Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Solve Climate blog highlights absurd fossil fuel subsidies

Solar Could Generate 15% of Power by 2020, If US Ends Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The Result: 882,000 New Jobs, 10% Drop in Emissions

Solar power technologies could generate 15 percent of America's power in 10 years, but only if Washington levels the playing field on subsidies, a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says.

That means either rolling back fossil fuel subsidies, as President Obamaproposed earlier this year, or increasing subsidies for clean energy, the association says.

Fossil fuels received $72 billion in total federal subsidies from 2002 to 2008, keeping prices artificially low, according to figures from the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). About 98 percent of that went to conventional energy sources, namely coal and oil, leading to more emissions. The rest, $2.3 billion, was pumped into a new technology to trap and store carbon dioxide spewed by coal plants.

During that same period, solar got less than $1 billion, according to the SEIA, a trade group representing 1,100 solar companies across the nation...Read the rest at Solve Climate...

Stay going.


GFN, COP 15, and Enlightened Self-Interest

Below is an update from Mathis Wackernagel in Global Footprint Network's latest newsletter (subscribe) about the COP 15 climate meetings in Copenhagen.

I'll let his words speak for themselves, but they do a great job of highlighting the importance of "enlightened self-interest" when it comes to sustainability, and showing how sustainability is not a nice thing to do when we have the time and money, but it is the strategic imperative of our time - whether you are an individual, company, community, or nation.

Dear Friends of Global Footprint Network,

I have just come back from Copenhagen COP15. While it was a thrill and privilege to participate, it also made evident how far we still have to go to meaningfully address climate change and resource degradation.

I was touched to see the buzz and interest of 40,000 participants engaging at the official conference, and of many more participating in side events and demonstrations. Most paid their own way to Copenhagen, showing incredible commitment to making this world work for all, now and later. There is tremendous public will to make a difference, beyond the 193 country delegations, and possibly over 130 heads of state.

But much about the Climate Talks was quiet puzzling as well:

  • Most delegations seem to be unaware of the link between climate change and resource constraints. Why would Europe propose to reduce emissions by X, and to reduce even more if everybody participates? If they fully realized resource constraints, and recognized that without a strong Copenhagen regime the world will get volatile more quickly, their proposition would look differently: They would suggest to reduce emissions by X, and if NOBODY participates,would propose to reduce European resource use even more to get Europe ready for a wild and rapidly resource-constrained future.

  • Informed negotiators would arrive to Copenhagen with the mind-frame of “we have a big incentive to make this deal work, because without the deal, we will have to work harder," rather than “I will not reduce if you don’t”.

  • Perhaps these Climate Talks should not be called negotiations (which connote: “How much am I willing to give?”). A better name would reflect designing a new framework for cooperation (“How do we need to work with each other in order not to sink the planet?”). It was particularly stunning to see how addicted we still are to outdated terms like “developing and developed countries”. These terms embody the linear development that is not only becoming physically impossible, but is also the one that got us into the climate problem in the first place. What we need is green prosperity, or green development, that works with, rather than against the budget of nature.

  • The obvious was missing: If we are to meet the G-20 intention of keeping climate change within 2 °C, we’d need to follow the IPCC reduction path of at least minus 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. This essentially means moving out of fossil fuel. But hardly anybody admits this mathematical truth. If we accept the G-20 intention and its mathematical consequences, then consider this: Why is it that we haggle so much about access rights to emissions? It would essentially mean negotiating access to zero emissions (after 2050). Why are we putting so much effort into trying to negotiate access rights to zero carbon?

  • Perhaps most striking is that the great majority of leaders ignore their nation’s self-interest. Possibly the most notable exceptions were Arnold Schwarzenegger and many of our partner countries like UAE or Ecuador. Others ignore that preparing aggressively for a resource-constrained future is in their most immediate national self-interest. After all, it takes decades to prepare countries, cities and economies for a resource-constrained future. For most countries it is in their self-interest to go beyond the most hopeful Copenhagen targets. Waiting for a global consensus would hurt their own ability to operate in the future.

But there were also quite a few achievements:

  • Many local initiatives – cities, pro-active businesses, regions - are already moving ahead even without global agreements. The United Arab Emirates’ Masdar City is a prominent example

  • REDD+ (United Nations' collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) represents a solid recognition, that land-use and biocapacity are keys to the global carbon cycle. Many solutions to climate change will come from carefully managing our use of ecosystem services.

