Sustainability

Green New Deal: Inserting Realities into Radical Proposals

The Green New Deal proposed this month in Congress calls for radical changes to how we get our electricity. The non-binding resolution introduced by two progressive Democrats as reported by NPR suggests the energy sector can be converted to 100% zero-carbon power within 10 years while at the same time eliminating future nuclear power plants.

Can the U.S. realistically eliminate generating electricity from natural gas, coal and possibly nuclear sources in the next decade? According to the Energy Information Agency, here are the present sources of power generated in the U.S.: Natural Gas 33%, Coal 29%, Nuclear 20%, Hydroelectric 7%, Wind 7%, Solar 2%, and Biomass 2%

As you can see, 64% of current power generated releases carbon. Nuclear power does not directly emit carbon into the atmosphere and receives mixed to negative support by environmentalists. Currently, renewable wind and solar only accounts for 9% of power generation.

So it is not realistic to propose converting the entire power fleet in a decade to renewables only. Senator Diane Feinstein from California, which leads the nation in renewable power generation, said the Green New Deal must be modified to be more realistic, provide funding such as a carbon tax, and not have such an ambitious timeline. Most of the news coverage showed her defensively debating with children.

I believe that the Green New Deal is timely for creating the debates needed to move the United States from being the second largest emitter of carbon (China is the largest) to leading the future of green power generation and that rational realism, such as including new nuclear technologies as reported in Forbes, needs to be adopted in future legislation and energy planning.

The Children's Fight for Sustainability: Jesus said The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

In the United States, two groups, Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2015 to give youth legal rights to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere. Their lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon states that government actions (filed during the Obama Administration) that are causing climate change violates the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as protecting public trust resources.

In Europe this week, children in several cities are cutting classes to march and protest for a sustainable future. The BBC reports of 35,000 children marched against climate change in Brussels!

So what did Jesus, over two thousand years ago, mean in the Bible verse Mathew 5:5 by saying “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth?” My reading of various interpretations is that Jesus encouraged his followers to be strong and humble - recall his actions against the thieves in the temple?

The environmental movement rise in the 1960’s focusing on local issues is transforming into a global fight for not just sustainability, to preserve resources, but for survivability! What would Jesus be saying right now given how destructive forces (eco-thieves) are robbing our children’s futures? This is a call to action for us all to become more informed about what we can do to reduce our impacts on the Earth. Perhaps we need an eco-inheritance tax rather than tax breaks for the ultra rich?

To Conserve & Pro$per: Let Us Count The Ways!

I heard Chinese Proverb many decades ago that says, “The more possessions you own, the more possessions own you.” At the time I loved to collect books and possessed an extensive library. As I moved around with many boxes of books I eventually donated the books and relied on public libraries. This took a great weight off of my back!

For over six years we’ve demonstrated that even living in an area of no public transit we are happy with one vehicle for our family. We are paying less for car insurance, maintenance, fuel, car washes, and we have more quality family time together. Personal vehicles like personal computers might be the trend but the costs to our pocketbook and the environment will only increase.

So will a carbon fuel tax be one solution to combat global climate change? This would promote green energy sources and decrease demand on hydrocarbons and burning coal for electricity.

The essence of learning to conserve fits many themes to shrink our footprint, have less impact, consume less, 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), and promote more green space. We must plant more trees and preserve the forests and wildlife that remain!

For a New Year’s resolution, let’s all go on a diet and exercise more! Eat less, get thinner, breath fresher air, feel our connection with animals and the environment and find ways to recognize and solve our local, national, and global challenges.

May we all promote a peaceful and prosperous lifestyle!

Momentous Climatic Events Last Week

The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday for shopping deals, heavy rain along coastal California finally ended the tragic fires that spread north and south. The Camp Fire near Chico killed about 88 people, injured dozens, displacing 1000’s of people out of their homes, and impacted millions of people from significant air pollution. That same day the U.S. Government released the fourth national climate assessment that shows burning carbon is causing climate change and impacting our health, environment, and economy. See how these factors are interrelated in chapter 17.

On Monday, November 26, 2018 NASA successfully landed a probe on Mars!  Scientists and engineers beat the odds learning from previous missions for InSight to drill down to see what lies beneath the surface of Mars.

