Getting Green: Don’t Be Discouraged

It is easy to feel discouraged with our leaders in Washington focused on war while ignoring a multitude of important issues.

In the encouraging video below, Paul Hawken speaks at the Bioneers conference describing a "movement without a name" that may already include more than a million like-minded organizations and 100 million people.

Paul Hawken is a leader in the world of sustainable business and the search for a whole, nurturing society. His books have been hugely influential and include The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. In addition to writing and speaking, he is an entrepreneur and head of The Natural Capital Institute.

Hawken just published a new book, Blessed Unrest, examining the worldwide movement for social and environmental change.

via Fred First

Newt Gingrich promotes Green Conservatism

Gingrich writes that Green Conservatives want the private sector to lead the change to energy independence and a healthier environment. I hope this is a tipping point for the green movement, where the Democrats and Republicans offer competing visions of a green America, instead of the denial and rejection that characterizes the pro-oil Bush administration.

The private sector can move more quickly and efficiently than government in developing and implementing functional solutions for significant problems. If Gingrich is sincere here, not just trying to win votes and sell books, then perhaps his influence will help conserve clean air and water and preserve what is left of wilderness.

Link: Atlanta Journal Constitution, 5/6/2007

The time has come to define a fundamentally different approach to a healthy environment and a healthy economy. The time has come for the development of "Green Conservatism" as an alternative to big bureaucracy and big litigation liberal environmentalism.

So what is Green Conservatism?

Green Conservatives favor clean air and clean water.

Green Conservatives understand biodiversity as a positive good.

Green Conservatives believe that economic growth and environmental health are compatible in both the developed and developing worlds.

Green Conservatives favor minimizing carbon loading in the atmosphere as a positive public value. And while we don’t buy into the doomsday scenarios currently being peddled by the left, we believe there is sufficient scientific evidence to tell us that carbon loading is occurring. But as to what we can and should do about it, there is still a lot to learn.

And lastly, Green Conservatives believe in energy independence. A new generation of clean energy will enable us to achieve three simultaneous conservative goals: To be liberated from dependence on dangerous dictatorships; to be effective in worldwide economic competition; and to provide for a much cleaner and healthier future.

Of course it’s easy to talk about achieving lofty environmental goals without damaging either our liberty or our economy. But how do we actually make Green Conservatism a reality? We do so by taking advantage of markets and incentives to achieve our environmental goals far more effectively than is possible through higher taxes. We emphatically reject as ineffective the liberal environmentalists’ focus on bureaucratic command-and-control regulations to preserve our natural world. Instead, Green Conservatism believes that we can realize more positive environmental outcomes faster by shifting tax code incentives and shifting market behavior than is possible from litigation and regulation.

The United States is ideally suited to achieving tremendous environmental progress precisely because we have such a dynamic and economically efficient free enterprise system. In this way, Green Conservatism builds on our inherent strengths as a nation, whereas liberal environmentalism actually undermines the very economic growth and efficiencies that so decisively contribute to environmental progress.

One of the reasons I am optimistic about the future of America is that we will experience between four and seven times as much new scientific knowledge and innovation in the next 25 years as we have had in the past 100. This means that America will excel at precisely those capabilities that will be required to renew and protect our environment —- unless, of course, we saddle ourselves with higher levels of regulation and taxation.

Green Conservatism aims to take advantage of this coming explosion in scientific knowledge and innovation by offering incentives that will direct this scientific progress toward our shared environment goals. One way to do this is to significantly invest in prizes as a competitive alternative to the current peer-reviewed process of scientific research. We should, for example, offer prizes for the development of high-gas- mileage cars and other carbon reduction challenges. Finding common- sense, pro-market ways to reduce our carbon emissions is the right thing to do.

Americans excel at using the power of the free market to make our lives better. Green Conservatism uses this strength by seeking the least economically destructive and least governmentally empowering ways to protect the environment.

Our generation faces the extraordinary challenge of bringing to bear science and technology, entrepreneurship and the principles of effective markets in order to enable people to have both a good life economically and a good life environmentally.

