Dreaming New Mexico – Peter Warshall – TEDxABQ video

Dreaming New Mexico has built a map of pragmatic and visionary solutions to create a more localized and green economy with greater local self-reliance and enhanced prosperity.

Peter Warshall is Co-Director of the Bioneers’ Dreaming New Mexico Project, and a world-renowned water steward, biodiversity and wildlife specialist, research scientist, conservationist, and environmental activist.

from 2011 September TEDx in Albuquerque New Mexico, posted to YouTube Nov 22 by TEDx
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbyIlbt5_3g

Rapid rise in Arctic methane shocks scientists

Rapid rise in Arctic methane shocks scientists
By Steve Connor
Wednesday Dec 14, 2011, New Zealand Herald

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

In an exclusive interview with the Independent, Dr Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he had never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.

“Earlier, we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1000m in diameter. It’s amazing,” Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area, we found more than 100 but, over a wider area, there should be thousands.”

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere, leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Semiletov’s team published a study last year estimating that the methane emissions from this region were about 8 million tonnes a year, but the latest expedition suggests this is a significant underestimate of the phenomenon.

In late northern summer, the Russian research vessel Academician Lavrentiev conducted an extensive survey of about 25,900sq km of sea off the East Siberian coast. Scientists deployed four highly sensitive instruments, seismic and acoustic, to monitor the “fountains” – or plumes – of methane bubbles rising to the sea surface from beneath the seabed.

“In a very small area, less than [25,900sq km], we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Semiletov said.

“We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were 1km or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was 100 times higher than normal.”

Semiletov released his findings for the first time last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

$4B Public-private Program for Energy-efficiency planned

The following national plan for investing in the energy-efficiency of our buildings is a further evolution of  Ed Mazria’s 2009 Plan which Sustainable Tucson is suggesting as a model to develop a local green retrofit  stimulus program. See the Mazria Plan here:

 

$4B public-private program for energy efficiency planned

Jim Kuhnhenn The Associated Press , Arizona Daily Star, Friday, December 2, 2011

WASHINGTON – Enlisting former President Bill Clinton as a partner, President Obama is announcing a $4 billion effort to increase the energy efficiency of government and private-sector buildings, aiming for fuel savings and job creation at no cost to taxpayers.
The proposal, to be announced by Obama and Clinton today, would upgrade buildings over the next two years with a goal of improving energy performance by 20 percent by 2020. The federal government would commit $2 billion to the effort and a coalition of corporations, labor unions, universities and local governments would undertake the other half. The contractors who do the work would be paid with realized energy savings, thus requiring no up-front federal expenditure.”Upgrading the energy efficiency of America’s buildings is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest ways to save money, cut down on harmful pollution and create good jobs right now,” Obama said in a prepared statement.
The president will make the announcement after touring a downtown Washington office building whose owners have agreed to make more energy efficient.The program, known as Energy Savings Performance Contracts, has been in place since the Clinton administration but has been little used. Obama’s announcement is yet another in a string of White House initiatives designed to address the weak economy without congressional approval.
Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, said private economic analyses indicate that the $4 billion plan could generate about 50,000 jobs over two years.The program builds on an initiative that Obama launched in February and that Clinton led through his Clinton Foundation to get the private sector to invest in greater energy efficiency. Clinton announced commitments of $500 million in projects in June.Joining
Obama and Clinton will be Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a longtime proponent of Energy Saving Performance Contracts.”We have been pushing the ESPC program for more than a decade because this holds tremendous potential,” Donohue said in a prepared statement. “The program has been grossly underutilized.”

 

Greenhouse emissions exceed worst case scenario

The global output of carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the US Department of Energy has calculated, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The new figures for last year mean that levels of greenhouse gases are higher than the worst-case scenario outlined by climate experts four years ago.

”The more we talk about the need to control emissions, the more they are growing,” the co-director of the joint program on the science and policy of global change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), John Reilly, said.

The world pumped about 512 million tonnes more of carbon into the air last year than it did in 2009, an increase of 6 per cent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries – China, the US and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.

It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.

Extra pollution in China and the U.S. account for more than half the increase in emissions last year, Marland said.

“It’s a big jump,” said Tom Boden, director of the Energy Department’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Lab. “From an emissions standpoint, the global financial crisis seems to be over.”

Boden said that in 2010 people were traveling, and manufacturing was back up worldwide, spurring the use of fossil fuels, the chief contributor of man-made climate change.

India and China are huge users of coal. Burning coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide and emissions from that jumped nearly 8 percent in 2010.

“The good news is that these economies are growing rapidly so everyone ought to be for that, right?” Reilly said Thursday. “Broader economic improvements in poor countries has been bringing living improvements to people. Doing it with increasing reliance on coal is imperiling the world.”

In 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst-case projections from the climate panel. Those forecast global temperatures rising between 4 and 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century with the best estimate at 7.5 degrees.

Even though global warming skeptics have attacked the climate change panel as being too alarmist, scientists have generally found their predictions too conservative, Reilly said. He said his university worked on emissions scenarios, their likelihood, and what would happen. The IPCC’s worst case scenario was only about in the middle of what MIT calculated are likely scenarios.

But Reilly and University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver found something good in recent emissions figures. The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty limiting greenhouse gases have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.

Associated Press    November 4, 2011

IEA: Time running out to limit earth’s warming

The International Energy Agency warned Wednesday that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change and will lose the chance to limit warming if it doesn’t take bold action in the next five years.

In its annual World Energy Outlook, the agency spelled out the consequences if those steps aren’t taken and what needs to be done to cap global temperature increases at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That’s the threshold beyond which some scientists have said catastrophic changes could be triggered.

But the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, said this week that he’s not optimistic that leaders are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

“We are going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change,” he said in an interview Monday ahead of the report’s official release.

He noted, for instance, that governments around the world have put increasing energy efficiency at the top of their to-do lists, but efficiency has worsened for two years in a row now.

Birol said such backslides have real consequences.

“After 2017, we will lose the chance to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius,” he said.

The report said that the current promises to reduce emissions, when taken together, will likely result in an increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius _ and there isn’t any guarantee those commitments will even be carried out. Without them, the picture is bleaker: an increase of 6 degrees Celsius or more.

Birol said the world doesn’t lack the technology to tackle the problem _ just the political will.

“Even with existing technologies, you can improve substantially, but to do that, you need some price incentives and these price incentives are not there,” he said.

In fact, there are incentives to consume more: The report said subsidies for fossil fuels have risen past $400 billion. Birol said those need to be cut and instead a price needs to be levied on carbon. Only when “dirty” fuels become more expensive, he said, will governments follow through on their commitments to increase energy efficiency.

The report pushes hard the need to increase efficiency, generally considered the easiest way to reduce consumption since it has a price-incentive built in. It has become even more important since Japan’s nuclear accident sparked a rethinking of the use of atomic technology previously seen as key to cutting emissions.

“The most important contribution to reaching energy security and climate goals comes form the energy that we do not consume,” the report said.

It also predicted that oil prices would rise over the long term, though a weak global economy and the return of Libyan oil to the market would ease short-term pressures.

How high the price goes will depend, in part, on whether investors are willing to cough up what the Middle East and North Africa needs to keep pumping. Birol said last month that unrest in the region has made investors reluctant to pour money in.

Associated Press    November 9, 2011

Obama Delays Tar Sands Pipeline, McKibben Responds

U.S. Delays Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

By JOHN M. BRODER and DAN FROSCH

published in New York Times 11/10/11

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election.

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.

Mr. Obama said in an interview with an Omaha television station last week that he would make the ultimate decision about the pipeline, but sought to portray Thursday’s announcement as solely a State Department matter and not the result of political calculation.

“I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL pipeline proposal,” the president said in a statement. “Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.”

He said he remained committed to a politically balanced diet of increased domestic oil and gas production combined with incentives for the development of carbon-free alternatives.

While environmental groups welcomed their temporary victory on the pipeline project, some expressed skepticism about the president’s motives. Glenn Hurowitz, an environmental activist and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said the delay could leave the final decision in the hands of Mr. Obama’s Republican successor.

“This decision just puts off a green light for the tar sands by a year,” Mr. Hurowitz said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why I’m a little dismayed at suggestions that this kick-the-can decision means environmentalists will enthusiastically back President Obama in 2012. Is the price of an environmentalist’s vote a year’s delay on environmental catastrophe? Excuse me, no.”

Oil industry officials, some unions and the Canadian government said they were disappointed because the action delays what they call the economic benefits of the $7 billion project.

Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of the president’s decision, “This is all about politics and keeping a radical constituency, opposed to any and all oil and gas development, in the president’s camp in 2012. Whether it will help the president retain his job is unclear but it will cost thousands of shovel-ready opportunities for American workers.”

Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said, “While we are disappointed with the delay, we remain hopeful the project will be decided on its merits and eventually approved.”

TransCanada said that it would work with the State Department to find a new route, but warned that delay could kill the project, and with it tens of thousands of construction and related jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

“If Keystone XL dies,” said Russell K. Girling, the company’s chief executive, “Americans will still wake up the next morning and continue to import 10 million barrels of oil from repressive nations without the benefit of thousands of jobs and long-term energy security.”

The Sand Hills region has a high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem and extensive areas of very shallow groundwater that could be endangered by an oil spill. The State Department, which is responsible for approving transboundary pipelines, said that it expected that the review could be completed early in 2013.

Public officials and citizens in Nebraska have been vocal about the proposed pipeline route, not only because of fears about the Sand Hills region but because it will cross the Ogallala Aquifer, a critical source of drinking water for the Great Plains. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican, has been pushing for the pipeline to be rerouted and recently called a special legislative session to focus on Keystone XL.

“I am pleased that Nebraskans have been heard,” Mr. Heineman said in a telephone interview. “We’ve tried to make it very clear that we support the pipeline but oppose the route over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Mr. Heineman said, adding he was not expecting the State Department’s decision. “I hope we can find a common-sense solution, change the route and begin construction of the pipeline.”

The pipeline’s opponents in Nebraska hailed the decision as a pivotal victory, at least for now.

“This is a game changer for our state,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that has been leading efforts to block the pipeline. “We’ve been fighting this every day and night for almost two years.”

Kerri-Ann Jones in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said the agency’s decision to look for alternative routes was sparked by the significant outcry from Nebraska residents and officials.

“What we’re hearing from the public and from comments across the nation is the concerns about it going through this fragile landscape,” she said of the proposed pipeline. “We’ve heard this loud and clear.”

Ms. Jones said that the previous environmental review of Keystone XL had not considered routes around the Sand Hills region in Nebraska, but rather routes that circumvented the state completely. New alternative routes for Keystone XL would still pass through Nebraska, but would seek to avoid or minimize any effect on the Sand Hills, she said.

The State Department’s inspector general announced on Monday that he was looking into charges of a conflict of interest and improper political influence in the preparation of the project’s environmental impact statement. Some have faulted the department for assigning the study to a company with financial ties to TransCanada.

Opponents of the project have organized two large protests outside the White House, including one on Sunday in which several thousand protesters encircled the mansion demanding that the president kill the pipeline. Earlier this year more than a thousand protesters were arrested in large demonstrations across from the White House.

John M. Broder reported from Washington and Dan Frosch from Denver; Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

 


Keystone XL pipeline dealy: We won, you won

Bill McKibben, Post Carbon Institute

Dear Friends,

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that we’ve been fighting for months has been effectively killed. The President didn’t outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but a few minutes ago he sent the pipeline back for a thorough re-review that will delay it til 2013. Most analysts agree: the pipeline will never get built.

The President explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. A month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. A done deal has come spectacularly undone. Our movement spoke loudly about climate change and President Obama responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in the United States in recent years, so that makes this an important day.

The President deserves thanks for making this call — it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash. The deepest thanks, however, go to the incredible, diverse movement that helped ramp up the pressure to give the President the room to make this call. And it means so much that this day is shared by our allies around the world — the people who have stood in solidarity, signed petitions, and organized actions to let us know that you’re fighting in this movement right along with us.

Our fight, of course, is barely begun. Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets — and off his front lawn — until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The President should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built.

If there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line and take to the streets to make our voices heard.

We’ll be stepping up our efforts in the months ahead, expanding our work to take on all the forms of ‘extreme energy’ now coming to the fore around the world: mountaintop removal coal mining, deep sea oil drilling, “fracking” for gas and oil. We’ll keep sending you updates; you keep letting us know what we need to do next.

Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward — and not just in the US, but in every corner of the earth.

I’m going to bed tired tonight. But I’ll get up in the morning ready for the next battle, more confident because I know you’re part of this fight too.
(11 November 2011)

“The world is looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

New recession threatens the globe as debt crisis grows

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – Telegraph  (UK)  published 11/10/11

Europe’s escalating debt crisis has cast a black shadow over the world’s fragile recovery, threatening to tip large parts of the global economy into a deep downturn and even outright recession.

The OECD’s index of leading indicators for China, India, Brazil, Canada, Britain and the eurozone have all tipped below the warning line of 100, with the pace of the decline in Europe exceeding the onset of the Great Contraction in early 2008. Professor Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the IMF, rattled nerves earlier this week by warning the world is “looking straight into the face of a great depression”.

The grim data is coming thick and fast. Japan’s machinery orders fell 8.2pc in September as the post-Fukushima rebound lost steam and the delayed effects of the super-strong yen began to bite. Export orders have been declining for eight months. “Outright contraction is possible in the quarters ahead,” said Mark Cliffe from ING.

Exports in the Philippines dropped 27pc in September, the sharpest fall in two years. Korea’s exports have showed sharply, caused by a 20pc slide in shipments to Europe. Manufacturing has been contracting for the past three months.

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s chief, warned in Asia that “there are dark clouds gathering in the global economy. Countries need to prepare for any storm that might reach their shores”. She said “adverse feedback loops” are at work as financial stress and economic woes feed on each other.

China’s carefully managed soft landing has turned uncomfortably hard, with ripple effects through the commodity markets. Spot iron-ore prices have dropped 30pc since July to $126 a tonne. Copper prices have fallen 20pc since August. Barclays Capital said the risk of contagion to China has become serious. The bank is monitoring the country’s “key high frequency data” for early warning signs of the sort of sudden crash in metals demand seen during the Lehman crisis.

China had the firepower to respond to the 2008 crisis with blitz of credit that helped lift the whole world out of slump, a feat that cannot easily be repeated if there is a second shock. The IMF said loans have doubled to almost 200pc of GDP, including off-books lending. This is an unprecedented level of credit growth, twice the intensity of the Japanese bubble in the late 1980s.

The authorities are trying to deflate the excesses slowly with higher interest rates and reserve ratios. This is proving painful. Yao Wei from Societe Generale said prices of new residential property fell 14% in October. Railway investment collapsed by 40% as the insolvent railway ministry struggled to cope with $300 billion of debt. Highway construction dropped 2pc.

