Adopt a Polar Bear for Christmas…….

Christmas time is about hope and giving.  This holiday season, there is no creature on earth who could use more help from its human neighbors then the polar bear.  According to the World Wildlife Federation:

If present trends continue this "king of the great white north" could be extinct by the end of the century.  Global warming is causing the Arctic sea ice, the polar bear’s hunting grounds, to melt earlier and form later each year.  With less time on ice to find food and store body fat, and more time on land where they must fast, these majestic mammals are growing hungrier and skinnier-which hinders their reproduction.

If you would like to make a difference this Christmas, please visit the WWF website and consider sponsoring one of these amazing animals.

The Time to Start is NOW…….

"Unless we stop dumping 70 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every 24 hours, which we are doing right now … the continued acceleration of this pollution would destroy the future of human civilization" – Al Gore


It is time for the United States to get serious about curbing emissions and embracing science based federal legislation so all of us can avoid the most serious consequences of global warming.

Both the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642) and the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act (S. 3698) are such bills.  The goal of both pieces of proposed legislation is to gradually reduce global warming emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has an action center where you can send an email to your legislator’s office urging them to co-sponsor these two sensible measures.  Here is the link to the website.  If you prefer to call, this is the number for the Capitol switchboard (202)-224-3121.

Yes on I-937…….

"It would be nice if we could produce our way out of this problem, but it’s just not possible. We only have 3% of the world’s oil reserves. We could start drilling in ANWR today, and at its peak, which would be more than a decade from now, it would give us enough oil to take care of our transportation needs for about a month. As a result, every single hour we spend $18 million on foreign oil…Budding democracies, despotic regimes, or havens of terror—they get our money because we need their oil."Senator Barack Obama

Yes I-937

Global warming, a diplomatic strategy dictated by a dependence on foreign oil, and a desperate need for the creation of high paying jobs—when so many problems point to the same cause, namely our country’s failed energy policy, it is time to revalue and change course.  Washington state will soon have such an opportunity.  A yes vote for I-937 is an endorsement of a forward thinking energy policy that puts people and the environment first. 

Here is the problem: Washington State is growing and needs more power.  We have the choice to continue down the old path of burning more coal and damming more rivers or we can start to take seriously proven alternative energy sources.  I-937 will require that 15% of our energy comes from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020.  This is an easy to reach target.  I-937 also ensures that utilities help their customers save money through energy conservation.  Here are some other points to consider, provided by the Yes on I-937 fact sheet:

  • Energy efficiency is the cheapest energy source available. Energy efficiency programs run by utilities help rate payers and businesses save money on their monthly bill.
  • Renewable energy strengthens family farms. Landowners can receive up to $5,000/year for each wind turbine on their property.
  • The energy efficiency and renewable energy industries already provide more than 4,000 jobs in this state. I-937 would create thousands more.

    We need to adopt a pro-knowledge mind-set, which Alvin Toffler defines as "a ravenous hunger for the latest information, new ideas, skills."  Toffler argues that knowledge is the most important resource.  Advancing knowledge allows us to do more with less and provides the opportunity to shift power away from bulk producers of resources or increases our ability to create substitutes for these imported goods altogether.

    It is time to invest in our own infrastructure and the talents of our people.  Let’s start with a yes for I-937 on November 7th.

    Update: Here is some additional information from the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Their new analysis shows that by 2025, Washington customers would save four dollars a month off their average electric bill. According to their research, the initiative would create over 1,000 new jobs, spur over $138 million in additional state income, and reduce as much emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide as taking 750,000 cars off the road. Through utility conservation requirements, the law would also save enough energy to meet the needs of 720,000 homes.

    REI and Sub Pop…….

    "Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional." –bumper sticker

    Sub Pop

    Starbucks may be the most famous, but REI and Sub Pop are two companies which also reflect the Seattle mind-set.  Founded in 1938, REI is a consumer cooperative which sells high quality outdoor equipment, clothing, and footwear.  Seattlites are know to have a certain style of casual dress–if you flip through an REI catalog you would get a good idea of what that might look like.

    Back in 1989, Sub Pop was a scrappy little independent record label that released Bleach by some punks from Aberdeen who called themselves Nirvana.  Today, Sub Pop is home to The Shins and Postal Service.  All of which goes to show that styles may change but substance always has staying power.  If you are are music lover, you owe it to yourself to explore the Sub Pop catalog.

