Shrugging Off the Libertarian Fantasy

Bill DiBenedetto | Friday August 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lake Erie algal bloom_michiganseagrantHow does one counter the libertarian idea that unfettered markets coupled with minimum government can actually work?

The Libertarian Party’s slogan, “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom,” sounds attractive, but only in a specious and simplistic way. As I see it, the Libertarian world view is basically stuck in the fantasy-science fiction world of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Rand, along with Nathaniel Branden, also wrote “The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism,” a 1964 collection of essays and papers that has virtually nothing useful to offer regarding today’s climate of rising economic inequality and environmental danger — except that the one-percent has taken the virtue of selfishness to heart.

The Nobel laureate, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently offered a counterpoint to a long New York Times Magazine article by Robert Draper that profiled young Libertarians — basically, people who combine free-market economics with permissive social views — and asked whether we might be heading for a “libertarian moment.”

Krugman’s answer? “Probably not. Polling suggests that young Americans tend, if anything, to be more supportive of the case for a bigger government than their elders.”

Then he asks a different and more important question, especially for fans of Sen. Rand Paul: Is libertarian economics at all realistic?

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Sacred Business Beyond Capitalism

3p Contributor | Friday August 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

breakthrough2By Giles Hutchins

Sacred business may sound like an oxymoron, but when you look at the word origins it becomes clear that the phrase doesn’t have to be.

The word sacred derives from the Old French word ‘sacrer’ which originates from the Latin ‘sacer’ meaning dedicated, holy or reverence.  Reverence means deep respect, deep admiration or deep affection – to love, venerate, cherish and respect.

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace takes sacred to mean the reverence for life.

The word business comes from the Old English ‘bissinesse’ which means diligence and also a state of being busy. Also related is commerce, which originates from the Latin ‘commercium’  – com (collective) and merx (merchandise), the exchange of goods, services, intellect or social intercourse. Also related is profit, which originates from the Latin ‘profectus’ which means to make progress and ‘proficere’ which means to advance.

Capitalism is a particular economic and political approach which relies upon private ownership, capital accumulation and wage labor for profit and return on investment. It is now the dominant business paradigm in the West. Yet it is not what business is essentially about even though this prevalent logic might influence daily exchanges and interrelations whether in the West or beyond.

Capitalism is only a particular manifestation of the way business may be conducted. In fact, some may view it as a corruption of business, which undermines economic and social resilience. Its ideology spawns from an inherent corruption sown deep within the mind-set of modernity; a control-based abstract rationalism that defines ‘things’ as separate from their lived-in context with relationships as nothing more than self-maximizing power-plays, where one ‘thing’ benefits only at the expense of the other.  It is what the anthropologist and cyberneticist Gregory Bateson insightfully understood as the ‘original corruption’ which pits us against Nature in an evolutionary cul-de-sac of selfish ascendance.

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PR Firms Take a Stand on Climate Change

RP Siegel | Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Public relationsPublic relations (PR) is a powerful but unseen force in our society. Companies hire PR firms to make them look as good as possible. When the companies do something they are proud of, they do everything they can to make sure everyone hears about it (including, sometimes contacting reporters like us). When the companies do things that are not so great, they “spin” the news to make it sound harmless. PR firms make their money from fees paid by their clients and have typically been value-neutral, meaning that they promote whatever their clients want them to promote.

So it’s a pretty big deal when a number of the largest PR firms come out, in response to surveys administered by the Guardian and the Climate Investigations Centre, and collectively announce that they will no longer represent firms that want to spread messages denying the reality of man’s role in climate disruption. Among these firms are: WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100 and Finn Partners.

Weber Shandwick spokeswoman Michelle Selesky told the Guardian that, “We would not support a campaign that denies the existence and the threat posed by climate change, or efforts to obstruct regulations cutting greenhouse gas emissions and/or renewable energy standards.”

Likewise, Rhian Rotz, speaking for WE said, “We would not knowingly partner with a client who denies the existence of climate change.”

