Writing for a Bluer, Greener World
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1
February
2013

Time to stand up for the S-word.

Sustainability.

Most people I talk to still don’t know what this word means.  I have to say, “Like green. But bigger. Everything a company or community does to stop messing up the planet.”

That generally makes the light bulb go on. In my experience, there is still a pretty low awareness of Sustainability as a profitable business approach.

So we know there’s a gap in understanding. That’s why there is real, honest debate about the S-Word in the corporate and environmental communities.

Like this: Joel  Makower’s Why Sustainability Execs Should Shun the S-Word

And this:  Matt Polsky’s Do We Still Need the S-Word?

And even the “let’s come up with something better”: Kathrin Winkler’s An idea for 2013: Crowdsourcing Sustainability

For myself, I land on the S-word side. Sustainability is a perfectly good word.

Imperfect, perhaps, in explaining the full spectrum of doing right the right things for people, profits and the planet. But generally positive and moving in the right direction.

Which is why it makes me nuts when a political group grabs hold and twists it into something else.

Get this. The major of Provo, Utah, John Curtis, has acquiesced to Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists’ concerns and said he won’t use the S-word anymore.

Provo Mayor Accused Of Participating In Agenda 21

(KUTV) Tonight the mayor of a Utah County city is editing his words after accusations that Provo might be under the control of a sinister plan by the United Nations to take over the world.

Mayor John Curtis wrote a blog, mostly tongue in cheek, saying he will no longer use the word “sustainable” when talking about the city’s budget

When Curtis says sustainable budget he says it means not spending more money than the city has. But there is a world out there, lead primarily by glen beck who says sustainability is just a code word for a United Nations environmental scheme to take over the world by eliminating property rights. The program is known as Agenda 21.

Curtis was perplexed by accusations of Agenda 21 agents infiltrating Provo and he says many residents have told the mayor to watch his back.

Curtis began researching Agenda 21 and he stumbled upon a list of 100 words to watch for to see if your city council is under UN control and at the top of the list is sustainability.  The list contains many other words city governments use all the time.

Curtis says Provo leaders are only influenced by Provo voters but sometimes he says getting some people to believe him isn’t always sustainable.

“The moment you tell them you don’t have to worry about Agenda 21,” Curtis says, “they worry about agenda 21.”

Mayor Curtis seems to have his sense of humor intact and his priorities straight. In essence, he’s saying: Fine. You don’t like me using a certain word because for you it has connections to a conspiracy theory? Then I won’t use it. Problem solved. Now on to the People’s Business.

He says as much on his blog.

Via provomayor.blogspot.com:

Sustainability is Officially Out in Provo

Merriam-Websterdefines sustainability as “using a resource so that the resource is not depleted.” For three years we have been using the word sustainable in reference to our budget. The intent is that we want a budget that is based on principles that endure. In other words, if our budget is sustainable  we are not spending more than our revenue. I know what your thinking – government never worries about how it spends its money. Right?I’ve sadly learned coming into elected office that too often elected officials spend money they don’t have. It’s the easy thing to do to kick the can down the road and let the next group of elected officials deal with problems. One of the aspects I admire most about our City Council members is that they get it. They are willing to make the hard decisions today to protect the fiscal future of our City.None of that has changed but I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to have a better name. I could live with the fact that some thought of the green movement when they heard us use the term “sustainability” but now something called Agenda 21 is convincing people that the word is evil and that anyone who uses it is working with the United Nations to overthrow civilization as we know it! (cue the Darth Vader music) If this is the case, they’re really good because no UN official has EVER contacted me – very stealth!So if you hear I’m in league with the United Nations to destroy Provo because I use the term “sustainability” you’ll likely first scratch your head and then understand why I think I need to find a better word to describe our efforts.

Mayor Curtis is quite rightly (in my book) using Sustainable to mean governing sensibly for the City’s fiscal future.

So the problem here isn’t with the word. The problem is with the people who are twisting it.

I suspect that Mayor Curtis is doing a bit of face-saving here. I admire and respect Mayor Curtis’ attempt to thread the needle. If it makes people happy that he won’t use “that word,” and it means he can get on with running the city, that seems fair enough.

But when we appease bullies, they keep pushing. Don’t be surprised if they come back and tell you there’s another word you can’t use. I’m not worried at all about Mayor Curtis. He seems more than up for the challenge.

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Government | Green Politics | Green Shift - (0 Comments)
1
May
2012

Another reason I Love NY.

Decrease energy consumption. Save money. Create jobs.

Works for me.

Via SustainableBusiness.com

NY State to Reduce Energy Consumption 20% by 2016

The state of New York will invest $800 million in government buildings to reduce energy consumption 20% by 2016.

To finance the projects, the New York Power Authority will issue debt, which will retrofit state buildings ($450 million) and local government, schools and public hospitals ($350 million).

Retrofits will not only decrease energy demand, but will create thousands of green jobs, keep money circulating in the local economy, and free up resources for essential services.

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Government - (0 Comments)
23
February
2012

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection today issued updated finding on the state’s most threatened and endangered species. Bald eagles and Cooper’s hawks are doing better but new bird species join the list.

