Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Montenegro and Croatia Photos

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Here are our photos from biking Montenegro and Croatia. A description of the route is in the previous post.

[shashin type=”albumphotos” id=”25″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”source” position=”center”]

Croatia (actually, our second album of Croatia):
[shashin type=”albumphotos” id=”24″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”source” position=”center”]

Photos from Biking Slovakia

Friday, July 13th, 2012

[shashin type=”albumphotos” id=”19″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”date” position=”center”]

Photos from Poland

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Below are photos from three and a half days in Poland. In another post, I’ll add impressions from visiting Aushchwitz, walking around Krakow, and talking to our hosts about history and climate change. It is a lot to process.

Click next to see more.
[shashin type=”albumphotos” id=”18″ size=”small” crop=”n” columns=”max” caption=”y” order=”date” position=”center”]

Biking Alaska’s Coast

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

This is just too cool:

Bikerafting Alaska’s Lost Coast: Yakutat to Glacier Bay. from lacemine29 on Vimeo.

This Week in Climate Science: Yellowstone Wildfires, Sea Levels and Shorebirds, and Fracking Accounting

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Welcome to Climate Central’s climate science roundup. This roundup summarizes noteworthy climate science studies published in the previous two weeks, with a special emphasis on articles that might not have been covered by major media outlets. Cross posted from Climate Central

This week in climate science:

Paper Title: Continued warming could transform Greater Yellowstone fire regimes by mid-21st century
Journal: PNAS
Authors: Anthony L. Westerling, Monica G. Turner, Erica A. H. Smithwick, William H. Rommed, and Michael G. Ryane

Summary: This study models how climate change may affect wildfires in and around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, finding a dramatic increase in the number of large fires by 2050.

Significance: Large wildfires account for the majority of land burned in the Yellowstone region — fewer than five percent of forest fires account for over 95 percent of the burned land. For example, in 1988, fueled by warm temperatures, dry weather, and strong winds, more than a third of Yellowstone National Park was engulfed in flames.
Conditions that promote big fires will dramatically increase the area that is burned. According to this study, at some point after 2050, due largely to warmer temperatures, almost every year will have similar climatic conditions to 1988.
Normally, a plot of land in Yellowstone sees a fire about once every 100 to 300 years, which gives forests time to recover in between burns. If this study is correct, fires may return in less than 30 year intervals, meaning that ecosystems would be completely altered, since forests can’t regrow in just three decades. The authors conclude: “There is a real likelihood of Yellowstone’s forests being converted to nonforest vegetation during the mid-21st century because reduced fire intervals would likely preclude postfire tree regeneration.”

Paper Title: On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance 
Journal: Remote Sensing
Authors: Roy W. Spencer and William D. Braswell

Summary: The authors argue that satellite measurements show that energy lost to space is greater than climate models predict. That would imply that the Earth is cooling itself off, counteracting climate change.

Significance: This paper’s analysis has been strongly criticized. The blog realclimate questioned the study’s statistical analysis, and Climate Central’s Mike Lemonick explained how the central idea of the paper — that changes in cloudiness drive climate change, instead of responding to climate change — has been discredited.

Paper Title: Carbon emission from hydroelectric reservoirs linked to reservoir age and latitude
Journal: Nature Geoscience
Authors: Nathan Barros, Jonathan J. Cole, Lars J. Tranvik, Yves T. Prairie, David Bastviken, Vera L. M. Huszar, Paul del Giorgio, and Fábio Roland

Summary: When reservoirs are built and water floods the landscape, the submerged organic matter decomposes, producing methane and carbon dioxide (CO2), both of which are greenhouse gases. These gases then diffuse into the atmosphere. The authors of this paper surveyed studies of reservoir emissions and found that younger dams produce more greenhouse gases, as do dams near the equator. They find that global emissions from dams is about 300 million tons of CO2-equivalent per year.

