midterm elections














The 2014 midterm election will take place on Tuesday, November 4th.  Historically, midterm elections do not attract as many voters as presidential elections.  However, there are many issues at stake, particularly on the state and local levels, that affect our daily lives, often more than national issues.  Maybe you have decided not to vote in the midterm election, or perhaps, you think you have figured out how you are going to vote.  Here are some observations and final thoughts, which may get you out to the polls or may make you ponder your choices further.

Green issues and sustainability are front and center.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about these midterm campaigns is the emphasis on green issues and sustainability.  Energy, the environment and climate control are front and center this election cycle.  So this is a special election for proponents of green living and sustainability.  Although supporters of the environment and healthy living have never required the validation by anyone or any organization, including major political parties or elected officials, to “do the right thing” to protect our planet, the fact that these issues now are central in the dialogue on government agenda, indicates a realization of the need to formally address concerns with pollution and depletion of natural resources.  As such, we owe it to ourselves and the planet to get out and vote.

Additionally, it is important to note the cost of indifference at the ballot box.[1]  If you listen carefully, much of the conversation and debate on green issues is coming from special interest groups.  Not all proposals are good for the environment overall.  Some proposed legislation needs to be rejected.  When evaluating these issues, do not rely on commercials– 30-second sound bites that do not tell the whole story.  For instance, in campaigns that promise to cut taxes, one message does not fit all situations.  Some things are worth paying for, namely education, clean water and good roads for starters.

Construction vs. Destruction.

Many people decide not to vote in midterm elections because the political climate often becomes so toxic, complete with name-calling, spreading false information and labeling, that voters become so frustrated with the process, they often disengage.  Consider this instead.  Rather than tuning out, get engaged.  Look carefully at the issues involved.  The important thing to take away from this conversation is that the goal of electing someone for a political office should never be about destruction of any laws or conditions solely for political purposes.  Rather, it should be about building something for the improvement of society.  Beware of messages from politicians that only want to tear down something with nothing better to replace it or those who are so heavily funded by special interest groups that they are unwilling to consider any collaborative efforts to address issues.  For example, why can’t solar, electric and fossil fuel energy coexist with continuing research efforts to improve the efficiency of each type of energy?

Reject the restrictions of labels.

Peel back the labels.  No one political party can totally address the issues at hand.  Rather, collaboration will work better to get the job done.  Identify the issues important to you as a citizen and vote for the candidate that you think will do the best job, regardless of party affiliation.  Also, take a look at any independent candidates.  You may be presently surprised to see people willing to commit to issues when they are not bound by party affiliations.  It is often said that “past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.”  To that end, rather than listening to what any politician is saying to get elected, it may be best to check that individual’s record.  A great source to review the voting record of any politician can be found here.

Political Parties Crossroads Sign Democrat and Republican















Don’t let the race be given autommatically to the rich.

Face it.  We live in a time when the often the winners of political races are the ones with the most money.  Everyday we hear about how much money a candidate has in his campaign chest.  These individuals are able to bombard the airwaves with their messages and drown out the underfunded candidates, who often are more suitable people to represent the general population because they are not beholding to special interest groups.  A major step in promoting sustainability and healthy living is to reject this mentality, beginning with the realization that these commercials and advertisements most often lack full and truthful disclosure.  So many large companies tout sustainability but are abysmal failures at it, all in the name of the bottom line.[2]  It is important to research candidates to see who are backing them.  Vote with a conscious and not just along money lines.

Keep state and local initiatives close to heart.

It is safe to say that we all want safe communities, good schools, clean and efficient transportation and green space for recreation and relaxation.  Look to local and state initiatives to achieve these things, often through bond issues at the ballot box.  Whether you or for or against the legalization of marijuana, expect that to show up now or sometime soon at an election.  Perhaps there is a rogue delegate or state senator in your district, recall ballots are the way to get rid of them.






















If you sit down and seriously think about it, there are more reasons to vote than to not vote.  We hope that you will engage the political process and use your vote for change this election, particularly to address the environmental, energy and green issues plaguing our planet.  To do so is to live green, be green.


