Olive Oil and Water: A Greener Mix is Needed

Bill DiBenedetto | Wednesday September 23rd, 2009 | 0 Comments

olive-oilIt’s easy to sing the praises of olive oil, especially if you’re, ahem, Italian. Olive oil’s many benefits and uses for healthy cooking and eating are well chronicled and it’s become a major industry worldwide, from California’s Napa Valley to Syria.

In addition to the obvious health and nutrition benefits of olive oil from a fat and cholesterol perspective, olive pits can be turned into ethanol; you can shine your guitar with it and even shave with it. Don’t however shave your guitar with it.

That growth is also becoming a concern from an environmental, carbon-neutral farming and wastewater pollution standpoint.

Mass production, especially in the Mediterranean region were olive trees have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years, is adding to pollution, according to Arab Environment Watch and IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis project of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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PG&E Quits US Chamber, Protesting Its Climate Change Stance

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

pg_ePeter Darbee, chairman and CEO of California utility Pacific Gas & Electric, on Tuesday took a very public stand against the US Chamber of Commerce and what he calls its “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort” the facts around global climate change.

The utility quit the Chamber, a lobbying group that represents three million businesses and has called for the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a public hearing in order to debate whether climate change is a result of human activity–part of its attempts to oppose federal emissions regulations.

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Are Financial Collapses Unavoidable?

Steve Puma | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

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I recently read the article Why Capitalism Fails by Stephen Mihm and was interested to learn about Hyman Minski, who, according to the article, was

…a hitherto obscure macroeconomist who died over a decade ago. Many economists had never heard of him when the crisis struck… But lately he has begun emerging as perhaps the most prescient big-picture thinker about what, exactly, we are going through…Minsky was one economist who saw what was coming. He predicted, decades ago, almost exactly the kind of meltdown that recently hammered the global economy.

Minsky basically believed that the conservative fiscal stance which comes in the wake of a financial collapse, such as the Great Depression, would inevitably sow the seeds for the next crisis decades down the road. The main ingredients are time and short human memories, “Instability,” he wrote, “is an inherent and inescapable flaw of capitalism.” The article compares Minsky’s view to the one held by mainstream economics, that capitalism is self-regulating and self-stabilizing, known as the Neoclassical Synthesis.

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“Age of Stupid” Revolutionizes Film Finance, But Not Film

| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 7 Comments

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This isn’t a film review website, but since we often discuss environmental messaging, I’ve got a bone to pick with “Age of Stupid,” the new, highly promoted eco-apocalypse film by Franny Armstrong.

But first, the interesting news on film finance: Age of Stupid was almost entirely financed by a crowd-sourced model via individuals and small groups of people including a hockey team and a women’s health center to the tune of £860,000. Additionally, and perhaps because of this, the film’s producers were able to create an astonishingly successful word of mouth campaign surrounding the US premiere – a live event shown in (many sold out) cinemas around the world featuring celebrities and a audience Q&A. Topped off with a clever website, alliances with various activist groups, and a strong presence on social networking sites, the film created a hyped up following way out of proportion to its relatively low budget.

The importance of this is multifaceted – first, it demonstrates a potentially more democratic method of film financing – one that could produce not only better films that people pre-select for viewing, but also an interesting investment opportunity. It’s also got obvious potential for films that might not have big commercial appeal, which concerned individuals and organizations are more likely to want to fund than traditional Hollywood producers – i.e., a lot of people losing a small amount of money each works better than one guy losing millions.

Unfortunately, the film was a depressing mess.

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Who Will Lead the Electric Car Market?

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 8 Comments

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The outlook for the electric car couldn’t have looked brighter when oil was priced at $140 a barrel, consumer confidence was high, and offers of credit were plentiful. Now that a variety of electric vehicles are nearly ready to hit the market in larger quantities, the world is a different place. The leading manufacturers of the electric car and its ability to compete with evolving hybrid technology have yet to be determined.

Electric vehicle sales will surely benefit from higher fossil fuel costs and governmental incentives. A large upfront investment must be made to produce the volume of vehicles needed to reduce manufacturing costs and create a vehicle-charging infrastructure. Geography and culture will impact which countries can accept the smaller range of most electric vehicles and who can afford to purchase one.  Technology advancements will dictate the range of vehicles in the future and the speed at which they can charge.

