Why sustainability professionals should embrace Black Lives Matter

Source: Charles Orgbon

Black Lives Matter

Long before corporations acknowledged Black Lives Matter, they championed the plights of specific endangered species. Corporate conservation campaigns used phrases such as “Save the [insert your favorite animal],” which have been catchy, effective and oddly similar to the language we’re now using to educate people about the status of Black life in America.

The Disney Conservation Fund protects lions, elephants, chimpanzees and thousands of other species. Ben & Jerry’s brings awareness to declining honeybee populations. Coca-Cola appropriately is the longtime ally of the poster child for climate change, the polar bear.

As a kid, I, too, was influenced by Coca-Cola’s messaging. At just 11, I thought I could stop global warming, so I created a blog with articles urging people, “Save the polar bears.” No one challenged me by asking, “What about the tigers? The tigers…matter, too! All endangered species matter.”

The fact is, polar bears were (and still are) drowning due to global problems. If we addressed the root causes of those global problems such as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, in fact, all endangered species would fare better.

The phrase “Black Lives Matter” works similarly to “Save the polar bear,” only that Black people are drowning in a sea of systemic racism instead of a rising sea of melting ice.

Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good.

When someone says something such as “Save the polar bears,” they are also indirectly revealing other information about themselves. Perhaps they eat organic, use public transportation, recycle or take military-style showers.

Likewise, when we say “Black Lives Matter” we are actually making a declaration about our belief that injustice somewhere is a threat to justice everywhere. All lives truly matter when those that are the most marginalized matter.

Want to know how well our society is tackling climate change? Look to polar bears. If they’re doing good, we’re doing good.

Want to know how well our society is tackling racial injustice? Look to Black people. If we’re doing good, we’re all doing good.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how white people are just awakening to the systemic racism that continues to thrive in every aspect of American life and how this systemic racism continues to affect me daily. If so many people have gone so long without acknowledging the reality that people of color experience every day, it’s not surprising that these issues have gone on for so long.

Watershed moment

Sometimes a watershed moment is needed to bring attention to a crisis. After all, no one cared about polar bears until Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 volcanic eruption, which greatly influenced our scientific understanding of anthropogenic global warming and its impacts on arctic life. The catastrophic event was one of the most significant watershed moments for climate activism.

Now, the Black Lives Matter movement is amid a watershed moment. White people are awakening from their own hibernation and acknowledging that, yes, as the statistics suggest, racism still exists.

For example, Black people and white people breathe different air. Black people are exposed to about 1.5 times more particulate matter than white people. Give more than just a cursory glance to Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and you’ll discover its truisms: “Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” Researchers have found that toxic chemical exposure is linked to race: minority populations have higher levels of benzene and other dangerous aromatic chemical exposure. Lead poisoning also disproportionately affects people of color in the U.S., especially Black people.

A careful examination of our nation’s statistics reveals myriad racial disparities. The polarity of experiences is startling. This influenced many well-intentioned white people to examine numerous situations and ask, “Is racial bias truly at play here?”

I challenge that that’s not the question we must ask when we live in a world with such disparate statistics for communities of color. It’s much more powerful to ask, “How is racial bias at play here?”

Those who fail to confront how racial bias is often at play attempt to live in a colorblind world that does not exist.

When tipping service workers, when selecting your next dentist, when making employment decisions, when raising children, seriously consider that the world is not colorblind. And to create a more equitable world, we have to fight more aggressively to counteract the evil that already exists.

This is what it means to be anti-racist, or as the National Museum of African American History and Culture counsels, “Make frequent, consistent and equitable choices to be conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives.”

So, what can allies do?

Step 1: Take out a sticky note.

Step 2: Write out the words ANTI-RACIST.

Step 3: Put it on your laptop monitor and do the work. It’s a daily practice to filter your thoughts, communication and decisions through an anti-racist lens.

Cities need to change for people to thrive amid a changing climate

Source: Green Biz

Screen Shot 2020 02 29 at 8.12.36 AM

In the 21st century, a seemingly global prosperity masks an unequal distribution of benefits. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world’s cities, where extreme wealth can exist next door to concentrated poverty. In some cities, such as those in South Africa, well-meaning policies and investments in transit and housing actually have deepened the inequality and segregation experienced by low-income communities.

How does climate change fit into this picture? Leading urban experts think that the current path of cities far exceeds planetary boundaries of what is sustainable. In turn, climate change, one result of carbon-fueled growth over the last two centuries, is also a driver of urban inequality.

