and the solar industry.

On August 15th through the 19th, the EDF led a campaign titled Voices for Clean Air to help remind political leaders that clean air is something that the majority of Americans support. The EDF sent a message to political leaders in the U.S. in support of strong clean air standards.

Beginning on September 13th, the Climate Reality Project hosted a live streaming event. The event was known as 24 Hours of Reality, it involved a global broadcast about the reality of the climate crisis. This global event was designed to help people make the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and the need to push the planet beyond fossil fuels. ZeDay was an event that took place on September 21st, it was a day for people all over the planet to strive for zero emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

On September 24th Bill McKibben and the 350.org team launched the “Moving Planet” campaign. It inspired over 2000 events in more than 175 countries. In South Asia, the 350.org coordinator indicated that their goal was to encourage grassroots activism against coal fired power emissions, as well as redefining development. African initiatives urged people to take to the streets to demand climate jobs. All regions including, the Pacific and Europe, pushed for renewable energy laws and sustainable transportation.

On October 26th, college campuses across North America celebrated the 9th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a day which highlighted the green accomplishments and initiatives of staff, faculty and students.

On March 26th, 134 countries and turned out their lights for WWF’s Earth Hour. In 2011, Earth Hour called on businesses and other organizations to show leadership by committing to lasting action for the planet beyond shutting off their lights for one hour. Climate Care Day is an event that takes place on the same day as Earth Hour; however this initiative is intended to encourage global businesses to replace all corporate travel with remote meetings.

On Earth Day (April 23rd), the Billion Acts of Green® campaign became the largest environmental service campaign in the world. In 2011, it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

On Monday, April 18th, thousands of people came together for a rally outside the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. The rally was the culmination of Power Shift 2011, which took place between April 15th and 18th. 350.org launched a campaign entitled “The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me,” where more than a thousand businesses abandoned the climate denying Chamber, including corporations like Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Levi-Strauss, Best Buy, and General Electric.

Businesses are Listening

Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the power of popular pressure. Individuals are pushing corporations to cleanup their supply chains, which are causing some businesses to change the way they source commodities. Public pressure has forced companies like Nestle, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills to adopt more sustainable business practices.

In 2011, it became increasingly obvious that the risks associated with unsustainable business practices are a serious threat which cannot be ignored. Rather than incur such risks, an increasing number of businesses are cooperating with environmental groups. For example, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable forestry, preserve biodiversity and help minimize forest loss and degradation that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-profits are putting their expertise to work guiding businesses on sustainability. Carbon Trust has published a Green Guide for SMEs, the WWF-UK has launched its Green Game-Changers initiative and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program has yielded impressive results.

People around the world are increasingly united in their demand for action on environmental issues. The events of 2011 demonstrate that the public can influence decision making at the highest level. This is a testament to the power of citizens to effectuate meaningful change.

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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: Sky News

June 20 2011

19:04

Enviro News Wrap: The Real Price of Gas; Koch Bros. and the GOP; Google Bets Big on SolarCity, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Oil prices in the US spiked a couple of months ago and  have recently dropped down to under $4/gall. It is a good time to remember that gas prices in the US are artificially low. In the US we pay mostly for the extraction, delivery, refinement and marketing costs along with a small amount of tax. In Europe the price of oil includes things like damage to our natural environment and human health. In the USA we just under pay for oil and then make up for it via asthma, infant mortality, childhood cancer and the degradation of our backyard (aka our environment).
  • Deepok Chopra talks about spirituality and how it can help the average citizen take leadership roles to address communal issues like climate change.
  • A contributor to Ode Magazine writes about her shopping history and how it is has transformed her into an active environmental purchaser.
    After studying environmental policy, ecology and economics in college I believe that we can change our society and government most effectively by changing what products we buy. Remember, if you buy Georgia Pacific paper products then one percent of every dollar you spend goes towards the most successful campaign against intelligent climate change legislation for the US and UN. Check your toilet paper, your printer paper, your paper towels; you may be working against yourself just by cleaning the counter. Here is an article about how the Koch brothers, the owners of Georgia Pacific, is making every Republican candidate for president promise that they will join the fight of ruining our natural environment.
  • The drought in Texas demonstrates the challenges that arise when there is not enough clean water to go around.
  • Here comes the Electric Bus! The key to the success of this electric bus is the battery, it can be charged in only 10 minutes.
  • Obama supports solar power, but his words have to turn into action, one such action is providing loan guarantees to developers of large scale solar projects. But large-scale solar and wind projects often get a lot of opposition. The development might be for renewable energy but it is still a development of the land which always brings environmental damage. Citizens of Wales are demonstrating to cap large-scale wind power development. Welsh citizens aren’t against wind power, they just want to control how it is done.
  • The head of Greenpeace has been arrested for a direct action against an oil rig. He did not try to stop the operation of the rig, he just wanted an answer to how that oil company is going to deal with past oil spills in that area.
  • Google has given $280 million dollars to SolarCity to create a fund for financing Solar Leases. Solar companies are getting big and right now SolarCity is the biggest.