    Now, REI and Sub Pop have stepped up to prove creativity  and a can do attitude are powerful tools in the fight against global warming.  It’s a smart approach. 

    According to the book Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, innovation is process driven and can be broken down into five steps.  First, a project should start by trying to tackle an important problem.  Interesting is not enough.  Second, after each step in the development process the end product should be evaluated in terms of actual value provided to the consumer.  Third, every project needs a champion, a true believer who will fight to the death to make the best product possible.  How to form the best development team round out the last two steps.  Essentially, project teams should be created that are up to the task.  Talent should be chosen based on the project needs not dictated by department distinctions.  These teams should be flexible and able to generate new ideas on the fly.

    Starting in January, REI Adventures will purchase renewable energy credits to offset the greenhouse gas generated by the air, water and ground travel associated with all of its travel adventure packages.  In order to become carbon neutral, REI Adventures expects to purchase more than 52,000 green tags in the coming year, offsetting more than 36,000 tons of carbon dioxide.  REI Adventures offers vacation packages to every corner of the globe.  You can experience a wildlife safari in Tanzania, hike and cycle through Laos and Cambodia, or explore Antarctica on a small ship adventure.  Now travelers can explore the wonders around the world without the environmental guilt.

    Sub Pop Records has also taken the plunge and purchased enough green tags to offset all of the company’s energy use. The Seattle label was the first Green-e certified record company in the United States.

    REI and Sub Pop are both innovators who are tackling a huge problem and in the process giving the people what they want.  Thank you for championing such an important cause.  This type of forward-thinking corporate leadership will reinforce Seattle’s authority as a leader in the struggle against climate change.

    Starbucks was the first to create a recycled paper cup that met the stringent guidelines for food service by the FDA.  Now, let’s see what Starbucks can do to keep up the momentum and turn itself into a carbon neutral corporation.

    Here is track twelve for the playlist: One Chance by  Modest Mouse.

    Cool Cities

    The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.U.S. Department of Agriculture


    Seattle’s urban forests are in trouble.  In 1972, trees covered 40 percent of the city’s land area.  Today, thirty-four years later, 18 percent of those trees remain. 

    Trees are an important first line of defense against a host of environmental problems.  In fact, Jared Diamond lists deforestation as one of the twelve environmental factor which ignored can leave to societal collapse.  Trees provide nature with the tools to help manage storm water run-off, reduce erosion, trap the green house gas CO2, and produce oxygen.

    In an ambitious effort to renew Seattle’s forests, Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickles announced a plan to address the loss of the city’s trees.   The press release from the mayor’s office states:

    The mayor set a goal of increasing Seattle’s tree coverage by two-thirds over the next 30 years – or by about 650,000 new trees. To help launch the effort, the mayor announced the city will give away 2,000 coupons for free trees this fall.

    The plan aims to reverse the trend by establishing aggressive goals, such as:

    • Adding nearly 650,000 trees over 30 years on property in all land use categories.
    • Increasing pruning frequency of city-maintained trees from every 19 years to a cycle of every 13 years.
    • Creating a long-term program to educate residents about the ecological and economic importance of trees. Residential trees today account for 42 percent of the city’s total canopy.
    • Devising incentives and regulations that encourage tree preservation and planting.
    • Coordinating tree management across multiple city departments with tree maintenance responsibility (Parks, Transportation, City Light, Seattle Public Utilities), including a comprehensive inventory and analysis of the urban forest.
    • Creating citizen-government-business partnerships to bring additional financial, volunteer labor and management resources to the tree-restoration fight.

    According to the National Wildlife Federation, “There are about 60-to 200- million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs."

    Local leaders like Mayor Nickels are stepping up to fill the void created by the federal government’s lack of leadership in the fight against global warming.  In 2005, Mr. Nickels initiated the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which asked mayors from around the country to pledge to reduce their city’s production of carbon dioxide to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.  So far, 295 mayors have taken the pledge with the combined impact of representing over 49.4 million Americans.  Check to see if your city is on the list.

    Tipping Green…….

