It's the Environment, Stupid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New York's Green Agenda

NY has been in the news recently for pushing forward a green agenda.

New NY gov Eliot Spitzer is going back to the ol' Carter mantra and calling for conservation. He's proposing a combo of legislation and regulations to get the state to consume less energy by 2015. Although the details haven't been revealed, the NY Times reported that these will include stricter energy standards for appliances, and upping the ante for energy efficiency on (so-called) green buildings. There's also talk about building/installing renewable energy generation facilities.

The reasoning for this is simple - by using less energy the state will save money. Well that, and Spitzer won't be forced to be the bad guy in proposing to build new power plants, even though he's already proposed legislation to make NIMBY a non-issue in locating "clean" power producing facilities (besides, by the time the state will need more power plants the Gov will have moved on to bigger and better things...)

In other NY news - NYC mayor Bloomberg revealed his big green plan for the city yesterday. However, this plan will need some serious cash (with some projects it could be in the ballpark of $200 mil a year). One revenue generating proposal involves a toll for drivers coming into Manhattan (based on a similar scheme in London). The PlaNYC (that's what they're calling it) is very, very, very ambitious and includes proposals for several gigantic projects:

One proposal calls for investments of $200 million a year from both the city and state to create a financing authority that would assure the completion of major projects like the Second Avenue subway. New authorities, with representatives from the city, state and private industry, would push for improved energy efficiency in new buildings and for the replacement of energy-guzzling power plants.

The city also would encourage the construction of platforms over railyards and highways to create land for housing. In addition, the plan would open 290 schoolyards as playgrounds, eliminate city sales taxes on energy-efficient hybrid vehicles, increase the number of bike paths and cultivate mussels to suck pollution out of the rivers.

n another measure, the city would plant more than 1 million trees in the next 10 years. It would offer incentives — intended to capture storm water runoff — for larger and deeper sidewalk tree pits and green roofs.

The plan calls for zoning changes in many neighborhoods with access to public transportation that would allow for larger homes and a higher density of housing, although such changes are often resisted in those neighborhoods.

It pledges that every New Yorker would live within a 10-minute walk from a park, and it calls for small public plazas in each community board district that does not have a park.

It would replace or modernize diesel-powered school buses in the city fleet and offer incentives to get heavy diesel trucks off the road. And it would commit city funds to clean up 7,600 acres of so-called brownfields, where soil has been polluted by chemicals or industrial materials. Some of the land would become parks.

It is a lofty vision for NYC, but I think it is just what this city needs. It goes back to a question I've asked before here, how do we rebuild the already built up environment?

NYC doesn't have the luxury of space as nearly every square inch has been built upon, yet the city is an ever changing place even despite these existing infrastructures (and perhaps because of them.) There is a lot of development and redevelopment going on, and neighborhoods across the five boroughs are being revitalized (or destroyed depending on whose side you're on). But this redevelopment does need direction and a vision and it sounds like Bloomberg is stepping up to provide just that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Military Advises - Climate Change is a National Security Threat

You know it's getting serious when the military makes a public statment saying that global warming is threatening national security.

The new study entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" was put together by a non-profit research center, CNA Corporation, with help from their advisory board made up of retired, high ranking, military officers.

Even though the military officials that advised on this report are retired (and one tends to get a little freer with one's speech when one's job isn't on the line) they recommend that "[t]he U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability."

From a military perspective climate change and the scenarios that go with it become a geopolitical issue destined for conflict. By acting now and realizing the global nature of anticipated effects of climate change we could reduce the risk of future conflict.

The military is already one of the largest purchasers of wind power and invests in green technology research, mainly because it will save them money, but they often do these things on the down-low and don't make a big fuss or issue big reports on the matter.

Their conclusion here - that climate change is a threat to national security - should perk up the ears of the whitehouse. Afterall, GW alluded to something like that in his state of the union address, but it was rather vague and not at all straightforward as and one had to read between the speech writer's lines to put two and two together.