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May 30 2011

19:04

Enviro New Wrap: Nuclear Powet Updates; Cautious Chevron Shareholders; Cheaper EV Batteries, and more…


The latest environmental news headlines GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

March 09 2011

18:45

Union Busting and the GOP’s War Against the Environment


Protests inside the Wisconsin State House against the GOP efforts to bust the public unionRepublican efforts to break unions in states across America have dire implications for the environment. It is no secret that the GOP are opposed to unions and those who advocate on behalf of the environment. Union-busting, like the Republican war on the EPA, is part of a multi-pronged thrust to undermine the Democrats and environmental protection.

Unions are the Democrats’ power base, the same way the Christian right is the Republicans’ power base. Unions are the Democrats’ biggest sources of financial and grass roots organizational support. Republicans are using their victories in November’s mid-term election to declare an all out war against unions. Republicans have already been successful in blocking state employees from forming unions in 12 states and 22 states have undermined unions with so-called “right-to-work” legislation.

On Friday February 25, the Wisconsin Lower House voted 51-17 in favor of a union busting bill, which strips most public workers of their collective bargaining rights. Republican Governor Scott Walker has said that he will not compromise on the collective bargaining issue. Walker’s support for the bill to weaken unions has not been deterred by the tens of thousands of people who have flocked to Madison to stage sit-in protests.

Republicans are anti-union because they advocate on behalf of corporate interests. Unions have contributed to American prosperity and the growth of the middle class; they have helped to increase the buying power of Americans while growing the tax base. Unions have also played a critical role in changing employer attitudes towards ‘greening’ the workplace and creating safer, healthier working and living environments. Unions are often the driving force behind energy savings which are a huge cost benefit for their employers. Unions are also behind efforts like recycling and raising public awareness about environmental issues.

While Republicans have consistently voted against legislation to manage climate change, unions have been champions of environmental laws. This is illustrated by the testimony of Bob Baugh, Executive Director AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council and Chair AFL-CIO Energy Task Force on Climate Change bills before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

“The AFL-CIO believes it is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st Century challenges related to climate change. Scientific evidence has confirmed that human use of fossil fuels is undisputedly contributing to global warming, causing rising sea levels, changes in climate patterns and threats to coastal areas. Unrestrained growth in greenhouse gas emissions poses critical economic and environmental issues. This challenge is an opportunity to enact an energy policy that will result in a cleaner planet, greater energy efficiency and the revitalization of our manufacturing base.”

As indicated by a report from AFL-CIO Energy Task Force titled Jobs and Energy for the 21st Century, unions advocate for a forward looking energy policy: ”It is time for our nation to take bold steps to meet the 21st century challenges related to energy policy. We believe our nation should embrace a balanced approach that assures abundant, affordable energy supplies, creates good paying jobs for American workers, improves the environment, and reduces our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

Unions are not without fault and many states need to make adjustments to ease their deficit. Americans are prepared to make concessions, but they do not want to lose their collective bargaining rights altogether.

A February 2011 Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans said they would oppose a bill taking away collective bargaining rights of public workers in order to balance the budget while only 33 percent would support it.

By using the budget to break unions across America, Republicans are declaring war on workers and enlarging their war on the environment.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.

Image credit: Jessie Reeder, courtesy Flickr

 

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March 04 2011

19:15

Activist Tim DeChristopher Convicted on Two Felony Counts


Tim DeChristopher is found guilty on two counts of felony The Weekly Mulch
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
(reposted with permission)

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was convicted yesterday of two felony counts. DeChristopher was on trial for bidding on more than 22,000 acres of public land that he could not pay for: his two crimes are making false representations to the government and interfering with the land auction.

DeChristopher made the $1.79 million bid in order to “do something to try to resist the climate crisis,” he told Tina Gerhardt, in an interview published by AlterNet. But, as Kate Sheppard explains at Mother Jones, the judge threw out “the defense that his actions were necessary to prevent environmental damage on this land and, more broadly, the exacerbataion of climate change.”

“They’re hoping to make an example out of me.”

DeChristoper now faces the possibility of a $75,000 fine and 10 years in prison. In an interview with YES! Magazine‘s Brooke Jarvis, before the trial started, DeChristopher said he had faced the possibility that he would be found guilty.

“There is still the possibility of acquittal, but I think the most likely scenario is probably that I will be convicted,” he told Jarvis. “The prosecution has been very clear that they’re hoping to make an example out of me, to convince other people not to fight the status quo.”

Wild lands

What is the status quo? Bureau of Land Management land, like the parcel DeChristopher bid on, is owned by the government, which often leases out the rights to develop the natural resources, like gas and oil, to private companies.

Up until 2003, the Department of the Interior had the option of setting aside some of its lands for preservation, pending final Congressional approval. But during the Bush administration, the DOI gave up that option and only considered uses like recreation or development for its holdings.

Back in December, the current Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, reversed that policy, again putting on the table the option of using public lands for conservation purposes. But as I write at TAPPED, Republicans are throwing a hissy fit about the change.

Truth or consequence?

The Republicans’ argument goes something like: Using public lands for conservation will deprive Americans of jobs and hurt the bottom lines of states with large tracts of public lands. What they don’t discuss is the potential damage that drilling for, say, natural gas could cause. The Mulch has been writing about the dangers of hydrofracking for awhile now, but over the past week The New York Times began weighing in on the issue with a long series on the dangers of hydrofracking.