[1]  http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/01/politics-midterm-elections-president-obama-congress-editorials-debates/14942079/
[2]  http://www.businessinsider.com/the-15-worst-companies-for-the-environment-2009-9?op=1

flags-ukraine-eu-russia-conflict-european-union-35666814A greener Europe can Undermine an ambitious Russia.  As the world watches the situation in Ukraine unfold with trepidation, the pageantry of the Olympics seems a world and a life time away (despite only being less than five hundred miles and several weeks apart). The conflict in Ukraine is playing out as a determination of spheres of influences; the EU and the United States seek to bring Ukraine into the western sphere of influence and Russia sees Ukraine as naturally being part of their influence. As such, both the EU and Russia offered Ukraine bailout deals, with the favoring of the Russian deal being the catalyst for the revolution. As of March 2nd, the crisis developing in Ukraine has led to the G-7 members pulling out of the G-8 summit, which is to take place in Sochi, in June. [1] However, some members were originally reluctant to go so far, with Canada and the U.S. leading the charge for the summit withdrawal. As of the moment that I am writing this, the US is bluntly stating that it will be moving forward with sanctions as a near certainty, while EU countries are scheduling a meeting for Thursday to consider targeted measures against Russia. [2] Where Russian resolves seems solid, Western resolves seems to be fractures by the Atlantic. What is the cause of this divide amongst G-7 and mostly NATO members? The divide is the bridge between the two spheres of influence: money and energy; the fossil fuels that Russia supplies Europe with and the desperately needed money Russia receives. This is a bridge that Europe has been seeking to dismantle and must is they want to truly counter Russian expansion of their sphere of influence.

As it stands here are the important notes the public needs to know to move the discussion forward.

  • Gazprom, which the Russian govt. has a 50.1% majority stake in, is the largest extractor of natural gas in the world. It produces over 80% of all Russian natural gas, accounting for 8% of Russian GDP in 2011.[3]
  • On three separate occasions Gazprom has stopped delivery of gas over payment disputes, twice with Ukraine and once with Belarus.
  • The deal deposed Pres. Yanukovich agreed to with Russia slashed natural gas prices by a third. Taken into account with the previous delivery disputes it is evident that Russia is willing to use natural to buy/demand political loyalty.
  • The E.U. is the largest energy market in the world. Currently, the EU imports approximately 65% of its energy; Russia being the largest exporter to the EU, providing 22% of EU imports.[4]
  • The Russian economy is slowing down; Growth, which was 5.1% in 2011, slowed to near 1% in 2013, and with projected growth remaining below 2% till 2016 at least. [5]


As Russia seeks to project itself back into prominence, while undermining democratic governments abroad, and squelching human right at home, the E.U. must, and has the ability to,  sweep the rug out from under them. Europe must stand united against Russia in this and show them that gas and oil are not solid ground to stand upon. Being dependent on autocratic regimes for energy needs undermines the liberal democratic foundations of the E.U. (as well as the United States).

What we end up having is a side track of dependency theory. Dependency theory has many different definitions depending on who is speaking about it, but a general definition is that, “[Dependency is]…an historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favors some countries to the detriment of others and limits the development possibilities of the subordinate economics…a situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected.”[6] However, we now have to take it a step further. The theory originally dealt with explaining the continued poverty of developing countries and showing how a dependency on industrialized nations, who would condition their economies to only export raw materials, led to this continued poverty. Now we are dealing with the conditioning of foreign policies. Energy independence and dependence carry a great deal of weight, particularly when a large portion of your energy import demands are met by a state-owned monopoly. Fear over secure gas and oil supply fills many nations with trepidations over the thought of outright challenging and responding to Russian aggression, as previously evidenced by the divide between reactions by the U.S./Canada and E.U. To be able to safely counter Russia’s anti-democratic policies Europe can no longer be dependent on Russia for their energy needs. As such, Europe needs to meet its energy demand with internal energy production.

Europe cannot fall back on its own gas production, as it has steadily been in decline. While liquid natural gas is another option, it is not truly available in the near-term. Europe does not have a properly integrated energy market nor does it have substantial LNG import capacity. Developing both would be a costly measure, with a long implementation deadline.[7]Where then is Europe to look? To the skies and the fields and to the progress it has made in the last decade.

The 2009 Renewable Directive set binding targets for all E.U. member states: the EU will reach a 20% share of energy from renewable sources by 2020 and a 10% share of renewable energy specifically in the transport sector.  By 2011 the E.U. was seeing 12.4% of its energy production come from renewable sources, with certain countries greatly outpacing the 20% target. The time has never been riper for Europe to determine a proper strategy to become more energy independent.  The E.U. is already ahead of its own schedule with regards to cutting carbon emissions; the goal set in 2007 was to get carbon emissions to 20% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. As of 2011 emissions were already 17.6% lower than the levels recorded in 1990.[8] What is required for Europe to strive forward is a bold plan, led by bold leadership. However, as the financial crisis has shown, no one is willing to carry this mantle. Instead, we find a divided Europe, with Germany being the practical leader, but refusing. Therefore, the key to any continent wide green energy plan that will lead to substantial change is Germany.