By 2050, an additional 2.5 billion people could be living in cities. As more people move to cities, they face rising housing prices, unequal access to employment opportunities and public amenities, and they also contend with the weather extremes of a changing climate. The result is deeply unfair: those who have contributed and benefited least from carbon-fueled growth are its frontline victims. Low-income groups are disproportionately affected, as they are more likely to live in less robust homes and be in the path of natural hazards such as floods and heat waves — not to mention, they have fewer resources available to respond when disaster does strike.

Projections by the world’s leading scientists say future cities need to have a near-zero-carbon footprint, eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels and be able to manage weather extremes such as heavy rains and heat waves. They also need to find ways to lift up already vulnerable and marginalized groups. What does this future city look like? Sadly, our collective imagination is failing us.

Brave new worlds

As we begin the most important decade for climate action yet, cities need to tackle climate change and the continued growth and stubborn persistence of urban inequality (PDF) together. This is a major, immediate and unprecedented transformation, changing almost everything about the way we live in, build and power our cities. We must do it in ways that don’t exacerbate existing inequalities and find ways to leave no one behind. And we need to do it fast.

There are plenty of pop culture tropes of a dystopian future, ravaged by climate change. As Hollywood’s new supervillain, climate change is a common apocalyptic backdrop in science fiction. And there is good reason, as destructive bushfires, floods and heat waves are no longer just the stuff of fiction.

There are far fewer sunny versions of what cities of the future might be like. We do find stories about optimistic, technology-driven lives enhanced by automation in the renderings of architecture studios and engineering firms, cities where the sky is always blue. And we are nudged to imagine ourselves living in glass-and-steel high-rises covered with plant life or solar panels, delivered by self-driving cars, and directed by artificial intelligence.

While these may seem appealing solutions, the sanitized version of the city they portray is difficult to reconcile with the much messier reality of most cities across the globe. More than 1.2 billion people (PDF) — one in three people in cities — live in informal settlements today. Have we solved their plight in this gleaming future?

Often left underexamined in fiction and life is the close relationship between climate change and inclusiveness. But they are interrelated challenges that must be tackled together. If not, fundamental problems around access, informality and affordability remain unaddressed. The sustainability of one “smart city,” for example, can entail environmental degradation and social exploitation in another part of the world, as is the case with the mining of raw materials that go into making smart sensors, or the labor practices employed in the construction of some new eco-cities.

Sparking inspiration

Ideas can be powerful drivers of transformation, but few mainstream storylines about living with climate change offer inspiration for what the future might look like and how we will get there. A lack of vision hinders our capacity for urban change. We need more approaches that lie somewhere between the noir dystopias and blue-sky renderings and help broaden the outlook on what it means to live and thrive in a climate-changed future city.

Insiders in the urban field have recognized this problem for a while. Negative trends, such as increasing air pollution, rising living costs, traffic congestion and inequality, indicate a widening implementation gap between what’s happening on the ground and ambitious commitments made at international levels, such as the Paris Agreement, the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. While there is widespread agreement that radical transformations are needed, numerous studies find little evidence of radical changes actually happening in cities. Experts think this is because cities are complex systems and urbanization cannot be easily steered.

That’s why the WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities is focusing this year on inviting submissions from initiatives that show how to live and thrive in a changing world by tackling both the climate crisis and urban inequality together. Through this global award, which celebrates transformative urban change, we will identify the leaders in urban transformation and amplify lessons learned so other cities can follow their lead.

The 2020-2021 Prize for Cities theme recognizes the year and decade ahead as pivotal for global climate action and seeks to help bridge the gap between fiction and reality and grow a much-needed repertoire of credible urban interventions and projects. As in its inaugural cycle, which received almost 200 submissions from across the globe, we hope the prize will broaden our understanding of what positive urban transformation looks like, how it comes about and how we can identify and nurture the seeds of change.

Carbon markets get real on removal

 Pine forest from above, fall season, forest road

Trey Hill’s family has been working the land around Rock Hall, Maryland, since the early 1900s. Their company, Harborview Farms, now harvests corn, wheat and soy from thousands of acres. But something is different this year. The Hill family has a new crop: sequestered carbon, which they sell to individuals and companies across the United States.

Hill is doing his carbon farming in partnership with Nori, a Seattle-based startup that sells what it calls “carbon removals.” Hill deploys regenerative agriculture techniques, such as the use of cover crops, to draw carbon dioxide from the air and lock it into the soils he works. Nori then helps Hill verify the amount of carbon that he has removed from the atmosphere and sell the associated credit as a carbon offset. For $15, anyone can now fund Hill — and soon, many other farmers — to remove one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. (For comparison, a round-trip economy-class flight between San Francisco and London generates around a ton of CO2, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization).