The Times‘ series brings even more evidence of hydrofracking’s dangers to light—in particular, about the radioactive waste materials being dumped into rivers where water quality is rarely monitored. As Christopher Mims reports at Grist, the series has already prompted calls for new testing from people like John Hanger, the former head of Pennsylvania’s environmental protection department, which has not been among the staunchest opponents of new drilling protects. According to Mims, Hanger has written that:

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should order today all public water systems in Pennsylvania to test immediately for radium or radioactive pollutants and report as soon as good testing allows the results to the public. Only testing of the drinking water for these pollutants can resolve the issue raised by the NYT.

Or, as Mims puts it, “No one has any idea if the radioactive material in the wastewater from fracking is appearing downstream, in drinking water supplies, in quantities in excess of EPA recommendations.”

Tar and feather ‘em

Fracking is not the only environmentally destructive practice that the energy industry is increasingly relying on. Earth Island Journal has two pieces looking into the tar sands industry in Canada. Jason Mark’s piece is a great introduction to the history of the tar sands and takes a sharp look into the impact development has had on the community and the environment.

And Ron Johnson details the U.S.’s connection to the destruction: The federal government is considering approving a pipeline that would allow the oil from the tar sands to travel to Texas refineries. Johnson writes:

Green groups warn that the pipelines will keep North America and emerging economies hooked on oil from the Alberta tar sands for years to come. By greasing the crude’s path to market, the projects will encourage further reckless expansion of the tar sands. That would delay the transition to a renewable energy economy, while further degrading Canada’s boreal forests and spewing even more CO2 into the atmosphere.

A new regime

The decision to approve the pipeline lies with the executive branch. But all of Washington isn’t a particularly friendly place to green groups and their causes these days.

For example, as Care2′s Beth Buczynski reports, the newly empowered House Republicans have done away with one of the smallest green programs the Democrats put into place, an initiative to compost waste from House cafeterias. They’ve justified the cut by saying it was “too expensive,” but as Buczynski writes, “Spending must be dramatically reduced, yes, but also strategically. It’s interesting (and disheartening) to see which programs the new GOP House has targeted first.”

It’s a small thing, but it shows how committed Republicans are to the status quo: They’re not even willing to mulch their leftover salad.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Image credit: 350.org, courtesy Flickr

February 18 2011

22:39

Chevron in Ecuador; GOP Aims to Kill EPA


Chevron's attempt at a clean public image is juxtaposed with an $8 billion judgement from an Ecuadorian court for decades of environmental damage in the AmazonThe Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
(reposted with permission)

A Bolivian judge ordered Chevron this week to pay $8.6 billion in damages for polluting the Amazon rainforest from 1964 until 1990. The payout is the second largest ever in an environmental case, with only the damages BP agreed to pay in the wake of last summer’s Deepwater Horizon spill being higher.

Environmental lawyers and advocates hailed the case as a landmark victory, but as Rebecca Tarbotton reports at AlterNet, Chevron is still planning to fight the case.

“In fact, the oil giant has repeatedly refused to pay for a clean up even if ordered to by the court,” she writes. “In one chilling statement, Charles A. James, Chevron’s vice president and general counsel, told law students at UC Berkeley that Chevron would fight ‘until hell freezes over, and then skate on the ice.’”

The Cost of Doing Business

Chevron can continue to fight the case because it’s cheaper for them to fund their lawyers than to cough up billions. Like so many environmental issues, this one comes down to money, which environmentally destructive corporations always seem to have and activists, regulators, and victims simply don’t.

In Washington, the newly empowered Republican Party is doing its darndest to make sure that remains the case. It’s budget season, and the Environmental Protection Agency is one of the prime targets for cutting in Republicans’ budget proposals. Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones that House Republicans are not only trying to take away $3 billion from the agency, but also are pushing to bar the EPA from regulating carbon or other greenhouse gasses. Putting this in context, Sheppard writes:

The National Wildlife Federation says the cuts amount to a “sneak attack” on existing environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, because they would make it basically impossible for the EPA to do its job. The huge cut—the biggest in 30 years—”would jeopardize the water we drink and air we breathe, endangering the health and well-being of all Americans,” Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Monday.

The need for green

But environmentalists have their backers, too. At Grist, Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist who co-founded the climate group 350.org, has an interesting look at how the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, led by Bruce Nilles, banded together with other environmental activists to successfully shut down proposals for coal-fired power plants across the country. One of the keys, of course, was money:

A consortium of foundations led by the Rockefeller Family Fund helped provide not only resources for the fight but crucial coordination. By the summer of 2005, RFF’s Larry Shapiro, David Wooley from The Energy Foundation, Nilles, and others formed a loosely organized “coal cadre.”

The coordination was crucial not only for the advocacy groups involved, which each have different strengths and geographical bases, but for the money men as well:

“I first went to Florida in 2005 to meet with several groups fighting coal plants,” said Shapiro. “I thought I would figure out who we could give $50,000 to. After my trip, I realized it wasn’t a $50,000 project — it was a million-dollar project. Over time, the Energy Foundation and others got into the game, so we ended up with some real money.”

In the end, McKibben reports, RFF gathered together, from its own pockets and from other foundations, $2.8 million.

Windfall

On top of the type of advocacy work that McKibben details, there’s another reason why more communities and companies are moving away from coal-fired power plants: they have a choice. Plants fueled with natural gas are a popular alternative, but as Gina Marie Cheeseman writes at Care2, in some areas, onshore wind power can compete with coal on costs.

