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It’s time for the USA to be the World Leader again.. or is it ?


At the recent GreenBIz Forum 2013 in New York, there was an informative and energetic panel discussion, “The Power of Wall Street in Promoting Sustainability,” with Erika Karp, head of UBS Global Research and Matt Arnold, head of environmental affairs at JP Morgan Chase.

He gave the example of Novelis, which is looking for ways to make aluminium cans without mining bauxite. CEO Phil Martens has pledged that by 2020 the cans Novelis sells will be manufactured with 80 percent of the aluminium coming from recycled cans. They call it the EverCan. “[T]hey are disrupting not just their company, but their entire industry,” Arnold said. “And their sustainability strategy … is their business strategy.”

The new mantra of sustainability is becoming “disrupt or be disrupted,” and there are many examples of disruptive sustainability emerging in today’s economy.

When a house can be heated and cooled to the same level of comfort using only 5 percent of the energy of a conventional home of comparable size — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a high performance zero-emissions automobile can be driven from New York to Boston, with a half-hour pit stop for refueling — and the fuel is free — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When the relationship between a utility and its customers is fundamentally redefined by changing roles — customer as generator and seller of clean energy and utility as buyer and distributor — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a company that uses garbage as the source for making 300 million pounds a year of high-grade plastics that satisfy the most exacting customer requirements — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a small home-cleaning supplies start-up can capture ever-growing market share from industry giants because its products don’t leave a thin film of toxins on kitchen and bathroom surfaces and actually clean them better — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When new financing models take the capital and operating expenses out of the cost of clean energy and provide electricity at competitive rates that are fixed for 10 years — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a 100 percent recyclable industrial carpet, designed using a rainforest floor as inspiration, becomes the best-selling product in the company’s history and redefines an industry — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a major real estate developer announces the construction of the largest net-zero-energy commercial building in the United States, and finds it fully leased two years before it even opens — that’s disruptive sustainability.

When a five-year-old hospitality company helps property owners increase their asset utilization through sharing and renting among peers, and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues without building, owning, leasing or managing a single property — that’s disruptive sustainability.

And when Michael Porter replaces his Five Forces framework with Creating Shared Value — maybe that, too, is disruptive sustainability.

“My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke.” – Obama at the Democratic National Convention, Sept. 6, 2012.

“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. … But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.” – Obama in his State of the Union speech, Feb. 12, 2013.

While the USA may not want to sign the Kyoto Protocol, it was always understood that the Country would move towards sustainable practice at its own pace. Although the reason of it is complex; some of the reasons are not that difficult to discern.

For one, it needed its corporates to adjust to the new reality and find it profitable to do so. The GreenBiz Forum  talk of “Disruptive Sustainability”is just the beginning of the hype which will increase day by day until, the rest of the World especially the least developed and underdeveloped Nations are shamed for not following the American example of saving the planet from Climate change.

So what if they call sustainability – disruptive!

And the proof of it follows the Obama’s State of the Union speech, with the report below –

A report  in guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 May 2013 20.14 BST by , US environment correspondent –

General Motors called on Barack Obama and Congress to work together on climate change on Wednesday, saying the effort would be good for business. GM, which makes the plug-in Chevy Volt, was the first of the big three car makers to sign on to a new push from the business world for greater action on global warming from Washington, the Climate Declaration.

“We want to be a change agent in the auto industry,” Mike Robinson, GM vice-president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

The declaration, now endorsed by 40 companies, was launched in Washington last month with the aim of capitalising on public concern about climate change after Hurricane Sandy and Obama’s re-election in the hope of pushing a climate law through Congress. More than half of Americans now blame climate change for the extreme weather of recent years, according to a study released on Wednesday by the Yale Project on Climate Change.

The short statement, endorsed by GM, leads off: “Tacking climate change is America’s greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century (and it’s simply the right thing to do).”

In the above short statement lies the opportunity and danger for the USA and the World !

Let’s not forget the story of The Three Little Pigs – a wolf in sheep’s clothing must be dealt with care.

The classic example is of General motors. A company which is the past has overtly or covertly killed many a invention towards sustainable transport –

The General Motors streetcar conspiracy (also known as the Great American streetcar scandal) refers to allegations and convictions in relation to a program by General Motors (GM) and other companies who purchased and then dismantled streetcar and electric train systems in many American cities.

While it may be argued that times have changed, and the management ( made of humans – who have the right to err ! ) of today is more informed and wants to undo the wrongs of its predecessors.

But when one reads through the news article further, utopia evaporates !

…It does not prescribe specific solutions beyond a “coordinated effort”, but said that promoting clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would help America remain a superpower.