WPP, based in the U.K., is the world’s largest advertising firm by revenue. They commented that, “We ensure that our own work complies with local laws, marketing codes and our own code of business conduct. These prevent advertising that is intended to mislead and the denial of climate change would fall into this category,”

However, a spokesperson noted that individual entities within the organizations remain free to make their own client decisions, which could include “campaigns opposing regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

Notably absent from this group was the U.S.-based Edelman, the largest, independently-owned PR firm in the world. Edelman’s sizable client roster includes the American Petroleum Institute, a group that actively campaigns against climate regulations, as well as Shell and Chevron. The firm took the position that it evaluates clients on a case-by-case basis. Spokesman Michael Bush politely dodged the question, stating only that, “Expanding the dialogue in a constructive manner, and driving productive outcomes to solve energy challenges are the key criteria for evaluating client engagements.”

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Catlin Seaview Survey Assesses Climate Risks in Florida

Leon Kaye | Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Catlin Group, Catlin Seaview Survey, climate change, insurance companies, Florida, NOAA, Google Maps, Leon Kaye, climate risks

Catlin Seaview Survey is working with NOAA to survey Florida’s coast

We have long heard about future perils to our coasts due to climate change, but the allure of the ocean views and mild weather keeps pulling us to the shores. This is especially true in Florida, where despite the constant threats of hurricanes, communities keep growing with a population approaching 20 million. Insurance companies are at particular risk because of that continued growth and development along with future climate volatility. One hurdle confronting insurers, however, is that only about 5 percent of climate change science research is actually focused on oceans. Catlin Group, a US$4 billion insurance and reinsurance company, has been taking steps to change that.

The company is sponsoring the Catlin Seaview Survey, a scientific initiative that aims to create a baseline record of the globe’s coral reefs. By filming these reefs in high-definition, panoramic vision, the organization’s goal is to have data readily available so scientists, the general public and governmental officials can gauge the challenges our reefs are confronting due to fishing, pollution and of course, climate change. The latest project is now underway in Florida.

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Can Conan O’Brien Convince Californians to Save Water?

Alexis Petru
| Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment
California's State Capitol lets its law go brown to raise awareness about water conservation during the state's drought.

California’s state capitol lets its law go brown to raise awareness about water conservation during the state’s drought.

California’s historic drought is no laughing matter. But the state of California and the Natural Resources Defense Council are trying to inject some humor into their efforts to encourage Californians to conserve water, teaming up with Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter on a series of public service announcement (PSA) videos that feature water-saving tips.

Part of California’s “Save Our Water” drought awareness campaign, the new PSAs cover topics from car washing (you can save 60 gallons of water by taking your car to a carwash rather than washing it by hand – and you can bathe your kids there, too, Richter points out) to pool covers (swimming pools evaporate up to 40,000 gallons of water a year; even if you don’t have a pool, you can buy a pool cover to impress people and make them think you have one, the funnymen say).

The comedians even poke fun at the idea that saving water takes too much work; there are many “lazy” ways to conserve water, they say: running dishes through a dishwasher instead of washing them yourself, using a carwash rather than hand-washing your car and their more tongue-in-cheek suggestion of skipping showers.

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Top 30 Cities for Green Real Estate

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

green There are numerous ways to measure the sustainability of a major city these days. Cutting-edge, energy-efficient transportation, renewable energy and recycling/reuse programs are all excellent indicators of a “green” municipal mindset. So is green real estate. Energy-efficient, certified real estate construction has been gaining prominence in recent years, so much so that it is now addressed in bylaws in many cities across North America.

So it’s also no surprise that the real estate group CBRE came up with a list of the top 30 U.S. cities to feature green commercial building construction. What is intriguing is the variation between cities when it comes to what defined that green emphasis.

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Stories & Beer: Positive Mobile Impact

Marissa Rosen
| Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

stories-and-beerIt’s time for another Stories and Beer Fireside Chat on Thursday, August 28 at 6:30pm Pacific (9:30 Eastern) at the Impact HUB San Francisco – and online via web cam. Register here.

What do deforestation and labor rights have in common? What does your old mobile phone have to do with either? It turns out, a lot.  Come learn from three innovative organizations at August’s “Stories and Beer” about how mobile technologies,  including discarded phones, are being used to address a myriad of social and environmental problems.

Better World Wireless is a one-to-one wireless provider that gives a person in need a free mobile device loaded with content to help break the cycle of poverty and empower his or her life. Rainforest Connection transforms recycled cell phones into solar-powered listening devices that can monitor and pinpoint chainsaw activity at great distance – and contact authorities who can stop illegal logging. LaborVoices provides a warning system for labor violations based on direct feedback from workers by repeatedly polling workers through their mobile phones.