“In some areas of the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Sweden, the cost of wind power ($68 per megawatt hour) generated electricity is competitive with coal-fired power ($67 a megawatt hour),” Cheeseman writes. Wind power is also, she notes, competitive with natural gas, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Close to home

These sort of adjustments make it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices. And in the end, personal choices do impact the amount of carbon humanity is spewing into the atmosphere. As two recent European studies showed, men make choices that generally produce more carbon emissions than women, Julio Godoy reported for Inter Press Service.

One study focused on France, the other on Germany, Greece, Norway, and Sweden. The second study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, found that men ate more meat, drank more processed beverages, and drove more frequently and for longer distances. Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, one of the study’s authors, has argued that their results apply more broadly, too.

“These differences are not specific to the four countries studied, but are generalised across the European Union and have little to do with the different professional activities of men and women,” she told Godoy.

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This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

December 31 2010

15:27

How to Avoid Fracking and Oil Spills in the New Year


Environmentalists are looking for better news on 2011

The Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
(reposted with permission)

2010 was a disappointing year for environmentalists.

This was the year Congress was supposed to pass climate change legislation, but each and every time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed on the verge of pushing the bill forward, the effort fell short. In April, off the coast of Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon explosion led to one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history, and in the aftermath, neither President Barack Obama nor Congress has pushed for the sort of strong regulations that would rein in the oil industry and the risk it poses to coastal ecosystems.

Meanwhile, a newly invigorated natural gas industry has been plowing forward with a controversial drilling technique called hydrofracking. Although the Environmental Protection Agency has committed to studying the environmental impacts of the practice, it’s unclear at this point how much leeway the industry will be given to use techniques that have contaminated water and air across the country. Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben had trouble convincing the president to take the small symbolic act of reinstalling a solar panel on the White House roof. And in November, the country elected a group of lawmakers who are skeptical that climate change even exists.

Hope springs eternal

But the news was not all bad, as Change.org’s Jess Leber reports. In California, green-minded voters defeated a proposition that would have rolled back the state’s ambitious climate law. Coal-fired power plants are closing in states like Oregon and Colorado, and mountaintop removal coal mining is losing its funding. And cities like New York, Washington D.C., Denver and Minneapolis made it easier for their inhabitants to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation.

“All over the world, activists are fighting in their states, towns and cities to do right by the environment,” Leber writes. “They are also moving to pressure the corporate world. So while, given the results of Election Day in the U.S., progress in Congress will be an uphill battle, I’m confident there will be even more victories to report this time next year.”

A year can be a long time. Consider, for instance, Steph Larsen’s reflections on her farm’s first year. “I feel like I’ve lived a decade in the last 12 months,” Larsen writes in Grist. Last year, her pasture did not exist, and the farm buildings on her land had sat unused for years. But in the past 12 months, she’s grown cherries and tomatoes and squash, kept chickens and hunted for their eggs, and raised livestock that later became her dinner.

Larsen’s goals for her farm are modest: “to grow food for her household and community.” It can be hard sometimes to see how individual choices like hers can make a difference while global leaders cannot agree on how to reduce carbon emissions and industry continues to exploit and pollute the environment. But as Winslow Myers, the author of Living Beyond War, writes at Truthout, “the cause-and-effect relationship between what I do personally in my daily life and those planet-wide challenges has become infinitely clearer” over the past 50 years:

“Now we can see how the two are connected – between my diet and the effect of industrial agriculture on the land, between my energy consumption and global climate change, between the chemicals in my laundry detergent and the health of the oceans – and between my political commitments and the world-destroying weapons built with my tax dollars….the reality is that I am so deeply connected to the whole entity that I am responsible for it, answerable to it.”

Local leaders step into the breach

It’s true that individual decisions to turn down the heat, or eat local food, or bike instead of drive cannot turn back global warming. But in aggregate, they do make an impact. And although nationally and internationally, politicians are finding it difficult to create strong policies on climate change, that would reduce emissions, not all lawmakers are avoiding the issues. Franke James’ visual essay on climate change at Yes! Magazine puts it like this: “Don’t be fooled by the global leaders loafing. Local leaders and cities are making plans to adapt to climate change (because it’s affecting them NOW!) ”

And ultimately, these sorts of decisions on local and individual levels do send a signal to leaders that their constituents care about keeping the planet healthy, care about preserving our environmental resources. To that end, check out these ideas for individual action from the staff and readers of Mother Jones.

And next year? Leaders like Bill McKibben are working to create a global movement around climate change, a people-driven movement that will convince legislators and negotiators that it is incumbent upon them to act. Look for them to start making lots of noise in 2011.

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This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Image credit:mstami, courtesy Flickr

November 17 2010

00:09

November 12 2010

23:31

COP16: Taking the Long View in Cancun


The Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
(reposted with permission)

A year ago, it seemed possible—likely, even—that President Barack Obama would sweep into the international negotiations on climate change at Copenhagen and make serious progress on the tangle of issues at stake. The reality was quite different. This year, the expectations for the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun are less wild.

The conference will be held from Nov 29 to Dec 10 and the same issues from 2009 are up for debate. Countries like the United States, Britain, and Germany are still contributing an outsize share of carbon to the atmosphere. Countries like India and China are still rapidly increasing their own carbon output. And countries like Bangladesh, Tuvalu, and Bolivia are still bearing an unfair share of the environmental impacts brought on by climate change.

