Saturday, February 6, 2010

Same tired argument against the environment. Opponents of AB 32 launch campaign to have it delayed.

When I first read about the newly launched campaign to delay the implementation of AB 32 I was immediately against it. Then, after some reflection, I decided that before I made up my mind and started writing about this issue I was going to do some reading and investigate the true impact (as best as can be projected) of the Global Warming Act on the California economy and California jobs. Please understand, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart as I have also been personally impacted by the downturn in our current economy. So I really wanted to understand the truth. What I learned not only affirmed my support of AB 32 but also helped me understand why it is an extremely important law for our economy as well as our planet.

In 2006 California made history; and a significant contribution to our environment; when the state passed AB 32; The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This important piece of legislations had a handful of predictable opponents who were the same group that have consistently fought against clean air and water quality laws. Highly conservative republican politicians and conservative activists are now launching a ballot campaign to suspend California's landmark global-warming law, in what they hope will serve as a showcase for a national backlash against climate regulations.

AB 32 opponents say they have "solid commitments" of nearly $600,000 to pay signature gatherers for a November initiative aimed at delaying curbs on the greenhouse gas emissions of power plants and factories until the state's unemployment rate drops. They propose suspending the law until California unemployment reached 5.5%. They just want to “delay” it, which is another way of saying “kill” it. This group is even blaming current job losses on AB 32, but new emission reductions don’t even begin until 2012, and then are gradually phased in by 2020.

What opponents to AB 32 have failed to consider (or chose to ignore) is that the law has already begun to have a positive impact on jobs and growth in California. By adopting policies against dangerous global warming pollution, the state has made it clear that they want to become the home of new “green” jobs and “green” businesses and be a leader of the new economy. Simply put, AB 32 has already stimulated investments, innovation, efficiency and economic benefits. Business have begun to invest in clean technology, re-tooling equipment, training, education plus other measure that help reduce greenhouse gases pollutants and which help the economy.

Let’s give this discussion a bit of perspective. In California, as the economy slowed between 2007 and 2008, total employment fell one percent. However, green jobs continued to grow five percent. (according to the latest data, green jobs are growing 2.5 times faster than the overall economy). President Obama has made clean tech a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan, even making a reference to California’s efforts in his State of the Union speech last week.

Another view comes from Dr James Fine, an economist and policy scientist from the Environmental Defense Fund. “....based on projections, the net economic effect is even likely to be positive." Dr. Fine also mentioned health benefits, such as a decrease in premature deaths, a decrease in incidences of asthma, and a decrease in the number of lost workdays. Moreover, Dr. Fine predicts an extra 109,000 jobs in 2020 when implementing the bill compared to “business as usual.”

Let’s consider some other facts:

• A 2009 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts listed California as the nation’s leading state in clean energy businesses (10,209), clean energy jobs (125,390) and clean energy venture capital funding ($6.5 billion for 2006-2008)

• The average Californian today uses 40 percent less electricity per year than the average American. Saving electricity saves money.

• California’s landmark Clean Car Law, part of AB 32’s solutions, is giving consumers cleaner, more fuel efficient cars, reducing dependence on foreign oil and helping drivers save money at the pump. And it will soon become the Federal standard; 

• From GED’s to PHD’s, our community college and university students are demanding courses and degrees to make them competitive for jobs in this new 21st century economy; and
• California boasts five of the nation’s top 10 cities for clean tech investment: San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena, San Francisco and San Diego.

And we’re not just talking about a bunch of tree hugger here. The state’s largest utility, PG&E, was an early supporter. Apple dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when the Chamber opposed climate change legislation. Innovative companies such as Google, one of our fastest growing companies, also support AB 32. Small business also is on board. Small Business California strongly supports the law, as does the Green Chamber of Commerce. So contrary to what some would have you believe; a Green California does not mean job loss. California has the opportunity to revolutionize its economy by becoming the leader and incubator for green technology and innovation.

When will the invalid rhetoric of “Jobs vs. Environment” ever end? Guess what boys and girls; its not one or the other; we can have both. Green = Jobs = Economic Growth in California and around the globe. It also means decreased costs in energy, insurance, medical costs, missed workdays and a whole host of additional, tangible, monetary benefits. But most importantly, staying true to green means taking care of the most precious gift and resource we have; our planet. If you destroy your home and make it barely inhabitable, it’s a little difficult to care about much else.

