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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Al Gore did a fabulous job yesterday, of nailing down the three key environmental challenges facing our country.

First, is the interdependence between climate crisis, economy, and national security.

And it just so happens that the climate crisis is intertwined with the other two great challenges facing our nation: reviving our economy and strengthening our national security. The solutions to all three require us to end our dependence on carbon-based fuels.

Second, is the need to use a multi solutions approach, not forgetting to include conservation in the mix -I would love to think that Al read my earlier criticism . . . 🙂

Instead of letting lobbyists and polluters control our destiny, we need to invest in American innovation. Almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Edison said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” We already have everything we need to use the sun, the wind, geothermal power, conservation and efficiency to solve the climate crisis—everything, that is, except a president who inspires us to believe, “Yes we can.”

Third, is exposing the hold of the big oil and coal interests on the Republican party, and on the media, and the risk we run if we elect another Republican president.

So how did this no-brainer become a brain-twister? Because the carbon fuels industry—big oil and coal—have a 50-year lease on the Republican Party and they are drilling it for everything it’s worth. And this same industry has spent a half a billion dollars this year alone trying to convince the public they are actually solving the problem, when they are in fact making it worse every single day.

Well said, Al!

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In their new paper, Where does biodiversity go from here? A grim business-as-usual forecast and a hopeful portfolio of partial solutions”, just published today in the Online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Paul Ehrlich and Robert Pringle, two researchers from Stanford University, propose a “hopeful portfolio” of seven strategies, to remedy the global biodiversity crisis. One such strategy involves getting biodiversity onto the cultural radar screen. Here it is – I have highlighted suggested actions –

For decades, conservationists have appealed to aesthetics as a principal reason to conserve wild areas and species. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the 13-billion-plus beholding eyes of the world are drawn to many things that are hostile to biodiversity: large families, tractors, treasure, pavement, goats, and Cadillacs, to name a few. The processes of economic and infrastructural development help to divorce people from the natural world. Moreover, although outdoor recreation and ecotourism are still important parts of many lives in rich countries, biophilic impulses seem increasingly swamped by other stimuli. In the United States, the rise of electronic media has coincided with a 20-year downturn in National Park visitation, after 50 years of steady increase. Recent findings indicate that similar declines in contact with nature are common to developed nations worldwide. Such trends will not be reversed and the biodiversity crisis will not be resolved until nature can rival virtual reality as a source of entertainment, intrigue, and inspiration. Janzen offers a compelling analogy: as books are uninteresting and useless to an illiterate person, so is biodiversity uninteresting and useless to a bioilliterate person. People keep what they use, and increasing bioliteracy would enable more people to find uses for biodiversity. Demand for ecotourism and perceived ‘‘existence values” would increase and, with them, biodiversity sustaining revenues. In a world of stingy appropriations for conservation, we have a wonderful academic literature on how to maximize returns on conservation investments. But we have spent comparatively little effort figuring out ways to create a world of biodiversity fanatics and conservation voters, where conservation resources would presumably flow more freely. The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to have us. More ambitious people might think about how to finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas. Those of us who work in the tropics can do these things there, too. Clearly, we can also use other strategies. One method is to appropriate the very technologies that are currently enforcing the divide between people and biodiversity. Biodiversity is increasingly on the World Wide Web via projects such as the Encyclopedia of Life and Wikispecies. But we can do more. We can upload science and nature shorts to YouTube and contribute our knowledge to Wikipedia and its offshoots. We can post our lectures online. We can work to add ecological dimensions to online virtual-reality platforms and video games like Second Life, which currently has 10 million registered accounts. These are obvious ideas; many more are possible. There is hope here. Online sales have helped to revitalize classical music which is like biodiversity in that its devotees have long been predicting and lamenting its demise. Some have argued that the key to widespread biodiversity appreciation is the ability to know immediately what is what in nature. Janzen believes that this requires a comprehensive library of DNA barcodes along with a handheld, nanotechnological, field-portable sequencing device. We are hopeful about this dream, as well as any other means of achieving the same end. Profound social transformations are not impossible or ‘‘unrealistic.” Shifts happen. They have happened in our lifetimes. We all know these terms: segregation, Iron Curtain, apartheid. ‘‘Anthropogenic extinction” belongs on that list. More than anything else, the long-term future of biodiversity will be determined by our success or failure in helping to precipitate such an overhaul in popular perceptions of nature and what it means.

My way of getting biodiversity onto the cultural radar screen is to blog here, and on other blogs, and to link back to this post in my comments on other blogs. Also to tweet, and digg, and stumble, as much as I can about the topic. What can you do?

