June 06, 2013
Mark Tercek of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has written a new book with Jonathan Adams, Nature's Fortune: How Business & Society Thrive by Investing in Nature. A video interview
of him at an Aspen Institute forum last month at Hunter College, “The
Case for a Profit Motive in Conserving the Environment,” with New York
Times science writer Andrew Revkin showed that his theme and approach
have a lot going for them. He covers more of the right bases than when I
heard him years ago at Stern Business School, but he’s still too
selective about which dots get connected.
Some of the other comments on this video on Revkin’s Dot Blog site
to the contrary, Tercek’s main points are probably quite correct.
Going forward, conserving natural capital can be more cost-effective or
profitable than traditional regulatory and adversarial approaches to
environmental protection, and it may be helpful to see them as
“investment opportunities” -- at least to a point. For instance,
protecting dunes versus building sea walls is better economically, and
has collateral environmental gains. And an environmental group like TNC
can help business figure these out.
May 17, 2013
Today is Endangered Species Day, and animal advocates around the nation are ratcheting up the fight to save their favorite species. Here in Texas, the battle is on to save the shark. According to the latest research, 100 million sharks are disappearing from our oceans each year, primarily driven by the lucrative trade in shark fins, the main ingredient in shark fin soup. Once a dish for emperors, shark fin soup is now served at banquets and in restaurants to satisfy the appetites of Asia’s upwardly mobile society.
The Chinese consumers who are bent on showing off their new money through the consumption of this tasteless delicacy may not fully comprehend the consequences. As apex predators, sharks are the regulators of the sea. Their presence is critical for maintaining a balanced ecology on which fisherman and tourists rely, as well as the two billion of the world’s poor who depend on the ocean for their main source of protein.
To counter this devastating trend that is driving some shark species toward extinction, states are passing legislation to ban the sale and consumption of shark fins. Already Hawaii, Washington, California, Oregon, Illinois, and Maryland have passed laws. Three other bills from East Coast states now await their governors’ signatures to become laws. State by state, Americans are working diligently to close down the market for shark fins. Texans have a historic opportunity to join them.
May 08, 2013
By Matt Polsky and Pooja Aravkar
None of the world’s leading companies pursuing sustainability are U.S.-based, reports Oekom Research, a German company in its annual Corporate Responsibility Review. What could we do about this in New Jersey? Researchers from the Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE) can offer some ideas. The mission of ISE is to “bring people together to learn how to live and manage sustainably by solving problems and capitalizing on opportunities in ways that simultaneously enhance economic, social, and environmental vitality.” It is the intellectual hub of sustainable business thinking in New Jersey.
ISE’s 2010 report Developing and Implementing a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey provided several guidelines for developing a “Green Economy” – an economy that includes and extends beyond clean energy, potentially penetrating all business sectors to protect and restore the environment while creating economic growth. The report, which urges all sectors to practice corporate social responsibility and aim towards greater levels of sustainability, concludes that “New Jersey has a unique opportunity to play a leadership role.”
April 25, 2013
Sea level rise is a hot topic in the Sunshine State. As hundreds of miles of beaches in Florida are threatened, organizations are springing up to save their local coastlines and local economies. Beaches and
coastlines in Florida are tied into property values, taxes, ecosystems, business, tourism, and economy. For Florida residents, beaches are not only critical parts of the state’s natural and financial capital, they are also an integral part of their lifestyle.
Protect Our Beaches
(POB), a West Palm Beach, Florida based non-profit group, is one organization that is leading the charge against
beach erosion. The group held its first public meeting in Palm Beach County, Florida in early April 2013. This coalition to save local beaches from erosion due to storm surge and sea level rise is projecting a singular and powerful voice to the State and Federal governments.
March 22, 2013
Situated among the trees and mountains along the scenic Hudson River, Kingston, New York seems far away from the salty blue waves of the Atlantic. Yet, just 100 miles inland from the World Trade Center, at the southern tip of Manhattan where New York meets the Atlantic, the Tidal Waterfront Flooding Task Force of the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has begun to plan a strategy to manage the inevitable effects of a rising sea. This volunteer advisory board, residents, community advocates, city officials, grassroots organizations, and State experts met with Catalysis Adaptation Partners to determine the impacts of storm surges and Sea Level Rise (SRL) on this historic town, the former capital of New York State.
The group first met with Mayor Shayne Gallo and the community at City Hall on December 6, 2012 to discuss the challenges the city faces from waterfront flooding and sea level rise in the Rondout, a historic downtown district. After Hurricane Sandy, it became evident that it was time to proactively address flooding challenges, including those related to SLR.