    "Sometimes, the political system is like the climate system, in that it’s non-linear.  It can seem to change at a snail’s pace and then suddenly cross a tipping point beyond which it shifts into a shockingly fast gear.  All of a sudden, change that everybody thought was impossible becomes matter of fact.  In 1941, it was absurd to think the U.S. could build a thousand airplanes a month to fight the Second World War.  By 1943 that was a real number." –Al Gore, RS #1004/1005:713-274/06

    Grass Car

    Like it or not, California sets the trends that the rest of the country follows.  The state is nothing short of a cultural powerhouse.  From the Lords of Dogtown to Proposition 9, California was there before the rest of us had any idea there existed.  Now, California is taking on global warming and it just might be the kick in the pants which gets the rest of the country back in the game.

    Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) recently became law in California.  This legislative act is a gigantic step forward in the fight against global warning.  California is the twelfth largest generator of greenhouse gases in the world.  According to a press release from Environmental Defense,

    AB 32 would limit the state’s global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and institute a mandatory emissions reporting system to monitor compliance. It also would allow for market mechanisms to provide incentives to businesses to reduce emissions while safeguarding local communities.
    Momentum and support from clean companies, venture capitalists, faith-based leaders and the public have been strong. The bill’s opponents – representing old, polluting industries – have been sidelined by the steady drumbeat of scientific consensus that global warming is the world’s most pressing environmental problem and that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution is a feasible, cost-effective solution.

    Using California’s historic 2002 clean car standards as a blue print, the Washington State Legislature enacted similar legislation in 2005.  Motor vehicles produce more than half of all the greenhouse gas emission in Washington State.  Washington’s clean car standards are patterned after the ground breaking California model which authorized the California Air Resources Board to set limits on passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.

    The Washington State clean car standards will apply to cars, light trucks, SUV’s, and passenger vans starting in 2009 with full compliance by 2016.  Based on estimates by the state of California, these new standards will cut emissions in cars and light trucks by 25 percent and 18 percent for SUV’s and larger trucks.

    Nine other states have adopted clean car standards.  These states are Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.  Together with California and Washington, this group accounts for over a third of the new car sales in the United States. 

    If the past is any predictor of the future, in a few years hipsters will be calculating their carbon load and bragging about the cool gadgets they are using to become carbon neutral.  Stranger things have happened.

    UPDATEHere is an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the historic signing of the California legislation to limit green house gases.

    An inconvenient truth…….

    inconvenient truth

    I love my kids too much to sit on my hands and wait for the worst to happen. I know that many of you feel the same way. It may not be kids that motivate you but everyone loves something about this planet that is beautiful and sacred –the beach, a pet, mountain biking, taking a walk to the coffee shop or SpongeBob SquarePants. Life on planet Earth is sweet indeed.

    Climate change is difficult to conceptualize. It’s not just about the Earth getting hotter, which of course is happening. It is the changes both subtle and dramatic this temperature increase brings to an already stressed system. There will be stronger hurricanes, disappearing glaciers and a rising sea level. This alone is enough to throw human existence into chaos but what happens when there are major disruptions in food production due to the compounding factors of drought, wild fires and an ocean inhospitable to life?

    It’s time to say "no" to the folks who have a vested interest in world wide suicide. Luckily, the technology is available to start making a difference. Here are three things you can do right now. First, switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Second, use paper products made from recycled materials. Third, buy a hybrid car. If a new car is not in the financial picture then vow to make you next purchase a hybrid. Instead, buy carbon offsets for the vehicle you are driving.

    Go see An Inconvenient Truth and then start to make the world a better place. Remember, The Police had it right when they sang, "One world is enough for all of us".

    Blinded by the light…….

    My first experience with compact fluorescent light bulbs was very disappointing. After flickering on and off for a few seconds the light it did manage to produce was poor. I’m a strong believer in taking as many steps as possible to minimize my carbon footprint, but I refuse to be an environmental martyr. It seems ridiculous to support an inferior product which in all likelihood will frustrate the consumer and end up clogging our crowded landfills. A few weeks ago I gave the bulbs another shot. This time the lights switched on immediately. The light was similar to the output from an incandescent bulb though some what softer. Now I can’t tell the difference between the old bulbs still in use and the new compact fluorescent bulbs. According to The Environment Defense Global Warning Website, if every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent bulbs with better bulbs, it would be equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road. Here is a link to a guide on how to purchase a compact fluorescent bulb that you can be proud of. How to pick a better bulb.