Exploring Mars captures international attention while NASA scientists continue to make important contributions to understanding our Earth. So how does NASA know climate change is occurring due to carbon pollution? See the overwhelming factual evidence for climate change!

On Friday, November 30, President George H.W. Bush passed away at age 94. His dedicated career of public service included environmental accomplishments with the passage of the Clean Air Amendments Act in 1990.  I worked with a colleague in Washington who helped as a Senate staffer and said the original Clean Air Act legislation had many challenges to get through Congress and they needed to show photographs of air pollution affecting national parks like the Smoky Mountains. The amendments had bipartisan support to improve air quality, reduce acid rain, save the protective ozone layer with more bans on CFC’s, and prevent an estimated 230,00 premature deaths and for “Better air quality, better health protection, better economy.”

 

 

 

More Bicycles than Cars or People in Amsterdam!

I’ve posted 15 photographs of our visit to Amsterdam this past week showing the popularity of bicycling and multiple parking locations near train stations, canals, schools, office parks, ferry boats, beach areas, and trains (check out the bike folded in half)! There are more bikes than people and about four times more bikes than cars according to AwesomeAmsterdam.com! Many people do not own a car and depend on biking around town. Obviously the air is clearer and people are healthier getting daily exercise. One day I wondered why all the 100’s of bike seats turned red, was it from a tour group - compare gallery bike photos 4 and 9 at the Sloterdijk Train Station? No, a clever advertiser overnight added seat covers. Luckily bicycle parking is free to all.

UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals

UNESCO Global Geoparks and their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • Especially target 1.5:
    "By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters"

Disaster risk reduction is essential to ending poverty and fostering sustainable development. The bottom-up approach of the UNESCO Global Geoparks reduces the vulnerability of local communities to extreme events and other shocks and disasters through active risk awareness and resilience training.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

  • Especially target 4.7:
    "By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development"

UNESCO Global Geoparks actively educate their local communities and their visitors of all ages. UNESCO Global Geoparks are outdoor classrooms and incubators for sustainable development, sustainable lifestyles, appreciation of cultural diversity and the promotion of peace.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

  • Especially target 5.5:
    "Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life"

UNESCO Global Geoparks strongly emphasize the empowerment of women through educational programmes or the development of women’s cooperatives. Such cooperatives provide an opportunity for women to obtain an additional income in their own area and on their own terms.

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

  • Especially target 8.9:
    "By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and product"

The promotion of sustainable local economic development through sustainable (geo)tourism is one of the key pillars of a UNESCO Global Geopark. This creates job opportunities for the local communities through tourism, but also through the promotion of local culture and products.

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Especially target 11.4:
    "Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage"

Protection, safeguarding and celebrating our cultural and natural heritage are the foundation of the holistic approach of the UNESCO Global Geoparks. UNESCO Global Geoparks aim to give local people a sense of pride in their region and strengthen the identification with the area.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Especially target 12.8:
    "By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature"

  • and target 12.b:
    "Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products"

UNESCO Global Geoparks educate and create awareness on sustainable development and lifestyles. They teach the local communities and visitors to live in harmony with nature.

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Especially target 13.3:
    "Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning"

All UNESCO Global Geoparks hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change. Through educational activities awareness is raised on the issue and people are provided with knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

  • Especially target 17.6:
    "Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism"

  • target 17.9:
    "Enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation"

  • and target 17.16:
    "Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries"

UNESCO Global Geoparks are all about partnership and cooperation, not only between local stakeholders, but also internationally through regional and global networks were knowledge, ideas and best practices are shared. Experienced geoparks guide aspiring geoparks to reach their full potential.

Outline for Potential Book

Occasionally I get ambitiously motivated to write a book to share experiences from my Earth Science perspective on individual to global survivability, i.e. improving our odds, through adversity and becoming more resilient. I would like to summarize blog posts over the past three years, learn and discuss local examples I’ve heard about here in Grand Junction -- like capturing landfill methane gas to supply CNG vehicles -- and seek out the best practices worldwide. I started on an outline for a book that I am initially calling:

Survival Sustainability: What We All Need to Know Now and For Our Children’s Future

Here is an outline with some ideas that I began BEFORE finding 30+ books on the topic of sustainability. This outline might take the form of book chapters:

Successful and Unsuccessful Societies Throughout History

                Greek Trojan Horse, Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire, Hopis Seven Generations, Chaco Canyon and Pueblo People from Mesa Verde to Santa Fe

What Kind of Place Will Our Children and Grandchildren Inherit?

Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Meeting Our Basic Needs: Maslow's Hierarchy

Food, Diet, Exercise, Health, Water, Homes and Bathrooms, Getting Around

Origins of Our Universe and Many Changes Through Geologic Time

Life, Proliferation, Population Bomb, Extinctions

Earth’s Precious Resources and Finite Capacity

Nature: Weathering Extreme Events including Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Tornados, Hurricanes, Drought

Neighborhood Watch to Governance – Local, County, State, Federal, International

Resilient Businesses and Investment Opportunities

Reestablishing the Ecological Balance of Nature – Wilson’s Half Earth proposal

Global Walk for a Livable World and Hands Across America

Nature and Spirituality – Indigenous People, Emerson, Thoreau, Ammachi

Appendices: Checklists

Please send me your thoughts about this book proposal and things you would like to know more about! Thank you!

Gaining a Competitive Advantage with ESG

OMG! Will ESG be the megatrend that transforms our planet? Environmental, Social and Governance is certainly becoming an important trend for businesses, investors, and governments.

Robert Eccles, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, and other scholars have compiled articles on Sustainability and Shareholder Value.

He wrote in 2016 that, “Recent research provides persuasive evidence of a latent investor appetite for the reporting of material ESG information that goes beyond conventional financial statements… In April 2015, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, in his now-annual letter to the CEOs of portfolio companies, said that investors “also have an important role to play, which is why we engage actively with companies on the key governance factors that in our experience support long-term, sustainable, financial performance. Chief among these is board leadership—in our view, the board is management’s first line of defense against short-term pressures… In a world increasingly sensitive to income inequality and suspicious of the corporate quest for profit, promoting a broader understanding of the role of the corporation in society is one of the most pressing issues facing the sustainable development movement. It will become even more important now that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified by all United Nations’ Member States in September of 2015. As social expectations continue to rise about how corporations, especially the world’s largest corporations, can contribute to a more sustainable society, companies have no choice but to respond. Ultimately, the company’s license to operate comes from civil society. However, the company needs to be clear on which issues are a priority, as determined by its chosen significant audiences, and which are not. The Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality offers the board has a unique and unprecedented opportunity to present a clear and credible view of their company’s role in society—one that can guide management’s decision-making and its interactions with its significant audiences and other stakeholders.”

A recent positive example of ESG becoming relevant is the banning plastic straws and stirrers used in drinks to cut pollution, particularly in the oceans, which is gaining popularity in several coastal states of the U.S., in Europe and with many businesses like Starbucks and Alaska Airlines. I learned that a Girl Scout began a non-profit called Jr Ocean Guardians and is credited with starting the trend!

Check out Yahoo Finance which provides a watchlist of companies that rank high for sustainability.

MSCI ranks 6,400 companies and 400,000 equity and fixed income securities globally and says this trend is catching in Asia as it has in the western world.

 

Memorial Day 2018: Sustainable Freedom

My father contributed to winning World War II by fighting for American freedom against predominantly German and Japanese dictatorships. He defended our Constitution that grants many freedoms to our republic which brought people immigrating from around the world to enjoy freedoms including of speech, religion, press and assembly. He worked his entire career for the Navy Department so I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

Our national holiday of Memorial Day is interesting to observe from an international perspective. America helped rebuild Europe with the Marshall Plan and we've enjoyed sustainable freedom for 73 years through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, many of these freedoms are increasingly being challenged as international cooperation breaks down by strong nationalist and protectionist views. 

One of America's closes allies since the Civil War period has been the southeast Asian country of Thailand - which translated means "Freedom" and is the only country in the region to escape colonial rulers. King Mongkut offered the use of elephants to America in 1861 which is still seen as a gift of friendship. The U.S. operates many military bases in Thailand which became a hub for our soldiers during the Vietnam war.

