Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Relationship to Water

Screen shot 2011-06-07 at 11.22.47 AMI was asked to participate in the Dow Chemical campaign, the Future of Water Virtual Conference, and what I had to say was rejected as not being personal enough.  They offered me the opportunity to redo the minute video and I wrote the PR firm putting the campaign together to decline the offer.  Here is my letter.


In giving this some more thought I am going to decline your gracious offer to try again.  Everything I write that is personal in nature is difficult as I have lived a life of great privilege when it comes to water as a single-handed sailor, ice skater, swimmer, and hot tub soaker. I just don’t think it is appropriate to use this life of privilege to make a point about water.  The most important thing, being able to turn on the tap and drink water, is not a privilege but a right, one that I have been blessed with in most, but not all, ports of call.

The other side of the story is that I grew up where one river caught on fire, the one I played on had raw sewage floating in it, if I fell into the water my mother would burn the clothes I was wearing as they were THAT contaminated,  and the great lake had dead fish galore floating on its surface.RAB Save Water
It would be impossible to reference these beginnings without communicating feelings of shame for my great country that today elects officials who deny climate change (along with pollution and over population is the third major issue) and are working to further degrade the EPA, and the City on the great lake, like many of its neighbors, is experiencing an economic collapse.

As chemical pollution and raw sewage are major contributors to the supply of clean drinking water and may account for as much as 80% of the disease in this world, it seems to me acknowledging that we are all part of the problem and the solution (including Dow Chemical) and advocating we need leaders to be healers is the best advice I can give today’s leaders as well as pointing them to the two role models, Julia Butterfly-Hill and Roz Savage.

You may have sustainability as a focus of a campaign in the future and I would be able to speak to the topic with knowledge and passion because it is a goal and great hope I am dedicating myself to through, the voices of sustainability.

Ruth Ann

(links added for this blog post, not in original email nor was my photo)

Dow Chemical Greenwashing Campaign by Anna Lappe

Dear Friends,

Screen shot 2011-06-07 at 9.21.27 AMThe campaign Dow has undertaken around the issue of water with a virtual conference featuring “60 leading thinkers as they explore the future of water” raises the issue of whether doing good needs to be based on a history of being good. I don’t know where you come down on this issue, but the money large corporations are spreading around and the extensive social media campaigns they are conducting, are to my eye not very honest, nor informative, nor very personal.  BP is spending wads of money saying the Gulf is “nearly back to normal.”  The research shows that “consumers” are not convinced, but have short memories, so companies that aren’t being good, but do good are counting on our short attention spans and poor memories.

I had been asked to participate, I did my sixty seconds of video and the feedback was it wasn’t personal enough and was offered a do-over.  I thought that odd at the time because I read all the material they sent, I have a long history as a corporate marketing person, and, I prepared for it.  But.

Meanwhile, Anna Lappe a leading expert on sustainability and a national bestselling author, most anna_lappe_0recently of Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It, was much more aggressive than I and produced her own video (I did my video interview over Skype so do not have access to it) and when rejected decided to take some action. She is a founding principal of the Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund and an active board member of Rainforest Action Network.  Here is her press release. In my next blog post, I will publish the letter I wrote DOW when declining a second opportunity.

P.S. Here is the link to the virtual conference on water campaign and her is the link to her video on


June 6, 2011

Dow Chemical Greenwashing Campaign Exposed

Watch the Video America’s Largest Chemical Maker Doesn’t Want You to See

When a Dow Chemical PR firm asked author Anna Lappé to contribute a video about the future of water for Dow’s flashy new “virtual conference” called “The Future We Create,” she was delighted to provide them with exactly what they had asked for.

In her 60-second submission, Lappé stressed that toxic chemicals are one of the biggest global threats to water and people, and that Dow itself is one of the biggest sources of such threats. The PR company swiftly rejected the video, but they didn’t give up: they asked Lappé to record a new video. “Dow, as a huge corporation with resources, is sponsoring that [“Future We Create”] effort, which you have to admit is pretty cool,” the PR firm wrote to Lappé.

