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Quote from Dr. King

“We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

How would Dr. King's vision connect to climate change since it very much is a social justice issue? The poorest and least resilient communities contribute the least to its cause but bear most of the consequences. Perhaps Green For All?

Did Raul Cut-&-Paste Lofgren Bill?

A Republican lawmaker has submitted legislation that would make foreign students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math at U.S. universities automatically eligible for a green card or permanent residency if they have a job offer. If this bill by U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) sounds familiar, it should. In June, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), introduced legislation seeking the exact same thing. Indeed, Labrador's bill appears to be a cut-and-paste version of what Lofgren is seeking. Lofgren's bill is HR 2161, and Labrador's is HR 3146. "It's kind of a novelty to take something word for word out of another bill, but it is probably not the first time it has happened in Congress," said Lofgren, in an interview. She called it disconcerting and said she has spoken to Labrador about it/Patrick Thibodeau, ComputerWorld. More here. (Wikipedia photo, of Zoe Lofgren)

Question: Is this simply bad legislative manners? Or something worse?

WSJ Backs Labrador’s Green Jobs Bill

It's crazy to educate the world's brightest and then deport them. Washington has spent years trying to force-feed green jobs, to little good effect. So here's a better idea: Expand the number of green cards, as in the number of immigrant visas for foreign-born graduates of American universities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This could even be bipartisan. President Obama this week praised the latest report from his jobs council that proposed more such visas. And this week Idaho Republican Raúl Labrador, a freshman of tea party provenance, introduced a bill in the House to do the same. The evidence is overwhelming that if we let these young people stay in America, rather than sending them home, they'll end up building new companies and tens of thousands of new jobs/Wall Street Journal editorial. More here.

Question: Do you support Congressman Labrador's green jobs bill, too?

Green jobs in the Evergreen state

OLYMPIA – Washington counted twice as many people working in “green” jobs last year as in 2008.

Although changes in the way jobs were counted are responsible for much of that growth, the state still saw an increase in people building wind turbines, constructing new energy-efficient buildings or retrofitting old ones, and manufacturing or shipping the supplies needed cut energy use or clean up ecologic messes.

Gov. Chris Gregoire hailed the new figures as rare economic good news in the midst of the recession.

Another Green Monday

Well that was fun wasn’t it?

Of course we’re talking about our 7vs7 Spokavore competition last week – the fourth installment of a collector series of challenges we have competed in with our local blogging friends. While jokes, sarcasm, and good-natured ribbing were as bountiful as the local cuisine, there was a lot of awareness raised about local food diversity, a fair amount of culinary knowledge gained, and of course a greater understanding about the limitations of this kind of diet and lifestyle.  Mainly financial and simple logistics.

Sure you could argue that eating a  100 percent local diet is not just a healthy investment but an investment in the local economy. However, in this day and age those arguments are harder to make.  And the planning and preparation that goes into a diet like this isn’t conducive to 40-hour work weeks, side jobs, passion projects, a constant time-management battle, and the inability to say NO. But it sure is eye opening to try.

Then there’s the camaraderie – hands down the most beneficial aspect of these competitions. While we hopefully raised your awareness about local food options, we also hope we raised your awareness about the diverse blogopshere Spokane has to offer. And we’re only a handful of what’s out there. 

We heard from a few people how we did this during the wrong time of year - and while it’s true that we didn’t maximize our fresh and local options doing it during the winter, we’ll argue that this was the best time of year to raise awareness about eating locally.  With this knowledge and understanding fresh on our minds and hopefully on your minds, we hope you go into this spring excited about your own urban farming, mindful of where your food comes from, and committed to making a lifestyle change of your own - one that includes frequent stops to farmers markets, local grocers, and anywhere else you can pick up some of the Inland Empire’s best!

You might be wondering what’s next for the 7vs7 gang or us in particular - how about the Huffington Post’s “Week of Eating In Challenge” - conveniently beginning today.  From HuffPo: “A week-long experiment in cooking your own food inspired by Cathy Erway, author of The Art of Eating In. We’ll be providing awesome commentary and how-to’s on everything from how to not waste food to great winter recipes. And we’ll invite you to share your experiences with the HuffPost Community.”  Read more HERE.

Also, props to all the players and especially the Spokane Food Blog for organizing and acting as the hub for this challenge. No easy task, given all the local blogs involved. Let’s hope that Spokavore directory grows!

And now on to stories you might have missed last week.

Green dream job

Something you may or may not know about DTE: We have day jobs.