Such a forum is about to take place. In late January, the European Commission presented a framework for 2030. The intention of the framework is to seize upon the success of the 2020 targets and carry that momentum forward at a greater pace. As it stands, the framework aims to cut greenhouse emissions by 40% below the 1990 level by 2030 and to increase the share of renewable energy in EU consumption to 27%.[9] However, this framework was written in the shadow of a standing down in tensions in Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine and the virtual Russian annexation of Crimea have changed the relationship between Europe and Russia. How is Europe, particularly Germany, to respond in a proper manner when, “Russia is a major supplier of oil to Germany and the Netherlands in particular ‘and of natural gas to Western Europe generally’”?[10] The framework will be up for further debate at the spring meeting of the European Council. The differences in the situation from January to March are stark. The upcoming debate, which will likely not mean legislative action till 2015, is shadowed by the debate regarding green energy subsidies taking place in Germany; the ruling coalition is seeking to curve green energy subsidies.[11] However, Europe’s recent history should give the ruling coalition pause. As the Great Recession showed, regardless of where blame may actually lie, the health of the economy can slay even the most resolute government. As such, economic growth and security has taken precedence in many ways. This is not to say foreign policy has taken a backseat, as it is hard to dislodge from the forefront in a globalized world. The question Europe needs to be asking itself is: is it wise to have your economic footing being shored up by a country that is deliberately and consistently trying to undermine your liberal-democratic values in its own country and on your doorstep? How long will they allow you to stand in defiance, before they pull the rug to get you to bend a knee?

[1] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/02/g-7-leaders-statement

[2] http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ukraine-russia-c risis-20140303,0,4752010.story

[3] “Gazprom in figures 2004-2008”. Gazprom. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-02.

[4] http://www.pecob.eu/do-europe-and-russia-depend-on-each-other-for-gas-and-money-respectively

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/business-26418664

[6] https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/depend.htm

[7] https://csis.org/publication/russia-eu-gas-relationship-partnership-necessity

[8] http://library.fes.de/pdfp. -files/id/ipa/10060.pdf

[9] http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/2030/index_en.htm

[10] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/does-russian-oil-trump-possible-european-sanctions/

[11] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304632204579336220103661350

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Most viewers of the 2014 State of the Union address, delivered last night by President Barrack Obama, should be praised for having the wherewithal to persevere through such a sleep-inducing collection of strung together sentences — although, among the mind-numbing were a fair share of surprisingly spritely, humorous notes.

Regardless, for those green enthusiasts out there, hoping to learn more about initiatives in the way of sustainability, clean energy, and alternative fuels, there was relatively little mention of such, and with even less value behind it.  Far from a laughing matter.

View the enhanced speech on demand –which is by far better than the
live broadcast– if you don’t believe me (tune in around the 15:40 mark).

Unfortunately, the most prolific takeaway for such enthusiasts was a regurgitation of the All-Of-The-Above Energy Strategy, originally introduced several years prior.  And let me be clear (pun intended) — by “regurgitation” I don’t mean Mr. Obama repeated himself per se, but I do mean that it was just a simple spewing of what “we” have already accomplished over the past several years’ time.

Some of the facts and statistics used in the accompanying supplemental presentation seem randomly curated and desperately included, almost in some form of a last-ditch attempt to appear arguably progressive.  And be careful not to blink when watching the address, you may miss the just-over-four minutes the Pres took to speak to the notions of this All-Of-The-Above plan.

Nonetheless, a brief recap is in order, to point potential non-viewers in the direction of the few notions splayed upon last nights audiences:

