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Archive for October, 2008

Tonight, my mind’s shut. My heart too jumpy from the waiting. I feel like Larry David:

I can’t take much more of this. Two weeks six days to go, and I’m at the end of my rope. I can’t work. I can eat, but mostly standing up. I’m anxious all the time and taking it out on my ex-wife, which, ironically, I’m finding enjoyable my dogs, who keep tripping me when  I take them for their nightly walk. This is like waiting for the results of a biopsy. Actually, it’s worse. Biopsies only take a few days, maybe a week at the most, and if the biopsy comes back positive, there’s still a potential cure. With this, there’s no cure. The result is final. Like death.

SIx more days. And I shall come back to my former green obsessed self.

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I can’t quite remember what the ad was about – but I was struck by the images, and mostly what I felt watching. The outdoors, a person reaching out for a fruit, in a tree. My reaction was, sweet! . . . and boredom. It failed to grab me. I stopped to think, and wondered, is that how I feel, genuinely, with nature imbued narrative, usually? And my response was, yes . . . and maybe others are too?

Contrast this with the excitement from my friend, after he had just come from watching the Waste=Food documentary:

When I heard him talk about the Chinese story, and also Nike’s revolutionary process for making eco-friendly shoes, I wanted to learn more.

In the search for a more sustainable world, we humans may be more impressed by stories of  our own ingeniosity, than nature’s goodness. Technology, creativity, and news seem like a potent recipe for effective green communication, worth using over, and over again. Not so, bucolic scenes, and the romanticization of our natural world.

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It’s that time of the month again, and I am due for the Green Moms Blogging Carnival, this time over at Best of Mother Earth. I am supposed to write about gratitude, specifically three green things I am thankful for.

We behave with nature, the same way we might with a faithful lover, when we are forgetting how much we are being given, and how much our lives depends on such constant love. That’s the irony, we take nature for granted, because it’s so good to us, most of the time.

Take a few minutes and . . .

imagine a world without trees, and birds chirping in the trees, imagine the silence, and the scorching sun, and the absence of shade and coolness,

imagine a world without water, as in here:

imagine the air so polluted that you could no longer breathe freely, and would have to wear a mask 24/7, or stay indoors,

imagine . . .

While we may never know such extremes in our lifetime, we may get dangerously close, sooner than we think, if we don’t all change our ways.

Today, I am thankful for the trees, and the water, and the air.

How about you? What do you appreciate the most in nature?

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McKinsey just released a must read for green marketers. ‘Helping Green Products Grow‘ outlines five steps businesses need to take to sell green products successfully. Most of it is common sense. Still there were a few surprises, most notably in the area of consumers’ awareness of most concrete actions to reduce global warming:

These findings present enormous educational opportunities, not just for green marketers, but also for environmental educators, hoping to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions. Bloggers, journalists, teachers, environmentalists need to turn up the volume on eating less beef, improving home insulation, and driving more fuel-efficient car, less often. These are all concrete actions that citizens can understand, and that also can help them save money, particularly during these hard economic times.  

Here are the five steps, with selected some highlights:

1. Educate consumers:

Because consumers are largely unaware of green products, a business that sells them must see itself first as an educator, not a sales machine. Our study shows that more than one-third of the consumers who want to help mitigate climate change don’t really know how . . .

2. Build better products:  

Consumers will not think better of green products until companies make them equal to, or better than, their conventional alternatives. It’s no surprise: most people value performance, reliability, and durability much more than ecological soundness. . . .

3. Be honest:

To rebuild public trust, companies must come clean about the true environmental impact of their products and their attempts to reduce it, and many will need to address historical concerns about specific products or operations . . .

4. Offer more:

Companies must ensure that consumers understand the financial and environmental returns on their investment in green products, for they are more willing to try new ones-especially those that cost more-when they find it easy to track the savings . . .

5. Bring products to the people:

Having decided to buy green products, many consumers encounter a last hurdle-finding them-either because manufacturers don’t keep up with demand or advertise where they can be bought, or because wholesalers and retailers don’t stock them or display them prominently. Biofuel enthusiasts, for example, must often drive out of their way to fill up . . .

I will end with my usual rant. Buying green stuff is good as long as it translates in net carbon reduction. Otherwise, we are all better off following the old conservation adage of, ‘reduce, re-use, recycle‘. 

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I just got a peak at William Becker‘s new book, ‘The 100 Day Action Plan to Save the Planet –  A Climate Crisis Solution for the 44th President‘.

William Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, a non-partisan initiative, based out of the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs. The Climate Action Project plans to deliver the plan to the next President right after the election. Here are the key parts of the plan:

  • Take early action by using the powers Congress already has delegated to the executive branch
  • Move rapidly away from investments that lock the nation into more long-term carbon emissions
  • Rebuild the federal government’s leadership capacity by restoring respect for science and bringing America’s best experts on energy and climate security into public service
  • Mobilize the marketplace to build a new twenty-first century economy
  • Launch and economy wide “clean energy surge”
  • Ensure that climate action is equitable and fair
  • Create an agenda for natural resource stewardship that responds to climate change
  • Help the nation adapt to the climate changes already underway
  • Redefine national security to include climate and energy security
  • Work with leading governors and mayors to create an intergovernmental action plan
  • Reengage the community of nations to find solutions to the climate and energy crises
  • Work closely with Congress to create additional laws and to fund the programs we need to effectively address energy and climate security

Broad strokes, that get broken down into hundreds of specific steps, in the book. This is serious stuff, and exactly the kind of thinking we need for the next four years. As pointed by William Becker in his introduction, we are running out of time, and action at all levels, starting at the top, is needed now.  In that respect, I find Barack Obama‘s recent answer to Time reporter Joe Klein, quite encouraging:

Finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office, assuming obviously that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. We’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks, and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy.

The big question of course is, how long before we get ‘it’ into port? Nature has been patient enough, and it cannot wait much longer, for us to take remedial actions.

Last, kudos to Martin’s Press for deciding to publish William Becker‘s book, electronically. That’s what I call walking the writing! You can order the book here.

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By now, I have become accustomed to the sight. Lots of men, and a few lost souls in skirts. I am referring to the various clean tech events I am fond of attending in the Bay Area. Green being a new field, you would think women would have seized the opportunity, quick. Last year, earth2tech had a hard time coming up with a list of The Top 10 Women in Cleantech. Nancy Floyd, founder and managing director of cleantech VC Nth Power, and the woman who made it to the top of the list, knows this firsthand:

Since founding Nth Power in 1993, she has sat on more than 15 boards — and only one of her fellow directors was a woman. When we asked her if she’s ever felt intimidated by the male dominance in the field, she first replied, “No,” and then added, “but I do over prepare.”

In the green blogosphere, the landscape is not that much different. Of the top 15 green blogs, according to Technorati authority rankings, only three are the creation of sisters. Jill Fehrenbacher, at Inhabitat. Rebecca Carter, at Ecorazzi. And Heather Stephenson, with Jennifer Boulden, at Ideal Bite.

I was hoping women would shine in green nonprofits. I am familiar with Frances Beinecke, the head of NRDC, and assumed, wrongly, that she was the norm. Based on a review of executive teams for  Charity Navigator‘s 10 best managed environmental nonprofits, only one, Sustainable Harvest International, is led by a woman, Florence Reed

It appears, that !8 million cracks in the glass ceiling are not enough. Never mind, we shall be like ants, patiently building a different world, one tiny green step at a time. 

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I got a sneak preview of Scientific American‘s Earth 3.0 special issue on ‘Solutions for Sustainable Progress’. Mostly great stuff, with the exception of one article, that prompted me to write this rebuttal.

In ‘Learning from the Internet’, Robert M. Metcalfe, venture capitalist and Internet pioneer,  expands on the dangerous idea that, 

I don’t think for a moment that we’re going to conserve our way out of the energy crisis. Internet history shows that prosperity depends on abundant bandwidth. Prosperity (gross domestic product, per capita) is proportional to energy use. We are not going to lower per capita consumptionof energy in the U.S. We are going to enable the rest of the world to be as prosperous by using not less but more energy. We need to make energy cheap, clean and therefore abundant – really abundant, for a really long time. 

Sounds familiar? This is the same kind of thinking endorsed in an earlier McKinsey study, and also to a lesser extent, by Al Gore in his Moon Shot Challenge speech.

Makes me mad. The average citizen is already confused enough. The last thing we need is more tenors in green tech and green biz to lull us into thinking that technology will get us out of our mess. Besides, I do not see what climate change has to do with the Internet. 

We need to get out of this pervasive either-or thinking. Energy conservation and new energy technologies are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they are meant to work together. One without the other will not work. It’s a matter of simple maths, and of mitigating our risks, in the unlikely event that technology does not deliver on all its promises. 

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