Sources: California League of Conservation Voters; Fran Pavley at Capital Weekly; Margot Roosevelt at Los Angeles Times; John Seiler at Cal Watchdog; Molly Peterson at Southern California Public Radio; David Crane at Fox & Hounds

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Boat Made From Recycled Bottles Draws Attention to Global Trash Problem - ABC News

From the lips of the banking heir David de Rothschild; we need to stop thinking of trash and waste and start seeing it as a resource. Well said, David. Of the triple RRR's; Renew, Recycle & Reuse; Reuse seems to be the one most frequently overlooked. Case in point; I stopped using plastic water bottles many months back however prior to that I was diligent about recycling them. I thought that was the best that could be done until I saw this video. "Plastiki" (AWESOME name!) is a 60 foot catamaran kept afloat with plastic water bottles. 12,000 plastic waster bottles filled with carbon dioxide.

Apparently the carbon dioxide make the plastic incredibly strong. The other components of the boat are also repurposed items including a sail from recycled plastic instead of cloth and an irrigation pipe as the mast. Very, very clever. The boat launched yesterday from San Francisco on its way to Australia. The trip will take 3 months and travel approximately 11,000 miles; some of it over very treacherous water. They aren't sure if the boat will make it. The driving initiative for this project is to create more awareness and attention around the global trash problem. So, on the journey the crew plans to travel to areas in the ocean where currents have created large accumulations of garbage (predominately plastic). One of these trash clusters covers a space as large as Texas times two. That's a serious junk yard. Yuck! It will be interesting to track the progress of this boat made from reused material and plastic bottles to see how it fairs in the sea. Sorry; couldn't resist. I wish them the best and hope they are successful in both their mission to drive awareness on the magnitude of the problem of global trash as well as arriving safely in Australia.

Though this art work may not be quite Picasso or Renoir they are very interesting & highly creative pieces using recycled material as the medium

Nick Gentry decided to use old floppy disks for a purpose, other than just taking up space. Nick’s art portfolio includes some really cool mixed media paintings, most incorporating old floppy disks.

John T Unger's "La Siren II" was inspired to do bottle cap mosaics by Haitian ritual flags, in which detailed images are realized entirely through the use of sequins. Each cap is sorted by brand or color, washed, dried, punched, partially crimped and finally nailed in overlapping scales to create a feeling of depth, light and shadow. Decorative nail heads emulate the texture of seed beads often used to reinforce the sequins.

Blue River by John Dahlsen; is one of the first he developed of these new works in 2003 using recycled plastic bags as the primary medium. This work is a slight departure from his more recognizable assemblage works in which he used plastics and other detritus collected from the Eastern Australian seaboard.

Chronos, by Nadia Iliffe, is built around a theme of trying to physically stop the inevitable passage of time. This metal sculpture was created using a combination of copper and antique clock parts.

Boris Bally is a trained metal smith who uses materials from scrap yards and thrift stores, as well as precious metals to create jewelry, furniture and household utensils, "While it takes great skill to make gold and silver into beautiful things, transforming trash into something beautiful is the ultimate challenge because it takes more skill and imagination to do it."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wernher von Braun

We are all on a spaceship, and that spaceship is Earth. Four billion passenger... and no skippers.
--Wernher von Braun

Sociable Sustainability

Some of you already know this but I recently enrolled at UCLA in their Certification Program in Sustainability for Business Leadership and Renewable Energy. I know; it sounds a bit "Snoooooozzzzeeee" but its not and I'm really excited about learning the technical side of this biz as well as the multiple of application to community and our world. I just completed my first class titled Sustainability in Social Media. It was an interesting class. Not a lot of new material for me on the social side but interesting applications for the green world. The class included some guest speakers including GreenLAGirl (local Green Blogger Celeb) and the founder of LivingHomes who created a line of homes that feature sustainable materials and energy systems. He was a Lego fan as a child just like I was (mutual geeks). The biggest message I took away from the class (and why I'm sharing this); and one that is not exclusive to green business; is that a topic like sustainability is highly passionate and a catalyst to unite people. Its a sweet spot for social media because people want to learn about it and talk about it. Its viral in its nature. The trick is it to make it interesting and not "Snoooooozzzzeeee". Also, the message needs to be honest, genuine and help people understand this space. Agents of BS; step off. Again.... not much different than any social media campaign but with the green biz there is a lot of true, knowledgeable, fierce advocates. So any greenwashing; which will be found out, talked out and trashed out before you know it; need not apply. The flip side is that this is the same group that will catapult good ideas to the top. All in all; not so bad.

