On this Earth Day 2017 I hope all of you take some time today to get outside and enjoy and appreciate our beautiful planet.
I’ll be celebrating here at the New Economy & Social Innovation Forum in Malaga Spain. We’ve had an incredible event so far and I am truly inspired by all the positive developments, energy and deep commitments to really positive change. Here is a recent article about why I think the event is so important just now in these challenging political times.
And in honor of Earth Day here are a few pieces of good news (that you rarely hear about in the news) about what’s happening on our lovely blue planet.
Vegetation cover globally has actually increased since 2003 due to the natural regrowth of savannahs in Australia and Africa and forests in Russia, and also large-scale reforestation programs in China.
Clean energy is growing at a record pace. Last year the U.S. added 11 Hoover Dams worth of renewable energy and the world broke records for solar and wind installations.
Electric vehicles soared past 1 million in 2015 and are on-pace to reach 20 million by 2020.
As you read this a Conservation Optimism summit is taking place in London where environmentalists and wildlife biologists are sharing the many conservation, restoration and species recovery successes going on right now on the planet
Today I celebrate this gorgeous blue planet and the incredible diversity of life she supports. I also celebrate the successes we environmentalists, eco-entrepreneurs, scientists and advocates are having in protecting her.
Our belief systems are one of the most powerful forces in existence. As history has shown this is true whether or not those beliefs are accurate. Inaccurate but firmly held beliefs fuel racism, sexism, Nazism and genocide.
One of the most dangerous, self-destructive beliefs alive and well in America and beyond is that protecting the environment damages the economy. Environmental regulations are said to cost too much, slow economic growth, hurt businesses, cost jobs and give other less-environmentally sound countries a competitive advantage.
The belief that environmental protections harm our economy is at the heart of the Trump Administration’s economic growth approach. Trump’s team is rolling back environmental protections from slashing clean air and water programs to allowing dumping of coal mining waste into rivers to loosening the environmental and human health regulations related to fracking. Their reasoning is that these types of environmental protections are harming the U.S. economy.
That reasoning is not supported by factual evidence. First, the costs of environmental regulations are not as high as right-wing pundits claim. Second the costs of lack of regulation aren’t factored into the total costs equation. Third, environmental programs and clean economy sectors produce jobs and economic activity in and of themselves.
So what do environmental protection and regulation programs actually cost? A common drumbeat in the political discourse is the need to shrink the size and cost of government. If that is the goal, dismantling or slashing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is the current strategy of the Trump administration, isn’t going to work.
Here’s why. According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the total U.S. federal budget for 2015 was approximately $3.8 trillion. $2.45 trillion of that was in the category known as mandatory spending which is comprised primarily of entitlement programs including Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits. $1.11 trillion of the total budget was allotted to discretionary spending which includes the military, food and agriculture, another chunk of veterans’ benefits programs, another chunk of Medicare, all general government administration costs and the energy and environmental regulation programs.
In sum, Social Security, Medicare, military expenditures and veterans’ benefits account for three quarters of the total federal budget. Payment on national debt is another 10%. That means everything else – education, transportation, science and space, housing, energy and environmental programs make up about 20% of the total budget. Energy and environmental protection programs account for less than 5% of total governmental costs. To make a direct comparison, the total annual EPA budget is approximately $8 billion. The budget for military and veterans’ benefits is approximately $758 billion. In fact, the EPA accounts for less than 1% of total federal spending. And yet, the Trump administration is planning to add approximately $50 billion to military by slashing the EPA. That math doesn’t work.
The other piece of the argument that environmental protections harm the economy is the belief that such regulations are so burdensome they drive businesses to failure. There isn’t a lot of research on the economic impacts (bad or good) of environmental regulation. The research that does exist doesn’t support the argument that regulations are a significant cause of industry failure.
