Tag Archives: environmental sustainability

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 interwine.org 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 EarthSayers.tv, 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 EarthSayers.tv, 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 EarthSayers.tv to bring together in one place the voices of  leaders and activities of organizations that make up the path to The Commons.

Rachel Carson, 1907 – 1964

At EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability, we have created a special collection honoring environmentalist and sustainability advocate, Rachel Carson. Much of the video available is from a biographical play titled, “A Sense of Wonder” featuring actress Kaiulani Lee as Rachel. Her tn_19247book, Silent Spring, warned of the dangers of pesticides and the disconnect of humankind to nature. While written in 1962, Silent Spring deserves to be read or re-read by us all.

Her words are inspiring, her writing (some now are eBooks) motivating, and her life an example for all of us to be advocates and activists on behalf of our planet and people.

Sustainability: Searching and Not Finding

EarthSayers.tvOver the last twelve months the phrases “environmental  sustainability” and the “definition of sustainability” are in  number 1 and 2 positions on the top Google searches for sustainability. What do searchers find and who influences their thinking? Most of our citizens are getting information on these terms from Wikipedia or the EPA or, in some cases, the more mainstream press such as MSNBC.   Our site, EarthSayers.tv, is focused on being in the top results along with Wikipedia bringing the unfiltered voices of sustainability, a videopedia, if you will, calling out the people defining the emerging landscape of  sustainability.  We are not in the top rankings YET, but because we pay such close attention to search, we see a trend of major corporations moving into the top rankings as they come to understand how they can influence public perceptions of their “greenness” through paid and organic search strategies. Eventually the big Corporations will dominate the highest rankings.

But getting the attention of  progressives and their organizations on the importance of search and high rankings is difficult, largely because they lack any experience on the commercial side of the Web, resulting in much of the information and news produced around sustainability being buried in the back water of Google and Blinkx search results.  A couple of years ago when we first started EarthSayers a search on Blinkx, a video search engine, netted 21,000 sustainability videos. Today it’s over 250,000!

So as the information chests GROW of the well meaning organizations and leaders, ranging from environmentalists to triple bottom line advocates, and the bloggers and twitterers, including our own @earthsayer, seed the Web organically, we aren’t really impacting the rankings on sustainability or on any of the related categories such as global warming and climate change.  This is a failure contributing to the decline in awareness tracked in polls and surveys.

A recent Gallup poll cited in the Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, April 12, 2010, reports “forty-eight per cent of the respondents believe the threat of global warming to be generally exaggerated. This figure was up from thirty-five percent a year ago. According to the same poll, only fifty-two per cent of Americans believe that “most scientist believe that global warming is occurring – down from sixty-five per cent in 2008. The dark green line below represent the per cent of people (32%) who believe global warming is going to affect their lives, down from a high of 40 per cent.

Gallup PollElizabeth Kolbert in The New Yorker article also makes note of “a quarter of the TV weather-casters AGREE with the statement ‘global warming is a scam,’ and nearly two-thirds believe that, if warming is occurring, it is caused mostly by natural change.”  This is painful to consider.

The Web as new media can play a critical role in educating our citizens about sustainability and the related issues, especially if we use it to bring to the fore with high page rankings the unfiltered voices of business and civic leaders, experts, consultants, and citizens from all walks of life. There is way too much  processed information, particularly in the form of unsubstantiated marketing claims and green lists, and too little authentic voices of sustainability that can be found by searching the Web. Research shows that children rarely go beyond the first page of rankings and it is not a stretch to assume adults are not much different. We are working to fix the problem as soon as possible by educating leaders, aggregating sustainability videos, and using a sustainability taxonomy we created for our site to seed the Web methodically, but we can’t do it alone.  We need help drawing attention to the problem that is, at the same time, a great opportunity to increase sustainability awareness and educate our citizens.


According to PEJ New Media Index “Global warming emerged as the second-largest story in the blogosphere (at 16%). It, too, has proven a favorite over the past year. Last week marked the 10th time that the subject has been among the top five stories on blogs since PEJ New Media Index began monitoring the blogosphere in January 2009.

Investment in Sustainable Energy Sector Falls 53%

Environmental Sustainability

It’s been awhile since I have written, but I am moving from San Francisco to Portland, the most sustainability conscious U.S. city, and I needed to take a vacation AND get everything moved. By the second week in October I should be settled in.  More about that in my next post.

First the good news.

I wanted to bring to your attention a fact taken from a New York Times article entitled, An Investment Bet: Going Small and Green. It’s about some financial pros who were booted, catapulted, or escaped out of the ruins of our financial system and have started, albiet early in the game, a boutique investment bank, the “first to focus solely on alternative-energy and clean-technology companies.”

The first investment bank focused solely on alternative energy!

And the bad news.

The article calls on some sobering news as to the state of what they call the green industry:

“In the first quarter of 2009, new financial investment in the sustainable energy sector fell 53 percent, to $13.3 billion, from the comparable period in 2008, the lowest level of quarterly investment in three years, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Program and New Energy Finance, a research company.”

Environmental Sustainability and Aging Skyscrapers


Often times in a conversation it takes just one example to communicate a meaning of a word or concept. In the case of environmental sustainability such an example is the retrofit of the Sears Tower in Chicago. As detailed in today’s New York Times article, the Tower is “4.5 million square feet of office and retail space, 16,000 windows and 104 elevators.” Environmental sustainability is a crucial initiative in terms of buildings, especially existing buildings, because buildings are among the world’s largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that retrofitting buildings to be environmentally sustainable makes sound business sense  with the energy savings being “equal to 150,000 barrels of oil a year.” These savings are expected to help redeem some of the project’s cost, which is to be financed through private equity investment, grants, debt financing and government funds.

There  are plans to open a first-floor center to educate the public about the redesign, and the developers offer the Towers as a model for other aging skyscrapers around the world.

Illustration by Rose Cassano, EarthSayers.tv, the voices of sustainability