  • America is closer to energy independence today than we have been in decades.  I hope this is self-explanatory.
  • Natural gas is being extracted safely. This was an obvious reference to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, something we have written about in the past and something which environmentalists everywhere denounce.
  • Companies are planning to build new plants that use natural gas.  President Obama made clear the fact that he wants to promote this via tax and other programs for these manufacturers who indeed increasingly move toward natural gas as a replacement means of production (instead of oil).
  • America will continue “strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities,” and “protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations” to come.  By definition, probably the closest we’ve come thus far to targeting sustainability, but still not compelling.  This just seems like some general commentary that could have been used years ago to describe our state, and which seem to be added only because they sound better to the heart than to the mind, once processed.
  • We are becoming a global leader in solar — “every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar.”  This is a great stat, assuming its factually accurate.  Bravo, Mr. President.  And his use was impeccable, directly relating solar’s ongoing push to economic job growth by referencing that men (and women) physically installing pieces of such equipment is not outsource-able.
  • GOAL: continue to invest in fuels of the future.  Check.  This should go unsaid — it’s something that would be done regardless of who is in office, be it oval or congressional.  Next.
  • We can continue to reduce energy we consume. He referenced the new standards for the auto industry, implemented after the bailout, to make vehicles more efficient.  Good example, yes, but we have been there and done that, so where else could this be actionable moving forward?  Another prospective example would have been beautifully refreshing.
  • The US is the leading nation in reducing carbon footprints.  Impressive, but how about we explore how we will maintain that role modeling… right?
  • We need to legislate new standards on the amount of pollution our power plants are permitted to dump into the air.  Air pollution is important, I get it.  And as we’ve seen in places like Mexico City and eastern Chinese cities like Beijing, it can quickly get so out of hand as to realizably affect the day-to-day quality of life for area inhabitants.  The future can only get worse, if not attended to, so let’s hope something of action can become of this verbiage.
  • “The debate is settled: Climate Change Is A Fact!”  Again, self explanatory, but a headline-grabbing quote all enthusiasts can be mildly happy about.

Now, that brief recap above contains literally every point I could imaginably pluck from the whole discussion of ecological sustainability, and most of it spoke solely of vague past accomplishments and emptily bottomless comments surrounding the overall direction we are headed. Personally, as someone truly interested in hearing what particulars could lay on the horizon, I was extremely underwhelmed by the President’s words, or complete lack thereof with respect to true governmental policy.  This could have been a chance for Mr. Obama to openly target specific goals and initiatives on one of the broadest stages possible, to really put the pressure on Congress to do something about the potential headliners — an opportunity blown.

As one US News and World Report describes fairly well, the State of the Union was predicted to be and then turned out to be unsustainable.  The article describes, quite adequately, that sustainability is the focus of making sure our living our lives does not hinder the ability of the generations to come from living theirs.  While the State of the Union contained moments wherein the glimmer of hope for the future verged on addressing some social or economic sustainability, environmental sustainability was not allowed to shine in its full brilliance.  There was clearly insufficient forethought and future initiatives relayed from the President — no true future plans were outlined for environmental policy.

All of this being said, I must concede that it is not all President Obama’s fault, that the entire State of the Union address seemed monotonous and archaically pointless.  In actuality, it is just that, and by inevitability.  The State of the Union was originally put into policy as a way for the President of the United States to relay his views on the current status and future agenda of the country to the US Congress.  This is especially needless in today’s society of technological advancement, what with all the instantaneous newsfeeds at our constant disposal via push notices to our pocket devices.

Overall, Obama’s address was only half-baked, nearly ignoring future sustainability, clean energy, and alternative fuel plans altogether.  But that’s just my opinion.

Got some time to share your opinions?  We’d love to hear them!

When you get the chance, survey the room:

First ask, “what is a bill?”  Among the handful of answers will probably lay something along the lines of “a piece of legislation drafted and proposed to be passed into the law of the land,” although not so eloquently put, I’d imagine.

Then ask the room, “what is the largest copper-producing country in the world?” I’d bet — depending on how large of a room, of course — that the chances of finding someone who correctly replied, “Chile,” would be pretty slim.

Lastly, ask this.  “What is a glacier?”  (The outcome of this question does not even matter because I’ve already arrived at my point, albeit after a needlessly long-winded opening.)

This is precisely the question Chilean governmental officials are currently battling.  Congress there is faced with the dilemma of passing legislation that would ban mining in glacier locales.  That last part is where the legislation undoubtedly becomes questionable.  Where will the fuzzy lines of legal jargon come together to define these areas?  Will it be strictly on the glaciers or surrounding areas as well?  How far will these areas stretch?  Is all frozen land around the glaciers off limits, as well?  As the law currently stands, these surrounding permafrost areas are not covered by the proposed protection, but the details are far from set in stone.

All points aside, this is a serious issue.  Not only do these congressional decisions impact the multibillion-dollar mining industry tremendously, along with the country’s production of Copper and other mining products, but the country’s overall water supply hangs largely in the balance of this debate.  Here’s how LUIS ANDRES HENAO of the Associated Press explains the logic:

Glaciers are important because they act as natural dams, storing water for use throughout the year after the winter snow has melted. Even small glaciers can hold gigantic amounts of water that become critical during warm months and especially in long dry spells.

