What If We Create a Better World For Nothing?

091207usatoday global warming.91
One of my goals in 2010 is to help move the sustainability debate beyond Global Warming. Global Warming or Climate Change is still arguable – while other environmental impacts and issues are not. Its surely time for sustainability advocates to reframe our narrative – and get beyond the Global Warming debate. We might as well try and convince evangelicals of evolution… instead we need to start focusing on immediate and real issues- such as a lack of potable water in many geographies. Energy independence is perhaps the best argument for renewal energy. People are generally more worried about national security than the potentials threats of global warming.

Of course some really major climate events may change the game, but for now, we should focus on the changes we can make in terms of business, culture and politics. You can understand why I love this cartoon from USA Today, which sums my thoughts up beautifully.


Tata versus the Turtle

If TATA builds its port at Dhamra, Olive Ridley turtles will pay the ultimate price

Tata Motors is a subsidiary of the Tata Group and has become one of the largest manufacturers of commercial vehicles in the world – from Wikipedia:

Tata Motors was listed on the NYSE in 2004, and in 2005 it was ranked among the top 10 corporations in India with an annual revenue exceeding INR 320 billion. In 2004, it bought Daewoo’s truck manufacturing unit, now known as Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle, in South Korea. It also, acquired a 21% stake in Hispano Carrocera SA, giving it controlling rights in the company. Tata Motors launched the Tata Nano, noted for its Rs 100,000 price-tag, in January 2008.

In March 2008, it finalised a deal with Ford Motor Company to acquire their British Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) business, which also includes the Rover, Daimler and Lanchester brand names.

Tata’s launch of the low-cost Nano caused led to concerns over the pollution which would ensue from mass motorisation of India. To counter this Tata announced plans to produce an electric version of the Nano, named the E-Nano – whether that will come to market remains to be seen as the rumours about its production all seem to come from a single article in last year’s Auto Bild magazine.

More environmental controversy has arisen recently because Tata Group has decided to build what would be one of India’s largest ports at Dhamra less than 15 km from the turtle mass nesting beaches at Gahirmatha, and five kilometers from the Bhitarkanika National Park, India’s second largest mangrove forest and home to the saltwater crocodile.

Greenpeace India has been spearheading attempts to stop the development of the port and Greenpeace include a comprehensive backgrounder to the story of the port’s development to-date which includes what would appear to be a dirty tricks campaign by Tata against Greenpeace.

Greenpeace aren’t the only ones opposing the port’s development – the Orissa Traditional Fishworker’s Union, who represent the concerns and interests of over 100,000 fishermen, vocally and publicly opposed the construction of the port. The project has also invited criticism from over 200 national and international scientists, including over 30 experts of the IUCN’s marine turtle specialist group. And Global Response also has a campaign to stop the port construction.

The Greenpeace campaign with their Cheap car, Priceless turtle line is very effective though a little mis-directed seeing as it is parent company Tata Group, not Tata Motors which is involved in the project to develop the port.

Greenpeace has had a lot of success with online campaigns like this – witness the recent success of their campaign to get electronics giant Philips to take responsibility for the cost of recycling its own products.

It will be fascinating to watch how this plays out – will Tata simply ignore the opposition and steam ahead with their plans to build the giant port or will they take account of the environmental concerns and at the very least halt the construction to allow an independent Environment Impact Analysis take place. Frankly, I’m not hugely optimistic for the turtles.


The end of America’s CO2 affair?

Getting any kind of G8 deal on climate change has been quite an achievement, based on conversations with people on the ground in Germany. And having the United States make the right noises is a true development. Fiona Harvey, in her new FT blog that will examine energy and environmental issues, sensed a shift yesterday.

“We have to wait and see what happens in Bali in December before we can make a final judgement. But progress it certainly is. George W Bush has repeatedly scorned the UN and its climate change talks in the past. This time, he says he wants the US to be “actively involved, if not taking the lead, in a post-Kyoto framework, post-Kyoto agreement”.

Of course, that could also mean the US wants to participate in order to stall agreement on a binding commitment to cut emissions, as some green groups suspect.

But even if that is the case, it still means the talks can start this year. In 2009, there will be a different president who may take the US participation in a different direction. At least the process will have begun, rather than having to be started from scratch by a new president in 2009.”

We spend a lot of time trying to sense whether America really is changing its attitudes towards climate change and the ways action can be taken. And while Bush’s policy making is one thing, it’s what the doers on the ground are up to that counts for the long term.

Dante’s Peak: Would Pierce have got everyone out in a Prius?
America’s renewed lust for the environment goes much wider than the Silicon Valley clean boom. For example, an amazing number of people you talk to in the US are now very interested in finding ways to reduce their dependency on oil, for starters. And they won’t sacrifice mobility to do it. I call the latter the ‘Dante’s Peak’ trait – a hard-wired desire to have the immediate ability at any time to put your entire family into a truck that can speed you away from exploding volcanos, or whatever else might come along. Such traits just aren’t part of the European psyche, and this difference needs to be understood. Conversely, European angst over aviation emissions, a constant and major factor here, is just not on the US radar. Americans in the street can’t believe Europeans worry about aircraft emissions being a bad thing. In a vast country with completely different patterns of population density and transport infrastructure to Europe it seems hard to imagine Americans starting to wonder whether they ought to fly. Hell, they didn’t transform the world with 707s and DC-8s, only to give up the mass-scale, iconic marvel and convenience of jet travel.

The contradiction is that while we are all shocked that Bush is now facing into the environmental wind – and that the detail on what this means for citizens is bound to differ between continents – today in the United States there are examples of extraordinary state or city-level leadership on the environment, with things moving very fast. City mayors and governors far away from the Arnie-induced Californian green-boom are developing exciting policies. Take Austin in, of all places Texas. It’s becoming one of the US’s top hotspots for environmental startups. Americans understand that new markets create new energy, if you excuse the irony – energetic campuses, energetic startup firms, flows of venture funds and more.

Read more at Re*Move

Mark Charmer is director of The Movement Design Bureau, a global think tank.


“the first open source project dedicated to ecology”

via worldchanging comes news of

“Our mission is to create a web base tool, which will help speed up the distribution of available knowledge and connect efforts that aim to create a sustainable environment.”

How cool is that – someone else focusing on Green From The Roots Up. Greenmonk is also about applying open source methods to greening issues, so we’ll definitely be tracking this resource, and almost certainly contributing in some form or other.