Europe is in a deeper, more intractable crisis. Industrial output buckled in September with falls of 4.8pc in Italy, 2.7pc in Germany, and 1.7pc in France from a month earlier as the effects of the debt crisis – as well as fiscal contraction and prior monetary tightening – finally hit with a vengeance.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn slashed growth forecasts from 1.6pc to 0.5pc next year, warning “that recovery has now come to a standstill and there’s the risk of a new recession unless determined action is taken”. This did not stop Brussels sending a letter to Italy calling for yet more fiscal cuts to meet it is balanced budget target by 2013.

“It is imposing pain for pain’s sake, and it is going to cause creditors to collect even less on their Club Med debts than if austerity were abandoned. Even in the early 1930s they weren’t as bad as this,” said Charles Dumas from Lombard Street Research.

Humayun Shahryar from the hedge fund Auvest said the eurozone faces a “major economic collapse”, perhaps with double-dgit falls in GDP. “European banks are massively over-leveraged and almost every one is worthless if you mark to market. This is going to be worse than 2008 because they have run out of bullets. The sovereign states are not strong enough to stand behind the banks,” he said.

Professor Johnson said the EU authorities had made a serious mistake by raising capital ratios for banks to 9pc rather than forcing them to raise fresh capital. “That will lead to a further contraction of credit.”

Banks have already taken drastic steps to cut their loan books rather than raise money in a hostile market, earmarking over €700bn for the next year. There will be knock-on effects for the rest of the world. European banks account €2.5 trillion cross-border loans to emerging markets.

In the US, the economy has held up better than feared so far but faces a fiscal shock early next year. Tax write-offs have pulled capital expenditure forward into late 2011, flattering the picture. Payroll taxes will rise automatically from 4.2pc to 6.2pc in January. Dumas said the combined fiscal squeeze could be as much as 2pc of GDP, heavily “front-loaded” in the early months. “Sharp recession is likely,” he said.

“The credit spigot has been turned off in the US,” said Chris Whalen from Institutional Risk Analytics. “Almost every bank is still running down its loan book, so we are facing a slow motion credit-crunch.”

Fiscal and monetary stimulus has disguised the underlying sickness in the debt-laden economies of the West over the past two years. This heavy make-up has at last faded away, exposing the awful visage beneath.

It is a delicate moment. The risk of a synchronised slump in Europe, the US and East Asia is bad enough. What is chilling is to face such a possibility with the monetary pedal already pushed to the floor in the US, UK and Japan.

Worse yet is to do so with Europe spiralling into institutional self-destruction, allowing its debt crisis to metastasize because EMU has no lender of last resort. That is an unforced error we could do without.

 

Move Your Money: Campaign grows to divest from “Too Big to Fail” banks to local banks, credit unions

 

Saying No to WalMart, A Town Builds its Own Store

Buying Underwear, Along With the Whole Store

By AMY CORTESE

 

SARANAC LAKE, N.Y.

 

THE residents of Saranac Lake, a picturesque town in the Adirondacks, are a hardy lot — they have to be to withstand winter temperatures that can drop to 30 below zero. But since the local Ames department store went out of business in 2002 — a victim of its corporate parent’s bankruptcy — residents have had to drive to Plattsburgh, 50 miles away, to buy basics like underwear or bed linens. And that was simply too much.

 

So when Wal-Mart Stores came knocking, some here welcomed it. Others felt that the company’s plan to build a 120,000-square-foot supercenter would overwhelm their village, with its year-round population of 5,000, and put local merchants out of business.

 

It’s a situation familiar to many communities these days. But rather than accept their fate, residents of Saranac Lake did something unusual: they decided to raise capital to open their own department store. Shares in the store, priced at $100 each, were marketed to local residents as a way to “take control of our future and help our community,” said Melinda Little, a Saranac Lake resident who has been involved in the effort from the start. “The idea was, this is an investment in the community as well as the store.”

 

It took nearly five years — the recession added to the challenge — but the organizers reached their $500,000 goal last spring. By then, some 600 people had chipped in an average of $800 each. And so, on Oct. 29, as an early winter storm threatened the region, the Saranac Lake Community Store opened its doors to the public for the first time. By 9:30 in the morning, the store, in a former restaurant space on Main Street opposite the Hotel Saranac, was packed with shoppers, well-wishers and the curious.

 

The 4,000-square-foot space was not completely renovated — a home goods section will be ready for the grand opening on Nov. 19 — but shoppers seemed pleased with the mix of apparel, bedding and craft supplies for sale.

 

“Ooh, that’s nice,” said Pat Brown, as she held up a slim black skirt (price: $29.99). She and her husband, Bob, a former professor of sociology at a local community college, live in town in an early 1900s home furnished with deer heads and other mementos from Bob’s hunting trips. The couple — who were voted king and queen of the village’s annual Winter Carnival in 1999 — bought $2,000 worth of shares in the store early on, and later bought a few more during a fund-raising drive.

 

“It’s been a long process for all of us. We’re very proud to have it finally become a reality,” Ms. Brown said. Her husband, a vigorous-looking man who had a neatly trimmed white beard and was wearing a cowboy hat, added, “This is a small town trying to help itself.”

 

Think of it as the retail equivalent of the Green Bay Packers — a department store owned by its customers that will not pick up and leave when a better opportunity comes along or a corporate parent takes on too much debt.

 

Community-owned stores are fairly common in Britain, and not unfamiliar in the American West, where remote towns with dwindling populations find it hard to attract or keep businesses. But such stores are almost unknown on the densely populated East Coast. The Saranac Lake Community Store is the first in New York State, its organizers say, and communities in states from Maine to Vermont are watching it closely.

 

Indeed, community ownership seems to resonate in these days of protest and unrest, when frustration with Wall Street, corporate America and a system seemingly rigged against the little guy is running high. But rather than simply grouse, some people are creating alternatives.

 

“It drives me crazy when people criticize how our system works, but they don’t actually go out and try anything,” says Ed Pitts, a lawyer from Syracuse who along with his wife, Meredith Leonard, is a frequent visitor to the area and has invested in the store. “This is more authentic capitalism.”

 

SARANAC LAKE is known more for its natural beauty and clean air than for experimenting with new forms of commerce. Nine miles from the Olympic town of Lake Placid, it is surrounded by lakes and mountains. In the past, it drew summer residents including Albert Einstein and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as tuberculosis patients who came to the village to take “the cure” of fresh air. Today, many of the village’s onetime “cure cottages” are filled with tourists who come in the summer months to hike, canoe and unwind, swelling the population threefold.

 

Come winter, though, the town’s Main Street quiets down and local residents reclaim places like the Blue Moon Café, which dishes up food and gossip. So when the local Ames store closed, few major retailers were interested in taking its place, despite the town’s efforts to woo them.

 

Wal-Mart was the exception. But its interest in building a supercenter larger than two football fields sharply divided villagers. Signs for and against Wal-Mart sprouted on front yards. At heated town meetings, people would shout: “You can’t buy underwear in Saranac Lake!”

 

In the end, Wal-Mart decided not to pursue the store; a spokesman said that “no single factor” contributed to the decision. But the tensions the debate stirred up only made the lack of shopping options more glaring.

 

That’s when a group of residents exploring retail alternatives heard about the Powell Mercantile, a community-owned store in Powell, Wyo., that was born of a similar dilemma. The Merc, as it is known, was established in 2002 after the town’s only department store, part of a chain called Stage, shut down.

 

“There was a great concern that Main Street would fail if we didn’t have a store to replace the Stage,” said Sharon Earhart, who was director of the Powell chamber of commerce at the time. Ms. Earhart and a few other residents raised more than $400,000 from local residents in three months by selling $500 shares, and opened the Merc.

 

The Merc prospered from the start, with fashion brands sharing space with rancher-appropriate Wranglers. When space in an adjacent storefront opened up, it expanded to 14,000 square feet. Now coming up on its 10th anniversary, the Merc does about $600,000 in annual sales and has turned a profit most years, even paying investors a $75 per share dividend in one particularly good year.

 

Powell’s Main Street is now thriving, with a wide range of retail outlets. The store “created a very positive domino effect,” Ms. Earhart said, to the extent that it can be hard to find parking space.

 

When she came to speak at a town hall meeting in Saranac Lake in 2006, nearly 200 people showed up. Following the Powell model, the Saranac Lake organizers put together a business plan and assembled a volunteer board of directors made up of local professionals.

 

The board then approached a local lawyer, Charles Noth, who created a prospectus and filed it with New York State authorities. By limiting the offering to residents of New York, in what is called an intrastate offering, the organizers were able to avoid more complex and costly federal securities regulations. (The Powell Merc also raised money through an intrastate offering.)

 

“I had done a lot of investment proposals but nothing quite like this,” said Mr. Noth, whose family has roots in the area and had recently moved here full time. “The idea of a community store is pretty unique.” He became an investor, as did his brother, the actor Chris Noth (best known for his role as Mr. Big in “Sex and the City”).

 

“We didn’t want it to be a cooperative or nonprofit,” explained Alan Brown, a former banker and the board’s treasurer (and no relation to Pat and Bob Brown). “We wanted it to be just another business on Main Street.”

 

It was also important that it be widely owned, so the shares were priced at $100 and the amount any one person could buy was capped at $10,000. Shares can be bought and sold or willed to future generations. The store’s projected near-term annual revenues of $350,000 to $400,000 will most likely be eaten up by operating expenses, said Melinda Little, the store’s interim board president, but in the future, investors could receive dividends.

 

Getting the first $80,000 was easy, but the board found it hard to keep people’s interest and raise new funds, especially as the recession hit. Board members organized fund-raisers to keep the project in front of people. One year, the board had a float in the Winter Carnival, featuring a clothesline with underwear hanging on it. The share offering will close in December.

 

Many residents, and even board members, were skeptical that the store would ever open. “We had our dark hours,” said Mr. Brown, the treasurer.

 

THOSE have been dispelled, for now. The first day, the store rang up $7,000 in receipts. Not surprisingly, underwear was a big seller.

 

“This is cool,” said Diane Kelting, who was waiting in line to buy a gray poly-rayon cardigan ($36.99) and a “hard to find” bra. “I have two young daughters and I can bring them in here now rather than shopping online,” added Ms. Kelting, who is not an investor in the store.

 

Heidi Kretser, who also attended the opening and is an investor, said online shopping had drawbacks. “Nowadays you don’t even know if the reviews are genuine. If I can actually see it and feel it and talk to someone about it, it just makes for a nicer shopping experience.”

 

For Ms. Kretser, a coordinator with the Wildlife Conservation Society who grew up in the area, the store is about more than convenience: “I’ve always loved the idea of thriving hamlets throughout the Adirondacks, and part of that is healthy downtowns.” Like other residents, she would sometimes drive the 50 miles to shop at the big box stores in Plattsburgh, “which could be Anywhere, America.”

 

Big boxes may offer a wide variety, she said, as her daughter Leena selected some pink yarn and buttons and her son Owen ran over clutching a knit animal hat. But “the size is not compatible with communities like ours,” she said. “And money does not stay local.”

 

And profit? “If we end up with a profit that’s another perk, but we’re in it for the community,” Ms. Kretser said. The Saranac Lake Community Store and others like it reflect a growing shift among some communities to lessen their dependence on global businesses and invest their resources in homegrown enterprises that contribute to the welfare of the community. These efforts flow from studies showing that, dollar for dollar, locally owned companies contribute more to local economies than corporate chains. That is because more money stays local rather than leaking out to a distant headquarters.

 

In a recent analysis of nearly 3,000 rural and urban areas across the United States, a pair of Pennsylvania State University economists found that the areas with more small, locally owned businesses (with fewer than 100 employees) had greater per capita income growth over the period from 2000 to 2007, while the presence of larger, nonlocal firms depressed economic growth.

 

“There is definitely a trend towards community-rooted alternatives,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a nonprofit research and educational organization. Citing the Occupy Wall Street protests and Move Your Money campaigns, she said, “More people are interested in taking the economy back.”

 

Cooperatives — nonprofit businesses like food stores and credit unions owned by and run on behalf of their members — are one common manifestation of the trend. In a co-op, each member gets one vote, and excess revenue not reinvested in the business is distributed among members either as rebates or, in the case of credit unions, lower fees and better interest rates. In the United States, a University of Wisconsin study estimated, there are more than 29,000 co-ops generating $654 billion in revenue, and the number is growing.

 

Community-owned stores are not as well known and are structured as profit-making corporations, but the aim is the same: to keep ownership and control in the community, and to share the prosperity.

 

The Saranac Lake Community Store is a C corporation, the typical big business form, but the resemblance ends there. If and when there are profits that are not plowed back into the store, they will be distributed to investors — many of whom are also the store’s customers. The store’s three employees are paid a modest salary, but one that is above average for the area, and receive health benefits and paid sick days. “That was very important to us,” said Ms. Little, the board president.

 

THE store’s planners sought advice from residents and merchants to determine what was most needed — an effort that continues. Under the title “product offering suggestions,” on a notebook placed near the store’s checkout counter, shoppers had scrawled “larger hats and gloves,” “watchbands” and “women’s flannel-lined jeans.”

 

The planners also tried to avoid competing directly against local merchants, who mainly line half a dozen blocks along Main Street and Broadway. For example, the store offers a limited shoe line, since there are shoe stores in town, and sticks to brands like Minnetonka moccasins, once made in nearby Malone and not carried elsewhere in town. The strategy appears to have won over local merchants. The Coakley Ace hardware down the street offered the store discounted paint and supplies, while the nearby Rice Furniture provided carpet at cost.

 

“I’m of the belief that if you have more offerings in the community, more people will view it as a place to shop,” said Pete Wilson, owner of Major Plowshares, an Army-Navy store in town. “It’s giving people more reason to stay downtown, and that should benefit other retailers.” He bought a share, along with one for each of his two daughters.

 

But community stores are not for everyone. Even with the backing of a local bank and economic development corporation, organizers of a proposed community store in Greenfield, Mass., returned $60,000 to investors this year after concluding that it would be difficult to raise the remaining money needed.

 

And there is no denying the challenges of competing with mega-retailers whose scale and clout give them enormous cost advantages. Craig Waters, Saranac Lake Community Store’s general manager, has had to be creative, stocking American-made products as much as possible and paying reduced prices for merchandise that has not sold at brand-name stores. Mr. Waters, who lives in Lake Placid, also relies on longstanding connections with suppliers. He worked for decades as a buyer and manager for May Department Stores, which merged with Federated Department Stores, now Macy’s Inc., in 2005.

 

The prices appeared reasonable. Brightly colored rubber rain boots for children were $16.99; women’s all-cotton sleep pants and tank top (in a moose print) were $19.99 and $12.99. A waffle-knit, fleece-lined men’s hoodie was $59.99.

 

The Saranac Lake store is off to a strong start, although the trick will be to keep people coming back after the holiday season — and the novelty — have worn off. “We had a lot of people saying it wouldn’t work — and it might not,” said Mr. Wilson, the owner of Major Plowshares. But its existence could set an example for other disenfranchised communities and perhaps prompt shoppers and residents to think about where their dollars go.