“What would be pretty cool,” Lappé replied, “would be if the company put even a fraction of the resources it spends on marketing into cleaning up communities whose water it has polluted.”

Lappé is launching her rejected video today on a YouTube channel that will also include videos from the public about the future they’d like to create.

At the same time Dow launches their “virtual conference,” the company is actively fighting multiple lawsuits from communities—including Dow’s own hometown of Midland, Michigan—alleging the company has polluted their water. More information on Dow’s history of water contamination, and on organizations fighting for clean water, will shortly be available at

“The future we should be creating is one in which no one has to worry about whether the water they drink is tainted by carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, or neurotoxins manufactured by Dow,” said Lappé.

The Yes Lab, a project of The Yes Men that helps activist groups carry out media-getting creative actions on their own, assisted Lappé in developing her response. For more information or for interviews, please contact Anna Lappé, Small Planet Institute, 917-476-4896, (website:

On The Commons by Jay Walljasper.

On The CommonsYesterday I had the opportunity to be introduced to the thinking and activities of Jay Walljaspar from the organization On The Commons at a local event sponsored by The Oregon Commons here in Portland, Oregon.  The auditorium was jammed and joining Jay as a speaker was Portlander Mark Lakeman of City Repair. Both were very inspiring and it is clear that Portland, The Oregon Commonslargely through the efforts of leaders like Mark and the many non-profit organizations ranging from the to Portland Community Media is a model for actualizing the principles of The Commons at the community level.  I posted a video clip of Jay’s speech on, What is The Commons?  I think the concept of The Commons was hardwired into my being when I landed on this planet as it has influenced my thinking in not only my early career as an association manager and public administrator, but throughout my work in high tech and, now, as the developer of, the voices of sustainability.

“The commons is a new way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good of all. Here is a quick description:

The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly,

and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come.

The commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as

shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works.”

I have struggled with how to make EarthSayers part of The Commons in virtual space that is very much a place but not in the usual sense. We are a library of sorts, but of video, not books. We are a network aggregating content from channels, but are broadcasters with no link to TV.   But, that’s another story and one that may be helped by my better understanding the current thinking on the Web as part of The Commons. Jay referenced a related concept, POPS which I think is about Privately Owned Public Spaces, like coffee shops, but I need more information on POPS. Jay Walljasper is the author of the new book All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. All that We ShareJay brings us stories that point us toward a greener, more equitable and more enjoyable future. He is editor of On the Commons, a national think tank, and a senior fellow at Project for Public Spaces. I hope that through the links in this post you begin to educate yourself, as I am doing, about the Commons movement as it is systemic to sustainability and a cornerstone of social and cultural sustainability thinking and action at all levels. You’ll be hearing more from me on The Commons.   We will be developing a special collection on to bring together in one place the voices of  leaders and activities of organizations that make up the path to The Commons.

Sustainability, the U.S. Public, and Global Warming

Good  News

According to a New York Times article, “A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in January found that 83 percent of Americans want Congress to pass legislation promoting alternative energy, and a recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation found that almost two-thirds want the Environmental Protection Agency to be more aggressive.” This is the good news.

Bad News

The bad news is in the same story:  “Saying no to mainstream climate science, notes Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, is now a required practice for Republicans eager to play to an emboldened conservative base…It’s seen as another way for government to control people’s lives. It’s become a cultural issue.” As the article makes clear, “since taking over the House of Representatives, the Republicans have packed science-related committees with lawmakers who refute such basic findings as the reality of global warming and the threats of climate change. Fred Upton, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said outright that he does not believe that global warming is man-made.