Chile is no stranger to arid months of drought, especially with its recently trending climate change.  Those who we call environmentalists argue that when these two elements of drought and climate change combine with mining, Chile faces a severe danger of its glaciers completely vanishing, and more quickly than ever before imagined.  CECILIA JAMASMIE wrote of such an instance, wherein a glacier disappeared:

One of the best-documented examples is the 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya glacier in the Bolivian Andes, which disappeared in 2009. Experts had forecasted it would survive until 2015, but it melted faster than expected, leaving what used to be the world’s highest ski run — 17,000 feet above sea level — as a boulder-strewn slope with a few patches of ice near the top.

This may be just as dramatic a picture as our governmental leaders’ current steadfastness in delay tactics and indecision, but this, like our issues, is no laughing matter.  Serious repercussions loom large for mining projects planned for the future, as well as projects already underway.  It’s an increasingly common scenario in today’s day — ecological pressures enforced by environmentalists and economical pressures enforced by big business butt heads yet again, and this time it’s Chile’s congressional interpretation in focus.

Generation Y

Generation Y (Photo credit: علي – ali)

Criticism of the Millennial Generation (Generation Y) by its predecessors appears to be rampant on many fronts.  Generally, young people today have been characterized as lazy, politically apathetic, economically informed and self-consumed.   Upon closer inspection, it appears that the basis of these complaints generally lie in the potential upheaval of business as usual that is on the horizon in terms of  the Millenials’ values on politicseconomicsculture and the environment.  Clearly, the overall values of the Millennials differ significantly from those of the previous generations in many significant ways:

  • They are more charitable.
  • They are more global minded.
  • They are more tolerant of racial, ethnic, political, social and economic differences.
  • They are more informal.
  • They are more educated and receptive to technological advancements.
  • They are more adept at multitasking.
  • They embrace networking.
  • They are more environmentally conscious.

Growing Up In A World Shaped By Technology

The Millennial Generation (ages 18-30) grew up in an environment that was much different from that of their parents and grandparents.  With the development of personal computers, smart phones and tablets, this generation has easy access to the Internet, which immediately delivers information and news, accompanied by vivid real-time images devoid of the filter of time delay and editorialized reporting.  The competition to be the first to deliver breaking news has resulted in an onslaught of sources of information, such as traditional news wire services, social media platforms, including, but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., and even individual messaging services on personal camera-equipped smart phones.  These technological advances allow those who use electronic devices to access factual information, examine the sources of the information and form their own conclusions about political, social, cultural and economic issues.

In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw stated, “It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”  It seems that the Millennials have taken this advice to heart.  To a large degree, they have shown great interest in being different (than previous generations) in order to make a difference.  Consequently, the Millennial Generation has matured into a group of self thinkers, who resist previous generations’ perceived notions of success and value, particularly ownership of stuff.  Millennials are more likely to resist moving to the suburbs and buying expensive houses and cars.  They often enjoy urban living and are pleased to have access to green energy-efficient buses or to walk or ride bicycles.  A meal does not have to include meat for many of this generation.  They are more likely to be environmentally conscious and to recycle and reuse.  They love to travel and are more likely than their predecessors to visit other countries.  Most importantly, Millennials are independent thinkers, whose truth does not have to be based on a preconceived consensus.

This brand of thinking is a major problem for the previous generations, who worry about passing the torch on to this “irresponsible” next generation.  How do they have the audacity to destroy this great society that has been built on the sweat and labor of so many dedicated citizens?  The answer here is that the Millennials have identified the missing link to our very survival, namely sustainability.  They see the prior generations manipulated by corporate greed, political gridlock, racial, social and cultural intolerance and the burdens of materialism— ownership of too much stuff, overwhelming debt, depression and unhappiness.  They choose not to participate in a political system that is consumed by partisan interests and burdened by ill will, contention and gridlock. They reject value defined by ownership of material things.  Rather, they prefer to collect experiences as opposed to objects, to enjoy the world’s natural resources rather than deplete them.

There is a quiet revolution going on, a grassroots movement that is gaining momentum.  The Millennial Generation is leading an upheaval of business as usual, and this is what the world needs, a new path to healthy lifestyles and environmental consciousness.   Perhaps we all should stop and pay attention to this movement.  To do so is to live green, be green.