Significance: The estimated emissions from reservoirs amounts to a little less than one percent of all emissions from human activities. In other words, dams are a real but relatively small source of greenhouse gases.
Young dams in the tropics, though, produce disproportionately large amounts of methane and CO2. In fact, for a few hydroelectric reservoirs in the Amazon Basin, the ratio of greenhouse gases emitted to electricity produced is higher than it is for coal power plants.

Paper Title: The impact of sea-level rise on Snowy Plovers in Florida: integrating geomorphological, habitat, and metapopulation models
Journal: Global Change Biology
Authors: Matthew E. Aiello-Lammens, Librada Chu-Agor, Matteo Convertino, Richard A. Fischer, Igor Linkov, and H. Resit Akcakaya

Summary: This study estimates the chance that the snowy plover, a small shorebird that breeds on sand and gravel coastlines, will become extinct in Florida due to sea level rise. The authors model how sea level rise will reshape the coastal ecosystems, and how populations of the bird will respond to such changes.

Significance: The risk of snowy plovers becoming extinct in Florida would increase by only two percent if sea level rises by three feet, and four percent if sea level rises by six feet. That isn’t very significant. However, the study does find that if sea levels rise six feet, the habitat of these birds could be reduced by about 25 percent.
This paper highlights the fact that rising oceans could reduce the size of coastal ecosystems that provide a home to unique species. When sea levels rise, coastal ecosystems might not be able to migrate inland for two reasons: sea levels might rise too quickly for ecosystems to respond, and human structures and settlements might block inland migration.

Paper Title: Carbon benefits of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen offset by nitrous oxide emissions
Journal: Nature Geoscience
Authors: Sönke Zaehle, Philippe Ciais, Andrew D. Friend, and Vincent Prieur

Summary: Nitrogen fertilizer stimulates plant growth, thus removing extra CO2 from the atmosphere. However, nitrogen fertilizer also causes emissions of nitrous oxide, a strong greenhouse gas. This study compares these two effects, finding that globally, the warming effects of nitrous oxide slightly outweigh the cooling caused by plant growth.

Significance: Nitrous oxide emissions are an important but relatively small source of greenhouse gases — about seven percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions are nitrous oxide, most of which is due to fertilizer use. This paper shows that most, but not all, of these emissions are offset by increased plant growth, and it estimates that about one fifth of the carbon sequestered in ecosystems between 1996 and 2005 was due to extra nitrogen fertilization.

Paper Title: Life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of Marcellus shale gas
Journal: Environmental Research Letters
Authors: Mohan Jiang, W Michael Griffin, Chris Hendrickson, Paulina Jaramillo, Jeanne VanBriesen, and Aranya Venkatesh

Summary: The authors analyze the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with extracting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as “fracking.” They find that the energy required to build the wells, as well as the methane leaks from the wells, cause slightly more emissions than conventional methods of extracting natural gas.

Significance: Hydrologic fracturing, or “fracking,” to extract shale gas has become increasingly common, as enormous resources of shale gas have been reported to exist in the United States and internationally. Some recent reports explain how plentiful, cheap natural gas, largely from fracking, could provide an increasing amount of energy to our economy. It is thus important to know if fracking increases greenhouse gas emissions.

A previous study, which was highly publicized, suggested that fracking dramatically increased greenhouse gas emissions, largely because of methane that escaped to the atmosphere from wells. That study, however, was widely criticized for how it accounted for greenhouse gas emissions.
This newer paper estimates that fracking produces relatively few greenhouse gas emissions, and that the emissions due to extracting the gas are small in comparison to the emissions from burning it. They find that gas produced from fracking yields only three percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally mined gas.

This Week in Climate Science

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Welcome to Climate Central’s climate science roundup. This roundup summarizes noteworthy climate science studies published in the previous two weeks, with a special emphasis on articles that might not have been covered by major media outlets. Cross posted from Climate Central.

