The State of Green Business 2021

December 21, 2020 by  
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The State of Green Business 2021 Date/Time: January 25, 2021 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT) Following the challenging, turbulent year that was 2020, what is the state of sustainable business in 2021? Join us for the release of the 14th annual edition of State of Green Business, GreenBiz Group’s award-winning annual report. Each year, the report looks at key trends and metrics assessing how, and how much, companies are moving the needle on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. The report is produced in partnership with Trucost, part of S&P Global, and covers the performance on the biggest publicly traded U.S. companies (S&P 500) and global players (S&P Global 1200). In this one-hour webcast, coinciding with the report’s release, GreenBiz Group Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower and Trucost CEO Richard Mattison will provide insights into key trends and metrics in sustainable business, including new metrics introduced in this year’s report revealing companies’ revenue aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, and how large companies’ emissions align with a 2-degree carbon budget. Among the topics: Why the “S” in ESG is gaining currency The new face of credit risk How ESG scores relate to financial performance Why sustainable mobility is becoming the newest corporate perk Corporate profits at risk from climate change Speakers: Joel Makower, Chairman and Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group Richard Mattison, Chief Executive Officer, Trucost, part of S&P Global If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. Report Partner taylor flores Mon, 12/21/2020 – 10:22 Joel Makower Chairman & Executive Editor GreenBiz Group @makower Richard Mattison CEO Trucost, part of S&P Global @richmattison gbz_webcast_date Sat, 01/25/2020 – 10:00 – Sat, 01/25/2020 – 11:00

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The State of Green Business 2021

Greenhouse gases hit record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns

November 30, 2020 by  
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A recent report released by the  World Metrological Organization  (WMO) has revealed that greenhouse gasses have increased to record highs in the atmosphere despite the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. Contrary to the expectations of many, the amount of greenhouse gases has been on the rise in 2020. The slowdown in economic activities and travel across the world is estimated to have caused a 4.2% to 7.5% reduction in the overall emissions in 2020. According to the WMO, this minor reduction due to the pandemic was nothing compared to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Worse yet, the report indicates that growth is higher than the average rate in the past 10 years. Related: Will gene editing and cloning create super cows that resist global warming? “The lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph. We need a sustained flattening of the curve,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary-general for the WMO. The reviewed data revealed that the benchmark station of Mauna Loa in Hawaii experienced a higher rate of carbon emissions in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. The station recorded 411.3 ppm in 2020 and 408.5 ppm in September 2019. The same scenario was observed in Tasmania, Australia, where carbon dioxide levels rose to 410.8ppm in September 2020 from 408.6ppm in September 2019. The WMO secretary-general said that these figures are worrying if we look at the fast rate of growth each year. “We breached the global [annual] threshold of 400ppm in 2015 and, just four years later, we have crossed 410ppm,” Taalas said. “Such a rate of increase has never been seen in the history of our records.” Those behind the report are now calling for stringent actions to be taken if the world is to meet the crucial target of cutting emissions in half by 2030. Otherwise, global warming will lead to increased poverty, malnutrition and deaths from droughts, floods, heatwaves and fires. “The needed changes are economically affordable and technically possible and would affect our everyday life only marginally,” Taalas said. “It is to be welcomed that a growing number of countries and companies have committed themselves to carbon neutrality . There is no time to lose.” + WMO Via The Guardian Image via Thomas Millot

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Greenhouse gases hit record levels despite COVID-19 lockdowns

