Communicating Value

In Denmark, eggs from free-range hens have conquered over 50 percent of the market. Consumers do not want hens to live their lives in small, confining cages. … [They] are happy to pay an additional 15 to 20 percent … for the story … about animal ethics. This is what we call classic Dream Society logic. Both kinds of eggs are similar in quality, but consumers prefer eggs with the better story. … After we debated the issue and stockpiled 50 other examples, the conclusion became evident: Stories and tales speak directly to the heart rather than the brain. In a century where society is marked by science and rationalism … the stories and values … return to the scene.

Rolf Jensen/The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business

Source: Tom Peters in Change This

I must ask: Are the eggs really similar in quality?

Simplifying the Environmental Message

I believe that the environmental movement needs to communicate its message more effectively to the American people.

The simple message that I recommend is:

Pollution causes cancer

Buying Mid-East oil supports terrorists

Most Americans know someone who has cancer or is dying from cancer. Two people I know died last week from cancer. Most efforts are focused on treating cancer, not preventing it. But why are so many people getting cancer? A growing body of research suggests that the causes are in the air, water, and food that we consume daily.

Thomas Friedman (an expert on the Middle East), in a March 27 column states:

By doing nothing to lower U.S. oil consumption, we are financing both sides in the war on terrorism and strengthening the worst governments in the world. That is, we are financing the U.S. military with our tax dollars and we are financing the jihadists – and the Saudi, Sudanese and Iranian mosques and charities that support them – through our gasoline purchases.

The American people are overloaded with information. The Republican party has had great success by focusing on simple, appealing messages. Environmental issues have to be simplified, which is difficult, in order to rise above the overload of marketing messages blasted at consumers all day, every day.

The simple message above ties a number of environment themes to two issues, cancer and terrorism, that are universally regarded as bad.

Greatest Guitar Tracks

Link: Greatest Guitar Tracks – News @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com.

Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Nirvana were all included in the Top Ten of the British magazine Q’s 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever, according to The list was voted on by the magazine’s editors and managed to cover every era and decade of rock and roll’s 50-year-history. The complete Top Ten is as follows:

01. "Purple Haze" – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
02. "Jumpin" Jack Flash" – The Rolling Stones (1968)
03. "Whole Lotta Love" – Led Zeppelin (1969)
04. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" – Nirvana (1991)
05. "Helter Skelter" – The Beatles (1968)
06. "Sweet Child O’Mine" – Guns N’ Roses (1987)
07. "Won’t Get Fooled Again" – The Who (1971)
08. "Seven Army Nation" – The White Stripes (2003)
09. "You Really Got Me" – The Kinks (1964)
10. "I Am The Resurrection" – The Stone Roses (1989)

Transition to Clean Energy: Bridge Technologies

Gasification sounds very interesting. Maybe this can begin the process of weaning us off our oil addiction (that supports the terrorist cultures) while the R&D people continue to improve alternative energy sources.

Source: The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributors: Coal in a Nice Shade of Green.

…the important thing is to come up with so-called bridge technologies that can power our cities, factories and cars with fewer emissions than traditional fossil fuels while we move to clean energy like solar, wind and safe nuclear power. A prime example of a bridge technology – one that exists right now – is gasification.

Here’s how it works: in a type of power plant called an integrated gasification combined-cycle facility, we change any fossil fuel, including coal, into a superhot gas that is rich in hydrogen – and in the process strip out pollutants like sulfur and mercury. As in a traditional combustion power plant, the heat generates large amounts of electricity; but in this case, the gas byproducts can be pure streams of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

This matters for several reasons. The hydrogen produced could be used as a transportation fuel. Equally important, the harmful carbon dioxide waste is in a form that can be pumped deep underground and stored, theoretically for millions of years, in old oil and gas fields or saline aquifers. This process is called geologic storage, or carbon sequestration, and recent field demonstrations in Canada and Norway have shown it can work and work safely.

The marriage of gasified coal plants and geologic storage could allow us to build power plants that produce vast amounts of energy with virtually no carbon dioxide emissions in the air. The Department of Energy is pursuing plans to build such a zero-emission power plant and is encouraging energy companies to come up with proposals of their own. The United States, Britain and Germany are also collaborating to build such plants in China and India as part of an effort by the Group of 8. Moreover, these plants are very flexible: although coal is the most obvious fuel source, they could burn almost any organic material, including waste cornhusks and woodchips.

