A couple of weeks ago, the Sierra Club and several other environmental groups signed an agreement with Patriot Coal.
Patriot Coal Corporation (NYSE: PCX) announced its intention to immediately
begin phasing out all large scale surface mining in Appalachia. The announcement follows an
historic agreement with the Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition,
and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, represented by attorneys from
Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
The agreement requires Patriot to move away from, and
ultimately cease, mountaintop removal and all other forms of large-scale
surface mining in Appalachia. In return, Patriot will be granted additional
time to install selenium treatment at several of its mines. Patriot will also
retire significant infrastructure required to perform mountaintop removal
mining, including the dragline at its Catenary mine complex, which will be
retired immediately, and the dragline at its Hobet mine complex, which will be
retired in 2015. (source)
Patriot Coal issued a remarkable statement along with the agreement. Here's part of it:
Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface
mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the type common in
central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests. Today's proposed
settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large
scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward
underground mining and related small scale surface mining. (source)
The International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) was
in 1996 to address critical gaps and provide leadership in international
social science research related to global environmental change. IHDP
pursues its mission through activities in three core areas: mobilizing
the social sciences, bridging science and policy, and education and
IHDP's mission is to produce, promote and coordinate innovative
social science research that informs and improves societal responses to
global environmental change.
In order to better understand the interactions of humans with and within
their natural environment, IHDP advances interdisciplinary interaction
and collaborates with the natural, physical and social sciences.
IHDP enhances the capacities of research and policy
communities through a large network and research community, and furthers
a shared understanding of the social causes and implications of global
Finally, IHDP facilitates dialogue between science and policy, including
decision-makers of all kinds, to ensure that research results feed into
the appropriate policy-planning and law-making processes.(source)
Rio+20 opens on the 20th of June in Rio de Janeiro. News announcements are now emerging daily to highlight the challenges and accomplishments facing those who attend.
Envisaged as a summit involving head of state, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. (source)
The most interesting announcement I've seen so far is for a new report from the United Nations Environment Program, The Business Case for the Green Economy: Sustainable Return on Investment (PDF). Here are a few examples of case studies highlighted in the report (taken from the press release announcing it):
Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to
integrate sustainability into business models, has led to savings of
over US $10 million dollars annually. At the same time, their "one
rinse" washing formulas, which save an average of 30 litres per wash,
are now used across 12.5 million households worldwide - a 60 per cent
increase over 2010.
launched its insurance product for Low-Carbon and Environmental Goods
and Services in 2011, expects the sector to grow by an estimated UK £45
billion by 2015, supported by government decisions and financial
PUMA conducted the first
Environmental Porfit and Loss Account in 2010, in collaboration with
Pricewaterhousecooper and Trucost. The value of environmental impact
was calculated at €145 million (seen as negative financial impact).
Using the tool allows PUMA to reduce future financial loss while
strengthening its operating margin by taking into account emerging
risks. The company committed itself to having 50 per cent of its
products made from sustainable materials by 2015.
saved more than US $30 million in 6 years through their resource
productivity programme, they also reduced waste volume by 40 per cent.
In China, the Zhangzidao Fishery Group
saw revenues grow by 40 per cent annually between 2005 and 2010
(compared to the industry's 13 per cent average) through offering an
alternative to monoculture methods. The integrated Multi-Tropic
Aquaculture approach employed by the company provided for a more
balanced ecosystem, taking into account local conditions and
The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation
ensures a sustainable income for more than 27,000 coffee growers with
its Rainforest Alliance certified coffee, as part of the Nespresso AAA
Sustainable QualityTM program
Fifty years ago today, the New Yorker began a three issue series entitled "Silent Spring" written by Rachel Carson. I don't think I need to introduce Rachel Carson or "Silent Spring" to anyone who reads this blog, but there's a very nice historical perspective on the history of "Silent Spring" at The Pop History Dig. If you're at all interested in Rachel Carson, you owe it to yourself to click through and read it.
If you're in DC and you read this in time to get to the National Museum of Natural History by 2:00pm today, you can see the first of six videos sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme on World Oceans Day. If you aren't in DC or you can't make it to the NMNH in time, here's a video from www.rona.unep.org/toomey describing the project.