A very different set of expectations are building in the climate movement this year. If last year was about moving forward as fast as possible, this year, climate activists seem resigned to the idea that politicians just aren’t getting it. Change, when it comes, will have to be be built on a popular movement, not a political negotiation.

Climate change from the bottom up

Last year, climate activists put their faith in international leaders to make progress. This year, they believe that it’s up to them, as outside actors, to marshal a grassroots movement and pressure their leaders towards decreased carbon emissions.

“There’s a recognition that the insider strategy to push from inside the Beltway to impact what will happen in DC, or what will happen in Cancun has really not succeeded,” Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer. “What we’re doing in conjunction with a number of groups across the country and across the world is really build the type of movement that will change what happens in Cancun, what changes what happens in DC from the bottom up.”

(This entire episode of Making Contact is dedicated to new approaches to climate change, at Cancun and beyond, and is worth a listen.)

Fighting the indolence of capitalists

Here’s one example of this new strategy. As Zachary Shahan writes at Change.org, La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, is coordinating a march that will begin in San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, Acapulco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, then converge on Cancun. The march will include “thousands of farmers, indigenous people, rural villagers, urbanites, and more,” Shahan reports.

“After they arrive in Cancun, the organizers are planning an ‘Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice’ for the final days of the negotiations, which they say will be a mass mobilisation of peasants, indigenous and social movements. The action extends far beyond Cancun, though. Actually, they are organizing thousands of Cancuns around the world on this day to denounce what they see as false climate solutions.”

These actions echo the strategy that environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and other climate leaders are promoting to push for climate change policies in the U.S. All this talk about building momentum from the bottom up, from populations, means that anyone looking for change is now looking years into the future.

The U.S. is not leading the way

Of course, ultimately, politicians will need to agree on a couple of standards. In particular, how much carbon each country should be emitting and how fast each country should power down its current emission levels. The U.S. is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to agreement on these questions, especially due to the recent mid-term elections. As Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator wrote at AlterNet:

“Unlike what many suggest, China is not the problem. China, along with India and others, have made considerable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are already working to realize them. Other developing countries have done the same, although we only generate a virtual drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions. The key player missing here is the U.S.”

China, the U.S. and Clean Coal

The most interesting collaborations on clean energy, however, aren’t happening around the negotiating table. This week, The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote a long piece about the work that the U.S. and China are doing together on clean coal technology, the magic cure-all to the world’s energy ills.

In the piece, Fallows recognizes what environmentalists have long argued: coal is bad for the environment and for coal-mining communities. But, unlike clean energy advocates who want to phase coal out of the energy equation, Fallows argues that coal must play a part in the world’s energy future. Therefore, we must find a way to burn it without releasing clouds of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s where clean coal technology comes in. So far, however, researchers have had little luck minimizing coal’s carbon output.

A few progressive writers weighed in on Fallows’ piece: Grist’s David Roberts thought Fallows was too hard on the anti-coal camp, while Campus Progress’ Sara Rubin argued that the piece did a good job of grappling with the reality of clean energy economics. And Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum had one very clear criticism—that the piece skated over the question of progress on carbon capture, the one real way to dramatically reduce carbon pollution from coal. He wrote:

“All the collaboration sounds wonderful, and even a 20% or 30% improvement in coal technology would be welcome. But that said, sequestration is the holy grail and I still don’t know if the Chinese are doing anything more on that front than the rest of us.”

On every front, then, the view on climate change is now a long one.

————————

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

23:31

COP16: Taking the Long View in Cancun


The Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
(reposted with permission)

A year ago, it seemed possible—likely, even—that President Barack Obama would sweep into the international negotiations on climate change at Copenhagen and make serious progress on the tangle of issues at stake. The reality was quite different. This year, the expectations for the United Nations Climate Conference in Cancun are less wild.

The conference will be held from Nov 29 to Dec 10 and the same issues from 2009 are up for debate. Countries like the United States, Britain, and Germany are still contributing an outsize share of carbon to the atmosphere. Countries like India and China are still rapidly increasing their own carbon output. And countries like Bangladesh, Tuvalu, and Bolivia are still bearing an unfair share of the environmental impacts brought on by climate change.

A very different set of expectations are building in the climate movement this year. If last year was about moving forward as fast as possible, this year, climate activists seem resigned to the idea that politicians just aren’t getting it. Change, when it comes, will have to be be built on a popular movement, not a political negotiation.

Climate change from the bottom up

Last year, climate activists put their faith in international leaders to make progress. This year, they believe that it’s up to them, as outside actors, to marshal a grassroots movement and pressure their leaders towards decreased carbon emissions.

“There’s a recognition that the insider strategy to push from inside the Beltway to impact what will happen in DC, or what will happen in Cancun has really not succeeded,” Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Making Contact’s Andrew Stelzer. “What we’re doing in conjunction with a number of groups across the country and across the world is really build the type of movement that will change what happens in Cancun, what changes what happens in DC from the bottom up.”

(This entire episode of Making Contact is dedicated to new approaches to climate change, at Cancun and beyond, and is worth a listen.)

Fighting the indolence of capitalists

Here’s one example of this new strategy. As Zachary Shahan writes at Change.org, La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement, is coordinating a march that will begin in San Luis Potosi, Guadalajara, Acapulco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas, then converge on Cancun. The march will include “thousands of farmers, indigenous people, rural villagers, urbanites, and more,” Shahan reports.

