Sustainability is a National Security Priority

| Wednesday August 9th, 2006 | 0 Comments

bombs.jpgAlex Steffan has a great piece on WorldChanging today about the misguided idea that fighting terrorism should take priority over advancing sustainability in the context of national security. In it he sites the Cato Institute’s excellent piece (PDF here) on the exageration of terror as a threat.
For one thing, it’s great to build common ground between advocates of sustainability and a very conservative organization such as Cato (conservatives are often accused of lack of interest on the subject). It’s also heartening to bring this discussion to the forefront of costly issues like security, which are too often dominated by a “bomb first, think later” mentality that, these days, seems to bring less security, not more. The point, however, is that by embracing the tenets of sustainabilty as a priority we’re less likely to get to a place where military action need even be considered.
Sustainability weens us from our overly intensive use of resources and related conflicts. The likelyhood of wars for resources like oil (and possibly water in the near future) are inversely related to our ability to find new technologies and use resources more efficiently. Sustainability in the context of bringing peace goes beyond the avoidance of disasters and war. Such was the reasoning behind the Wangari Maathai’s nobel peace prize: Recognizing the inseperable bond between the health of society, the economy, and the environment is the key cornerstone of sustainability and once people “get it” the solutions start rolling in.

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Carnival of the Green #39 Rolls Back to Its Roots

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 0 Comments

cotg.gifIf it’s Monday, then it must be time for a carnival of the green! This time, the carnival rolls back to CityHippy – the home of the very first carnival of the green. This week the carnival looks at practical solutions to every day problems, politics, and more topics to discuss over a pint. Check it out.

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Al Gore’s Penguin Army Sheds Light on Exxon PR

| Monday August 7th, 2006 | 9 Comments

exxon_linux.jpgIf you’re familiar with the infamous “CO2: We Call it Life” advertisements put out by CEI, then you’ll find “Al Gore’s Penguin Army” much less funny (it stinks, actually), but no less odd.
All you need to know is the film was not produced by amateurs. It’s an example of “astroturf”, a production meant to look like it came from some quirky individual but actually originating from a PR firm and quietly posted onto “YouTube”, the popular video hosting site. A Wall Street Journal investigation discovered that the film was actually engineered (at great expense most likely) by public relations firm DCI who “just happen” to count Exxon among their larger clients. Though this doesn’t prove Exxon was directly involved, the word on the street is leaning pretty strongly in that direction.
This video is so bad and has been met with such negative response that it proves that global warming denialists are on their last legs. But why is Exxon’s PR firm still spending time and money to pretend that global warming is a spoof?
DCI are probably no dummies and are certainly monitoring the reaction to their experiment. What sorts of conclusions will they draw? Will they decide that it’s time for Exxon to make a bold statement accepting global warming as a problem and proclaiming the company’s intention to follow in the footsteps of BP and Shell in pursuing alternative sources of energy? Or have they decided that Exxon’s best interest lies in being the maverick denialist who fights cowboy-style to the bitter end?
And on a humorous side-note – will the guys who created Linux sue?

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McDonalds Blog on Green Packaging

| Friday August 4th, 2006 | 23 Comments

mcdclamshell.jpgMcDonalds, like Wal Mart is often scapegoated into a corner as an uncaring behemoth. I’m not going to debate that because what’s more important is the scale of change that such a large company can produce. Anyway, McDonalds has an interesting and quite transparent “corporate social responsibility” blog which is actually worth reading and participating on. Recently they ran a little piece on packaging which lays out McDonald’s environmental policies in that regard. They’ve come a long way from the days of styrofoam and point out the following recent accomplishments:

  • Napkins are smaller and contain recycled content.
  • Happy Meal boxes are made partly from recycled newspapers.
  • Our trayliners have recycled newspaper content too.
  • We’ve trimmed the amount of material used in our French fry and McNugget cartons.
  • Our straws use less material.

