Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Environment, Green, Internet, Tech, Technology
In preparation for what I hope is a panel at SXSW (vote for it here) moderated by my esteemed boss lady Summer Rayne Oakes, I wanted to outline some of my personal thoughts on the lack of connectivity between the internet and the environment. My career sits at the nexus of these two revolutions. I’m working on an Internet startup designed to streamline the supply chain for sustainable fashion designers. It leaves me scrambling to learn everything I can about both movements, but often I feel like I have a leg on two banks of river. Both revolutions are infants by all accounts, but what’s perplexing is their detachment.
Let’s start with the Internet. The Internet as an industry is not doing well. It’s immensely popular, innovative, socially, culturally, and educationally life alerting, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of money. YouTube (one of the examples used in Chris Andersons incomprehensive book ‘Free’) is estimated to have made around 200 million dollars last year. You may think to yourself, shit 200 million isn’t bad, but YouTube is ranked number 4 on Alexa making it by all means one of the most powerful sites on the entire web. Look up the number 4 energy company, the number 4 bio medial corporation or the number 4 financial firm and you’ll see how measly 200 million dollars is. I understand of course, that the Internet is still in its infancy, but when its number 4 player only makes 200 million dollars something is askew. Other than giants Google, Yahoo and Facebook few top sites have billion dollar potential. Twitter is ranked number 13 and hasn’t even decided on a revenue model yet. This means one of two things; It’s still way to early in the composition of the web to see how it will be profitable. Or, the Internet (generally speaking of course) really doesn’t know how to make money and what’s worse, may not be properly structured to. Before the first dot.com bubble burst VC’s and the average investor alike were more then willing to overlook short-term profitability for inconceivable long term potential. Now, as Web 2.0 comes to a close, the honeymoon is officially over. Looking from the ground up, the start-up community from coast to coast is all in a tizzy. Few of the thousands of start-ups with or without funding have the ability to convincingly answer that ever-important question, “what is your revenue model?” It makes sense to me why, up until the last few years the tech community wasn’t really worried about their revenue stream so the 20 some odd years of experience this industry does have, in some ways, isn’t applicable.
Now lets talk about the environment. In certain aspects a much older industry than the web, conservationism dates back to the 19th century. The “Green” movement however, is relatively new. I don’t love the term “green” but in this context it best describes the social and cultural progression we’ve seen in the last decade. When global warming finally hit the collective conscious we realized that the human being was at a pivotal moment in its existence. Soaring energy costs and turmoil in energy producing regions present catastrophic political and environmental problems, but also unrivaled economic opportunity. All of this has been muddled by an economic crisis and what should be an uncontroversial debate about health care that is instead a floundering political parties last gasp for air. I understand the valid concern for these extremely important issues but the environmental problems facing our planet exceed anything we can even imagine. The beauty is that our environmental woes provide the perfect solution to our long term economic instability. That fact has been skewed by an aforementioned political parties disenchantment with reality and scientific fact, the over branding of “Green” or “greenwashing” which has led many to ignore the issue much like they would any other overly branded concept and the poor assessment that technology will just fix everything when it becomes an imminent danger. All told, the environment needs a second wind.
In sum, these two larger then life movements both have some serious ailments but their problems appear to be tangentially related: The Internet is looking for a direction (a direction that actually makes money) and the environment needs a miracle of human collaboration and invention. That seems like a good fit to me. For the last 20 years, and rightfully so, the tech community has devoted a tremendous amount effort to improving the Internet itself. Online tools are created before their true purpose and value is revealed. It’s kind of like getting dressed in the dark but with a closet full of great clothes. Now, there is an opportunity to develop specific platforms that aid in saving the planet. It melds perfectly with the idealism that surrounds the Internet and it’s a far greater cause then “connecting” upper middle class white kids. So get on board Internet people, you don’t have to pretend you are changing the world with a social net site for cat breeders…you can actually do it.
Filed under: Uncategorized
In honor of what would be Dr. Seuss’s 105 birthday today, I wanted to leave you with his words about the Lorax, decades ahead of their time.
At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows…
is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood
just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.
What was the Lorax?
And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. He knows.
You won’t see the Once-ler.
Don’t knock at his door.
He stays in his Lerkim on top of his store.
He lurks in his Lerkim, cold under the roof,
where he makes his own clothes
out of miff-muffered moof.
And on special dank midnights in August,
out of the shutters
and sometimes he speaks
and tells how the Lorax was lifted away.
He’ll tell you, perhaps…
if you’re willing to pay.