“After they arrive in Cancun, the organizers are planning an ‘Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice’ for the final days of the negotiations, which they say will be a mass mobilisation of peasants, indigenous and social movements. The action extends far beyond Cancun, though. Actually, they are organizing thousands of Cancuns around the world on this day to denounce what they see as false climate solutions.”

These actions echo the strategy that environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and other climate leaders are promoting to push for climate change policies in the U.S. All this talk about building momentum from the bottom up, from populations, means that anyone looking for change is now looking years into the future.

The U.S. is not leading the way

Of course, ultimately, politicians will need to agree on a couple of standards. In particular, how much carbon each country should be emitting and how fast each country should power down its current emission levels. The U.S. is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to agreement on these questions, especially due to the recent mid-term elections. As Claudia Salerno, Venezuela’s lead climate change negotiator wrote at AlterNet:

“Unlike what many suggest, China is not the problem. China, along with India and others, have made considerable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are already working to realize them. Other developing countries have done the same, although we only generate a virtual drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions. The key player missing here is the U.S.”

China, the U.S. and Clean Coal

The most interesting collaborations on clean energy, however, aren’t happening around the negotiating table. This week, The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote a long piece about the work that the U.S. and China are doing together on clean coal technology, the magic cure-all to the world’s energy ills.

In the piece, Fallows recognizes what environmentalists have long argued: coal is bad for the environment and for coal-mining communities. But, unlike clean energy advocates who want to phase coal out of the energy equation, Fallows argues that coal must play a part in the world’s energy future. Therefore, we must find a way to burn it without releasing clouds of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s where clean coal technology comes in. So far, however, researchers have had little luck minimizing coal’s carbon output.

A few progressive writers weighed in on Fallows’ piece: Grist’s David Roberts thought Fallows was too hard on the anti-coal camp, while Campus Progress’ Sara Rubin argued that the piece did a good job of grappling with the reality of clean energy economics. And Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum had one very clear criticism—that the piece skated over the question of progress on carbon capture, the one real way to dramatically reduce carbon pollution from coal. He wrote:

“All the collaboration sounds wonderful, and even a 20% or 30% improvement in coal technology would be welcome. But that said, sequestration is the holy grail and I still don’t know if the Chinese are doing anything more on that front than the rest of us.”

On every front, then, the view on climate change is now a long one.

————————

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

October 20 2010

17:52

New Media and the Environmental Movement’s Grassroots Globalization


Global grassroots environmental activism finds a powerful ally in new mediaNew media is helping environmental activists to combat the powerful propaganda and immense resources of the old energy economy. Although environmental groups cannot outspend or outmaneuver entrenched economic interests, the adoption of new media levels the playing field and democratizes the debate.

New media encompasses the amalgamation of traditional media with the interactive power of computers, communications technology, computer-enabled consumer devices and most importantly, the Web. The interactive relationships inherent in new media democratize content and invite participation in what some are calling open source activism.

A key success factor of the environmental movement is the fact that although it is decentralized, activists rally around common themes. Some have called this broadcast organizing, using big email lists or large networks to share one message that is disseminated in a variety of different ways.

Over the last couple of years, the environmental movement has increasingly relied on new media. Despite the economic hardships brought about by the recession, we saw the meteoric rise of truly global environmental events last year, and this year eclipsed the extraordinary success of last year’s events.

In October, the power of grassroots environmental activism was on display. The Global Work Party and Blog Action Day harnessed the power of collective action by giving people a sense of co-creativity. These two events captured the attention of millions of people around the world and exemplified the scope of involvement.

On Sunday, October 10th, 2010, 350.org facilitated the largest environmental activism event in history. The 10/10/10 event, also known as the Global Work Party, demonstrated the growing popularity of global environmental activism with over 7000 events in 188 countries.

On Friday, October 15th, 2010, change.org’s Blog Action Day encouraged bloggers to raise awareness around the theme of Water. The White House and the UK Foreign Office joined thousands of people who blogged about the earth’s most precious resource.

The scope of these events is unprecedented. The annual Earth Hour campaign mobilized almost one billion people to turn off their lights for one hour and cast their vote for action on climate change.

The WWF has staged an event called What a Difference a Day Makes. Like the other campaigns cited above, the WWF event relied heavily on Twitter and other social media tools to disseminate its environmental message.

Each season, there are dozens of environmental events that bring people together to raise awareness and share solutions.

The new environmental movement unifies national leaders and local connections to create powerful alliances. Local organizers from across the nation are coming together and sharing tactics and strategies. Thanks to new media, these alliances are expanding as grassroots organizations coalesce.

The environmental movement is not just about mobilizing citizens, it is about influencing governments to get involved in the war against climate change. Although these efforts have yet to produce necessary climate legislation in the US, they are not going unnoticed. Bill McKibben and the 350.org team succeed in their bid to have the President install solar panels on the roof of the White House.

Environmental organizations are developing a wide variety of resources to communicate with mass audiences including information kits and videos.

Environmental groups are focusing the power of new media to out irresponsible and non-sustainable business practices. Greenpeace’s online organizers drew attention to Trader Joe’s and successfully forced the company to adopt more sustainable practices. More recently, Greenpeace succeeded in pressuring Nestle to announce a zero deforestation policy.

