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Posts Tagged ‘Wal-Mart’

Thomas Friedman‘s upcoming book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America, ends with a 20 question discussion guide. You need not wait for the book to come out, to start thinking. Here is a summary of Tom’s questions – slightly modified to accommodate for your lack of familiarity with the book:

  1. How has America’s bunker mentality affected its role as an agent for positive change in the global arena?
  2. How do you understand the history of energy crisis and high fuel prices, from Carter-era progressivism through the Reagan era and beyond? 
  3. Friedman oulines three trends that capture diverse American attitudes toward energy consumption, climate change, and biodiversity: the dumb as we wanna be approach, found even among the political elite; the subprime nation mentality of borrowing our way to prosperity; and the optimism of innovators who want to do what’s right. Which attitudes prevails in your community?
  4. Discuss the factors that have shaped the Energy-Climate Era: overcrowding due to population growth and longevity, the flattening of the world due to the rise of personal computers and the Internet, the fall of the Soviet Union, and other developments. How have these factors affected America economically, politically, and otherwise?
  5. The book makes the distinction between “fuels from hell” and “fuels from heaven”. How is your life fueled by both categories? What would it take to transition completely to “fuels from heaven”?
  6. In your community, who has the most obvious case of affluenza? How would these groups fare under Chinese capitalism? Do you agree with Friedman‘s prediction that Chinese capitalism will signal the death of the European welfare state? What other repercussions will rising affluence within the Chinese middle class be likely to have?
  7. Friedman describes his visit to an ultra-green Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, and the highly unecological urban sprawl he had to ride through to get there. In what way is this a microcosm of America’s current approach to Code Green?
  8. Friedman‘s first law of petropolitics states that as the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down. Why is this so often true? Did this principle apply to prosperity for American oil companies in the early twentieth century? What are the ramifications of Friedman‘s second law of petropolitics, You cannot be either an effective foreign policy realist or an effective democracy-promoting idealist without also being an effective energy-saving environmentalist”?
  9. Friedman describes the controversy that ensued when meteorologist Heidi Cullen tried to educate her audience about global warming. What is the best way to inform those who tune out such messages, which they believe are tantamount to “politicizing the wheather”?
  10. Friedman discusses the importance of biodiversity. Why do the efforts of groups such as Conservation International receive less attention than climate-change studies, though Friedman asserts that they are equally crucial?
  11. What do you think of the proposal, that “ending poverty” is a key to healing third-world populations, particularly in Africa. What is the best way to balance the need for energy in these regions with the destructive effects of power-supply emissions? What is the  best way to overcome the political instability that has stymied the growth of power grids in these locales?
  12. At the heart of Friedman‘s argument is the notion that market demands drive innovation. What would it take to transform America’s perception so that the Code Green message is seen as a key to prosperity? How has the image of environmentalism changed during your lifetime?
  13. Friedman decries halfhearted attempts at environmental challenge, comparing them to a party rather than a revolution. At your workplace, in your neighborhood, and within your circle of friends, is it fashionable to go green? Is it taken seriously enough to become a bona fide movement, and then a revolution, where you live?
  14. What should the role of government be in the face of a looming ecological crisis? How much government control is too much? Could a politician get elected in America by proposing higher fuel taxes and other disincentives for energy consumption?
  15. Do you agree with Friedman‘s economic principle that, REEFIGDCPEERPC (Renewable Energy Ecosystem for Innovating, Generating, and Deploying Clean Power, Energy Efficiency, Resource Productivity, and Conservation), is less than TTCOBCOG (True Cost of Burning Coal, Oil, and Gas)? How does this apply to your world? Why has America been slow to believe that REEFIGD-CPEERPC is affordable?
  16. Are any of the ideas described in Friedman‘s “futuristic” scenario (such as the Smart Black Box, smart grids, RESUs instead of cars, and energy costs that vary according to time of day) already in the works in your state?
  17. Friedman believes that the alternative-energy movement needs an economic bubble, similar to the one that poured staggering amounts of venture capital into the dot-com industry. In your opinion, why hasn’t this happened yet?
  18. Friedman describes a number of innovators and persuaders who have made significant inroads in improving conservation efforts, including an Indonesian imam, who was persuaded to acknowledge river pollution, New York taxi drivers who now praise hybrid vehicles, and the U.S. military’s determination to “outgreen” the enemy. What do these agents of change have in common? What should green revolutionaries learn from these experiences?
  19. One of Friedman‘s conclusions is that “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” How will this play out in upcoming elections at all levels, local, state, and federal? What will the legacy of those elected officials be? How can you help to lead the Code Green revolution?
  20. How is the world changing? What human impulses (such as materialism, benevolence, ec)  are shaping these changes?

