Education and the Rush to Catch Up With Pressing Environmental, Economic & Social Needs

| Thursday December 20th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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You have to be quick to adapt these days when it comes to business and commerce. That’s been increasingly the case in education as well. Educational institutions – certainly in the US, now in Western Europe and increasingly in developed and developing countries around the world- are usually pretty damn quick to adapt and develop programs in-line with current topical trends.
And that’s been the case as rapidly growing interest in and concerns about climate change, environmental degradation and how to support a world population approaching 7 billion has quickly given rise to a bevy of new degrees and programs, some with some rather odd, even seemingly oxymoronic, combinations of words in their names.
When I first read about NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science & Technology’s MSc. in Industrial Ecology the joining of “industrial” and “ecology” struck me as an unlikely and incompatible combination. The more I looked into it, however, the more it struck me how appropriate, and meaningful, their juxtaposition is.

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Chevron, Pension Funds, and Shareholder Activism (Part 2)

| Wednesday December 19th, 2007 | 1 Comment

Chevron receives another shareholder resolution“The central question, then, is not whether we want Big Business, but what we want of it; and what organization of Big Business and of the society it serves is best equipped to [help us] realize our wishes and demands…”
-Peter Drucker

On Monday Shannon reported here on 3P how shareholder activism has forced companies like Target, Apple, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond to stop using harmful chemicals in the products they manufacture.

And then there’s the case of Chevron, who was issued a shareholder resolution last Friday by NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr on behalf of New York City Pension Funds. The pension fund owns 6,676,009 shares of Chevron stock, one of its largest shareholders, worth more the $612,000,000.  Of particular concern in the resolution are ongoing operations in the Niger Delta, violations in Kazakhstan, oil spills in Angola, despoiling the Amazon in the ‘70’s, and responsibility for the final clearing of primary forest in Asia.

“Corporations that conduct business in an irresponsible manner by polluting the environment pose significant risks to investors”, Thompson said, “It does not make financial sense for Chevron to continue to pay large fines and legal settlements when many of these pitfalls can be avoided by company-wide adherence to the highest environmental standards.” 

The Resolution demands a review of the process Chevron uses to assess the laws and regulations of host countries in terms of their own environmental policies and procedures and to account for the gap that exists between those policies and regulations, and what actually happens on the ground.

By its very nature, a large, multi-national, resource-extracting corporate behemoth can transcend the effective jurisdiction of any one nation’s environmental regulations, even while technically bound by them. The enormous economic resources and global reach of Chevron, with operations in 130 countries, makes paying fines for ongoing or past violations of environmental policy – or even hiring what amounts to a mercenary army – merely a “cost of doing business”, with little regard for the long-term consequences.  Therefore, simply at a pragmatic level, it becomes the task of shareholders to see that corporations take into account all aspects of its policy and operation, including those with potentially adverse impacts on the long-term profitability of their investment. Particularly if it breaks the law. As the kids say: Like, Duh.

I admit I really didn’t know much about “shareholder activism” beyond my investments in PAX World Funds and the social responsibility index fund in my 401K portfolio at work.

Then I saw Shannon’s post and the press release about this shareholder resolution, and I got curious. Over the past couple of days, I set out on a journey to find out more about what makes up shareholder activism , how it evolved, and its role in corporate governance.

What follows is my journey…

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Waste Footprint II: By the numbers

| Wednesday December 19th, 2007 | 5 Comments

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Waste: By the numbers
In 1990 the average American was sending 3.1 pounds of trash to landfills each day. On the brighter side, today that figure has been reduced to 2.5 pounds but only because the recycling rates have doubled in the past 17 years. However, it is fair to say that our amount of trash has not been reduced at all, only re-distributed and recycled which still costs us in time and energy. Roughly 1.5 pounds of garbage is now either recycled or composted while the remaining .6 pounds is incinerated.
Packaging is far and away the largest source of household waste. Between the plastic, glass, paper and metal that accompanies your products from the manufacturer to your doorstep, one third of these packaging materials end up in your garbage can. An additional quarter of your receptacle is filled with nondurable products, such as shoes, newspaper, etc. The remaining space is filled with an array of major items such as appliances, yard waste and food scraps.