…The effort was guided by Ceres, the sustainable business network, which argued that declarations of support from the business world could give members of Congress the cover they needed to engage on a topic widely seen as a third rail in politics. Obama began his second term pledging action on climate change. But Congress was unmoved by his appeal in his state of the union address to work on a law that would cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

A majority of Republicans oppose action on climate change, or discount the science behind climate change.

Aside from GM, the effort was endorsed by household names such as Starbucks, Intel, and eBay, as well as a number of outdoor clothing manufacturers.

Before signing on to the Climate Declaration, GM had been pressing the Obama administration to adopt a national energy policy, promoting natural gas and renewable.

…The announcement caps a steady transformation of GM’s market strategy.

A company which once produced gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and fought higher fuel economy standards was now identifying with the green technology behind a car like the Volt.

One must remember that the Corporate giants have the most short-sighted vision in the world, next only to the Political giants. And as all know, giants are by default carnivores and man-eaters.

The earth trembles with every step they take, uprooting trees and trampling the flora and fauna as they chase the human they want for dinner ! Just read your child’s bed-time story. It just proves that our ancestors knew what giants do. The modern word for giants is Conglomerate ! Some of them are as hostile as the giants in our children story books. Trampling the Earth and gobbling up resources.

Sustainability for the Corporates, World-wide is nothing more than another business opportunity, which they were unwilling to look at till there was enough traction to make it worth their while. Now, that it is proving to be profitable they will plunge into it wholeheartedly. But for all the wrong reasons, I’ve pointed out in amber in the paragraphs above.

Sustainability would be the worst causality if we look at it as another tool for Political up-man-ship or hegemony. It is important that the mindset of those who are powerful become humble. For without humility, the same standards of capitalist market laws would be applied to make the World “greener & safer”. And that would be a disaster.

Why does the USA need to be a super-power or its politicians need sustainable practice as a weapon. Why can’t it be made as a way of life and projected so? Why could GM not say – “Tacking climate change is America’s greatest RESPONSIBILITY of the 21st century (and it’s simply the right thing to do).” What USA does the World fortunately or unfortunately does follow. To be a leader one must think as well as act as one.

If we continue using the old yard-stick to measure the new, we will come up short.

And we don’t have the luxury of time to know that we were wrong.

 

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The false Messiah – the story of Earth Hour to Earth Day.


Come March-April, we celebrate a number of festivals. Some traditional some modern. Earth Hour  & Earth Day are two such.It is time to look at them up close and personal. And see how much have they really affected, when the word is out that we have already lost the battle of limiting the 2°C Global warming. And the rule of Carbon Black has begun.

Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and held towards the end of March annually, encouraging households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change. The event, conceived by WWF and Leo Burnett, first took place in 2007, when 2.2 million residents of Sydney participated by turning off all non-essential lights.Following Sydney’s lead, many other cities around the world adopted the event in 2008.Earth Hour 2013 is being held on March 23, 2013 from 8:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. during participants’ local time.

The genesis of Earth Day is credited to Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. After witnessing the ravages of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and inspired by the student anti-war movement, he called for an environmental teach-in, later called “Earth Day”, to be held on Wednesday, April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and now Earth Day is an annual day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is observed on April 22 each year. The April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day by a consensus resolution adopted by the United Nations in 2009.Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries every year

Started as  great concepts.These have not been able to achieve much in the Asian and third World Countries, and this is most evident in the horrific and naked truth of the Mumbra Building Collapse. in Mumbai, India. To the uninitiated, just as saving the Tiger can save a forest; adopting Better Building Design leads the way towards holistic sustainability – which is the underlying message of these events.

What happens in India and Indian cities must become important to the international community. Because as a fast growing Nation, instead of becoming a flowering creeper all would love to see, it is turning itself into a poisonous weed. The continued pollution created by Indian cities, would effect the World already reeling under super dangerous shifting of weather patterns and its accompanied intense impacts.

And before the ultra Nationalists start off, let me remind them that Mumbai & Delhi are signatory to the C40 Cities program and many of our towns and cities are getting support from World Bank, USA  & many EU  Nations for its infrastructure over-haul. It is time their investment should matter to them. For, here and now should they follow the link on the building collapse above, it would be obvious to them that their efforts and money are not reaching the intended.

Acting both locally and collaboratively, C40 Cities are having a meaningful global impact in reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. Through a partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, C40 brings together a unique set of assets and creates a shared sense of purpose. – this charter is no more applicable to Mumbai. It never was. If one walks on any part of Mumbai, one can sense the rot and the dangerous amount of pollution this city is contributing to the planet and its immediate Ecosystem.

