Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

January 25, 2021 by  
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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction Chris Gaither Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:30 Before he saw the smoke, he felt it in his throat. It tasted foul. It curled into his nose, his mouth, his lungs. He looked up from his computer. His colleagues were tapping at their keyboards. The smoke hovered around them. He walked to his manager’s door. “This office is filled with toxic smoke,” he said. “Yes,” she said. “Don’t worry. We have a plan.” “What will you do?” he asked. “Install new ventilation? Move us to another space?” “No,” she said. “We’ve hired you an executive coach to help you develop strategies for dealing with the toxic smoke.” “But I don’t want to deal with the toxic smoke,” he said. “I want to get rid of it.” “Work with the coach,” she said. “Leave a few minutes early today. Get a massage. You’ll be okay.” We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. I heard this parable last year, before the pandemic, from a fellow executive coach. It lodged in my gut. I realized that so many of my coaching clients — in big corporations and small nonprofits, sustainability teams and sales departments — were asking me for help dealing with the stress and dysfunction of their organizations. They were breathing the same toxic smoke as everyone around them. Sometimes they were, themselves, pumping that toxic smoke into their work environments. Yet they were suffering alone, trying to solve it alone. Just as I did during my hectic career leading teams at the Los Angeles Times, Google and Apple. If anything, the pandemic has increased the pressure on us to deal with this suffering in isolation. But here’s the thing: Avoiding burnout is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. It’s a leadership challenge, and we are all leaders. Throughout this Sustainable You series for GreenBiz, I have encouraged you to tend to your personal sustainability so you can do great work on behalf of the planet. This kind of self-care remains critical. But it’s insufficient. As environmental sustainability leaders, you are, by nature, systems thinkers. You identify root causes. You craft upstream solutions. You see the forests, not just the trees, and work to improve the ecosystems so the individuals in them can thrive. So, let’s approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. To get to the root cause of the smoke, we need to think bigger. “You can’t expect people to adopt healthy lifestyles when their work environments reinforce or even cause poor habits,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, an organizational-behavior professor at Stanford University. Pfeffer is the author of the 2018 book, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance — and What We Can Do About It.” He writes that companies have created elaborate systems for tracking their progress on environmental sustainability, but they seem to have forgotten to measure the human sustainability of their own employees. Current management practices harm employee engagement and job performance, Pfeffer says, and they increase employee turnover and healthcare costs. There’s even more at stake. To solve global, complex challenges like the climate emergency, racial injustice and species extinction, we must be adaptive leaders. We need to be mindful. Creative. Intuitive. Curious. Willing to experiment, learn and redesign. Open-minded and open-hearted. That’s so hard to do when we’re burned out. Organizational culture is a living, breathing thing. We draw from it, and we feed into it. We’re constantly creating it together. So, when everyone around us is stressed out, exhausted and closed off, it’s easy to shift into that same mode. Our mirror neurons, those evolutionary tools that help us build nourishing social connections, pick up on those signals and encourage us to be like the others. To suffer with the rest. I know this feeling well. I have held, deep in my body, the physical and emotional distress that burnout carries. We can work this way for a while, but eventually we deplete our energy and fall apart. As an executive leadership coach, I have supported many individuals to the other side of this burnout, where they’ve refilled their energy reserves and brought their creativity back to life. I’ve also followed my intuition upstream, seeking the origins of the toxic smoke. I work with full teams and their leaders to help them shift organizational culture: to slow down, reflect on what really matters, call out harmful behaviors, give themselves permission to embrace a more wholesome way of working. Healthy people, healthy planet A healthy earth depends on healthy people. To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. So, my fellow leaders, let’s set an intention to cultivate human sustainability in our organizations — for the sake of our employees and the communities and natural habitats they’re working to protect. Let’s look for the toxic smoke curling through our Zoom meetings, our email inboxes and Slack channels. Let’s name it, get curious about where it came from, chase it down to its source. Let’s pay close attention to the tone we are setting for our teams. The moods we are carrying into our interactions. The behaviors we are modeling. The harmful ways of being that we are introducing or accepting. Let’s check in on each other. Let’s work to understand how others in our groups are experiencing the world, how they might be suffering differently from us, and offer them support. Let’s talk about burnout and wellness — with our team members, fellow leaders, bosses, even our boards of directors. Let’s gather our teams. Let’s come up with, say, 50 things we could do to improve our health and happiness at work. Then let’s commit to new ways of being together. Let’s craft agreements and hold each other accountable. Instead of trying to manage the toxic smoke in our work environments, let’s get rid of it. Because only when we can breathe can we truly do this critical planetary work. Pull Quote We must approach our personal sustainability challenges as a problem with our ecosystem. Topics Leadership Health & Well-being Featured Column Sustainable You Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Let’s rid our work environments of the toxic smoke of dysfunction