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Diplomatic Unease On The Menu At UN Climate Talks

Richard Levangie | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

It sounds like it may have been inspired by Oxfam’s Hunger Banquet, and it will be interesting to see how it works. Mandarins at the United Nations will be subjecting world leaders to a little diplomatic shock therapy at today’s UN climate negotiations in an effort to inject a greater sense of urgency into the proceedings. As recently as the G8 Summit in Italy, world leaders were speaking about good intentions, and hopeful signs, but most pundits acknowledge that climate talks to find a successor to Kyoto are in deep trouble. Nearly 100 heads of state and government are meeting in New York this week, and they’ll either  break the logjam — or remain at loggerheads.

UN officials, tired by the status quo, have devised a pared-down program that should promote real communication.

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New Green Rankings in Newsweek, S&P 500

| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 2 Comments

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This is shaping up to be a big week for corporations seeking recognition for their sustainability efforts. Both the Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP (which is affiliated with the S&P 500 Report) and Newsweek’s 2009 Green Rankings were released, both of which highlighted leaders in climate change and other sustainability endeavors. These reports’ figures could be a jumping-off point for measuring corporations’ transparency and eco-mindedness in years to come.

According to a PR Newswire report, the CDP results were announced in New York Sunday as part of New York Climate Week. The winners – US corporations showing efforts to tackle climate change – included Cisco Systems, Boing, Pepco Holdings, Consolidated Edison, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Hewlett Packard, PPG Industries, and Transocean.

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Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes’ 10-Year Anniversary on Twitter

| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

DJSI-logoThis week marks the 10-year anniversary of the launching of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, a “key reference point for Sustainability Investing for investors and companies alike,” a DJSI media release reports. Investment bigwigs SAM, STOXX Ltd., and Dow Jones will join Chicago Climate Exchange founder Richard Sandor, Dow Jones Indexes editor John Prestbo, and others in Tuesday’s celebratory ceremony in New York (detailed on NYC Climate Week’s website), from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. EST. Others may join the celebration online, via Twitter and the DJSI blog. Dow Jones reps will be blogging and tweeting that night, covering the party live online and welcoming input from participants.

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Investors Call For Strong International Climate Treaty

Richard Levangie | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

united-nationsIn advance of the UN climate conference in the Big Apple, a number of ethical investment groups representing more than $13 trillion in assets have called for climate leadership from the world’s industrial nations. At the International Investor Forum on Climate Change, a coalition of 181 investors expressed confidence that a strong and binding international treaty is vital to combating global warming and catalyzing the massive global investments needed to transition to a low-carbon world.

“We must chart a new course toward long-term, sustainable business practices,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, head of the $116.5 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. “We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change. I am deeply concerned about the investor risks climate change presents, and the human cost of inaction is unthinkable. As investors in the global economy, we can lead the way toward a future of lasting prosperity.”

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Advertisers Flee Glenn Beck’s Show

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 6 Comments

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Inflammatory pundits be warned: progressive organizations are learning to leverage the power of advertising boycotts – and major brands are listening. After Fox News host Glenn Beck called President Obama a “racist” last month, Color of Change, the largest online African-American political organization, launched an advertising boycott. As of last week, Beck’s show lost 62 of its advertisers.

According to data collected about advertising revenue, at its highest, Beck’s program took in $1,060,000 for the week ending August 2, 2009. Color of Change launched the boycott at the end of the week. Beck’s show had an estimated advertising revenue of $492,000 for the week ending September 6, 2009, according to collected data.

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Exhausted But Inspired: Gleanings From a Sustainability Director in the Trenches

3p Contributor | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment

By Angela Nahikian, director of Global Environmental Sustainability at Steelcase
The more fellow sustainability practitioners I’ve met, the more I have come to realize that while our industries vary, experiences are the same. Though we may progress at different rates, our organizations follow similar patterns of evolution and face many of the same challenges. Oh yes, and one more common thread – we are all exhausted by the sheer scale of the challenge.

But we’re equally inspired to take it further, because sustainability offers fertile ground for learning, innovation, and the opportunity to build a better model. I am sure you see it too. Whether at conferences, or sharing thoughts on blogs or in business settings, there is a new determination to broaden the impact of our work.