I recently learned about the Ten Royal Virtues of the recently deceased King Bhumibol (whom I previously posted a blog on 10.29.17 regarding his successful environmental stewardhip). These come directly from the Buddhist tradition known as the Ten Duties of the Government as described in the book What the Buddha Taught:

1. Giving - Non-attachment to wealth and property; consider first the welfare of the people.

2. Morality - Avoid cheating, adultery, lying or using intoxicants.

3. Donation - Sacrifice for the good of the people.

4. Honesty - Never deceive the public.

5. Gentleness - Be kind.

6. Simple life - Avoid a life of luxury.

7. Non-anger - Never bear a grudge against anyone.

8. Harmlessness - Be non-violent to promote peace.

9. Endurance or Patience - Be understanding of others.

10. Right Actions - Be in harmony with the people.

As we celebrate the freedoms fought for by the Greatest Generation, let us seek virtue, peace, and harmony in our inner and outer worlds. 

Demonstrating a Climate of Hope

Despite all the terrible events this year caused in large part by global climate change: including the worst wildfire season in the Pacific U.S.; major Category 5 hurricanes that destroyed much of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, parts of Florida, and Houston; droughts in the southwest and snow in the southeast parts of U.S….there are numerous reasons to keep hope alive. In fact, perhaps because of these and many other tragic events, a new awaking is emerging worldwide that we got ourselves into this mess by not understanding the delicate balance of nature and cumulative human impacts, so we must quickly find ways out of our calamity.

After reading a new book published this summer by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Sierra Club president Carl Pope, I feel so much more informed and optimistic about positive actions being taken. The book is titled Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet.

Mr. Bloomberg shares his wisdom that many mayors are making substantial progress in sharp contrast to the dysfunction in Washington. In New York City, ten years ago he led implementing sustainability with PlaNYC. A great outcome is the greening of the Empire State Building! Mr. Pope describes many battles that he personally waged such as the Beyond Coal campaign which prevented about 120 coal plants from being built allowing for newer, cleaner technologies to emerge. The book exemplifies the Earth Day idea of Think Globally, Act Locally.

Both leaders describe green actions including jobs that are transforming our society. For example, instead of promoting more coal mining jobs which are being replaced mostly by robotics so why not help out of work coal miners get jobs to restore areas damaged by past mining?

So here is a list of some great quotes cited in Climate of Hope from seven mayors and other renowned thinkers as chapter headings giving a sense of multiple topics:

·         Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

·         Denis Coderre: “If you want to get things done, ask a mayor.”     

·         Jason Box: “It’s really quite simple. We’ve overloaded the atmosphere with heat-trapping gas and the rest are just details.”

·         Cindy Lerner: “Turning the Miami region into a real-world Atlantis is a fate we cannot accept.”

·         Alisha Winters: “Our families deserve clean air, and we have been without it for far too long.”

·         Dale Ross: “Our municipal utility will move to 100 percent renewables…Environmental zealots have not taken over our city council. Our move to wind and solar is chiefly a business decision.”

·         Kasim Reed: “You cannot have a national initiative without involving cities.”

·         Alice Waters: The reality is that the sustainable-food movement’s reach will grow only to a point and ultimately will be limited to those with access, means, and education – unless legislators dramatically change food and agriculture policy.”

·         Yeom Tae-Young: “As urban populations continue to grow, we cannot rely on the business-as-usual scenario of car-based cities.”

·         Amory Lovins: “Oil dependence is a problem we need no longer have – and it’s cheaper not to. U.S. oil dependence can be eliminated by proven and attractive technologies that create wealth, enhance choice, and strengthen common security.”

·         Diane Regas: A sustainable world is possible if we take advantage of the vast opportunities in manufacturing. We must view these industries – and their supply chains – as a source of solutions, not just a source of problems.”

·         Christiana Figueres: “Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to investment.”

·         Mitch Landrieu: “For generations, barrier islands, marshes, and cypress trees as far as the eye could see protected us from hurricanes…For decades the coast has been under attack from every angle: cut by canals, starved of nutrients, and battered by storms…This attack must stop and be reversed.”

·         Albert Einstein: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

·         Marty Walsh: “We know that climate action only works when we get everyone involved: our government, our businesses, neighborhoods, and residents.”