In this edition:

Sign up to receive this bi-weekly climate science summary via email:

Paper Title: A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests
Journal: Science
Authors: Yude Pan, Richard A. Birdsey, and 16 others.

The Gist: Forests around the globe are absorbing and sequestering more carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously reported.

Summary: By combining assessments of forests around the world, these researchers estimated how much carbon the world’s forests have absorbed over the past two decades. They found that between 1990 and 2007, forests absorbed 9.6 (plus or minus 1.6) billion tons of CO2 per year, offsetting about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions released from burning fossil fuels. Most of this sequestration was in temperate countries, where forests have expanded or become denser.

The 9.6 billion ton figure is a sum of how much carbon is being absorbed by forests, minus how much carbon is being released to the atmopshere by deforestation. The world’s forests would be absorbing a whole lot more carbon — about twice as much — if it weren’t for the clearing of forests for agriculture, most of which takes place in the tropics.

The paper contains a detailed table that shows how forest carbon sequestration varies worldwide.

Paper Title: Increased soil emissions of potent greenhouse gases under increased atmospheric CO2
Journal: Nature
Authors: Kees Jan van Groenigen, Craig W. Osenberg, Bruce A. Hungate.

The Gist: Like the previous study on forests, these authors performed a “meta-analysis” — they synthesized other research studies to come to a new conclusion. But if the last paper provided good news (“forests are absorbing more carbon”), this paper tells a different story.

The authors find, based on an analysis of nearly 50 past experiments, that higher levels of CO2 stimulate soils to release more methane and nitrous oxide, both of which are potent greenhouse gases. This is a  positive feedback to the climate system that has not been accounted for, and could increase yearly greenhouse gas emissions by about one billion tons of CO2-equivalent per year. (Most of these extra emissions would come from agricultural soils or wetlands, and not forests.) One billion extra tons per year is a lot, but it is still small compared to other sources of greenhouse gases — humanity puts almost 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Paper Title: Projecting Coral Reef Futures Under Global Warming and Ocean Acidification
Journal: Science
Authors: John M. Pandolfi, Sean R. Connolly, Dustin J. Marshall, Anne L. Cohen.

The Gist: Coral Reefs are in deep trouble due to warming and acidifying oceans, but they may not be in as much danger as previously thought.

Summary: Many research papers on coral reefs and climate change read like obituaries. A combination of warmer temperatures and more acidic waters (caused by the absorbtion of extra CO2) could kill most if not all of the word’s coral reefs.

This study reviews, in detail, the research on how reefs will respond to these stresses, finding that not all may be lost. The study finds that different corals respond differently to temperature and acidity, and some might be able to survive in the projected conditions. Of course, the important word is “some” — most reefs will suffer greatly.

The authors also point to periods in the planet's geologic history when rapid climate change, much like we may during see this century, decimated coral reefs. They emphasize that the speed of climate change is important, and that managing other stresses, such as general water pollution and over-fishing, is important to reefs' survival.

Paper Title: CO2 emissions from a tropical hydroelectric reservoir (Balbina, Brazil)
Journal: Journal of Geophysical Research
Authors: Alexandre Kemenes, Bruce R. Forsberg, and John M. Melack.

The Gist: In the Amazon basin, reservoirs may emit more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants.

Summary: Although hydropower uses almost no fossil fuels to generate electricity, it can still produce greenhouse gases. Reservoirs flood previously productive ecosystems, replacing them with bodies of water where organic matter decomposes into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. This problem is worst in warm, shallow dams, such as those found in the Amazon basin.

These researchers studied the Balbina reservoir, which, because it's extremely large (900 square miles), shallow (less than 100 feet deep at its deepest point), and located in the hot Brazilian Amazon, produces large amounts of CO2 and methane. In fact, after analyzing gasses released from the surface of the reservoir and the river just beyond the dam’s turbines, the authors found the dam is responsible for about three million tons of CO2-equivalent per year.