So for those of you thinking; "who the hell cares about this"; social media is just a mirror of social groups, circles and organizations. That means neighbors, friends, family, chums at the local pub, schoolmates, folks you wave to for whatever reason; etc..; its digital word of mouth. And those of us/you that are really concerned about our planet (Momma Earth); our limited recourses, our country's economic state, the legacy to our children, our country's position in global issues and, most importantly, our sustainability as a species on this planet; its time to wake up. So what better way to wake up than to inform the ones we love. So please use what bit of knowledge I've learned thus far (much more coming as I complete more classes; I hope) to promote your individual "green" ideas. We're all in this together with the same goal. But at last you know the truth; I'm a geek. My kids refer to me as the "ultimate geek". But who asked them anyway! :-)

sustainable |səˈstānəbəl|adjectiveable to be maintained at a certain rate or level : sustainable fusion reactions.Ecology (esp. of development, exploitation, or agriculture) conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural to be upheld or defended : sustainable definitions of good educational practice.DERIVATIVESsustainability |səˌstānəˈbilitē| nounsustainably |-blē| adverb

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sustainable Milk Container Debuts

Got Green Milk?

Ecologic Brands, a No Cal start-up, has developed a sustainable bottle for liquid products. It is biodegradable, compostable and recyclable. It will be available in local Whole Foods stores this week. I'm anxious to see their other product applications due out later this year. They're even talking about wine which puts a whole new spin on the "boxed " spirits market. Instead of accusations of being cheap, you can claim that you're just ecologically minded.

A+ For Sustainability & Green-Goodness
A++ For Design and Functionality

See the full story at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Insight from Ford Automotive leadership

I had the pleasure of attending one of California Lutheran University's corporate breakfast events. The guest speakers where Donald E. Petersen, Expert, Former CEO and Chairman of Ford Motor Company and James D. Power III, Expert
Founder and former CEO of J.D. Power and Associates. The topic was American Auto Industry and some of the questions centered around innovation.

I thought that an interesting topic for an American Auto maker but realized as the event progressed why it had been selected. It wasn't so much about what innovation had been done but more about the consequences of not innovating sufficiently. Now some of you may be scratching your head and asking yourself (and me) what does any of that have to do with sustainability or being green. Here is the bit I wanted to share with you. Donald Petersen (no relation to me that I'm aware of) made an interesting statement that does tie into Motherearthjewels mission. He said that the number one reason that America is so far behind other countries in innovation to produce and drive fuel efficient vehicles is because we've had such low gas prices. And, the reason we've had such low gas prices is because our government has always subsidized the industry. Had our government not subsidized gas, the way other governments did, then we would have been forced to develop more efficient cars and cars that used other fuels. He used the example of diesel. Our government (and the oil industry; which could be thought of as one and the same) did our country a huge disservice by subsidizing gas. This created a domino effect and was a contributing factor to the failure of the auto industry in the U.S. Well, I should say GM and Chrysler, Ford was the only one that did not take government bail out money. All of this begs discussion on a whole other topic but I'll leave that for you to explore on your own.

Another complication Mr. Petersen also explained was the industry standard for measuring and assessing an auto makers efficiency rating. The ackronym is CAFE. Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency. I was not familiar with this term or its meaning. The technical definiation is this:
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) is the sales weighted average fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 lbs. or less, manufactured for sale in the United States, for any given model year. Fuel economy is defined as the average mileage traveled by an automobile per gallon of gasoline (or equivalent amount of other fuel) consumed as measured in accordance with the testing and evaluation protocol set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to Donald Petersen, this is a very complex and confusing method of measurement and only considers cars that are manufactured in the US. So if you are an auto maker that imports fuel efficient cars, but do not produce them here, it won't go into your mix. It doesn't matter if 90% of the cars you sell under your brand are high fuel efficiency; you get the lower rating. However, there are ways around it. For example; if you import mini-trucks and have them come in two pieces; the truck and the box for the back; then assemble them here; that will go into your equation. Like a lot of regulations, it usually starts out with good intentions but then people find the loopholes so it ultimately become ineffective.

I wasn't sure what I was going to walk away with when I attended this breakfast. All in all, it helped bring more clarity to the Detroit debacle. One thing I learned for sure is that because of ineffective regulation, inappropriate government subsidies and favoritism plus corporate greed; this country, and our planet, are now paying a very big price. Lessons I'd like to believe our regulators have learned from. Or not. The good news is that its not too late to fix the problem for the planet. There are more options for public transportation, alternative fuel and minimizing consumption. My neighborhood still has WAY too many monster SUV's but I'm also seeing an increase in hybrids and compact vehicles which is very encouraging. As for GM and Chrysler; time will tell.