February 26, 2013
Watching customers coming in and out of a coffee shop recently, I saw a variety of door etiquette behaviors. Some people held the door open for the person behind them while others chatted or texted obliviously on their phones. Some kicked or nudged the door open with their hands full. A few walked on through, letting the door slam in the face of the person right behind them. Rudeness was the exception, however. Most people politely held the door open for the person behind them. This had me wondering why exactly it is that we extend this courtesy to others. Is it because we feel responsible to do so? Do we consider it moral or ethical? Are we being conscientious, or do we happen to care more about people than those who fail to hold the door? Regardless of the reason, it is clear that holding the door is culturally accepted as the right thing to do in a civilized society.
The next person through the door of coffee shop was John Englander, author of High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis. Our meeting gave me occasion to draw a connection between door-holding action and our individual action regarding climate change. Do we adjust our behavior to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because we feel responsible, conscientious or caring, or because it is moral or ethical? I parked my thoughts in order to listen to John as he explained how, compared to most disasters that provide little or no warning, rising sea level allows us time to plan for “intelligent adaptation.”
February 15, 2013
Dallas ranks 6th and Fort Worth 7th among the utility-supported solar cities in Texas, according to a recent report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. The report, “Reaching for the Sun: How San Antonio and Austin are showing that solar is a powerful energy option for Texas” finds the Metroplex in the shadow of solar leaders San Antonio and Austin.
The report finds there are 972 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy that have been installed in Fort Worth and 1,243 KW in Dallas, in part from incentives from the local utility Oncor. While Oncor ranked a distant 3rd among utilities in Texas, the entire deregulated area of the state fared poorly. The report from Environment Texas finds that the municipally-owned utilities in San Antonio and Austin installed four times more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than the rest of Texas combined - or 85 percent of the state total. The report credits the cities’ strong policies encouraging solar power on residences and businesses, and in utility-scale installations.
“DFW is a world leader in energy, but when it comes to solar power, we’re being eclipsed by other cities,” said Jennifer Rubiello, Dallas/Fort Worth organizer for Environment Texas. “It’s time we reach for the sun and bring clean solar energy to the rooftops of our homes, schools and businesses.”
“For the past three years, Texas has faced a looming energy shortfall based on rapid demand growth,” said Principal Solar executive Michael Martin, “but solar can fulfill this shortfall well, demonstrating excellent daily and seasonal correlation to peak demand.”
“Of the various abundant natural resources that Texas is blessed with, solar offers the greatest underutilized potential for us to tap into a clean source of power,” said Anna Clark, founder of EarthPeople, a sustainability communications firm and co-founder of the Dallas chapter of Interfaith Power & Light.
Click here to read the full press release.
February 04, 2013
Snark has its good points. In fact, a student once asked me to show more videos of comedians specializing in political and social snark. Using this sarcastic tone can be funny, a way to stand out, to make a point, to seem cool and current, and even to show that your side can laugh at itself. And, as others have stated before (Christine Whitman, most recently), “Politics ain’t beanbag.” But we might ask ourselves, what are we trying to accomplish with snarky communication? Could it be time to step back and take an honest look at the ensuing costs to individuals and society for such widespread maltreatment?
Consider Al Gore. In a span of two weeks, I counted four articles in The New York Times criticizing him. When it comes to Gore, any acknowledgments of the character of the man and what he has accomplished are frequently and conspicuously absent. (Brian Stelter, for example, painted a very unfavorable, one-sided portrait of him in “Gore Went to Bat for Al Jazeera, and Himself.”) While no one is above criticism and some legitimate points were introduced, there has to be some balance, especially considering his achievements.
December 30, 2012
Do we really need to use the “S-word” – sustainability -- in order to talk about sustainability? Joel Makower originally posed this question (and answered with a “no”). This strikes me as one of the classic questions for our still-young field, one that goes to its core, and which will be raised again and again.
The polar extremes of response to the question are: “Sustainability just doesn’t resonate with my audiences, I can make changes in my organization without it, so who needs it?” versus “How can you possibly talk about a subject without mentioning the main way you refer to that subject?” I aim to speak both to the critics at the first pole, as well as those who want to take the sustainability term further.
December 17, 2012
I teach two courses in Environmental Sustainability at SMU and I have been involved with energy efficiency and sustainability for more than 20 years. From the teaching standpoint, Environmental Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry which examines the relation between energy and economy in human social evolution. If there's one thing you can count on in the current debates about climate science, energy resources, and environmental impact, it is that few people understand the controlling points of the science of energetics, the branch of physics which examines energy transformations.
Economics, a convention of human beings for the production and distribution of goods and services, says nothing about energy or specifically the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI), a key concept in understanding the long-term functionality of any biological system. Unfortunately, political viewpoints and wishful thinking appear to rule the discussion rather than the laws of physics.