 

“Most people are coming in to pick up some thread or clothing. They’re not coming in to get a political lesson,” said Mr. Pitts, the Syracuse lawyer. “But it’s nice to have a place that you can point to as an alternative.”

 

Published by New York Times, 11/13/11

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City

The Dark Side of the ‘Green’ City
By Andrew Ross

PHOENIX

The struggle to slow global warming will be won or lost in cities, which emit 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. So “greening” the city is all the rage now. But if policy makers end up focusing only on those who can afford the low-carbon technologies associated with the new environmental conscientiousness, the movement for sustainability may end up exacerbating climate change rather than ameliorating it.

While cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco are lauded for sustainability, the challenges faced by Phoenix, a poster child of Sunbelt sprawl, are more typical and more revealing. In 2009, Mayor Phil Gordon announced plans to make Phoenix the “greenest city” in the United States. Eyebrows were raised, and rightly so. According to the state’s leading climatologist, central Arizona is in the “bull’s eye” of climate change, warming up and drying out faster than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southwest has been on a drought watch 12 years and counting, despite outsized runoff last winter to the upper Colorado River, a major water supply for the subdivisions of the Valley of the Sun.

Across that valley lies 1,000 square miles of low-density tract housing, where few signs of greening are evident. That’s no surprise, given the economic free fall of a region that had been wholly dependent on the homebuilding industry. Property values in parts of metro Phoenix have dropped by 80 percent, and some neighborhoods are close to being declared “beyond recovery.”

In the Arizona Legislature, talk of global warming is verboten and Republican lawmakers can be heard arguing for the positive qualities of greenhouse gases. Most politicians are still praying for another housing boom on the urban fringe; they have no Plan B, least of all a low-carbon one. Mr. Gordon, a Democrat who took office in 2004, has risen to the challenge. But the vast inequalities of the metro area could blunt the impact of his sustainability plans.

Those looking for ecotopia can find pockets of it in the prosperous upland enclaves of Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and North Phoenix. Hybrid vehicles, LEED-certified custom homes with solar roofs and xeriscaped yards, which do not require irrigation, are popular here, and voter support for the preservation of open space runs high. By contrast, South Phoenix is home to 40 percent of the city’s hazardous industrial emissions and America’s dirtiest ZIP code, while the inner-ring Phoenix suburbs, as a legacy of cold-war era industries, suffer from some of the worst groundwater contamination in the nation.

Whereas uptown populations are increasingly sequestered in green showpiece zones, residents in low-lying areas who cannot afford the low-carbon lifestyle are struggling to breathe fresh air or are even trapped in cancer clusters. You can find this pattern in many American cities. The problem is that the carbon savings to be gotten out of this upscale demographic — which represents one in five American adults and is known as Lohas, an acronym for “lifestyles of health and sustainability” — can’t outweigh the commercial neglect of the other 80 percent. If we are to moderate climate change, the green wave has to lift all vessels.

Solar chargers and energy-efficient appliances are fine, but unless technological fixes take into account the needs of low-income residents, they will end up as lifestyle add-ons for the affluent. Phoenix’s fledgling light-rail system should be expanded to serve more diverse neighborhoods, and green jobs should be created in the central city, not the sprawling suburbs. Arizona has some of the best solar exposure in the world, but it allows monopolistic utilities to impose a regressive surcharge on all customers to subsidize roof-panel installation by the well-heeled ones. Instead of green modifications to master-planned communities at the urban fringe, there should be concerted “infill” investment in central city areas now dotted with vacant lots.

In a desert metropolis, the choice between hoarding and sharing has consequences for all residents. Their predecessors — the Hohokam people, irrigation farmers who subsisted for over a thousand years around a vast canal network in the Phoenix Basin — faced a similar test, and ultimately failed. The remnants of Hohokam canals and pit houses are a potent reminder of ecological collapse; no other American city sits atop such an eloquent allegory.

Published 11-6-2011, The New York Times

Andrew Ross is a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University and author of Bird on Fire: Lessons From the World’s Least Sustainable City.

Sustainability Lessons for the United States


How Germany became Europe’s green leader: A look at four decades of sustainable policymaking

by Ralph Buehler, Arne Jungjohann, Melissa Keeley, Michael Mehling

In Brief

Over the last 40 years, all levels of government in Germany have retooled policies to promote growth that is more environmentally sustainable. Germany’s experiences can provide useful lessons for the United States (and other nations) as policymakers consider options for “green” economic transformation. Our analysis focuses on four case studies from Germany in the areas of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation. We show how political challenges to the implementation of green policies were overcome and how sustainability programs were made politically acceptable at the local, state, and federal levels of government. Within the three highlighted sectors, we identify potential opportunities and barriers to policy transfer from Germany to the United States, concluding with specific lessons for policy development and implementation.

Key Concepts

  • Germany’s experience with policies aimed at “greening” the economy provides several lessons for the United States about how to make sustainability politically acceptable in a federal system of government:
  • Start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope. Successful pilot projects were expanded in stages over time.
  • There is no silver bullet. Policies have to be coordinated and integrated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness.
  • Foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes.
  • Find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. Successful green policies in Germany were designed to meet the needs of multiple constituents.

How does one “green” an economy? For governments seeking a cleaner, more efficient, and ultimately more sustainable pathway to economic prosperity, this question entails both promise and great challenges. For one, the scale of transformation it requires is exceptionally daunting: in his 2011 State of the Union speech, for instance, President Barack Obama called on the United States to generate 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources and to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, both within 25 years.1 Compared to where the country stands now, these objectives presuppose unprecedented levels of investment in new infrastructure, new technologies, and relevant skills and education; yet at the same time, they also hold the prospect of new opportunities for job growth, innovation, industrial efficiency, and energy independence. With that in mind, one will invariably wonder, is such a transformation feasible at a time of constrained public budgets and slowly recovering economies? And perhaps more importantly, are the expected benefits of such a green transformation compelling enough to persuade a public that is exposed to conflicting messages about the underlying rationale, is critical of new regulation and expenditure, and generally is disillusioned with political authority?

Fortunately, the green transformation of economies is no longer a theoretical concept. Several nations have put the green economy to the test. While far from being the only country to venture down this path, Germany has earned wide recognition for its successful alignment of prosperous and sustainable growth. Unlike many of its European neighbors, Germany has emerged from the recent recession with a robust economy, thanks in large part to flourishing exports. Germany has a dominant market share in various green technologies as well as a substantial part of its workforce employed in the environmental sector.2 Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen in absolute terms, effectively decoupling economic growth from Germany’s environmental footprint.

Admittedly, not all factors contributing to this success story can be replicated in other countries and regions: challenged with scarce natural resources and a high population density, Germans have traditionally been forced to embrace sustainability in virtually all facets of economic activity, from land use to transportation. Historical transition processes, such as postwar reconstruction and, more recently, the reunification of East and West Germany, also resulted in the renewal of infrastructure and replacement of outdated industrial facilities.

Still, the greening of the German economy is also unmistakably the product of several decades of targeted policy design and implementation, particularly in the past decade. Policies related to environmental protection and resource conservation have been mainstreamed in all areas of economic activity and have been described by a former government minister as central to Germany’s recent success: “green policy is merely good industrial policy.”3 Drawing on a series of relevant case studies, this article shows that the transformation witnessed in Germany would not have been conceivable without the policy decisions that preceded it. Each case study—energy taxation, renewable-energy promotion, green infrastructure, and sustainable transportation—offers valuable insights into how to design and implement green policies.

Photo: Green roofs like this one in Berlin, Germany, support specialized, hearty vegetation and provide environmental services such as stormwater retention, urban heat island effect amelioration, habitat for urban wildlife, and energy savings resulting from better thermal insulation.

Pricing Energy for Jobs and Resource Conservation: Germany’s Energy Tax Reform

After months of heated political debate, especially regarding the role of nuclear power in Germany’s energy mix, the federal government adopted its new Energy Concept document in September 2010, setting out a broad framework for German energy policy until 2050. Developed by the ruling center-right coalition, this document aims at turning Germany into one of the “most energy efficient and greenest economies in the world, while enjoying competitive energy prices and a high level of prosperity.”4 In line with a campaign pledge set out in the government’s coalition agreement, the new energy policy defines ambitious targets for the medium and longer term: primary energy consumption is to fall by 20 percent from 2008 levels by 2020, and at least 50 percent by 2050; renewable energy is to account for 18 percent of final energy consumption in 2020, and at least 80 percent of electricity consumption in 2050; and greenhouse gas emissions are to see cuts of 40 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050, both relative to 1990 levels.

Energy pricing through taxes and other fiscal instruments has traditionally held a prominent position in the German energy policy mix. As any visitor to Germany will be quick to notice, gasoline prices are significantly higher than in most other regions: in early 2011, a gallon of regular gasoline cost over U.S.$7, more than double the average price in the United States. The price difference is almost entirely due to higher tax rates on oil and other fuels, a system of excise taxes that dates back to prewar Germany and has since been harmonized at the European level. It was not until the late 1990s, however, that energy taxation also became a vehicle for Germany’s green agenda. In 1998, a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Green Party members pledged to introduce new fiscal instruments to reduce the tax burden on labor and shift part of it to energy consumption. This campaign promise sought to harness the multiple dividends invoked by advocates of environmental taxes, including greater flexibility and cost efficiency than traditional regulation, incentives to develop innovative clean technologies, and the ability to raise revenues for public investments or tax cuts in other areas, such as labor costs.5

In 1999, the German legislature passed the Ecological Tax Reform Act, which mandated gradual increases in the tax rates on oil and gas and introduced a new levy on electricity.6 This initiative was by no means uncontroversial. From the outset, it encountered public opposition triggered by rising prices for crude oil and concerns over industrial competitiveness. Resistance to this measure was, in fact, so great that many observers expected the energy tax project to be a casualty of partisan politics. And yet, in 2006, new legislation by the European Union and a change of government in Germany, coupled with a yawning gap in the federal budget, heralded a new chapter in German energy taxation. That year, the legislature adopted a comprehensive Energy Tax Act, setting up a common fiscal framework for energy products through harmonized definitions, taxation rules, and exemptions.7 This important step led to a complete revision of the framework for energy taxation in Germany, effectively ending years of deadlock in Parliament; but critics were also quick to say it would do little to help transform the German economy. Nearly half a decade later, what has the German energy tax reform achieved?

A Positive Macroeconomic Balance

Between 1999 and 2003, Germany’s energy tax reform resulted in a gradual increase in energy costs. A number of exceptions motivated by social and economic considerations were initially included to safeguard the competitiveness of the manufacturing, agricultural, and forestry sectors and to avoid undue hardship for lower-income households. Overall, however, the fiscal burden resulting from the energy tax reform has been moderate compared to already existing taxes: for instance, only €0.15 of the €0.66 currently charged as taxes on every liter of gasoline is a result of the tax reform, with the far greater share originating in the excise taxes already imposed prior to 1999. Altogether, the share of environmentally motivated taxes in the overall tax revenue only rose from 5.2 percent in 1998 to 6.5 percent in 2003 and has since declined again to 5.3 percent in 2008, nearly the level where it started in 1999.8 Not only does this reflect the fact that other tax categories—notably value-added taxation—have seen greater increases in recent years, but it also is a direct consequence of changing energy consumption patterns.

Fossil fuel consumption has continually declined in Germany since the introduction of the energy tax reform. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, gasoline consumption in 2000 decreased by 4.5 percent compared to the previous year, and it continued to decrease in 2001 and 2002 by 3 and 3.3 percent, respectively, exceeding the previous average reduction of 2 percent due to general improvements in vehicle technology and transportation planning. The targeted increase in energy costs has also created an identifiable incentive for behavioral change in other sectors, encouraging deployment of energy-efficient technologies and processes, including alternative energy sources. Reductions of CO2 emissions are estimated to have reached 3 percent annually, equivalent to 24 million metric tons of CO2.9 At the same time, revenues of the energy tax reform have been almost fully returned to taxpayers, with the largest share used for a gradual reduction of social security contributions. In 2003, for instance, roughly €16.1 billion raised through the tax reform was used to reduce and stabilize nonwage labor costs, allowing pension contributions to be lowered by 1.7 percent.10 With hiring rendered less expensive, the energy tax reform has helped promote employment and has contributed to the creation of an estimated 250,000 new jobs. A smaller fraction of proceeds has been used to subsidize the deployment of renewable-energy projects and the modernization of buildings.

Lessons from Energy Pricing in Germany

Like everywhere else, taxes are a politically sensitive issue in Germany. Unsurprisingly, opponents of the energy tax reform—including the current ruling coalition—were quick to launch a determined media campaign against the proposed legislation. Given the complexities of its design, it was easy for critics to portray the tax reform as a mere increase in the fiscal burden, while downplaying or disputing the accompanying reduction in labor costs and expected employment benefits. Germany’s parliamentary system and its strict party discipline allowed the governing coalition at the time to pass the tax reform against partisan resistance. In countries with different legislative processes, that option may not be available. Ironically, the need to close a growing budget deficit has made the current conservative government, previously an ardent adversary of environmentally motivated taxes, now dependent on the revenue created by the energy tax. As the rationale and benefits of the tax reform have become more widely known, there has been greater public acceptance of the incremental increase in energy cost.

Fea_Germany_Figure2.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. The light rail system in the car-free city center of Freiburg, Germany. In the mid-1970s Freiburg was the first German city to ban cars from a network of streets in its city center.

It stands to reason that better communication in the initial stages of the tax reform could have alleviated some of the early concerns. Also, its portrayal as an environmentally motivated tax may have incurred avoidable partisan strife; focusing on the innovation and employment benefits of the proposed tax may have been strategically preferable. And clearly, a gradual and transparent trajectory of rate hikes was of central importance in making the tax reform acceptable in the first place. Ultimately, however, the positive outcome of the tax reform is the most compelling lesson from the German experience: contrary to the early fears, behavioral change and innovation prompted by the rising energy prices have actually strengthened the German economy. Energy-efficient technologies are now among the fastest-growing export products, and the incentive to reduce energy use has helped the German economy become more resilient to fluctuations in global oil and gas prices. Overall, greater efficiency throughout the economy has translated into lower energy costs for households and industry. Despite significantly higher energy tax rates, average German utility bills and fuel expenditures tend to match or lie below those seen in the United States. As the Federal Environmental Agency has concluded, the Ecological Tax Reform Act delivered on its promise of improved labor conditions and greater sustainability, resulting in what the agency describes—in a typically German understatement—as a “positive macroeconomic balance.”11

Promoting Renewable Energy

As a member state of the European Union (EU), Germany’s energy policies are driven by a mix of national and European legislation. Formally, the 27 EU member states regulate energy policies within their own national borders. However, EU treaty provisions concerning the European internal market, free competition, and environmental protection have created a European energy policy.12

In 2009, a major piece of renewable-energy legislation was passed as part of an overall climate and energy package. The European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive13 requires each member state to increase its share of renewable energy—such as solar, wind power, biomass, or hydroelectric—to raise the overall share from 8.5 percent in 2010 to 20 percent by 2020 across all sectors (e.g., power generation, heating and cooling, and transportation fuels).

