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February 2006 Archives

February 1, 2006

'We can't let it go on another 10 years like this'

... according to James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

The Washington Post reports that Hansen last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record,
surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree
Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of
about 4 degrees over the next century would 'imply changes that
constitute practically a different planet.'

Here's their lead:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to
warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is
progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to
slow or reverse the trend.

This 'tipping point' scenario has
begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and
abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries
need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.
While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many
say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions
in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that
would be irreversible.

And this sober reminder:

Some scientists, including President Bush's chief science adviser, John
H. Marburger III, emphasize there is still much uncertainty about when
abrupt global warming might occur.
Well, there's actually fairly little uncertainty, based on the international scientific consensus and the data I've seen. But even granting uncertainty: planning for potential disruption is always a function of both the likelihood and the impact of a potential future event; how much 'certainty' do we need when the scale of potential risk is so enormous.

Business executives make decisions in the face of uncertainty every day. Call it contingency planning, probabilistic preparedness, not putting all your eggs in one basket; it makes sense to invest a portion of your resources in building readiness for possible disruptive futures -- especially when, as in the case of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation, the near-term economics are so good as well.

As I told the AHC Group 'Shareholder Value' workshop last week, there are only three reasons for not pursuing an energy efficiency / oil end game strategy:
1. you think it's too expensive (in which case you're doing it wrong);
2. you're convinced the risks -- both climatological and financial -- are so minor they can be ignored (in which case you may be violating your fiduciary duty); or
3. you're too closely tied to the fossil fuels industry.

Speaking of 'closely tied to the fossil fuels industry' : President Bush, in his State of the Union address, calls for ending the US "addiction to oil"! Surprising? Yes. Good news? I'm going to suspend judgement until I read the details.

(By the way, the NY Times reports that [Hansen] says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.... Hansen said he will ignore the restrictions.


Well, Mark Sandalow wasn't thrilled

Well, Mark Sandalow wasn't thrilled by the State of union address:

President Bush's call for Republicans and Democrats to work together, for America to engage the world and for the nation to quit its addiction to oil will sound to many skeptics like Barry Bonds calling for an end to steroid use in baseball.

It was not Bush's failure to solve these problems over the course of the first five years of his presidency that required him to highlight them in his State of the Union address, his critics insist; it was Bush's contributions to these problems that elevated each to a matter of significance.


Biomimicry and Design course - Costa Rica

Biomimicry Guild's fourth Annual Biomimicry and Design course held in Costa Rica, March 4 - 11, 2006. The course is designed for students and professionals in various design fields including architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, interior design, and industrial design interested in applying biomimicry to sustainable architecture and design.

As of February 1, there are only seven seats left for the course.  Registration closes on Monday, February 20.


February 5, 2006

Green bloggers readout

Well, that Green Bloggers event was sold out and plenty of fun. Great dinner afterwards too, at Osha Thai, with panelists and audience.

You can find coverage of the event by GreenLAgirl, sustainablog, TriplePundit and IvanEnviroMan. There may be a podcast or public radio broadcast, too. (That's up to the Commonwealth Club.)

February 8, 2006

Sweden aims for oil-free economy

[BBC]: Sweden says it aims to completely wean itself off oil within 15 years -
without building new nuclear plants.

Chalk up another one. Cool enough, right? Wait, there's more:

The attempt is being planned by a committee of industrialists, academics,
car manufacturers, farmers and others.

Car manufacturers. How cool is that? (Detroit, please take note.)


February 9, 2006

'Daily Show' gets serious about climate

Adam Davis of Solano Partners and Ecosystem Marketplace reports:

Tonight's edition of The Daily Show with John Stewart * will have Eugene Linden as a special guest.  Eugene is the main environment writer for Time Magazine, and a founding member of the Katoomba Group.  His recent article in Fortune Magazine on climate change has gotten a lot of attention. This is bound to be great; don't miss it!

* The best news show on television, IMHO.


February 16, 2006

Blogging slows to a crawl sometimes

It's one of those busy times, friends. Projects, bids, travel, speaking.
(Next gig is at Presidio School of Management this Saturday 7pm, on Measuring Sustainability)

Unfortunately, blogging suffers. ;-(

Back soon as I can


So you think you're juggling a lot?

