Friday, December 21, 2007

Easy Earth Day Action...

They say everyday is Earth Day, and the Earth Day Network is working around the year to make that the case.

Here's an easy petition they run, to keep the importance of clean energy and global warming in front of our representatives:

You know how we always talk about how politicians aren’t doing anything to stop climate change? NOW is the time for us to make them change their ways. Earth Day Network has drafted a petition demanding that Congress act to solve this crisis, and to solve it fairly.

Join me in signing up Earth Day Network's online petition, at:

Just takes a second, and gives you that patriotic feeling, knowing your participating in our democratic system...and trying to keep it alive. Stay going...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Earth it!

About a year ago, we were presenting at a conference in Amsterdam and one of the main panel speakers kept pounding the table that everyone should read the Earth Charter - a document that was called for by the Bruntland Commission in 1987, took root during the 1992 Earth Summit, but was not followed through on and completed until the late 1990s. It is a foundation of the sustainable development movement, and I had a good sense of what it said, but I had never read it. I've been meaning to ever since, and finally got around to it - I suggest you take 15 mins and have a look, it's available here on the Earth Charter Initiative website.

It's sort of a next level of detail for what sustainability means - if we start with meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, and move to how we ensure we do that, namely by not systematically undermining social and ecological systems and then move to another level of detail with not violating the 4 sustainability principles, i.e. identifying and eliminating our contributions to the 4 basic ways in which we systematically undermining social and ecological systems ... we can look in more detail at the more specific ways we violate the 4 SPs - the Earth Charter delves into those elegantly, as the result of an in-depth, cross-cultural iterative process over years to reach consensus on the language. Here's a core point to keep in mind, especially as we roll into Christmas ;)

"We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more."

Anyway, it's worth the read and worth endorsing. Have a great holiday week... Merry Christmans and Happy New Year... stay going.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Forecasting vs. Backcasting...Feasibility vs. Necessity

We've been working on the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment for the past year. This has been incredibly exciting to see the awakening, learning, and tremendous vision and leadership by these chancellors and presidents to commit their institutions to pursuing climate neutrality. This is an Apollo Mission-esque commitment that will marshal the brainpower, energy, resources, and focus needed to accelerate our shift to a low-carbon economy. The structure is classic backcasting - envisioning a future state of climate neutrality and then looking back to the present to determine what we needed to do to get to this future state.

Our colleague Julian Dautremont-Smith just wrote a great post on the AASHE blog on this topic addressing one of the major objections that schools that have not yet signed express: "climate neutrality isn't feasible." Check out the response, as it walks nicely through the reasons why backcasting is necessary for success, again the link is here.

As we know a major drawback of forecasting is that it tends to bring the problems of the past and present into the future, as they are inherently part of the planning. It also limits creativity with regard to what's possible. Finally, the beauty of setting goals that might seem audacious is that if you fall short, you're still way ahead of where you would be if you didn't set those goals. In this case a school that commits to 15% reductions below 2005 emissions rates by 2020, might make it, they might even make 16%, they might fall short with 14% - but the school that contextualizes its planning and prioritization around the ultimate goal of climate neutrality will blow through those incremental targets - and yes they might even fall short with cuts of only 85-95%, but would you rather be a "failure" with 95% reductions in emissions or a success with 15% reductions?

Check out this clip of Joe Laur speaking eloquently on the power of being audacious.

Stay going...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bali… the final hour

While it’s received some press – certainly more than Nairobi last year – the negotiations in Bali still have not held the spot light here in the US the way they should be. I haven’t heard much from any of the candidates, although one of them (whoever wins) was central to these negotiations, which resulted in a 2-year timeline for establishing the follow-up to Kyoto, which expires in 2012. That 2-year timeline of course opens the door for post-Bush representation by the US, after a potentially costly 8-year delay. The details of the plan are available here:

Throughout the 2-weeks US delegates were disruptive to the process, and it was only in the last hour – and only following a full minute of booing and hissing from the world community that we agreed to come to the table with the rest of the world. Here’s a more in-depth description from the Solve Climate blog:

Some excerpts:

And then the moment of truth: India presented the alternative text from the G-77+China. The essential point about this alternative text is that it takes into account "differences in national circumstances" amongst developing countries.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, let the other shoe drop. "We support the proposal made by....India." …Even the Saudis rose to say they could live with the G-77 text.

And then it was the turn of the United States. Assistant Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, with only the absolute bare minimum of diplomatic language, stated flatly that the United States rejected the changes. It was not prepared to accept the G-77 text.

Then occurred one of the most remarkable sounds that has perhaps ever been heard in the annals of international diplomacy--like a collective global groan--descending then to a murmur, then increasing in volume to a full-throated expression of rage and anger and booing and jeering, lasting for a full minute, so that finally the Minister had to call the meeting back to order.

(The Americans, with almost unspeakable rudeness, issued invitations to the next 'major economies meeting' on the first day of the Bali COP. Sort of like making a big show of announcing your engagement while at someone else's wedding.)

Casting all diplomatic niceties to the winds, the representative from Papua New Guinea stood up and said: "if you're not willing to lead, please get out of the way."

Meanwhile, we hear little about this, we are fed an insane logic that addressing what the science tells us would be “unfair” if China, struggling out of poverty, does not act first (ignoring for one thing the 100+ years of emissions already in the atmosphere that we’re responsible for), and led to believe that addressing this problem will necessarily have negative impacts on the economy and our standard of living. I think the opposite is true, and that we can improve our standard of living through better, more sustainable lifestyles, by driving the growth of value in our economy through a strategic shift to sustainable systems. We are seeing leadership in this regard from many sectors – business, municipal and state government, higher education, not-for-profit – and increasingly from the federal legislators (in large part in response to demands from business). As the world moves forward in this shift, the delays we’re suffering on the federal level and in the international sphere are going to be costly. So stay involved, vote with the ballot, your wallet, your actions and intentions, and stay going…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Speak up Americans

With the annual climate negotiations winding down in Bali, Al Gore is about to present to the delegation of ~10,000 and has a petition to show that the people of the US are ready to take some leadership, and harness our innovative, creative, spirit for the betterment of the world. Our representatives there have again been unwilling to move the dialog forward about the need for us to accept caps on our GHG emissions like the rest of the industrialized nations have, and we point at China and India saying they must take the lead before we will take any responsibility. For me, this is embarrassing.

If you agree, please take a second to add your name to the list of those of us who feel we are not being well represented in Bali at this critical time in human history. Even if you think Gore is terrible, please put aside partisan feelings, as this is probably the most effective way for the American people to show our support for international cooperation on this issue that affects us all.

Thx, and stay going...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blind spots

"When we mistake what we can know for all there is to know, a healthy appreciation of one's ignorance... gives way to the hubris that we can treat nature as a machine."

- Michael Pollan - The Omnivore's Dilemma