Archive for the ‘Green Revolution’ Category

This was Sherwood’s 3rd annual trip to Greenbuild, and it was exhilarating and exciting to see nearly 30,000 people turn out in Boston to indulge in some “Revolutionary Green.” Despite the freezing cold Boston welcome, the event was bigger, the booths were bigger, and it’s obvious that while Green may still be Revolutionary to some, it’s definitely here to stay. People from all over the country and around the world were in attendence, and companies from every sector are getting in on the action.

And while a few of the old hands may miss the early pioneering days of the Green Building Council, it’s obvious that this movement has moved beyond builders, archiects, and engineers and caught the attention of business, community and political leaders as well.

By day we hosted folks at our booth, which was a great success. Thanks to everybody who came by! It was great to see old friends, and meet new folks as well.

Original Cliff Garten Art at our Booth

Original Clint Imboden Art at our Booth

By night we celebrated, co-sponsoring a party at the beautiful Artists for Humanity gallery to celebrate the opening of our new Cambridge office. Toasting old and new friends with local Harpoon Brewery Ale was definitely a highlight. The World Green Building Council, Nexus Green-Round Table and others also threw notable festivities “full of fun energetic green people,” says Mike Thornton.

There were notable speeches by Desmond Tutu, who basically said, “You guys rock.” In a very funny and inspiring speech he praised the election in US, saying what an amazing country we were and encouraging everybody there to think about green. Not being concerned about the environment is like not being concerned about human rights violations, said Tutu.

Echoing his statements, speakers Van Jones, author of “The Green-Collar Economy” and Majora Carter of Sustainable South Bronx talked about their efforts to ensure that the Green Revolution is all-inclusive, and socially equitable by bringing together “the folks that most need work with the work that most needs to be done.”

The closing plenary by legendary biologist EO Wilson, and “Biomimicry” author Janine Benyus were especially interesting, as these noted scientists pointed out new tools that can aid us in saving and understanding the natural world.

EO Wilson’s “Encyclopedia of Life” is an effort to catalogue the millions of species on earth – many fast disappearing, or too long ignored. Benyus’ Asknature.org is a site that describes biological solutions to technical challenges, allowing us to draw on Nature’s billions of years of research devising materials, transportation, shelter, and power generation.

Despite the economic crisis this year, Greenbuild 2008 once again confirmed that sustainable solutions are the best chance we have of creating a thriving, prosperous world for all of us.

The challenge now will be to wade through all the buzz and hype. To weed out the greenwashers, take a hard look at the easy answers, and avoid unintended consequences. There is still much work to be done to bring Green mainstream, but we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us, and we’ve already reserved our booth for next year’s Greenbuild in Phoenix, AZ.

We’ll see you there for: “Mainstreet Green: Connect to the Conversation.”

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If I have seen further [than certain other men], it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.

(Attributed to Sir Isaac Newton and others before and after him)

Last month, I supplemented my profile on Dr. Wangari Maathai with a small reference to the more controversial Salon.com/Rolling Stone article, Climate Warriors and Heroes. Although the list of 28 people who have made significant (or, at least, well-publicized) contributions to the green movement is clearly too limited — contributions are generally limited to work in the West and within “developed” nations; limited, unsurprisingly, by gender and limited, for the most part, to celebrity — it does begin to illustrate that the individual’s value is amplified when that person’s skills are supplemented by those of others.

I would, however, like to quickly make note of an individual who posted a comment soon after the article was originally released in late 2005. In a comment titled “Drive-Through Environmentalism,” the individual astutely points out that many of the 28 “climate warriors and heroes” are hardly visionary, since they have not dramatically challenged existing infrastructure systems. The individual discusses the automobile industry and transportation system, in particular, and echoes those who condemn the “light green” movement for inducing no fundamental change to (or sacrifice of) luxuries and comforts of many Western/industrialized lifestyles. S/he is intelligent enough, however, to recognize that infrastructure standards sustain such lifestyles. Many would argue that effective change cannot occur immediately and that there is value in working within established systems to change them. At what point is that argument convenient and exhausted?

This month, I’d like to highlight an example of dissent which only further strengthens and empowers the green movement. A community with a cause can only benefit from respecting the challenges of an individual or a minority and thoroughly assessing the validity of the dissent. When in the spirit of pursuing truth and the welfare of the community, these challenges ultimately embody loyalty.