Wow! Extreme wow!
(This is entirely frivolous and completely worth a few minutes of your spare time.)

From Jeff Hutner

If you ever wanted to know what some highly creative people like to do while listening to The Beatles, check this guy out:


WorldChanging campaign

Our friends at WorldChanging - "another world is here" - have launched the WorldChanging campaign, plugged at Seth's Blog, no doubt others, and now this one.

It's worthy, folks. Dig in.


Ask the Experts

Since last July, I've been writing the "Ask the Experts" column at GreenBiz.com, addressing four questions each month, sent in by readers like you. Now, by special arrangement with me, I'll be posting them here too.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: send me questions! (More or less within the domain of business and environment. Meaning of life goes to a different department.)

(And read the next post.)


Why Should WEEE Care?

[Ask the Experts, Feb 2006]

The European Union's WEEE (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive took effect last August. What's happening? Should I care?

Let's take the second question first: If you manufacture any Electrical and Electronic Equipment that is sold in the European Union -- or components for those products -- you should care, since failure to meet the EU's requirements could result in being closed out of a market that represents about one-third of global revenues for the industry.

What's happening? The directive took effect last August, but implementation is slow. Phil Hillman, Polaroid's EHS director, observes that most EU countries are not as ready for full implementation. "Since the critical action to complete is the collection infrastructure -- and perhaps a year's delay until that's in place -- we've focused on the product labeling and registration."

Mike Kirschner of Design Chain Associates concurs: "Industry has been given a bit of a 'breather' -- but I think that's over. We have not seen any enforcement action until just last week -- when a retailer in Ireland was fined for not notifying customers of a surcharge to cover WEEE-related costs."

Pam Gordon of Technology Forecasters Inc observes that "A significant number or OEMs in the electronics industry are not prepared to meet the requirements of the June 2006 WEEE legislation. In fact, there is an unsettling amount of uncertainty in the industry regarding the many facets and implications of WEEE on OEMs; one-third or more of our survey respondents are still uncertain about their plans."

Bottom line:

  • Don't procrastinate, ignore it, or hope it will go away.
  • Don't assume it won't apply to you if you don't export to Europe -- because your customers may.
  • Do inventory your products and to ensure you can meet customer and regulator expectations.
  • Be sure you're collecting relevant data on your won and your suppliers products and components.
  • Be sure your procurement organization is up to date on these expectations _and_ has the tools to meet them.
  • Update your inventory management, parts numbering, etc to ensure no mix-ups between compliant and non-compliant components.
  • And most importantly: drive these new factors upstream into your design -- and not just for current requiremments: get ready for RoHS, EuP and REACH -- coming soon to a global marketplace near you!
For more on the WEEE Directive, read my previous columns:

Avoiding the Next Train Wreck
The environmental crisis now facing the electronics industry raises concerns about the level of fiduciary duty exercised by business leaders who should have done a better job of seeing it coming, and of preventing it.

It Began With a Dot: Product Regulation and Future Markets
Some perspective on both the barriers and the opportunities of the European Union's new environmental regulations -- and how companies that understand the ecosystem drivers behind these new regulations can potentially get out ahead of them.

* * * * *
Got A Question? Send your questions about environmental management issues to Experts@GreenBiz.com. We can't guarantee that we'll answer every question, but we'll try.

Want more "Ask the Experts"? Visit the archive.


February 20, 2006

AIA targets 50+% fossil fuel reduction

[Environmental Building News, via GreenClips]: The American Institute of Architects' board of directors has set a goal of halving the amount of fossil fuels needed to construct and operate buildings by 2010 and reducing that amount a further 10 percent in each of the following five years. The ambitious goal was set in one of two "High Performance Building Position Statements" approved by AIA in December 2005.

Depending on they do their math, that means either 0% fossil fuel use -- one presumes they're talking about new buildings -- after six years, or a 70% reduction after six years. (0.5x0.9x0.9x0.9x0.9x0.9). Impressive in either case, and starts to get at what I've been calling "sufficient goals"-- sufficient to the challenge, and sufficient to motivate enthusiastic innovation.

Here's the PDF of the AIA statements.