The idea that companies can shrink their carbon footprints by paying other organizations to reduce greenhouse emissions is around two decades old. But Nori represents several game-changing trends, including the use of new technologies and an emphasis on removing CO2 from the atmosphere rather than reducing emissions. Together with the arrival of new buyers, most notably from the aviation industry, these trends will bring major changes to the market for carbon offsets in 2020 and beyond.

Until now, the bulk of the spending on offsets has gone to projects that avoid emissions. Some companies work with conservation organizations to prevent deforestation, for example. Others fund the development of renewable projects that displace fossil-fuel plants. This work remains essential, but recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have made it clear that emissions reductions alone are not enough — we also need to remove billions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

In anticipation of future demand for removal offsets, Nori has built a digital marketplace that connects buyers with projects that draw down and store CO2, starting with a focus on farmers using regenerative agriculture to increase levels of soil carbon. Another new marketplace, developed by the Finnish company Puro, is offering removal credits linked to the production of biochar (a charcoal-like substance used to safely store carbon) and construction materials made in part from greenhouse gases.

The arrival of these marketplaces looks to be well-timed, because a few first-mover companies have already announced plans to invest significant amounts in carbon removal. Last August, payment services company Stripe committed to investing at least $1 million a year in carbon sequestration projects. A month later, Shopify, which develops e-commerce software, matched that target and declared that it would focus on industrial-scale solutions that involve capturing CO2 from the  air and storing it deep underground. “Our goal is to kickstart the demand and predictability of this market so industrial engineering can scale and the price can come down,” says Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke.

When Stripe and Shopify make their investments in carbon removal, they will have the option of working with Nori, Puro and other more established offsets sellers, such as Natural Capital Partners. Many of these firms are likely to see a surge in business as the demand for offsets of all kinds increases.

In 2018, the market for voluntary offsets more than doubled in size to 98 million tons, according to Ecosystem Marketplace, which collects data on market-based approaches to conserving ecosystem services. “In the past decade, a good year was always old companies doing new buying,” says Steve Zwick, the publication’s managing editor. Now major new buyers are entering the market. Companies are learning they can’t reduce emissions as deeply as they want to, and so are investing in offsets as well as reduction, explains Zwick.

One significant new buyer is Shell, which in 2019 committed to spending $300 million on forestry projects and other nature-based solutions over the next three years, in part to offset some of the emissions produced by the aviation fuel it sells in Britain and the Netherlands. Airlines will also likely be buying large quantities of offsets in coming years. British Airways and Air France have committed to offsetting 100 percent of emissions from their domestic flights starting this year.

And the industry as a whole has committed to capping emissions from international flights at current levels, which is forecast to require purchases of around 150 million tons a year by 2025.

Any company purchasing an offset should be asking hard questions about the ability of the project to reduce emissions. Offsets are sometimes criticized as unreliable, a complaint that surfaced again recently after an investigation by ProPublica into one class of offsets — forest-protection projects — concluded that polluters often “got a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO2, but the forest preservation that was supposed to balance the ledger either never came or didn’t last.” Proponents of forestry projects noted that while ProPublica highlighted real problems, it also ignored known solutions to those problems. Nevertheless, the reputation of offsets probably took a knock.

It will always be challenging to plant and protect forests in remote areas of the world, particularly in regions of political instability. But another trend may help matters. Over the past few years, the resolution and coverage of satellite imagery have improved while prices have fallen. These changes make it possible to monitor forests at a new level of accuracy.

“You can identify someone who’s cutting down a tree with one day of notice,” Diego Saez-Gil, an entrepreneur working in this space, told Fast Company. Saez-Gil’s startup, Pachama, combines data from satellites, drones and a laser-scanning technology known as lidar with machine learning to create a dashboard that estimates the amount of carbon stored in a forest.

The emergence of these technologies suggests that the market for offsets is going to grow both in size and impact. At a time when the governments of the world’s two largest emitters, the United States and China, are failing to recognize the magnitude of the climate crisis, that’s a welcome piece of good news — and a great example of how the private sector can help fill the gulf left by government inaction.

EcoShuttle Puts the Go in Green Transportation

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Students at Lewis and Clark can get around in true Portland style with the planet friendly bio-diesel buses of EcoShuttle.  EcoShuttle operates five buses for the “Pioneer Express” between Lewis and Clark college and downtown Portland.  ECO stands for “Environmental Commuter Option” and it provides both student commuters and employees sustainable transportation to and from the affluent community of Lake Oswego and the downtown area.