If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

October 30, 2020 by  
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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 10/30/2020 – 03:00 The Presidential election looming next week could change everything for the future of the environment, clean air and the markets contributing to the clean economy. And if Vice President Joe Biden wins, there’s a chance it could change everything for California’s clean air chief Mary Nichols, too.  Bloomberg recently reported that Nichols, the retiring chair of the California Air Resources Board,  was on a shortlist to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if Biden wins the election next week. Others on the list for EPA head, or other environmental roles, include Mississippi environmentalist and former regional EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut regulator Dan Esty, according to the report.  During an interview at the VERGE 20 conference on Thursday , Nichols responded to a question about the report, by saying this: I am one of the people who worked at the EPA once upon a time who has been shocked and distressed by the treatment they have received over the last four years. In particular, it’s a much smaller, a much weaker agency than it was supposed to have been. And if the President wants my help, in whatever capacity, to help turn that around, I’m going to say yes.  If Nichols took on the lead role with the EPA, it would be an abrupt 180 for the agency under President Donald Trump. Current EPA head Andrew Wheeler, working with the Trump administration, has rapidly moved to dismantle many environmental, clean water and clean air protections in an attempt to remove red tape for industry. These are the types of regulations that Nichols has spent her 50-year career — including a stint at the EPA during the Clinton administration — helping implement.  In particular, Nichols and CARB have clashed with the Trump administration, and Wheeler, over issues including California’s ability to set stricter auto emissions standards. Last year, the administration revoked the state’s waiver to set stricter auto standards, and California, followed by 22 other states, sued the Trump administration. Of course, the outcome of the election is uncertain, and Nichols is reportedly just one of the names on Biden’s shortlist. The CARB chair told the VERGE audience that she is only planning to step down from CARB at the end of this year because she has some other projects she has her eye on.  My decision to step down from the Air Resources Board and turn over the leadership of this wonderful organization to someone else isn’t really based on a desire to retire. I have been doing this job for a very long time. Longer than anyone else has or maybe ever will. I want to do some other things. I have some ideas and projects in mind, which I’m not ready to make any announcements about. But it’s not a question of retiring.  Regardless of whether the EPA role is in Nichols’ future, we’re clearly looking forward to seeing what she does next.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper, GreenBiz Close Authorship

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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

Renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity

October 28, 2020 by  
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A new report published by Rewiring America concludes that if everybody in the U.S. switched to solar, wind or other clean energy power, not only could the country reach zero emissions, but households would save an average of $1,050 to $2,585 annually on bills. This adds up to about $321 billion savings per year. The report, No Place Like Home: Fighting Climate Change (And Saving Money) by Electrifying America’s Households , found that more than 40% of U.S. energy-related carbon emissions come from normal household activities like cooking, bathing and commuting. The way forward, according to the report, is decarbonizing households through electrification. This means driving electric cars that we charge via our rooftop solar panels. Instead of powering appliances with natural gas, the report promotes electricity to power heat pumps, stoves and clothes dryers. Related: Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050 “Too often we are told doing the right thing for the environment requires sacrifice and costs more,” Adam Zurofsky, executive director of Rewiring America , told The Guardian . “But no one is talking about the upside — we can actually make a better economy and save people money and a byproduct will be to cut emissions from residential buildings.” This optimistic attitude nicely coincides with an analysis recently released by financial giant Lazard. In Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis Version 14.0 , the firm concluded that wind and solar are the most affordable electricity sources. Building new solar plants is less expensive than keeping existing coal plants running. Of course, the upfront cost is the hitch for individual households. A larger-scale infrastructure will be necessary for all those solar panels, car chargers and batteries to work together. And it all has to happen pretty soon, before humans render the planet uninhabitable for their own species. That’s going to require government help. According to Zurofsky, “The federal government can make it dirt cheap for people to switch to renewables.” Now we have to make sure they do. Which reminds us, please vote. + Rewiring America Via Common Dreams , PV Magazine and The Guardian Image via Charlie Wilde

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Renewable energy is the cheapest source of electricity