On the end of a rope
he lets down a tin pail
and you have to toss in fifteen cents
and a nail
and the shell of a great-great-great-
grandfather snail.Then he pulls up the pail,
makes a most careful count
to see if you’ve paid him
the proper amount.
Then he hides what you paid him
away in his Snuvv,
his secret strange hole
in his gruvvulous glove.
Then he grunts, “I will call you by Whisper-ma-Phone,
for the secrets I tell you are for your ears alone.”
Down slupps the Whisper-ma-Phone to your ear
and the old Once-ler’s whispers are not very clear,
since they have to come down
through a snergelly hose,
and he sounds
as if he had
smallish bees up his nose.
“Now I’ll tell you,”he says, with his teeth sounding gray,
“how the Lorax got lifted and taken away…
It all started way back…
such a long, long time back…
Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.
And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits
as they played in the shade and ate Truffula fruits.
From the rippulous pond
came the comfortable sound
of the Humming-Fish humming
while splashing around.
But those trees! Those trees!
Those Truffula Trees!
All my life I’d been searching
for trees such as these.
The touch of their tufts
was much softer than silk.
And they had the sweet smell
of fresh butterfly milk.
I felt a great leaping
of joy in my heart.
I knew just what I’d do!
I unloaded my cart.
In no time at all, I had built a small shop.
Then I chopped down a Truffula Tree with one chop.
And with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed,
I took the soft tuft, and I knitted a Thneed!
The instant I’d finished, I heard a ga-Zump!
I saw something pop out of the stump
of the tree I’d chopped down. It was sort of a man.
Describe him?… That’s hard. I don’t know if I can.
He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.
“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I’m asking you, sir, at the top if my lungs”-
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed-
“What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?”
“Look, Lorax,” I said.”There’s no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I’m being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
A Thneed‘s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove, It’s a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!”
The Lorax said,
“Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!”
But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight
I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy.”
“I repeat,” cried the Lorax,
“I speak for the trees!”
“I’m busy,” I told him.
“Shut up, if you please.”
I rushed ‘cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, “Listen here! Here’s a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch.”
And, in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family
was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping
of Truffula Trees.
Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree
at a time
was too slow.
So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker.
We were making Thneeds
four times as fast as before!
And that Lorax?…
He didn’t show up any more.
But the next week
on my new office door.
He snapped, “I am the Lorax who speaks for the trees
which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.
But I’m also in charge of the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
“NOW… thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there’s not enought Truffula Fruit to go ’round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!
“They loved living here. But I can’t let them stay.
They’ll have to find food. And I hope that they may.
Good luck, boys,” he cried. And he sent them away.
I, the old Once-ler, felt sad
as I watched them all go.
business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger.So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering… selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.
Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes
when that old-nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.
“I am the Lorax,” he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
“Once-ler!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.
“Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans… why, they can’t sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.
“And so,” said the Lorax,
“-please pardon my cough-
they cannot live here.
So I’m sending them off.
“Where will they go?…
I don’t hopefully know.
They may have to fly for a month… or a year…
To escape from the smog you’ve smogged up around here.
“What’s more,” snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)
“Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machine chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?…
I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!
“You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I’m sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They’ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.”
And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”
And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!
No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done.
So, in no time, my uncles and aunts, every one,
all waved me good-bye. They jumped into my cars
and drove away under the smoke-smuggered stars.
Now all that was left ‘neath the bad smelling-sky
was my big empty factory…
The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance…
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance…
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I’ll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.
And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with one word…
Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn’t guess.
That was long, long ago.
But each day since that day
I’ve sat here and worried
and worried away.
Through the years, while my buildings
have fallen apart,
I’ve worried about it
with all of my heart.
“But now,” says the Once-ler,
“Now that you’re here,
the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
Catch!” calls the Once-ler.
He lets something fall.
“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula.Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”
Filed under: Uncategorized
With the recent passage of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I felt it necessary to highlight some of the finer points within the nearly 100 billion dollars allocated to green initiatives. I’ve read literally 10 different versions explaining how much is going where, so take this post as a generalization. The point is, this is monumental stuff. It may seem trite after a string of 800 billion dollar bailouts, but this is different. These funds aren’t being allocated back to Bank of America and Citi to shore up capital and encourage lending. This is Barack Obama play money. This is the United States of America saying, “Okay kid, here’s almost a trillion clams, go ahead and fix it. I tried to skim the 778 page document to locate the more important green proposals, but I’m same guy that has trouble finishing those 8 page essay’s in the New Yorker, so don’t be surprised if I missed some stuff. Treehugger and NY Times Green Inc helped the synthesis greatly. Anyways, here it goes.