EcoShuttle is the brain child of partners William Samson and Jessie and Fiona Yun.  Their vision is to “pave the street with more EcoShuttles and mass transits than single occupant commuters”.  They believe that all the buses across Portland should be running off of recycled French fry grease. According to Jesse Yun, “As the only fleet using 100% alternative fuels in Portland, we already set the bar high. So with all else created equal, why even consider going anywhere else? Our value, safety and legendary customer service set us apart.”

EcoShuttle is more than just guilt-free transportation – customers can have the reassurance that 100% of the bio diesel used in the bus is from locally sourced “waste grease”, a non-toxic, bio degradable and carbon friendly fuel.  It is a common myth that bio diesel is not environmentally friendly.  Many believe that using crops that could be food sources as fuel causes deforestation and increases food prices.  But in fact, there are over 30 million gallons of waste vegetable oil produced in restaurants every year.  The vast majority of these restaurants simply dispose of the excess oil. But this oil can be recycled, filtered and converted into fuel quite easily, thereby taking up zero agricultural land.

In addition to their daily shuttle service, EcoShuttle also provides Limousine style charter and tour services. The charter service provides customizable tour to the Oregon wine country, local microbreweries as well as corporate and sporting events.Wedding planners and tour operators can use the EcoShuttle bus service for private parties and special events as each trip is customizable with private reservation specialists working with party planners to create the best tour options.  Whether you use the EcoShuttle to trip out to Lake Oswego and back or for a private tour or simply as an airport shuttle service, there are plenty of ways to engage in eco-friendly travel around Portland without a polluting car.

Continue reading on Examiner.com EcoShuttle Puts the Go in Green Transportation – Portland Green Business | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/article/ecoshuttle-puts-the-go-green-transportation#ixzz1t4CREjgS

ERIC BAERREN: A climate-change skeptic confirms global warming

Published: Friday, October 28, 2011

There were, if you were paying attention last week, headlines that read essentially, “The thing that we knew all along is true, after all!”

The sad fact is that the confirmation was, in fact, the real news. It was a statement on the sad statement of how the Land of the Free perceives science.

Continue reading ERIC BAERREN: A climate-change skeptic confirms global warming

Green Path Transfers Speeds Past 100

Not too long ago, we reported that Green Path Transfers, the WHL Group’s global, eco-friendly airport transfer and ground transportation network, had notched up 50 destinations in more than 30 countries. That was in early June 2011, a mere three months after Green Path Transfers was launched.

ELECTRIC-BUS STARTUP CHARGES AHEAD

 

nic halverson

Analysis by Nic Halverson 
Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:32 PM ET 
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Proterra-electric-bus-556x450

With a gallon of diesel costing a dollar more than it did a year ago, bus companies are getting gouged every time one of their fleet members pulls up to the tank.

Enter Proterra, an electric-bus startup company that uses relatively small, low-cost lithium titanate battery packs that are intended to be frequently recharged at rapid-charging stations in 10 minutes of less.

BLOG: Ginormous Bus Straddles Road, Drives Above Traffic

Proterra’s EcoRide BE35 bus only has a range of 30 to 40 miles per charge, which makes it more practical as a transit bus that runs predictable routes and can regularly pull into FastFill Charging Stations.

future transportation
DNEWS VIDEO: FUTURE OF CARS AND TRANSPORTATION

As they pull into these fully automated charging stations, buses communicate wirelessly with an overhead charging arm that links the bus to a high capacity charger without driver involvement. As passengers load and unload, the bus is rapidly charged in 5-10 minutes.

Proterra CEO Jeff Granato believes each bus will save a transit company $600,000 in fuel costs over the 12-year life span of the vehicle, plus another $70,000 to $95,000 in maintenance costs. The bus costs about 18 cents per mile to charge, compared with about $1 a mile for diesel fuel. In the long run, Granato says these savings make the total cost of the electric bus comparable to that of a diesel bus even thought the electric bus is more expensive up front. (The company has not yet released how much the electric bus costs.)

CURIOSITY.COM: When Was the First Electric Car Built?

Proterra has raised $30 million in new funding, including $6 million from GM Ventures, which the company plans to use to increase production capacity. So far, Proterra has manufactured 10 buses, which are being used by transit agencies in California and Texas.

[Via TechnologyReview]

Credit: Proterra

ZeaChem signs biomass supply deal for Oregon cellulosic biorefinery

ZeaChem, Inc., has signed a long-term binding term sheet with GreenWood Tree Farm Fund (GTFF), managed by GreenWood Resources (GWR), to supply hybrid poplar woody biomass for its first commercial cellulosic biorefinery.

The combination of GTFF’s existing tree farms in close proximity to the biorefinery, GWR’s world leadership in development and management of tree plantations, and ZeaChem’s highly efficient biorefinery technology will enable the supply of low-cost fermentable sugars used in the production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals for years to come, it said.