Sustainability? (Photo credit: Tom Raftery)

Presuming our readers are of the variety that keeps up with recent articles in the green ideological sphere, we would like to address a current trending topic – the integrity of “sustainability.”

If you have browsed green articles in the past several days, chances are pretty good you’ve come across an article or two pertaining to the banning of the term “sustainability.”  It is important to understand the motives behind those views, before supporting or dismissing them, and further, it becomes crucial that we alter our approach to understanding modern-day uses of the term.

Looking briefly back in time, first came the term “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), and then alongside it rode in “sustainability.”  Focus was first placed on the meanings behind these terms, to take an analytical look at current business practices’ impacts on the environment and the masses in order to determine policy changes that could better the sustainability and longevity of the business, as well as the environment, within which it operates.  Very well.  However, over time, this view on the matter has almost completely deteriorated from a point of forward-looking, voluntary initiatives to its current mess of fashionable, mandatory bragging rights.

The main issue with sustainability?

It has become corporate prerogative to assemble corporate social and sustainability programs or plans as a means of current comparison with outside competitors, rather than as a means of examination and implementation for future betterment inside the corporation.  Likewise, these terms have been thrown around the world of politics, too, with little or nothing to show for it.  Sure, there have been some new mandates and a couple new proposals, but the essence behind these has not been that of driven change.  It has been used as yet another tool by which politicians can gain acclaim, another platform piece upon which some may choose to run.  What a shame.

Needless to say, with this deterioration of the views surrounding and motives behind these practices, the integrity these practices and terms hold depreciates.  It makes the everyday consumer’s job a bit more difficult.  Now, we must be wary of all that we read and hear.  Simply put, approach each public issuance of these terms with caution, place a bit of research into the root of their use, and conclude whether the issuer is taking legitimate initiative to change the bad or badly issuing socially charged terms to gain corporate or political prowess among competition.

For more information on how and why sustainability should be used, I recommend a simple article by Adam Aston, which can be found here.  In it, he outlines the benefits of legitimate sustainability planning.

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference.

Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Martin Luther King‘s “I Have A Dream Speech” is a timeless work that is relevant today, particularly to the movement for sustainability.  This famous address delivered at the March on Washington 50 years ago focused on the plight of Blacks in America and the racial injustices of that era, and Dr. King’s words and leadership served as a lightning rod for social and political upheaval in America.  Since that famous speech, Americans, specifically Blacks, have witnessed major changes in their lives, gaining greater access to jobs, better housing and equal education.  However, there still is a lot of work to be done.

As we fast forward to 2013, we see that Dr. King’s speech is still relevant today in terms of the fight for sustainability, not only in the United States, but also globally.  My personal recognition of this fact comes as a result of taking an online class at Stanford University on the “Introduction To Sustainable Product Development and Manufacturing”.  This class includes lectures, videos and interactive group projects with fellow students globally, along with peer review.

The course begins with a video on the “Story Of Stuff,” an eye-opening explanation on the textbook theory of “materials economy” — the movement of “things” from extraction to production, distribution, consumption and finally depletion.  The author, Annie Leonard, explains how this linear theory is flawed because in its application to a finite world, it fails to address the impact of outside forces on production of goods, i.e., the environment, societies, cultures and economies.  This theory also does not account for the influence of corporations on our lives and the policies and programs adopted, which are undertaken solely for the purpose of improving the bottom line.  The rise of mega corporations that lobby to reduce government oversight and then exploit natural and human resources, creating inferior products with reduced shelf life to encourage heightened consumerism has resulted in a global crisis.  The natural resources of the earth are being depleted at an alarming rate, and humans are being misguided, overworked and exploited.  This is not sustainable.

We now witness the redefinition of the term “value” being reduced to “ownership of stuff”.  It then follows that certain segments of the world population, specifically, the economically disadvantaged (generally minorities and emerging nations), are assigned a lesser value in society.  The desire to “raise one’s value,” albeit based on erroneous definition of the term, leads to exasperating attempts to “keep up with the Joneses”.  So many people are mentally and physically exhausted and distressed, it is no wonder that the American Psychiatric Society had to revise the DSM codes.  While the movement for sustainability largely focuses on water and energy conservation, protection of natural resources and upgrades to infrastructure, the dialogue must also include human rights and justice.  Products and services must be priced fairly to include a living wage for laborers.  Also, access to health care and health insurance must be recognized as a part of the human rights that D. King spoke about.  The honesty and character of a person must trump “ownership of stuff”.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King voiced our “need for liberation“.  We still need liberation, principally from the confines of materialism and unhealthy lifestyles.  He also said, “[w]e must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline . . . we cannot walk alone”.  This call for self-service and determination rings true today.  Each one of us can start with small steady steps to endorse sustainable living.  We can get off the endless cycle of wasting money on inferior products and services.  We can support businesses that employ green practices and that invest in its employees.  We can take responsibility for the space we occupy on this earth.  The first step to achieve sustainability is to believe in it.  This belief begins with a dream of the possibilities, and the grassroots commitment of each of us will lead to a revolution.

