Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fast Times in Higher Ed

In the fast-paced business world, Fast Company has been keeping up with the winning trends at the leading edge. That's why it's very exciting that more and more they're seeing sustainability as a core strategic priority for any organization.

They've developed their own take on the concept, which they call Ethonomics and describe as follows:

"The end of the modern financial system as we know it has cleared the way for an era of ethical economics, or "Ethonomics"... Ethonomics is a hybrid of technology, design, and social responsibility, and at Fast Company we believe it is the future of business.

But we're not breathless cheerleaders for every daisy-splashed widget that comes down the pike. We have a skeptical eye out for greenwashing by large and small companies alike, and are impatient with lofty claims that stray too far from the marketplace or from Main Street."

What's even more exciting is that Fast Company sees the importance of higher education's role in developing and fostering this concept of Ethonomics, and driving the innovation, creativity, and prosperity-generation that comes with it. They've asked Tony Cortese and I to develop a 4-part blog series on the topic based on our work at Second Nature and with the ACUPCC.

In part one, we start with an overview of the education for sustainability movement and the basics of why this is the most important, core, strategic imperative for higher education and its students in the 21st century:

At colleges and universities, tomorrow's business leaders, architects, product designers, policy-makers, schoolteachers, economists, etc. learn about how the world works and how things get done. To date, they've learned how to do this in an unsustainable way. But a change is coming, with hundreds of U.S. colleges and universities transforming the way they teach and the choices they pursue in research and operations. Simply put, they are preparing students for 21st century citizenship.

To create a sustainable society, we need to be rethinking how we design just about everything - our products, our industrial systems, transportation systems, buildings, energy systems, agricultural systems, etc. - and we need to be doing so quickly. This is happening in many real ways in business and civil society, but the education sector is too often overlooked.

This is important in the medium-to-long-term as tomorrow graduates will soon be in the work force making decisions, and need a comprehensive understanding of sustainability - at the very least the basics of ecology, how social systems work, how complex systems operate, and what mechanisms undermine ecological and social systems.

But it's also important in the immediate-term. Colleges and universities operate as small cities, and can serve as great role-models for solutions. They have the social mandate to create the knowledge and graduates needed for a civil society and are set up to experiment with new and better ways of designing all of our systems.

Hundres of colleges and universities are taking this on in a real way with commitment from the top and incredible solutions emerging from all levels of the organizations - take a few minutes to check out a few of the 200+ climate action plans that have been submitted to the ACUPCC Reporting System to date.

Stay going.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's electric so it's guaranteed to shock y'all

Another great video from the folks at Green For All - this by Doo Dat. After you check out the video, check out the clip "behind the video" for more about the rapper and the movement.

Stay going.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining

The negative impacts of coal are so numerous it can be difficult to hold them all in your head at once - CO2 emissions driving climate change (SP1), toxic coal ash spills (SP2); strip mining & mountain top removal (SP3); the devastating social and economic impacts on miners and local communities (to say nothing of the indirect impacts from climate change, etc.) (SP4) - the list goes on...

For a good, 20-minute look at the story on the ground, check out this video from Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm:

Our best solutions are to dramatically reduce our demand for energy through smart design (of buildings, cities, transportation systems, vehicles, appliances, etc.) to a point where the available alternatives (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.) can meet our needs.

Stay going.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Post Hopenhagen...

There's lots of continued fall-out, analysis, despair, and renewed hope and energy in the aftermath of the Copenhagen negotiations in December. I won't spend too much time diving too deep into my own thoughts and analysis but suffice it to say, it fell far short of what we need, but had some very hopeful silver linings, most importantly so many heads-of-state getting in the same room and getting more serious about this - particularly those from the US and China.

On that note, check out a must read from Guardian reporter, Mark Lynas, who was in the room and in this article exposes the barriers the Chinese delegation presented in making sure no real targets came out of Copenhagen. In my view this a pretty solid case for imposing a carbon tariff on Chinese imports, which is not normally the kind of isolationist approach I'm a fan of, but would have some ancillary benefits of protecting American jobs and addressing some of the "we-can't-price-carbon-cause-it'll-make-us-less-competitive" arguments.

Also, get involved with the latest 1Sky campaign: The just-passed international climate talks in Copenhagen show the critical need for the U.S. to take bold action on climate and energy in the New Year. Next Tuesday, January 12 people all across the country will flood Senate offices with phone calls to urge support for strong climate and clean energy legislation in 2010. Sign up at to join this effort and make your voice heard!

Finally, in our work at Second Nature, many people have been saying how Copenhagen's results have prompted them to refocus on the local efforts, and set precedent for real action that will make the federal/international agreements easier to make. The signatories of the ACUPCC (American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment) have been doing so for 3 years now, and making great strides - about 500 have completed and publicly reported their GHG Inventories, and over 130 have submitted plans for pursuing climate neutrality in operations and incorporating climate and sustainability into the educational experience. These are all available at - see if you're school has signed and if they're up-to-date on their progress. For a great breakdown of what happened in Copenhagen, how colleges were involved, and what it means in the context of the ACUPCC, check out this article from Sarah Brylinsky at Dickinson College.

Stay going.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A message to World Leaders from Global Youth

A compelling post-Copenhagen message to those in leadership positions from leaders around the world:

This is part of's recap of the 2009 - an amazing year for progress on climate action, but one that still fell far short of what's needed. 2010 is going to be huge.

Happy New Year.

Stay going