TriplePundit’s Founder, Nick Aster, will be leading a conversation with Better World’s Matt Bauer, Rainforest Connection’s Nishant Bagadia and Labor Voices’ Kohl Gill.  We’ll be talking about each of their enterprises but also about the intersection of mobile services and sustainability. Most of the time will be an open Q&A with the audience, so come prepared! This event is free to HUB members, otherwise $15, and you can also watch live online (details will be posted on the day of the event on TriplePundit’s front page.

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Human Values and Corporate Social Impact: Respect and Shame

3p Contributor | Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a six-part series written by Donald J. Munro of the University of Michigan. You can follow the whole series here

Chase Bank branch at the Chrysler Building in New York City.

Chase Bank branch at the Chrysler Building in New York City.

By Donald J. Munro

The desire for respect derives from our experience in social hierarchies, where we prize respect and have an aversion to shame, a disvalue. Sometimes respect or shame are related to the value of loyalty to superiors and how they treat us. These are instances in which a moral category can be used as a control mechanism for enforcing social duties. These duties may involve cooperation for the common good, or simply conformity to social customs. This reveals that respect/shame are both values or disvalues, and universal social emotions. Culture determines the conditions and forms under which they arise.

Shame involves an individual violating a rule, being aware of the violation, and knowing that others know of the violation. It is not embarrassment and is not guilt. It is not guilt because one can feel guilt before God even if no person knows about it. Shame involves an attack on one’s inner worth. It can be used as a form of punishment. It is one of those traits that reveals self-reflection, of which humans alone seem to be capable (Professor Sin yee Chan, University of Vermont).

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Downtown Las Vegas: A Surprising Hub of Sustainable Thinking

| Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Solar trees outside Las Vegas City Hall

Solar trees outside Las Vegas City Hall

I recently had a chance to visit downtown Las Vegas, a place many tourists don’t even know exists. Although it’s been somewhat neglected for years, the area is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance.  New residential buildings are slowly cropping up, bike lanes are going in, and even a public gathering space made from old shipping containers has appeared.  All of this is beginning to create a walkable, diverse and sustainable center for a city that for decades hasn’t really had one.

The major forces pushing this “new” Las Vegas are a forward-thinking city government, coupled with a $350 million investment from Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsheih, through what’s known as the Downtown Project.  The project has invested in dozens of startup businesses, sowing the seeds to catalyze a new downtown community.

I had a chance to stop by city hall to talk to the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer Tom Perrigo, as well as visit with SHIFT, one of the many startups funded by the Downtown Project.  In the video below, you can learn more…

Video after the jump:

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GreenPod Development: Creating Green Modular Homes

Sarah Lozanova | Thursday August 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

green home kitInspired by the concept of making a sustainable lifestyle easier, GreenPod creates low-maintenance modular homes with healthy interiors.

Factory-built kits can be transported to a building site and easily assembled. Using state-of-the-art technology and materials, these homes have a small footprint and conserve both water and energy. The homes, including tree houses and floating homes, are customized to the site, have passive solar features and minimize site disturbance.

The walls, floor and roof of the homes use SIPs (Structurally Insulated Panels), with a rain shield on the exterior. “The homes are precut when they come out of the factory, so they can go up in a day or two on the site,” says Ann Raab, GreenPod’s founder.

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Navigating the ‘Wild West’ of Eco-Labels: Science-Backed Tips for Consumers

Alexis Petru
| Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment

Doctors in laboratoryThe Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Star program is one of the most recognizable and trusted environmental labels in the marketplace – but it wasn’t always that way.

Launched in 1992 to help consumers find the most energy-efficient products, the program initially allowed companies to sign up to use the Energy Star logo by self-reporting their products’ energy savings; the EPA and DOE would perform only occasional spot-checks on items carrying the eco-label. But a federal audit in 2010 revealed that some Energy Star products did not live up to their energy-savings claims. Worse, the program even accepted several fictitious products created by the Government Accountability Office to investigate Energy Star’s certification process like a gasoline-powered alarm clock the size of an electric generator.

