Archive for the 'Sustainability' Category

Finally, Some Sanity on Climate Change

June 27th, 2013

June 25, 2013: A great deal of what Obama just said on climate change at Georgetown University will seem like common sense to many of us, so it’s important to recognize just how dramatic a shift in the public conversation it is likely to cause.

Several distinct concepts were introduced and reinforced in the speech, most notably that of “carbon pollution,” which is clearly more emotionally and politically powerful than “greenhouse gas emissions.” By calling it (some might say “calling it out as”) carbon pollution more than a dozen times during the speech, he laid the groundwork for a comprehensive approach to the challenge of climate change as a priority for the U.S. and for the rest of the world — including placing the U.S., now second in the world as a carbon emitter to China, at the head of the line in addressing the problems.

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Leveraging Our Attention

January 4th, 2013

The story of professional pickpocket Apollo Robbins, in the January 7, 2013 issue of The New Yorker, demonstrates the critical significance of attention in every aspect of life. What we pay attention to iswhat exists for us — including when we discover that we’ve been distracted and missed what was really going on. The story, by Adam Green, reveals a man in many ways puzzled by his own gifts, which is the ability to distract people so thoroughly that they simply don’t see what’s occurring right in front of them.

Being distracted, when so much is actually occurring in the world, is one of the most serious problems of our time. The recent media frenzy over the “fiscal cliff” was a perfect example of this: while Syrians were killing each other in record numbers, while machine guns are being sold in record numbers to crazy people, and while climate change is bearing down on the planet at a record speed, our attention is being held captive by the posturing and obstructiveness of a small faction of fiscal fanatics, who are daily trying to convince us that “the deficit is the biggest problem we have and the only thing that matters.”

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Doing Business Differently

November 30th, 2012

This item first appeared in Dead River Journal, 11/29/2012:

We know that the new economic and ecological realities we face require us to do something different in business, which in some cases also means doing business differently.

Certainly it’s possible to use a conventional business model to manufacture and install solar panels, build windfarms, etc., and we certainly need these kinds of things “at scale,” as they say, sufficient to offset the energy we get from coal, oil, and nuclear. But other kinds of businesses — local, community-based businesses focusing on food, energy conservation, community banking, and other elements of local “economic, social, environmental, and cultural development” — these it seems need a different approach to doing business altogether.

For one thing, getting people to invest in local projects is surprisingly difficult under the conventional business model. It’s just much easier, and assumed to be much safer and more profitable, to “diversify your investments” by putting them in mutual funds, bonds, and publicly-traded companies. What we need are local investments that are either super-secure, or where the risk can be spread over many different enterprises and investors.

Focusing attention on the local economy is one of the central tenets of “financial permaculture,” a movement that is growing out of the tradition of permaculture derived from the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Tasmania in the 1970s.

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A Common Framework for Global Change?

November 26th, 2012

On several other sites I’ve posted articles calling for the development of a “Common Framework” for global change, the kind of change that we really can believe in, and can work to bring about ourselves regardless of who’s in Washington.

(You can find the original article here: Demanding Change, and the experimental work on the new economy here: Altonomy.com. I welcome your thoughts and comments.)

This idea grew out of thinking about the development of a “Common Currency” and a “Common Currency Exchange” (and coincidentally trying to find a way to unite and evolve the energies of the Occupy Movement). What if we had a way to convert local and alternative currencies to each other and to the established national currencies of the mainstream world? What if we had a way to establish and provide abstract value that did not depend on control by the wealthy, but was in fact engineered to produce “the greatest benefit for the greatest number”? Wouldn’t people want to migrate to it?

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Latest Thoughts and Interests

November 5th, 2012

Here’s a link to my article for the EuroCharity Yearbook 2011 (which actually appeared in August of 2012, and was presented to the European Parliament on October 29, 2012): Leading the Change to a Sustainable Future (2011).

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One of the consequences of having so many projects is that most of my work is now elsewhere, and I don’t have time to update this “vanity” site on a regular basis. (Who needs a vanity site anyway, if the real goal is getting things done?). But it’s probably still worth listing some of these things out here, if only for my own interest. And this is where I turn when I’m not sure where an item or an article belongs.

Take the Dead River Journal, for example. My last post there is A Common Framework for Global Change? — from around this time last year. I started something on going after the Tea Party crazies, like the one I ran into at a clean energy seminar in Old Bridge, but couldn’t see the need to actually publish it.

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The Sustainability Movement in 2011, Part 3

January 26th, 2011

This little survey of the state of the sustainability movement going into 2011 would not be complete without looking further at policy and practice in a number of increasingly problematic areas, from water, to energy, to agricultural runoff, to education, and so on. As always, the rhetoric far outpaces the reality. But it’s important to know where each of these are, so we know where we’re starting, and what we need to move forward.

Despite the failure of climate change legislation to pass the Senate and become law, the Obama administration remains clear that the problem is an urgent one. In a speech on September 20, 2010, Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter led off the “Sustainability Education Summit” with the following:

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State of the Sustainability Movement 2011, Part 2

December 20th, 2010

As soon as I wrote the original post, of course, I started discovering new signs of our times that are not adequately reflected in my earlier assessment. Let’s consider a few examples, and see what conclusions we can draw about where we are in the process, and where we might be going from here.

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State of the Sustainability Movement 2011 (Part 1)

December 19th, 2010

In the Spring 1990 issue of In Context — which described itself as “A Quarterly Journal of Humane Sustainable Culture” — Robert Gilman described the state of the sustainability movement in his time, and I thought it would be interesting to review this and reflect on where we are today. (See “Sustainability: The State Of The Movement,” in Sustainability (IC#25), Spring 1990, Page 10.)

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New Public Policy Contribution

August 27th, 2010

In collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Fairleigh Dickinson University, I have recently contributed to a new public policy initiative, to develop a sustainable growth strategy for New Jersey (many parts of which apply equally well elsewhere).

Download a copy of the paper here: NJSustainableEconomicStrategy23Aug2010b. If you have any comments, or want to to reference this in your own work, please email jcloud@jonathancloud.com.

How to Survive—and even Thrive—in this Recession

March 30th, 2010

Things are looking bleak in many parts of the world. Even some of the wealthiest parts are experiencing the consequences of the severity and persistence of the downturn. The chances of a further significant decline, both in the market and in the real economy, are now perhaps 50-50. According to some estimates, up to one-fourth of all commercial properties are in trouble; and 1 in 5 homes remains in danger of foreclosure. The effects of the stimulus program, weak at best, are now being offset by sharp declines in state and local government spending. The need for new economic policies is obvious, and yet such policies are not forthcoming.

In New Jersey, Governor Christie has taken an axe to the state budget, apparently with the approval of many voters; but he has not followed through on his commitment to stimulate the economy at the same time. On the contrary, he is looking to seize funds from the Clean Energy Program (which are ratepayer contributions, not tax revenues), which will cripple that fledgling industry; when he promised during his campaign to support renewable energy as the future engine of NJ’s economy. Is it possible to do both at the same time?

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