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Carbon Credits: U.S. market poised to start trading BIG

| Tuesday December 18th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Say hello to the green exchange, spearheaded by a leading cast of energy and environmental brokers -investors- who are launching a new exchange for trading credits that offset the global warming greenhouse gas emissions.
This exchange is expected to rapidly broaden the reach of the booming market for trading greenhouse gas as well as renewable energy credits. The exchange is staged to start in the first quarter of 2008. The affliated partners in this venture are Nymex Holdings and Evolution Markets, the biggest broker of environmental credits. Also, notable investment banks are involved such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse.

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Nanotechnology and Meeting Our Energy Needs

| Tuesday December 18th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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The US electricity distribution grid is around 100-years old and aging faster than new construction renews it while peak demand for electricity is projected to rise 19 percent nationally during the next decade–capital investments in electrical generation, transmission and distribution are forecast to grow by only 6 percent over the same period, according to the Electrical Power Research Initiative.
Researchers at E2TAC, the Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center at the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) are researching and developing a range of leading edge nanoscale technologies that hold out the promise of realizing greater yields at lower costs across a range of conventional, as well as renewable alternative power generation technologies.

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Incubate and Activate Your Social Entrepreneur

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 17th, 2007 | 0 Comments

banner5_01.jpgYou’ve been pondering the idea for months now. Maybe you’ve devised a way to get cleaner drinking water to drought-striken regions or built an eco-emergency shelter for refugees. How do you mobilize your social entrepreneurship idea into the strategic and implementation phase? Apply now to attend the Global Social Benefit Incubator 2008, sponsored by the Skoll Foundation and Santa Clara University.

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Shareholder Activism to the Rescue!

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 17th, 2007 | 1 Comment

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Shareholder activism is a primary reason why several large companies are eliminating harmful toxins from their plastic products. In a recent investigative series launched by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reporters found that lax governmental regulation of Bisphenol-A and PVC plastic has led to their proliferation in a wide range on consumer products – including baby bottles and toys. In the last two years, however, shareholders have launched and won a record number of resolutions to get corporations to remove these toxins from their products.

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AskPablo: Disposable Cups vs. Reusable Mugs

| Monday December 17th, 2007 | 24 Comments

Recently I have been getting more and more questions regarding my very first AskPablo post. Michael and Phil both asked me about paper cups, which were not included in the initial analysis, and I also received an e-mail from Anna. So this week I will recap the results from my very first post and will incorporate an analysis of paper cups as well.

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South Africa Sees Potential in a Hydrogen Economy

| Friday December 14th, 2007 | 3 Comments

ppp018spshutt.jpg The Dept. of Science & Technology (DST) is instrumental in charting the future course of development in South Africa. Of late, it has been busy finalizing a national Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Strategy that aims to take advantage of some of the natural advantages South Africa’s rich mineral resource base confers.
News broke nationwide end of November that South Africa’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was joining with North West University to establish a hydrogen-fuel cell “Centre of Competence”. The news, however, was “a bit premature,” according to a DST executive.
Two other hydgrogen research centers have already been established but have not been officially announced publicly. The CSIR-North West center represents the third leg of a national strategy that entails undertaking applied research in the areas of hydrogen and fuel cell production, distribution and applications in industrial, commercial and consumer sectors of the economy.
The premature news release pre-empted in part the DST minister’s plans to announce the national Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Strategy in January. DST plans to officially announce and provide additional information about its overarching national strategy early next year. The plan has been approved by the national cabinet and allocated a ZAR 60 million budget for its first year; capital resources that may eventually expand to ZAR 300 million over three years, according to the DST executive.