  • Delegations showed their level of commitment, negotiating through the night and working tirelessly towards solutions – all encouraging signs that we are at a historical crossroads. Sustainability is certainly no longer a sideshow.

In January, we will be sending a more detailed newsletter on how we will help shape climate action, and how this can go hand in hand with securing wellbeing for all.

With growing interest in resource degradation and climate change, Global Footprint Network will play an even more significant role in 2010. We are both excited about this prospect, and immensely thankful. We are grateful to you, our partners, and for your ongoing trust and interest.


Stay going.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Write an Airline CEO

I never do this... although I probably should - it's so easy, and it definitely has an impact.

So the Air Transport Association (ATA) along with Continental, United, and American have sued the UK government for taking the first steps to figure out how to cover emissions from air travel under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. Read the story here.

The ATA and most airlines - particularly Continental - talk a big game about taking action to improve efficiency and develop safe, viable, carbon-neutral alternative fuels for airplanes. This move is clearly in contradiction to the kinds of policies needed to help achieve these stated goals.

Take 5 minutes to drop a letter in the mail the heads of these organizations, below are a couple of templates - just cut and paste and customize for each recipient:


Gerard J. Arpey, AMR Corporation/American Airlines, Inc, P.O. Box 619616, DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Dear Mr. Arpey,

I am deeply disappointed in American’s decision to join the suit against the U.K. government challenging the first stage of the country's implementation of European Union emission-trading regulations.

I fly often for work and occasionally for pleasure, and have frequently chosen American Airlines.

I strongly urge you to withdraw your participation in this suit and implement strong policies for proactively supporting industry-wide caps on emissions in the EU and around the world. I will not remain a customer of American Airlines otherwise.



James C. May, Air Transport Association of America, Inc., 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. May,

I am deeply disappointed in Air Transport Association’s decision to initiate a suit against the U.K. government challenging the first stage of the country's implementation of European Union emission-trading regulations.

I fly often for work and occasionally for pleasure, and this activity far and away represents the largest component of my carbon footprint. I choose airlines based more on commitment to efficiency and demonstrated commitment to developing safe, viable, carbon neutral alternative fuels than I do on price per ticket.

I commend the ATA’s stated commitment to efficiency, alternative fuels, and progress towards carbon neutrality.

I strongly urge you to act in accordance with that stated commitment and withdraw your participation in this suit and implement strong policies for proactively supporting industry-wide caps on emissions in the EU and around the world.



Other CEOs:
  • Glenn F. Tilton, UAL Corporation / United Air Lines, World Headquarters, P.O. Box 66100, Chicago, IL 60666
  • Jeffery A. Smisek, Continental Airlines Inc., P.O. Box 4607, Houston, Texas 77210-4607

Stay going.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Vigil for Survival - Dec. 11th

Come out and show your support for strong climate action during the Copenhagen negotiations by participating in a "Vigil for Survival" at the Lobster Trap Tree on Main St. in Gloucester - 4:30 pm Friday, December 11th, 2009.

(yes, lobster trap trees are awesome).

Stay going!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sustainable and Desirable

It may seem kind of obvious, and I'm certainly not the first to express the sentiment, but needs to be said:

a sustainable future is not necessarily desirable, a desirable future is necessarily sustainable.

As interest in 'sustainability' continues to grow exponentially, so inevitably does confusion and misunderstandings of terminology. Sustainability is the bare-minimum we're shooting for, it's not the end-all, be-all by any means. It's the eye of the needle where we stop contributing to unsustainability, get restorative, and start opening up the "funnel walls".

"Sustainable development" is the process of moving towards sustainability, and 'beyond' (and "development" shouldn't be confused with "growth", the former is the growth of value, the latter is just the growth of stuff). Of course, none of this will be a smooth, linear process. We'll move step by step, more and more people and organizations will continually increase their awareness and create more and more solutions, and new, fresh ways of being that don't systematically undermine the social and ecological systems upon which we depend.

In order to do this of course, we need to break away from some deeply engrained habits of thought and action, and backcasting from a compelling vision is really necessary to do that - to move from incremental steps of 'less bad' to transformative, exciting steps of 'creating a sustainable and desirable society'. And that vision needs to be more compelling than just "sustainable," no one is really looking for a "sustainable life" or a "sustainable community" - we are looking for meaningful, interesting, exciting, fulfilling lives, communities, relationships, careers, etc.