I invite you to watch the video of the “Story of Stuff” and to commit to carry on the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King.  To do so is to live green, be green.


A class photo of the 110th United States Senate.

A class photo of the 110th United States Senate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent Senate rejection of an amendment to the Farm Bill, which would permit states to require labeling of GMOs in food and beverages clearly represents a suppression of consumers’ right to vote.  A vote is defined as a “formal expression of a wish or will”.  Therefore, when we purchase food and beverages, our selection is in essence a vote.  The selection of food and beverages should be a willful choice; however, the withholding of information on food and beverage ingredients suppresses the consumers’ right to make informed choices.

During a debate on this amendment, which includes “generous support for crops like corn and soybeans that are often genetically modified“, senators from farm states overwhelmingly opposed the food labeling amendment.  They feel that the issue of labeling should be left to the federal government.  Also, they voiced concern that food labeling would result in increased costs of food.  The supporters of the food labeling amendment state that a major problem with GMOs is that “the modified seeds “are floating from field to field, contaminating pure crops”. [1]

Upon analysis of the motives of the proponents and opponents of this amendment, is understandable that each side is backed by private interest groups, with the giant seed companies pushing against the amendment and the organic food companies lobbying to pass the food labeling amendment.  It is disturbing, however, that the FDA and USDA have adopted the position that “the engineered foods they have approved are safe– so safe, they do not even need to be labeled as such– and cannot be significantly distinguished from conventional
varieties.[1]  This position is a direct attack on consumers’ right to know and its right to “vote” in the marketplace by making informed choices on food and beverage selections.  Clearly, the Senate is overstepping its boundaries.

As consumers, we have to protect our rights, particularly those that involve our very personal choices, i.e., food purchases.  It is amazing that Congress is spending such an inordinate amount of time and effort to ensure that the American public has access to every detail of the Benghazi attack, the IRS‘ attack on the Tea Party or detainment of prisoners at Guantanamo, while working to deny us access to information that affects our health, survival and “right to vote”.  I imagine that most readers would agree that the ingredients in the food that we feed our families trumps the details of the Benghazi attack.

Now more than ever we have to be extremely careful of protecting our voting rights, starting with the election of “public servants“.  We need individuals in Congress who represent us and who trust us to be able to make informed choices, not those who would willfully suppress our right to information.  The green movement needs your voice now.  Let’s fight to protect our right to choose our food based on complete and accurate information on ingredients.  To do so is to live green, be green.


Sources for this article:

[1]  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/23/senate-gm-food-labeling-farm-bill.
[2] http://www.politicususa.com/bernie-sanders-calls-corporate-controlled-senate-rejecting-gmo-labels.html

The ever-growing movement to repeal the very controversial Monsanto Protection Act has garnered the support of both the Tea Party and the green movement, thereby breeding strange bedfellows.  The Monsanto Protection Act “allows Monsanto and other companies to continue selling genetically engineered seeds, even if a court has blocked them from doing so”. [1]  In recent months, federal courts have ruled against the Department of Agriculture, who approved the sale of genetically engineered seeds, stating that the agency acted hastily in their approval, without giving careful consideration to the seeds’ “potential harm“.  In response to these rulings, the seed industry lobby fought back and was successful in attaching the Monsanto Protection Act as a resolution to the spending bill signed into law in March.  Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) took note of the rider and spoke out against it on the Senate floor.  Unfortunately, his voice fell on a typically empty floor, resulting in Tester’s failure to garner enough votes to block the passage of the rider.  This bill then was signed by President Obama as a part of the massive spending bill.

Now we see true activism at work.  Many conservatives, namely the Tea Party, are voicing opposition to the Monsanto Protection Act, particularly on the underhanded way this resolution was passed.  Of course, proponents of the green movement are opposed to the Monsanto Protection Act based on environmental and health concerns. [2]  While the reasons for opposition of the Monsanto Protection Act may vary in that the Tea Party opposes “the special interest loophole for friends of Congress” [3], and the green movement opposes GMOs [2], the opposition itself reflects a coalition unencumbered by politics.  The goal here is a unified one:  namely to repeal the Monsanto Protection Act.