Achievements in Renewable Energy

Germany has seen a remarkable expansion of renewable energy in the last decade. The share of renewable energy in electricity generation rose from 6 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2009.14 Over this time, the German government revised its own targets twice, given that previous targets had been exceeded ahead of schedule. The German government is expecting a share of 38 percent renewable power by 2020 and continues to drive the transformation “towards an energy system based completely on renewable energies.”15,16

The economic benefits of this development are impressive. By 2010, the field of renewable-energy-related jobs employed around 340,000 people, most of them in biomass, wind power, and solar.17 In comparison, the German lignite industry employs only 50,000 people—from mining to the power plant.18 The key policy responsible for this success is the Renewable Energy Sources Act, first enacted in April 2000.19 This feed-in tariff policy is embedded in a climate and energy policy framework that promotes renewable energy and efficiency technologies, including laws to encourage combined-heat-and-power plants, a cap and trade system, the energy tax reform described earlier in the article, and several additional measures. The next planned revision to the law will aim to incentivize grid access and grid improvement, offshore wind power, and technologies for peak management and power storage.20

Comparison with Renewable-Energy Practice in the United States

The United States currently employs a mix of short-term tax credits, loan guarantees, state-level renewable portfolio standards, and limited feed-in tariffs. In contrast to Germany, the U.S. policy framework has evolved less quickly at the federal level, where time horizons have been shorter-term. The uncertainty engendered by this short-term policy framework has led to repeated falloffs in renewable-energy capacity additions in the United States as support measures have neared expiration.21 For example, in contrast to Germany, new wind turbine construction in America has fluctuated greatly from year to year, because incentives have repeatedly expired.22 Even with this policy uncertainty, however, the United States in 2008 still led the world in total installed wind-power capacity, with 20.8 percent.23 In 2008, renewable energy provided 9 percent of electricity production in the United States, with large-scale hydropower being the largest source.24

Fea_Germany_Figure3.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Cyclists on Freiburg’s car-free Wiwili bridge. The bridge was closed to cars in the early 2000s and is now open only to cyclists and pedestrians.

In many ways, the United States relies more on a state-level approach through renewable portfolio standards to increase renewable-energy capacity. These standards require power companies to provide a certain proportion of electricity from renewable-energy sources. Currently, renewable portfolio standards regulations apply in 29 states and in the District of Columbia; five additional states have established targets for renewable expansion.25 In many cases, long-term supply contracts for green power have been signed. Typical target percentages for green power are 15 percent for 2015, 20 percent for 2020, and 25 percent for 2025. These figures are significantly lower than the target set in Europe (21 percent for 2010).26

Feed-in tariff policies, the most common renewable-energy policy in the world,27 are slowly spreading in the United States. In most cases, these policies guarantee grid access and a 20-year premium contract for renewable energy technologies. As of January 2011, Gainesville Regional Utilities, Hawaii, and Vermont have adopted feed-in tariff policies based on the cost of generation. Maine and California have also adopted a light version of a feed-in tariff, though in California legal struggles are being fought. In addition, representatives in ten different state legislatures have proposed different feed-in tariff models.28

Transferable Lessons for Renewable Energy in the United States

The German success in rapid renewable-energy deployment relies on a robust feed-in tariff law and an overall comprehensive climate and energy framework with a long-term perspective. This policy environment comes with streamlined administrative procedures that help shorten lead times and bureaucratic overhead and that minimize project costs. All of the above create a high investment certainty that the United States overall and most of its states independently currently lack.

Given the abundance of natural resources (e.g., wind, biomass, solar) in the United States, the deployment of renewable energy should be cheaper than in Germany, which has an average solar input close to that of Alaska (and Iowa’s cornfields alone, which could be used for biogas production, are double the size of Germany’s agricultural land).29

Across the political spectrum, all major German parties support an industrial transformation toward a low-carbon economy, and there is a strong consensus concerning the need to address climate change. Constituent groups from both the progressive (e.g., renewable-energy industry) and conservative side (e.g., farm community) benefit from this approach. The understanding is that strong environmental policies drive ecological modernization and create new market opportunities. Germany as an export-oriented country aims to sell the solutions to a carbon-constrained and high-energy-price world.30 By contrast, the United States lags behind, where political debates over climate-change-related policy actions are hindering opportunities and leadership in this arena. As long as the public perceives a trade-off between environmental regulation and industrial competitiveness, it will be extremely difficult for the United States to fundamentally turn toward a low-carbon economy. U.S. policymakers should adjust elements of a feed-in tariff policy to regional contexts to drive rapid growth in renewable-electricity markets, to promote strong manufacturing industries, and to create new jobs in a cost-effective manner.

Encouraging Green Infrastructure

Over the past 40 years, northern Europe, and Germany in particular, has been a hotbed for the innovation and application of green technologies to enhance the urban environment.31 These technologies, sometimes referred to as green infrastructure or low-impact development, include such innovations as green roofs, green facades, and permeable pavements. They mimic the natural processes of soils and vegetation to provide “environmental services” such as stormwater management, urban heat island amelioration, and habitat, even in dense urban areas.32–38 What is clear is that the proliferation of green roofs and other green infrastructure in Germany has been supported by a complex assortment of incentives and requirements at multiple levels of government.31 Significantly, federal nature-protection laws and building codes require “compensation,” or restoration, for human impairment of natural landscapes and of environmental services in greenfield developments (development on previously undeveloped land).39 In many cases, green infrastructure techniques can be used to fulfill these requirements. Federal laws also require that German states create landscape plans.40 As a result, German states have innovated a variety of approaches to environmental protection, many of which have involved elements that first incentivized and later required the creation and maintenance of green infrastructure.

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Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Potsdamer Plaz is an office, entertainment, and retail center at the heart of Berlin, raised during World War II and then redeveloped after the reunification of east and west Berlin in 1990. This mixed-use site features an elaborate, naturalistic stormwater retention system designed to minimize the burden on the city’s existing water infrastructure. The system incorporates green roofs (seen here) on most buildings in the complex to reduce stormwater runoff.

In addition to this, a series of German federal and state court rulings beginning in the 1970s have required increased transparency and equitable rate structures for stormwater services.41 As a result, the majority of German households are charged for stormwater services based on an estimate of the stormwater burden generated from their properties. This approach of individual parcel assessments (IPAs) differs from the approach used in the United States, where the same charges are levied on all parcels or all parcels of the same class (such as residential). Since IPAs in Germany are used to assess fees that relate directly to conditions present on specific parcels, and because land-use decisions (like paving a driveway or installing a green roof) have major impacts on the amount of stormwater leaving a property, this approach creates incentives for individuals to incorporate green infrastructure on their properties.41

Comparison with Green Infrastructure Practice in the United States

While there is interest in the multiple benefits of green infrastructure in the United States, green infrastructure techniques have gained recent attention in relation to stormwater management. Federal Clean Water Act programs require that local governments overhaul stormwater-management strategies to protect and improve surface-water quality.42 The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, for instance, has already invested U.S.$3.1 billion in a multiphase tunnel and reservoir plan to improve stormwater management.43 To raise needed funds, the creation of stormwater utilities and the assessment of stormwater fees are becoming increasingly widespread. To date, however, the vast majority of U.S. cities have chosen to assess stormwater fees on a class basis; they assess the same fee to all parcels within a given class based on the average stormwater burden their property type contributes.44 This methodology is used almost exclusively for residential parcels and greatly simplifies billing.

Transferable Lessons for Green Infrastructure in the United States

While the United States has focused attention on green infrastructure in relation to stormwater, most U.S. municipalities currently lack the kind of overlapping, reinforcing incentives and requirements that have led to the prominence of these techniques in Germany. This is particularly important given the multiple benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and enhancement of urban quality of life.

Focusing on stormwater management specifically, however, there are further lessons that the United States could draw from German experience with parcel-level assessments, or IPAs. Specifically, this approach might improve watershed planning and stormwater management and address the public relations needs of cash-strapped water-management authorities in three ways: (1) data from IPAs could increase public awareness of human impacts on watersheds; (2) this detailed information could inform watershed planning; and (3) this data could be the basis of fee systems designed to create incentives for on-site stormwater management where cost effective.41

In Berlin, public participation in assessing IPAs is credited with helping the public understand the connections between land-use decisions on their own property and environmental problems in local lakes and rivers. IPAs also provide detailed spatial information about impervious surfaces and their connectedness to the storm sewer system. The latter can only be assessed through on-site surveys, and thus it is otherwise rarely available to engineers and planners. Since connected impervious surface coverage is such a key variable in estimating stormwater burden, this information could enhance watershed planning and the development of stormwater models designed to optimize the efficiency of existing systems.41,45

Fea_Germany_Figure5.jpg
Photo credit: Melissa Keeley. Stormwater runoff in Potsdamer Plaz is collected in this pond. Vegetation on the banks of the pond and other treatments are used to purify and remove nutrients from the water, which is then reused in a grey water system for toilet flushing, irrigation, and fire systems within the complex.

Ascertaining each property’s share of the stormwater burden effectively turns what is a diffuse, nonpoint pollution source into a point-source problem. Such a fee-assessment system makes it possible to reduce fees for parcels that manage stormwater with green infrastructure or other best practices. IPAs could, therefore, create a foundation for economic incentives, such as a fee-and-subsidy system or emissions trading, to encourage green infrastructure where it can cost-effectively manage stormwater.46 A significant obstacle to this in the United States is the low rate currently charged for stormwater removal.47 It could prove politically and legally difficult for U.S. stormwater utilities to charge fees high enough to serve as incentives for on-site stormwater management.48

Implementing Sustainable Transportation

Governments at federal, state, and local levels in Germany determine the sustainability of the transportation system. Federal gasoline taxes, sales taxes, and regulations make automobile use and ownership expensive and encourage demand for less polluting and smaller cars. In 2008, sales taxes on automobiles in Germany were three times higher than in the United States, and gasoline taxes were nine times higher.49–53 However, higher gasoline taxes do not translate to higher household expenditures for transportation in Germany compared to the United States. Germans own fewer and more energy efficient cars and drive fewer miles than Americans. Thus, in 2008 transportation accounted for roughly 14 percent of household expenditures in Germany, compared to about 19 percent in the United States. The German federal government provides dedicated matching funds for investments in local public transportation. Flexible federal matching funds for local transportation improvements can also be used for local public transportation, walking, and cycling projects.54 German states distribute federal funds for regional rail systems and coordinate public transportation services statewide.55 Many German states set minimum parking requirements for local developments. Federal and state governments provide the framework for more-sustainable transportation, but cities have played a crucial role in developing and implementing innovative policies (see Box).

The Freiburg Model of Transport Sustainability

Since the late 1960s, the city of Freiburg (population 220,000) has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable transport.1,2 Since then, the number of trips by bicycle has tripled, transit ridership has doubled, and the share of trips by car has fallen from 38 to 32 percent. Since the early 1990s, the level of motorization has stagnated and per capita CO2 emissions from transportation have fallen, in spite of strong economic and population growth. Up to the late 1960s, Freiburg promoted greenfield development, widened streets, abandoned trolley lines, and built car parking lots. Motorization increased rapidly, transit ridership plummeted, and the city was sprawling. Air pollution, traffic fatalities, and traffic congestion caused by cars and other environmental concerns shifted public opinion away from automobile-centered growth.2 Freiburg achieved a more sustainable transportation system by (1) successfully integrating land-use and transportation planning, (2) coordinating and integrating public transportation regionally, (3) promoting bicycling, (4) restricting automobile use, and (5) encouraging citizen participation throughout the process.2,3

Integrating Transportation and Land-Use Planning

Even though Freiburg started implementing sustainable transportation policies in the early 1970s—such as creating pedestrian zones in the downtown area—there was no formal link between land use and transportation planning. The two have become more formally coordinated since then. The comprehensive transportation plan of 1979 called for explicit integration of both planning sectors. The land-use plan of 1981 prescribed that new development was to be concentrated along public transportation corridors. In 2006, two-thirds of Freiburg’s residents’ jobs were located within a quarter mile of a light-rail stop.2

Freiburg’s most recent land-use and transportation plans in 2008 were developed simultaneously and are fully integrated. Both reiterate the goals of reducing car use and favor central mixed-use development over settlements on the suburban fringe. Vauban and Rieselfeld, two new inner suburbs built around light-rail line extensions, are good examples for today’s complete integration of transportation and land-use planning. Both communities are compactly laid out and mix residential, commercial, educational, and recreational land uses. Car access and parking are limited, and streets are traffic-calmed with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour, or even 7 kilometers per hour, to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists, and playing children.2

Expanding and Coordinating Public Transportation Services

In the early 1970s, the city decided to expand its public transportation network, but it took until 1983 before the first new light-rail line was added to the existing 14 kilometers of track. Since then, Freiburg has opened four new lines for a total of 36.4 kilometers in 2008, and the amount of light-rail service has tripled. In 1984, Freiburg’s public transportation system offered Germany’s first monthly ticket—transferable to other users.4 In 1991, the geographic coverage of the ticket was expanded to include the city and two adjacent counties. Services, fares, subsidies, and timetables for bus and rail operators are coordinated regionally. The monthly ticket offers unlimited public transportation travel within the entire region for about U.S.$60. Over 90 percent of passengers have monthly or annual tickets.2,3 Due to the high demand, Freiburg’s transit system has become one of the most financially efficient in Germany—requiring operating subsidies of only 10 percent (compared to 65 percent for public transit systems in the United States).4

Making Cycling a Viable Transportation Alternative for All Trips

Separate bike infrastructure and cyclist-friendly streets make the bicycle a feasible option for all trips and all destinations in Freiburg. Since the early 1970s, Freiburg has expanded its network of separate bike paths and lanes fivefold to 160 kilometers in 2007. This network is complemented by bike routes through forests, traffic-calmed roads, and bicycle streets. Additionally, the city has traffic-calmed almost all residential streets. In 2008, nine out of ten Freiburgers lived on streets with speed limits of 30 kilometers per hour or less. Slow automobile speeds encourage more cycling and make it safer. The total number of bike trips in Freiburg has nearly tripled since 1976—amounting to almost one bike trip per inhabitant per day in 2007.2

The city requires bike parking in all new buildings with two or more apartments, as well as in schools, universities, and businesses. Between 1987 and 2009, the number of bike parking spaces in downtown and at transit stops increased significantly—including a major bike parking garage at the main train station, with space for 1,000 bikes.2

Restricting Automobile Use

Many of the policies that promote public transportation, bicycling, and walking involve restrictions on car use—such as car-free zones and traffic-calmed neighborhoods.2,5 Freiburg’s official goal is to reduce car use wherever practical and to accommodate automobile trips that cannot be made by any other mode. Thus, the city combines disincentives to use cars in the town center and residential neighborhoods with improvement of arterials in various ways (such as widening) to increase their carrying capacity. Freiburg’s parking policy is designed to make car use less convenient and more expensive. Parking garages are relegated to the periphery of the city center, which was converted to pedestrian use in the early 1970s. In many residential neighborhoods, parking is reserved for residents only and requires a special permit. On-street parking in commercial areas of the city becomes more expensive with proximity to the center.2,5

Citizen Involvement

Since the 1970s, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.2 Moreover, Freiburg’s latest land-use plan has been developed with sustained input from 900 citizens, 19 neighboring municipalities, and 12 special-purpose governments in the region. Citizen involvement and public discourse has kept the environmental benefits and sustainability of the transportation system in the news for decades in Freiburg. Over time, public opinion has become more and more supportive of sustainable environmental policies. Even politicians from the conservative party have accepted restrictions on car use and have promoted public transportation, bicycling, and walking as alternatives.