That is a lot of greenhouse gases. If a comparable coal-fired power plant were built instead of the reservoir (producing about 115 megawatts of power on average), it would produce one-tenth as much CO2, the study found.

Because of its size, shallowness, and location, the Balbina reservoir produces many times more greenhouse gases than most dams. Nonetheless, it shows that dams are not necessarily greenhouse gas-free sources of electricity.

Paper Title: Atmospheric Carbon Injection Linked to End-Triassic Mass Extinction
Journal: Science
Authors: Micha Ruhl, Nina R. Bonis, Gert-Jan Reichart, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damste, Wolfram M. Kurschner.
The Gist: The mass extinction event that occurred about 200 million years ago, between the Triassic and Jurassic periods, may have been caused by a massive release of methane from the ocean floor — an event some scientists fear could happen today.

Summary: By studying carbon isotopes in fossilized plant material, these scientists determined that (most likely), a large volcanic eruption injected enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere about 200 million years ago. This CO2 warmed the planet, which made methane hydrates — a frozen form of methane gas trapped on the ocean floor — become unstable and be released into the atmosphere. Because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, this further warmed the planet. 

Many scientists fear that a similar situation could occur today. If the oceans warm sufficiently through global warming, the methane on the ocean floor may become unstable, instigating a potentially catastrophic positive feedback to global warming (between the Triassic and Jurassic periods, about half of all life on earth went extinct, probably due to this drastic and sudden climate change).

This analysis shows that this worst-case scenario may have happened in the past. Of course, it isn’t clear how likely this event is to happen today. On the one hand, the amount of CO2 released via the Triassic volcanic eruptions was more than 10 times what humanity is expected to put into the atmosphere. On the other, it was probably released over a few thousand years instead of a few hundred, as is the case with humanity’s current experiment.

Overall, most scientists still rate the likelihood of methane hydrates being released anytime soon as low.

Paper Title: The role of ocean thermal expansion in Last Interglacial sea level rise
Journal: Geophysical Research Letters
Authors: Nicholas P. McKay, Jonathan T. Overpeck, and Bette L. Otto‐Bliesner.

The Gist: Both the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets may be more sensitive to temperature variability than previously thought.

Summary: During the last interglacial warm period, a little more than 100,000 years ago, global average surface temperatures were about 1°C warmer than today, and sea levels were about fifteen feet higher. The seas were higher due to a combination of the partially melted Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and the fact that water expands when it warms.

This study used geological data and computer models to estimate that the vast majority of past sea level rise was due to melting ice and not expanding water. What that means is that a slight warming in the earth’s climate may have melted the ice sheets more than many scientists previously believed.


Anyone Up for Some Skiing???

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Check out this animated graphic of the Sierra Nevada snowpack. Usually, by this time of year, the snow would be mostly gone. It is still here. To play the animation, you have to hit “stop” and then hit “play” again.

Here is the same graphic for 2006-2007 winter, which had almost no snow on June 1st:


Observations on iNaturalist

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

I have recently become enthralled by a new social network called iNaturalist. It is a part crowd-sourced science and part wikipedia field guide. Here are my observations:

40 Interviews in Davos

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Cross posted on The Huffington Post and Hub Culture.

For five days last week I was a fly on the wall in Davos, watching CEOs and leaders discuss the planet’s major issues at the World Economic Forum. I attended the conference as a social media producer for Hub Culture, producing short video interviews. Hub Culture is a social network of “global urban influencers,” and in Davos we occupied a building that served as a center for work, collaboration, and evening events.

At the Hub Culture Social Media Center we interviewed forty influential leaders. These five-minute interviews, conducted by our executive editor Edie Lush, let individuals share why they were at the World Economic Forum. CEOs of major corporations, directors of global non-profits, and other thought leaders sat in the Hub Culture “hot seat” and shared their concerns.

The following is an attempt to distill some of the major themes of these interviews. Obviously, the forty interviews don’t fall neatly into the categories below, and many people touched on multiple themes in their few minutes. All of the links below lead to videos of the individuals; click to hear the full stories.