Consider the coal industry. Anti-regulation proponents wail that clean air and water protections are to blame for the huge downturn in the coal industry. That’s just not true. The coal industry is falling victim to market forces including the unexpected influx of cheap natural gas from fracking and the rapidly dropping costs of renewable energy options. Sources including the New York Times, Time, and Reutersall document the market conditions that are the real culprits in coal’s demise. Recently, at a rally in coal country Trump promised to, “turn the EPA from a job killer into a job creator.” That same day Dayton Power & Light announced plans to close two of its coal-fired plants by next June, stating that “without significant changes in market conditions,” the plants would not be economically viable beyond 2018.
Consider also the automobile industry. General Motors didn’t tank because of regulation. It tanked in large part because Japanese automakers perfected smaller, more highly fuel-efficient cars to meet customer demand and GM failed to follow suit. This was coupled with the crippling costs of the ridiculously expensive U.S. health care system and GM’s contractual agreements to provide health care to employees. Foreign automakers do not deal with the burden of such expensive private health care costs. Whether or not you agree with the Obama Administration’s bail out of GM (and Chrysler) it worked and the companies are now going strong. It’s rarely pointed out that right in the midst of the bail out the government mandated significant increases in vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. Obviously those regulations weren’t too burdensome. Possibly, they contributed to the kind of innovation necessary for GM to redesign itself.
Now, Trump’s team has rolled back the most recent required increases in fuel-efficiency standards. This will add more profits to Big Oil but it likely won’t strengthen the U.S. automobile industry. The rest of the world is moving ahead with increasing efficiency and a burgeoning electric vehicle market. Failing to match these innovations will just make U.S. auto companies stagnant again.
So, there’s little evidence to suggest environmental regulations hammer the economy. Meanwhile there is strong evidence showing lack of regulation can be extremely costly, right now in the near-term. According to EarthJustice, despite significant progress in addressing the air and water pollution issues, air pollution still kills 1 in 20 Americans and more than 4 million women of childbearing age are exposed to levels of mercury that can harm fetal brain development. There is substantial evidence that growing asthma numbers, especially in children, are linked to toxins and particulate emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The health and human suffering concerns are clear but the direct economic costs have been less so. However, the Washington Post recently reported several new studies assessing the direct economic costs of pollution caused by energy production in the United States. In the year 2011 alone, those costs amounted to a staggering $131 billion. That’s a big number but it’s also a sign of progress because in 2002 those costs were even higher at $175 billion. During that decade the U.S. certainly didn’t consume or produce less energy, but there was a decrease in the amount of pollution associated with energy production. Regulations and pollution abatement technologies have been working.
EarthJustice notes that, according to the OMB, the benefits of all major environmental rules over the past 10 years have outweighed the costs by at least 2 to 1 and in some cases as high as 14 to 1. As high as these returns on investment are they cover only health care savings. If costs of environmental clean up efforts were factored in the benefit to cost ration would be even higher.
The third piece of the regulatory cost-benefit equation typically overlooked by anti-regulation proponents is that environmental protection and regulation programs are jobs generators in and of themselves.
A recent study by the OMB estimated that an EPA-mandated clean up of the Chesapeake Bay, which is on the chopping block under the proposed Trump budget, is “anticipated to create 35 times as many jobs as the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline”, and “jobs in the coal industry actually increased by 10 percent after the EPA cracked down on mountaintop-removal mining in 2009” since more workers were required to do the extraction. Pollution abatement and control products and construction and environmental restoration projects create jobs.
In Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pinchon noted, “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” The question is not whether we should and can grow jobs – the question is what kind of jobs do we want to grow? And perhaps the most important question of all is, do we really believe we can have a thriving economy on a decimated, depleted planet? At the end of the day the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment that sustains us. To believe and act differently is not rational, but ideological.
There is no question we are living in turbulent times. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump change is afoot and a whole lot of it is unsettling. Although this brings additional uncertainty for socially conscious entrepreneurs it also provides new opportunities to exercise important leadership.
As old systems rumble and shift, there will be increased opportunities for innovation and new life to push up through the cracks. Identifying and developing those opportunities is the purpose of the New Economy for Social Innovation (NESI) Forum taking place in late April in Spain.