This is an emerging technology, so inevitably there are hurdles. For example, we need a crash program of research to find out which geological formations best lock up the carbon dioxide for the longest time, followed by global geological surveys to locate these formations and determine their capacity. Also, coal mining is dangerous and strip-mining, of course, devastates the environment; if we are to mine a lot more coal in the future we will want more environmentally friendly methods.

On balance, though, this combination of technologies is probably among the best ways to provide the energy needed by modern societies – including populous, energy-hungry and coal-rich societies like China and India – without wrecking the global climate.

Fossil fuels, especially petroleum, powered the industrialization of today’s rich countries and they still drive the world economy. But within the lifetimes of our grandchildren, the age of petroleum will wane. The combination of gasified coal plants and geologic storage can be our bridge to the clean energy – derived from renewable resources like solar and wind power and perhaps nuclear fusion – of the 22nd century and beyond.

Thomas Homer-Dixon is director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. S. Julio Friedmann directs the carbon sequestration project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

CAMPFIRE and The Tragedy of the Commons

The following essay from the Bunny Game website describes The Tragedy of the Commons and the CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) approach to protecting natural assets. The idea of an African village owning the elephants in the area makes me queasy but it seems to be effective in motivating local people to fight poaching. Another case where capitalism is not an elegant solution but it works.

The Tragedy of the Bunnies” is a simple game that illustrates an important concept commonly referred to as “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Having a commons (publicly-owned property) sounds like a great idea, so why do stories about the commons – the ocean, rivers, and air – so often turn tragic? Why are so many species facing extinction? Why are so many resources being depleted?

How do we avoid these tragedies? The following discussion explores some solutions.

The Tragedy of the Commons is a well-known phenomenon to environmentalists and economists. The phrase itself was penned by Garrett Hardin in his seminal 1968 article, "The Tragedy of the Commons."

As any economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. If there’s a valuable resource lying about in a commons—picture a pizza at a frat party—people will try and grab as much of that resource as they can before the resource is depleted. This response is natural—it’s an example of people responding to incentives. In other words, in a zero-sum game, you need to "get while the getting is good". The more other people get, the less there is for you.

Even if the resource is renewable—like a forest or an elephant population—the situation can turn into a zero-sum game. This is because while it may be in the community’s interest to refrain from depleting the resource, it’s still in each individual’s interest to "get while the getting is good." Tragically, the very people who do act in the long-term public interest and refrain from depleting the resource end up getting nothing. Even more tragically, when a renewable resource is utterly depleted, no one benefits over the long-term. This is the tragedy of the commons.

How Can We Avoid the Tragedy of the Commons?

To most people, the obvious way to avoid the inevitable depletion of resources in a commons is to employ top-down regulations. However, regulatory approaches are fraught with their own problems, often resulting in unintended consequences that may actually exacerbate the problem.

Consider the example of elephants. During the late 1980s, the ivory trade received a great deal of attention, in part due to efforts of the International Wildlife Commission to raise awareness about the problem of poaching. In April of 1989, The IWC sponsored an advertisement featuring the image of a dozen African elephants lying dead and rotting at the edge of a forest, their faces mutilated by chainsaws used to hack off their tusks. The message: Stop the international trade in ivory and thereby stop the massacre.

The message got through, and ivory trade was banned, despite the fact that elephant populations were stable in countries like South Africa and actually on the rise in countries like Zimbabwe.

The ban on ivory trade necessarily resulted in high enforcement costs and ultimately failed to in its objective to stop poaching. Why?

While the ban successfully shut down most legal markets for ivory, the black market ivory trade flourished. A kilogram of unworked ivory, which sold for around $200 before the ban, was reported to be selling for as much as $2,000 in 1993. This artificial increase in the value of ivory created huge incentives for poachers. In the five years following the ban, customs officials in Africa seized more than 2500 shipments of black market ivory.

CAMPFIRE-A Property Rights Based Approach

About the same time the ban on the ivory trade went into effect, Zimbabwe instituted a unique program called CAMPFIRE (Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources). Through the CAMPFIRE program, rural villagers are granted title to wildlife living on their land. By selling photo and hunting safari rights to tourists, the villagers are able to generate much needed revenue. At the same time, the villagers are given a strong incentive to protect the wildlife from poachers.

The CAMPFIRE approach has worked so well in Zimbabwe, in fact, that officials are pushing for an end to the ivory trade ban. As one official of the National Park Department put it, "Wildlife is a renewable resource. If utilized properly and in a sustainable manner, it will go a long way towards improving our people’s life as a country and a continent. We want to make use of this resource which we have in abundance."

