It's the Environment, Stupid.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Brundtland Report 20th Anniversary

One of my biggest pet peeves is how people (mainly experts, government officials and journalists) throw around the Brundtland Commission Report definition of sustainable development to explain sustainability in an environmental context.
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The definition is rarely quoted as it appears in the report and it is often applied in situations that emphasize environmental conservation without taking into consideration any social or economic aspects. A reading of the (lengthy) report reveals that sustainable development must include all three elements - environmental, social and economic - in order for this definition to be achieved.

(On a side note: the other thing that bugs me is how the term sustainable development is (wrongly) attributed to originating in the report, as is the concept of itself. The term was first used in international dialogue in the World Conservation Strategy in 1980, the concept I believe was introduced in the international arena in the Stockholm Declaration of 1972. Read my definition evolution here.)

Of course this is not to minimize the importance of the Brundtland Report and the commission's work (the commission was created in 1983 - the report came out five years later in 1987). It really was the first of its kind to draw broad links between environmental, social and economic concerns and it made international policy recommendations accordingly.

It also provided a strong platform for the concept of sustainable development to jump to a higher level. It prompted the UN to call for the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the event that churned out the precursor to the Kyoto Protocol and Local Agenda 21 (local efforts at environmental conservation and clean-up actions globally).

On the 20th anniversary of the report's release the World Business Council on Sustaianble Development (WBCSD) has come out with a report of its own, "Then and Now: Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the "Brundtland Report.""

The WBCSD report gives an accurate summation of the Brundtland report and focuses on how the WBCSD has stepped in to fill void of the business voice in the sustainable development arena and what steps they're working on in moving towards the future. While it is primarily a nice self-promotional piece, "Then and Now" does highlight positive efforts and initiatives the WBCSD and their member companies have achieved over the years.

Still, 20 years later, nearly everything in the Brundtland report (including messages of caution and precaution regarding climate change) applies today - which can be viewed as both positive (tremendous insight and forward thinking) and negative (we've done little as a global community to remedy these concerns.) With this recent resurgence of popularity for enviro concerns, I think we're seeing a little more effort from governments and policy makers to address the issues that have been put off for too long.

Monday, March 26, 2007

National Association of Manufacturers - a Green Wash?

Normally I'm pro-business and am constantly advocating for the environment and economy to live happily ever after, but I was a little skeptical after reading this news brief from Environmental Leader, "NAM Wants Balance Between Environment and Economic Growth".

NAM is the National Association of Manufacturers and they've just submitted comments to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce regarding their thoughts about climate change policy. The NAM press release on the matter states:

The NAM advised leadership to find a balance between protecting our environment and continuing to grow our economy... NAM recommended that any climate change proposals must be flexible, global in scope, pre-empt state climate laws, transparent, considerate of our economy and viewed in context of an overall energy policy. Additionally, any proposal that does not anticipate global participation will be doomed to simply transfer the emissions from one country to another. Moreover, the NAM explained that climate change policy should be viewed in the larger context of an energy policy.

This statement obviously is a dig at the whole developing-nations- must-also-pull-their-weight-or-we're-not-going-to-play-either argument (in line with the current White House mantra on climate change policy).

However, upon reading through NAM's Energy Security for American Competitiveness Legislative Proposal there really is no goal at environmental protection, but rather to preserve the nation's right to cheap and readily available energy.

They call for greater participation and integration of the Department of Energy through partnerships with educational institutions and the DOE national laboratory. (This could be a good thing.) They also call for an extension of the R&D tax credit (good thing) and an evaluation/analysis of existing regulations to determine their energy effectiveness (good thing).

The proposal also calls for the extension of tax credits for renewable power sources and incentives for wind and solar farms (good) and suggests that the government expedite coal leases, expedite approval for new nuclear plants, approve drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and increase offshore oil exploration (not so good, really not good, and not so enviro friendly).

Unfortunately, while I see their point and need for cheap electricity to supply the manufacturing industry, the lights are blinking GREEN WASHING on this proposal. They know that climate change/global warming and enviro concerns are a hot button right now and they're spinning appropriately - but clearly their focus is not on anything but convincing the feds to keep energy prices cheap.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Something more powerful than Barry Bonds...

The San Francisco Giants are planning to install solar panels on their stadium to generate power for the grid.

Together with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) the SF baseball club has partnered to put in 590 solar panels that'll generate 123 kilowatts of power - however all that juice won't be used for the stadium's electricity needs, it'll benefit the city instead.

I think this is a pretty darn cool idea, although it doesn't seem like an awful lot of power I suppose every little bit helps - and maybe it'll give the press a little distraction from the whole Bonds/steroid scandal.

Via Green Options from the Examiner

Monday, March 19, 2007

And speaking of water...

If you live in NYC you can support the United Nations World Water Day through the Tap Project.

This Thursday, March 22, dine at a participating restaraunt (click here for a full list) and add a buck to your bill which will go towards UNICEF efforts at helping children around the world get access to safe drinking water.

Project Bottled Water

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has taken on a new mission: Project Bottled Water.

Project Bottled Water is a study on the safety of bottled water and their first project is gathering data on labels. So if you've bought a bottle o' H20 tell the folks over at EWG about it.