Celebrating the Life and Environmental Stewardship of the King of Thailand

This week, Thailand is celebrating and mourning the life and passing of King Bhumibol, with a cremation ceremony one year after his death. I've traveled to Thailand many times over the past 23 years and always felt greatly impressed by the love people displayed for their King. By learning more about his many accomplishments - especially with environmental stewardship, I began to understand the people's devotion. 

I experienced first hand the great accomplishments of the King regarding environmental and economic development. In 1994, I traveled to several Asian countries as a tourist and no where else did I feel so warmly greeted with great kindness as in Thailand - the Land of 1000 Smiles. One of the first things that I noticed was the caring and respect for family and especially the elders, the lack of homelessness, and genuine generosity. 

I traveled with an American doctor friend who volunteered at a hospital in Bangkok. When I saw the newspaper of an environmental conference in honor of the King to be held near Pattaya, I knew I had to go. The conference displayed technology from many countries for air and water purification and ways to improve agriculture. I became very impressed with the many accounts that I heard for the King's direct involvement and creativity to improve the lives of Thai people. One example I observed was the way he worked with rural farmers to improve rice crops, reduce flooding, and clean water.

Here is an article on the King's sustainable development practices and a thoughtful speech last year shown by video of U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power on the life and connections of the Thai King.

 

 

Schendler’s List for Corporate Sustainability

Auden Schendler shares compelling war (and peace) stories from the front lines of the sustainability movement separating corporate propaganda from real advancements. After reading his 2009 book, we shared some text messages and he says, “in short, if business doesn’t approach climate at scale, it’s not part of the solution.”

In the 2009 book, Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution, he describes his influential role as sustainability manager for Aspen Skiing Company. Mr. Schendler points out that Aspen, Colorado is a mecca for the ultra-affluent, generating world-wide attention, so has a greater impact on corporate decisions. Aspen is also a poster child for the impacts of climate change where the winter season already lost a month due to early springtime just in the past few decades. The future of the ski industry (as well as the entire planet) is being jeopardized by global warming, aka. climate change.

More recently in 2013, Auden Schendler and co-author Michael Toffel provided a list of five actions needed for meaningful corporate sustainability programs:

1.       Lobby local, national and international political leaders to reduce carbon

2.      Insist trade groups give priority to climate policy

3.      Market climate activism

4.      Partner with effective non-governmental organizations

5.      Demand suppliers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

 

Sustainable Development Scenes from Los Angeles

This past week we took a family vacation to LA touring Universal and Warner Brothers studios, Malibu, Long Beach aquarium and whale watching, Legoland, and more. We visited friends in Koreatown and Burbank. Lingering effects from severe drought that ended last winter are still very evident. Burnt brush from an 18-acre fire in Burbank only six weeks ago is still very dramatic and fortunately no homes were lost but there was a lot of smoke.

Hollywood and Beverley Hills are well known style and fashion trend setters with the envy of the world watching so sustainable development actions taken here could catch on. Very noticeable and surprising are the variety of ways people are making sustainable actions including:

·         Planting a fruit and vegetable garden in their front yard

·         Replacing dead lawns with artificial grass

·         Using recycled water for large areas including parks and universities

·         Active solar collection

·         Charging stations for electric cars

·         Environmental education programs

For photo examples of these sustainable developments, see the picture gallery.

 

Interesting Eco Books for Our Reading Pleasure

Here are some books available at the local library that I’ve found most interesting reading this summer:

Edward O. Wilson, 2016 Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life

David Grinspoon, 2016 Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future

Auden Schendler, 2009 Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution

Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2008 Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

Unshakeable Sustainability

A great new book by Tony Robbins -- Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, Creating Peace of Mind in a World of Volatility.

The book is filled with inspiring wisdom from some of the most and least famous investors showing us how to create an all-weather portfolio. I mentioned this book to my stock adviser who said I should think about applying this approach to my passion for environmental sustainability!

In coming blogs, I will take on this exciting challenge to see what we can do to create PEACE OF MIND for current and future generations in terms of ensuring adequate supplies of air, energy, food, water, and other essential resources that are being extremely exploited.

 

Living in the Now and Planning for More than Just Today

I've heard a famous spiritual teacher say the past is like a cancelled check and the future is not here yet. We can live with our full awareness on the present moment while at the same time consider living our lives for more than just today. Anyone who wonders where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep at night is living day to day. Most people with jobs are living month to month and spending most of what they make on expenses and saving very little if anything. Getting a financial education for most of us is learning by the school of hard knocks and there is also luck involved - who could have predicted the housing market crash? My parents taught us to be generous while also being aware of how to make and keep a buck. For years I've said at work - another day another dollar!

