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Global Humanitarian Forum

Friday, May 29, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Global Humanitarian Forum
Kofi Annan wasn’t done serving society when his 10-year tenure as UN secretary-general ended in 2007. He went on to establish the Global Humanitarian Forum, whose mission, basically, is to save the world.

The Forum plans to focus on different causes through the years. Their first cause: climate change. They see it not necessarily as a political or environmental issue, but as a human one, with many lives at stake – lives they aim to save.

To that end, the Forum has released its first report on climate change’s human toll. Their research found 300,000 people die each year due to climate ‘side effects’ such as malnutrition and malaria, and that 99% of these deaths are occurring in developing countries that, ironically, aren’t a part of the problem because they barely contribute to overall global-warming emissions.

The report is meant to help spur action at December’s climate conference in Copenhagen, which will decide what measures should replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.






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Virtual Energy Forum

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

If you’ve been wanting to green up your office but have been overwhelmed by all the info available, there’s an event next month that may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

The second annual Virtual Energy Forum, running June 24-25, is a free, online, open-access event aimed at empowering companies and their employees to make their workplaces more efficient and sustainable.

Just register at the forum and you’ll have access to presentations, case studies, and more that will help you work smarter and healthier. You’ll even get to chat with exhibitors and experts.

Scheduled speakers include Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins, Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp and the Department of Energy’s Mark Ginsberg. Companies of varying ‘greeness’ will be represented, including Hess, Dow Chemical, Procter and Gamble, IBM, Raytheon and Whirlpool, as will the EPA, International Energy Agency and Harvard University.

You’ll learn about ways to conserve energy, how to get refunds and subsidies to help pay for retrofits and upgrades, and other best-practice techniques.

I’ll be checking in at least one of the days and posting about it, perhaps tweeting too. Let Captivate know if you plan to attend by commenting below or emailing kscribner@captivate.com.






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Should You Always Bet ACES?

Friday, May 22, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

One of the most important pieces of legislation of my lifetime is progressing through the House right now.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last night on its way to a full House vote, probably by July. The bill is important on a couple different levels: for its goal of reducing U.S. emissions of global-warming gases by more than 80% over the next 40 years, and for the profound effect working to achieve this goal will have on American business. We’re talking about potentially the biggest ecological and economic impacts ever triggered by the government.

The legislation’s lynchpin – what Republicans have been trying to pull from the bill – is a cap-and-trade system, whereby overall U.S. emissions and individual companies’ emissions are capped, with an allowance for those companies that exceed their cap to buy overages from those companies that are under their cap.

This bill is Obama’s baby. It was a key rallying call during his campaign, and he responded to the latest news with, “We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America."

So we know where Obama stands. And many green organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, stand with him.

However, also in line with supporting the bill are some not-so-green groups like Shell, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy and DuPont, which makes one wonder: How is it that suddenly these groups with long histories of conflicting interests are banding together? And are we really OK with backing an environmental policy backed by companies with such sullied pasts?

Greenpeace is among those answering with a resounding no. They say the targets “are far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change … and far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology.”

So what’s going on? It appears it may be as simple as both sides of the issue making compromises – on the one hand, you have a bunch of green groups who understand how difficult it is to get environmental policy passed and see the promise of this one, despite it’s shortcomings, and are hitching their wagons to it as the best realistic solution, while on the other hand, Big Biz sees Obama, his followers and their inexorable green groundswell that is going to affect change sooner or later so they may as well embrace this now before something comes along they’re really not going to like.

Unfortunately in cases like this, you can end up with watered down mush of a law that sacrifices viability in the name of pandering. The Washington Post has a column that nicely sums up the problem.

So, gamblers of the Captivate universe, what do you think? Play the ACES or wait for a better hand?






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Green Roundup

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Poison Arrow Frog
Here’s the environmental-related news you should be paying attention to this week:

Dr. James Hansen’s latest missive
It’s statements like, “Perhaps if politicians and businesses paint each other green, it will not seem so bad when our forests burn” that have brought James Hansen notoriety, as well as legions of fans in the environmental movement. It steels the resolve of little guys (this little guy, at least) to see a federal employee (Hansen heads up NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) not be a government crony.
Anyway, Dr. Hansen sends out periodic letters to world leaders, challenging them to be realistic about global warming. These letters, while containing some informal, somewhat derogatory language (he dismissively refers to politicians and lobbyists as ‘those in alligator shoes,’) give some of the best arguments I’ve ever read for strong action now on climate change. His latest is to Dr. Martin Parkinson, secretary of Australia’s Department of Climate Change, in which Hansen repeats his call to end cap-and-trade approaches in favor of a tax-and-dividend.
Not sure why he’s against cap-and-trade when so many pro-environment folks, including Obama, are in favor of it? Wondering what this ‘tax-and-dividend’ stuff is?
You’ll have to read Dr. Hansen’s letters.