Let’s start with the bulk of the dinero, 39 billion to the Department of Energy for the development of clean energy and jobs. When I first saw this I was hesitant. Can the DOE be trusted to allocate this massive amount of cash? This 39 bil is the guts of the green green in the ARRA so we can’t afford to blow it. (Hopefully none of the fine folks from the The Minerals Management Service made into the new administration.) But this time we have new blood. Steven Chu, the new Secretary of Energy is beyond a genius. Chu is one of the pioneering energy and physicist minds of the last quarter century. (I love the new government.) But still, just to be on the safe side, the Senate included some provisions as to where all that dough will go.
About 6 billion will be available in grants for states that convince Chu they are not only in desperate need of energy restructuring, but capable of delegating the resources properly in an overall effort to; create building energy codes for residential and commercial projects that will meet specified and stringent energy efficiency standards. Expect Schwarzenegger and Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington to be all over this.
Another 2 billion will be available in grants for companies that manufacture advanced battery technology. Yes! This is really cool. 2 billion bills goes a long way for small smart battery start-ups. The USA just became a green tech angel investor. Neat.
About 5 billion for zero emission power plants, which technically could include nuclear.
330 mil goes to “Science” and I have no fucking idea what that means but it’s amazing how 330 million is so easily lost when your talking about hundreds of BILLIONS! I sure hope “science” does something cool with the cheddar because the government could have bought everyone in America a Jr. Bacon Double Chee or a Frosty.
Outside of the DOE paper about 11 billion goes to smart-grid related activities, including work to modernize electrical grids, perform energy storage research and train new workers. Believe it or not, Google was paramount in lobbying for this significant amount of bread. Google is developing smart grid intelligence that will be made available to the consumer through readouts on their home energy consumption. Why? Google is realizing their business isn’t helping people answer life’s pressing questions like why women can’t put on mascara with their mouths closed, it’s allocating and storing information. So it’s prudent for Google to store and allocate the countries energy consumption information.
Onwards and upwards; 2.5 billion to convert federal buildings into state of the art beacons of energy efficiency.
$6.5 billion of increased borrowing authority to the Bonneville and Western Area Power Administrations for expanding and upgrading electric transmission lines.
3.4 billion towards clean coal projects, a provision that did not go over well with the vast majority of the environmental community. Perhaps I’ll write a post about why this is, but basically clean coal is not clean. Why is it in there? Sadly enough probably because Obama is from Illinois and poverty stricken Southern Illinois has always been and would be, the hub for coal mining.
As far as the green budget goes, I think you get the idea. There’s obviously more, but I could literally go on for pages.
So all said and done how did the earth do in terms of ARRA? Pretty damn good. We are in the middle of a significant economic downturn and green projects gobbled up almost an 8th of the cabbage. That’s decent. 5 years ago it never would have happened. 10 years ago Clinton would have laughed at us. The important question, however, is not how far we have come as an issue, but how far that amount of coin will get us. President Obama will need to do what all great CEO’s do, allocate resources and funds to maximize returns. The planet, and his presidency will depend on it.
Filed under: Uncategorized
For this week’s post I’d like to take a minute to talk about my boss ladies new book, Style, Naturally: The savvy shopping guide to sustainable fashion & beauty. While I never imagined reading a book about fashion, sustainable or otherwise, I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. Style, Naturally (I’m told to say it with a little attitude) is a literary and visual journey through the world of sustainable fashion, but it by no means reads like an essay out of Glamour. Amidst chic photographs and highly aesthetic page layouts, Summer Rayne Oakes adeptly weaves in sensible style advice with interesting elucidation on the method employed to create stylish sustainable clothing. In result, Style, Naturally is not only the style guide for environmentally minded and fashionable women (v-day gift for mom’s and sisters… giving a book to your girlfriend for valentines day is a surefire way not to get laid) it’s a manifesto of how an industry can “go green.” As per my opening post, going green means finding ways to streamline any industry in the most sustainable and energy efficient way possible. The sustainable fashion space is a wonderful example of how that can be achieved. As more designers, retailers, and manufacturers shift their attention to sustainable fashion because it is both hip and environmentally responsible, a vertical model is created for other industries to emulate. Massive designers and retailers (think Hilfiger) will essentially be forced to jump on the green bandwagon and they, more than anyone will represent the tides of change. The Hilfiger’s of the world will create sustainable big business solutions and happily pat themselves on the back for it. It will be the first time an out of touch companies misguided marketing campaign won’t piss me off. Because if you really think about it, the green movement and in a microcosm the sustainable fashion movement, has accomplished something truly revolutionary. For the first time since America was corporatized (it’s a word) a grassroots activist movement has successfully infiltrated its message into the everyday vernacular of the world’s most powerful businesses. Instead of wasting time protesting on the steps of congress, (we beat that horse for a while) the environmental movement tapped the most powerful resource in American society and created a brand. Green is now a marketing strategy. It’s magnificently capitalistic. Using big business to promote a social cause would have probably sounded ridiculous only 20 years ago, but I expect it will be the model moving forward. I don’t know if anyone conceived of this or it just happened, but it’s fucking brilliant. Companies are already emerging that will monitor business practices and ensure that go green ad campaigns can actually be backed up by green business solutions. This means the Hilfiger’s of the world will have to walk the walk. So if at first you thought sustainable fashion wasn’t really relevant to your life or the greater green movement, think again. In the midst of a cultural, political, and economic revolution, everything plays it role.