Did Davos Have a Theme?

Every World Economic Forum has a stated “theme,” which sometimes relates to the actual theme of the conference. Last year, as the world was emerging from the global recession, the theme was “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild.” This year the theme was “Shared Norms for the New Reality,” which made everyone scratch their head. What is the “new reality” of the world, and what are the norms?

The former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, said he would rather state the goal as “shared values for common challenges.” (Off camera he asked, “Who are these guys named Norm that we are sharing?”) Rudd said that in the sessions he attended there was active debate over whether different countries of the world shared values or not. In one session the audience was split 50/50 on whether or not the West has common values with China with respect to global challenges.

Justin Blake, a managing director at Edelman, has now attended nine World Economic Forums, giving him a unique perspective. He said that this was the first Davos where there was no clear focus or theme, as if the world appears more splintered as it becomes more connected. Moreover, outside news–notably the chaos in Egypt–over shadowed any news from the conference.

Ian Bremmer, the President of the Eurasia Group, a firm that consults with businesses on political risk, expounded on what he thought was the “new reality.” He said that we are seeing a new type of globalization as the emerging markets flex their muscles and no longer take orders from the western powers. His major concern is what he called the “G-0” (as opposed to the G-20)–the fact that there is no effective global governance. He cited the failures of climate and trade negotiations.

Some claimed that a major focus of this year’s Forum was social inequality, which is on the rise in many parts of the world. Jasmine Whitbread, the CEO of Save the Children, felt that in previous years her comments on social inequity were ignored; this year she gained more attention.

The Way Workers Interact with the Economy has Fundamentally Changed

Malcom Frank, the Senior Vice President of Cognizant Technology Solutions, said that we are seeing the “future of work” because the generation now entering the workforce won’t accept the rigid hierarchies common in corporations. Businesses will need to be more flexible. In the information age, work no longer has to be done “at work,” but can be performed remotely and at any time.

This message was echoed by Jeffery Joerris, the CEO of Manpower, who even argued that we are no longer in the “Information Age,” but instead in the “Human Age.” In the “Human Age” (see article here), the focus is on individual talent instead of the corporation. He also remarked that companies have been reluctant to hire during this economic recovery because they’ve realized they can be just as productive with fewer people.

Arianna Huffington, the chief editor of the Huffington Post, talked about the explosion in unemployment, and how many in the United States’ middle class have experienced “downward mobility” as individuals have dropped into poverty. She implored governments to do more.

Media and Social Media are Rapidly Changing

One career that has changed dramatically in the past few years is journalism. We talked with Mike Perlis, the President and CEO of Forbes. Perlis described how Forbes’s online media has succeeded because it has adapted quickly to the changing ways that people consume information.

Likewise, Justin Blake of Edelman (mentioned earlier), said that a few years ago everyone was surprised when the first blogger showed up at the Forum. Forum meetings were supposed to be “off the record.” Now, because of twitter and blogging, everything is shared and no one expects secrecy.

Robert Scoble, a Rackspace Innovation Journalist and blogger on the popular site, described how twitter gave him his own little news feed on the world, giving him updates every second. “It’s like having a CNN news feed on my screen. I’ve always wanted that!”

The Global Gender Imbalance

A number of our interviews highlighted the need to empower women in business. Rachel Kyte, the Vice-President of the International Finance Corporation, told us that women run sixty percent of the world’s small businesses, but in some countries only five percent of the bank credit is awarded to females. She also cited numerous studies revealing that companies do better if women are on the corporate boards.

Wendy Clark, the senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Communications for The Coca-Cola Company, talked about Coca-Cola’s efforts to empower women franchise owners. Coca-Cola has a goal of empowering five million female entrepreneurs by 2020. Currently, many female entrepreneurs lack sufficient training, networks, or access to capital. Clark admitted that these efforts are good business practice for Coca-Cola, because small beverage outfits run by women tend to do better than those run by men.