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

September 14, 2020 by  
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After the passing of his wife and mother, Theodore Roosevelt traveled to the Badlands of North Dakota. Journeying through the United States, he took the same route that The Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz design team would make more than 135 years later to visit the future site of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library . The team’s vision? To honor the landscape and community that the past president came to love all those years ago. “There is a unique and awe-inspiring beauty to everything about the Badlands that you simply cannot experience anywhere else,” said Michael Sørensen, design lead and partner at Henning Larsen. “The landscape only fully unfolds once you are already within it; once you are, the hills, buttes, fields, and streams stretch as far as you can see.” Related: San Francisco library boasts a green roof and LEED Gold status That persistent landscape is what inspired the team to design a property that will pay homage to the important cultural and ecological history of the Badlands that was so important to Roosevelt in his time of need. “The design fuses the landscape and building into one living system emerging from the site’s geology,” said Thomas Woltz, principal and founder of Nelson Byrd Woltz. “The buildings frame powerful landscape views to the surrounding buttes and the visitor experience is seamlessly connected to the rivers, trails, and grazing lands surrounding the Library.” The design will also serve to educate a national and international audience as well as hopefully create a new generation of those who would work to conserve the Badlands, according to Woltz. The building itself is made up of four sections. A large tower (the Legacy Beacon), will become a formal landmark visible from throughout the area to bring the community together, create a hub and help guide the way for visitors. The lobby follows a spiral path to the main exhibition level meant to mimic the way Roosevelt would have gathered around the hearth. Each phase of the exhibition contains a space that overlooks a specific part of the surrounding landscape. + Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz Images via Henning Larsen

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Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

Ecosystem Services: Nature’s Gifts That Help Us Thrive

August 6, 2020 by  
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How valuable is nature? A recent study of the economic … The post Ecosystem Services: Nature’s Gifts That Help Us Thrive appeared first on Earth 911.

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Ecosystem Services: Nature’s Gifts That Help Us Thrive

Earth911 Quiz #84: Amazing Facts About Earth and Nature

August 6, 2020 by  
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The Earth is a remarkable place, full of surprises and … The post Earth911 Quiz #84: Amazing Facts About Earth and Nature appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth911 Quiz #84: Amazing Facts About Earth and Nature

Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

August 5, 2020 by  
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Roughly three decades ago, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified giant pandas as an endangered species. In 2016, giant pandas moved from endangered species to “vulnerable” on the official extinction list. Many conservationists cite successful panda conservation efforts to show that protection measures work. That said, protecting pandas may come at a higher price than expected.  According to a  new study  published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, panda protection efforts may have put other animals at risk, some of which face possible extinction. Created ecosystems that cater to pandas do not provide room for other animals such as leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs. Consequently, most of these animals have nearly disappeared from protected areas. The lack of predators negatively affects the ecosystem by allowing prey animals to proliferate and damage habitats. The study attributes the animal disappearances to ecosystem shifts influenced by humans’ attempts to create proper homes for pandas. Panda conservation efforts focused on designating areas where pandas and other animals could thrive. Although many species benefited from the initiative, some lost out. The new study proposes enacting measures to ensure a more inclusive ecosystem. Dr. Sheng Li of Peking University, co-author of the study, calls for a holistic approach to wildlife protection. Such efforts will help protect all animals, not just a few species. Li explains that this is “critically needed to better increase the resilience and sustainability of the ecosystems not only for giant pandas but also for other wild species.” The study states that leopards have disappeared from 81% of panda reserves since the panda habitats were established. Meanwhile, snow leopards have disappeared from 38%, wild dogs from 95% and wolves from 77% of the protected areas. Reintroducing these animals is key to keeping the ecosystem balanced. Otherwise, some species may go extinct during attempts to protect others. + Nature Ecology & Evolution Via BBC Image via Pixabay