A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later

October 2, 2020 by  
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A closed loop fashion system requires scaling solutions now, not later Deonna Anderson Fri, 10/02/2020 – 01:00 The fashion industry is damaging to the planet — it’s responsible for 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. But there are companies — both large and small — trying to solve this problem. Back in 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation tapped on large brands such as Burberry, Gap and H&M to make fashion circular  — ensuring that clothes are made from safe and renewable materials, establishing new business models to increase their use and developing systems that would enable more old clothes to be turned into new garments. Outside of this particular coalition of companies, other fashion businesses are attempting to make the industry more circular by using customizable digital technology, eliminating excess production and tracking the life cycle of products. One of those companies is San Francisco-based clothing startup unspun , which produces sustainable jeans via a unique digital process: customers design their ideal pair of jeans, use their smartphones to takes a 3D scan of their bodies, then receive the custom-built denim in the mail.  “We think it’s really important to think of this from a closed loop and regenerative system, because humans are so used to going for the ‘next thing,'” said Beth Esponnette, co-founder of unspun, during part one of a discussion about scaling circular fashion during Circularity 20 in late August. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. “It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system,” Esponnette continued. She noted that unspun is not trying to villify consumption, but rather to set up a more responsible industry. The company is designing for disassembly and thinking about how to go from yarn to product and back to yarn again. “It’s not quite ready yet but it’s soon to be on to its first prototypes, so we really see the industry being no-waste and actually infinitely customizable, definitely by 2050, hopefully even by 2030,” she said. While the company is not completely zero-waste at this time, it has a commitment to eventually get there. In the meantime, it works with Blue Jeans Go Green to turn its cutting waste from from the jean making process into denim insulation for homes.  At this point, a pair of custom-fitted unspun jeans costs $200 — a price that not every person who wants to make more sustainable fashion choices can afford. That’s one reason why addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time.  Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Making changes along the apparel supply chain At a different part of the supply chain, labeling and embellishment manufacturer Avery Dennison has a vision of the future: where every physical label on a garment will have a digital twin or ID that would tell the sustainability or end of life story of the piece of clothing. It also could help a consumer know what to do with the garment at its end of life, whether it can be resold, repaired or recycled. “That’s what really drives us, to be able to help enable that whole circularity of the industry,” said Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of compliance and sustainability at Avery Dennison. Right now, the fashion industry operates primarily in production and consumption, but avoids the decomposition part of the loop because of the perception that it will be wasteful, said Beth Rattner, executive director at the Biomimicry Institute, which provides sustainability advising to companies, including some in the world of fashion.  Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. But working in only the front part of the loop is only ignoring a waste problem that already exists, and is even getting worse. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , a think tank advancing the circular economy. Plus, there’s the waste that’s harder to see than the piles of fabric in a landfill. “We still have polyester that’s ending up in microfibers, which are ending up in the ocean, in our seafood dinner,” Rattner said. “We’re eating about a credit card worth of plastic every year.” The fashion industry must contend with its long history of operating unsustainably A recent report from the Biomimicry Institute called The Nature of Fashion  points out how the fashion industry has unsustainably operated as a collective for decades. “It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, ‘That would make a nice-looking dress,'” the report’s forward reads. “And yet, for nearly 80 years, we have collectively looked past the ill-effects of petroleum and focused solely on the versatile, low price-point clothing that polyester makes possible.” It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” The report argues that new fibers — no matter how recyclable they may be — should not be developed if there is no natural decomposition for them, because man-made material loops always leak into the environment . “The fashion industry now more than ever needs to look at materials in the larger context of natural systems,” Anita Chester, head of materials at Laudes Foundation, a partner for the report, said in a press release at the time of the report’s release. During the Circularity 20 session, Rattner gave attendees a vision and a call to action by telling them to imagine having a pantry of Twinkies in a pantry after deciding to be a healthy eater — likening them to the mounds of polyester sitting in our waste management system. Should you eat all those Twinkies first, and then go buy your kale? Should we keep using the same materials that we’ve been using? “We know that the Twinkies are bad for us,” she said “We don’t have to keep eating them, we can do something else with them. So my call to action is: we don’t have to eat the Twinkies.” Pull Quote Addressing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry will require multiple solutions to be at play at the same time. Of the total fiber input used for clothing, 87 percent is either landfilled or incinerated. It’s really hard to change our behavior, and even if we were able to do that, it’s not going to fix the problems in the system. It’s safe to say that no one ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought, “That would make a nice-looking dress.” Topics Circular Economy Fashion Circularity 20 Textile Waste Apparel Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock New Africa Close Authorship