Earlier this week, I came across an unsuspecting, surprisingly-refreshing profile on Bjorn Lomborg, “a Danish political scientist and scourge of environmentalist orthodoxy.” In ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate, John Tierney describes a discussion with Dr. Lomborg regarding some of his controversial beliefs about climate change from an economic perspective. As head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Dr. Lomborg encourages economists and political scientists to establish a different set of priorities than do conventional environmentalists. According to Lomborg, a “feel-good” strategy, such as the Kyoto Protocol, does not dramatically alter the lifestyles of those individuals and/or nations that have endorsed it and allow them to advocate for causes and make promises for which they are not held accountable. A “do-good” strategy is distinguishable in that it tackles more pressing threats, such as malaria, AIDS and other pandemics; drinking water supply and other sanitation issues; and hunger, and subsequently, malnutrition. Lomborg also emphasizes that “do-good” strategies are more cost-effective and achieve more tangible results in addressing climate change.

If you’re worried about stronger hurricanes flooding coast, concentrate on limiting coastal development and expanding wetlands right now rather than trying to slightly delay warming decades from now. To give urbanites a break from hotter summers, concentrate on reducing the urban-heat-island effect. If cities planted more greenery and painted roofs and streets white, he says, they could more than offset the impact of global warming.”

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is understandably criticized for underestimating the magnitude of global warming’s impact on the Earth and its future. It is certainly worth looking further into his alternative perspective and deciding for yourself what is of value to the overall movement. Since it is important to me that I am well-informed about a variety of views in this movement, I will have to read more of his work for myself. In the end, I may very well disagree with much of his work, but he wisely reminds us, however, that “preparing for the worst in future climate is expensive, which means less money for the most serious threats today — and later this century.” In past posts, I have attempted to convey my belief that the green movement is multi-faceted and, ideally, addresses a wide spectrum of human concerns sustainably. If there are ways in which the community can account for long-term conservation and disaster-prevention planning, while addressing equally-significant threats at hand today, I would welcome more open-minded discussion to achieve these interdisciplinary, cost-effective strategies.

The views of Dr. Bjorn Lomborg and his colleagues at the Copenhagen Consensus Center have been denounced by institutions and individuals alike, many of whom claim allegiance to the environmental movement. Immediately after having read the aforementioned article about Lomborg, I encountered another striking article, though on the International Development Design Summit at MIT and its attempts to identify problems affecting real people and test design solutions for these real-world applications. The founders and participants of the program theoretically place major emphasis on the “design revolution,” which accounts for a shift in focus among companies, universities, investors and scientists toward addressing small and larger design obstacles in the world’s “developing” communities.

Nearly 90 percent of research and development dollars are spent on creating technologies that serve the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population, the point of the design revolution is to switch that.”

The engineers who have participated in MIT’s International Development Design Summit are among a growing group directing their attention toward providing tangible solutions to immediate human threats. Should Dr. Bjorn Lomborg’s perspective then be entirely dismissed when his challenges echo somewhat the increasingly-popular “design revolution”? Just as “drive-through environmentalism” exposes *an inconvenient truth*, we should be prepared to extract objective wisdom from the least popular and unlikeliest of places, people and posts. It is from our breadth of existing knowledge — and exceptional insights about its strengths and weaknesses — that we develop outstanding solutions for ourselves and for the future.

Quotations taken from John Tierney’s ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate and Andrew C. Revkin’s Low Technologies, High Aims, respectively. Both articles taken from The New York Times.Photos from Photo.net, The Seattle Times, and The New York Times

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Week of September 10-17

Dwell on Design Conference
Friday – Sunday, September 14-16.
San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center
With over 500 thought leaders and professionals in design, and over 5,000 design-seeking consumers the Dwell on Design Conference + Exhibition is an idea-driven, multi-day experience designed to ignite a creative spark within anyone who is passionate about modern design, sustainability and smart growth.

Greening Existing Buildings – The Economics
USGBC-NCC Office: 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600. SF, CA 94104
September 11, 6:00 pm
San Francisco has a significant portfolio of existing buildings, many of which have not been updated in decades. How can these buildings be renovated to better perform, save money and improve overall building efficiencies? In this panel, you will learn about LEED™ for Existing Buildings, hear case studies about Bay Area projects, and gain an understanding of green leasing and how that concept can change the way buildings are managed. A collaborative project by the Presidio School of Management and the Haas School of Business in conjunction with the Northern California Emerging Green Builders Committee.