The Sustainability Principles are just the basic constraints, derived from basic laws of thermodynamics and social systems... they set a frame for "free creativity within constraints," empowering the creative process of sustainable development, or 'creating sustainability' - they are not prescriptive in terms of how we get there or what it will look like.

So yes, it's sustainable and desirable, and also just, healthy, fecund, and caring ... sometimes I'll just say "sustainable" to catch all that.

Stay going.

Friday, November 27, 2009

VOTE! Free Range Studios' YouTopia Grant

Hi All,

Please take a few seconds to register and cast all three of your votes in the respective categories for the following organizations - all are great groups, run by great people in our network, winners in each category get $15,000 worth of video development work that will be a huge help to each:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Senor DeMelle en Barcelona

So busy keeping all eyes on Copenhagen that you weren't following Barcelona?

Catch up quick with three great HuffPo articles from Brendan DeMelle who's been there all week:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Prove It

Check out this intense new info-graphic developed by the British Met Office, that is now on display in the London Science Museum:

It shows what a 4 degree C (7 degree F) increase in average global temps would do, and how various areas around the world would be affected.

Check out the site and make sure you get counted in for a strong deal in Copenhagen - right now the status quo supporters are flooding the site and counting themselves out.

Stay going.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I'm transferring"

What's in a name? At the University of Kentucky, a dorm renovation funded by a gift with strings attached to the name is raising controversy. Donors from the coal industry are putting up $7 million and insisting that the dorm for basketball players include "coal" in its name.

Ironically, as this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader points out, the renovation will earn the building LEED certification, and presumably be responsible for less coal getting burnt than the campuses other buildings as a result.

Still, the name makes a statement. Before too long, that statement will probably be something to the effect of "coal was part of our state's heritage." But right now, in this time of great transition, it says "we support coal, a dying industry that threatens our well-being and civilization."

As the student protests and claims of "I'm transferring" demonstrate, this move is a huge reputational risk, and as students are increasingly making college decisions based on commitment to sustainability (and relevance in the 21st century) I'm sure before long, the Trustees will realize the risk was not worth $7 million.

Stay going.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A little more 350

Go Big Green:

Stay going...


Thanks to ecological economist and outdated-world-view-destroyer Pete Sims for the heads up on Douglas Rushkoff. I haven't dug into his stuff too much yet, but a quick view of his session on the always hilarious Colbert Report makes it clear he's got some good things to say:

For more, his website is: http://rushkoff.com

Stay going...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One of those moments...

I'm having one of those moments. Moments where I think we might actually do this fast enough. We might collectively wake up and use some common sense. Common sense to protect our global commons ... the atmosphere in particular right now, and specifically getting CO2 concentrations back to 350 parts per million.

The moment's coming from scrolling through the www.350.org site, after just a day of what I'm sure must be an overwhelming job of sorting messages, posting picture, dealing with press and getting the most out of the epic day that was 10/24/09.

Here in Gloucester, we had a great turnout despite the rain, and got some great shots around the "old salt" - the Man at the Wheel fishermen's memorial statue.

But a few of the other photos from just a small sample of the 5,200+ events in 180+ countries summoning memories from my own experiences, reinforcing how very personal and how very global this challenge is.

First, The Mountain School - a high-school program on an organic farm that attended, and which had a huge impact on me and my thinking is featured on the front page - their picture is of sap buckets and maple leaves:

And then there is the picture from the slum in Kenya. I visited my sister when she was living in Kenya, and it's hard to describe what the impacts of climate disruption will mean for people already living on the edge (i.e. a huge percentage of all people).

And finally, this one from Butte College in California, which is one of 657 signatories to the Presidents' Climate Commitment that I've been helping to support for the past couple of years, announcing that they're aiming to go climate neutral by 2015.

Raven's Message from Daniel Dancer on Vimeo.

Thanks so much to all of you who came out yesterday - in Gloucester and around the world!

Stay going.

Friday, October 23, 2009

350 - Tomorrow at the Fishermen's Statue

Join us at the Fishermen’s Memorial statue at 1pm tomorrow – Sat. Oct 24thfor a group picture that will be part of the collective International Day of Climate Action. Details at www.350.org/capeann

350 represents the safe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we need to get back down to: 350 parts per million. Tomorrow nearly 5,000 events in 179 countries will take place to get this message to negotiators at the Copenhagen meeting in December.