Such activism is refreshing in this current toxic and partisan political atmosphere, which typically results in gridlock and ineffective action or inaction.  We now see the potential power of the people at work.  The Monsanto Protection Act is a bad deal on so many fronts.  We need a united stand to repeal this act.  We here at LGBG urge our readers to contact your senator (see list below) [4] and voice your opposition to the Monsanto Protection Act.  To do so is to live green, be green.


Sources for this article:

1.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/monsanto-protection-act-tea-party-partiots_n_3000073.html.
2.  http://livegreenbegreen.com/2013/04/25/the-power-of-seeds-the-main-ingredient-to-sustain-life/.
3.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/jeff-merkley-monsanto-repeal_n_3288209.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green.
4.  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Water cycle http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/water...

Water cycle http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycleprint.html Other language versions: Català Czech español Finnish Greek Japanese Norwegian (bokmål) Portugese Romanian עברית Diné bizaad (Navajo) and no text and guess water vapor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world’s ever-increasing population and overwhelming demand on the freshwater supply, combined with the adverse effects of climate change, has triggered a new and urgent focus on the issue of water security and the need to address looming threats to water shortages globally, and now includes conversations on market-based solutions to this problem.   Some readers may find it difficult to appreciate the reality of a water shortage given that 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water; however, the facts are that (1) the majority of that 70 percent is saltwater and (2) clean freshwater for consumption, agriculture and other human activities is in short supply.

In the United States alone, the total use of water for agriculture, industrial and personal use is greater than the entire amount of water that flows in the country’s rivers.  The net amount required to meet the demand is pulled from ground water beneath the earth’s surface, thus creating a shortage there.  Consequently, our extreme demand on the water supply has led to a “new geologic era” in which “humanity has taken over key [planetary] drivers:  the water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle”.  [1]  One proposed solution to the water shortage is the adoption of a market-based system that privatizes freshwater services and allocates a price for its use.  Under such a scenario, water quantity and quality would be traded as goods with the potential that water would become the “biggest commodity of the 21st century”. [1]

The greatest benefit derived here is that a market-based system would provide a strong incentive to conserve water.  Everyone would pay for what they use as priced on the open market.  This would then focus more attention on water quality.  The removal of water services from state, county and municipal control and placement in the competitive market also would encourage more efficient use of water.  Ultimately, with the creation of investment opportunities, private companies would be better able to fund research and development on sustainable practices and to build and maintain the necessary filtration, clarification and delivery systems without political and budget constraints inherent under public control.  On the flip side of such a proposal, privatized water could negatively impact poor communities, possibly leading to health catastrophes as people unable to afford water would use rivers, streams, ponds and lakes, which often are contaminated and pose health risks.  As such, any solutions that privatize freshwater delivery would have to include a component that provides affordable access to the water supply for basic consumption and hygiene to those unable to purchase service.  Interestingly, studies do show that people tend to find a way to purchase things they deem important.  As an example, statistics indicate that  in India, more people have access to cellphones “than to basic sanitation“, i.e., toilets. [1]

The privatization of water could be a boost to the green movement simply by the change in attitude with the realization that its use comes with a premium price tag.  Individuals would be more receptive to reduce their reliance on water in the home by carefully planning lawns and landscaping.  Hopefully, they would use more grasses and plants that are drought resistant.  Also, as the cost of water to feed farm animals is passed on to consumers, it is likely that people will entertain the notion of reducing their meat consumption to some extent.  Lastly, farmers hopefully will be more inclined to shift from flood irrigation of crops to drip irrigation, thereby reducing their agricultural water consumption by about 20%.

The reality here is that fresh water shortages are a major concern, particularly here in the United States where the availability of freshwater largely has been taken for granted.  A recent report by the U.S. Drought Monitor notes seven states, namely Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Nebraska are in the throes of severe drought. [2]  Clearly, this is an issue that deserves immediate attention simply because we cannot exist without fresh water.  Privatization of the management and delivery of freshwater through a market-based system is a possible albeit extreme solution and definitely merits discussion.  To save our freshwater is to save our lives.  To do this, let’s live green, be green.


Sources for this article:

1.  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2013/03/29/can-the-world-afford-cheap-water/.
2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/30/states-running-out-of-water_n_2984979.html.


“WATER WASTE MEANS WATER SHORTAGE” – NARA – 516053 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)