NESI is bringing together nearly a thousand business, government and thought leaders from all over the world to think through and work to lay the foundations of a new economy, one specifically designed to serve the common good.
Such an economy would be in stark contrast to our current situation. Katherine Trebeck, who will be a speaker at the NESI conference, outlines the flaws in the current model in a recent article. She notes:
Eight men control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, while 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry and others see their living standards stagnate. As the richest 10 percent of people create almost 50 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, we are facing the sixth mass extinction and dangerous climate change.These statistics illustrate the profound unfairness generated by economic systems geared up to increase GDP and by those businesses that are geared up to maximize short-term returns to shareholders.
Also called “the Davos of the new economy”, the NESI Forum will focus on key topics such as moving beyond a limitless growth economy, reshaping banking and finance, conscious consumption, philanthropy in the new economy, democratizing energy and the role of media and social media in the new economy.
With many major governmental institutions and policies in serious flux there has never been a better time for social and eco-entrepreneurs to step out of their everyday work routines and into serious leadership. Besides, given the current political climate couldn’t you use a few days spent with totally positive, forward-looking entrepreneurs and new economy advocates who are stepping outside of fear and status quo and getting real about designing the future?
Consider the current instability from the perspective of a caterpillar. During its incredible transformation and evolution, while in the cocoon, as the caterpillar’s body begins to break down it starts to produce what are called “imaginal cells”. These cells are so foreign the worm’s immune system attacks them. That kills some of the imaginal cells but it also increases the overall disintegration of the status quo caterpillar body. Despite the resistance the imaginal cells keep coming and at the point of maximum disintegration and upheaval of the caterpillar body the new cells begin clumping together and eventually realize they’re now a butterfly!
The purpose of the NESI forum is to bring together new economy imaginal cells so that we can find our wings.
Today is International Happiness Day. Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. In 2015 the UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet – three key aspects that lead to wellbeing and happiness.
This has me thinking about the work I’ve done in Bhutan regarding their Gross National Happiness Index. Bhutan is one of the world’s newest democracies and it is running a really important experiment. Instead of just measuring economic success based on overall growth and the size of the economy (e.g. Gross Domestic Product), Bhutan is being much more intentional and considering what kind of growth it wants. Of course they are working to grow jobs and income, but not at the cost of destroying their culture and natural environment.
Some cynics scoff at the idea and brush it off as quaint and trivial, but that is a mistake. The Gross National Happiness Index is actually a robust set of metrics that are used to make real world economic and societal decisions. Governmental infrastructure and budget decisions are run through four overarching criteria:
Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
Preservation and promotion of culture
The values of wellbeing, environmental protection, and cultural promotion are imbedded into early learning programs and schools as well as governmental processes. For example, I was amazed when I learned that young children in schools in Bhutan do a regular mindfulness practice. The teachers help them to get quiet and meditative for a few minutes each day. They call it “Mental Flossing” as in the mental hygeine equivalent of dental flossing. In other words getting yucky stuff out of our minds is just as important as getting yucky stuff out of our mouths!
In a fun twist this year the Smurfs teemed up with the U.N. to put their blue enthusiasm into International Happiness Day. Here is a Smurfy video about it.
I am delighted that there will be several representatives for the Gross National Happiness Center in Bhutan at the New Economy for Social Innovation Forum that I will be speaking at in Spain next month. And I just learned that at the forum there will be an unveiling of a new GNH Center for Spain and Latin America. Outstanding!
Here’s to spreading a little more happiness in our world today and all days.
Most of us have cut our teeth and careers on the notion of business competition, survival of the fittest and dog eating dog. Turns out that’s very narrow view.
More and more companies and social entrepreneurs are moving toward collaborative, mutually-supportive, network-building business models.
Premium Cola is just one of myriad examples of successful businesses that are taking a more collaborative, ecosystem approach. Details can be found here.
Collaborative economies and business models is just one of the exciting New Economy trends and possibilities that will be explored at the upcoming New Economy for Social Innovation (NESI) Forum. 3EStrategies’ CEO, Cylvia Hayes, will be a speaker and media partner at the NESI forum.