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

July 20, 2020 by  
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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change Joel Makower Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:11 Last week, a group of activists, scientists, academics and others issued a report calling for policies and other initiatives to generate prosperity while addressing inequity and the climate crisis. They called it the Blue New Deal. Its focus: an ocean-based blue economy . The problem, these experts said, is that the much-ballyhooed Green New Deal doesn’t adequately address the many environmental and social challenges that lie along the world’s shorelines and into the deep blue: industrial overfishing; coastal flooding; declining biodiversity; plastic waste; irresponsible tourism; unsustainable aquaculture; oil and chemical pollution; invasive species; and a range of other issues, many affecting the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. Yes, provisions in the Green New Deal address fisheries and fishing communities, but that’s only a drop in the ocean, say blue-economy experts. The Ocean Climate Action Plan (OCAP), produced by the Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute and the nonprofit Blue Frontier, aims to fill the shortcomings of the Green New Deal, offering a four-part set of policy recommendations that, it says, “contains both conservative and liberal economic philosophies that are mutually reinforcing.” There’s a pool of insights for companies, too. “There’s been a lot of stovepiping between the marine conservation community and the climate community,” David Helvarg, executive director of Blue Frontier, explained to me last week. “There’s kind of this feeling that the environment ends with the shoreline.” Suffice to say, it doesn’t. Indeed, says Helvarg, 14 of the 20 biggest U.S. cities are coastal, which he and others regard as those adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. That’s also true for eight of the world’s 10 largest cities, according to the U.N. Atlas of the Oceans . These communities face a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges that extend well beyond their terrestrial-based boundaries. There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. The OCAP report is the result of “dozens of conversations” with leaders and experts, culminating in October in a meeting in Monterey, California, attended by 60 leading ocean and coastal experts across disciplines. It was followed by a virtual meet-up in April, attended by more than 750 people. The group is quick to distinguish the ” blue economy ” from the ” ocean economy .” The latter includes all ocean-based economic activity, including fishing, shipping, mining, port operations, oil and gas exploration and energy generation. “When we talk about the blue economy, we’re talking about sectors that are sustainable and that maintain the health of the ocean that support our economies and communities, both human and wild,” said Helvarg. “We’re looking at how you build and expand economic activity in ways that benefit both the sustainable ecological systems and the health of the ocean that sustains us and that benefits ocean-dependent communities and businesses.” That includes providing opportunities for marginalized and disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, that tend to be at greater risk of pollution and climate impacts. According to the report: One of OCAP’s core premises is that our ocean and coastal economies suffer from pervasive market failure; many externalities from industry are not properly priced in the market, many offshore industries are currently being stymied due to regulatory uncertainty over property rights, and large gaps in information lead to inefficient decisions about ocean and coastal resource use. Correcting these market failures in order to spur rapid innovation in the blue economy is one of OCAP’s top priorities. Ensuring that markets function efficiently is a deeply conservative objective. The Blue New Deal laid out in the OCAP report is a policy framework that aims to achieve two key objectives: use ocean and coastal resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw atmospheric greenhouse gases down to safer levels; and enable coastal communities to more effectively and equitably adapt to climate impacts. No wish list  To accomplish these things, the report lays out four key issue areas along with policy recommendations for each: Coastal adaptation and financing: helping vulnerable communities retreat from unstable shorelines; catalyzing a “large-scale dynamic living shorelines industry”; creating jobs that rehabilitate coastal ecosystems; reforming flood insurance; improving coastal wastewater management. Clean ocean energy: catalyzing large-scale deployment of offshore wind power; ensuring the protection of critical offshore habitats; creating robust programs to assess additional renewable ocean energy systems such as wave, current, tidal and thermal. Ports, shipping and the maritime sector: accelerating the decarbonization of ports and the shipping industry, including dramatically improving air and water quality in adjacent communities. Aquaculture, sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation: helping U.S. fisheries adapt to climate impacts; catalyzing the growth of a “new sustainable seafood industry,” including aquaculture, mariculture and plant- and cell-based seafood alternatives. It’s not just a wish list. The report offers a gap analysis of how current U.S. congressional legislation aligns — and doesn’t — with Blue New Deal objectives. Example: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the report’s recommendation to fund state governments to pilot living shoreline projects in at-risk coastal counties is addressed in seven congressional bills. As with most other sustainability-related matters, there’s a takes-a-village aspect of all of this, along with a sense of urgency as climate impacts become increasingly evident, particularly along coasts. “It’s triage at this point,” Helvarg explained. “I mean, we’re fighting to preserve the last 10 percent of the world’s tropical corals. We’re fighting to minimize the impacts of sea-level rise and intensifying hurricanes, where NOAA just put out a report that hurricane intensity increased 8 percent a decade over the last 40 years. That means we’re going to have a more-than-normal active hurricane season on top of the pandemic this year, and if a hurricane comes ashore this year it’s going to be a third more intense than one that would have come ashore in 1980.” Given U.S. legislators’ decidedly somnolent approach to addressing the climate crisis, it likely will take a few more devastating hurricanes or other natural disasters before the Blue New Deal — and the Green New Deal, for that matter — garner a sense of urgency. It’s also possible that market signals could drive many of these notions forward without policy action. “We think that the crisis is an opportunity for almost every maritime sector and industry to engage and work with other stakeholders in turning the tide on this,” Helvarg said. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Helvarg’s group works with a wide range of industries, but not with the oil and gas sector — “they’re the problem, not the solution,” he said — but there’s good news even there. “There’s a lot of potential lateral movement for the roughnecks and roustabouts ” — skilled and unskilled workers on oil rigs, respectively. “They have all the skill sets to immediately transition to be wind turbine technicians and linesmen and ocean engineers, which have the potential to be at least as significant in terms of U.S. domestic energy as offshore oil.” Can ocean and coastal health become part of a “new deal” — green, blue or any other hue? This is yet another arena where equity and environmental issues align, creating opportunities for leadership companies and communities to uplift the 40 percent of Americans living in coastal regions. And help thwart the worst impacts of what may well be a future national crisis. As Helvarg quipped: “Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue.” Pull Quote There’s kind of this feeling like the environment ends with the shoreline. Our aim is to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. Topics Oceans & Fisheries Policy & Politics Social Justice Coastal Health Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock / GreenBiz photocollage

