Monday, December 29, 2008

More Support for Shade Grown - The Most Ecologically Important Attribute of Green Coffee

Here's some more support for what I see as the current scientific consensus on what makes for the greenest coffee -- that of all related eco-labels (organic, fair trade, shade grown), Shade grown is the most ecologically important.

This is, of course, not to understate the importance of organic or Fair Trade. We here at CVI go for triple-certified whenever possible!

Sustainability News Headlines - 12/29/2008

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Path to Lower Oil Demand and Gas Prices: A Green Vehicle Revolution Is a Much Better Route Than a Global Financial Crisis

Would a dramatic reduction in demand for oil caused by a green vehicle revolution cause the same type of reduction in oil prices that the global financial crisis has?

Overall, I don't see why not.

In fact, I'm guessing that the eye-opening impact of the financial crisis on oil demand and prices is exactly what major oil producers are afraid of should the world experience a green vehicle revolution.

Think about all the benefits that our society would receive from an oil demand-destroying green vehicle revolution that lowers gas prices via efficient, clean technologies rather than via a global financial crisis:

  • Broad economic stimulus beyond the oil sector: the combination of highly efficient clean vehicles and low gas prices will free up untold fortunes of peoples' gasoline money to be spent on all things non-energy, providing a green injection of economic stimulus far and wide. Previously, I noted that:
    Switching from a car that gets 20 mpg to one that gets 50 mpg will save the average American nearly $1,100/year in gas costs at $3/gallon (given the average distance Americans drive per year – about 12,000 miles; savings rise considerably as gas prices and miles driven go up). That savings is nearly two times the cash provided to us by our 2008 stimulus checks! Multiply that by the 112 million households in the U.S. alone, and that’s $123.2 billion/year that American households are now spending on gas that with a mandate for more efficient vehicles, they would have to spend on…everything else.
    Even at currently lower gas prices, a Clean Vehicle Revolution promises to be a significant stimulative force in our economy.

  • Greater economic stability as we break society free from the whims of increasingly unstable oil markets: I don't know anybody who wouldn't be thrilled to see more stability and predictability in their energy bills. The volatility of gas and other energy prices crimps many a budget -- from families to businesses to whole governments. Another -- and major -- economic benefit is that the U.S. will no longer need to spend untold $billions on military operations to secure oil supplies in the world's most unstable regions -- which cost us dearly both economically and politically. A Clean Vehicle Revolution promises to be a welcome stabilizing force.
  • Massive environmental benefits - climate change and beyond. Not only will global heating carbon emissions be dramatically slashed, but so will emissions of other pollutants that have negative -- and expensive -- impacts on human well-being, like particulates, ground-level ozone, and acid rain-causing pollution. As we've noted previously, these environmental impacts of vehicle pollution inflict untold $billions in health-related, agricultural, and quality of life damages upon families and businesses each year. A Clean Vehicle Revolution will be healthy for our environment, and as a result, for our families and businesses.
  • Significant security benefits will result from cutting off the flow of dollars from our gas and energy purchases that currently end up funding harmful agendas of countries that don't like us. Reports are that the Saudis, Iranians, and Russians -- countries that either showed increasing military boldness as oil prices rose (e.g., Russia and Iran), or are breeding and financing terrorism (e.g., Iran and Saudi Arabia) -- are struggling with their first budget deficits in years. That means less money to spend on military adventurism and support for terrorist groups. Of course, the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty and the associated lack of education and social services, will still need to be addressed.
  • Obviously, there are many more environmental, economic, security, and quality of life benefits that we will realize via a green vehicle revolution. You get the picture. Please feel free to contribute more in the comments below!
A Temporary Window of Opportunity - We Need to Act Now and Act BIG

Unfortunately, unless we act now to implement a green vehicle revolution at World War II mobilization-level speed, the low gas prices that we're currently enjoying will be painfully short lived. In fact, as soon as the economy starts to recover, demand for oil will recover with it, and growth will hit what I call "The Petroleum Ceiling". This is especially likely now because low oil prices are slowing the development of new production projects. Thus, once the recovery begins, oil supplies won't be able to keep up with rising demand, and there is a real danger that we will experience a far worse price spike than this past summer's. Should this happen, it could potentially plunge us into a much more dire economic crisis than the one we're currently experiencing -- one rooted in Peak Oil.