Tying it to what is going on with Google search traffic, from the handy Google traffic estimator and keyword tools (part of Google Adwords), 18,100 U.S. folks search on ‘alternative energy sources’ about half the number on “global warming hoax” at 33,100, but nearly double that number (90,500) search on both global warming facts and variations of the phrase. Global search on global warming is 2,740,000 with  1,000,000 in U.S. while as noted above 63% of the estimated traffic on Google for “global warming hoax” is coming from the United States.

The EPA weighs in at 1.5M with over 800,000 in the United States.

What the EPA Website says about global warming would be important in terms of citizen education. What does it say?

EPA and Climate ChangeGlobal warming is part of the special section on climate change. It is part of climate change because climate change addresses a broader range of  issues, not just temperature change, and as the site notes causes of these changes are the “human activities that change the atmosphere’s makeup (e.g, burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g., cutting down forests, planting trees, building developments in cities and suburbs, etc.). As to global warming the site defers to the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists who believe that it is very likely (greater than 90 percent chance) that most of the warming we have experienced since the 1950s is due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.”

No wonder the climate change deniers want to ax the EPA.  It’s a major source of Web public education on the subject, thank heavens, as well as a host to a wide range of initiatives to address climate change.

Put Web 2.0 to Work for Sustainability Awareness

If we are to increase sustainability awareness, it will be necessary for organizations in the non-profit sector including educational institutions to adopt Web 2.0 tools and techniques. What are they? I find McKinsey Consulting group has the best handle on this topic and highly recommend their annual and interative report, Business and Web 2.0.

Start with understanding the tools most useful and begin a conversation in your organization if you are not using the top four. With so much emphasis on social media it is easy to loose site of the basics in terms of communications infrastructure. There is free software support out there for the top four and many community resources for help on getting your feet wet.

Here are the top four:

Screen shot 2011-02-19 at 10.31.54 AM

Sustainability and the Global 100: U.S. Companies

Global 100 LogoEach year since 2005 Corporate Knights, the magazine for clean capitalism, announces the Global 100 which are “the global corporations which have been most proactive in managing environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The team that crunches the numbers is composed of Inflection Point Capital Management—a sustainability-focused asset management venture founded by Dr. Matthew Kiernan, Legg Mason’s Global Currents Investment Management, and Phoenix Global Advisors LLC (a consulting and technology platform focused on sustainability).

Eleven UK companies, two Brazilian, six Australian, five French, three German, nineteen Japanese, and these thirteen U.S. companies:

Global 100 in 2010


The motivation for doing this list, which follows an interesting methodology, is to mainstream “sustainability in the business community by applying objective corporate social and environmental measures that clearly show which companies stand above their peers, our aim is to create a virtuous cycle where the most sustainable companies attract the most capital and earn the best returns. The Global 100 companies deserve to be recognized, because they are models for the art of the possible, living proof of how billion dollar entities can squeeze more wealth from less material resources while honouring the social contract.”

It’s hard to argue against this intention so I think the best thing to do is circulate the list as far and wide as possible and hear what people from the social, environmental, cultural and economic perspectives of sustainability have to say about the companies on this list.

The key performance indicators (KPI’s) are very interesting and deserve some attention:

Global 100 Key IndicatorsNoted by the authors was two fundamental limitations of corporate sustainability research:

1. A lack of ESG data persists despite the growing importance of sustainability to the corporate world.
2. No single sustainability research provider is currently able to provide a total picture of global corporate sustainability due to coverage gaps and methodological biases.

All in all it is a very interesting process and the conclusions need to be subject to scrutiny, but the intention is there to take sustainability awareness and adoption mainstream and what makes this an objective, rather than a mission or goal, are measurements and feedback loops.


Weekly reports will be issued over the month of February in three installments (Environment, Social and Governance) covering each of the 10 specific key performance indicators plus the transparency metric. On February 28, the full suite of indicators will be made available for download in xls format from

Changing Our Habits by Dominique Conseil

Dominique Conseil was interviewed by me at the 4th Annual International Business and Sustainability Conference sponsored by The Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability at the School of Business Administration at Portland State University.  View his interview on, Culture and Consciousness special collection. Dominique is Global President of Aveda and an earthsayer, a voice of sustainability.