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How a Blue New Deal charts a course for a sustainable sea change

1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

May 7, 2019 by  
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A new study released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that nearly one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction largely due to unsustainable economic development. The global assessment is the largest and most comprehensive study about biodiversity loss and the role of capitalism. The report synthesizes more than 15,000 scientific papers published over three years; it was released on May 6 and endorsed by more than 130 countries. The report focuses on the disappearance of key species such as pollinators, coral reefs , fish and medicinal plants and specifies the devastating role of industrial farming, fishing and climate change . “If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now,” Robert Watson, who chaired the study,  told Reuters . The report’s drastic findings mirror the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s report from October that recommends drastic economic and social changes are needed to slow extinction. Related: Even scientists are shocked by the latest UN report on climate change According to the report, the list of threatened species includes 40 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals and sharks and one third of all marine mammals. The report calls the rate of extinction “unprecedented” and “accelerating,” explaining that the current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds times higher than it has been over the last ten million years. The report also delves into the economic valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss and the impact on human societies. For example, the report findings indicate that $577 billion dollars annually in crop production are at risk if bees and other pollinators become extinct. The loss of mangroves and coral reefs could put 300 million coastal residents at risk of flooding. Reuters described the report as “a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics;” however, this acknowledgement continues to ignore ‘non-traditional’ and non-academic voices that have been calling for and modeling more sustainable economies and ecosystems for centuries. + United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Via Reuters Image via Pixels

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1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

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