That’s a lot to chew on. 

Most useful to me, is  Friedman‘s imagery. “Fuels from Hell”, “Fuels from Heaven”, is a concept worth propagating. So are “Code Green”, and “Green Revolution”. These are words that can stick in the collective imagination. Let us start weaving them into our conversations. 

I also appreciate his view that, “it is much more important to change your leaders than your lightbulbs.” His segmentation of leaders into three groups is particularly helpful and can be used to guide persuasion efforts with the powers in charge. 

Last, I need to thank Friedman for reminding us to not forget biodiversity in our conversations. I am taking note.

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For an edifying picture of China’s real status on the environmental front, I suggest you read Peter Navarro‘s latest article in Energy Bulletin. Peter is the author of the upcoming book, ‘The Coming China Wars‘. In summary:

  • Every single week, China adds one new large coal power plant to its energy base.
  • China is now adding 15,000 new cars a day to its roads, and it expects to have more cars than the United States — as many as 130 million — as early as 2040.
  • China is expected to construct fully half of all the buildings in the world over the next 25 years. Beyond sheer quantity, the nightmare here is that these buildings will be electricity sinkholes because Chinese buildings are notoriously energy inefficient. 
  • China plans to move almost a half a billion peasants off the farm into factories and cities over the next several decades. As a rule, urbanites introduced to the magic of refrigerators, TVs, and toasters use more than three times the amount of energy as their rural counterparts.
  • Chinese manufacturers are extremely energy inefficient. To produce an equivalent amount of goods, they use six times more resources than the United States, seven times more resources than Japan, and, most embarrassingly, three times more resources than India, to which China is most frequently compared.
Guess who is feeding China’s gigantic pollution factory? Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, touted by Adam Werbach as the new corporate environmental hero, represents 30 percent of foreign purchasing in China. 27 billion dollars total. No greening strategy can make up for the fact that we, the 89% of American people who shop at Wal-Mart, are contributing in no insignificant terms, to China’s lethal gases spewing frenzy.  

More than ever, let us make ours, the old ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle

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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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Adam Werbach is the CEO of Act Now Productions, one of the hottest environmental consulting firms. Adam Werbach and his company are most known for their controversial work with Wal-Mart. Of particular interest to me is the program called ‘PSP‘, for ‘Personal Sustainability Promise‘, that Werbach and his team implemented with all Wal-Mart employees.

What Is Your Personal Sustainability Promise?

Below is a description of the program, from a recent San Francisco Chronicle article:

‘The crux of the program was a concept Werbach and a few others had created called “PSP,” or “Personal Sustainability Promise,” the goal of which was to get every Wal-Mart associate to commit to a behavioral change that would benefit the earth. It could be the decision to carpool, to plant trees, to eat organic food, to recycle – anything that might reduce pollution and waste and raise environmental awareness.

After testing the concept in 120 stores, Wal-Mart gave Act Now the green light to take PSP companywide. By now, virtually every employee has been approached, and the response, Werbach says, has been remarkable.

“There was always going to be that guy who says, ‘I’ve got my cheeseburger, I just want to drive my truck,’ but a lot of these people have Depression values – you just don’t waste, you don’t throw stuff away – and we found you could make it resonate with them on that basis. Also, a lot of them connected it to their religion, the idea that they’re stewards of the earth. There were a lot of ‘Aha! moments where somebody would go, ‘So this is sustainability.’ “

Some environmentalists I talked to scoff at the PSP idea, arguing that Wal-Mart and Adam Werbach are fiddling while the globe burns. But, according to Andy Ruben (Wal-Mart Sustainability Program Head), the program is having such a positive effect other large corporations (as well as Wal-Mart’s suppliers) are beginning to follow suit.’

What I like about the PSP concept:

  • It does not overwhelm people and asks them for one behavioral change instead.
  • It lets them define what change would work best for them.
  • It acknowledges the fact that the most important thing is for people to get started.
  • It leverages peer pressure from work community.
  • It opens the door for people to create their own definition of sustainability.

In turn, all the Wal-Mart employees, 1.4 million of them can become agents of change withing their own social circles.

I don’t see why the PSP model could not be used in other settings, besides corporations. Think schools, cities, congregations, small businesses, social networks.

My Personal Sustainability Promise is: to cut down on driving whenever I can. What is yours?

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