I was discussing renewables with my class the other day and recounted an event I moderated a few years back in which one of the panelists, Minoru Takada, observed that there was much to celebrate on the renewable energy front, very much including the fact that policy makers, both in governments and the private sector, and general publics around the world, have been steadily gaining confidence in our ability to transition away from fossil fuels. I think we can all draw a great deal of hope as energy economies around the world continue to build confidence in this critical transition in which we are engaged. Continue reading
Yearly Archives: 2019
We were out with friends early in November for a hike over Cold Spring, NY to Bull Hill. Here is a photo from about fifty miles north of New York City. You can see the towers of Manhattan and also Jersey City off to the west. This was a great day to get out of the big city and to get a sense that there are mountains, and forests, and the mighty Hudson all still there beyond the concrete and steel, the millions churning and the power plants burning. Sometimes you forget how magnificent our old planet really is. John Muir’s message was to get out and see the magnificence and then get back home and work like the devil to protect it. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” Continue reading
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
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
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
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.)
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
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
Urban Sustainability – Perspectives and Career Paths
I recently convened a panel of some really great people working in sustainability, all former students of mine. We had a great time at the end of last month talking about their work and how and why they came to the field. Here is a link to the post I did for the blog at the Center for Global Affairs, “NYU Global Citizen.” A good time was had by all.
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