Many people balk at the very idea of giving people property rights to elephants. However, by denying financial benefit to the villagers who cohabitate with elephants, we create a perverse incentive structure—poachers have a big incentive to poach, and locals, with no stake in the elephants, have little incentive to stop poachers from poaching. In fact, African villagers who see elephants as a threat to their safety and their crops often view poachers in a relatively positive light.

Giving local communities property rights to the elephants on their land has proven to be an effective way to enable humans and elephants to live together to mutual advantage.

Of course, it’s not always easy to define property rights; such is the case with fish and water supplies, for example. However, as empirical researchers like Elinor Ostrom have discovered, people have developed a staggering array of institutional arrangements that effectively manage commons to the benefit of local communities.

via TreeHugger

Is America Overdosing on Corn?

Source: AlterNet: EnviroHealth: The Food Detective.

If you look at a fast-food meal, a McDonald’s meal, virtually all the carbon in it – and what we eat is mostly carbon – comes from corn. A Chicken McNugget is corn upon corn upon corn, beginning with corn-fed chicken all the way through the obscure food additives and the corn starch that holds it together. All the meat at McDonald’s is really corn. Chickens have become machines for converting two pounds of corn into one pound of chicken. The beef, too, is from cattle fed corn on feedlots. The main ingredient in the soda is corn – high-fructose corn syrup. Go down the list. Even the dressing on the new salads at McDonald’s is full of corn.

What does this do to the land?

Corn is a greedy crop, as farmers will tell you. When you’re growing corn in that kind of intensive monoculture, it requires more pesticide and more fertilizer than any other crop. It’s very hard on the land. You need to put down immense amounts of nitrogen fertilizer, the run-off of which is a pollutant. The farmers I was visiting were putting down 200 pounds per acre, in the full knowledge that corn could only use maybe 100 or 125 pounds per acre; they considered it crop insurance to put on an extra 75 to 100 pounds.

Where does that extra nitrogen go?

It goes into the roadside ditches and, in the case of the farms I visited, drains into the Raccoon River, which empties into the Des Moines River. The city of Des Moines has a big problem with nitrogen pollution. In the spring, the city issues "blue baby alerts," telling mothers not to let their children use the tap water because of the nitrates in it. The Des Moines River eventually finds its way to the Gulf of Mexico, where the excess nitrogen has created a dead zone the size of New Jersey.

What is a dead zone?

It’s a place where the nitrogen has stimulated such growth of algae and phytoplankton that it starves that area of oxygen, and fish cannot live in it. The dead zone hasn’t gotten much attention, compared to carbon pollution; but, in terms of the sheer scale of human interference in one of the crucial natural cycles, it’s arguably even more dramatic. Fully half of the terrestrial nitrogen in the world today is manmade, from fertilizers.

Our dependence on corn for a "cheap meal" is a fundamental absurdity. Seventy percent of the grain we grow in this country goes to feed livestock. Most of this livestock is cattle, which are uniquely suited to eating grass, not corn. To help them tolerate corn, we have to pump antibiotics into the cattle; and because the corn diet leads to pathogens, we then need to irradiate their meat to make it safe to eat. Feeding so much corn to cattle thus creates new and entirely preventable public health problems.

In addition to contributing to erosion, pollution, food poisoning, and the dead zone, corn requires huge amounts of fossil fuel – it takes a half gallon of fossil fuel to produce a bushel of corn. What that means is that one of the things we’re defending in the Persian Gulf is the cornfields and the Big Mac. Another cost is the subsidies: For corn alone, it’s four or five billion dollars a year in public money to support the corn farmers that make possible our cheap hamburger. Then you’ve got the problem of obesity because these cheap calories happen to be some of the most fattening.

We’re paying for a 99-cent burger in our health-care bills, in our environmental cleanup bills, in our military budget, and in the disappearance of the family farm. So it really isn’t cheap at all.

via Alex Steffen in QuickChanges

Interesting Ideas for Clean Living

Dave Pollard compiles some ideas that could change the way we live. If oil prices keep getting higher, these ideas will find a more receptive audience among the resistant-to-change crowd.

Maybe we need to merge the great cradle-to-cradle design thinking of guys like Bill McDonough, who creates wonderful zero-waste designs for institutions, with the bottom-up, personalized approaches that I have advocated for business.

What if solar energy collectors were designed to look like trees, not like flat panels — more surface area, better fit with the environment? Could they even be ‘grown’ using fractal patterns and crystal-forming ingredients?

What if hats were designed as personal solar energy collectors — instead of just protecting us from the sun’s rays, why not have them harvest them? What about hair, even, which again has more surface area. Could our shampoo double as an application of wireless nanotech energy collectors?

