This Week in Sustainability


This Week in Sustainability is a day late in honor of the #Climatestrike. There was lots going on during the past week, but the strike was the focus of our attention as it should have been.

Nonetheless, this week I tried to capture some of the other stories swirling: catching some that are moving us forward, others moving us back.

As always, let me know if I missed something important!

Rollin’ back the clock

This past week I wanted to reassert a more positive outlook.

But really, it’s hard. Really, really, hard especially when the Trump Administration continues to roll back at every chance important legislation and regulation that safeguards people, communities, employees, and the environment.

It’s impossible to say how important the United States is to leadership on so many issues, but climate in particular.

In their latest ‘awful thing done against humanity’, Trump and Co. revoked California’s right to set fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles.

The reason? They don’t want to let the politics of one state set national policy.

So much for a federalist GOP or the precedence of CA receiving over 100 waivers from the Feds to set fuel standards (from both Democratic and Republican presidents) making it the benchmark standard for over 50 years.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the revocation was a “political vendetta” against CA and that the state will fight the decision in the courts.

The stakes can’t be higher, with thirteen other states following CA’s lead, representing about 30% of the US car market. No surprise automobile manufacturers prefer the stability and uniformity CA leadership on the emission standards has provided.

The Berlin autoshowing off electric…

Last week’s This Week In Sustainability hailed Angela Merkle, the German Chancellor, for opening the International Motor Show Germany by scolding car companies for the damage their product does to the environment.

After a week of showing off the best they have, it’s not all bad as the show portents the long-awaited era of the electric car.

Never mind that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) only account for 2% of the European market, less in the USA. Nor the fact #BigOil fight NRA-like to suppress, obstruct, or stall almost all common-sense measures to increase BEV markets and clean fuels.

The Future is near… finally?

The time is coming and to see a hint of the future, we only need go to China. It is the largest BEV market in the world with growth there helping to double the global electric car fleet last year alone.

In Europe, Volkswagen definitively wants to be the leader. The company has committed USD 50 billion to a BEV investment program over the next five years.  One year in, they have debut the VW ID.3, a Golf-sized sedan debut at the Frankfurt show. The ID.3 is not only a sleek car itself, but provides the basis for 15 other mass market BEV for VW.

A number of other manufacturers were also touting their BEVs at the show. Among the more affordable were models by SEAT, Honda, Mini, and Hyundai.  Tesla, Mercedes, Audi, Porche and Lamborghini had their models too, but with a much bigger price tag.

You may not like what the car culture does to our cities etc., I know I don’t. But there is no doubt personal vehicles will be with us for a while, so better they are BEVs.

Note: BEVs are not straight-up environmentally benign and they have clean competition (e.g., hydrogen). If you want a good examination from an environmental perspective see Global EV Outlook 2019.

We are loosing our birds

According to a new study, Decline of the North American avifauna, of 529 bird species, North America has lost more than a quarter of its bird population over the last 50 years. That’s an astonishing 3 billion birds.

Birds with dwindling populations include meadowlarks, dark-eyed juncos, horned larks and red-winged blackbirds. Some of these populations have suffered up to 53% losses.

What a wonderous bird, the red-winged blackbird

Before the study, scientists believed many species were adapting to live around humans and that their overall numbers had not collapsed. Instead, there is a shocking net 30% loss in the total number of breeding birds. Losses are due primarily to habitat degradation, urbanization, and pesticides. Oddly, not a single mention of windmills.

The good news?

Some bird populations are increasing, including ducks, geese, the bald eagle and condor, among others.

The reason?

It seems when humans want to save a species we can.

Professor Kenneth Rosenberg, a lead scientist of the study, notes, “The numbers of ducks and geese are larger than they’ve ever been, and that’s not an accident. It’s because hunters who primarily want to see healthy waterfowl populations for recreational hunting have raised their voices.”

GRETA and the US Congress

One of the shortest and perhaps most calmly delivered skewering of the US Congress ever given was by Greta Thunberg, the sixteen year old Swedish climate activist, who ask the august body this past Thursday to do something it often fails to do: let the science do the talking on the climate crisis and then act.

Greta offered few of words in her short testimony, letting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report do the talking for her. “Listen to science, not me,” she said. 

By contrast, the volume of kids, adults and noise around the world rose to incredible heights as an estimated 4 million plus #ClimateStrikers took to the streets. May the gods bless them, and the hope they inspire.

Guns plague and divide us still…

Business, not people are the reason Colt, a leading gun manufacturer in America, announced this past Wednesday it would suspend production of AR – 15 for civilian use.

Colt reported high-volume military contracts are taking all of its manufacturing capacity for the AR-15. The company claims the consumer market for rifles has “excess manufacturing capacity” and that there are too many AR-15 guns on the market to justify making more. So much for morality and killing sprees.

But will it make a difference?

Suspension or not, , there will still be an estimated 15 million AR-15s in private hands in the US. That’s about 5% of the 300 million guns owned by Americans.

Colt will still manufacture other personal consumer guns, including pistols and revolvers. Palmetto State Armory and Smith and Wesson will continue to make assault style rifles.

The real reason for continued sales and use of AR-15s is demand. Here is one happy AR-15 customer…. “There are very few things that serve such a great form and function, and look cool,” said Daniel Chandler, 26, an AR-15 owner….”

A warning from the Bees

Thanks to @GeorgeMonbiot of the Guardian for his great climate and sustainability work. Thanks too for his sharp eye for artistic warnings!

Next week look for Sustainable Century commentary on Monbiot’s idea that we ban #BigOil advertising. How could this not be a plus? #BigOil advertising is highly distorted and does not tell their fossil fuel intentions.

Don’t believe me? Check out #BigOil investor reports compared to their promotional literature.

Food for thought from a trash talking….

While there is much to disagree with in much of what Piers Morgan has to say on any given day, once and awhile his diatribes cough up a nugget or too worth paying attention to.

In the attached tweeted video, Morgan asserts liberals would be wise to reflect on their unyielding ‘politically correct” conclusions which he claims intimidates everyone so much we stop doing anything of consequence.

He is partially right.

Hardened liberal attitudes often get in the way of attracting allies in the struggle to address issues from climate to immigration. Even people on the left can get fed up with a PC culture.  It’s just ‘horribly wrong” says Morgan, to come off telling people how to live.

Who wants to feel cornered by the opinions of others?  Where can starting points begin if everyone feels offended by everything? This, Morgan argues, leads to a field where monsters like Trump can rise up.

If no common ground is offered, none will be found and Godzilla will take the field.

Last Word..

Women still get the short stick everywhere despite us knowing better.

How many freaking times to you have to win the World Cup of Soccer before you get paid as much as a men’s team whose ‘miracle’ is to simply get out of the qualifying round?

And then try being a woman of color on top of that.

It is long past time to make amends. A level playing field we must make and defend. This is what Nike and the Toronto Raptors contributed to this last week when they introduced the first commercially available, and very cool, sports hajib.

Congrats to them!

More importantly, a shout out to all the women and girls out there doing their thing and inspiring us all to do more and better to level the field!

And as always if you want to learn more about how to bring sustainability more fully into your financial life, check out my book Invest Like You Give a Damn!


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