Green Blog or Not

[Ask the Experts, Feb 20 2006]

Blogging's all the rage these days. What's up with green blogging? Is blogging useful for business? How do I get started? What should I read?

What a perfectly timed question! I just moderated a green bloggers panel at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco a couple weeks ago. Our panel: Nick Aster, TriplePundit; Jamais Cascio pinch-hitting for Alex Steffen, WorldChanging; Graham Hill, TreeHugger; and Siel, Green LA Girl.

Eric Corey Freed, who put the event together, introduced the event this way:

In recent years, the art of web-logs, or 'blogs' has risen in importance in the fields of journalism, politics and art. As sustainability reaches a 'tipping point' in our culture, several bloggers have emerged at the forefront of this movement... this distinguished panel of leading bloggers reporting on the fast changing world of environmental responsibility... will discuss current issues, trends and milestones in environment, ecology, and sustainability. These bloggers are often the first to break a story on significant developments in the environmental field.
You can find coverage of the event -- from bloggers of course! -- by Green LA girl, sustainablog, TriplePundit, and IvanEnviroMan. There may be a podcast or public radio broadcast, too.

(There are lots more environmental blogs, of course, more than I can list here. Start my checking the blogrolls at those sites, my blog and GreenBiz founder Joel Makower's widely read Two Steps Forward.)

Are you just getting going in blogging, or looking to improve how you're doing it? Here's a quick start list from Seth Godin's beta startup, Squiddo.

Useful for business? Unquestionably -- in two ways, in my experience: First, its an unprecedented way for readers to maintain a fast, up-to-date scan on topics of interest, often well ahead of traditional media (use a good RSS reader to streamline that process). Second, it's an unmatched way for bloggers to bring your customers and community a piece of your mind, in the very best sense of the term -- what you're doing, what you think and why you think that -- essential for businesses that depend on building trust in the midst of globalized, corporatized economy.

People argue about corporate blogs -- see Jeneane Sessum on Why CEOs Should Blog -- and the conflict between maintaining the official line and delivering the personal voice that good blogs require. Nonetheless, there are a growing number of CEO blogs (though you'll notice that the smaller/younger companies dominate).

Send your questions about environmental management issues to Experts@GreenBiz.com.
And visit the "Ask the Experts" archive.

Resilience Alliance

The Reslience Alliance is a multidisciplinary research group that explores the dynamics
of complex adaptive systems,

research on reslience in socio-ecological systems - a basis for sustainability

('Socio-ecological' is a term we've seen often in Sweden - for example at the core of The Natural Step's work - but rarely in the US.)

It's a rich and sometimes astounding site (at least for eco-geeks -- it hearkens me back to my systems ecology graduate work, and potential academic research paths left aside for the rough and tumble of applied ecology). I haven't read deeply in it yet, but I plan to, and will have more to report as I do.

For now, just two of the maps on their associated blog, comparing population
Population adjusted world map

and market sizeMapping Size of Global Economy

A few things to think about, yes?


More on resilience

From the 'nothing new under the sun' department:

Once again, our friends at WorldChanging.com got there first (to the Resilience Alliance, that is), in this case with Nicole-Anne Boyer's piece on The Panarchy Cycle.

In a long and thoughtful and illustrated poster, she quotes 'path-breaking' ecologist C.S. Buzz' Hollings' From Complex Regions to Complex Worlds:

During such times, uncertainty is high, control is
weakened and confused, and unpredictability is great. But space is also
created for reorganization and innovation. It is therefore
also a time when individual cells, individual organisms or individual
people have the greatest chance of influencing events.
societies, there is opportunity for exploratory experiment if the
experiments are designed to have low costs of failure. The future can
then be mapped by experiments that fail and succeed, rather than by
long term plans. It is the time when a Gandhi or a Hitler can use
events of the past to transform the future for great good or great ill.
(Emphasis added)


No continent left behind?

Did you notice what I just noticed in that map of market size (in the posting below)?

Give up?

Where's Africa?



February 22, 2006

'Simply Brilliant' - Google

[San Francisco Chronicle]: Google Inc., which has said it plans to put $1 billion into its charitable efforts, hired as its first chief of philanthropy a man who has helped eliminate smallpox in the Third World, founded a pioneering online community and rubbed elbows with the Grateful Dead.