Conservatism shouldn’t ignore this challenge, we should embrace it. After all, we can stand toe to toe with liberals anywhere in America when it comes to wanting to build a better future for ourselves and our families. America’s 400-year experience of sound science, entrepreneurship and free markets to create better solutions for a better future has far outstripped what the lawyers and bureaucrats have ever done. It’s no different when it comes to the environment. Green Conservatism is an idea whose time has come.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and co-author with Terry L. Maple of "A Contract with the Earth," to be released this fall by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial

The Guardian (UK) describes the letter sent by Britain’s leading scientists to ExxonMobil about efforts to undermine the research that shows that global warming is real. As I wrote in an earlier  post about big tobacco’s denial, this is a familiar scenario — a hugely profitable company trying to protect its profit stream by any means possible.

Britain’s leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence".

The scientists also strongly criticise the company’s public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading".

The groups, such as the US Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose senior figures have described global warming as a myth, are expected to launch a renewed campaign ahead of a major new climate change report. The CEI responded to the recent release of Al Gore’s climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, with adverts that welcomed increased carbon dioxide pollution. (Link: Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial | EnergyBulletin.net | Peak Oil News Clearinghouse)

Exxon’s behavior is consistently arrogant: they still haven’t paid the fine for the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. In 1994, courts ordered Exxon to pay $5.3 billion in compensatory damages to fishers, Native Americans, and others whose lives and livelihoods were disrupted by the spill. So far, however, Exxon has refused to pay the judgment, stalling by filing appeals while the Alaskans must overcome their financial losses from their own pockets. Even if Exxon is eventually required to pay the fine plus late fees, it will profit financially by holding on to the money and earning interest on it as long as possible. In January 2006, Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits of $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history.

Surprisingly, I did find some good news about Exxon: it has contributed to an effort to save the endangered real-life counterparts of Exxon’s animated mascot. Exxon states on its web site that: "Exxon and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization, joined forces in 1995 to launch the Save The Tiger Fund. The fund is an international effort to help save Asia’s dwindling populations of tigers in the wild. Exxon has pledged $9 million over eight years to tiger conservation." Interestingly, one of the greatest threats to tiger survival is habitat loss, a problem exacerbated by the biological stresses of global warming. (I like to see Tiger Woods honor his namesake with some financial aid and supportive publicity.)

Siberian Tiger (P. tigris altaica)

Anti-Green Power Broker: Mark Rey

Source: Mark Rey | Outside Online.

A former timber-industry lobbyist from Ohio, Rey is head caretaker for America’s 193 million acres of national forest. Throughout his career, he’s been a forceful opponent of what he considers the red tape surrounding wildlife-preservation measures and environmental-assessment reviews, and he has advocated giving state and local agencies real input into the management of federal lands. His critics claim this is just a cover for hardball rollbacks that will open protected lands to more road building and logging. "Rey is the architect of an across-the-board attack on national forests," says Niel Lawrence, director of the forestry program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As forest chief since 2001, Rey, 52, has been instrumental in creating new "categorical exclusions" to environmental-impact reviews required by the 35-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. Typically, these exclusions have allowed forest managers to relax the reviews when they want to fix a trail or structure. The new exclusions, part of the Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative (first introduced in August 2002), allow the removal of "hazardous fuels"—like trees—in forests where wildfires pose an increased threat. The change has already led to fire-prevention logging on more than 11 million acres.

SOUND BITE: Rey once described forest-conservation laws as "bedtime reading for insomniacs as an alternative to War and Peace."

NEXT UP: Rey plans to revamp the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Clinton-era regulation that halted new road building and logging in designated areas in national forests. The rule, which was already repealed in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, is expected to be replaced in May with a far less stringent one, potentially giving the timber, oil, gas, and mining industries access to 58.5 million acres of currently protected areas.

What’s Wilderness Worth? Green Economics

Source: What’s Wilderness Worth? | Outside Online. by Bruce Barcott

With an anti-environmental backlash inflicting one defeat after another on conservationists, a band of maverick economists is riding to the rescue with a startling revelation about the true value of our natural resources: Follow the money, and you end up in a very green place.

For more than a century, the people who run America’s extractive industries—logging, mining, and fossil-fuel drilling—have offered one answer. Conservationists and the environmental movement have offered another. Developers have touted job creation and the connection between industrial exploitation and economic vitality. Environmentalists have grounded their appeals in ecological science and the value of wilderness to the human soul. Always at odds, locked in ideological opposition, the two sides, it seems, have long been speaking different languages.