Lessons Learned from Freiburg

It is inappropriate to assume that Freiburg’s experience can be copied wholesale in the U.S. However, there are many lessons from Freiburg for U.S. cities that intend to become more sustainable.2,5

First, Freiburg implemented most of its policies in stages, often choosing projects everybody agreed upon first. Residential traffic calming was initially implemented in neighborhoods whose residents complained most about the negative impacts of car travel. Successful implementation in one neighborhood encouraged other areas of the city to request traffic calming as well.

Second, Freiburg phased in and adjusted its policies and goals gradually. The initial decision to stop tearing out the trolley tracks was made in the late 1960s. In the early 1970s, the city council approved the extension of the light-rail system, which finally opened in 1983. Once the expansion proved successful, more light-rail lines followed.

Third, Freiburg has simultaneously made public transportation, cycling, and walking viable alternatives to the automobile, while increasing the cost of car travel. Improving quality and level of service for alternative modes of transportation made car-restrictive measures politically acceptable.

Fourth, citizen participation has been a key aspect of transportation and land-use planning in Freiburg. For example, citizen groups worked with the city administration to redevelop Vauban into an environmentally friendly car-free neighborhood.

Lastly, changing transportation, land-use systems, and travel behavior in Freiburg took almost 40 years. Planners in the United States should curb their expectations for quick success. Clearly, some policies can be implemented quickly, but changes in travel behavior and the development of a more sustainable transportation system take much longer.

References

  1. Please see the sources cited in the four publications listed below for more detailed references and additional information for this case study.
  2. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Sustainable transport in Freiburg: lessons from Germany’s environmental capital. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation 5, 43–70 (2011).
  3. Buehler, R. Transport policies, automobile use, and sustainable transportation: a comparison of Germany and the USA. Journal of Planning Education and Research 30, 76–93 (2010).
  4. Buehler, R & Pucher, J. Making public transport financially sustainable. Transport Policy 18(1), 128-136 (2011).
  5. Buehler, R, Pucher, J & Kunert, U. Making transportation sustainable: insights from Germany (The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, 2009). www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_german….

Sustainability Lessons for the United States

Implementing German-style policies in the United States requires careful consideration of the political, cultural, and institutional context. For example, legal and political barriers could hamper a transfer of German policies to the United States. Nevertheless, our case studies of energy, urban infrastructure, and transportation provide some overall lessons that could help encourage development of sustainability policies in the United States.

First, start small and implement policies in stages. Many sustainability policies in Germany were first implemented at a small geographic scale or with a small scope and were expanded in stages over time. Small-scale pilot projects allow policymakers to experiment and the public to experience a real-life example of the proposed program. Unsuccessful projects can be discontinued and successful programs can be expanded. For example, many German cities initially implemented traffic-calming technologies in those neighborhoods where residents complained most about traffic safety, noise, and air pollution from car travel. Successful implementation of a pilot project in one neighborhood led other neighborhoods to demand traffic calming as well. This approach can also work at other scales and in other sectors. For example, the German Renewable Energy Sources Act initially covered only very basic technologies, but it was extended over time and rewarded innovations and new approaches. To some extent the United States is using this approach already, as witnessed by the creation of pedestrian zones in New York City’s Times Square or the new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. On the federal level, however, the U.S. Congress does not have a consistent history of passing incremental improvements to energy policy or climate legislation.

Another aspect of staged implementation is political acceptability. For example, the German Ecological Tax Reform Act, which increased taxation on energy to reduce social security taxes, was implemented in stages, with taxes increasing annually over a period of five years. Consolidating the staged tax increases into one large tax hike would not have been politically feasible. Staged implementation, the five-year time horizon, and lower social security taxes enabled citizens to adjust to the new taxes. Similarly, many policies encouraging green infrastructure on private properties began as financial incentives and only later were replaced by requirements, once there was greater acceptance and experience with these techniques.

Fea_Germany_Figure6.jpg
Photo credit: Ralph Buehler. Pedestrians and light rail in Freiburg’s car-free zone in the city center.

Second, there are no silver bullets. Policies should be coordinated across sectors and levels of government to achieve maximum effectiveness. Despite the high public visibility of flagship projects like the Ecological Tax Reform Act, no silver bullet has proven to be the single factor for successful results. The case studies show that individual policies were integrated into a larger policy framework. At its best, this framework is comprehensive and long-term oriented. For example, in transportation, the German federal government increased taxation on gasoline, while local governments improved conditions for walking, cycling, and public transportation—thus offering a viable alternative to the car. This approach increased political acceptability with the public, since drivers had a choice to continue driving at higher cost or to shift modes of transportation.

In Germany, green infrastructure has been incentivized and in some cases required by a suite of overlapping programs. Significantly, these initiatives come from various governmental levels and sectors and were created because of different benefits provided by green infrastructure—such as stormwater management, air-quality improvements, and urban quality of life. It is this suite of policies as a whole that has moved green infrastructure into the German mainstream. Energy policy is another good example of coordinated decision making and planning: Germany’s policy portfolio comprises more than 30 legislative measures that address all aspects of energy sustainability, with binding long-term targets guiding implementation efforts and the necessary review of policies at regular intervals. In the United States, by contrast, short-term incentives, fragmented regulations, and a lack of planning certainty—in the absence of a binding policy framework—have dampened private-sector investment and technology deployment.

Third, foster citizen participation and communicate policies effectively. Policies that affect people’s everyday lives have to be developed with active citizen participation. Citizen input reduces potential legal challenges, increases public acceptance, and has the potential to improve projects and outcomes. Public participation in assessing parcel-level charges and new stormwater fees in Berlin helped the public to understand how their properties contribute to environmental problems. Further, individuals can take steps to reduce fees by integrating green infrastructure techniques on their properties. The initial draft of the city of Freiburg’s land-use plan was rejected by the citizens as not being progressive enough (see Box). The second draft was developed with the ongoing participation of 900 residents. The public sector has to effectively communicate the intentions of policy. This often involves political trade-offs. For example, Germany’s Ecological Tax Reform Act increased the cost of energy but at the same time reduced social security taxes. While many citizens agreed to increase taxation on energy, the reduction in social security taxes was also very important.

Fourth, find innovative solutions and embrace bipartisanship. The implementation of several of the highlighted policies came with strong political controversy in Germany. However, the policies survived because, over time, parties across the political spectrum benefited from them or could not afford reversing them. For example, the Renewable Energy Sources Act was supported by both the political left and right because both the progressive renewable-energy industry and the conservative German farm community benefited from its implementation. Before and during the introduction of the Ecological Tax Reform Act, Germany’s center-right parties opposed the reform and promised to roll it back once they were in power again. However, after winning elections in 2005, the conservatives found it impossible to forfeit the robust tax revenue generated by the reform.

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Ralph Buehler: Assistant Professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech
Arne Jungjohann: Director for the Environment and Global Dialogue Program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Washington, DC
Melissa Keeley: Assistant Professor in geography and public policy and public administration at George Washington University
Michael Mehling: President of the Ecologic Institute; Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University

 

Published on Energy Bulletin (http://www.energybulletin.net)

Published by Solutions on Mon, 10/10/2011 – 08:00

Original article: http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981

Energy Bulletin is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


Links:
[1] http://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/node/981
[2] http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0416_germany_transportation_buehler/0416_germany_transportation_report.pdf
[3] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/25/remarks-president-state-union-address
[4] http://www.newsweek.com/id/143679
[5] http://www.bmu.de/files/english/pdf/application/pdf/energiekonzept_bundesregierung_en.pdf
[6] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:140:0016:0062:EN:PDF
[7] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/ee_in_deutschland_graf_tab_2009_en.pdf
[8] http://www.bmu.de/english/current_press_releases/pm/46293.php
[9] http://www.bmu.de/files/pdfs/allgemein/application/pdf/nationaler_aktionsplan_ee.pdf
[10] http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/downloads/doc/46291.php
[11] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.362416.de
[12] http://www.braunkohle-wissen.de/#arbeitspl%20
[13] http://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/inhalt/42934/20026
[14] http://www.dbcca.com/dbcca/EN/_media/DBCCA_Creating_Jobs_and_Growth_The_German_Green_Exp.pdf
[15] http://www.diw.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=diw_01.c.346123.de
[16] http://www.gwec.net/index.php?id=13&L=0
[17] http://www.dsireusa.org
[18] http://www.ren21.net/Portals/97/documents/GSR/REN21_GSR_2010_full_revised%20Sept2010.pdf
[19] http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/pdfs/47408.pdf
[20] http://boell.org/web/139-658.html
[21] http://www.greenroofs.ca/grhcc
[22] http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/nrc_stormwaterreport.pdf
[23] http://vtchl.uiuc.edu/applied-research/environmental-hydraulics/tarp
[24] http://www.forester.net/sw_0011_utility.html
[25] http://www.taxadmin.org

Occupy Wall Street & the Climate Movement

Subject: #OccupyWallStreet and the #Climate Movement
From: organizers(at)350.org
Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2011 19:49:56 +0000

Dear friends,

I’m writing from New York City, where the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking off.

What started as a small group of young people with a vague call to action is evolving into something truly inspiring — and our crew at 350.org is excited to support this nascent movement.

Here’s what Bill McKibben had to say about “The 99%” who are Occupying Wall Street — and how climate change fits into the picture:

(Can’t see the image above? Click here)

Let’s show the activists in New York (and in cities all over the country and the world) that the climate movement stands in solidarity with them. Share this image on Facebook, post it on Twitter, and consider joining a local “occupation”near you. Engage in dialogue and join the conversation that is shaping one of the most exciting grassroots movements in recent memory.

It’s hard to believe that just 10 days ago, I was in the afterglow of Moving Planet, sorting through inspirational photos from people all over the world who were moving beyond fossil fuels. The images were powerful, and they fired me up for whatever came next.

What came next was the Occupy Wall Street movement. In the last two weeks it has grown from something small, local, and overlooked by the media into something massive, global, and unignorable. There are now non-violent protests springing up in hundreds of cities, and stories of “the 99%” are dominating headlines everywhere. No one knows exactly what it will become — but it has the potential to be a true game-changer.

We now face exciting questions: what can we all do to support and expand this groundswell? And how might Occupy Wall Street’s amazing energy further embolden the climate movement?

The answers to these questions are starting to become clear. Two days ago I joined a crew of passionate climate activists in Manhattan to march with tens of thousands of people as part of Occupy Wall Street. The demands from the crowd were varied, but it all boils down to this: just about every problem we now face — from foreclosures to the climate crisis — is made worse by unchecked corporate greed and a corrupt political process. As I marched through the city, it struck me that naming (and acting on) the root causes of the world’s biggest problems is precisely what this moment demands.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be zeroing in on the root causes of the climate crisis, and focusing on the iconic battles in the fight for our planet’s future. In the near term, we’ll be focused on stopping the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline–a key fight where corporate corruption and environmental justice collide. If we can stop the pipeline we’ll send a resounding message across the country: that it’s time for the health of our communities and our planet to come before the profits of Wall Street and big polluters. President Obama will decide by the end of the year on whether to approve the pipeline, and we’ll be scaling up our activism to keep the pressure on.

From Wall Street to Washington DC to cities across the country, big things are coming together, and there are ways for people everywhere to join in. You can go to TarSandsAction.org to get plugged into the fight to stop the Keystone pipeline, and OccupyTogether.org to find out more about joining the 99%.

The next phase of these movements will be a sprint, not a marathon. It’s an honor to be running it with all of you.

Onwards,

Phil Aroneanu

MORE INFO ON OCCUPY WALL STREET AND THE KEYSTONE PIPELINE

350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally and donating here.
What is 350? Go to our website to learn about the science behind the movement.

 

Also see Questions about the violent crackdown on the Occupy Movement

Updated Primer on Ongoing Financial Crisis

The Automatic Earth is a unique, one-stop website which presents the world’s best current writing on the ongoing financial and economic crises. The following Primer lists key articles and analyses written by the Automatic Earth team.

Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh) writes:

It is time to undertake the yearly review and update of our primer guide, with a view to making it easier for our readers to see the entirety of our TAE worldview in one place. Primers are continuously added in order to flesh out the biggest possible big picture. This will continue as we move over to our new site later this year. These essays are not tied to the events of a specific day, week or month, but are the ones that take a step back and look at the world through a wide angle lens.

We have covered a wide variety of topics in the three and a half years of our existence. The point is to tackle complexity and make it comprehensible, rather than assuming away the context as most analyses do. All the strands of our century of challenges are interwoven, with each affecting the others. It is vital to understand those interactions, as well as to understand each separate topic and their relative timelines. Different factors will act as primary drivers at different times.

We retain our primary focus on Ponzi finance and the nature of markets, since the consequences of a major bubble implosion will have the greatest impact in the shortest time. Exploring those consequences, both within and beyond the financial realm is of immediate importance, given the scale of the impacts and how quickly they can manifest as a contraction picks up momentum to the downside.

As always, we cover energy as the master resource, and this year the major focus of new energy primers has been the catastrophe at Fukushima. We have also begun to cover the natural gas situation in North America in some detail, returning to the familiar theme of Ponzi dynamics.

Ponzi Finance:

The Resurgence of Risk, which appeared at The Oil Drum Canada in August 2007 provides the background to how we came to be in our present predicament. It is by far the longest of the primers, and its purpose is to explain in some depth the nature of our credit bubble, the role of ‘financial innovation’, the distinction between currency inflation and credit hyper-expansion and the mechanism by which value disappears as a bubble deflates.

For further explanation of the ponzi nature of bubbles, the spectrum of ponzi dynamics underlying many economic phenomena and the implications of this for where we are headed, see From the Top of the Great Pyramid.

This ties in with an earlier piece from The Oil Drum Canada, Entropy and Empire, detailing the progression of hegemonic power from empire to empire, as each rises, over-reaches, falls and passes the mantle on to its successor.