Ending our reliance on carbon
Speaking of cap-and-trade and tax-and-dividend and all that fun “is carbon necessary, evil, or necessary evil” talk, the University of Virginia is hosting a discussion that asks participants, “Should the U.S. end its dependency on carbon-based fuels?”
Ever wonder what becomes of government bigwigs after they serve their country? Why, they end up as high-priced consultants of course. And they show up in roundtable discussions like this. Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, ex-CIA director James Woolsey and 2001-03 EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman will participate in this dialogue about why it is or isn’t a good idea to kiss carbon goodbye. The talk, moderated by Fox News Channel’s Jim Angle, will be Webcast live tomorrow starting at 7 p.m. ET.

Forbes’ Best Cities For The Outdoors
San Francisco adds to its “City With Most Appearances on Top Cities Lists” title by topping yet another Best list: Forbes’ “Best Cities For The Outdoors.”
The magazine used Trust for Public Land, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and EPA figures to determine which of the 40 largest cities are best for the outdoors, based on criteria including parks spending, percentage of park land, recreation facilities, air quality, sunshine, snowfall and temperature.
And here’s a fact that may be an indicator of something, but what exactly I don’t know: Captivate broadcasts in each of the top 3 on the Best Outdoors Cities list but none of the bottom 3.

Amphibians in trouble
Amphibians are in trouble. A fungus that researchers say has wiped out 122 species in the last 30 years is showing no signs of slowing, threatening an ever-expanding number of the more than 5,700 known (with many more as-yet unknown) amphibian species. Up to 40% are now considered threatened, a far greater percentage than any other vertebrate.
So the Smithsonian is heading up the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, a coalition of eight zoos trying to stop the chytrid fungus, which has spread all across the globe, including the U.S. The group is focusing on a small region of Panama that has an extraordinary concentration of frogs and has yet to see widespread chytrid infections.
Project manager Brian Gratwicke says, “Time is of the essence, and we need to save these important creatures for their direct cultural, biomedical and ecological impact on human lives.”
The “biomedical” part he refers to is that secretions from amphibians’ skin have shown medicinal promise. Saving a frog today could save our own skins in 20 years, via a medical breakthrough.
The “ecological” is that amphibians eat tons of insects, helping control the population of bugs that pester us and cause disease.
But the most important reason, to me, is the “cultural.” Frogs, toads and salamanders are some of the most accessible wild creatures. They’ve stoked generations of children’s interest in the environment. How many naturalists got their start by catching frogs at the local pond, by flipping logs for salamanders? In this sense, the loss of amphibians would mean a loss of human wonder.














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Walkable Cities

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 by Kyle Scribner

Boston, Massachusetts
Prevention magazine has released its latest rankings of America’s best cities in which to take a stroll. This is the seventh straight year for the list, compiled in conjunction with the American Podiatric Medical Association and Sperling’s Best Places.

APMA and Prevention came up with about 20 criteria to judge how walk-friendly each of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. is. They also asked “nationally-recognized experts in the field of walkable communities” (you mean there’s more than one?) to rate the cities on 1-5 scale based on their own expertise.

These criteria include:

-- Number of walking/hiking trails in a metro area’s county and within a 20-mile radius of the city center
-- Number/area of national forests and parks within a 60-mile radius, and number/area of local and state parks within a 30-mile radius
-- Percent of population that walks in general and that walks to work
-- Average miles driven vs. mass transit miles
-- Pedestrian fatalities
-- Crime rate
-- Air pollution
-- Availability of schools, museums, zoos and botanical gardens and arboretums
-- Sprawl index
-- Number of off-leash dog parks

And, as it seems with so many of these “quality of life”-type surveys, San Francisco came out on top. (SF would surely be No. 1 on the “Cities With Most Appearances on Top Cities Lists.”)

Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago round out the Top 5.

Though some lists like this are transparently marketing-driven (Top Ten Hot Dog Eating Cities, anyone?), I really like covering this Walkability one because of the sincerely good message it spreads. Walking is such a no-brainer: you don’t pollute and you make yourself healthier.

The rankings also include subcategories, like Safest Walks (topped by Rochester, NY) and Amazing Nature Walks (San Fran again).

With Captivate markets dominating the list, we’d like to hear how Captivate viewers are taking advantage of their cities' “walk-friendliness.” What routes are your faves? Let us know by commenting below or e-mailing kscribner@captivate.com















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About

Kyle Scribner is a born-again nature freak who also happens to be an editor at Captivate Network.

You know that exhilarated feeling you got as a kid when you would go down to the pond to catch frogs? It never really goes away; it’s just dormant. So I'm here to slap a mix of facts and borderline balanced opinion on you, to poke a stick at the nature freak slumbering in us all and maybe get him to once again come out and play.

And we might even learn a few things about the environment as we go.

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About Green Among Gray

How do you commune with nature or become part of the solution to the environmental crisis when you're trapped in a cement-and-glass, gas-guzzling, power-sucking, emissions-spewing metropolis 8 hours (or more) a day? How do you go 'green' in a world of gray?

Actually, there are plenty of ways, and Green Among Gray aims to show high-rise inhabitants how they can help ease the load on the environment and on their minds by exploring natural oases, conservation tips, and other ways to stay green while working in the concrete-built world of the big city.

Look for short updates on the latest environmental news along with periodic longer features on specific places and events that allow big-city workers to get close to nature.