There’s far too much content on earth. If content were a pollutant I have no doubt it would be the environments most severe threat, virtually dwarfing co2 emissions, radioactive waste, uranium mining and China. Luckily for the narcissistic, awful youtube posts, terrible music on myspace, twittering and blogging have no direct environmental effect aside from the energy consumed to create them. That, however, does not make it okay. Content pollution is a serious problem.
From Greener on the Other Side you will find a synthesis of the weeks most pressing environmental news scoping business, politics, culture and energy. Hopefully that synthesis will offer some translation, context, and perspective on what all this green talk is really about. Additionally, I will tackle evolving trends and themes within the broader green movement and attempt to editorialize in a way that will help bring you as the reader into the fold of the green universe.
To start, I will offer some closure on the term itself. Since I began pursuing a career within the green space people have asked me, “What does green mean?” Well let me clarify, green is a primary color; Favorite third among Americans after Red and Blue, it can be found in any 8 pack of crayons, and can be created by mixing yellow and blue paint. You may have attempted this at some point between ages 3 and 12. It’s home to the less sinful apple, the dollar bill, teenage mutant ninja turtles, and Kermit. One can be green with envy or green with innocence. But perhaps most famously, (at least second to money) the earth is green. And so, when PR spinsters and marketing mavens had to describe all things environmental, sustainable and energy efficient they deemed them green. It was a pretty good idea. Otherwise your nightly newscaster would’ve had to give you tips on how to avoid cataclysmic climate change resulting in massive flooding/death instead of the far less wordy, how to Go Green! It works for a lot of americas, “Well I like green, it’s my third favorite color, and I love to go places so this sounds like something for me!” The truth is that green really means efficient. And while I am impressed and encouraged by the traction the green movement has made thus far, sometimes I wonder if we’d be better off saying Go Efficient. Going Green means doing everything in a cleaner, innovative, intelligent, responsible way. It means thinking about the broad consequences of our actions and finding renewable resources to power them. It’s a restructuring of the way we do everything in an effort to do it better on a multitude of levels. Going Green is a crescendo in the course of human history because it is the collective realization that everything we need to power the engine of humanity is present. It’s like we’ve been searching all over the house for our keys, only to reach into our pockets and find them.
Regardless of whether or not you believe humans are responsible for global climate change, or if cutting down rain forests and killing off species really matters, I think we can all agree that doing things more efficiently is good for our economy, our country and our world, even if we are only talking about the world in a synthetic sense. So Going Green is definitely for everyone, especially here in America. In case you haven’t noticed we could use not just an economic boost, but an economic foundation. Even if global warming and the hole in the ozone is a sham perpetrated by tree hugging hippies (science literally proves it is not) we might as well pretend it’s real for the sake of the industry it would create. Creating imaginary economies is what being American is all about! (See dot com boom and subprime mortgage crisis) But in contrast, this industry would be tangible and could leave the USA in control of the worlds greatest supply of energy while simultaneously setting the global standard for efficient business and lifestyle practices.
Going Green means taking literally every facet of life which consumes energy (everything), and finding solutions to streamline that process in the most sustainable, renewable, efficient way. This saves money, energy, time and the planet. It has been done before with great success. The Antarctic sea urchin is incredibly energy efficient, performing key metabolic processes with 25 times less energy than anything else in the animal kingdom. The planet itself was sustainable until we started fucking it up. And the bicycle is dexterously energy efficient. What this means is that creating an energy efficient society is as possible as it is necessary. And no, we don’t need to be “God” or Michaux, (bicycle inventor) in order to do it. Despite our misgivings as a species, I am quite confident we currently posses all the brainpower and technology necessary to run the globe with adept efficiency. It’s just a matter of reaching into our pockets and pulling out the key’s… to the electric car of course.