This determination is not born of pie-eyed naiveté. We have enough daily reminders this is still the front edge of the learning curve – investing countless hours managing the ripple effects of our work through the layers of a global supply chain; mentoring brand new team members who think sustainability is a “green product feature” in a market where customers demand authenticity and a holistic approach; wrestling new IT infrastructures into being.

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EPA Takes on the Coal Industry

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 3 Comments

coal_mountaintopHere’s a change to savor after the approach taken by the previous administration: the Environmental Protection Agency is actually taking major steps to protect the environment and might even smack-down the powerful coal industry and its well-heeled lobby.

An almost startling case in point: The EPA is withholding action on 79 pending mountaintop coal-mining projects in four Appalachian states while it takes a detailed review of the permit applications.

Or to put it even more strongly, the agency determined that all 79 of the proposed projects under review would violate the Clean Water Act.

In an initial review of the applications, the EPA found that all of the proposed projects likely would cause water quality impacts that trigger additional reviews under the Clean Water Act.

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Tony Blair: Collaborative Global Climate Action Will Benefit World Economies

| Tuesday September 22nd, 2009 | 0 Comments

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This just in from the Office of Tony Blair: a bold, collaborative climate deal will create millions of jobs while bolstering all major economies. His recently-released report, entitled “Cutting the Cost: The Economic Benefits of Collaborative Climate Action”, details the difference it would make if countries worked together (versus individually) to fight climate change. In addition to achieving huge cost savings, collaboration would spread the benefits to all countries and create 10 million new jobs over the next 10 years.

The report’s introductory paragraphs elucidate the connection between climate change and economy: “dealing with climate change is also primarily an economic issue, affecting investment…, international trade, competitiveness, jobs, equity and growth itself. It is this economic characteristic – coupled with the fact that climate change can only be successfully addressed at a global level – that has made reaching an ambitious international agreement so difficult, particularly in times of economic crisis.”

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Wake Up Call: Interview with the Global Campaign for Climate Action

Tom Szaky | Monday September 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment

nyc-hourglassSomething amazing is happening. This week in NYC, Climate Week is in progress, with leaders from 90 countries gathering for a United Nations-organized event focused on climate change. And there, along with 1000 events in 100 countries on September 21st, an unprecedented alliance of people and groups will be gathering for a truly global “Wake Up Call” to world leaders as part of the TckTckTck campaign.

In NYC today, people will form a giant earth moving through an hourglass: the ‘Human Countdown’.  The event aims to demonstrate that the time to act on climate change is running out.  The event’s actions are many, but its goal is singular, according to Kumi Naidoo, Chair of the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA): “Ultimately we want world leaders to commit to attending the talks in Copenhagen , where they must sign a deal that is fair, ambitious, binding and that reflects the latest science.”

I recently had a chance to interview Naidoo about TckTckTck, and asked:

“What about this will help leaders see this as more than a well organized protest with colorful, but ultimately dismissable people involved?” to which Naidoo firmly answered, “This isn’t a protest.  We’re looking to have a proactive influence on the decision making process.  The size and breadth of the TckTckTck coalition demonstrates that this is something that leaders should listen to.  If world leaders see support from their electorate for a fair, ambitious and binding deal at Copenhagen, they will have the space they need to take action.  TckTckTck is about mobilizing a massive number of people from a broad cross-section of society and ensuring that world leaders take action in Copenhagen.”

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Free Range Studios Offers Grants to One Lucky Business and Non-Profit

| Monday September 21st, 2009 | 0 Comments

youtopiaJonah Sachs, and his long-time friend Louis Fox, started Free Range Studios 10 years ago as a creative agency with a conscience. Sachs, named one of the “The Thirty People Cleaning up the Earth” by Shift magazine in 2001, first realized the tranformative power of media as the editor of his college newspaper. He recalled, in a recent interview, releasing issues and seeing the entire student body reading the paper. He realized then that producing media at scale has the potential to amplify conversations about issues that press the world today.

Recently the agency, with offices both in Berkeley, CA and Washington, D.C., announced its Youtopia grant, a pledge of $15,000 worth of free design and strategy services to a non-profit and socially responsible business. The grant program, despite name changes, is in its 7th year of existence, and past winners include Green for All and the Global Resource Center for the Environment (GRACE), most recognizable for its viral flash video, The Meatrix (see video at Free Range’s site).

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