Nearly 5,000 youth form the image of a windmill and 350 in Uden, Netherlands.
Nearly 5,000 youth form the image of a windmill and 350 in Uden, Netherlands. Photo: (c) Daniel Dancer and Uden Partners

We won’t be as elaborate as the folks from the Netherlands in the picture above, but Cape Ann’s iconic Fishermen’s Memorial will send a strong message that the health and safety of our oceans, fisheries, coastline, and so much more is at stake.

Come help us send a message – rain or shine so bring your slicker!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 09

Seeing as I always blog about sustainability and a lot about climate change… and the theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is climate change, I thought it would be good to write a post about hypocrisy. Also, I’m flying on a plane as I write this. Hard not to think about hypocrisy.

It’s easy to be hypocritical when it comes to climate change and climate action. Even when you really know about it, and truly internalize the scope, scale, magnitude, and urgency of the crisis.

It’s easy to walk outside on a beautiful peaceful day and forget all about the folks in Africa (and Atlanta) who are suffering from extended droughts and flash floods.

It’s easy to think “2100 is so far away… so is 2050, 2020, and 2012 for that matter.” (ok, it’s hard to still think that about 2012).

And so it’s easy to get in the car and drive, or forget to call the insulation guy again, and fly to California for Bioneers and some meetings and a visit.

So let’s use Blog Action Day 2009 – thousands of bloggers on all types of topics blogging about climate change for the day – as a reminder and a rally cry and an energy boost to acknowledge the hypocrisy all of us in the US live with to one degree or another, and not let it get us down, but drive us to do everything we can to spark meaningful action.

Here are a few immediate things you can do:

  1. Find a 350 event near you and participate on Sat. 10/24 – go to www.350.org to find an event
  2. Find a contractor who does energy audits in your area and have them come do an analysis on your house or apartment – they’ll break it down by payback periods and in most cases find energy savings that will save more than enough money to cover the cost of the audit.
  3. Call your Senators and tell them (again if necessary) you support a strong climate bill and they better be doing all they can to stand up against heavily backed vested interests.
  4. See if your college president has signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and if not send him or her a friendly email encouraging them to do so.
  5. Add your name to the www.tcktcktck.org petition to support a strong international climate agreement.

All super easy ways you can make a huge difference – keep it up and we can all move through our hypocrisy faster, and in time to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption.

Happy Blog Action Day, and stay going!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interface - pausing to take in the view

The Interface story never gets old. Check out this 8 minute video that gives a bit of a check-in on where they are in their great trek up Mount Sustainability:

Ray Anderson just released his new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose - Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. I haven't started it yet, but I have a copy and can't wait to dig in.

In the meantime the stats since they've embarked on this journey speak for themselves, these come from a recent interview with Gallup Management Journal:

"Between 1996 and 2008, Interface cut its net greenhouse gas emissions by 71% in absolute tons (the Kyoto Protocol, in contrast, called for 7% reductions by 2012, which many said was impossible). Yet over the same time frame, Interface increased sales by 66% and doubled its earnings, expanding its profit margins and propelling innovation. Interface also reduced greenhouse gas intensity (relative to sales) by 82%, wastewater stream by 72%, landfill-bound scrap waste by 78%, total energy usage by 44%, smokestacks by 33%, and effluent pipes by 71%. Interface also reached the top of GlobeScan's Survey of Sustainability Experts -- all while saving the company $405 million. And, since 2003, Interface has sold 83 million square yards of carpet with zero net global warming effect."

These kinds of success stories show what is possible with leadership, dedication, and strong sense of purpose.

Stay going.

Beds are Burning

A decent remake of a classic for our new climate reality from TckTckTck (sign-up if you haven't yet):

Stay going.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

350 on 133

Without regard for the fact that we risk looking like bible-thumping crazies with "the end is near" signage in our front yard, we're using our house's perch on a busy road to raise a little awareness about 350.org:

I painted up these signs for our big picture on Sat. Oct 24th in Gloucester (details: www.350.org/capeann) as part of the International Day of Climate Action, and figured I'd put them to good use in the meantime. Give a honk if you drive by! (actually, please don't do that, it could get really annoying).

Stay going.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Good Morning Gloucester

Cape Ann's most popular blog just ran a nice post about the 350.org event happening in Gloucester on Sat. Oct. 24 at 1pm at the Fishermen's Memorial statue.

Check it out and browse around the site a bit, Good Morning Gloucester.... they've got a ton of awesome stuff, including plenty of seagull hilarity.


Stay going.