Via Green Options; ENS

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Wal-Mart Responds to Article About The Whole Backing Down From Organics Thing

Jeff over at Green Options (my blog home away from home) has posted Wal-Mart's response to BusinessWeek about their recent article:
A representative of the company passed the letter along to Green Options, and we've published it in full below. Wal-Mart's efforts to "green" its products and operations will have an enormous effect on the supply of and demand for more sustainable options in the marketplace, so we believe this conversation about the company's commitments needs to happen through a broad range of media channels.
I recommend reading the letter posted in full by GO (it basically says the BusinessWeek article misrepresented Wal-Mart, and that Wal-Mart is still committed to selling organic items while staying true to their Always Low Price guarantee.)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wal-Mart Backs Down from Organics

The big box retailer's big green push has faltered. Wal-Mart has cut back or cancelled its orders for organic produce because customers just weren't buying.

This has left a lot of farmers in a lurch and leaving Wal-Mart to rethink their business model.

A Business Week article reports that Wal-Mart's strategy turned out to be a big flop. Even though a percentage of Wal-Mart customers make more than $75,000, they still go to Wal-Mart to find bargains, not shop for organic produce.

The retailer's existing customers tend to be very price-conscious and may not be willing to pay a premium for organic foods. On the other hand, consumers who go to stores like Whole Foods Market (WFMI) or Wild Oats Markets (OATS) are less price-sensitive and may not be lured to Wal-Mart with low prices.

Wal-Mart's traditional business model that has made them king in the low price retail department turned out not to work as well with organic produce or the people that grow it.

Wal-Mart is known for its hardball tactics with suppliers, driving costs as low as possible and regularly switching suppliers to get the best price. That kind of attitude can alienate farmers, especially organic ones, who tend to plan their crops years ahead of time.
Last I heard, Wal-Mart sells more than just organic produce in their super stores. So while this may be a set-back in the 'be green' category, there are still many avenues the corporation can take to maintain their place on the Fortune 500 list (2nd) and keep moving forward with their environmental efforts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rockies Get in the Solar Power Game

And by Rockies I mean the Colorado Rockies - not the mountain range, the baseball team.

I talked about the SF Giants putting solar panels up on their stadium - now the Rockies are getting into the game. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg over at TreeHugger featured the new Rockies solar array. Here's what he has to say:

While some will argue that such moves primarily power the teams' PR efforts, the educational benefits of such stadium additions could be profound. Baseball parks are a familiar, even friendly, environments for many Americans, and displaying solar power in such venues could make renewable technologies seem a bit less foreign to many fans. Play ball!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Recycling Hits the Streets in NYC

Last April on a visit to my hometown of Seattle, I blogged about blue recycling bins next to regular garbage cans on downtown street corners. I remarked, "Wouldn't it be great if this option were available on all downtown sidewalks in all downtown areas?"

Well, NYC is giving it a shot with a new pilot project in all five boroughs. The Spring 2007 Public Space Recycling Pilot will run from April through June featuring green and blue bins in select areas. The green is for newspapers and magazines. The blue is for bottles and cans. A public awareness campaign promoting proper usage of the bins will surround the targeted areas on phone kiosks and bus stops.

If all goes well we could see green and blue bins city wide - however, given the behavior of New Yorkers, I'm guessing a lot of trash is going to get thrown into the recycling bins. I think a lot of out of towners and transplants from eco-friendly cities will recognize what goes where, but unless there's a place for garbage right next to the recycing bins, it may not work as expected.Hopefully that won't deter officials from thinking about extending the pilot or implementing the plan on a wider scale.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Message to Developing Nations: You're Screwed

Check out this article from Sunday's NY Times, "Poor Nations to Bear Brunt as World Warms".

The article focuses on how rich countries are working out ways to adapt to their changing environments, and how poor countries, which can barely address their current problems, are at a great disadvantage and as a result, will suffer disproportionately. The article also draws attention to special environmental and climate change funds intended to help lower income countries deal with climate change. However, the conclusion reached in the article is: it simply won't be enough and developing nations will be left on their own.

I agree with this sentiment. Climate change is just another in a long list of problems plaguing the world where the poor will be disproportionately affected.

The only way to make any foreign aid money go farther is to incorporate climate change adaptation measures into current efforts of reducing poverty, increasing access to clean water, improving agricultural practices, and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria (etc.) Of course it is easier said than done but not only will the poor suffer greatly as a result of climate change, so too will the global economy, and that will affect everyone.