Real Politik:

The picture in terms of real politik (ie the way the world really works behind the scenes) is further developed in

A more specific look at Europe can be found in The Imperial Eurozone (With all That Implies).

Deflation:

When bubbles reach their maximum extent, they invariably deflate. Our explanation as to why this is inevitable can be found in Inflation Deflated, followed by, The Unbearable Mightiness of Deflation, a rebuttal to inflationist Gary North, and Debunking Gonzalo Lira and Hyperinflation.

The Nature of Markets:

We dispute classical economic theory and the received wisdom as to the nature of markets. Markets are not objective, mechanical and rational as the Efficient Market Hypothesis would have you believe. Our explanation of markets as human phenomena grounded in destabilizing positive feedback can be found in Markets and the Lemming Factor, A Glimpse Into the Stubborn Psychology of Fish and The Future Belongs to the Adaptable (with kudos to Robert Prechter, who has been developing the hugely important theory of socionomics for many years). Historical perspective with regard to bubbles and financial crisis is provided in The Infinite Elasticity of Credit, and a view of finance and ecology as analogous systems structure can be found in Fractal Adaptive Cycles in Natural and Human Systems.

Real Estate:

We have a number of articles on specific aspects of our current crisis. Our view of real estate can be found in Welcome to the Gingerbread Hotel and Bubble Case Studies: Ireland and Canada. Employment is covered in War in the Labour Markets and An Unstable Tower of Breaking Promises.

Currencies:

The Special Relativity of Currencies and Dollar-Denominated Debt Deflation address our view of currency inter-relationships and the value of currency relative to available goods and services.

Precious Metals:

Our take on the future for gold can be found in A Golden Double-Edged Sword, and our view of -global- trade is covered in The Rise and Fall of Trade.

Oil and Gas:

Our view of the intersection between peak oil and finance can be found in Energy, Finance and Hegemonic Power and Oil, Credit and the Velocity of Money Revisited. The notion of shale gas as a game-changer and a clean source of energy is challenged in Get Ready for the North American Gas Shock and Fracking Our Future. Ponzi dynamics feature once again.

Renewables and Electricity:

The prospects for renewable power are encapsulated in Renewable Power? Not in Your LifetimeA Green Energy Revolution? and The Receding Horizons of Renewable Energy.

Nuclear Power:

Nuclear power, in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe, is covered in a series of articles written in the two months following the earthquake: How Black is the Japanese Nuclear Swan?The Fukushima Fallout FilesFukushima: Review of an INES class 7 AccidentFukushima: Fallacies, Fallout, Fundamentals and Fear and Welcome to the Atomic Village.

Health:

Departing from finance and energy, our contribution to the health debate, which is relevant to future food supply and storage, can be found in Our Daily Bread, or Not, As the Case May Be.

Summary and Lifeboat Prescriptione:

A point-form summary of our views for the future is available in 40 Ways to Lose Your Future, and our prescription for facing hard times is presented in How to Build a Lifeboat.

This is our attempt to convey what we as individuals can hope to do about it for ourselves, our families and friends. We cannot avoid living through a Greater Depression, but we can take action, and, being forewarned, we can hopefully avoid many pitfalls. We can attempt to avoid becoming part of the herd that is determined to throw itself off a cliff.

The big picture is of crucial importance as we have reached, and passed, the pinnacle of a golden age. We are moving into an era of uncertainty and upheaval such as none of us have hitherto experienced but all of us must try to navigate successfully. We at The Automatic Earth will continue to provide what assistance we can with that process. The TAE world tour continues, recently in the US, currently in Europe and in Australia after Christmas.

The peak oil crisis: reality on hold

The peak oil crisis: reality on hold

by Tom Whipple

 

As much of America bakes in some of the highest temperatures ever recorded and while Washington argues interminably over taxes, budget cuts and debt caps, one is struck by the unreality of it all. When the House of Representatives votes to preserve the incandescent light bulb for a while as a symbol of personal freedom, it is as if we have entered a wonderland where black is white, up is down and as a nation we have lost touch with reality.

 

Our media, the cornerstone of our democracy, clearly has failed to communicate something of great import to us. Perhaps it is the information overload of the electronic age. There is so much news that the big picture is lost in mountains of trivia – there are only so many minutes in day. Another possibility is that there is so much bad news out there, that nobody really wants to hear or think about it. Denial is overwhelming us.

 

At last count there were at least a dozen mega dangers looming on the horizon all of which have the potential to change the nature of global civilization in profound ways. Yet the body politic seems to take little or no notice and concerns itself largely with issues that will soon be swept away by change. These dangers range from the depletion of our fossil fuel and mineral resources, to shrinking food and water supplies, to rising oceans, to political upheavals.

 

Someday either the atmosphere will get so hot and food will run so short, or the gasoline will become so expensive, that every last sensate being will have absorbed the message that our civilizations and lifestyles are changing whether we like it or not. Not even the most demagogic politician’s claims that things can be put back the way they were will be believed. This day is clearly some years and more likely a decade or so away.

 

Thus we are in a period when some, perhaps much, of what we are doing will be in the long run prove to be counterproductive and lead to the widespread waste of non-renewable resources that could have been of much benefit in easing the hardships for ourselves and our progeny in the centuries ahead. Some of the problem we face is vested interests that fight to the end to preserve the current way of life. It is ironic that prominent among the opposition to the House vote to extend the life of the incandescent bulb was General Electric that had already spent heavily on producing the next generation of bulbs.

As a founding father said “We all hang together, or we all hang separately.”

 

The massive waste of resources that comes with continued construction of massive highways, inefficient gadgets, poorly insulated buildings, aircraft, etc. that are bound to be underutilized in the coming era of ultra-high energy costs is only one problem. The massive waste of education in training our young for jobs and professions that will not be useful in the coming age is another.

During the current period of denial, we are caught in a circle. Many are reluctant to admit that the problems we will soon be facing are so pervasive that only government can set policies and guide civilization in generally sensible directions. Most of those arguing for freedom to choose light bulbs have not grasped the idea that 90 percent of us would have trouble lasting six months should our electricity stop, our gasoline stations close, the water cease flowing, and the food stores shut. We live in a complex, interdependent civilization in which most have lost skills and the means necessary for self-sufficiency. As a founding father said “We all hang together, or we all hang separately.”

 

However, so long as a lot of us believe that we can reestablish economic growth, and wait for the return of the climate to “normal” our politicians will try to satisfy or at least say they will try to satisfy these aspirations. Change will only come when enough people realize that a return to life-as-we-knew-it a few years back is no longer possible or is at least unlikely. Unfortunately most of our media starts with the assumption that our current woes are only temporary and if we only wait long enough economic growth will resume has it always has in living memory and climate change will not turn out to be so bad as alarmists fears.

 

Changing a circle of unwarranted optimism that starts with the media, and carries on the voters, their elected representatives, and senior government officials, and then back to the media will be difficult. Realistically we can expect little to happen in the immediate future. Even weeks of 100 degree temperatures or even $4, $5 or $6 gasoline is unlikely to shift many prejudices in the short term. It is going to take a more severe shock — say food shortages or $10 plus gasoline — to shake the notion that a return to life as we knew it is still possible.

 

The idea that an economy can continue very long based on borrowed money, financial services, retail, and building houses will fade. America has some real assets to cope with the troubles ahead. Although we will no longer be able to enjoy the current rate of energy consumption, there is considerable room for the world to keep moving through more efficient utilization of dwindling energy resources. A simple shift in dietary habits to include less grain-wasting meat would have a major effect on the U.S. and world food supply. From transportation to recreation to housing, opportunities for massive efficiencies at very little cost abound.

 

Some of these efficiencies will come on their own merits; other will take some help. While alternatives to the incandescent bulb may cost much more, their much longer life and much lower power consumption will lead to much lower consumption and great benefits to society as a whole. Someday we will all understand this, but until that day there is much education to be done.

 

Tom Whipple is a retired CIA analyst who volunteers his services to ASPO-USA, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil -USA.

 

Published by Falls Church News-Press on 07/20/2011

Original article: http://www.fcnp.com/commentary/national/9712-the-peak-oil-crisis-reality-on-hold.html

 

 

Welcome to the Post-Growth Economy

Welcome to the Post-Growth Economy

by Richard Heinberg

 

During recent weeks, evidence has piled up that U.S. and European economies, far from recovering, are swirling back into recession. Failure of American politicians to address the federal debt crisis, the U.S. credit rating downgrade, and increasing fragility of European economies have investors running for the hills.

 

Concern is being voiced that we may be at a fundamental economic turning point. Deutsche Bank’s strategist Jim Reid even suggests that the western world’s financial system might be “totally unsustainable.”

 

As it happens, I’ve just published a book, The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, that reaches the same conclusion, and that foresaw the economic relapse that’s playing out in headlines. The book’s content was finalized in March, when economic data appeared to show the nation in a recovery. I suppose I’m justified in saying “I told you so,” but others are as well. Herman Daly, former World Bank economist, has pointed out the absurdity of expecting continual economic growth on a planet with limited resources. Paul Gilding, former head of Greenpeace International, explains in his book The Great Disruption why climate change and resource depletion are bringing world economic growth to a close. And Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of GMO (one of the world’s largest investment funds), argues that, with ever more humans competing for a finite supply of natural resources, rising prices of metals, oil, and food are decisively choking off GDP growth.

 

Even if we are being proven right, this is no time for victory laps. Here’s the point. Daly, Gilding, Grantham, and I are saying that as humanity has chewed through the low-hanging fruit of our natural resources and has turned to lower-grade and more expensive ores and fuels, managers of the economy have attempted to keep growth going by piling up debt in the mistaken belief that it is money that makes the economy run rather than energy and raw materials. Now we’ve reached limits to government and consumer debt, and the realization of that fact is sending financial markets into fibrillation. If energy supplies and debt are both stretched tight, that means more economic growth isn’t possible. Worse, if policy makers fail to realize this and continue assuming that the current crisis is merely another turning of the business cycle, then we lose whatever opportunity still remains to avert a crash that could bring civilization to its knees.

 

Admittedly this is still a minority point of view. After all, in the “real” worlds of politics and economics, growth is essential to creating more jobs and increasing returns on investments. Questioning growth is like arguing against gasoline at a NASCAR race.

 

Liberals believe that stimulus spending by government will boost employment and consumer spending, thus flipping the economy back to its “normal” growth setting. But stimulus packages of the past few years have produced only anemic results, and governments can’t afford more of the same.

 

Conservatives nurture faith that if government spending shrinks, that will liberate private enterprise to grow profits and jobs. Yet countries that implement austerity programs show less economic growth than those whose governments borrow and spend—until the spending spree ends in bond market mayhem.

 

Neither side wants to acknowledge that its prescription no longer works, because that would imply the other side is correct. But maybe both liberals and conservatives are wrong, and growth is finished.

 

If Daly, Gilding, Grantham, and I are right, this is scary business. But there will be life after growth, and it doesn’t have to play out under conditions of misery. With less energy to fuel globalization and mechanization, there should be increasing need for local production and labor. We can reorganize our financial and production systems so that everyone’s basic needs are met. Indeed, if we focus on improving quality of life rather than increasing quantity of consumption, we could all be happier even as our economy downsizes to fit Nature’s limits.

 

But that benign future is unlikely to transpire if we all continue living in a dream world where growth knows no bounds.

 

The alarm bells are ringing. Wake up to the post-growth economy.

 

Published by Post Carbon Institute on  09/08/2011

Original article: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/479727-welcome-to-the-post-growth-economy

 

 

SEKEM: A visionary Egyptian desert project

Learn about an important example of sustainable development in Egypt.

SEKEM, founded by Ibrahim Abouleish, winner of the Right Livelihood Award — the “Alternative Nobel”

 

Sekem: Born of the sun  5:17

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-D23-OjmoM&feature=fvsr

 

Ibrahim Abouleish – Founder Sekem Group   9:58

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2tmH1wK2YU

 

SEKEM English Part 1   9:51

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXXpamUjYmg

 

SEKEM English Part 2   2:47

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn7T0bz7sPg

 

Sekem website film

http://www.sekem.com/english/Filmen.aspx

 

Official SEKEM website

http://www.sekem.com

“We are experiencing a high level of uncertainty”

August 4th , 2011 from CNBC.com

 

Dow Sinks 500, Worst Day Since Dec. 2008

 

Stocks plunged sharply Thursday, with the Dow down more than 500 points, in its worst one-day drop since December 2008.

 

All three major averages tumbled into negative territory for the year as investors were rattled over an intensifying global economic slowdown and ahead of the widely-followed monthly unemployment report.

The major indexes are firmly in negative territory for the year. In addition, all three averages fell into “correction territory,” defined by a drop of 10 percent from its peak from its intraday high in Apr. 29.

 

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, surged more than 35 percent. The last time the VIX closed this high was on July 1, 2010.

 

Volume was at its highest level this year with the consolidated tape of the NYSE at 7.15 billion shares, while 1.82 billion shares changed hands on the floor.

 

“We’re not steering this bus—it’s all coming from Europe,” Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services told CNBC. “We’re hearing reports of funds drawing out of European banks and we’re pretty close to something that might turn ugly.”

 

“It may translate into a strain on the financials system and earnings on the multinationals, which have been carrying the load for Wall Street,” Cashin added.

 

European shares hit a two-year low. The Bank of England and European Central Bank both left rates unchanged, but it did little to improve investor confidence. The ECB signaled it was buying government bonds in response to a deepening European debt crisis.

 

Investors were also spooked after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said “downside risks may have intensified.”

 

“It is true that we are experiencing a high level of uncertainty, not just in the euro zone,” he said.

 

On the economic front, weekly jobless claims were little changed last week, edging down to a seasonally adjusted 400,000, according to the Labor Department.

 

“The jobless claims number was not too encouraging … we need to see more of a significant improvement than the data just squeaking by,” said Doreen Mogavero, president and CEO of Mogavero Lee & Company.

 

The claims news comes ahead of Friday’s government non-farm payroll data, which likely increased 85,000 last month, according to a Reuters survey, after rising only 18,000 in June. The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 9.2 percent.

 

“We’ve reduced our equity exposure by half at the end of the second quarter,” said Rob Stein, portfolio manager and senior economist of Astor Asset Management. “We’ll need to see the economic data stabilize.”

 

Adding to day’s woes, JPMorgan [JPM  37.92    -1.98  (-4.96%)   ] cut its third-quarter U.S. economic growth forecast by 1 percent, pointing to recent developments in the U.S. economy. The firm added that it doesn’t expect the Fed to raise interest rates until at least 2013.

 

The dollar soared against a basket of currencies. The greenback’s surge came amid a weakening economic outlook and moves by Japan to intervene in the forex market to bolster the yen.

 

Meanwhile, gold reversed its gains, trading below $1,653 an ounce as investors opted for cash to cover losses outside of the bullion market amid deepening losses on Wall Street.