Treasure Island Music Festival
September 15-16. Treasure Island, San Francisco

Reuse, Recycle, and Rock-Out with Thievery Corporation. Gotan Project. MIA. DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist. Modest Mouse. Spoon…. and many, many more!

Clean Vibes is giving you the chance to gain FREE admission to the Treasure Island Music Festival, through volunteering to help keep Treasure Island clean. All you have to do to is sign up for one six hour shift on the day you wish to attend. The two types of volunteer positions available are waste reclamation education and post event clean up. Shift times are 11am-5pm and 4:30pm–10:30pm and a fully refundable $75 deposit is required for each day you choose to attend. Fill out an application here.

We are partnering with CollectiveGood to recycle and reuse old cell phones to keep them out of landfills. Cell phones contain hazardous materials such as mercury, cadmium, nickel and gallium arsenide that could contaminate ground water if discarded in landfills. Donated phones are either refurbished and sold primarily in Latin America, or they are scrapped for parts. Either way, they stay out of landfills.

San Francisco Living: Home Tours Weekend
September 15-16.

AIA San Francisco and Center for Architecture + Design announce the 5th annual San Francisco Living: Home Tours Weekend. Tour homes from Bernal Heights to SoMa, Mission District to Diamond Heights and view a wide variety of architectural styles, neighborhoods and residences. From 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. self-guided tours are happening with design teams and docents available at each home. Schedule and tickets available here.

Next Week: West Coast Green. September 20-22.

Have a great week!

photo courtesy of DwellonDesign.

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Architecture and the City Festival
September 1 – 30, 2007. San Francisco

Mayor Gavin Newsom has officially proclaimed September “Architecture and the City” month and for the first time, the festival will be collaborating with the San Francisco Department of the Environment to bring green and sustainability issues to the forefront.

AIA San Francisco and Center for Architecture + Design announce the fourth annual festival, celebrating San Francisco’s unique built environment and design community. Featuring architectural tours, exhibitions, design lectures, green building tips and more, the month-long celebration invites everyone to a deeper appreciation of San Francisco’s rich architectural and design community.

Come check out the bike Tours every Thursday, Walking tours, Open Houses, Behind-the-Scenes, Lectures, Films and more!

Exhibition: San Francisco on the Boards + At Street Level
Begins September 6 and runs through October.

This exhibition investigates the pedestrian experience of the city — in particular the unusual ways in which we perceive our city from the street level. More info here.

Author Event and Book Signing
Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement
Sissel A. Waage, Ph.D., Author
Wednesday, September 5th. The Commonwealth Club San Francisco.
The evidence is irrefutable: global warming is real. While the debate continues about just how much damage spiking temperatures will wreak, we know the threat to our homes, health, and even way of life. Sissel Waage has co-edited a book that brings together some of the world’s finest thinkers and advocates to jump start the ultimate green revolution. The approaches advocated are various and draw on insights from past social movements. Sissel Waage’s talk will focus on the question we all face: “What can I do?”

And don’t forget the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival….
September 8-9. 12 – 5 p.m.
The 12th Annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival, benefiting Project Open Hand, will feature more than 30 booths at the weekend-long festival. There will be a myriad of wonderful chocolate treats from Ghirardelli Chocolate and some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants and bakeries.

Heads Up this Month in SF:

Dwell on Design Conference September 14-16.
West Coast Green September 20-22.

Have a Great Week!

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Last month, I presented a brief introduction to a series in which I’d like to comment on a number of aspects of the green revolution, namely practical environmental conservation measures on multiple scales. I distinguish between the established Green Revolution — which more directly encompasses issues surrounding agricultural production — and an ideal green movement where a growing interest in sustainability translates to universal commitment to action. The green revolution to which I refer recognizes that all forms of sustainable development, such as food sovereignty/sustainable agricultural development, economic development of marginalized groups and nations and ecologically-sensitive design and construction, connect and solutions should be prepared accordingly. Over the course of my blog series, I’ll aim to feature, at least, one example of a noteworthy, heroic act for each post, so that the various forms and accessibility of the green revolution are made apparent. The green revolution should emphasize that anyone can act heroically for the sake of ourselves, that of our future and that of the planet we inhabit; a hero sacrifices in order to direct energy into something beyond the limits of his/her own life.

