Tuesday, January 27, 2009
American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series
Coming to Grips with Sustainable Practices: Where Do We Go from Here?
What are the forces that shaped consumer culture in the U.S.? How does per capita consumption in the U.S. compare with that of other countries, especially in the realm of energy usage? What impact has consumerism had on resources and living standards in the U.S. and elsewhere? What are the implications of maintaining our present level of consumption? What are the implications of other countries aspiring to levels of per capita consumption on a par with ours? How might our society begin to identify and embrace more sustainable habits and practices, and what might such practices be? What policy steps might the new Administration and Congress consider codifying in the interest of promoting a more sustainable lifestyle and economy?
Monday, January 26, 2009
New Time - 12:00 noon – 2:00 pm
Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253
Buffet Reception Following
Dr. Anthony Socci, Senior Science and Communication Fellow, American Meteorological Society
Dr. Juliet B. Schor, Professor of Sociology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Betsy Taylor, Consultant, Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, Strategic & Philanthropic Consulting on Climate Solutions & Sustainable Development, Takoma Park, MD
Sustainability, Consumption and the Path Forward
At the center of the US ecological dilemma lies consumption. We have been a consumer nation for more than a century, having made a directed choice in the 1930s toward that path. Today, in the midst of the simultaneous crises of the economy and the environment, we are again faced with choices about how to move forward. Although it has gotten far less attention, business-as-usual spending is as problematic as BAU energy use. The US ecological footprint, which is twice the level of comparably rich European countries, exceeds the equitable global sustainability level by a factor of 5. Rising per capita consumption underlies the ecological overshoot of the world economy, which now exceeds biological capacity by 40%. In the United States, inflated-adjusted personal consumption expenditures increased 88% from 1973 to 2003, which resulted in a 37% rise in our ecological footprint. This is important because it has accompanied decades of attempts to save energy and de-materialize production, all of which have proved inadequate. Fortunately, there is increasing awareness of these issues, and a grassroots movement to transform consumer patterns and habits is underway. However, it has had virtually no legislative presence to date.
In Dr. Schor’s presentation, the issue of consumption will be placed into its historical and comparative context. New data will be presented on the magnitude of the ‘cheap import’ boom in material (and therefore ecological terms) over the last 15 years. Underlying economic factors such as labor market policies and the distribution of income affect the path of consumption and ecological impact. A medium term consumption path will be sketched out, which yields high levels of human well-being, is becoming broadly popular, and is ecologically sustainable.
Ms. Taylor will discuss an array of policy instruments that could promote a more sustainable standard of living and more sustainable consumerism. In the lead-up to address climate change through cap & trade or carbon fees, it would serve our collective interests to simultaneously address the root causes of ecological degradation and collapse. Ms. Taylor will also call for a rekindled debate on policies and programs that might steer our economy and culture in a more sustainable and durable direction.
Dr. Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her latest book, Born to Buy: the Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner, September 2004), has been translated into six languages. She is also author of the national best-seller, The Overworked American: the Unexpected Decline of Leisure (Basic Books, 1992) and The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. The Overworked American appeared on the best seller lists of The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, the Chicago Tribune, the Village Voice, the Boston Globe as well as the annual best books list for the New York Times, Business Week and other publications. The book is widely credited for influencing the national debate on work and family. The Overspent American was also made into a video of the same name, by the Media Education Foundation (September 2003). Dr. Schor is also the author of Do Americans Shop Too Much?, published by Beacon Press in 2000. She is also the co-editor of Consumer Society: A Reader (The New Press 2000) and co-editor of Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the Twenty-first Century (Beacon Press 2002).
Dr. Schor is currently working on issues of environmental sustainability and their relation to American lifestyles and the economy. She is a co-founder and co-chair of the Board of the Center for a New American Dream (newdream.org), a national sustainability organization headquartered in Maryland.
A graduate of Wesleyan University, Dr. Schor received her Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. She also held a chair in the Economics of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Before joining Boston College, she taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics, and the Committee on Degrees in Women's Studies. Her scholarly articles have appeared in professional venues such as the Economic Journal, The Review of Economics and Statistics, World Development, Industrial Relations, The Journal of Economic Psychology, Ecological Economics, The Journal of Industrial Ecology, Social Problems and others.
Dr. Schor has also served as a consultant to the United Nations, at the World Institute for Development Economics Research, and to the United Nations Development Program. She was a fellow at the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1995-1996 for a project entitled "New Analyses of Consumer Society". In 1998 Dr. Schor received the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contributions to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language from the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2006 she received the Leontief Prize from the Global Development and Economics Institute at Tufts University for expanding the frontiers of economic thought.
Dr. Schor has lectured widely throughout the United States, Europe and Japan to a variety of civic, business, labor and academic groups. She appears frequently on national and international media, and profiles on her and her work have appeared in scores of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and People magazine. She has appeared on 60 Minutes, the Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show on CBS, numerous stories on network news, as well as many other national and local television news programs.
Betsy Taylor is the principal consultant with Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions, a consulting firm that serves clients dedicated to addressing climate change and promoting sustainable economic practices & policies. She is co-founder and Board President of 1Sky (www.1sky.org) a national campaign created in 2007 to focus the power of millions of concerned Americans on a single goal: federal actions by 2010 that can effectively address global warming and create five million green jobs. She co-founded and served as president of the Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org) a national organization that helps Americans live and consume prudently in the interest of a more sustainable world and improving the quality of life. During her tenure at NAD, the Center launched the Responsible Purchasing Network, an association of socially and environmentally responsible purchasers representing over fifty billion dollars in buying power. The effort earned numerous awards, including being named in Washingtonian Magazine’s as one of the top fifty places to work in the D.C. metropolitan area. Betsy has appeared frequently on national television and radio and is the co-editor and author of Sustainable Planet: Solutions for the 21st Century. She previously served as Executive Director of the Merck Family Fund, Stern Family Fund, and Ottinger Foundation and has consulted with numerous foundations and donors. She has an M.P.A. from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. from Duke University.