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Panda conservation efforts lead to unexpected losses

Over 500 new dams planned for protected areas worldwide

August 5, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Conservation Letters has revealed that over 500 new dams are currently being constructed or are planned to be constructed within protected areas. More than 1,200 dams already exist in such areas. In the first global report on dam construction areas, it has been revealed that most governments are bypassing or rolling back laws in order to construct dams in these protected areas. The main concern being raised by the authors of the study is that the people who are mandated with protecting riparian areas are also the ones responsible for invading them. In the EU alone, about 33% of all the proposed dams lie within protected areas. For example, two hydropower projects in Romania pose a danger to Natura 2000 sites. If such constructions are not stopped, the reserved areas, rivers and natural resources around them are at risk. Michele Thieme, lead author of the study and freshwater scientist at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, “Rivers are the lifeblood of ecosystems. Any policy that aims to conserve nature must prioritize the free flow of rivers.” Related: Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands The study has established that many governments are redefining boundaries of protected lands to create room for construction . The study points out that if legislation continues being loosened in this manner, it will not be long before the delicate ecosystems in these areas are irreversibly damaged. “The sheer number of dams that are planned within protected areas is alarming,” Thieme warned. “Government and industry policies must prevent the development of dams planned within these areas. The dams that already exist within protected areas should be prioritized for possible removal and the surrounding river systems should be restored.” This study follows another paper that highlighted the impact of dams on ecosystems. A 2019 paper published in Nature revealed that over 65% of long rivers across the world are impeded with dams and other structures. Worse yet, the report established that the construction of dams across major rivers is to blame for a 76% reduction in freshwater migratory fish populations since 1970. Because dams impede the movement of fish upstream for breeding, they have led to a decline in freshwater fish populations significantly. The report is now calling on governments and other stakeholders to stop bypassing and changing laws for short-term gains. Those in authority must protect these areas at all costs to avoid further harm to ecosystems. + Conservation Letters + WWF Image via Hans Linde

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Koalas declared "functionally extinct"

May 16, 2019 by  
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The Australian Koala Foundation declared koalas officially “functionally extinct,” a term which means that though there are still about 80,000 koalas, they are either unlikely to reproduce another generation, prone to inbreeding due to low numbers or may no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem. The iconic Australian animal is on a fast track to extinction and has suffered from deforestation , disease, climate change-driven drought and a massive slaughter for fur in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Australian government listed the species as “vulnerable” in 2012 when there was thought to be between 100,000 and 500,000 koalas. Since the declaration, the government has done very little to develop or implement a protection and recovery plan. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report With an estimated population that could even be as low as 43,000, koalas are very likely to inbreed and become even more susceptible to disease. At these small population numbers, the marsupial has very little impact on its ecosystem, the eucalyptus forest. Koalas were once critical to the nutrient cycling of the forest, with their feces an important source of fertilizer. Large koalas can consume up to 1 kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per night. Logging and urban development has encroached into what was once an abundant forest ecosystem, leading many to believe that the government needs to declare and expand protected areas of the forests. The Australia Koala Foundation has proposed a Koala Protection Act that focuses on conserving the forest as the primary strategy for protecting koalas. “The koala is one of Australia’s most recognizable symbols, but its survival hangs in the balance,” the  San Diego Zoo said  in a statement. “Formerly thought to be common and widespread, koalas are now vulnerable to extinction across much of its northern range.” According to fossil records, Koalas are native to Australia and have been there for at least 30 million years . Via EcoWatch Image by Mathias Appel