We would love to hear about your collaborative business experiences and examples.
I’m struggling. And I know I’m not alone. As a person who likes, and works at, being informed on the major issues facing our country, I am having a really hard time knowing what to believe from the news we are getting. I’ve heard this same concern from so many people – Trump supporters and definitely not Trump supporters alike.
I know from first-hand experience that for-profit, corporate media outlets are not objective and “Breaking News”, which is intentionally designed to trigger us emotionally, is rarely purely factual reporting. And yet, bad as these news outlets can be, they’re still not the true “fake news” sources that have been created to undermine our democracy and make a lot of money generating clicks by coming across as real news with a totally made up claim imbedded in the story. And now, on top of all of that, we have a White House team that has been the source of major false reports – from the significantly wrong and repeated statement that there had been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green (never happened) to the less significant but still blatantly false claim that Trump had won more electoral college votes than any president in recent history (not true).
As people who want to be informed and engaged one of our biggest challenges just now is staying genuinely informed without getting sucked down the vortex of sensationalized, crazy-making media coverage. Here are a few tips for staying informed and somewhat sane in the process.
1) Limit your fixes and fixations
Take the news in doses. It’s something of a universal principle that what we focus on expands. For example Trump’s “War on the Media” has actually driven up cable news ratings. Most importantly, be very wary of “Breaking News”. I mean, really, don’t we all have something better to do until the actual facts surface?
2) Educate yourself about biases
Network news like ABC, NBC and CBS are not usually terribly biased in their reporting. However cable news like CNN, FOX and MSNBC have very definite liberal or conservative slants. Watching FOX and MSNBC is like seeing the same events but from two different planets.
Research shows that the majority of news-watching Americans only watch the stations that align with their pre-existing beliefs. This just increases ideological and political polarization, lack of understanding and empathy and our culture of “othering”. It’s important, even if uncomfortable, to make a conscious effort to get out of our own echo chambers and listen to different perspectives.
3) Pay attention to independent news sources – Since bias and spin is currently rampant in mainstream for-profit media outlets, independent, public and subscriber supported news outlets are more important than ever before. Some of my favorites and most trusted include NPR, BBC, Reuters, Nation, Guardian and The Week.
4) Remember the Purpose of “News”
I think this one is really important and really helpful. News after all is about pointing out the unusual, the “newsworthy”. Everyday goings on are not usually deemed newsworthy. This means the news is sensationalized and all about “If it bleeds it leads” shock value.
The truth is there are massive positive, beautiful, loving developments going on in our country and world. But those everyday “mundane” stories are rarely given any airtime because they do not count as newsworthy.
If you really think about this it means under the current corporate media model we should be really concerned if they start covering only positive stuff, because that would mean the positive stuff was unusual!
Just think about how many good things you’ve done that never received any media coverage? And if you really can’t think of anything you should consider therapy! Seriously, what’s your typical daily experience? Is it the ugliness we see on TV or is it mostly kind, positive (or at least benign) interactions with other people?
I think it’s really important to balance out staying informed about challenging issues, politics, catastrophes and tragedies with a healthy dose of positive news. Some of my favorite sources include Positive News, Yes! Magazine and NBC Nightly News’ Inspiring America segments.
5) Unplug and actually connect
Resist the temptation of the 24 hour news cycle and ceaseless social media. Go outside, take a hike, play with the dog and don’t take a screened device with you! Hang out with positive people. Volunteer in your community. Helping others is such good food for the soul.
These are some strategies for staying well-informed and sane! I hope they’re helpful because we need all the well-informed and healthy citizens we can get right now.
How’s this economy working for you? What’s the economy for anyway?
These are hugely important questions — and I’d LOVE to hear your answers!
My mission for my entire adult life has been to do whatever I can to help us move toward an economy that heals and takes care of the planet and one another.
So I am thrilled to be part of the upcoming New Economy for Social Innovation forum (NESI), which brings together the main actors of change and opinion leaders to think, and work to lay the foundations of a new economy – more sustainable, social, based on values and aimed at the common good. It will gather 900 speakers, opinion leaders and change-makers from all over the world in Malaga, Spain, on 19th-22th April, 2016.