One only needs to flip through the pages of a news paper to know that seemly unrelated events are all but different facets of the same. While low fish catch and the subsequent high cost is apparent, the not so apparent medical cost, resulting from eating fish which are treated with the 300 MLD of untreated sewage being dumped into the sea daily. (read more); or the rise in asthma and other chest disease because of a dust storm kicking up far away –

If you experienced low visibility in the city on Wednesday, blame it on a dust storm.11, Apr 2013 DNA
According to IIT Powai’s Centre for Environmental Science and engineering, a dust storm is rising from north-western dessert. Ratish Menon, a PHD student of the centre for environmental science and engineering department of IIT Powai, said: “We have been monitoring the satellite data and models which confirms that the city is witnessing a dust storm from north-western dessert.” He added that though a dust storm activity from Saudi Arabian desserts or India’s north-western region dessert hits the country every year, witnessing it in Mumbai is rare. “Normally such dust activity doesn’t hit Mumbai. This activity increases pollution level and stays for couple of days. We will closely monitor the progress,” said Menon.
However, the weather department denied that the haze was because of dust storm.
NY Apte, deputy director general of Indian Meteorological Department, Mumbai, said, “The visibility has reduced but we cannot call it a dust storm as the winds are not that strong. The condition can be called a haze. It has not been caused by any climatic change but is a result of local heating and moisture, apart from pollution in the air.”
Doctors said the prevailing weather conditions are particularly harmful for asthma patients. “Upper respiratory cases in the city are rising. Since morning, I am seeing many allergic bronchitis patients with symptoms like blocked nose, breathlessness and sneezing. We have also seen a couple of allergic rhinitis cases since morning,” said Dr Udit Thakker, general physician from Parel. Dr Jalil Parker, consulting chest physician, Lilavati Hospital said: “People with respiratory issues should be more careful and take utmost care.”
Doctors advise upper respiratory patients to avoid stepping out of the house. Dr Parker said the people who have sensitive respiratory passage need to take extra precaution as it can trigger an asthma attack. “It is important to cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth,” said Dr Parker.

When the Country is going through a systemic failure, the edifice are the first to crumble and the poorest of the poor its first victim. Emboldened by the false immortality, as none gets punished befitting the crime; the brazen behaviour moves up-market and whether one likes it or not, South Mumbai will soon see disasters worse than Mumbra, perhaps the farthest and poorest suburb of the Megalopolis.

This disaster would not be limited to being crushed to death by falling walls, but also bubonic plague and every type of wind-borne disease. And add to that the absolute scarcity of water, because some smart high-end homes in the suburb now offers “golf-fields” – a stretch of lovely green grass which increases the water evaporation by 5 times and thus require huge quantity of scarce water to look the lovely green.   But then it is the life-style of the rich Europeans and it should by birth right, be the life style of the “brown Babus”.

It needs intellect to understand that glades and grass are a natural to the European landscape as is the rain-forest to ours. But one can’t play golf in the rain forest. And it is absolutely insulting for the rich to be put in the same class as the poor draught hit Indian farmers. I’m sure no News paper of any repute can show a poor Indian farmer drunk and dead in a swimming pool. It is the prerogative of the rich.

But Nature has a strange way of levelling things. When the million tonnes of plastic garbage the size of a town-suburb, floating in the Pacific  starts to break down even faster than the present ( which is alarming and dangerous ) as is obvious with 7 meter deep of the sea already warmed up. The resulting acid rain would bring into our homes chemicals and diseases which we hardly know about. The Ten Plague of Egypt would revisit. History always repeats itself.

Abatement and Mitigation.

 Abatement refers generally to a lessening, diminution, reduction, or moderation; while

 Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.

Since  1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, to 2010 BP oil spill   one can safely vouch the ‘Abatement’ has been  safely mummified and buried deep.

As for ‘Mitigation’  we just need to browse through the news clips and images below to know that the World indeed is a global village and that the word MITIGATION is a form of self-denial we humans like to live in and our Political Masters love to dish-out. Because, Capitalism breeds Corruption and it stands at cross-purpose to correct the wrongs.

Bombay (2005) –

The heavy rains that have been inundating the city of Mumbai and it surrounding regions time and again during the monsoons every year indicate that the city is still short of a sound flood mitigation framework. The existing efforts by the city’s governing and planning authorities towards formulating flood alleviation strategies have only been marginally successful in fulfilling their purpose. Moreover, the national disaster management framework released in the year 2004 takes a holistic approach at managing and reducing disasters by suggesting general policies applicable to all the states in the country and not just the Mumbai region in particular. The framework also considers floods only as one of the many natural disasters that it suggests strategies for. It does not provide any flood-specific mitigation strategies so to speak of. (more)

Bangkok (2012) –

Thailand Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has issued a warning for heavy flooding and landslide from today to next Monday, Sept 17. People living in Amnatcharoen, Yasothon, Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Trang are said to prepare for worst floods.
Last year (2011), severe floods killed 2800+ people in Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam and Laos. Out of these, 815 people were from Thailand. The question is Will 2012 be a repeat of 2011?
Following Government officials in Thailand, No 2012 won’t be a repeat of 2011 as major dams in the northern and central plains of Thailand are 50 percent lower than last year and at the ready to hold back more runoff from the annual monsoon rains. It has become a hot topic as currently the ancient city of Sukhothai which lies 400 kilometers north of Bangkok is having major floods (more).

