Terry Tamminen

Terry Tamminen is the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and is now a policy adviser and author. His latest book is Watercolors: How JJ the Whale Saved Us.

Top Five Earth Day Presents

What do you get Mother Earth on her big day (reminder: it’s April 22nd!)? She’s just so hard to shop for and, after all, she already has everything. She might appreciate one of those self-help books, although few moms want a gift that implies they are fat or “polluted”, but aren’t her kids the reason she might be feeling worn out and depleted in the first place? Well, here are the Top Five Tips to help you pick out something in her size and color that might just brighten her coming year: 5. A new U.S. Congress. OK, so you’ll …

Climate Change Cowards

Overheard at the water cooler this week: Tom: Sally, did you know we can solve climate change for as little as $35 per person? Sally: I’m afraid that’s a waste of my money, Tom. Tom: But what if a polluter gave you the $35 and you could buy things like LED lights that saved you hundreds of dollars over the next decade? Sally: But Tom, I’d be afraid of looking like a fool when we discover that climate change isn’t real. Tom: So in summary, you’re not interested in saving money and making the world more sustainable …because you’re afraid? …

Snakebit Supply Chains

Ever hear of a reality show called “Snake Salvation?” Me neither, until one of the serpent-handling co-stars was bit last month by a snake during a church service and later died. How does this unfortunate incident relate to sustainability and supply chains? Overlooking the obvious can come back to bite you. We all remember the discovery that Kathy Lee Gifford’s clothing line was being made in sweat shops and, more recently, the deaths of garment workers in Bangladesh making products for global brands and retailers. And just weeks ago, U.S. Food & Drug Administration officials traveled to India to address …

How to Have a Very Happy New Year

As the confetti is swept away and the world gets back to work, will 2014 be a banner year or will we be singing that “old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” a year from now? Here are a few reasons to think the world will be greener a year from now, both environmentally and economically. Just before the holidays, I met Mayor Paulo Altomani and his Director of Sustainable Science and Technology Development, Professor José Galizia Tundisi, of the Brazilian city of Sao Carlos. The fact that a city with about a quarter million people has a …

Something Better than Coal in Your Stocking?

Legend says that naughty kids get a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking, so do nice kids get clean energy in theirs, at least metaphorically speaking? It all depends on who plays Santa Claus with your investments or in your nation’s capital. In Pakistan, the government recently announced plans to build a 2200 megawatt nuclear power plant that will cost nearly $10 billion and take six years to construct. No word on whether Pakistanis will demand funds be set aside to deal with a Fukushima or Chernobyl style disaster, each of which will end up costing taxpayers in Japan …

The Digital Life

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that before mid-century the exponential acceleration of information technologies, robotics, medical science, and artificial intelligence will result in a “singularity”, a point at which humans will essentially merge with their technology. Such an event may seem implausible, but discoveries of how technology and humans really interact are being made every day, leading one to the conclusion that it’s not an unimaginable future – – and it may be the key to sustainable living on an increasingly overcrowded planet. Heart pacemakers and artificial hips already demonstrate the seeds of Kurzweil’s vision and innovations like Google …

Hug a Government Worker Day

Ten years ago this week, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California and he appointed me to be the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. Until then, neither of us had given serious thought to serving in government, but the experience changed our lives and, although you may not know it, changed yours too. In 2003, Schwarzenegger was best known for bodybuilding, action movies, and driving Hummers, but even before he was elected, he was equally serious about environmental protection and after school programs for at-risk kids. These two issues may seem unrelated, but Schwarzenegger saw kids in his …

Playing the Energy Lottery

Last year Americans spent $65billion on lottery tickets. In some games, the odds of winning have been compared to the probability of being struck by lightning while sinking a hole-in-one. The average U.S. homeowner spends $600 a year on fire insurance, but the likelihood of ever claiming against that policy is less than 1%. Why then are we so reluctant to make investments that are guaranteed to return profits and which provide insurance against real risks on a planetary scale? As many of us were lathering up with sunscreen one last time this summer, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate …

Taking the Scare Out of Scarceonomics

Global population hit 7 billion well ahead of most predictions. The UN now forecasts that we will share the planet — and its increasingly scarce natural resources — with about 10 billion fellow humans by 2050. Even more sobering are the numbers of people moving from ultra-low water-food-energy footprints to the middle class in China, India, Africa and South America, setting new records for buying everything from cars and groceries to homes and lawn flamingoes. Welcome to a not-too-distant future of “scarceonomics”. By now we’ve all read reports about fisheries collapsing; predictions that world-wide demand for freshwater will exceed supply …