Today, January 27, we posted a lengthy summary of various reactions to President Obama's Climate Change and Energy Presidential Memos on our eNewsUSA blog at: http://enewsusa.blogspot.com/. The summaries include links to the full text of the releases. The posting includes both positive and negative reactions from U.S. Congressional leaders, industry, environment and government organizations. The posting also includes links to the full text of the President Obama Memos. Also included, on the January 26 posting, are a summary of President Obama statement on the Memos and links to the full text and video of the speech and related information. The posting also includes some clarifications of some misleading reporting and statements that have been made regarding the President's announcement and the Memos.
One of my students just published an article on Oregon's battle with takings legislation: David Boulanger, The Battle over Property Rights in Oregon: Measures 37 and 49 and the Need for Sustainable Land Use Planning, 45 Willamette L Rev 313 (2008).
If you have any interest in land use law, how takings law affects the environment or in takings legislation, this article is worth a read.
Northwestern University Law Review has published an interesting essay on who should lead the US negotiating team on climate change. Professor Zasloff suggests the US Trade Representative. My immediate reaction to the question is Carol Browner or Hillary Clinton, but.... see what you think. NWU L Rev Zasloff on climate change negotiations Here's the introduction:
Bureaucratic reorganization may well constitute the most dismal swamp of policy analysis. Agencies are restructured, responsibilities reassigned, bureaus renamed, boxes are moved around—yet all too often, nothing happens. This failure, of course, leads to yet another fruitless round of thrashing about.
But organizational choices matter. At the start of the War on Terror, President Bush made two crucial decisions: he gave the CIA (rather than the FBI) control over the interrogations of high-value terror suspects and he gave the Defense Department (rather than State) control of postwar Iraqi reconstruction. These choices carried disastrous results. Bush’s earlier decision to grant Vice President Dick Cheney essentially free rein throughout the executive branch also had critical consequences for the substantive outcomes of his administration.
So it is with international climate change negotiations. Which American agency or entity would be the most capable choice to design effective international climate change architecture? This Essay examines the usual suspects—the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, a “Climate Czar,” and a special climate change representative—and considers the advantages and pitfalls of each.
I conclude, however, that the (tentatively) best choice is one never mentioned by commentators: the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Although USTR does not perfectly fit the task, it has fewer shortcomings than other available agencies. While hardly without problems, the USTR represents the best maximization of advantages and minimization of problems.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Obama directs reconsideration of California auto emission standard waiver and raising CAFE standards to 35 mpg
President Obama announced today that he had directed EPA to reconsider California's waiver application under Title II of the Clean Air Act, which allows it to set stricter limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks. If the California waiver is granted, 13 other states have already adopted the California standards and will be allowed to implement those standards. Obama has also directed DOT to raise CAFE standards to an average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 at the latest.
The President's press secretary discussed the CAFE standards at today's press conference:
"The particular action that the President took today was to take legislation that Congress approved in December of 2007, and President Bush signed, and in January of 2009 implement changed CAFE standards for model year 2011. So I don't think it comes as any surprise to automakers or consumers that a change in our fuel mileage standards was on the horizon. In fact, between December of 2007 and October of 2010 -- which is when manufacturers begin the next model year -- we believe, and I've seen testimony from the auto companies, that changing those fuel mileage standards is certainly doable. The President wants to work with the auto industry to ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are produced and built here in America for Americans to buy. And I think that government working with the auto industry can ensure that we have a sustainable path toward the production or more fuel-efficient autos, that those fuel-efficient autos will be more appealing to American consumers, and that that can be a win-win for both. The actions that the President took today put us on the path when we realize a fuel efficiency standard of 35 miles to the gallon -- it's 27.5 now -- 35 miles to the gallon will constitute a savings of 2 million barrels of oil a day, which is roughly comparable to the amount of oil that we import each day from the Persian Gulf."
"I think what ultimately we'll come up with is something that moves along the twin goals of ensuring a strong manufacturing sector while at the same time ensuring that we take the necessary steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
People are starting to get it: tap water was named one of the top 10 food trends of 2008 (Time article), one of the top 10 green stories by Grist (Grist article), and Zagat says tap water is in and designer water is out. I recently asked our administration to eliminate the purchasing of bottled water for law school functions -- although there wasn't immediate affirmation, at least I didn't get laughed out of the office. Willamette University President Lee Pelton is considering having a University-wide ban on University purchasing of bottle water.
In 1992's The Player, Tim Robbins' character, the consummate Hollywood insider, showed his sophistication at restaurants through his ability to differentiate among various kinds of bottled water. But today, that same Hollywood macher would never ask for anything but tap. Because of the environmental costs of producing and shipping bottled waters, more and more chefs are offering only filtered tap water to customers. Mario Batali and his business partner Joseph Bastianich stopped selling bottled water at their New York City restaurants Del Posto and Otto earlier this year, and eateries in Florida and Massachusetts are also serving only tap. The U.S. Conference of Mayors voted in June to recommend that City Halls stop serving bottled water even at special functions. Once hip, bottled water is now unforgivably '90s.