Creating Material Change by Heidi McCloskey

Heidi McCloskey was interviewed by me at the 4th Annual International Business and Sustainability Conference sponsored by The Center for Global Leadership in Sustainability at the School of Business Administration in Portland State University. Help with sourcing sustainable goods and commitment to innovation and collaboration.  View her interview on
Heidi is Communications Director of the Textile Exchange.

Sustainability is a Personal Transformation

Many people from a wide range of professions and including members of my own family are under the impression that the indicators used by scientists to talk about the hazards of climate change and the effects of global warming are just part of a normal pattern and while we are on a downward slope just now, it’s a dip leading to an upturn as we adjust some of our behaviors, push technology, and extract natural gas as the alternative to our oil depletion problems.

Here are two videos featuring the natural scientist, William Steffen, that I recommend to these many people who are being unduly influenced by shows on TV to include the History channel that take a dim view of the science and pass on information that is not supported by any kind of evidence or actual experience.

In the first, Economic Transformation Not Enough, Professor Steffen talks about how we are “eating into the capital of the Earth” and increasingly becoming more self aware about what is happening, climate change being an example and bidiversity loss another major one. He identifies flash points where too fast and too great of change may lead to collapse, and at the end emphasizes that he believes the future wil depend on some very fundamental things, not just on economic instruments or new rules and regulations, but the nature of our aspirations, our values, our preferences and our choices. It will take nothing less than a transformation to avoid a collapse scenario.

The second, Shaping the Future, is less facts, less lecture, less information, but more optimism, still emphasizing transformation.

I agree with the Professor and am working on to be a “wikipedia” of sustainability advocates to those who are searching on the Web for information about sustainability – challenges and opportunities. I feel very strongly that by bringing the unfiltered voices, rather than text, to the fore the values, aspirations, preferences and choices of those transforming our society will be heard and shared along with the ideas, programs, initiatives, theories, rules, instruments, and products of change.  Our emphasis, though, is on the people, not organizations, not networks, not institutions. Ultimately, the transformation starts with each of us becoming aware and changing our lifestyles.  This is a theme heard across the sustainability landscape and captured on, the voices of sustainability.  It’s all about You.

Sustainability Awareness and Search

In November, 2008 I wrote a short paper on Prosperity, one of four elements of sustainability.   I referenced our mission of increasing sustainability awareness, awareness being the number one inhibitor to change.

“I had no idea it was so serious.”

At that time I noted that search traffic on Google, an awareness indicator, was at 30M.  Today it’s still at 30M.

sustainability awarenessAs organizations adopt sustainability strategies, the news and conversations emanating from these actions increase the search traffic on Google, so the “buzz” hasn’t increased much. Two years ago, the U.S. was sixth in search traffic on the term, behind the U.K, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. A measurement of our success for the mission of increasing sustainability awareness was moving the U.S. from sixth to first. Over the period of the last twelve months the U.S. is in ninth place, according to Google Analytics. Interest in sustainability in Asia is rising.

Screen shot 2010-11-14 at 8.16.13 AMA Reuters report last month referenced a study by the UK-based analyst firm Verdantix. They reported “the United States’ spending on sustainable business will double to $60 billion by 2014 from the current $28 billion.” Verdantix director, David Metcalfe also noted, “In the U.S. market, executive awareness of the business benefits of sustainability is on the rise.

Awareness rising in business circles is a positive sign, yet overall the stagnant numbers on search traffic suggest our citizens are not being motivated to learn more about sustainability and are not active in the learning cycle. Once an individual searches on the term, he or she has entered the learning cycle and on the path to sustainability adoption at some or all levels – personal, business, community.

We are embarking on a more aggressive campaign to involve more partners in our quest to grow and stimulate sustainability awareness and adoption.