The Great Transition

The Great Transition is the title of the preeminent sustainability theorist and activist Lester Brown’s last book.  The Energiewende – energy transition – is what the Germans call their brilliant initiative to reshape the energy economy.  Call it a transition, revolution, mobilization or transformation, or what you will.  Call it clean tech, green tech, the green economy, sustainable development, or even the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services Sector (LCEGSS).  Whatever you want to call it and however you slice it, we are in the midst of a series of remarkable breakthroughs. Continue reading

Download PDF

Climate Mobilization or Transformation?

There are a lot of ideas out there to save the world from our global environmental crisis.  Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Project Drawdown, and the Green New Deal among them.  A friend of mine pointed out a new essay in the New York Times this morning, “Climate Change Is Not World War.”  The writer, a professor of English, purports that “We are underestimating both the deep national trauma of World War II and our present challenge.”  Here’s my reaction. Continue reading

Download PDF

The Avatar of the Fossil Fuel Industry

I finally got around to reading Private Empire this summer.  (You know how it is:  a bazillion books, papers, articles and every other doggone thing on your reading list.)  I’ve been reading Steve Coll’s stuff in The New Yorker for years.  He’s the dean of the J-school at Columbia.

Private Empire, to a certain extent, follows in the footsteps of The Prize, Dan Yergin’s Homeric saga in which he recounts “the Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.”  But Yergin’s book is a historic and geographic sweep of the oil industry while Coll’s book zeroes in on ExxonMobil, the company with the second-highest revenues in the world, $453 billion, in 2012 when the book came out.  They dropped to eighth by 2018 with $290 billion in revenues. Continue reading

Download PDF

Urban Agriculture in New York City

I sat in on a fascinating discussion last month on the future of urban agriculture in New York City.  There are, you may be surprised to learn, hundreds of farms and gardens in Gotham producing food. There are school gardens, backyard gardens, and community gardens, as well as farms at NYC Housing Authority complexes and commercial farms, as the Urban Agriculture website of NYC government shows.  There are even rooftop farms like the highly successful Brooklyn Grange.  (Although there are no apple orchards in the Big Apple, there are places within striking distance where you can go to pick.)

Continue reading

Download PDF

The Hydrogen Economy

We’ve been hearing about the “hydrogen economy” for a long time.  NASA was developing fuel cells in the 1960s and United Technologies started commercializing stationary power plants in the 70s.  Jeremy Rifkin wrote about it in 2002.  The Bloom Box got a lot of attention in 2010.  In 2013, several US states agreed to pursue a mandate for a percentage of zero-emission vehicles, including fuel cell electric vehicles, to be sold in their jurisdictions.  The Hydrogen Initiative was launched in Europe in 2018, building on the work of the EU’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a robust public-private partnership begun in 2008.  An even broader international consortium was launched only last month.  Companies, governments, and research institutes around the world have been pursuing the vision of a hydrogen economy at an increasing pace and with more tangible breakthroughs every year.  I was struck early this year, for instance, by the fact of South Korea’s enthusiastic embrace of hydrogen.

Now there’s a new, comprehensive report just out from the International Energy Agency:  The Future of Hydrogen.  You’ll find it at the IEA’s web page for hydrogen.   Continue reading

Download PDF

The Climate Candidate

Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington, is running for the Democratic nomination for President.  He’s a seasoned politician, having served in the House of Representatives from two different districts in Washington, first from the rural eastern part of the state and later from Seattle.  He’s in his second term as Governor.  What is unique about Inslee’s campaign for the presidency is his focus on climate change as his primary issue.  He sees this campaign cycle and this time in history as critical for the success or failure of our efforts to overcome the climate crisis.  He seems to have some company:  According to new polling, climate change is now the top concern of Democratic voters and independents who lean Democratic.  And, not incidentally, a new report indicates that experts from 28 global think tanks have now ranked “mitigating and adapting to climate change” as a top priority for policy makers. Continue reading

Download PDF

Nuclear Power Today

I read Poisoned Power in the early 1970s.  It was written by two seasoned veterans of the nuclear power research establishment.  John Gofman did extensive research on the harmful effects of radiation and became an ardent opponent of nuclear power, founding the Committee For Nuclear Responsibility in 1971.  Arthur Tamplin was a biophysicist and an expert on radiation.  Their book was an eye-opener for me and, to a certain extent, jump started my environmental activism.  After the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, they issued an update.  (Fun fact:  At the time of the accident, I was working on a surveying crew on a power plant construction project – not a nuke – and I went to see the movie, The China Syndrome, the night before the accident at TMI.  Driving to work in the morning, I thought at first that Continue reading

Download PDF

Food in the Anthropocene

That’s the title of a new report from a world-class working group of scientists commissioned by EAT, a non-profit that means “to catalyze a food system transformation,” and the venerable British medical journal, The Lancet.  The report is ambitious, offering us nothing less than a global agenda “for healthy diets from sustainable food systems.”

The rationale for this critical report is twofold, first, as far as healthy diets go, we are sorely lacking today:  20% of global deaths are caused by poor diet.  Only smoking exceeds poor diet as a risk factor for premature mortality.  But, Continue reading

Download PDF