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A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

May 16, 2019 by  
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London-based design studio WallaceLiu has given the residents of the southwestern Chinese city Chongqing a new “livable street” to enjoy. The firm was recently tasked with converting a half-mile long, 65-foot-wide highway into a  serene linear urban park , now named Yannan Avenue Park. The green space comes complete with an open-air promenade lined with ample lounge areas, playgrounds and a series of vibrantly colored canopies that light up the area with playful pops of color. The city of Chongqing has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, and as such, the city has been developing at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately, the city’s green space has been quietly disappearing to make way for new property developments — until now. Thanks to the WallaceLiu team, local residents now have a new linear park that has something for just about everyone. Related: A disused railway will become a sustainable green corridor in Taiwan According to the architects, the inspiration behind the design was to reclaim some of the city’s urban space for the residents, replacing asphalt with greenery and a welcoming public space to enjoy fresh air. The firm said, “We imagined the entire highway to be transformed into a walkable and playful place, where the elements of a highway-dominated urban landscape — curbstone, road markings, traffic signage, pedestrian fences, hedge boundaries and limited pedestrian crossings — would be replaced by a characterful and vibrant open promenade.” Lined with shade trees, seasonal shrubs and flowers, the serene walkway includes several “nooks” that were designed to encourage neighborhood interaction. Ample benches and seating are located throughout the park, with most configured as sociable places that foster conversation. Additionally, there are more than a few spaces for children in the linear park , including a rock-climbing wall. To add a sense of whimsy to the design, the firm installed six colorful canopies that provide respite from the searing summer heat as well as reflect colorful plays of light onto the landscape. + WallaceLiu Images via WallaceLiu

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A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’

Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

May 16, 2019 by  
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An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs. The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb , the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside. Related: Couple builds an ‘Earthship’ tiny home for less than $10K The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay. The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection . After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants. The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing. In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature. + Phoenix Earthship Images via Earthship Media

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Phoenix Earthship features a food garden and jungle in off-grid fashion

Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

May 16, 2019 by  
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At least 15 states have passed or proposed bills that further criminalize trespassing on fossil fuel infrastructure, a trend that environmental and free speech advocates argue unnecessarily targets pipeline protesters and indigenous leaders. In 2018, Louisiana passed a bill that makes trespassing on so-called “critical infrastructure” a more serious offense than existing trespassing laws. While trespassing has long been considered a misdemeanor, the law now specifies that the same act on particular private property is now a felony. Throughout the country, trespassing laws have been edited to define ‘critical infrastructure’ as fossil fuel facilities, including proposed pipeline routes where there is no existing infrastructure yet. Related: For the first time in 86 years, environmental activists in the UK sentenced to jail “These are people saying, ‘let’s make sure we have something left for future generations’ … and for that we were charged with felonies, we were beaten, we were stepped on, I was choked,” Cherri Foytlin, a pipeline protester in Louisiana,  told the press . Similar laws have passed in Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Indiana and Iowa. The backlash is largely due to the massive 2017 protest of a pipeline at Standing Rock , led by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. Bi-partisan supporters of the states’ new legislation argue that the intent is to dissuade acts of terrorism; however, many opponents feel the existing trespassing laws were sufficient. For many environmental activists, these new laws are further proof of the government’s allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, and they believe threats of felonies, jail time and high fines will discourage other activists from voicing their opinions against pipeline development. Across 15 states, possible consequences include 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Those who do not trespass themselves but merely support activists verbally or financially are also liable before the law. This month, the Natural Resources Defense Council published an alarming blog post inquiring if merely “liking” a Facebook post about a pipeline protest could be considered illegal under South Dakota’s newest legislation. In Indiana’s Bill 471 , so-called “conspirators” can also be fined up to $100,000. Via Grist Image via Luke Jones

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Penalties for protesting pipelines increase in 15 states

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