The fact we get to blog daily about the environment for all of you out there is a dream come true. Aww. A sane person should be counting Al Gores before they go to sleep because work begins in a few hours rather than geeking out on daily tips and researching Spokane River pollution. But we’re living in an age of moonlighting: In an uncertain economy, we’re meeting more passionate people who are likely to pursue an additional activity whether it is freelancing or volunteering for fulfillment. There seems to be even more individuals when it comes to sustainability in Spokane.

These thoughts crossed our mind after reading Grist’s semi-helpful yet relevant “How do I find a green dream job?” which is the kind of post that gets passed along to friends and family—- whether graduated, unemployed or just looking for something more out of life. Solutions to our new and intimidating problems demand innovative thinkers for the burgeoning and competitive green job corps.

Here’s an example:

2) Make your job a green job.
Don’t take you eye off the ball even if you end up working in unrelated fields for a while to make ends meet; in fact, you might try to make your job in that unrelated field become the job you want. Several environmental directors I know have simply proposed that position with a company previously uninterested in such work. In the end, EVERY job is going to have to become a job that focuses on climate change if we hope to solve this problem.

What is your dream job?

Another Green Monday

Welcome to Thanksgiving week readers.  It’s a strange thing when you find something from the past that’s every bit as relevant now as it was when it originated - it really makes you put time into perspective.  2007 seems like ages ago, and our world today is certainly a lot different than it was then, but some things never really change.  And that’s not always a good thing.  Take a look at the following post we wrote on November, 21, 2007 - just over two years ago.  Nothing’s changed really - the economy is worse, our environmental priorities less serious, and there’s probably better links to information on greenwashing, but aside from that - this post reads the same today as it did back then. 

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” - Ghandi

As a little kid, Thanksgiving meant three simple things, hanging out with cousins you didn’t get to see regularly, sitting at the kids table, having kid conversations, essentially living in our own kid world, and knowing that leftover turkey in a sandwich would be lunch for about a week. Oh, the good old days.

As a perceptive adult, and a conscious consumer, Thanksgiving regretfully has taken on a whole new meaning. The week leading up to the big meal now breeds more cynicism than excitement. And sadly, it’s not even the week before anymore; it’s the whole month of November. The month where Thanksgiving becomes secondary to the corporate mega-event that is Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is being burdened with a bad reputation simply by association with Christmas shopping, turning festive Americans into worrisome scrooges. It’s an all out turf war with Christmas wanting to have its cake and eat it too. Thanksgiving has become the opening act you must sit through before the headlining act takes the stage.

Mall Santa’s are lining up for duty earlier this year than ever before (Santa at Riverfront Mall has been stationed since last week). City Christmas tree displays are erected before Halloween cavities have had time to set in. And worst of all, Wal-Mart jumpstarted the post-Thanksgiving shopping insanity three weeks before the official Black Friday.

Now, consumers across America rush through Thanksgiving dinner so they can make it home and get a little bit of sleep before lining up at the mall at 3 a.m. Pumpkin pie, forget about it, doorbuster deals are just as sweet.

Corporate America has taken Thanksgiving hostage and in an uncertain economy with an unstable dollar, Black Friday may just lead us back to Black Thursday. Do yourself a favor and take a little time to enjoy Thanksgiving, enjoy those around you and by all means, relax The Christmas overdose that is sure to ensue is one more example, one of many, of America out of control; an America that thinks green, just the wrong kind of green.

So how is this concerning for the environment you ask? The entire “consumerism will save the world” mentality that exists is creating a complete greenwash of ideas that are creating more of a problem than they perceive to solve. Buying an $80 dollar shirt because it’s made from eco-material in theory is better but it’s beside the point. This is what is meant by greenwashing.

Bill Clinton said it best, “The totality of consumption is what the problem is, the totality of impact on the earth. And that’s why we speak so much of conservation being the key rather than better consumption. Using less stuff rather than manufacturing things in a better way. So cut back and power down and use less of the materials of the earth.”

There isn’t a way to buy our way out of energy consumption or buy our way into environmental consciousness. What it takes is being aware of your consumer actions. And what better time than during the mecca of consumerism, Christmas.

Take the time to watch the following video called “Greensumption.” It is one of the smartest looks at America and its “shop to save the planet” mentality.

After the jump you’ll find some stories you might have missed last week.

Tuesday Video - 640,329

640,329 - that’s the number of jobs that have been created or saved so far through the Recovery Act according to new numbers recently reported by the Obama administration.  But to get a sense of what that 640,329 looks like, Green for All recently released a Green Economy Roadmap to highlight the people, communities, and programs that are building the green economy across the nation.  Check it out, read the stories, and learn about what’s going on in your area.  And watch the video below to put a face to one of these jobs.