Map of the Connecticut River, New England, USA. This map was prepared by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and as a product of the United States Government is in the public domain and not subject to copyright restrictions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What's a blueway? "A blueway or water trail
is a water path or trail that is developed with launch points, camping
locations and points of interest for canoeists, paddle boarders and
kayakers" (Wikipedia). OK, so what's a national blueway? Well, yesterday Secretary of the InteriorKen Salazar
signed a Secretarial Order establishing a National Blueways System and
announced that the 410-mile-long Connecticut River and its 7.2
million-acre watershed will be the first National Blueway-- covering
areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The new National Blueways System is part of the America's Great Outdoors
Initiative to establish a community-driven conservation and recreation
agenda for the 21st century. The Department of the Interior and the
Department of Agriculture both identified the Connecticut River as an
important priority under America's Great Outdoors. (Department of Interiorpress release, 24 May 2012)
I'm pleased both that Secretary Salazar has established a National Blueways system and that the Connecticut River is the first National Blueway to be recognized.
Firmly establishing the urgency of the global water crisis as the
central issue facing our world this century, this documentary
illuminates the vital role water plays in our lives, exposes the defects
in the current system and shows communities already struggling with its
ill-effects. Featuring activist Erin Brockovich, respected water
experts including Peter Gleick, Jay Famiglietti and Robert Glennon and
social entrepreneurs championing revolutionary solutions, the film
posits that we can manage this problem if we are willing to act now.
I hope the movie comes to Hartford, because I'm not likely to get down to New York to see it. I do plan to buy a copy of the score. It's available on iTunes or as a CD on demand from Amazon.com. The clip above is from the opening title sequence. I'm particularly interested in the score because it was composed by my cousin, Jeff Beal.
Regulations kill jobs, right? Not according to Josh Bivens, acting research and policy director at the Economic Policy Institute:
Textbook macroeconomics indicates that, from the perspective of job
creation, the best time to enact regulations that may require costly
investments is precisely when the economy is depressed.
Huh? Isn't that exactly the opposite of what we've been hearing? Well, I'm not an economist and Wikipedia refers to the Economic Policy Institute as a "liberal, non-partisan think tank" (emphasis added), but Bivens arguments make sense to me. Here they are in a nutshell:
When the economy is functioning well, the effect of environmental regulation on job growth is roughly neutral. It creates jobs in industries that supply equipment and services necessary to comply with regulations even as jobs in industries affected by the regulations may be lost.
Generally, these direct influences cancel each other out. Even if they don't, the second reason for regulation's neutral effect on jobs comes into play: the central bank. In an effort to hit its overall inflation and unemployment targets, a nation's central bank - in the US, the Federal Reserve - will simply sterilise any change in job growth stemming from regulatory changes by adjusting interest rates to spur or slow economic activity.
When the economy isn't functioning well, environmental regulation creates jobs because:
The investment necessary to respond to regulations wouldn't happen otherwise. It's the opportunities to invest that are limited, not the financial capital.
Increases in costs aren't likely to be passed on. Consumers can't afford them.
The employment boost won't be neutralized by the Federal Reserve.
The parts of this argument that seem likely to be contentious are the claims that (a) direct influences of regulation cancel each other out when the economy is functioning well and (b) opportunities to invest rather than financial capital are what's limiting in a recession. Both of those claims seem plausible to me, but as I said, I'm not an economist. I'm willing to be persuaded that they're implausible.
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) announced a few days ago that it will begin construction at three sites this summer: Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (Florida), Harvard Forest (Massachusetts), and Central Plains Experimental Range (Colorado). With $60 million in funding expected this year, construction at an additional six to eight sites may also begin before the end of the year.
The first three NEON sites are expected to be completed and publicly
streaming limited data in late 2013, and to be in full operations by
2014. Completion of a NEON site, which includes the physical
infrastructure, sensor installation, and field data collection, can take
anywhere from one to three years, depending on permitting, weather and
other factors. Sites are considered fully operational when all physical
infrastructure and data collection procedures are in place and sensor
and field data are being collected and are streaming. (source)
I'm pleased that I played a small role in getting NEON to this stage as chair of a task force on Infrastructure for Biology at Regional to Continental Scales (IBRCS) for the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)