As this week is all about the intersection of science and policy for me, I noticed that science is the caboose in the press release’s headline. I think that’s appropriate from a communications perspective. I’m just glad to see science made the cut.

DEP Adopts Updated Threatened and Endangered Species List, Revises Species Listings Based on Science <–caboose

Read the press release

The Department of Environmental Protection this week adopted revisions to its list of threatened and endangered species, upgrading the status of several species such as the bald eagle and the Cooper’s hawk to reflect improvements in their populations and adding new species to the list such as the red knot and American kestrel to reflect concerns about declines.

“This update to the state’s lists of threatened and endangered species uses the best scientific methods available to provide us with an accurate assessment of the health of our wildlife,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “The success of our threatened and endangered wildlife is an important indicator of the health of our overall environment.  We have many positive takeaways from this most recent update to the lists, but we are also reminded that much work still lies ahead of us.”

How does the DEP make these assessments?

The Department, which this week also released a major update to its Landscape Project species habitat mapping tool, made the species status changes based on a scientific review that considered population levels, trends, threats, and habitat conditions.

And how does this science inform policy?

The threatened and endangered species lists are important tools in guiding a variety of state, federal and local agencies to make sound decisions on projects and better protect wildlife and their habitats.

So then, how can we help science and policy stakeholders work together? By giving them tools.

As part of its efforts to continually use the best science in managing the state’s resources, the DEP has also released the newest version of its Landscape Project, an interactive ecosystem-based mapping tool that assists government agencies, planners, conservation groups, the public and others in making decisions that will protect wildlife. This tool can be used immediately.

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Politics | how to purchase viagra in canada - (0 Comments)
22
February
2012

Whose interests are being promoted when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on the environment? The answers are in the budget details.

First, NJ Governor Christie’s under-the-radar Clean Energy fund cut. Hat-tip to reporter Tom Johnson for reporting this scoop:

Via NJSpotlight.com:

Christie Quietly Diverts $210 Million From Clean Energy Fund
Administration justifies appropriation by arguing the money is ‘surplus dollars’

The governor did not mention the diversion in his speech to lawmakers, nor was it disclosed at a budget briefing for reporters earlier in the day. It only came to light late in the afternoon when the administration released a 145-page budget summary for the 2013 fiscal year — a single line item identifying $210 million in interagency fund transfers to the general fund.

And two links views on how the environment and clean energy might fare with President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal:

Via CleanWaterAction.org:

The President’s Budget – Do the Math

The proposal includes increased funds for the research, program development, and enforcement of health and environmental laws.  In fact, one of the biggest increases in the EPA budget is for strapped state programs which bear the day-to-day responsibility of implementing federal laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Clean Water Act.  Funding for the Agency’s drinking water program is increased, particularly important for Clean Water Action’s work watchdogging SDWA implementation. These aren’t always headline grabbing activities, but they’re critical to enabling government to carry out the intent of that law – clean drinking water from our nation’s public water systems. We’re also glad to see increased investment in small drinking water systems, who are often most challenged by the costs up-to-date drinking water treatment.

Via RealEnergyWriters.com

Obama’s Budget Good for Energy Efficiency

In all, Obama increases the Department of Energy budget by 3.2%,  bringing it to $27.2 billion for 2013. He allots $2.3 billion for both the efficiency and renewable energy programs in EERE, and maintains Energy Star spending at the same level. Funding for  high-risk research increases 27% and for manufacturing advancement 150%. Obama offers an 80% increase in programs that cut energy use in buildings and factories. He also continues to press Congress to pass the HomeStar bill to reduce household energy use.

 

 

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Politics - (0 Comments)
20
February
2012

“Companies that value and integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into their strategic plans are best positioned for the future by operationalizing sustainability.”–Dow Chemical CEO

We care for things we value.

What a tree worth today? What’s it worth 20 years from now? Which time frame provides the greater financial and human well-being?

A scientific concept called “EcoSystem Services” helps answer these questions by providing tools to measure and consider the value of natural resources long-term when making business, political and social decisions.

It’s a new idea to me to try to put a financial number on what a forest is worth. But now that I’m thinking about it, I can see the value in treating natural systems as capital assets. By assigning hard-cost value to trees and seas and wildlife today, the full long term value of these resources can be considered, replenished and protected for long-term sustainable human and natural success.

Here’s how the U.S. EPA puts it:

Ecosystem services are rarely considered during environmental decision-making, principally because they are not well identified, quantified, or considered in ways applicable to commerce. The Program research results will enable economists, social scientists, environmental managers and others to incorporate an enhanced understanding of value and risk when making decisions about the costs and benefits of using and protecting ecosystem services. To ensure sustainable human and natural systems, the full long term value of ecosystem services must be considered when making decisions.

The best example I can think of in my life is how the Hudson River’s health has dramatically improved in the last 40 years. Thanks largely to the awareness raised by the Clearwater Environmental Foundation and successful polluter litigation waged by Riverkeeper, the water is cleaner.