Dr. Larry Brilliant, 61, of Mill Valley will become executive director of Google.org as it gets started on its mission of "applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world's problems," in the words of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

It's an inspired move, imho, and one that restores faith in Google's 'do no evil' maxim (recently tarnished as it may be by the flap over their role in China. Brilliant is someone who has both visioned boldly and delivered on that vision -- Seva Foundation is a rather stunning example of deep compassion in effective action -- and that in itself is a great model for our times.


Visual Complexity

VisualComplexity.com intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks.

A wild and wonderful array of webs, including Art (12), Biology (27), Business Networks (18), Computer Systems (18), Food Webs (7), Internet (25), Knowledge Networks (45), Multi-Domain Representation (21), Others (14), Pattern Recognition (8), Social Networks (39), Transportation Networks (22), World Wide Web (30).

I just love this sort of thing, I've got to confess. Have ever since Apple's 'Project X' visual fly-through technology (even before then, actually) -- not just because I geek out occasssionally, but because I appreciate appraoches -- especially visual ones -- that assist we mere human in finding meaningful pattern in the face of the massive and complexly complexifying complexity of the modern world.


February 26, 2006

Network(ing) central!

No shortage of things to do around here! These are regularly-scheduled green networking events, according to OrganicArchitect: (check there for mailing list and other events)

First Wednesday of the month, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
San Francisco Green Drinks
LOCATION: Varnish, 77 Natoma St, Nr Howard
INFO:  Alex Tynberg, Trust for Public Land
alex.tynberg at tpl.org or 415-495-5660 ext.523

First Thursdays, 4:30-6:00 pm           
Bay Area LEED Users Group
US Green Building Council
LEED Online:  a discussion of the new green certification process.
COST:  Donations accepted ($1-$5) - Snacks included!
LOCATION: Swinerton Offices, 260 Townsend Street
(Between 3rd and 4th)
INFO:  bkrill at swinerton.com  

First Thursdays, 5:30 - 7:30 PM
City Art Galleries open to the public
Galleries of Downtown San Francisco
Many of galleries participate in First Thursdays.  The galleries hold their monthly openings where you can see some art and swill some wine. A good starting place is 49 Geary.
COST:  Free

1st Thursdays, 6pm:
Monthly Networking for Public Relations and Business Professionals
Fee: No Charge, No-host bar, RSVPs encouraged.
XYZ Bar in the W Hotel, Third and Howard Streets, Valet parking available.
RSVP: www.prsasf.org
1st Thursdays, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Sustainability Happy Hour - East Bay
LOCATION: The Conga Lounge @ Cafe Rustica
5422 College Avenue, Oakland, 510-654-1601
1st Thursdays, 6 - 9pm :
First Thursday Networking Club Meeting
Email for location & RSVP: mike at cityfeet.com mmayeri at aol.com
2nd Thursdays:
Sustainable Business Happy Hour - San Francisco
Second Thursdays, 6pm
"GreenHouse" SFUAS Sustainability Mixer Series
INFO:  gustavo at sfuas.org
LOCATION:  Elixir, 16th & Guerrero
COST:  Free

2nd Thursdays, 12:00am to 1:15pm
Peer 2 Peer: The Leads Group for SVASE Members
Mark Harter, mharter at pacbell.net
3rd Tuesdays, 5:30 to 7 PM
Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) Mixer
FREE to GGBA Members, $10 for Guests
3rd Thursdays (typically):
Business After Hours
San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Monthly Mixer
Cost is $10 for Chamber members;
$20 for prospective members; $5 additional at the door
Contact Jason Kleimola at 415-352-8840 or jkleimola at sfchamber.com.
3rd Friday of month, 12:00 noon
Networking Works
e-mail shelia_tyson at yahoo.com
Sinbad's, Pier 2
cost is $20.00 (lunch, tax and tip included).
Reservation is required.
4th Tuesdays, 7:00 PM:
The Presidio Dialogues
At Saybrook Graduate School & Research Center
747 Front Street (@ Broadway) Third Floor
In downtown San Francisco
info at ThePresidioDialogues.org
Each Thursday, 7am-8:30am
Better Referral Network
LOCATION:  Jazz CafÚ, 2087 Addison St in Berkeley
INFO:  jshore at aspirefunding.com