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Why do the efforts of biodiversity groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though they are equally crucial? This question from Tom Friedman has been on my mind. After all, I am just as guilty as the rest of my fellow bloggers. I can only remember once writing a post recently about the bees

That biodiversity suffers from a PR image, was confirmed by a November 2007 Gallup Survey, on “Attitudes of Europeans towards the issue of biodiversity”. Published by the European Commission, the survey reveals that, only 35% of Europeans know what biodiversity mean, and most see no immediate personal impact of biodiversity. It also shows a lack of understanding of the causes and consequences of biodiversity. 

How would you fix this problem?

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T. Boone Pickens has generated a lot of press lately, with his plan:

After watching Grist, TreeHugger, World Changing, Huffington Post, Climate Progress, and New York Times, all weigh in, it seems that the old man’s got some things right, and others not:

RIGHT ON: going crazy with wind power.

WRONG: natural gas vehicles

As with Al Gore, my main issue with Pickens‘ plan is the flagrant omission of conservation as a necessary part of the answer. It is one thing to propose some solutions. It is another to suggest an all encompassing plan, when in fact it fails to include a measure as critical as conservation efforts. 

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Last night, during his interview with the Associated Press, Al Gore challenged the nation to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly sources within 10 years, an audacious goal he hopes the next president will embrace. And made it clear that the people have to play a part, through their support of politicians for such energy policy. Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent John McCain may be “way ahead” – Al Gore’s words – but they will not go very far without the popular vote, our vote. Now, consider this:

According to a recent Rasmussen survey:

  • 67% of voters believe that drilling should be allowed off the coasts of California, Florida and other states.
  • 64% of voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that gas prices will go down if offshore oil drilling is allowed
Similarly, June 2008 Pew Opinion Survey concluded:
Amid record gas prices, public support for greater energy exploration is spiking. Compared with just a few months ago, many more Americans are giving higher priority to more energy exploration, rather than more conservation. An increasing proportion also says that developing new sources of energy – rather than protecting the environment – is the more important national priority.
Al, it’s not going to be easy convincing your fellow American citizens . . . Also, what happened to conservation? How come the ‘C-word’ does not appear even once in your interview? Did I miss something?

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Wal-Mart is getting in the online classifieds business. When I heard, I thought of it as maybe another one of their moves towards sustainability. What better than classifieds to encourage people to ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle‘! Then I went to the new site,

. . . and wondered if Wal-Mart‘ s intentions are as pure as I was initially led to believe. I understand the idea is in beta testing, and they may not be ready to fully integrate it into their main site. Still, this begs the question of will they? If not, they are lending their name to lure in the classifieds crowd to their main site, where of course, it is all about consuming, consuming, consuming.

For now, I am sticking to Craigslist, where citizens rule!

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Last month I accompanied my friend Christian Forthomme, during one of his visioning seminars. Christian’s job is to help companies imagine their future and devise a plan to make their vision a reality. Makes sense. It is hard to move forward without having a clear picture of what to shoot for. As we struggle with finding solutions to the current climate crisis, we would do well to spend time visualizing what it is that we want. This is different than thinking about the problem and relying solely on our brain to come up with answers. 

What I am suggesting instead is to take some quiet time alone, and slowly let a picture emerge, of the kind of world we want for ourselves, and our children. I tried it, and I was surprised with how difficult it was. Here is what I saw:

A world with lots of bikes and walking routes, and buses and trains. Cars and trucks are all electric as in the Better Place Project. Gas stations are now serving as battery recharging centers. All the energy comes from renewable sources, cultivated in solar and wind farms throughout the land. In a way, I want to go back to life as it was on my grandparents’ farm. When time was slower, and we lived with the rhythm from the seasons. Food is all grown locally and organically. Cities and suburbs are experiencing an overall greening, with many people involved in urban farming, starting with children in schools. There are trees along all the streets and the freeways. People spend most of their time working from home or very close. They work shorter hours, and they use video conference technologies such as Cisco Telepresence. There is a bustling green economy, with green collar jobs replacing lots of the retail jobs. Malls are a vestige from the past. Instead of buying things, people are consuming experiences. The obesity rate has gone down, due to people walking and biking more, and eating less junk food. Fast food places are now serving organic nutritionally healthy Happy Meals. The water crisis has been averted thanks to new technologies and smart conservation policies. Businesses have turned into social centers that help connect people in developed countries with their counterparts in developing countries. Municipalities have a no waste system, where everything gets recycled or ends up in compost. The world feels happy and at peace. 

Now, your turn! What do you see? 

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