Business & Technology

We're all in this together

Labor and environmentalists have been teaming up since the first Earth Day

The approach of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 provides us an opportunity to reflect on the “long, strange trip” shared by the environmental movement and the labor movement over four decades here on Spaceship Earth. A billion people participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. But when it was founded in 1970, according to Earth Day’s first national coordinator Denis Hayes, “Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!” Less than a week after he first announced the idea for Earth Day, Sen. Gaylord Nelson …

Flour power

Interview with ‘Growing Green’ business leader Karl Kupers

An April 13, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced the four winners of its second annual “Growing Green” awards, which honor leaders in the sustainable-food world in four categories: “thought leader,” “producer,” business leader,” and “water steward.” I interviewed “thought leader” Fred Kirschenmann here. Now I turn my attention to Karl Kupers of Shepherd’s Grain, who harvested the “business leader” honors. ———— Karl Kupers of Sheherd’s Grain: leading his region’s wheat farmers out of the commodity trap. Imagine launching a career as a wheat farmer in the 1970s. As the decades wore on, you’d be excused for wondering if …

Betting on change

  Last year, Beluga Shipping discovered that there’s money in global warming. Beluga is a German firm that specializes in “super heavy lift” transport. Its vessels are equipped with massive cranes, allowing it to load and unload massive objects, like multi-ton propeller blades for wind turbines. It is an enormously expensive business, but last summer, Beluga executives hit upon an interesting way to save money: Shipping freight over a melting Arctic. Beluga had received contracts to send materials on a sprawling trip that would begin in Ulsan, South Korea, head north and west to the Russian port city of Archangelsk—located …

risk mismanagement

Corporations love to talk about going green, but not many are planning for a changing climate

About a decade ago, Miguel Torres planted 104 hectares of pinot noir grapes in the Spanish Pyrenees, 3,300 feet above sea level. It’s cold up there and not much good for grapes — at least not these days. But Torres, the head of one of Spain’s foremost wine families, knows that the climate is changing. His company’s scientists reckon that the Rioja wine region could be unviable within 40 to 70 years, as temperatures increase and Europe’s wine belt moves north by up to 25 miles per decade. Other winemakers are talking about growing grapes as far north as Scandinavia …

Happy effing Earth Day...um Week

Deep thoughts from founder Chip Giller

Every year as Earth Day approaches, there’s a moment when we here at Grist stare at each other around a conference table and say, “What the hell are we going to do this time?” I imagine it’s the same way the window dressers at Macy’s feel when the winter holidays are approaching. How do you make an annual event feel fresh, exciting, and fun? One obvious solution, of course, is profanity. Last year, our “Screw Earth Day” campaign was a wildly successful reminder that eco-awareness shouldn’t be limited to one day; this week, we’re launching the similarly sailor-worthy “Earth: FML.” …

Doubt on a limb

From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world.”– Margaret Mead Because Americans are optimists we tend to see Mead’s observation as upbeat and life-affirming (as it was probably intended). Blinkered by optimism, however, we miss the dark flip side of her observation — that a few fanatics can do immense harm. In their sweeping and comprehensive new book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, historians Naomi Oreskes and Erick M. Conway document how a handful of right-wing ideologues — all scientists — …

Who gets rich in a geoengineered world?

So yesterday was the official publication day for my new book How to Cool the Planet, an event that I’d like to mark by … taking a long nap. I’m only a few days into the book tour, but I’m already exhausted. Not that I’m complaining. Being worn out by your book tour is a nice problem for a writer to have. Part of my fatigue is the result of  a bumpy redeye from LA to NYC the other night; part of it can be blamed on a flood of questions from chemtrails conspiracy cultists who believe that Dark Forces …

A ray of sunshine

Creative financing fuels California solar boom

Dropping my son off at school on Wednesday, I ran into Danny Kennedy, a fellow parent and veteran Australian Greenpeace activist turned solar entrepreneur. How’s business? I asked. Pretty bloody good, as it turns out. Kennedy’s startup, Sungevity, took in more orders for rooftop solar systems in March than in all of 2009. That solar flare is being fueled in large part, according to Kennedy, by a new lease option Sungevity recently began offering its customers. The option is financed through a $24 million deal with U.S. Bank. Rather than purchasing a solar array, customers can lease the system through …

Google climate change chief wants price on carbon

Dan Reicher, Google’s director of climate changePhoto: Steve Rhodes via FlickrGoogle wants a price on carbon and wants it now — both for lofty reasons like combating global warming, but also because it could be good for business.  As the Senate inches closer to climate legislation that could give the Internet giant what it wants, I checked in with Dan Reicher, the director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google to see what surfing the web had to do with reining in greenhouse gases.  Turns out, the answer is technology. Reicher — a former Department of Energy assistant secretary …

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