The good news: we've learned this year just how quickly demand destruction can lower oil and gas prices. Now, let's make this demand destruction permanent by implementing a historic green vehicle revolution that stands to become the type of victory story that our history texts tell for generations.

America can lead the way by devising a smart Auto Industry Bailout that propels Detroit into the forefront of a new age of efficient, green vehicles. The result will be both a psychological boost that helps lift America out of our recessionary malaise, and a broad economic boost as the proliferation of next-generation vehicles cuts our energy costs and inspires the creation of whole new sectors of supporting industries.

Jonathan L. Gelbard, Ph.D. is a conservation biologist and communications expert. He is the Executive Director of the Conservation Value Institute and the National Sustainability Producer of the Green Apple Festival.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Section on Motivating Green Change: Environmental Communication & Education

Happy Holidays, friends.
You'll note that we've recently added a section to our news page for stories about 'Motivating Change: Communication and Education'. Lots of juicy food for thought in there. Enjoy!

First and foremost, of course, enjoy your time with your friends and families. Remember to be thankful for what we've accomplished in 2008, and be ready for a critically important 2009. We're all going to need to pitch in to turn this ship around and foster the growth of A New Green Economy!

- J
on Gelbard

Sustainability News Headlines - 12/24/2008

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Big Save for Canyon Country: Props and Thanks to Tim DeChristopher

This is among the great stories of eco-heroism I've read from the American West in awhile.

Having done my Master's research in Utah's Canyon Country, including lands around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, I was deeply concerned about the Bureau of Land Management's rush to auction oil and gas leases on these sensitive lands during Bush's final days.

This is some of the finest country I've ever visited, naturally and spiritually mesmerizing. It's a powerful and healing place vibrant with the spirits (and arrowheads, cave paintings, and old hogans) of its past inhabitants. During long days out in the field researching the ecological impacts of roads, it almost seemed that the spirits would whisper clues of what to look out for into my ear. My scientific ideas seemed to emerge as gifts from the pinyons and the quiet coves of Wingate sandstone.

The BLM's action was tremendously irresponsible - lacking the normal public input and environmental analysis. They didn't even give the neighboring National Parks a chance to co-plan the leases, even though the impacts of drilling on air and water quality would be highly likely to affect Park lands.

So in walks Tim DeChristopher - giving us all the public input we needed to put the sale of 22,000 of these acres off until after Obama takes over in January. As High Country New's blog states:

So it seems fitting that a student protester off the street was able to make his own end-run around the BLM’s auction process. On Dec. 19, 27-year-old Tim DeChristopher walked in the door of the BLM's state office in Salt Lake, got himself a bidding paddle and managed to win 22,000 acres for $1.8 million and drive up prices on other parcels by an estimated $500,000. DeChristopher has no intention of paying, and the parcels he won wouldn’t be available for lease again until Barack Obama is in office, meaning they may not be leased for energy development at all. If the BLM’s rush in the waning days of the Bush administration left no time for adequate environmental analysis or public process, DeChristopher told Democracy Now, it also meant the agency “didn’t have time to make sure that all the bidders were bonded, which is how I got in so easily.” Oops.

Tremendous job, Tim - a big thank you! First beer's on me if we ever meet. On another positive note, I'm sure many BLM employees are nothing short of thrilled that you put a stop to the Bush Administration's shenanigans here. I know quite a few phenomenal conservationists in the agency who have spent the last 8 years feeling like quite the fish out of water. Here's to a much better next 8...

Sustainability News Headlines - 12/23/2008

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