Fish have returned to New York Harbor in greater numbers. With more food, harbor seals now live and breed year-round on rocky outcrops south of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Dolphins are a common sight. The cleaner water attracts more people who want to live, work, and play on and near its banks. Business, city, environmental and citizen groups profit and benefit from the water in ways not seen since the early 20th century when the city’s piers teemed with ship commerce. Multiple stakeholders have skin in the game to keep the water clean. So they do. (Visit the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance for more on this interconnected, unfolding success story.)

The Ecosystems Services definitions were formalized by the United Nations 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a four-year study involving more than 1,300 scientists worldwide.

The MEA assigned four broad categories to show the relationships among Ecosystem Services and human well-being. These categories are: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.

MEA: Relationships Among Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being (click to view larger)

Millenium Ecosystem Assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the earth’s resources are  intrinsically linked to our collective well being. They have value. In a way, Ecosystems Services is like a worldwide General Ledger to help us measure, grow and prudently spend from our global bank account.

Ecosystem Services Links:

Wikipedia

EPA’s Ecosystem Services Research

usa viagra prices

Nature Conservancy on Ecosystem Services

Nature Conservancy’s Jan 2012 Partnership with Dow Chemical

 

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Links | Green Politics | how to purchase viagra in canada | Green Shift - (0 Comments)
16
February
2012

All politics is local. So is climate.

The micro-climate of my backyard is a specific growing terrior with its own proclivities and advantages. My garden warms and cools and drains and grows in a way that differs from every other patch of ground on the planet.

That said, trends hold true. I might get lucky with overwintering a rosemary one year out of 10, but overall my Zone 6B location means it’s a heartbreak waiting to happen.

As my local garden grows, so goes our collective global garden.

Whether my rosemary dies or thrives, the time to argue whether the earth is warming (Or cooling. Or melting. Or experiencing extreme weather events.) is over. The worldwide scientific community is in consensus on these facts.

Likewise, there is broad agreement and understanding that human activities are accelerating climate change.*

We can argue till the cows come home as to who set the fire, but in the meantime, let’s work together to put it out.

When I encounter people who want to deny the facts in front of them (see also: Confirmation Bias), my next line is inquiry is to follow the money (see #3).

While there may be short-term financial gains for climate change denials, in the end we’ll all lose.

*Bonus Climate Change Acronym: AWG (Anthropogenic Global Warming, meaning human-caused)

Three links:

1. Via OmniClimate: The Climate Change Consensus – In Five Points

2. Via Wikipedia.org: A starting point for major points, players and positions

Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth‘s atmosphere and oceans, which started to increase in the late 19th century and is projected to keep going up. Since the early 20th century, Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two thirds of the increase occurring since 1980.[2] Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and scientists are more than 90% certain that most of it is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels.[3][4][5][6] These findings are recognized by the national science academies of all the major industrialized nations.[7][A]

3. Via Treehugger.org:  Leaked Docs,  Reveal How Top Think Tank Turns Oil Money Into Climate Denial

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Links | Green Shift - (1 Comments)
6
February
2012

Manhattan is an island. An island bounded by tidal waters.

If you want to make it on the island itself, push and never give up.

To survive on the water requires a different strategy: go with the flow.

Recreational human-powered boaters–at least the smart ones–time their travels with the tidal advantage. At peak flow, the current can reach 5 knots per hour. That’s swift enough to bring the strongest kayaker to a standstill.

In a first-ever pilot, the East River’s power will be harnessed to generate electricity.

Via SustainableBusiness.com:

Verdant Gets License to Build Tidal Plant in NYC Waters

Verdant Power has been awarded a 10-year license for a tidal wave energy plant in New York City’s East River.

Verdant, which has been pushing the project forward since 2002, has tested six turbines there, which is actually a tidal strait between the New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound. The power produced by that demonstration project powered a Gristedes supermarket and a parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

This is the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has awarded a tidal wave license. This “pilot” license will allow Verdant to demonstrate commercial viability, while also determining potential environmental impacts.

Go to article.

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Business | how to purchase viagra in canada - (0 Comments)
3
February
2012

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. Literally.

Congress’ recently passed defense authorization bill hampers military spending for LEED Gold or Platinum certified projects. How’s that again?

Could these roadblocks for LEED construction be linked to the interests of U.S. wood producers? (Here’s the backstory.)

Luckily  for us, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment is steadfastly committed to  sound, safe, cost- and energy-efficient construction.

Via buildinggreen.com:

The federal government has been one of the biggest supporters of LEED certification in the last few years, with the General Services Administration (GSA) requiring basic LEED certification for all federal buildings starting in 2003 and then upping that requirement to LEED Gold in 2010.

The military has been on the cutting edge of green building from the beginning. The Navy adopted sustainable design principles before LEED even existed, as we reported way back in 1998. The Army embraced LEED in 2006 and recently began the much more radical work of moving all its installations to net-zero energy, water, and waste. As Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, put it to EBN earlier this year, “Energy security is mission critical.”

Hammack is having none of it. In a call with reporters yesterday, she reiterated the Army’s commitment to net-zero and LEED and gave an update about some of the progress that’s already been made. “We’re finding it does not cost more to design and construct to LEED” standards, Hammack said.

Read the full story.

 

Posted by Claire Sommer in Green Politics - (0 Comments)