Buenos Aires.(2013)

No politician is immune from being badly splashed by last week’s deadly floodwaters but of Argentina’s three top politicians (President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and City Mayor Mauricio Macri) Scioli arguably stands most to lose. CFK is more or less exactly in the same place as this time last year in the wake of the Once rail tragedy (with even an identical toll of 51 dead for last year’s train crash and the flooding in the La Plata area, although half a dozen deaths in this metropolis need to be added in the latter case) — in other words, having to absorb overall responsibility for lethal infrastructural neglect and making a rather better job of it this year than last by actually going to the scene of the disaster in Tolosa (no doubt spurred by personal family links to the neighbourhood). Macri had a miserable Tuesday with City Hall failings in the national spotlight amid merciless criticism but was soon off the hook as the catastrophic tragedy in the Buenos Aires provincial capital totally eclipsed the disasters of some City neighbourhoods. (more)

While in a weird way one can understand the twisted logic of capitalism and the opportunity such disasters present to the industry both production and services. What is not understood by those who Govern and those who are Governed is that, unless and until we stop the lip services we give to Climate Change due to Global Warming, sustainable solutions leading to overall well-being would not be possible.

We therefore can not just give one day ( Earth Day ) or one hour ( Earth Hour ) for photo-opportunity but dig in our heels and work everyday in creating the right atmosphere in which real and meaning full developments happen. We can no more have battery operated “candle light” dinner designed during Earth Hour in 5-Star hotels; without understanding that the battery and the plastic candle together multiply GHG many times over the conventional candle light. Nor can we satisfy ourselves by conducting and listening to seminars hosted in every part of the planet to mostly inform those, who are already most informed on how to milk the industry of Climate Change business on Earth Day.

It would be better, should we be able to during each Earth Hour offer 1 hour of electricity to the villages surrounding the cities. Which has to be electrified and given sustainable infrastructure the previous year on Earth Day.

The 1 hour of electricity need not come by switching off lights of Iconic buildings around the World during the Earth Hour. That is nothing more than a fashion statement created and conceived with all the best intentions but useless. Some experts say that Earth Hour could result in an increase in carbon emissions and place great strain on electricity grids. Fossil-fuelled power stations could be required to fire up quickly when everyone turns their lights back on, “rendering all good intentions useless at a flick of a switch”.

But WWF maintains Earth Hour is not about saving energy but raising awareness. But perhaps those who switch-off their lights are not aware that, the saved electricity does not reach the 1.3 Billion lives around the Planet.

Simply because they don’t have the tools to receive it. That is a light bulb and the electrical connection to light that bulb !

Further on Earth Day, let those who know what the future holds take the step to go out and stand in the sunlight, out in the open public arena as opposed to an air-conditioned conference room and TEACH in simple language what they know to the “AAM ADMI” (Hindi =common man). In a manner s/he understands, Without the pie-charts and the graphs. Teach them the methods of survival when they and their loved ones, would for want of knowledge spend all their meagre but hard earned money on placebos, thinking it to be cure for their persistent breathlessness.  A breathlessness caused by the deadly smog and haze created by the Carbon Black now suspended in the atmosphere.

We must make aware what Dr.V. Ramanathan the UNESCO Chair Professor for Climate science and Policy at the TERI University spoke eloquently and with great sadness on the 5th April 2013 – We have already dumped enough green house gas to warm the planet by 2.5°C.

Global WarmingThis mask can not be removed by Abatement any-more and for a solution through Mitigation, we just don’t know what would be the consequence if such an experiment is tried. However, it is my firm belief that the Planet is a great healer. and it would heal itself if allowed to do so.

Climate change and global warming is a natural phenomena but the present Human civilization is only accelerating it and would thus meet with the same consequences the Pharaohs did. The supposedly immortals were thrust into oblivion by the mighty Earth.

As briefly mentioned above, the Ten Plague of Egypt were not myth but a result of Climate change. And some scientist claim to have the proof of it. – Archeologists believe that the mythical ten plagues occurred in the ancient city of Pi-Ramses, an Egyptian city on the Nile delta which served as the Egyptian capital during the reign of Ramses the second as Pharaoh (from 1279 BC- 1213 BC)…..Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Ramses the Second’s reign.By studying stalagmites in Egyptian caves they have been able to rebuild a record of the weather patterns using traces of radioactive elements contained within the rock.They found that Ramses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate, but then the climate switched to a dry period…The scientists believe this switch in the climate was the trigger for the first of the plagues,…(more)

It is time we understand our History and that of Earth too. Then only we shall truly  celebrate the Earth Day 2013.

 

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