Heroes of Sustainability: Mathis Wackernagel, Pioneer of the Eco-Footprint

The concept of a carbon footprint — the amount of the earth’s resources a person or institution is using to function — is a widespread one these days. We use online calculators to find it, buy carbon credits to offset it, and know just what will make it go up and down (air travel is bad; energy-efficient lighting is good).

 This measurement that’s such an integral part of the eco-revolution is courtesy of Mathis Wackernagel, a Swiss-born leader in sustainable research. He was a PhD student at the University of British Columbia when he focused his doctoral dissertation on the concept of an “ecological footprint,” then a novel idea that he developed in conjunction with adviser William Rees. Today he heads the Global Footprint Network, a California-based nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and promoting metrics for sustainability.

The group works on a much bigger scale than just calculating the output of an individual person or company — instead, it measures nations’ ecological assets and deficits using about 5,400 data points per country per year. This is the most comprehensive look that we have at how humans are affecting the ecosystem of our planet.

 The importance of this work can’t be overstated. “If you don’t have basic tools to understand the resources we use compared to what is available, it’s hard to avoid ecological bankruptcy,” Wackernagel told Treehugger. And if anyone would know, it’s Wackernagel. After years of looking at the data, he is sure of one thing: We can’t keep living like this.

“Globally, it now takes one year and four months to regenerate what we use within one year. We are in a state of ecological overshoot, on an unsustainable path.”

To make a lasting change, Wackernagel believes we must start building cities more compactly, creating communities that have everything we need on a daily basis and methods of public transportation to get to those places. “The assets we create today can be future-friendly or not,” he told Sustainable Cities. “Future-friendly infrastructure — cities and buildings designed to be resource efficient, zero-energy buildings, and pedestrian or public transit-oriented transportation systems — can enable great lives with small ecological footprints.”

 The former director of the Sustainability Program at Redefining Progress in Oakland, California, and past director of the Centre for Sustainability Studies/Centro de Estudios para la Sustentabilidad in Mexico is working to get the word out on his findings, having authored or contributed to more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and a number of books on sustainability, including Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth and Sharing Nature’s Interest: Ecological Footprints as an Indicator of Sustainability. He’s worked on ecological issues for organizations in North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia, and continues to get out his central message: “The two-word definition of sustainability is one planet.”

 For more information on the Global Footprint Network, click here.

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Heroes of Sustainability: Ray Anderson’s Quest to “Close the Loop”

Most people don’t change overnight — but then again, most people aren’t like Ray Anderson. He was in his 60’s when The Ecology of Commerce, a book by Paul Hawken, fortuitously landed on his desk. The founder of Interface Inc., the world’s largest producer of commercial floor coverings, Anderson thumbed through it, hoping to glean a nugget of inspiration for an upcoming speech he was giving on his company’s environmental vision. What he found was more than a nugget — and way more than something for a one-time-only presentation.

Realizing that working in a sustainable way was not only good for the environment but made good business sense, Anderson asked Interface’s engineers to find out what resources had been stripped from the earth to make the company’s products and ultimately boost the bottom line. For around $800 million in revenue, they had used some 1.2 billion pounds of raw materials, most of it oil and natural gas. Of that finding, he’s said: “I was staggered. I wanted to throw up. My company’s technologies and those of every other company I know of anywhere, in their present forms, are plundering the earth. This cannot go on and on and on.”

Then he did something many other business leaders only talk about: He changed.

It started with Mission Zero, which is Interface’s promise to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by the year 2020. So far, they’re on course to do just that, redesigning processes and products, creating new technologies, and increasing the use of renewable materials to get closer to the goal of closed-loop manufacturing.

Ray Anderson

It’s a remarkable feat in the carpet industry, one that relies so heavily on petroleum. But if the behemoth company with sales in 100 countries and manufacturing facilities on four continents can do it, others can surely follow suit.

Anderson makes it clear that while he may be an environmentalist who has traded in the luxury cars for a Prius and owns a solar-powered vacation home in the mountains, that doesn’t mean he’s not a businessman — something he writes about in his 2009 book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. Indeed, some of the changes Interface has instituted have been expensive up-front, but they’re all paying off in the long run.

In 1997, Anderson laid out the company’s vision, and over a decade later, it still resonates: “If we’re successful, we’ll spend the rest of our days harvesting yesteryear’s carpets and other petrochemically-derived products and recycling them into new materials and converting sunlight into energy, with zero scrap going to the landfill and zero emissions into the ecosystem. And we’ll be doing well … very well … by doing good. That’s the vision.”

To learn more about Interface’s sustainability initiatives, visit www.interfaceglobal.com.

Thomas Kemper

President and Founder, Dolphin Blue

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Top Ten Reasons To Be a Green Business

One of my employees recently challenged me to create a “Top Ten” reasons to work for, own, or operate a ecologically friendly, green business.  Here is my take:

10. Because our planet is our “garden”. Only with a totally healthy and productive garden will we be able to live healthy and sustainable lives.

9. Because we’re running low on clean, drinkable, non-chemically-contaminated water.

8. Because we’re quickly losing clean, breathable, non-chemically-contaminated air.

7. Because we’re depleting the minerals and healthy state of our soil. Without healthy soil, we won’t have healthy food. Without healthy food, we can’t have healthy bodies.