The debate surrounding carbon footprints and subsequent offsets is a common way in which to address the issue, but its critiques and commentary are ubiquitous and it has been covered a good amount already. I’ve decided to highlight a successful example of community grassroots organizing because it allows one to become invested in a movement and to build confidence in one’s ability to strengthen that movement through his/her unique skills and interests. I echo John Lennon’s sentiment that “a working class hero is something to be,” but no one is exempt in my eyes from responsibility to the Earth and its inhabitants and anyone can be a hero[ine].

Today’s Featured Act: Dr. Wangari Maathai – Green Belt Movement

Dr. Wangari Maathai is an environmentalist, a political and human rights activist, a member of Kenya’s parliament, a former Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and the founder of the Green Belt Movement. Dr. Wangari Maathai in New York City, 2002     Photo by Martin RoweAs the first woman in East and Central Africa to have earned a doctoral degree and the first African woman and environmentalist to have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, it is no wonder that Professor Maathai initiated a grassroots tree planting program — to address issues of deforestation, soil erosion and an inadequate water supply in her country — which also blossomed into an organization that works with women to improve their quality of life. According to the Green Belt Movement, Professor Maathai has helped women in Kenya plant more than 30 million trees on their farms and on school and church lands. In 1986, the Green Belt Movement established a Pan African Green Belt Network through which it shared its environmental conservation/tree planting programs with other African groups. Today, more than 40 million trees have been planted in total across Africa due to GBM’s efforts. As a result, soil erosion has been reduced in critical watersheds, thousands of acres of biodiversity-rich indigenous forest have been restored and protected and hundreds of thousands of women and their families have empowered themselves and their communities.

Professor Maathai was listed 6th in the UK Environment Agency’s peer review of the world’s Top 100 Eco-Heroes. She is has also been listed in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Hall of Fame among many other acknowledgements and awards throughout her career.

Judy K. planting trees with children to restore and conserve the water catchment areaOn receiving the news of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 2004

It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.

From a speech at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, USA, 1994

The women of the Green Belt Movement have learned about the causes and the symptoms of environmental degradation. They have begun to appreciate that they, rather than their government, ought to be the custodians of the environment.

I will feature some of the people mentioned in the Salon.com/Rolling Stone report, Climate Warriors and Heroes, but please take your time reading through these contributions from a vast range of fields in the meantime.

Photos and quotations from The Green Belt Movement

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Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote an article aptly titled, “Live Bad, Go Green.” In his op/ed piece, the award-winning columnist addressed the growing “light green” movement that has become sexy in the public eye and astutely commented that “people often refer to the current climate buzz as ‘a green revolution,’ but the very term revolution suggests a fundamental break with past habits, attitudes and public policies.” I am often reluctant to refer to the interest I observe making appearances in the mainstream mind as a revolution, specifically because the public is not forced to sacrifice in order to feel good about their [generally] occasional eco-friendly efforts.

But I am not a pessimist, so I do see value in the end result of even the smallest efforts on all of our parts. In fact, I would not have appreciated the message behind last weekend’s Live Earth: Concerts for a Climate in Crisis event if I did not sincerely believe that each contribution towards a more ecologically-sensitive footprint holds value. One of my basic guiding principles — as a young person with a daunting aim to integrate responsible decision-making into all aspects of my life — is built upon the belief that each person has some valuable gift or insight to contribute to his/her surroundings, and, as a result, should feel compelled to improve our general welfare. Are we accountable to future generations? Are the bodies that govern the public accountable as well? What are we doing to demonstrate that we take our duties seriously?

“Volunteerism doesn’t work. I’ve said this about 85,000 times. It’s about as effective as voluntary speed limits. No cops, no judges: road carnage. No rules, no fines: greenhouse gases. We’re going to triple or quadruple the CO2 in the atmosphere with no policy. I don’t believe offsets are just a distraction. But we’ll have failed if that’s all we do.”
Stephen Schneider, climatologist at Stanford University (taken from Katherine Ellison’s “Shopping for carbon credits” on Salon.com)

Aside from the power we possess as consumers, have we sustained commitment to the conclusions made and goals established by those who have pursued environmental solutions for our future and for that of our posterity? Have we opened up the discussion about sustainable materials, methods, design and development to those who may have alternative insights and made the movement accessible? I am looking forward to the point at which we instinctively use the influence we wield in our lives to encourage each other . . . to learn more about the most innovative and sustainable best practices in our given industries and, ideally, those areas in which we each thrive.

Image from AchieveGreen.com

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