National Academy of Sciences Issues Warning!

The Academy of Sciences says:

”Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems. Emissions continue to increase, which will result in further change and greater risks. Responding to these risks is a crucial challenge facing the United States and the world today and for many decades to come.”

Read the brief here, or perhaps watch the video…and you can also read the full report online.

350 Home & Garden Challenge

Transition US is committed to enabling action-oriented programs at the national level.  The Home and Garden Challenge is just such an opportunity. Inspired by the the amazing work done in Sonoma County, CA last May where over 600 gardens were planted, we have decided to take it (inter)national this May 14th & 15th.

Organizing a Home & Garden Challenge in your town (or city, village, county, parish, island) not only helps raise awareness and continue to build local resiliency, it offers an opportunity for your citizens to be a part of something much larger. This is the perfect opportunity for communities across the country to come together on a single weekend and show their solidarity.

Get more information here:http://transitionus.org/action/350-challenge/

Farmer/Gardener Alert

Native Seeds/SEARCH would like suggestions from local farmers and gardeners who grow for local markets.  We want to know what we can trial or grow for seed at our farm this summer that will help the local food movement.  We want to know what crops and what varieties you need to be successful. Contact Bill McDorman: bill@nativeseeds.org

Good News on the Energy Front

Russel Lowes recommends the following articles for some much needed good news on the energy front.

1. Global power generation by renewable energy sources outpaced that by nuclear energy for the first time in 2010, a recent report published by a U.S. think tank showed. Read the details here:

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/04/85866.html

 

2. Germany will drop nuclear power as soon as possible, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a major policy reversal that will alter the energy mix in Europe’s largest economy. Read the details here:

http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Merkel_Nuclear_exit_as_soon_as_possible_999.html

Arizona Transportation Planning Survey

ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) is putting together a 25 year Arizona
transportation plan and has a short 4-question online survey about how to spend its budget
on transportation (more highways/road expansion vs. rail and transit). If you have an opinion
about this please fill out the survey and pass on the invite.

Visit www.whatmovesyouarizona.gov and click on the yellow button. Watch a short video
and fill out a 4-question survey. Your voice matters.

Please submit your completed survey by Friday, April 22.

Bicycle Economics

Elly Blue has written a series of informative articles challenging mainstream assumptions about the economics of transportation.

“Imagine getting a $3,000 to $12,000 tax rebate this year. Now imagine it coming again and again. Every year it grows by around a thousand dollars. Imagine how this would change your daily life.”

Read the rest of this important series in Grist. Including some truly radical ideas about replacing freeways with bike paths.

Bike Fest 2011

Gas Prices Got You Down?

Bike Fest 2011 Begins Tomorrow!

Tucson, Arizona (March 10, 2011) – Let the fun begin as Bike Fest 2011 kicks off over 20 different events designed to inspire us to park the car and hop on the bike to experience the many benefits bicycling brings to our community. From March 11th through April 30th, enjoy a variety of bike rides, inspirational transportation-related discussions, bike to work and school events, free admission to the Zoo, Cyclovia’s car-free streets, cleaner air, healthier communities, and a chance to win great prizes. The City of Tucson, Pima County, and Pima Association of Governments are partnering with Living Streets Alliance to coordinate Bike Fest and promote healthy communities by empowering people to transform our streets into vibrant places for walking, bicycling, socializing, and play.

With gasoline prices continuing their rise, this is the perfect time to dust off the bike and begin replacing motor vehicle trips with two-wheeled transportation. There are currently 23 Bike Fest activities designed to fit diverse interests and encourage everyone to incorporate this inexpensive, non-polluting mode of transportation into their lives. Bike Fest 2011 events include several Bike 2 Work Celebrations, Walk & Roll to School Day, Urban Assault Ride, Bike to the Zoo Day, Cyclovia, the Bike Fest Commuter Challenge, opportunities for conversations with nationally renowned alternative transportation experts Mia Birk and Mark Fenton, the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association Bike Swap Meet, and more. Secured valet bicycle parking will be offered at many of the venues.

An annual promotion of the bicycle to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion and promote a healthier, more sustainable community has been occurring since 1989 in the Tucson area. See below for key highlights of the ever-growing list of Bike Fest 2011 activities. For more details and updates on the all the Bike Fest 2011 events, visit www.BikeFestTucson.com. These are “waste-free” events, so please bring your own reusable water bottles and pack any waste you generate home to recycle or throw away.

Calendar of Events

March:

11th (Friday) – Living Streets Alliance presents: Joyride Community Bike Ride with Mia Birk at Noon

Join Mia and your fellow Tucsonans for a leisurely bike ride through the Old Pueblo. You don’t have to be an avid cyclist to participate – just bring your bike, your helmet, and be ready to have fun! Meet at the fountain west of Old Main on the University of Arizona campus at 11:45am.

11th (Friday) – How To Get Tucson Moving Free Public Lecture by Mia Birk at 3:30pm

Living Streets Alliance presents a free public lecture by Mia Birk to learn more about how Portland and other leading bike-friendly cities throughout the world are reshaping the way cities move. This lecture will be co-hosted by the University of Arizona School of Landscape Architecture & Planning and will be followed by a short panel discussion with Tom Thivener, Tucson’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager, and Matthew Zoll, Pima County’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager. The lecture will take place in the U of A’s Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME 202S) lecture hall. Please visit LSA’s events page for more details.

11th (Friday) – Joyride Happy Hour with Mia Birk from 6-7pm

Living Streets Alliance presents a casual happy hour with Mia Birk at Barrio Brewing Company. Get a chance to chat with Mia while enjoying a fresh local brew.

12th (Saturday) – Book Signing by Mia Birk at the Tucson Festival of Books from 10am-1pm

Visit Living Streets Alliance and Cyclovia Tucson at the Tucson Festival of books on Saturday and Sunday from 9:30-5:30. Author Mia Birk will be present to sign books from 10am-1pm on Saturday. Bring your bike helmet — we’ll have a special Bike Helmet Decorating Station set up!

13th (Sunday) – GABA Sierra Vista Classic Bicycle Ride check in at 7:00am

Once again we are back with one of the most beautiful, challenging, and “epic” rides of the year – the Third Annual Sierra Vista Classic Bike Ride. Check-in time will be at 7:00 am. You must be on the road by 8:30. Three distance options will be available, a full Century (103 actual miles); a metric Century (65 actual); and a ½ metric Century (32.5 actual). At the finish line, you will be greeted by cheerful volunteers; and a wonderful BBQ lunch awaits, compliments of Mike’s Cowboy Barbeque. For more information, visit www.bikegaba.org.

17th (Thursday) – Complete Streets Public Lecture by Mark Fenton from 5:30-7pm

Join Mark Fenton, a nationally recognized speaker and expert on walking and bicycling, stakeholders and advocacy groups for a kickoff event at the Doubletree on Alvernon. Work with your local communities to establish a common vision for our streets and make a lasting change to improve safety, lower transportation costs for families, encourage walking and bicycling for health, and foster a strong community. For more information, or to RSVP, please contact Shannon Whitewater, Pima County Health Department, at 520-243-7886 or shannon.whitewater@pima.gov.

19th-27th – GABA Bike Week

During our spokes event, you will have an opportunity to get away from cold winter weather and warm up, both yourself and your muscles with some pre-season training. We are offering nine days of rides to some of Tucson’s most historic and interesting areas, culminating in an optional overnight ride from Sonoita to historic Bisbee, via the Town Too Tough To Die – Tombstone, Arizona! Of course, we will ride back to Sonoita the next day. For ride agendas and registration, visit www.bikegaba.org.

20th (Sunday) – New Belgium Brewery’s Urban Assault begins at 9am

The New Belgium Brewing Urban Assault Ride is the country’s biggest bike scavenger hunt, hitting the streets of 10 cities in 2011 – including Tucson! You and your fun-loving teammate will grab your favorite bike and complete funky obstacle courses at checkpoints all over town. The fun begins at 9:00 a.m. and the after-party is wild. There are prizes and there is a charge to participate. For more info and to register visit www.urbanassaultride.com/tucson.

26th (Saturday) – Bikes @ Borealis from 3-8pm

What!? Never heard of Bike Fest, Cyclovia, or BICAS? Well, they’ve never heard of you, either. But, they do want to help you fall back in love with your bicycle. You can learn about these wonderful people, and enjoy a bit of art at the same time. A portion of all art taken home today will benefit BICAS (www.bicas.org) Prints and original works by, for, and about you crazy bicycle people. Printmaking workshop with Casey from BICAS – don’t just look at the art, make some of your own. Best of all, this is just a warm-up to the BIG bike/art show we’re bringing to Tucson in November. For more info visit http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=205660739448062

27th (Sunday) – Cyclovia Tucson from 10am-3pm

Cyclovia Tucson is an annual car-free event that opens selected streets to people so that they can walk, skate, run, bicycle, and socialize with their neighbors. It’s a free event, open to the public and fun for people of all ages. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Begin downtown at Armory Park and make a 5-mile loop south on streets free of cars. Join Solar Rock and the Water Festival at Armory Park for even more fun. For more information visit www.cycloviatucson.org.

29th (Tuesday) – Green Commuter Open House from 10am-2pm

Green commuting saves you money, strengthens your health, reduces traffic congestion, and improves air quality. Learn more about options for your work commutes including bicycling, carpooling, vanpooling, and transit. Pima County Departments of Environmental Quality and Transportation (Bicycle & Pedestrian Program), Pima Association of Governments, VPSI, Sun Tran, and UPH will be available to provide information and resources. Enter to win great prizes including tickets to Old Tucson Studios and the AZ Sonora Desert Museum, a Stored Value Pass from Sun Tran, or a gift card from Blimpie. Abrams Public Health Center first floor meeting rooms, 3950 South Country Club Road (SW corner Ajo Way & Country Club, parking at Kino Stadium west of Forgeus). For more information please phone 243-7449 or e-mail Karen.Wilhelmsen@pima.gov.

April

Date TBD – Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge

40% of all urban travel in the US happens within 2 miles, and 90% of that is by car. Fight climate change simply by riding your bike. Sure, we appreciate that long ago the automobile changed the way the world works; but like anything, it’s best in moderation. So we, the employees of Clif Bar & Company, created a game to see how many car trips we could replace with a bike instead. Join the ride and take the 2 MILE CHALLENGE. More information at 2milechallenge.com

1st through 30th – Bicycle Commuter Challenge

Who’s ready for a little commuter bike competition? Everyone can play. All it takes is 20 one-way commute trips to qualify for the grand prize, a new bicycle and loads of other great prizes. Log in your daily commutes on the Sun Rideshare web site at www.884ride.org/ridepro.

1st-3rd (Friday-Sunday) – 4th Avenue Spring Street Fair (Bike Valet)

The 4th Avenue Street Fair takes place between Ninth Street and University Blvd. along Fourth Avenue from 10 a.m. to dusk. Free to the public, the Street Fair brings together 400+ arts and crafts booths, 35+ food vendors, 2 stages, street musicians, food, jugglers, street performers, the Free SPIKE kids hands-on-art Pavilion, face painting, balloons, and tons of other fun activities, packs them into three days of celebration. Parking can be a challenge, so ride your bike and enjoy free Valet Bike Parking at 7th Street near Hoff. Visit http://www.fourthavenue.org/fairs/general-information/ for more information

4th through 8th (Monday-Friday) – Bike to Work Week

Bike to work and your efforts will be well rewarded! All week long, businesses throughout Greater Tucson will be hosting Bike to Work Stations with freebies, discounts, bike tune-ups and more – from breakfast giveaways to happy hour. Support your local bike-friendly businesses and discover some new ones. For schedules and locations, continue to browse the Bike Fest 2011 section of this website.

6th (Wednesday) – U of A Bike 2 Work and School Day: 9am-2pm on the UA mall (in front of the science library). We will have a lot going on for bicyclist – free bike registration with a free bike light kit and free bike bell (while supplies last), free minor bike repairs/tune-ups, free nutritional bars from Clif bar, Trek Bicycle shop, UA Cycle Club, free maps, brochures, giveaways, etc.

8th (Friday) – Downtown Bike to Work Celebration from 7-9am

Celebrate bike commuting at the downtown Bike 2 Work Week Celebration. Enjoy live music, free food, and more. Details coming soon.

8th (Friday) – Walk & Roll to School Day

Experience the simple joy that comes with walking and biking to school. Walking and biking to school promotes safety, health, concern for the environment, a sense of community and physical activity among children. Participating schools receive posters and flyers to help advertise their event, and a prize for each student. The first 40 schools to register will also receive a scooter to raffle off as part of their event. To participate, have your school call 243-BIKE (2453) to sign up. Click to download the Walk & Roll to School Poster .

10th (Sunday) – Susan Komen Race for the Cure (with Bike Valet Parking)

The Southern Arizona Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is proud to host the 13th Annual Race for the Cure at Reid Park. You are invited to join in the largest participatory event in Southern Arizona! With your help, vital breast health resources can be provided to members of our community. Limited parking at the site, so ride your bike! Free Valet Bike Parking will be provided. Visit www.komensaz.org/ for more information.

16th (Saturday) – Bike to the Zoo Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ride your bicycle to Reid Park Zoo and show your helmet to get FREE admission and FREE valet parking inside the zoo. GABA will have rides starting from various locations around Tucson, in varying distances and speeds. You decide which level and distance you want to pedal, and start with the group that most closely matches your cycling preference. All rides will converge at the zoo between 9 AM and 12 PM. Upon arrival at the zoo, stop at the GABA table with your helmet which will be set up inside of the entrance to get your ice cream cone/cup voucher (limited to the first 300 cyclists). Free valet bike parking will be available, through the GABA, inside the Reid Park Zoo for everyone who rides. Bike parking offered 9 AM to 3:30 PM. Visit www.bikegaba.org for more information.

16th (Saturday) – Earth Day Festival & Parade (Bike Valet) from 9am-2pm

Join the fun at 17th annual Earth Day Festival and Parade at Reid Park, near Country Club and 22nd Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participate in hands-on activities at booths and view an alternative fuel vehicle show and a solar competition. Ride your bike to reduce parking congestion and enjoy free Valet Bicycle Parking. For more information visit www.tucsonearthday.org/

16th (Saturday) – Tour of the Tucson Mountains

Celebrate springtime by biking the Tucson Mountains. Open to all ages and abilities, the Tour offers 73 and 27-mile distances, plus Fun Rides of 4 & 1/4 mile events. The 73-mile event is a perimeter ride around – not over – the beautiful Tucson Mountains. All routes begin at Marana Town Hall in Marana, AZ and are generally flat, perfect for beginning riders! For more information and to register visit Perimeter Bicycling Association at www.perimeterbicycling.com or call 745-2033.

17th (Sunday) – GABA Bike Swap Meet from 6am to 1pm

Come to the largest bike swap in the west on 4th Avenue between 6th Street and 9th Street to get great deals on bicycles, parts, and gear. Visit www.bikegaba.org for more information. Free Valet Bike Parking while you shop.