6. Because a healthy, sustainable planet will provide great rewards in reduced healthcare costs, healthy employees who are productive and present, and will be much better employees.

5. Because as the owner/CEO of a green business, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re doing your part.

4. Because, as a parent, you’ll sleep better at night, knowing you’re leaving a sustainable planet for your children and future generations.

3. Because you will be happier and healthier, living on a planet that you know has a rich diversity of fellow species, all doing their part in maintaining the balance of nature.

2. Because customers/consumers are looking for businesses with which they have a “values alignment”.  People buy from people and companies they know and trust are doing good.

and most important. ..

1. Because your children deserve at least as much of a natural world we have had.

Here’s hoping you make green waves at work,

Thomas Kemper, Owner and Founder

www.dolphinblue.com

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Nuclear Energy is SO Last Century

On an AlterNet piece I just read

6 Reasons Nuclear Energy Advocate Stewart Brand Is Wrong

The attached article from Harvey Wasserman discusses the justified failure of the nuclear industry and its champion Stewart Brand to become a factor as an energy source for the future.

Wasserman is right on, deriding Stewart Brand for his support of not just nuclear-generated power, but also genetically-modified plants and foods.

It seems that eventually, even the most noble protectors of our planet can become compromised by the influence of the corporate lobby.   Do you agree that nuclear power is outdated?

Tom Kemper

Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online provider of ecologically responsible office supplies.

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Sustainability Heroes: Michael C. Ruppert, The Whistle Blower

It has all the makings of something you’d only find in the movies: a young LAPD officer uncovering a drug trafficking operation by the CIA, resigning soon after he went on record about what he knew in the wake of intimidation, death threats, and even shooting attempts. But for Michael C. Ruppert, this was his life — and truth was stranger than fiction.

That was only the first of many whistle-blowing events for the activist, who went on to found From the Wilderness, a newsletter that covered such political issues as peak oil (the time when the world’s oil production hits its peak), the dependence of the global economy and financial markets on laundered drug money, and 9/11.

Using his decades of experience as an investigative journalist, late last year he released Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World, a must-read for those wondering what the state of oil today means for tomorrow. It was the inspiration for a 2009 documentary, called Collapse, in which Ruppert explains his ideas clearly and concisely, with plenty of frightening data to back up his assertions.

The outlook, as Ruppert sees it, is grim. Global oil resources are dwindling while demand is skyrocketing. Untapped sources are probably negligible. The economy is broken, a pyramid scheme that must be rebuilt. As Ruppert told The Wall Street Journal, his central message is this: “It is not possible to continue infinite consumption and infinite population growth on a finite planet.”

Trailblazing isn’t easy work, and exposing government corruption isn’t the best way to make friends. Undeterred, Ruppert says his proudest accomplishment is being labeled a radical thinker. “From now on, those are the only words I’ll ever have to put on a résumé,” he says. “You have no idea how much work it takes to earn that simple freedom.”

That work has led to high stress, health issues, persecution, and financial problems. Called an extremist and conspiracy theorist by some, a prophet and genius by others, Ruppert is nothing if not a polarizing figure. Whether you agree with all of his ideas or not, his spot-on predictions in the past — including his advance warning of the current recession — and ability to draw connections that others miss are reason enough to at least hear what he has to say, no matter how uncomfortable and unsettling his words.

While his predictions are gloomy, in Confronting Collapse, he outlines more than two dozen ways to mitigate disaster, like re-localizing the economy (particularly with food and energy production), creating an emergency action plan for soil restoration, shifting infrastructure money to rail projects, and supporting community-level efforts at the national level.

Just as it was back in the 1970s when he was a narcotics officer on a mission to expose our own government’s corruption, Ruppert’s life is like a made-for-Hollywood movie — but this one, if Ruppert is right, likely won’t have a happy ending unless we make big changes soon.

For more information about Ruppert, visit www.mikeruppert.blogspot.com.

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Sinking Our Economy, Cementing Our Destiny

I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.

After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.

On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.

In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd.  What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.

My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:

If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.

Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.

Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.

If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.

We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.

If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.

Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.

(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)

How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.

Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?

How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.

Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.

Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.

Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.

Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?

If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)

As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.

As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!

At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…

  • We want to balance the budget!
  • We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!

The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.

A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.

And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/in-deficit-town-meetings_b_627030.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/its-the-jobs-stupid_b_627141.html

It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.

We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.

To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

NTM Budget & Economy pg1

NTM Budget & Economy pg2

NTM Budget & Economy pg3

NTM Budget & Economy pg4

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Cleaning Up Oil With Hay

I received the link shown below from a friend yesterday, and, I’d have to agree with my friend Margie.

This is a very simple, straightforward solution to a current and continued future problem we are all facing at some level.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5SxX2EntEo]

As our recent guest blogger, Thomas Manaugh, Ph.D. exhorts, we should end our addiction to oil, and do so promptly.

However, until that day finally comes, there are some simple and effective ways to clean up the enormous mess created by oil spills, like the one now out of control in the Gulf of Mexico. This seems to be an effective and fairly “green” solution to the challenge.

Thomas Kemper is the Founder and President of Dolphin Blue, Inc.

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