Laura Liswood, the Secretary General of the Council of Women’s Leaders, lamented the slow progress in getting women into corporate boardrooms. She also gave a cultural anecdote to explain why boardrooms ate still dominated by western males.

And while we did see female executives (Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo spent time at Hub Culture, and we also interviewed Beth Comstock, a senior Vice President of GE), Davos remains a mostly male affair. Only 16 percent of the roughly 2,500 fully accredited attendees were women.

Consumer Empowerment

We interviewed the heads of two organizations that are attempting to empower consumers. Joost Martens, the Director-General of Consumers International (a global umbrella organization that includes U.S.-based Consumer Reports), said that the world is becoming more globalized but there are not yet global standards for the quality and safety of products. His organization hopes to change that.

Dara O’Rouke, the founder of GoodGuide, described how his company researches the social and environmental impacts of various products and makes the information freely available. In the interview he showed us a new iPhone app that allows consumers to scan a product’s barcode and get vital statistics about the social, health, or environmental consequences of the item.

Sustainability Has Become Popular and Profitable, But Will It Be Enough?

To promote collaboration and climate solutions, Hub Culture hosted Climate Deal Day during the World Economic Forum (watch a Wall Street Journal video about the event). Consequently, we interviewed many individuals concerned with climate and other environmental issues. These conversations gave us many reasons to be hopeful; the question is whether our solutions will be sufficient.

Peter Lacy, the Managing Director of Sustainability Services for Accenture, said that businesses now understand the importance of sustainability. In a global survey of CEOs, Accenture found that 93% of company leaders say that environmental sustainability is key to their long-term success. Just three years ago, this figure was twenty percent lower. Lacy also said that the challenge is no longer recognizing the issue, but instead figuring out how to embed sustainability in the companies. He then added that more organizations see sustainability as “an opportunity” instead of a burden or a risk.

We interviewed the founders of two companies who believe in this opportunity. Kevin Surace, the CEO of Serious Materials, spoke about the high tech windows and walls that his company has developed to improve building efficiency. Nearly all of his company’s products have a payback time of less than two years, making them great investments for consumers. Likewise, Graham Andrews, the founder of Andrews Power, talked about his extremely high efficient air conditioners that dramatically reduce energy use.

The challenge is to get people to use these new technologies. Peggy Liu, the chairperson of JUCCCE (The Joint U.S-China Collaboration on Clean Energy), talked about the difficulties of getting knowledge to the right places. “There is no lack of interest to go green in China,” said Liu. The problem is access to technology, and Liu announced an innovative new plan to allow Chinese investors and U.S. research institutions to cooperate and develop clean technology.

Dr. Han Seung-soo, the former Prime Minister of South Korea and the current Chairman of the Global Green Growth Institute, partially echoed Liu’s ideas. Seung-soo’s country developed rapidly in the past few decades, converting itself from a poor country to a rich one in less than half a century. Dr. Seung-soo said that the rest of the world can’t develop in the same intensive way that South Korea did, and the Green Growth Institute will help developing nations grow their economies more sustainably.

Ian Cheshire, the Group Chief Executive for Kingfisher, Europe’s leading home improvement store, talked in depth about his company’s efforts to provide sustainable, efficient products for home owners and builders. We also spoke with Ann Davlin, the Director of Development for the Carbon War Room, who told of a number of other companies who are also stepping up and taking action.

One of Hub Culture’s partners in Davos was the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which has developed the electric cars the Nissan Leaf and Renault Fluence. At Hub Culture we had two charging stations for these cars, and we spoke with a number of people involved in the marketing or design of these vehicles. Nissan’s Head of Marketing, Simon Sproule, said that in 2011 the electric vehicle has finally come of age. Gilles Gautherot, the Communications Manager of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, told us that the real breakthrough has been making these cars “just like any other ordinary car, except much quieter.” Jack Hidary, the Global Electric Vehicle Leader for Hertz, talked about making electric cars available through Hertz, and he described innovative new car sharing programs for electric cars. We felt we saw the future when Hidetushi Kadota, the Chief Engineer for the Nissan Leaf, walked us outside and proudly showed off his company’s car.