The myth of green jobs

That’s what The Economist says of course. We don’t buy it. For instance, they don’t share these figures—- how the renewable energy industry has added jobs at more than twice the national rate this decade. The half-baked commentary stems more from politicians pretending that everything is a free lunch and a nervousness surrounding some serious upcoming climate legislation. (But there was an uncomfortable moment where we wanted somebody else to carry the ball after John Kerry incredulously admitted to not knowing what cap-and-trade meant when talking about green jobs. Most Americans don’t and that’s okay but he’s not doing legislation any favors.)

With trepidation, the Free Exchange counters their points, offering some good policy changes like “taxing congestion on highways and using the revenue to build transit options will reduce emissions while improving the flow of people around and through economically important cities.” On a smaller, local scale for city government, there’s no myth only innovative ways that are attainable if you want it. Last year, we talked about Members of the Greenhouse Gas and Energy Conservation Team in Missoula who helped the city launch a clean energy project that calls for selling renewable energy certificates, which helped subsidize construction costs in the community. “It’s really low risk. There’s no investment involved. There’s minimal expense. And there’s a potential for some revenues to be generated,” said Brian Kerns, a member of the Conservation Team, in the Missoulian. Proponents modeled the project after a similar venture in Ashland, Oregon that worked. There, one dollar of every carbon offset sale went into a fund for green energy projects. One carbon offset equals 1,000 kilowatt hours or some 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide. In turn, the city recently constructed a solar package (panels, kiosks, educational materials, activities) for a school, with a total value of some $28,000.

There are numerous other examples of similarly successful little projects that could be boosted given a legislative push, but, once again, the clean energy sector has already proven itself sustainable.

Get stoked on green jobs in the Evergreen State

Watch the following 12-minute video from the Washington State Department of Ecology and count how many times they say the phrases, green building, green jobs, and green economy.  Then keep those words in your mind and really pay attention as you listen to NPR, surf the blogosphere, or read a newspaper - you’ll be amazed at how many times you encounter them there as well.  And why shouldn’t you - with money from President Obama’ s recovery plan already making its way in to communities, we’re on the precipice of significant increase of  green-collar jobs.  And it’s not as much as supply meeting demand, but more necessity meeting desperate.  So what do commercial and residential buildings of the future look like?  What technologies are out there?  And what opportunities are presenting themselves?  These are just a few of the questions answered in the below video - and you’ll be glad you waded through the often-times annoying marketing techniques.

Friday Quote(s)

“We have the capacity to make this generation one of those generations that changes the course of humankind.” - Al Gore
“This is all about opportunity. “We have the opportunity to create jobs and to protect our environment. It’s a win-win.” - Carol Browner
“There are either going to be a whole lot more green jobs, or we’re going to have a dead planet.” - Van Jones
“I give a voice for people and things that can’t necessarily speak for themselves, like trees and wildlife. Or the residents of Harlem.” - Mitchell Joachim

Rolling Stone magazine recently

The Hangover

Wednesday we wrote of the draft legislation introduced by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) - the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009”.  It’s a bold proposal that runs the gamut of environmental issues - emissions, cap and trade, climate change, alternative energy, green jobs, etc.  This likely marks the beginning of the most publicized portion of the climate and energy debate in America, and it comes during a time when whatever is talked about will be balanced with our current economic climate. Waxman and Markey’s proposal isn’t ideal, and there are serious holes in it, but like it or not, the debate just got a whole lot more visible. To help you form our own perception, we’ll share with you some of what we read about the draft bill:


The $790-billion pie

Everyone wants a piece of the stimulus package, and as we reported last week, there is a significant amount of pie available in the recovery that addresses green investments - money for energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy projects, and green jobs.

The recovery is also stimulating interest among residential homeowners as they are seeing the potential money-savings available by greening their homes. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law on February 17th, included substantial investments and incentives relating to renewable energy. The Act included allocations of $92 billion dollars for cleantech, another $32.8 billion going towards clean energy and another $26 billion allocated for improved energy efficiency.

We recently heard from our friends at Alt-E who are definitely feeling the effects of the increased interest in sustainable, money-saving DIY projects. “We’ve seen an impact already in the traffic to our site and in the phone calls we’ve been receiving. This is the best time of year to plan for your renewable energy improvements – and it looks like, with this new stimulus package, this might very well be the Year of the Solar Hot Water Heater.” said Sascha Deri, CEO of AltE.

Friday Quote

“2009 has got to be the landmark year for climate… in the world. We’ve got to pass a climate bill in this country, and the opponents are already lining up to stop it.”

- Cathy Zoi, CEO of www.RepowerAmerica.org in a video thank-you message to the millions of Americans who supported the economic recovery legislation thus supporting the largest investment in clean energy and green jobs in our country’s history.