Currently, with tens of millions of acres on the line and developers enjoying a stiff political tailwind blowing out of Washington, D.C., the mutual incomprehension has become nearly absolute. The environment reflects the red-state/blue-state divide and plays out in vitriolic debate.

Amid all the noise, both sides are failing to hear the whisper of a bold development that could break the deadlock and revolutionize sustainable environmental policy: the arrival of wilderness economics, a dollars-and-cents way to attach a fair and reliable estimate to the seemingly uncountable value of preserving wild spaces and pristine natural resources.

This new economic paradigm couldn’t arrive at a more crucial time. The failure of environmentalists to sell their agenda to voters has run headlong into an administration that’s put energy development at the top of its list and is making it easier than ever to siphon private resources from public land. While mainstream media have focused on hot spots like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bush administration officials have quietly opened millions of acres of wilderness-quality land in the lower 48 to developers. Much of the 58.5 million acres of roadless national forest preserved by the Clinton administration will soon lose its protection. In Wyoming, ranchers who’ve wisely tended their land for generations are watching energy companies ruin their soil and water in a natural-gas free-for-all. In Utah and Colorado, nearly 150,000 acres of wildland—including previously protected sections of Desolation Canyon, as well as spectacular tracts of Sagebrush Pillows and the Dolores River Canyon—have been leased for drilling in the past 14 months. Tens of thousands more will likely follow.

President George W. Bush and his supporters defend these actions in the name of energy security and jobs. But set against the West’s new economic reality—a long-term shift away from extractive industries and toward recreation, tourism, the service sector, and information technology—the aggressive drive to cut and drill without factoring in long-term effects on the value of public wildland isn’t just environmentally unfriendly; it’s economically unsound. Converting the natural wealth contained in the nation’s pristine forests, deserts, canyons, and mesas into a one-time hit of corporate profit is a swindle of the first order, one that should outrage anyone, Republican or Democrat, who favors combining sound business practices with smart environmental stewardship.

Fortunately, the new way of thinking, if embraced by both sides, could lead to an era of compromise, in which decisions about extraction and preservation are based on assessments of long-term value, and of how that value might or might not be sacrificed for short-term gains.

Wilderness economics may not be the last word in the conservation argument, but it’s taken on considerable weight, given the alacrity and scale with which the White House is rolling back wilderness protection. If the current wilderness land grab had an emblematic moment, it was the morning of November 24, 2003. I was on hand that day when the federal government—dramatically reversing long-standing precedent—took a chunk of protected land (acreage that the BLM itself had identified as having "wilderness characteristics," and that was part of the proposed 9.5-million-acre Red Rock Wilderness) and auctioned it off to oil and gas developers.

This is the new story of the West. Conservation is now as much about economics as it is about less tangible aspects like the solace of open space. And it’s not just about the West: These arguments can also play out in African wildlife habitats or Central American jungles. Wilderness is a commodity that no longer just tugs at the heartstrings. It’s become abundantly clear that it tugs at the purse strings, too.

via Alex Steffen  via Triple Pundit

Save Brook Trout and Their Habitat

Brook trout are an indicator species. Brook trout populations provide an indication of the health of the streams they live in. Trout Unlimited has a Back the Brookie campaign aimed at correcting the pollution sources that are fouling the mountain streams where brookies once thrived.

Acid rain appears to be a significant factor. Twenty years ago many power companies and their supporters denied that acid rain was caused by air-born pollution. Apparently there is consensus that pollution is responsible (will global warming follow a similar path?)

I’ve spent many wonderful hours in mountain streams in GA, SC, NC, TN, VA, and WV. Beyond the beauty of these places, mountain streams in the East are a significant source of clean water for the East Coast.

I applaud Trout Unlimited for working to improve the water quality in these streams.

Link: Back the Brookie.

In the clean, cold, crystal clear streams these fish call home, they are a living jewel, sprinkled and scattered throughout mountainous waters from Georgia to Maine.

Their presence in a stream is a sign of good water quality and a healthy, functional, watershed.

Unfortunately, native brook trout are declining throughout much of their historic range. Acid rain, sediment in our streams, habitat damage, and non-native fish threaten the future of this beautiful creature. Brook trout are considered an aquatic “canary in the coal mine”…in other words, their disappearance may be an early signal that our streams (and the watersheds which purify our water) are in trouble.

via Lee Graves, Richmond Times-Dispatch