Since the scandal, the EPA and DOE changed the way the energy-efficiency initiative approves new products, now requiring companies to have their products – and energy-savings claims – tested at independent laboratories.

The case of Energy Star illustrates the dilemma consumers face when they come across a product with a label boasting environmental responsibility: Can consumers trust that the claims these eco-labels make are true?

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German, Swedish Groups Join in $1.6 Billion Offshore Wind Farm

| Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

9da539a496c9fd558ab70763d4a8e867be1a9d19 Germany’s offshore wind investment received a big, much-needed boost on August 11 as Munich City Utilities and Sweden’s Vattenfall announced a huge wind-farm investment off the German North Sea coast.

Due to start construction in 2015 and come online in 2017, the $1.6 billion Sandbank offshore wind farm project entails Vattenfall installing 72 turbines off the German North Sea coast. That would add a massive 1.4 terawatt-hours (TWh) of clean, renewable electricity to the German grid, enough to supply some 400,000 homes, according to an AFP news report.

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California Pulls Out All Stops to Land Tesla Gigafactory

Leon Kaye | Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 5 Comments
Tesla Motors, Gigafactory, California, CEQA, California Environmental Quality Act, clean technology, Leon Kaye, battery technology, lithium ion batteries

Could California be the home of a future Tesla Gigafactory?

Tesla Motors‘ proposed “Gigafactory,” Elon Musk’s vision of a massive factory that would revamp the global supply chain for lithium-ion batteries and then sharply reduce their cost, still does not have an official location.

California was not even on the radar, as rumor had it the Reno, Nevada area was the frontrunner to land this factory that promises to employ up to 6,500 people — in fact, excavation of a proposed site has already been completed. Arizona, New Mexico and Texas were also in the running in the event negotiations.

But suddenly California is making the charge to woo Tesla Motors. According to the Los Angeles Times, California lawmakers would exempt Tesla, Panasonic and other potential partners from some of the state’s environmental regulations in order to move the Gigafactory forward. Democrats and Republicans are working with Gov. Jerry Brown’s office to pass legislation that would reduce the factory’s cost by as much as 10 percent.

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India Makes CSR A Requirement for Companies

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 13 Comments

640px-Ä3W_-_Ambulance_in_India_CSRWe laud corporate social responsibility. As a society, we put those generous acts of concern that companies do at the top of the scale when it comes to trust and our concept of product reliability. Safeway’s many local donation campaigns, McDonald’s long-standing Ronald McDonald charities, the numerous companies that have donated to community hunger programs, child education and the like. In fact, these days, it would likely be harder to find a company that doesn’t have a well publicized CSR program than 20 that do.

And American society is not alone. In India, Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of trusteeship to companies in the early 1900s, encouraging them to take a leading role in social responsibility. So, the Indian parliament’s landmark legislation in 2013 that large companies must donate 2 percent of their earnings to CSR projects each year is really not earth-shaking when it comes to social perspectives in the world’s largest democratic nation.

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Jay-Z’s Got 99 Problems, But Prop 47 Aint One

Michael Kourabas
| Wednesday August 13th, 2014 | 0 Comments

7606416730_26cb8b5536_zCriminal justice reform advocates (and hip-hop fans) rejoice: Avowedly apolitical rap mogul Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z) used the stage at a recent San Francisco concert to throw his support behind California’s Proposition 47 (Prop 47).

Not known for forays into politics, Jay stepped out of his comfort zone just three months before Californians will have a chance to vote on what could be the most important ballot initiative in the state’s history.  (No, I haven’t forgotten about Prop 8.)

If approved, Prop 47, known as the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, will reduce the penalty for most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor and direct the money saved from incarcerating fewer individuals — estimated to be between $150 million and $250 million each year — to a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund.

Prop 47’s potential effects

If passed, Prop 47 will have an immediate impact on California’s prisons and the state’s otherwise prison-bound population.

First and foremost, the initiative would reclassify low-level shoplifting and theft, possession of narcotics, and possession of marijuana — all currently felonies — as misdemeanors.  In California, three-quarters of those incarcerated are serving time for nonviolent offenses, and roughly one in six is locked up for nothing more than drug possession, so the future impact would be great.  In addition to keeping low-level, nonviolent offenders out of prison in the future, the initiative would also allow roughly 10,000 current prisoners to seek re-sentencing.

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