Click here to submit your bottled water label info.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Go Green for St. Paddy's Day

I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of a "be green on St. Patrick's day" push. Sure it's a little cheezy - but if you're wearing green may as well be green too. Right?

A quick Google search revealed a few items of note for those playing up the green theme:

ConEd sent out a press release that got picked up by (among other places) pushing their green power, or ConEd Solutions where customers can opt to pay a flat fee on their power bill and the utility company uses that money towards purchasing wind power and other alternatives.

Wal-Mart got a little plug on CNN Money (among a few other places) for customers to "truly go 'green'" with organic offereings from the retail giant.

The University of Nebraska gave the "go green" a nutritional spin asking students to eat more green (and thus healthy) on the 17th (and I don't think green beer counts.)

Verizon Wireless program Hopeline asked for unwanted cell phone donations in a "go green" effort - the phones will be reactivated and put to use in needy communities or recycled responsibly.

And well, then I'm down to about the 5th page in the Google search... maybe next year the enviro-green link will get more play on the Irish (American) holiday.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Army Corps of Engineers came up with a bad idea

Insurance agencies take note: The Army Corps of Engineers is telling people to build in flood plains.

"Nationwide permits" which are issued by the Corps to regulate activity in wetlands and other water areas are updated every five years. You might apply for one of these permits if you wanted to change the course of a small stream on your land; if you're a developer and want to fill in some wetlands; or if you're a mining company and want to dispose of your mining waste in small bodies of water.

These permits are intended to protect lands from environmental destruction, however there's a little bit of controversy around this year's changes. According to an AP article, the new "clarifications" could encourage development in high risk, flood-prone areas. According to the Sierra Club the new verbage gives mining companies a greater license to destroy water supplies.

It doesn't seem like anyone will make any big stink about this right now, nor will it be the new enviro-cause of the month. Sierra Club has made their statement and the regulations have pretty much made it under the radar. This is rather unfortunate because it really does tie in to THE enviro-cause of the year - climate change.

If in fact new development does occur (as new development often does) in areas that are at higher risk for climate-change-induced-"natural disasters" two things will occur. First of all the natural environment/ecosystem will be stripped of its natural ability to cope with excess amounts of rain/water. Secondly, this will compound the situation for whatever structures are created upon this area, which will more than likely have been transformed into personal property or some sort of business. These things carry value and when damaged need insurance money to compensate their owners. And that's just physical property value, which doesn't include any type of loss of life that could occur, especially if schools or hospitals are built in such locations.

I've always thought it was just plain silly to build something in a flood plain (unless it is built to accommodate flooding). But to encourage development in these high risk areas just doesn't seem to be the right direction to be going in. Hopefully the insurance industry will step in to discourage some of that.

Via; MSNBC/AP; Army Corps of Engineers; Sierra Club

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Flu Bug Bit Me

Somehow I usually manage to escape the flu season unscathed (and no, I don't go the vaccination route), but this weekend I was zapped. Headache, chills, fever (at least I'm pretty darned sure I had a fever since I don't have a thermometer), fatigue (the kind where you have to stay in bed because, well, you can't really move kind of fatigue) and headache, plus a little of the sniffles and a slight cough (did I mention headache?)

I'm anti-antibiotics and OTC stuff when it comes to the common cold/flu, with the exception of a little Advil to ease the head pain (which I think by now - a record 4 days in a row without coffee - has turned into caffeine withdrawl headaches - but that's another self-diagnosis/blog post altogether). No NyQuil, DayQuil, or other pretend to make you feel better meds for me (plus, they give me really weird dreams, so I prefer to not to take them in general.) I usually stick to the bedrest, fluids, and vitamin C routine (I'm sure that's recommended somewhere...and I am feeling mostly better.)

So I thought there may be some eco-friendly flu remedies out there (of course I'm checking AFTER the fact...) - and as I expected Ideal Bite had a couple of things...

On the prevention end:
A few hand sanitizer solutions so you're not caught off guard without some good ol fashioned soap'n'water.

For a little relief:
Some herbal cold remedies

I think I'll go get a little hand sanitizer - the subway is an awful germy place....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Green Options - Check it out

Wanted to highlight Green Options again. I've been writing over there since their launch in early Feb. Check out the blog (and my posts over there), the Green Report (which is very cool) and all the other great stuff on this growing green space.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Going Green for Lent

A church in Federal Way, WA (that's just outside of Seattle) is getting it's congregation to give up their bad enviro habits for lent.

During a six week program called "Caretakers of Creation" that began Ash Wednesday and goes through Palm Sunday, members of the Calvary Lutheran Church are recycling, starting up community gardents, making the light bulb switch, conserving water and electricity, and will give up their computers and I-pods on "no technology" day.

I think this is a great way to raise community awareness of and involvement in environmentally responsible practices. The only draw back I see is that it's going end in a few weeks and folks may have a tendency to go back to their old ways after the (obligitory) "sacrifice". Hopefully these Federal Way church goers will see all the good they're doing and will want to continue or at least incorporate a few of these enviro actions into their daily lives all year round.

Incidentally this is the same city where the Al Gore movie was banned from schools, but according to the Tacoma News Tribune article, they may show the Academy Award winning doc.