Unfortunately, the environmental challenges that we face are acute. Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), said that the global agreement reached in Cancun last December was “A big step forward for the community of nations, but a small step for the planet.” In other words, even though substantial progress was made, the progress still falls far short of what is needed to stop climate change. The Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naido, agreed, saying that “time is running out,” and cited various scientific reports. Carl Ganter, the founder of Circle of Blue, a firm focused on freshwater issues, pointed out that water shortages could also limit our energy use. Finally, the President of the Environmental Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, talked about the dire state of the world’s fisheries and his organization’s efforts to change the way we fish.

A few of our interviews couldn’t be lumped into these categories, but they provided important insights nonetheless.

Beth Comstock, General Electric’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, talked about innovation around the world and her company’s “Innovation Barometer.”

Malini Mehra, the founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Markets, discussed the need to look at climate issues, food security, and water issues as an integrated set.

Johnathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, talked about providing micro financing to help people build homes around the world.

Simon Zadek, the founder of AccountAbility, talked about the challenge of taking ideas generated during meetings in Davos and then applying them.

Atsutoshi Nishida, the Chairman of Toshiba, talked about many issues related to innovation, and he also convinced us that we needed a 3D television.

Bernardo Guillamon, the Manager of the Office of Partnerships at the Inter-American Development Bank, talked about the bank’s efforts to help Haiti and invest in education there.

Salil Shetty, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, explained how the growing power of corporations had changed his organization’s strategy. Amnesty International has traditionally pressured governments to protect human rights. Now, as corporations become more powerful and more global, Amnesty International needs to increasingly engage with companies in order to protect the rights of people around the world.

As these interviews have shown, the world is a rapidly changing place. The way we work is changing, as is the way we consume media and interact. Although environmental challenges are getting much more attention, it is not yet clear if that attention will translate into sufficient action. Likewise, more are aware of the need for gender equality in business, but we need to move from awareness to action. The global community faces countless issues, and as many of these leaders said in these interviews, it will take much more than just talk to solve them.

Costa Rica – Dolphins, Bicycles, and ACONVIVIR

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I have a new job. I am working with California Environmental Associates, an environmental consulting firm in San Francisco. The job is keeping me busy, so rather than bore you with the details, you can learn more about visiting the company’s website. So far, I am impressed by my coworkers and excited about the work.

I am consulting for foundations, helping advise their environmental giving. For my most recent project, I traveled to Costa Rica to learn more about the marine protected areas in the country’s waters. Rather than bore you with details of how such parks are managed and funded, I will provide you with the picture of a dolphin leaping out of Golfo Dulce on the Pacific Coast.


In San Jose, I met with some friends who I visited the last time I was in Costa Rica (Thank you Marcela!), and I also met Ramon, an architect who, in his spare time, is advocating for the rights of cyclists in Costa Rica.

I biked across Central America. Perhaps because Costa Rica is the wealthiest nation in the region, it had the most cars, and I felt the most unsafe on its roads.

Ramon told me about the recent tragic death of a cyclist who was run over by a drunk driver.

Ramon is one of the leaders of ACONVIVIR, Asociaci├│n de deportistas CONtra la VIolencia Vial y el IRrespeto (Association of Athletes Opposed to Road Violence and Disrespect). I was sad that the organization has to frame its argument in the negative, but it reflects how dangerous it is to ride in the streets, and how out of place a cyclist feels in San Jose. During a short discussion at a bar, Ramon did offer some hope. He pulled out his laptop and quickly showed me slides of a presentation of his in which he offered an alternative vision for San Jose. Using photoshop and many hours, he displayed how San Jose’s roads could have bike lanes, and how cycling could become safer.

I hope he is successful.