Over years of work on green jobs trends, policies and development strategies we’ve collected a fair bit of info on green and environmental jobs’ boards. I thought I’d pass this along to those of you who might be looking to find work healing the planet! After all, we need all hands on deck right now for our lovely ol’ Earth.
Here are some useful Green Jobs’ boards:
http://www.sustainablebusiness.com. For this site click Green Dream Jobs on top navigation bar. They have a really good mix of jobs from solar installers to advocacy positions.
http://www.conservationjobboard.com. This is a really interesting site for jobs all over the world directly related to environmental conservation. For example, I once saw a posting for Director of Sloths! No, they weren’t talking about directing a bunch of lazy co-workers!
And the B Lab jobs Board is also very useful. It includes jobs with registered B Corporations. Note you need to scroll to the bottom of the page and find the jobs board link.
It’s worth noting that several of these jobs boards provide free regular email notices of new and current job listings.
Another great environmental and green jobs resource is the Green Jobs Network group on Linked In.
That’s about it for now. I’d love to hear if you have feedback on any of these sites or if you have information on other green jobs’ listing resources. We’ll keep building and sharing this resource list.
Thanks so much!
Love this post? Please share on Facebook and Linked In. Thanks!
I’m conflicted. On the one hand I’m excited about the new year and what may unfold. On the other I dread the fact that in just a couple of weeks Donald Trump will take the helm of our nation.
In the weeks that followed the election I participated in numerous strategy calls and webinars with fellow travelers in the clean energy, climate action and sustainability fields as our movement tried to grapple with what had happened. There is such a sense of loss, a feeling that just as we had really begun making progress on climate action, the rug has been yanked out from under us. Yeah, it hurts.
But along with our pain, anger and fear there is also strong resolve. And that’s not surprising. Our movement isn’t made up of quitters. We’ve been pushing boulders uphill against heavy opposition for decades. We’ve made real progress and in the process we’ve built strong Resiliency Muscles.
There’s no question we’re headed into a time of uncertainty and potential danger ….. but this is no time to duck for cover and hunker down. This is the time to flex our Resiliency Muscles to turn Trump-trauma into opportunities.
Here are some opportunities I see in the New Year and new political reality:
Grow and Unify Our Movement:
In the twenty years I’ve been doing this work I have never seen such solidarity between environmentalists, progressive business owners, racial injustice activists, low-income advocates and faith leaders from all walks. The U.S. sustainability movement has always been less influential than it could be because the various segments have not integrated. In contrast, in Europe, environmental and social justice advocates have been much more aligned and the results have been stronger.
Now, faced with the most blatantly anti-environment, pro-big oil, racist, elitist president and administration in modern history, the opportunity (and call) is to bring our progressive movement together and become more powerful than the sum of our individuated parts.
Clear out Anesthetizing Illusions
One thing this election clearly showed us is that huge numbers of Americans are tired of status quo politics. Trump’s win and the massive movement that Bernie Sanders built are both evidence of the desire for deep change. That’s a good thing. We need it. To be blunt, our entrenched two-party system is failing us and it is illusion to believe the solution is just to return to Democratic Party establishment, pro-corporation status quo.
We are living under an economic system that is wiping out wildlife, strip-mining our oceans, and saturating our atmosphere with pollutants that are super-heating the planet with catastrophic effect all the while hugely increasing income inequality. The Big-Oil, Wall Street driven policy ideas put forward by the Trump administration aren’t going to address these challenges but neither would the Democratic Party’s corporate-friendly policies. The opportunity before us is to
nurture the seeds of real change that began to germinate in 2016.
Reinvent Our Relationship with Media
If there’s one thing I agree with Trump on it’s that the current mainstream media model is dishonest and ineffective. I would go further and say it’s destructive, both to individual lives and to democracy. I have seen this first hand when I and my fiancé, the Governor of Oregon, were targeted by agenda-driven, sensationalist media assault.
