Posts Tagged ‘green politics’

Wilting agenda: Britain loses its appetite for green initiatives‘ made the front page of the Financial Times yesterday. We have a lot to learn, however, from the Brits as they struggle through hard economic times and demonstrate to us what can happen then. Some facts, first:

  • With the economy rising to the top of Brits’ concerns, environmental concerns are no longer top of mind. In January 2007, 19% cited the environment as their top concern. A year later, it is down to 8%. 
  • Echoing its citizens’ change of heart, Gordon Brown and its government are backpedaling on green policies, from landfill, to transport, to renewable targets. 

Most interesting, is the public narrative from some of the powers in charge, dismissing the green agenda as if it was either some despicable idea, as in, “People hate this green stuff” – senior member of shadow cabinet -, or some de facto dicy proposition,  “Politicians will need nerves of steel to continue with this (the green stuff, he means). If the economy is doing well and we are prosperous, we can afford the luxury of dealing with climate change – or that is how it is seen. But when times are difficult for the economy and we are caught in the vice of inflation, from a politician’s point of view it becomes much more difficult to press ahead with policies that will increase prices.” – John Roberts, from Bank of Canada and United Utilities

That’s one camp. 

Then there is Together.com, a group of British businesses that are choosing a much different approach: “People can save hundreds of pounds a year by making greener everyday choices. The green penny is definitely dropping for British shoppers feeling the pinch from rising living costs.” Joined by no less than Phil Woolas, the environment minister, with some surprisingly good news: “The green pound really can go further – people can cut their carbon footprint and save money into the bargain. The signs are encouraging. We know that people want to cut their impact on the planet – recycling rates are at a record high, emissions from people’s homes are dropping, and since last June we’ve had nearly a million visitors to our online carbon calculator.” 

Two paths. The latter one, the smart one, is led by the business sector. Last weekend, I caught a talk from Amory Lovins, from the Rocky Mountain Institute, and was struck by his insistence that business be the path to our salvation. Not the citizenry, not our government. One of the advantages of businesses, and even more so American businesses, is their emphasis on getting things done and on the bottom line. If business can smell money with green, as more and more do, we will have won a big part of the battle. 

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Obama speaking on the environment. I had to watch:

I listened attentively to Obama’s words, and felt encouraged by his speech. Part of me wished he would be more aggressive. But then, I have to remember, policy making is a process, and  it has to start somewhere. My favorite moments were his speech to the guys in Detroit and the shots of his two daughters.

Imagine for a second, if you were President of the United States, what would your plan for a sustainable world be? Would it be any different from Barack Obama’s?

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Found this morning in my mailbox, a mail from Science Debate 2008, a citizen-led initiative launched in December 2207, and now 10,000 members strong, including some of the most prestigious names in science, technology, and business:

Dear Marguerite,

We are pleased to announce that the world’s largest general scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has become an official cosponsor of Science Debate 2008. You can read more about it here.

Please expect more major announcements very soon.

In case you missed it, you can hear one of our organizers, Shawn Lawrence Otto, talk with Ira Flatow on National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday.

Click here to listen:

Thank you for your help – the ONLY reason we are making this progress is because of your support. Check out the amazing lists of signers here and here, and please – forward this to your friends and colleagues and ask them to join this important initiative.

Finally, we need some help. We have been personally volunteering full time for this effort, and throwing in our own personal funds, and we need to pay for more web hosting, travel, communications, and event organizing. Please consider making an online donation here.

Thank you!

The team at ScienceDebate2008.com

This is a very important initiative. I am hoping you will join me in supporting Science Debate 2008. Just one click!

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“In addition to changing the light bulbs, it is far more important to change the laws and to change the treaty obligations that nations have,”
From Davos, Gore Says “Changing Light Bulbs” Not Enough
“Whoever is elected is going to have a different position and a better position. But let’s be clear: whoever the leaders are, this issue is going to be dealt with responsibly and effectively only when there is a sufficient degree of urgency on the part of the people themselves.”
These two statements from Al Gore were made in the context of world market turmoil and the impact it has had on the content of the Davos discussions, shifting the attention away from global warming. 

In an earlier article, I shared Michael’s Oppenheimer‘s concern for that very issue, what Elke Weber calls the limited worry pool. The real danger is that world leaders and their people get distracted from the urgency of the climate fight, by an ongoing flow of crisis, as is the case currently with the financial markets. Tomorrow it could be a war, or a terrorist attack, . . .