So is McDonald’s doing enough? When you’re as big as they are, you’re bound to be held to a higher standard and I’d like to see a whole lot more post-consumer material. In fact I’d like to see the word “recycled” eliminated unless it specifically refers to post-consumer content. There are not a great many specifics on the current blog post, such as just “how much” recycled content there is in the packaging either.
One of the great ironies about this is the fact that most people who care about McDonald’s packaging are unlikely to eat there anyway. Perhaps I’m making a snooty demographic judgement here, but McDonald’s has to take into consideration that the extra costs involved with improved packaging may not be appreciated by much of their regular clientele who don’t know enough to notice. Rather, the payoff comes in terms of less hassle from environmentalists and, hopefully, some personal satisfactoin.
How would you advise them?

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Johnson Controls Launches Energy Blog

| Thursday August 3rd, 2006 | 3 Comments

jon_con.jpgJohnson Controls is the kind of company that ought to be a major leader in green building and sustainability in general. The are the biggest makers of hybrid car batteries in the US and responsible for the plumbing, electric and circulatory systems of many a massive building project. To their credit they talk a whole lot about energy efficiency, but the company website and sustainability reports are eerily silent when it comes to things like LEED certification, green building, and concepts like cradle-to-cradle and carbon emissions. Perhaps that will change as they become one of the few Fortune 100 companies to have a public facing blog – www.yourenergyforum.com.
Anyone who’s perused the ideas set forth in the Cluetrain Manifesto can appreciate the importance of this kind of development. What’s better in this case is that the blog doesn’t appear to be a super-polished corporate mouthpiece, and as far as I can tell is not screening comments. That’s a good thing. Too often, major companies are too scared to open themselves up to this kind of unscripted real-time communication – they fear not being able to handle any sort of negative commenting. This paranoia may ultimately spell the downfall, or at least seriously hinder the growth, of companies too slow to embrace the new global conversation. Fortunately for Johnson Controls, they’re finally moving ahead of the curve.
More on WBCSD.
Ed Note: The blog seems to have vanished (something funny going on?), but you can sneak a peek at the google cached version in case you think I was making it up.

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Vail Goes for Wind Energy

| Wednesday August 2nd, 2006 | 0 Comments

vail.jpgAt some point I’ll probably stop reporting about these sorts of announcements, which will probably be a good sign that “going green” has become so commonplace it’s no longer newsworthy. Nontheless, Vail Resorts announced they’ll be switching to 100% wind energy for all their ski areas and associated businesses. That’s not just in Colorado, the company also runs Heavenly at Lake Tahoe and a resort in Jackson Hole, WY. It’s also not a small deal – they’ll be the 2nd largest corporate buyer of wind power in the country after Whole Foods, and presumably someone who will make a statement about it. I’d like to see little signs on all the lift-poles between the ads for lip balm announcing the deal. Article here.

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Sub Pop Rocks With 100% Green Energy

| Wednesday August 2nd, 2006 | 0 Comments

subpop.jpgSeattle’s Sub Pop Records will “go green” by buying green tags to fullfill 100% of the record company’s energy needs. It couldn’t be a more perfect match between alternative energy and one of the originators of the idea of “alternative” music (if that genre really means anything these days). The company president was “shocked” to see how easy is was to support renewable energy which just goes to show that even in green-Seattle, many people are still “in the dark”.

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New Mexico Commuter Rail Goes BioDiesel

| Tuesday August 1st, 2006 | 1 Comment

railrunner.jpgA new commuter rail line (RailRunner) opened up a couple of weeks ago that runs north and south from Albuquerque and will eventually connect to Santa Fe. This is significant news in and of itself – especially in the car dependant sun belt. But the most amazing thing about it is that the system will run on biodiesel (see page here). That’s pretty darn neat. There’s no mention on whether that’s pure biodiesel or some kind of blend but it’s a very significant, if largely symbolic move by the NM government and transit authorities. Bravo!

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OpEd: Struggle for Better Transit Exemplifies Governmental Inefficiencies

| Tuesday August 1st, 2006 | 3 Comments

brt44.jpgOn Saturday, July 29th, there was a town hall style meeting to discuss the state of research into a bus rapid transit system along Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. A lot of community members turned out, and there was a productive conversation. If you’d like some context, here’s Nick’s introduction to the proposed Geary BRT.
The planners and consultants involved in this process should be commended for identifying a great opportunity. Their presentation was impressive. BRT is not a major change – in fact it conservatively builds on infrastructure and capacity that already exists. Lovely. Let’s get it done.