Corporate media’s business model relies on triggering our emotions to get us to watch and click on things on their websites. As I’ve written about numerous times, “Breaking News” is not really news, it’s infotainment, whether you’re watching FOX or MSNBC. This is a media business model in which traffic-trumps-ethics and accuracy.
Do I think a Twitterin’ Chief is a healthy alternative? No! But one of the most important actions we can take as sustainability professionals, activists and people who care about the future we’re leaving to our children is to be very disciplined in where and how we interact with media. We must question all “news” we are being fed and more than ever before we must support independent journalism. Some of the sources I find most credible and useful include:
BBC, PBS and NPR
Another aspect of being media savvy is to get out of our own echo chambers and see what other echo chambers are talking about. Every so often I dial in to FOX news or Patriot radio. Does it often make my blood boil? Yes. But here’s the deal. Most progressives missed the mark with this election. Most just scoffed at Trump. I didn’t. Given what I knew other echo chambers were focused on I knew he was going to hit a nerve and I knew he was going to be able to manipulate the sensationalist corporate media industry. Making real change isn’t for wimps. It’s time to suck it up and step outside of our comfort zones and personal bubbles.
Let Your Values Shine and Sell!
It’s almost certain that we are entering an era in which the federal government will severely weaken environmental protections and sustainability policies. And yet, poll after poll shows that a large majority of Americans favor strong action to protect the environment and address climate change. In addition, global consumer demand for sustainable and socially conscious products continues to grow at a rapid clip.
This is a critical time for social/eco entrepreneurs to lead, to take a stand and set an example. It’s a chance for companies committed to the common good to provide critical leadership to protect our planet and our children. And it’s a huge opportunity to distinguish ourselves and grow customers and loyalty as we decide to hold the High Watch and adhere to higher standards in these tumultuous times.
In addition to reducing our environmental footprint, social/eco entrepreneurs can also help reduce hate and “othering”. The Mainstreet Alliance has produced a wonderful “Hate Has No Business Here” poster, available for free download, for businesses that want to express their support and acceptance of people with diverse ethnicities, faith paths and sexual preferences. 3EStrategies proudly displays the poster on our front door and I am seeing them all over the place now.
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First — Then Help Others with Theirs
It’s likely to be a bumpy ride for our nation and the environmental and sustainability movements in particular. It will be important to take good care of ourselves, and one another, in the months ahead.
Establish/ Prioritize an “Inner Life Workout Program”. I have found that there is never a better time to prioritize our spiritual practices and inner work than when things are really challenging in the outer aspects of our lives. In fact, this inner work is essential to developing really strong Resiliency Muscles. Whatever this means for you – meditation, prayer, church, study – it will be important to carve regular time for it even as things happening around us feel urgent and uncertain.
Prioritize time in Nature. I hear so often from people (including me!) who are fully engaged trying to protect the environment that they rarely make time to get out into it. There are few things more restorative.
Celebrate successes. When we’re working toward big changes to big systems it’s easy to always be pushing for more without taking a moment to celebrate the victories along the way. However, celebrating those stepping stone victories builds momentum for the movement and staves off burn-out for each of us.
Gather with, support and offer kindness to fellow travelers. This will be a time to shore ourselves up by getting together with people who share our loves and hurts about what is happening to our planet. Toward that end, 3EStrategies will be offering programs over this coming year to provide healing, coping and inspiration tools to environmentalists and social/eco entrepreneurs (more to come).
Remember how big and powerful our movement really is. The movement toward clean energy and climate action is now hugely global. It is going to keep rolling no matter what the U.S. government does. And not only is demand for socially-responsible products on the rise, recent polls suggest that a majority of global online consumers say they are willing to pay a bit more for those types of products and business practices.
Finally, be sure to maintain hope and humor. Remember the words of Captain Dylan Hunt, a post-apocalyptic character created by Gene Roddenberry, “Pessimism is not a survival trait.” A little levity is going to be key as we move forward together, going boldly where no one has gone before.
Here’s to hoping for positively surprising outcomes in this New Year!