WorldChanging at Commonwealth Club


Alex Steffen, co-founder and Executive Editor of the popular
environmental weblog WorldChanging.com (See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WorldChanging):


Tuesday February 28, Reception, 5:30 pm, Program 6:00 pm
The Commonwealth Club, 595 Market Street @ 2d St, San Francisco
COST: $8 members, $15 nonmembers, INFO: http://www.commonwealthclub.org/mlf.html

Here's Eric Corey Freed's invite:

Want to change the world? You're not alone. Indeed, millions of people are now working together in loosely-joined networks, creating dynamic new tools, models and ideas for building a bright green future -- a future sustainable, just and prosperous. Alex Steffen, Executive Editor of award-winning Worldchanging.com, shares snapshhots from the frontlines of innovation -- from sustainable cities to landmine-detecting flowers, from drinking straws that filter water to democratic software. Another world is possible, say antiglobalization activists. Another world is already here, says Worldchanging, and Steffen will give you the guided tour of how you can make a difference.

Ready to be inspired? See you there! (I'm an occasional contributor, regular reader and big fan of WorldChanging. Check it out; you will be too.)


Alex sells out

Wrong. Alex Steffen event is cancelled.

As in sold out for the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday:

The Commonwealth Club does offer a waiting lists one hour prior to the start of each sold out program and will work to accommodate as many attendees as possible. Commonwealth Club members have priority on all waiting lists.

So it goes.


February 27, 2006

Green roof / green city design

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (the North American trade association for the green roof industry) is bringing its Green Roof Design 101 Introductory Course to San Francisco, on March 31, 2006. Day long course, education credits available, $345. 'Space is limited.' Register online.

Meanwhile, read about rain gardens

Sustainable cities, we're increasingly realizing, are cities alive
with greenery. Designers are increasingly using artificial habitats
with living plants to cool our roofs, reduce our energy consumption, make us more mindful of our water use, control erosion and help wildlife move through built-up areas. Now, it turns out, they can also cleanse the water running off our streets and parking lots.

A new study shows that rain gardens -- shallow swales and holes which catch run off and let it trickle slowly through soil and roots -- can filter most of the pollutants from stormwater.

and Danish Design for Urban Bioremediation:
Green spaces can go a long way towards renewing cities. So, too, can housing developments and neighborhoods that facilitate community interaction. Bring these things together, and you have the makings of a vibrant urban community. Add bioremediation to the mix, and you have something that looks like Boase Concept: 'a supplement to the existing ways of urban living.'

The implementation logjam

[Ask The Experts, February 20 2006]

It's been hard enough identifying the sustainability opportunities at my company. But it's even harder getting them implemented. Any suggestions?

This question's been troubling me too. We have found that a surprising number of companies -- our clients, our competitors' clients, and companies working on their own -- fail to implement measures that have clear benefits and handsome returns investment.

It's an odd and disturbing observation. We tend to think of businesses as economically rational organizations, designed to make decisions that maximize profit. But organizations are rarely purely rational. How could they be, composed, as they are, or individual people who are themselves only partly rational, only some of the time?

Enough philosophy. Why does money get left on the table, again and again?

We see many reasons, including:

  • Habit ("we've always done it this way")
  • Turf ("it's not my department" -- or the variant: "my department would have to make the investment, but Joe's department would get the payoff"
  • Misapplied capital hurdle rates
  • Analytical tools that fail to capture full costs and benefits
  • The persistent assumption that "we can't afford it" -- even if the ROI is hefty -- because "environment costs money"
I could add more barriers to the list, but I'd like to hear from you. What stands in the way of effective implementation at your company? How do you how to overcome these obstacles.

Next month I'll share the best of your responses, and discuss how to break the implementation logjam. Please either comment here, or send your thoughts to Experts@GreenBiz.com

* * * * *
PS: Send your questions about environmental management issues to Experts@GreenBiz.com.
And visit the Ask the Experts archive.

About February 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Gil Friend in February 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2006 is the previous archive.

March 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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