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Empowering Indian Farmers With Mobile Phone Market Applications

| Monday July 31st, 2006 | 2 Comments

mobile_phone_app.jpgAzeem Azhar brought to my attention a very interesting project that he’s been working on with Indian farmers that exemplifies the best of leapfrog technology. It’s a system to provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as pricing data for their crops, sent to their mobile phones. The pilot project, detailed in the London Times, is being implemented by Reuters. Among the benefits are better preparedness for monsoon rains as well as better data about where and when to take crops to market. Currently, an astonishing 1/3 of vegetables grown in India fail to reach market before they rot – a result of a myriad of inefficiencies. This sounds like a great business opportunity for eveyone involved, particularily the poor and hungry.

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Carnival of the Green Moves to TreeHugger for #38

| Monday July 31st, 2006 | 3 Comments

cotg.gifBlog carnivals just keep rolling along. This Monday’s edition of the Carnival of the Green can be found at TreeHugger. Check it out. It’s authored by Jeff at Sustainablog who also reminded me that this in, in fact, carnival #38, not 40! (edited)

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The “Bus Rapid Transit” Battle of Geary in San Francisco

| Friday July 28th, 2006 | 7 Comments

BRT_400.jpg

San Francisco, given its density and supposedly progressive attitude ought to have a world class transportation system. Sadly, it does not. A ride on the city’s most popular bus line, the 38-Geary, takes an astonishing 60 minutes (or more) to cross the 6 mile route from beach to bay. I could rant about it well outside the scope of this blog, but I’ll get to the point.
The San Francisco transit organization, MUNI, is begining to turn itself around and wants to replace the clunky ’38’ with a top-of-the-line system knows as “bus rapid transit’. BRT is cheaper than a rail system, but almost as effective – the buses are extra big & they have their own exclusive right-of-way. They switch red lights to green and people pay at attractive station platforms before they get on, thus avoidng bottlenecks at the door. In other words, it will make life much easier for residents and business people alike.
Naturally, there are people who are resistant to change for one reason or another. It so happens that most of them are self-described “Geary St. merchants”, who, frankly, give more thoughtful businesses a bad name. Are they just afraid of change? Or are their concerns more grounded?

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Goldman Sachs Continues to Lead the Way in Green

| Thursday July 27th, 2006 | 0 Comments

gslogpo.gifSince announceing a very ‘green’ environmentlal policy last year, Goldman Sachs has invested $1.5 Billion in clean energy projects and appears to be only getting started. This article on Greenwire, via WBCSD, breaks down some of the specifics that Goldman has accomplished and their plans for the future. It’s especially interesting to note that the profitability of their investments in renewables and efficiency, much of Wall Street continues to scratch their heads. For how long? We’ll see.
(read the article here)

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The Green Future of Walmart in Fortune

| Wednesday July 26th, 2006 | 1 Comment

I don’t have a lot of time to write about this today – but if you havn’t checked out the article on Wal Mart in Fortune, please do. It’s, once again, amazing and heartening. [LINK HERE]

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Framing Population Decline as a Good Omen

| Tuesday July 25th, 2006 | 4 Comments

pop_map.gifPlenty Mag’s excellent blog alerted me to this very cool population projection map that was produced by Population Action International. (See the full size here)
The first thing you notice when you look at that map is that some parts of the world, most notably Europe and Japan are in fact expected to *decline* in population while the usual showcases of overcrowding like China and India will continue their upward trend for some time. There’s no question that *more* population growth in a place like Bangledesh is a major problem that needs to be addresed, but what about that new phenomenon of population decline? Should we care?
In the case of the former USSR, unfortunately, the blue on the map is probably due to economic problems and resulting migration But In the case of the rest of Europe and Japan, I’m inclined to think of a slowly declining (or at least stable) population as a very good thing. It goes hand-in-hand with prosperity, women’s freedom, and the availability of family planning. It means there’s a little more space in an overcrowded world and more wealth to spread around.
Furthermore, most people can clearly see the problems that are associated with population growth. So why do so many people react with fear at the idea of a population drop?

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