Greenpeace’s graphic video in the Nestle campaign was viewed 350,000 times the first day it was posted. Although Nestle made YouTube remove the ad, Greenpeace simply changed their tactics. They jammed the company’s phone lines with complaints and plastered its Facebook page with negative comments. This is evidence of the unstoppable efficacy of new media to promote environmental change. Losing one channel could not stop the tidal wave of pressure that eventually forced the company to capitulate.

Although pressuring irresponsible enterprises is effective, new media is also behind an initiative known as a carrotmob, this approach actively rewards companies for their environmental efforts. For decades environmentalists have organized boycotts and now carrots are being added to an arsenal that previously included mostly sticks. Where boycotts punish businesses, the carrotmob collectively rewards environmentally responsible businesses through patronage.

New media is helping environmental advocacy move towards the critical mass required to bring about meaningful change.

_______________________________________________
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.



October 15 2010

13:50

Coalition of the Willing: A Film on Living in a Post Copenhagen World



Coalition of the Willing is an animated film from Knife Party productions, written by Tim Rayner, and created through the collaborative effort of 24 artists from around the world.

The project addresses one of the main problems of our time: how to galvanize and enlist the general populace to understand the urgency of climate change in a “post Copenhagen” world where international climate negotiations and national politics have largely broken down and failed to do what is necessary. The film explores how internet technologies can be used to “leverage the powers of activists, experts, and ordinary citizens in collaborative ventures to combat climate change.”

Coalition Of The Willing from coalitionfilm on Vimeo.

October 05 2010

14:58

Solar Bill of Rights – Freedom From Fossil Fuel


Solar Bill of RightssAs the overly subsidized fossil energy lobby continues to hobble progress for sound energy policy in Washington, many who understand the stakes for such failure of leadership look desperately for ways to transform an unsustainable energy economy.

In an effort to raise awareness about the need to reform the nation’s energy policy – largely controlled by an increasingly threatened fossil energy lobby facing growing awareness of the consequences of continued dependence on fossil energy becomes more apparent – the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) has launched the Solar Bill of Rights Campaign. The campaign is a grassroots movement working to educate Americans – and our leaders in Washington – about solar energy and provide the answers to our energy needs.

Solar – It’s what American want

In a recent poll, 92 percent of people surveyed strongly support the development of solar energy. As public awareness grows of the benefits of solar energy, powerful lobbies are pushing back, using federal subsidies to fund more lobbying, soliciting even more support from Congress and further blocking development of solar and other sources of renewable, clean energy.

It’s time for a sane approach to energy policy, one that most Americans support, will provide jobs, and reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil. It’s our right to demand leadership in energy policy. Later this fall SEIA president Rhone Resch will present the Solar Bill of Rights to Congress and demand the our leaders free themselves – and us – from the grip of fossil energy and begin developing energy policy for the good of the people, not for the fossil fuel industry.

Be part of the movement, and let Congress know that it is your right to demand leadership for a sustainable future. Sign the Solar Bill of Rights today!

Additional source and further reading:
ScalingGreen.com

July 27 2010

16:00

10 Ways Geolocation is Changing the World


This post was written by Rob Reed. He is the founder of MomentFeed, a location-based marketing, strategy, and technology firm. GlobalWarmingisReal is participating in a simultaneous publication of this post with many other like-minded online publishers.

Location technologies are transforming how we experience, navigate, and ultimately better our world. From the global to the local, here are #10Ways geolocation is a positive force for good.

Social media has changed the world. It has revolutionized communications on a global scale, and the transformation continues with every status update, blog post, and video stream. The global citizenry has become a global network.

Since becoming widely adopted just a couple years ago, social media has supercharged social action, cause marketing, and social entrepreneurship. Indeed, the true value hasn't been the technology itself but how we've used it. Today, a second wave of innovation is defining a new era and setting the stage for change over the coming decade.

Mobile technologies will extend the global online network to anyone with a mobile device while enabling countless local networks to form in the real world. We've decentralized media production and distribution. We're doing the same for energy. And we'll continue this trend for social networking, social action, and commerce.

The combined forces of smartphones, mobile broadband, and location-aware applications will connect us in more meaningful ways to the people, organizations, events, information, and companies that matter most to us—namely, those within a physical proximity of where we live and where we are. Can location-based services (LBS) change the world? Here are #10Ways:

1. Checking in for Good: If Gowalla and Foursquare have taught us anything, it's that people respond to simple incentives. By offering badges, mayorships, and other intangible rewards, millions of people are checking in to the places they go. Apps like Whrrl take this a step further and enable like-minded "societies" to form on a local basis. The next step is for these apps to add greater purpose by encouraging more meaningful checkins and offering corresponding badges and stamps, thus mapping the cause universe. Or for a dedicated app to be developed that rewards conscious consumption, social responsibility, and civic engagement. Yes, the CauseWorld app features a cause element, but it's not about cause-worthy places.

2. Eating Locally: Sustainability demands that we source our food as close to its point of production as possible. Many so-called locavores subscribe to the 100-mile diet, which requires that one "eat nothing—or almost nothing—but sustenance drawn from within 100 miles of their home." Given the difficulty of accessing and verifying this information in order to live by this standard, there's a geo-powered Locavore app. It gives you info on in-season foods, those coming in-season, farmer's markets, and links to recipes. This rather simple app is clearly just the start. In time, location-aware apps will guide us not only to the grocery store or farmer's market but through them. All the while identifying foods based on our particular diet or sensibility.