17th (Sunday) – Old Pueblo Grand Prix from 12:30pm to 5pm

The Old Pueblo Grand Prix is a premier cycling event in the heart of downtown Tucson that is FREE to spectators. With $20,000 in cash prizes the Old Pueblo Grand Prix will attract top professional and amateur athletes from around the country. It’s a perfect day to bring your friends and family to downtown and experience high speed pro bike racing right here in Tucson. Races start at 12:30 PM when amateur racers take to the .6 mile course. Make sure to bring your children for the kids race at 3:25 PM and grab a bite to eat at one of the 9 restaurants located on the race course. Following the Pro Women’s race is the Pro Men’s race at 5:00 PM that will finish as the sun is setting and reach speeds of over 30 mph. Make a day of it, bring your family, and tell your friends. Visit www.oldpueblograndprix.com/general-information.html for more information.

Visit www.BikeFestTucson.com

Climate Change and Ideology

Naomi Klein, who has written a new book on climate change examined the ideological basis of the rising opposition to the science and the public policies needed to address this global threat in an interview with  Amy Goodman:

“NAOMI KLEIN: Well, some people believe in climate change, but the main thing is they don’t believe that humans have anything to do with climate change. And it isn’t about the science, because when you delve deeper into it and ask why people don’t believe in it, they say that it’s because they think it’s a socialist plot to redistribute wealth. It’s easy to make fun of, you know, and there’s all this language, like “watermelons,” that they say the green groups are watermelons: they’re green on the outside, but they’re red on the inside. Or George Will once said it’s a green tree with red roots. And the idea is that it’s some sort of a communist plot.”

Read the complete interview here.

Resilience 2011: An upcoming conference

March 11-16, 2011, Arizona State University

Welcome to the Conference Website for Resilience 2011;

Resilience 2011 website

A conference that will bring together scientists from a broad spectrum of disciplinary backgrounds who are interested in the major science and policy challenges that face us all as a result of global change. The conference is organized around intellectual themes that aim to integrate knowledge from multiple perspectives.

Water and Natural Gas

The New York Times reminds us that getting to the natural gas that many see as an alternative source of “cleaner energy” may have equally serious threats to our water supply.

In the words of one expert:

“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” said John H. Quigley, who left last month as secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In shifting away from coal and toward natural gas, we’re trying for cleaner air, but we’re producing massive amounts of toxic wastewater with salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and it’s not clear we have a plan for properly handling this waste.”

Read the complete article here.

Labelling GMO in Foods? Why Not?

Mark Bittman, writing in the New York Times explores this issue.

“If you want to avoid sugar, aspartame, trans-fats, MSG, or just about anything else, you read the label. If you want to avoid G.M.O.’s — genetically modified organisms — you’re out of luck. They’re not listed. You could, until now, simply buy organic foods, which by law can’t contain more than 5 percent G.M.O.’s. Now, however, even that may not work.”

To read the complete article, follow this link.

Bad News on the GMO Front

The New York Times reported that “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that he would authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa, setting aside a controversial compromise that had generated stiff opposition.” This pending decision has potentially devastating implications for the organic farming effort.

Read the entire article here.

The Year of Living Dangerously

Michael T. Klare offers dire warnings for the year ahead as we see the impact of climate change at a global political level we’ll not soon forget”

“Get ready for a rocky year.  From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world.”

Read the story here.

Our IGT Conversation

On January 10th, as part of our General Meeting, Sustainable Tucson held its own version of the community conversations being held around the city by Imagine Greater Tucson. After completing a paper survey about what we liked and what we wanted to change about the Tucson region, four groups of people discussed their answers to two questions about how we might move forward to plan our future with sustainability in mind. Each group selected their “top three” responses, and we are planning to discuss how to move them forward at our next meetings.

Response to first question

What criteria must be included in planning a sustainable future in the Greater Tucson area?

First Table

Transportation and untransportation-neighborhood networks; focus on urban villages

Reliance on local renewable resources including food and water

Reduced reliance on imported resources

Second Table

Water,

Renewable Energy,

Communication and Trust, transparency

Third Table

Long-term water policy

Long-term energy policy

Carbon neutrality

Fourth Table

Compassionate social justice/sustainable government

Healthy ecosystem

Regional sustainability, green local jobs, nature, water and food

Second Question

Considering these criteria, what changes must we begin to make to create a sustainable future for the Greater Tucson Region?

Table One

Change our emphasis from CAP water to TAP water [Tucson Arizona Project water]

Dedicating water to the environment to increase habitat for wildlife

Identify needs to meet the jobs and services needed here in the local market; create a trade mission for local opportunities and employment possibility [and the education necessary to support that].

Table Two

Accountability and transparency in local government

Individual empowerment and increased meaningful citizen participation

Eliminate influence by monied interests

Table Three

Decrease energy use and supply it from renewables

Increase water harvesting and decrease per capita water consumption

Measuring the carbon footprint of everything

Table Four

Communication is key to enforce transparency of governance

Better ways to access and participate in the policy processes

More structured ways to access local government

Use technology to pool and coordinate efforts that get larger groups involved in the policy process

Bring urgency into our conversation through education and excitement

Limit developers’ access to water

Community Conversations with Imagine Greater Tucson

Imagine Greater Tucson (IGT) is a grassroots effort to define a publicly supported vision and clear action plan to shape the region’s future. The collaborative effort will engage people from business, government, neighborhoods, nonprofits, education and others interested in joining the effort through additional Community Conversations.

Check the IGT website regularly for Community Conversations that you can be a part of. Indeed, if there have been no conversations in your neighborhood, you might volunteer to help organize one. The time to participate will soon pass us by; don’t look back and say “I wish I had….”

Free Crisis Counseling Offered

OptumHealth announced Sunday that a free help line was established for people in Tucson , Ariz. , faced with the emotional consequences of the recent shooting. Staffed by experienced master’s-level behavioral health specialists, the free help line offers assistance to callers seeking help in dealing with stress, anxiety and the grieving process. Callers may also receive referrals to a database of community resources to help them with specific concerns, including financial and legal matters.

The toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge and open to anyone. Resources and information are also available via the Internet in English at www.liveandworkwell.com and in Spanish at www.mentesana-cuerposano.com.

The services are free of charge and are open to anyone. In addition, UnitedHealth care clients are able to have onsite counselors to assist with any type of emotional assistance.

Stop Historic Home Demolition in Residential-Zoned Neighborhoods

Members of our community are urging Tucson’s Mayor and Council to immediately halt all demolitions of historic properties in Jefferson Park and other Residential-zoned neighborhoods and to strengthen and enforce existing SFR (single family residence) regulation. We are sick and tired of our historic properties being destroyed to put up mini-dorms! Visit the website here for more information and the opportunity to take action.

Water Study Comments Invited

Jim Barry, who served as Chair of the citizen’s Oversight Committee for the City/County Water Study, has prepared a Public Comment Report documenting the major issues and themes that emerged during the public process for the two year study. Mr. Barry invites your feedback on the report by way of the Comment Form on this web site. City of Tucson and Pima County staff did not participate in the preparation of this report and will forward all comments related to it to Mr. Barry. The deadline for submitting comments is January 15, 2011.

You can read the Public Comment Report here.

Pittsburgh Bans Fracking

The Pittsburgh City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance banning corporations from conducting natural gas drilling in the city. The ordinance was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) at the invitation of Councilman Bill Peduto, and was introduced by Councilman Doug Shields. Read more here.

Public Hearing on Solar Farm Proposal

The Pima County Hearing Administrator will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, November 10th at 10AM in the Public Works Building, 201 N. Stone Avenue, Basement, Conference Room C.

The hearing concerns a proposal to establish a solar power plant at 9000 N. Sanders Rd, on property owned by the City of Tucson. It is suggested that this project will generate over 50,000 MWh of energy, and subsequently offset over 50,000 tons of carbon each year.

In addition to presence at the hearing, there is a request for expressions of community support for the project now, and in January when the County Board of Supervisors will meet to vote on the project.

For further information, contact Carmine Tilghman, Director, Renewal Energy Resources, Tucson Electric Power Company. Office phone: 520.745.7108

Shockingly Sane Solutions Rally

2602 E. Grant Road

The Rally will be held locally while Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity and
Stephen Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive occur in Washington, D.C. Our rally
highlights Tucson organizations that are providing sane solutions to intensifying
global challenges.

A solar-powered sound system will broadcast the tunes of local musicians,
a solar oven demonstration will be cooking food, & a Really Really Free Market
will be held for anyone interested in participating. Local groups working on
sustainable alternatives are invited to set up a canopy and table in the south lot for
outreach & new member recruitment. Come join the fun as we show that Arizona
has a lot more to offer than just Sheriff Joe’s pink panties, Governor Brewer’s
intellectual beheading, SB 1070, a deficient educational system, & the other things
the Comedy Central comedians find so funny.

Contact: Mary DeCamp mdecamp@q.com (520) 408-4974

Imagine Greater Tucson Community Conversation

IMAGINE GREATER TUCSON TO HOST FIRST PUBLIC COMMUNITY CONVERSATION IN TUCSON, OTHERS SCHEDULED IN REGION

TUCSON, Ariz. (Oct. 22, 2010) – Imagine Greater Tucson will host its first public Community Conversation on Wednesday, Oct. 27, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Resource Room  at the Sentinel Building at 310 N. Commerce Park Loop. Seating is limited to 36 participants. People are encouraged to RSVP at conversations@imaginegreatertucson.org or (520) 209-2448.

Additional public Community Conversations are planned or pending in the surrounding communities of Marana, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, Green Valley and Vail as well as additional conversations throughout greater Tucson. (See list below for details.) Details will be posted at www.imaginegreatertucson.org. Future Conversations in Spanish also will be scheduled.

Imagine Greater Tucson is a grassroots effort to define a publicly supported vision and clear action plan to shape the region’s future. The collaborative effort will engage people from business, government, neighborhoods, nonprofits, education and others interested in joining the effort through additional Community Conversations.

‘We invite people to attend the various Community Conversations to help us determine our path to a vibrant and healthy place for all of us to live, work and play today and into the future,” said Imagine Greater Tucson Director Eileen Fagan.

The Community Conversations will be facilitated by trained IGT teams and will determine what participants value about the greater Tucson region and discuss what changes people would like to see that would help define a better future for all of us.

The information collected as part of the conversations will be used to identify shared values that will be the basis for building alternative scenarios to help address future challenges. The public will be involved in selecting a preferred scenario from which action-oriented strategies will be developed.

For more information about Imagine Greater Tucson, please visit www.imaginegreatertucson.org or to join or host a Conversation, please send an e-mail to conversations@imaginegreatertucson.org or call (520) 209-2448. Follow Imagine Greater Tucson on Facebook at http://facebook.com/IGTucson and Twitter at http://twitter.com/IGTucson.

*********IGT Survey******

You are invited to complete the IGT community survey online. Follow the link.

ABOUT IMAGE GREATER TUCSON

Imagine Greater Tucson’s purpose is to create a shared vision and clear action for the Tucson region that will make our community a vibrant and healthy place to live, work, and play for current and future generations of all ages. We also want to learn how to work together as a community in order to collaboratively solve existing and future community challenges. Imagine Greater Tucson is supported by public and private sector funding. Visit www.imaginegreatertucson.org for more information.

Imagine Greater Tucson Community Conversations
Oct. 27, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Resources Room

Sentinel Building

310 N. Commerce Park Loop, Tucson

Capacity: 36

Dec. 1, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Rincon Valley Fire District

1 4550 E. Sands Ranch Road, Vail

Capacity: 40

Nov. 8, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Joyner-Green Valley Library

601 N. La Canada Drive, Green Valley

Capacity: 60

Dec. 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Junior League of Tucson

2099 E. River Road, Tucson

Capacity: 72

Nov. 16, 6-8 p.m.

Wheeler Taft Abbett Library

7800 N. Schisler Drive, Marana

(  (Silverbell, south of Cortaro)

Capacity: 72

Jan. 4, 5 to 8 p.m.

Oro Valley Public Library

1304 N. Naranja Drive, Oro Valley

Capacity: 100

Nov. 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Resources Room

Sentinel Building

310 N. Commerce Park Loop, Tucson

Capacity: 36

Nov 17, 6:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Flowing Wells

Ellie Town Center, 1660 West Ruthrauff Road, Tucson

Capacity: 50+

Nov. 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Ward 6 Office

3202 E. 1st St., Tucson

Capacity: 60

Community Conversations in Sahuarita and South Tucson are pending.

10-Mile Diet

Vicki Robin has shared some of her insights from her month of existing on a “hyperlocavore” diet: food from no further than ten miles away from her home. There are useful insights for all of us as we think about the links between energy, food, and our carbon footprints. Read the article in Yes magazine here.

Sonoran Permaculture Guild Workshops

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010- Natural Building and Passive Solar Design – This workshop includes hands on work with straw bales, adobe blocks, mud based plasters, cement based plasters, and cob. We’ll do hands on building of small structures like benches and walls – projects that you can easily do at your own place to create beautiful outdoor spaces. We’ll cover briefly the building codes related to these materials used in larger projects, and look at the main principles of good passive solar design. Location: Central Tucson location about a mile and a half north of downtown Tucson. Time: 9AM to 4:30PM Cost: $69 – includes all course materials and handouts.  Contact Dan Dorsey at dorsey@dakotacom.net or visit www.sonoranpermaculture.org for more info on all of our upcoming classes.

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 – Complete Hands on Water Harvesting –  Learning how to use rainfall and storm water run-off is one of the keys to developing a sustainable and lush landscape. In this hands on workshop we will install a water cistern, learn how to read the water situation on a site, and do basic calculations on the water flow available. We will install basic earthworks to hold water on site, and talk about contours, plant selection, and mulching. Location: Central Tucson location about a mile and a half north of downtown Tucson. Time: 9AM to 4:30PM Cost: $69 includes all class materials and handouts. Contact Dan Dorsey at dorsey@dakotacom.net or visit www.sonoranpermaculture.org for more info on all of our upcoming classes.

One step forward, two steps back…

Tomas Friedman’s New York Times column describes the well funded effort to reverse California’s pioneering effort to reduce the impact of green house gas emissions.

“A.B. 32 was designed to put California on a path to reducing greenhouse gases in its air to 1990 levels by 2020. This would make the state a healthier place, and a more innovative one. Since A.B. 32 was passed, investors have poured billions of dollars into making new technologies to meet these standards….’Prop 23 is designed to kill by indefinite postponement California’s effort to clean up the environment,” said Mr. Shultz. “This effort is financed heavily by money from out of state. You have to conclude that the financiers are less concerned about California than they are about the fact that if we get something that is working here to clean up the air and launch a clean-tech industry, it will go national and maybe international’.”

Read the complete essay here.