This reminds me of this family I saw years ago as a therapist. One of the children had been killed by the boyfriend’s mother, and she had gone on with her life trying not to burden the other siblings with her grief. The big issue in the family was the message she had sent to the other children, that she did not seem to value the life of their dead sibling, and hence their own lives. Every week the family came, and presented with yet another crisis, that ‘could not be ignored’. In the mean time, nothing changed and the family became increasingly at risk of disintegration. Not until I realized what was really going on, and I stopped reacting to each weekly crisis did we start the real work. Same thing with global warming. World leaders need to realize that there will always be a new crisis. However, the one crisis that supersedes all others is global warming. Nature cannot wait. Markets will return to normal. Wars will end. The damage that’s being caused to our living ecosystem is on its way to being irreversible.

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Following yesterday’s discussion, I thought it would be appropriate to share excerpts from  ‘Everything’s Cool‘, the recently released documentary from award-winning co-directors and co-producers, Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand:

The answer is: not.


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In the interest of the Not So Green Exposure Project, and also for all of you with the desire to activate, I am passing on this mail, just received from MoveOn.org:

Dear MoveOn member,

In the last year, the major TV networks asked the presidential candidates 2,679 questions. Pop quiz: How many were about global warming?

A) 514—after all, it’s one of the top issues facing the country
B) 165—as many as were asked about illegal immigration
C) 3—the same number asked about UFOs

If you guessed 3, you’re right: Reporters asked as many questions about UFOs as they did about the climate crisis—the biggest threat to our planet.1

Can you sign our petition urging top TV reporters to ask the presidential candidates about global warming? Click here to add your name:


The petition to the reporters says: “The American public deserves to know where all the candidates stand on the climate crisis and the solutions they propose to address it. Asking those questions is your responsibility.”

Please forward this email to your friends, family, and co-workers.

The media help decide what’s an “issue” in the ’08 election. Unless climate change is on the ’08 election agenda, it won’t be on the next president’s agenda. And the UN’s top climate expert warned: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two or three years will determine our future.”2

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. And polls show that voters care about it.3 But somehow, the TV networks never got the memo. NBC’s top political reporter, Tim Russert, didn’t ask a single question about global warming last year. Same for Sunday political show hosts on CBS and ABC. CNN asked just 1. Incredibly, Republican-leaning Fox bested them all with a grand total of 2.

Our friends at the League of Conservation Voters will deliver your signature and comment directly to the TV networks at a press conference in front of their Washington, D.C., headquarters. And they’ll use our petition signatures to prove there’s public demand for TV anchors to ask about climate change.

Sign this petition to urge TV anchors to ask about climate change. Clicking here will add your name:


Thank you for all you do.

–Noah, Wes, Ilyse, Justin, and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

1. “What Are They Waiting For?”, League of Conservation Voters

2. “Desperate times, desperate scientists,” Salon News, December 12, 2007

3. “Poll: Finding Their Voice as Agents of Change,” Democracy Corps, October 30, 2007

All it takes is one click.

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Back from a local training meeting for Obama volunteers. The room was overflowing with people, all fired up to go out and mobilize voters. This was my first time attending a political meeting, and the first time for many of the people there as well.

I was thinking about the article I wrote regarding the Psychological Challenges and Opportunities of Global Warming, and the difficulty of getting people from being ‘concerned and unmoved‘ to being ‘concerned and moved‘. What is different this time with Obama, that moved me into action? Maybe there is something to be learned here, that can be applied to behavioral environmental srategies.

The Power of Charismatic Leadership to Inspire Environmental Action

What made me drive to the local Obama headquarters this morning was my enthusiasm for the man himself. I feel a personal connection with him, his values, and his journey. I respond to his charisma, and his qualities as an extraordinary leader, and uniter of all people. This morning I felt the power of the crowd, of no longer being just one person, but part of something greater, a chance to participate in history.

And I have to agree with Michael Oppenheimer again, that ‘strong leaders can at least create the conditions where attention is paid to a key issue like global warming‘. What I may not be able to accomplish on my own, I may do as a follower of a charismatic leader such as Obama, and as a member of the (environmental) community that he is creating.

This, by the way, does not mean, that I am to wait for Obama to get elected to do my personal share of the fight against global warming.