Over the course of a career, we've learned to spend no more than 25% of our income on housing and find ways to pay off loans as quickly as possible. I always prefer a 15 year over a 30 year loan for the lower interest rates and total savings. The real estate industry may want us to buy a larger home and spend more than we really need as they get paid by commissions. Living within our means, separating our wants from our needs, and conserving resources works for our family; however, this is not typical in the consumer society where we always seem to want more. Consider we bought our 42" flat screen TV nine years ago. It is the only TV in our home. We've been admiring all the fancy new sets with 70" curved screens as a major want but not a need - only when our TV stops working can we justify getting a new one as we are content and grateful for what we have now. One financial planner said to consider not only the present cost but also the future compound interest. For example, investing instead of buying that $1,000 TV today results in about doubling the amount at 5% interest over 30 years. 

By analogy, how do we want (or need) to save and spend our natural resources? Do we want to search for water and food supplies on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis? Sustainability is really all about wise planning so we do not waste what we have and need now and not forsake our future. Perhaps society focused on consumption rather than saving for the future is great for corporate profits but not so great for future generations as populations increase and natural resources diminish. A great book on the topic is by E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation who advocates we must save half of the Earth to protect many species from extinction and ultimately if we are to save humanity as well. The Hopi society promotes the idea of considering how a decision we make might affect the next seven generations. I think about all the great civilizations that have come and gone including the Puebloans, Greeks and Romans and wonder if global consumerism promoting wants will eventually be extinguished by sustainable survivalists, like the Hopi, who are careful to control what they really need.

 

2016 Year in Review of Conserving and Pro$pering

We’ve made great progress in our family lifestyle this year by conserving energy, food, and water to become more healthy, wealthy, and wise. This website blog exercised and demonstrated our sustainability mindfulness to:

·         Doing more with less – becoming more efficient!

·         Improving our diet, exercise, mediation, prayer, and balancing use of technology

·         Discovering benefits of acupuncture, massage, and confronting/reducing stressful situations

·         Learning to make our own meat jerky that is less expensive and delicious without preservatives

·         Growing and eating inexpensive, organic vegetables by volunteering at a community garden

·         Adding a HVAC electrostatic air filter to improve indoor air quality

·         Saving drinking water supplies with drip irrigation landscaping

·         Drinking mostly water or milk and no soda pop drinks

·         Attending conferences and workshops on water sustainability

·         Speaking to school groups about natural resources and conservation

·         Conducting a home energy audit that allowed patching of leaks and better air circulation

·         Driving a Toyota Rav4 hybrid as the only family car which saved about $650 in fuel costs, 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide not emitted to the air, and much improved safety and power features

·         Reading many books on sustainability as reviewed in several blogs

·         Becoming more aware of risks and threats to our lifestyle such as overconsumption, population growth, food and water scarcity, ignorance and denial of scientific evidence, and needless wasting of precious resources in a “use it or lose it” mentality

Without sounding too self-righteous, we still have many more opportunities to improve our lifestyle in 2017, such as becoming more self-sufficient by adding solar panels to our home or maybe supporting newer technologies like community modular nuclear reactors; purchasing an electric vehicle; becoming less dependent on banks, credit cards, or investing only in the stock market by building a variety of diverse assets; collecting rainwater (legalized in Colorado this year); planting fruit trees and stocking up on long shelf-life food supplies. Please let me know if you have comments or suggestions!

Happy New Year!

Keeping an Eye on Our Taxes, Spending and Fiscal Sustainability

In the year 2000, I had the great fortune to spend a week on Capitol Hill for a seminar to learn about the federal government and legislative process. The big news we heard discussed was what should the U.S. do with the annual budget surplus? Here is an interesting summary of what happened to the surplus.

See what Paul Krugman (2008 Nobel Prize for Economics) said in 2011 about fiscal irresponsibility and deficit spending as well as many of his poignant current blog posts. He cites the Bush tax cuts, wars, and the recession for our budget deficit problems.