ZeaChem will integrate feedstock from a portion of GTFF’s residual fiber with local agricultural residue suppliers to achieve feedstock costs 50% less compared to Brazilian sugar cane and 80% less compared to corn based processes.

Through this combination of forest and agricultural residuals, ZeaChem has secured 100% of the feedstock supply for the first commercial biorefinery.

Under the agreement, GTFF will be the primary feedstock supplier for ZeaChem’s first commercial biorefinery. GTFF will supply cellulosic biomass from its existing poplar plantations to the biorefinery, offering new markets for its wood products.

ZeaChem’s first commercial biorefinery is expected to have capacity of 25M gallons per year (GPY) and to be located in Boardman, Oregon.

“This landmark feedstock agreement represents a major milestone on the road to developing ZeaChem’s first commercial production facility and to become the world leader in low cost production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem.

“We are proud to have GreenWood Resources, a leading supplier of economical and sustainable cellulosic feedstock, as a partner in our commercial operation. The model we have developed provides a significant strategic advantage and is something that GWR and ZeaChem will seek to replicate around the world.”

“This agreement with ZeaChem is a significant step for GTFF and for GreenWood Resources into new markets and end-uses that closely align with our sustainability goals,” said Jeff Nuss, president and chief executive officer of GreenWood Resources. “We believe that hybrid poplars are the ideal feedstock for advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals and look forward to continuing to grow with ZeaChem.”

ZeaChem is currently constructing a 250,000 gallon-per-year demonstration-scale biorefinery in Boardman, Ore.

An existing GTFF hybrid poplar tree plantation near Boardman supplies feedstock to the facility, minimizing the transportation and logistics costs of cellulosic biofuel and bio-based chemical production. Hybrid poplar trees are an excellent cellulosic feedstock because of their high yield per acre, short rotation and ability to regenerate after harvest, providing superior economic and environmental benefits.

Additional advantages of woody biomass include the ability to aggregate forestry land and the forestry industry’s common practice of signing long-term contracts.

ZeaChem’s demonstration plant in Boardman, Ore. will begin to come online in 2011. The company is now developing commercial biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals.

GWR, founded in 1998, is a global timberland investment and property management company specializing in the acquisition, development and management of high-yield, short-rotation, sustainable tree farms.

Next-generation biodiesels don’t pressure food supply, emissions

FARGO, N.D. — Amyris and Gevo are two of the highest-flying stocks in the biofuels sector in 2011. Each has posted spectacular gains since January. Both firms are intriguing because their emphasis is on the production of advanced biofuels.By: Cole Gustafson, Cole GustafsonFARGO, N.D. — Amyris and Gevo are two of the highest-flying stocks in the biofuels sector in 2011. Each has posted spectacular gains since January. Both firms are intriguing because their emphasis is on the production of advanced biofuels.Advanced biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent under the nation’s renewable fuel standard program. Amyris is unique in that it is focusing on the production of biodiesel using specialized yeast that utilizes sugarcane as its feedstock.First-generation biodiesels were derived from transesterification of agricultural oils, especially soybean and canola oils. More recently, corn oil obtained from additional fractionation of corn entering ethanol plants also has been used as a biodiesel feedstock.Not the sameProducing next-generation biodiesel or “renewable diesel” is a completely different process than the production of traditional biodiesel. Instead of relying on chemical catalysts, these new diesel fuels are produced from biohydrocarbons obtained from inedible plants, algae or waste streams and then processed into biodiesel using proprietary bacteria. This reduces the pressure on global food production and tailpipe emissions. Furthermore, they are designed to be “drop-in” true diesels that can be placed in a pipeline and used without any limitations on how much can be used.Minnesota, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have state biodiesel blending requirements. Minnesota’s statute, which was enacted in 2005, has been waived several times because of biodiesel quality problems. However, the law is in effect again.Last year, Amyris announced that it had surpassed critical ASTM testing and received Environmental Protection Agency approval to raise its registered blend level of ultralow sulfur diesel from 20 to 35 percent, which is the highest blend rate approved for either ethanol or biodiesel.Gevo is constructing a plant in southern Minnesota to produce biobutanol from sugar beets. The common denominator between Amyris and Gevo is the use of sugar instead of cellulose. Sugar is abundant in many other crops, including sweet sorghum.Producing biodiesel from algae has garnered much public attention during the past couple of years. However, recent studies have questioned how ready the industry is for commercialization. For example, the Energy Biosciences Institute categorized the effort as a “nascent industry” that will require more substantial long-term research, development, demonstration and deployment.