The green investments in the recovery bill will create over 1.7 million green jobs our country needs urgently. The package contains historic investments in each of the areas where Climate Solutions had focused its efforts, including:

  • Energy efficiency – over $25 billion in appropriations and tax credits.
  • Investments in a 21st century smart grid — $11 billion, plus an expansion of the Bonneville Power Assn.’s borrowing authority by $3.2 billion
  • Renewable Energy projects – $6.415 billion in direct spending, $6 B in loan guarantees, plus extension and renewal of tax credits
  • Sustainable Transportation – over $8 billion for transit and $9.3 billion for high speed rail and Amtrak.
  • Green Jobs — $500 million to fully fund the Green Jobs Act of 2007 (plus $2.95 billion in formula grants to the states for adult and dislocated worker training activities and youth activities, a portion of which may support additional training for green jobs).

If you’d like to send a thank-you note to President Obama and the 306 members of congress who voted for a green recovery - click HERE.

Take the money and run

Get ready for a piece of stimulus pie as a preliminary analysis reported the proposed package could create or save 75,000 jobs in Washington state.

Initial details are sketchy but Sen. Patty Murray said the state would receive roughly $500 million for roads, highways and bridges, and $175 million for mass transit projects. She also believes Hanford will get about a third of the $6 billion already allocated for major environmental cleanups.

Oregon isn’t even hesitating with an announcement of green projects. Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will seek hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars to rebuild the flooded community of Vernonia as an environmental utopia, build a sustainable prison and install solar panels to light freeways.

Hopefully, Gov. Chris Gregoire takes advantage of the environmental benefits, and the 75, 000 jobs can make room for a ready green work force.

Tuesday Video

It’s the worst of times and it’s the best of times - and that has nothing to do with your glass half-full or glass half-empty outlook on life.  In what times appears to be the simultaneous collapse of our economy and our ecology comes a tremendous opportunity to rebuild in the type of way that will provide us potential for smart, sustainable growth and development.  The below video is an excellent example of this potential - featuring economist Robert Pollin and The Nation contributor Liza Featherstone.  To read more of this subject, check out a recent post from one of DTE’s favorite blogs - WattHead.

Charging stations on the freeway, car insurance by-the-mile, and lots and lots of weatherstripping and insulation: Senate D’s propose energy/jobs plan…

Echoing similar plans in the other Washington, Senate Democrats in Olympia Tuesday detailed their plans to combine “green jobs” with a renewed push for conservation and alternative sources of power.

“We now have a partner in the federal government in a way that we haven’t had a partner in the past,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. The Obama administration wants to spend $150 billion and create 5 million new jobs over the next decade with clean-energy efforts.

In Olympia, some of the proposals touted Tuesday were low-tech, like boosting efforts to weatherize drafty homes.

Others look further into the future. With some help from tax breaks, for example, Sen. Fred Jarrett said, he envisions electrical charging stations dotting Interstate 5 “from Vancouver to Tijuana.” When the parking lots full of charged cars aren’t driving, he said, they can be tapped as a massive battery to feed electricity back into the power grid at peak times.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, wants to reduce driving by encouraging auto insurers to offer some insurance plans linked to miles driven.

Among the skeptics: Todd Myers, who works for a conservative think tank called the Washington Policy Center. Lawmakers are gambling millions of dollar clutching at the latest “eco-fads,” he said, when they should be encouraging the private sector for better fixes.

“They were wrong on electric cars, biofuels and green buildings,” he said. “Now they want to create charging stations. But a few years back they were talking about the hydrogen highway.”
Myers thinks a better solution would be to charge people for their carbon emissions – encouraging them to limit the pollution – and spend the money on tax breaks to encourage innovation.

“These decisions are not best made in Olympia, Myers said. “They’re best made in Redmond, Seattle and the rest of the state.”

“The Dream Reborn”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we urge readers to check out King County Executive Ron Sims’ piece from last year on how his vision connected to climate change, green jobs and social justice. It addressed the poverty aspect of environmental issues that has yet to confront the mainstream, writing “climate change itself is fundamentally a question of justice, with the poorest and least resilient communities contributing the least to its cause, but bearing the brunt of its consequences.”

The article presented a model to emulate. For a solution, the King County Climate Team partnered with the King County Equity and Social Justice Team to educate how climate change impacted poor and vulnerable populations, and provided an opportunity towards a green professional pathway: “We want to make sure that these individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by climate change have full access and ability to get, keep and thrive in the long-term, family wage green work that can transform their lives, their families and their communities, and protect the health of our planet,” Sims said. More.

Also, visit Green For All, a national organization dedicated to fighting poverty and pollution at the same time.