I felt surprised in 2000 that many in Congress were not happy with the budget surplus and more comfortable with the government being in debt. Did they forget what happened in Japan in the 1990's? These factors are still observable today on the World Debt Clock.

Checkout the public debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio (Debt/GDP). This is basically looking at how much is being spent compared to earned by each country. The U.S. is at 71%, China 23%, Japan 256%, Germany 62%, and Russia 24%. Based on these numbers it appears that the strongest economies have the lowest percentages including China and Russia. The huge public debt for Japan is still very concerning. It is amazing to see that the US debt is outpacing GDP while in China they are far ahead in making much more in GDP than they owe.

The U.S. Debt Clock indicates that on average the federal budget deficit is growing at the rate of about $7,500 per minute! This is the difference between money spent by Congress and received through taxes. The total U.S. debt is approaching $20 trillion and growing at $6 trillion per year. Since the year 2000, the federal government increased spending by 118%!

There are various opinions about fiscal sustainability and debt. Some say it's healthy to maintain debt at low levels (see this May 2016 article in theweek).

As I've previously blogged about my upbringing by parents who grew up during the 1930's depression, we've always wanted to save more than to owe the banks! I wonder by analogy if countries that hold U.S. Treasury bonds, including China and Russia, can influence on our economy and standard of living?

Easy Drive to Aspen's Maroon Bells

Last Saturday, November 19th, we traveled to visit one of our favorite places -- the town of Aspen including the John Denver Sanctuary where we could all proudly sing 'Rocky Mountain High.' We heard the road to Maroon Bells  closes every year on November 15th. So we walked over to the Hotel Jerome for a tour of the beautiful European style hotel built during the silver rush in 1889. The concierge said the road to the Maroon Bells is still open even after the half foot of snow that fell two days before! We found the road to be dry all the way up until the Forest Service parking lot at an elevation of about 9,500 feet with only a few inches of wet melting snow in the afternoon sunshine. The 14,000 foot peaks only showed a dusting of snow. The lack of snow is of great concern to the ski industry which must open later than planned and for water managers to forecast adequate supplies.

Seven Principles for Sustainable Water Management

Now that you've passed the test (or checked out the answers) to the the Chasing Water book that I reviewed in my previous blog post, here are Brian Richter's ideas for water sustainability. So what does water sustainability really mean anyway? He cites Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute who offered this definition: "the use of water that supports the ability of human society to endure and flourish into the indefinite future without undermining the integrity of the hydrological cycle or the ecological systems that depend on it." For example, Richter suggests extracting more than 20 percent of a river's daily flow can lead to ecological harm to fish, turtles, frogs and other sensitive species. Lakes and aquifers may be even more sensitive to withdrawals due to slow replenishment.

Here are seven principles to consider for sustainable water management:

1. Build a shared vision for your community's water future.

2. Set limits on total consumptive use of water.

3. Allocate a specific volume to each user, then monitor and enforce.

4. Invest in water conservation to its maximum potential.

5. Enable trading of water entitlements.

6. If too much water is being consumptively used, subsidize reductions in consumption.

7. Learn from mistakes or better ideas, and adjust as you go.

Western water law based on prior appropriation (first in time, first in right) allows control of senior to junior water rights for people but priorities for sustaining natural ecosystems depends on people advocating for the environment. Obstacles to water conservation cited by the author include challenging social norms (people love green grass even in the desert), water providers whose receipts depend upon sales, spreading fear of shortages, and political will for unpopular projects such as dams. 

Richter explains how he learned through personal connections that Australian landowners fought for the environment even during severe droughts to keep water flowing and prevent additional fish kills. A cap-and-flex system adopted in the Murray-Darling watershed enabled setting limits to priority distributions for consumptive use accounting for protecting ecosystems and being flexible with supply during wetter years. The government stepped in to purchase 400,000 acre-feet at a cost of $700 million to store and distribute water where needed for ecological preservation and areas significant to Aboriginal people. 

Australia set up a market-based system to trade water rights which improved accounting systems for water management such as adding efficient technology that can measure the hydrologic cycle and consumptive use. 

Ultimately, there is great power in creating partnerships that can transcend institutional bureaucracies - individuals in local communities and grassroots organizations can network with public and private groups to share in a common mission to find solutions to these challenging problems.