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Air-Pooling Politicians?

| Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Car-pooling is so 1990′s… The eco-conscious politicians of today are sharing their private jets in the name of protecting the climate. This week Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reportedly flew together to sign the Lisbon Treaty. Another private jet transported the leaders of Estonia and Finland to Portugal and the leaders of the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium are also rumored to be traveling together. But don’t expect this sort of altruistic behavior from US politicians anytime soon. Too many people here still believe that there even is a debate in the scientific community about the human causes of climate change. Until that changes the politicians will continue to drive their black suburbans and fly in their own planes…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22232138/

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Solar powered…jewelry?

| Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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As a child, did you ever use a magnifying glass to barbeque ants? Sizzle flies? Burn leaves? Don’t worry, we won’t tell. Someone who may fall into this category has found an ingenious way to harness the sun’s power to make jewelry. No, not using the latest thin-film solar innovation. No, they’ve what appears to be a giant magnifying glass, capable of melting glass into a pliable state, suitable for making quite lovely jewelry. You can see the process here and the resulting jewelry here.
According to the site,

The 3000° F heat is so intense that it can melt not only glass but metal and even rock!

It sounds like the makings of a potential James Bond villain tool, but thankfully, they’ve chosen it for much more benign, beautiful purposes. Ants everywhere will be relieved. Seeing this got me wondering about other innovative ways to make use of the sun’s energy. And this is what I’ve found:

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Waste Footprint: Introduction

| Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Do you ever wonder, is my garbage can the problem or am I? Say you had to go without your canister of the wasted and undesirables, what would you do without one? It would be fair to say that for most Americans the answer would be panic!! The average Jack and Jill trashes 4.5 pounds of stuff every day, just imagine how quickly the heaps of garbage would pile up.
Minus the increasing trend to recyle our waste nationally and add up the junk from our country’s 1654 landfills and you still get roughly 133 million tons each year. That figure is equivalent to the dismantiling and disposing of the Empire State Building every day. The waste footprint for people includes far more than the landfill space they contribute to.

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How Does Japan Lead the World in Carbon Reductions?

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 3 Comments

suit200.jpgAt the GreenXchange conference last Tuesday, Tadashi Maeda, the Director General of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), remarked, “Japan is the world leader in efficient use of resources, even though we import most of it.” How do they do it?
Japan doesn’t implement a carbon tax or have a carbon market. They rely entirely on voluntary agreements with local governments, markets, and civil society to reduce carbon output.

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Judge Rules on California Law to Regulate Auto Greenhouse Gas Emissions

| Thursday December 13th, 2007 | 0 Comments

California can regulate greenhouse gas emissions in cars. Waiting on the EPAU.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno ruled on Wednesday the California has the right to regulate tail pipe emissions of greenhouse gases.

As most here probably know, California was the first state to legislate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, a law that has been modeled in similar form by 16 other states across the country. In September Vermont federal judge William Sessions III rejected automakers assertion that a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions wasn’t doable or that federal laws held sway over state rules.

In April the US Supreme Court ruled that, contrary to claims from the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases.

Despite the ruling yesterday, the California law can’t be enforced without a waiver from the EPA allowing the state emission requirements to exceed federal standards. Something California has been waiting for now for two years.

The state has filed suit against the EPA to force it to act, which administrator Steven Johnson says it will do by the end of the year. 

The road has been cleared, and the only obstacle now rests in Washington.

 

 

 

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The end of Bretton Woods?

| Wednesday December 12th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Petrodollar75.jpgThe mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand the potential magnitude of changes currently underway in the sensitive international monetary balance. On December 8th Iran decided to no longer accept the US dollar in exchange for its oil. Since the mainstream media did not cover it either, you may not remember that this was one of the last actions of any international significance done by Saddam Hussein before he once again caught the attention of the US (and incidentally, it is one of the first things to be undone after Baghdad fell). It looks like Iran is switching to the Euro rather than the basket of currencies that OPEC is considering in the wake of the US dollar’s recent weakness. An exodus from the dollar would effectively mark the end of the Bretton Woods agreement under which the US currency was established as the currency of oil and therefore international banking.

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