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One Track Mind

New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, AOL homepage, NPR, my habitual news sources are mute on climate change. Have been for the last week. The elections have taken over, and there is no space left for much else. I no longer see, hear green. Like the rest of my fellow Americans, I have become obsessed with the polls, latest gossips, and predictions. I am an Obama girl, cheering for her man. In the mean time, CO2 is continuing its dirty work. But we are all taking a break from watching. Our minds are too busy keeping track of Hillary, Obama, and Edwards, and Mc Cain, and Romney, and Huckabee. There is a competition going on, and the thrill of not knowing who’s going to win in the end, is too hard to resist. Yesterday Hillary nearly cried, and that was big news. Tonight, it looks as if Obama is winning again. We are addicted. And that’s ok, as long as we make sure to vote for candidates with a sound climate change agenda.

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Conclusion of the U.N Conference on Climate Change, and a Reuters brief, that cuts through the niceties of Yvo de Boer’s diplomatic discourse:

Nearly 200 nations agreed at U.N.-led talks in Bali on Saturday to launch negotiations on a new pact to fight global warming after a reversal by the United States allowed a breakthrough.

Washington said the agreement marked a new chapter in climate diplomacy after six years of disputes with major allies since President George W. Bush pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, the main existing plan for combating warming.

“This is the defining moment for me and my mandate as secretary-general,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after making a return trip to Bali to implore delegates to overcome deadlock after the talks ran a day into overtime.

Ban had been on a visit to East Timor. “I am deeply grateful to many member states for their spirit of flexibility and compromise,” Ban told Reuters.

The Bali meeting approved a “roadmap” for two years of talks to adopt a new treaty to succeed Kyoto beyond 2012, widening it to the United States and developing nations such as China and India. Under the deal, a successor pact will be agreed at a meeting in Copenhagen in late 2009.

The deal after two weeks of talks came when the United States dramatically dropped opposition to a proposal by the main developing-nation bloc, the G77, for rich nations to do more to help the developing world fight rising greenhouse emissions.

The United States is the leading greenhouse gas emitter, ahead of China, Russia and India.

Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar, the host of the talks, banged down the gavel on the deal to rapturous applause from weary delegates.

“All three things I wanted have come out of these talks — launch, agenda, end date,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told reporters.

The accord marks a step towards slowing global warming that the U.N. climate panel says is caused by human activities led by burning fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Scientists say rising temperatures could cause seas to rise sharply, glaciers to melt, storms and droughts to become more intense and mass migration of climate refugees.


The U.S. has been humbled by the overwhelming message by developing countries that they are ready to be engaged with the problem, and it’s been humiliated by the world community. I’ve never seen such a flip-flop in an environmental treaty context ever,” said Bill Hare of Greenpeace.

The European Union, which dropped earlier objections to the draft text, was pleased with the deal.

“It was exactly what we wanted. We are indeed very pleased,” said Humberto Rosa, head of the European Union delegation.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel was cautiously optimistic.

“Bali has laid the foundations …it was hard work and exhausting. But the real work starts now,” he said in Bali.

But a leading Indian environmentalist was disappointed.

“At the end of the day, we got an extremely weak agreement,” said Sunita Narain, head of the Centre for Science and the Environment in New Delhi. “It’s obvious the U.S. is not learning to be alive to world opinion.”

Agreement by 2009 would give governments time to ratify the pact and give certainty to markets and investors wanting to switch to cleaner energy technologies, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Kyoto binds all industrial countries except the United States to cut emissions of greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012. Developing nations are exempt and the new negotiations will seek to bind all countries to emission curbs from 2013.


In a day of drama and emotional speeches, nations had berated and booed the U.S. representatives for holding out. A wave of relief swept the room when the United States relented.

“The United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together,” said Paula Dobriansky, head of the U.S. delegation.

“With that, Mr Chairman, let me say to you we will go forward and join consensus,” she said to cheers and claps.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said: “This is not a step taken alone by America. This is a step taken by all the countries that the time had come to open a new chapter.”


In the end, it was all about peer pressure, and shame. And saving face.

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Here is the link to my latest post on Environmental Graffiti:

State of California Wins Major Fight Against Auto Industry

Again, California is leading the way on the environmental front . . . I must say I am very proud of the role played by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) in the passing of the AB 1493 California Clean Cars Bill, the same law that could, if all goes well with the recent ruling, set the standards for cars emission, nationwide. I am a member of E2, and it is largely in part due to E2’s advocacy efforts, that AB 1493 got signed. What it takes as a citizen: supporting E2 with my yearly subscription to NRDC, attending E2’s monthly meetings, and signing E2’s petition letter, along with all the other E2 members.

Small effort, huge payout.

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