3. Political Organizing: In the next presidential election, politics will not only be local but location-enabled. We saw the power of social media in Obama's 2008 landslide victory. In 2012, location-based apps and technologies will play a central role in how campaigns are organized, managed, and ultimately won. Much of this will be visible through mobile apps and location-aware browsers. Activists and volunteers will be more empowered. Voters will be more engaged in the moment, right down to casting their votes. Behind the scenes, though, we'll see massive new sets of data available to campaigns for targeting, empowerment, and optimization. The party, candidate, and/or cause that has the best handle on geolocation will have a measurable advantage. (The Elections app will soon be updated for 2010.)

4. Finding Green Businesses: The web has effectively replaced the paper Yellow Pages as a way to find local businesses and services. However, this "stationary web" experience is quickly being supplanted by the mobile web and mobile applications, which give us access to this information when we most need it. The Yelp and Around Me apps are popular ways to find restaurants, coffee shops, or hotels wherever you are, but what about green-rated businesses? Greenopia has transformed its printed, local guides into a dynamic, nationwide mobile application that lets you find local, green-rated businesses in any category. No more paper and a much better experience. The Green Map app is another that facilitates discovery and connects us to local green environments.

5. Traveling More Efficiently: We've had access to GPS navigation systems and static traffic information for some time, but only now are we seeing the full potential of these technologies. With access to more detailed traffic information that is specific to your route and updated in real time, we can minimize congestion and maximize traffic flow (as much as physically possible). The new turn-by-turn MapQuest 4 Mobile app is a good start, as you can get traffic alerts specific to the route you program. However, user-generated information from apps like Trapster and Waze can crowdsource more specific details, such as whether to avoid an intersection due to a toxic chemical spill. Or, if you want to avoid automobiles altogether, Google Maps makes it easy to use public transportation and take a bike.

6. Scanning for Ethical Products: With online shopping, we've become accustomed to reading reviews and making comparisons before we buy. This can now be done in the physical world through games like MyTown and services like Stikybits. By scanning a product barcode using a smartphone camera, you can unlock a treasure of additional information (not to mention deals) that can help with your purchase. This might include where it was produced, how far it traveled, the reputation of the manufacturer, chemical contents, carbon footprint, or the full lifecycle analysis. Location-aware applications can also transform commerce itself by giving us better access to local inventories and locally-produced goods. Whether it's fruits and vegetables or books and electronics, if something can be found within blocks of your current location, it makes no sense to ship it from afar.

7. Networking Neighborhoods: One of the hottest categories in geolocation is neighborhood networking. The vision for many of these apps is to strengthen the very fabric of our communities. With DeHood, you can keep track of what's happening in your neighborhood, share your favorite places, and grease the wheels for actually meeting people. After all, if you've made contact through the app, it's a lot easier to say "Hello" in the real world. Blasterous is another that lets you share information locally, whereas BlockChalk does this on an anonymous basis. Finally, NeighborGoods uses your street address to facilitate one-to-one borrowing and trading of useful stuff. In the end, making connections with your neighbors can lead to safer, more productive, and more sustainable communities.

8. Tracking Environmental Disasters: The size and scope of environmental disasters appears to be growing. In 2008, we had the Tennessee coal ash spill, which was billed as "the largest environmental disaster of its kind in the United States." And that was before we realized it was three times bigger than originally estimated. More recently, the BP oil spill set daily records for "largest environmental disaster in the U.S. ever." In each case, geolocation technologies can be used by engaged citizens to monitor and track the effects. They can be used by response teams to coordinate containment and cleanup efforts. Ultimately, these technologies can be used to accurately measure the size and impact of a disaster in order to better understand its damages and costs.

9. Viewing the World Through an Eco Lens: Augmented reality (AR) follows geolocation as one of the hot trends in mobile technology. It enables you to view the world through a smartphone camera (or similar device) and see layers of geo-specific content or information. One of the most popular apps is Layar, an augmented reality browser/platform that lets you choose specific data layers or experiences. The potential for green- and cause-related content is tremendous. You might view green-rated businesses, LEED-certified buildings, or virtual GHG emissions as they enter the atmosphere. Combined with smart meter technology, you could see the most efficient and inefficient homes around you in real time. And for the cynics among us, you could view our mountains, forests, rivers, and oceans as they once were…before the effects of climate change and so many environmental disasters.

10. Capturing the Moment: Better access to information about what's happening around us—right now—can dramatically improve quality of life. This sense of "geospatial awareness" is possible through today's smartphones, whereby a piece of content or information—a moment—is captured and preserved based on the unique time and place in which it occurred. It is essentially to document spacetime. Protests, natural disasters, sporting events, parties, political crises…real-time information about anything happening anywhere at any time, as well as the history of what happened. This will take several years and a number of different applications to realize. In the end, though, it will revolutionize how we access and consume content. It will complete the democratization and decentralization of news and information…based on time and location.

Cautionary note: Privacy is the single biggest issue in the LBS industry. It's important to understand what information you are sharing with regard to your location and with whom.

Author's note: We'll be hosting geolocation events for Social Media Week in Los Angeles this September. This is the third in Max Gladwell's #10Ways series of distributed blog posts. It was published simultaneously on as many as 300 blogs.

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