What if we could harvest our nervous energy, and the energy expended when we exercise? I’ve heard of PCs and flashlights powered by hand-crank devices. Why not PCs and TVs powered by foot pedals, or ergonomic bicycle-type devices under our desks? Deskwork and good exercise at the same time.

What if instead of heating and cooling whole buildings, we designed our clothing (the design of which now is, let’s face it, pretty useless, not nearly durable enough, and quite silly) to heat and cool our bodies? No more fighting over where to set the thermostat — we each set our own. And don’t tell me it would look geeky or restrict our movement — good design can solve that. Just use birds as models.

What if we merged the technologies of the Smart Car (lightweight materials, miniaturization) with the technologies of the recumbent bicycle, the electric scooter, and the Segway, to create a human-powered enclosed vehicle that would achieve highway speeds and give us good exercise while using no fuel whatsoever? Can’t be done? That’s what they told the Wrights.

What if we developed a toilet that produced fertilizer instead of sewage, and delivered it through the sprinkler system right to your garden?

It’s time to stop excusing ourselves and blaming others for these disconnects. It’s time to stop amusing ourselves to death with fake-reality shows and the fate of some poor brain-dead woman in Florida. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s a question of priorities, of combining energies, and of collaborating in a focused, informed and urgent manner to fix the disconnects and make it happen. We have a responsibility to make it happen. We certainly have the money, the ingenuity and the organizing technologies to make it happen, so what are we waiting for? We need to get past our learned helplessness and start talking to each other about things that matter, things we can fix, and enrolling ourselves to do so.

LA To Be A Solar City?


In their new report, "Solar City: How Los Angeles Can Gain the Economic and Environmental Competitive Edge," Global Green USA challenged the city of LA to put solar on city controlled or influenced city buildings, affordable housing, and schools over the next 15 years. And a key force, the Mayor Hahn is behind the proposal.

With Global Green USA’s proposed goal, 70 MW to 80 MW of solar PV can be installed on available roof space with modest solar systems that help reduce peak demand and lessen air pollution by preventing "dirty peaker" plants turning on in the hottest days of summer. This goal amounts to an estimated 1 percent of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) electricity generating capacity over the next 10 years.

The proposed goal would be in addition to the existing solar program, and would be integrated into the city’s recently adopted Renewable Portfolio Standard which calls for increasing renewable power to 20 percent of the city’s energy. This policy can also leverage the tremendous growth of green building in the LA basin, as evidenced by the $15 billion in new green construction underway by LACCD, LAUSD, and the City of Los Angeles.

Global Green USA, the U.S. affiliate of Green Cross International led by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, works in cooperation with individuals, industry, and governments to create a global value shift toward a sustainable and secure future.

For further Information

Denmark’s Path to Energy Independence

Link: WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Svend Auken and Denmark’s Path to Energy Independence.

In 1973, during the Yom Kippur war, Denmark was 98% dependent on foreign oil for its power. Today, thirty-two years later, the country derives 21% of its energy from wind and is a net exporter of energy. How’d they do it?

From a lecture by Svend Auken, a member of the Danish Parliament and former Minister for Energy & Environment:

After the ’73 oil crisis, Denmark got real about energy. First, they focused on energy use, by requiring greater energy efficiency in buildings through insulation and energy audit requirements. Second, they invested in district heating systems, in which electricity producers capture “waste” heat created during power generation and distribute the heat to homes and buildings for use as a heating source. Third, they made a commitment to developing clean, renewable energy, and now provide 40% of the world’s wind energy, generating $4 billion turbine technology exports and creating 23,000 jobs in the process.

Auken is the kind of erudite yet personable politician who can make you swoon. He frames clean, renewable energy as a means to address the triple challenges of security, economic prosperity and climate change. He understands the political power of renewable energy, seeing it as an opportunity to build urban-rural connections. Finally, he envisions the pathway to a bright green future, saying that “it need not be dull, it need not be boring, we don’t have to give up our lifestyle, we just have to be a little bit more smart about how we live.”

Denmark is not an energy utopia. Part of their pathway to energy independence has been lined by aggressively pursuing oil drilling in the North Sea. But Svend describes a Danish society that is looking forward rather than towards the past. They appear to have incorporated the clean, renewable ethos into the fabric of their society and have committed to invest $1 billion in tidal, solar and fuel cell technology R&D over the next ten years, an investment which should dramatically boost their renewable portfolio and presumably their exports to a world market hungering for renewables.