We updated our educational site with thoughts from an environmental rapper/superhero!
Mr. Eco is a Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, student who credits his AP Environmental Science class at Clovis West High School in Fresno with sparking his interest in all things green. Check him out!
Young people battle for a cleaner planet, their future
Much depends on the younger generation.
Their habits, priorities and motivations largely will define the directions of development, technological advancement and political leanings. And while this always has been true to some degree, it may matter more now as society ponders the potential crushing cost of climate change, pollution and the cumulative effects of humankind’s unprecedented industrialized push forward these past 150 years.
Millennials, or Generation Y, and those born after them will have to seriously consider the environmental impact of everything they do. Mental Klaxons may as well sound a crisis alert every time they consider driving a car, purchasing a house or otherwise taking part in potential carbon-creation.
Passing the Boomers
Growing up, I didn’t have to do that. To me, pollution, contamination and too much garbage was the big scare. I remember walking above an abandoned missile site in the middle of nowhere Alaska and thinking about irradiated dirt in 1971. (I was 10, hitchhiking with mom.)
Nukes are bad, certainly. But their impact proves relatively minor as long as they remain in their silos.
Now the passive threat of rising sea level threatens thousands of island nations and low-lying real estate worldwide, and we’ve blown past the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is safe for humanity — 350 parts per million. Current level is 392 ppm. Yet, we keep pushing it. The stakes are off the charts.
“Danger, Will Robinson!” Or so says voice actor Dick Tufeld in his guise as the Robot in the the 1960s TV show “Lost in Space.” But that’s Boomer speak. (Another that comes to mind is Rita Moreno bellowing “Hey you guys!” on Electric Company.)
This generation has its own references, its own icons and its own messages and means of popular delivery. Who over 30 knows of Strong Bad? This phrase is apt: ”When all the land is in ruins; And burnination has forsaken the countryside. Only one guy will remain. My money’s on Trogdor!”
Many Millennials take their air and water quality seriously. They want to limit commuting, live close to work, walk to restaurants. Potentially, they’re creating an entirely different approach to community design, energy use and how resources should be exploited.
And they’re hardly shy about expressing their opinions. They’re tearing up the Internet via YouTube and social media pathways. But they aren’t stopping there.
Democracy & climate change
Take Zaheena Rasheed, a former 350.org intern and a resident of the Maldives, a scattered island nation with an average ground level about 4 feet above the sea about 250 miles southwest of India. In an email, she expresses thanks to 350.org, which seeks to build a global movement to solve the climate crisis.
“In under a week, an incredible 35,553 of you signed our petition to world leaders,” she says. Her words appear on the group’s website in a post by Kelly Blynn. The Maldives have reportedly scheduled democratic elections after President Mohamed Nasheed’s troubles that culminated with Canarygate, which involved allegations of corruption.
Rasheed continues. Her words ooze power and conviction: “There is much in common in the battle against climate change and for democracy — the right to a healthy and dignified life — and this can happen when people are free to speak their minds, make decisions over their own resources, and have the power to act against injustice.”
Eloquent, yet not too unapproachably activist.
So Fresh, So Green
Sarah Laskow of grist.org stumbled across a video created by a group of seniors from Atlanta’s Marist School. “So Fresh, So Green” was written and performed by Butta Biscuit, Mikey-B, Confucius Rodge and Clive Sensation with the filming and editing handled by Eric Eichelberger
Laskow says the motivation was Marist’s participation in the Green School Alliance’s Green Cup Challenge. She says schools that took part tried to reduce their energy use over four weeks, and some did so by more than 20 percent.
“This stuff isn’t rocket science: They just turned off more lights, readjusted the thermostats and, in some cases, replaced old equipment,” she writes.
The video is based on Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The student rappers stick to the basics, encouraging people to recycle, save energy by turning off lights and not just “talk the talk, but walk the walk.”
Mr. Eco spreads the word
Another would-be Al Yankovic is Mr. Eco from Cal Poly (known offically as California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo), who has a number of videos devoted to the green cause. Mr. Eco calls himself an environmental rap superhero who incorporates sustainable living tips into parodies and represents the Alliance to Save Energy’s Cal Poly Green Campus Program.
In one of his videos, dubbed “Turn Em Out,” Mr. Eco parodies rapper T.I.’s “Bring Em Out.” That latter video has more than 4.5 million views, while our Mr. Eco at this writing had 3,127. But when we first wrote about him in early November 2011, he had yet to break 1,000.
And Mr. Eco, the outspoken superhero that he is, also has taken his schtick on the road, visiting Ahwahnee Middle School in the scenic confines of our own Fresno, Calif. Mr. Eco, also known as Brett Edwards, is from Fresno. So that helps.
He’s making an impact. Ahwahnee Principal Tim Liles even did a plug for Mr. Eco in the video.
One year, zero garbage
The crew at yert.com is tirelessly going from city to city to screen its powerful documentary. The next is March 2 in a Seattle church.
Dubbed “Your Environmental Road Trip” — thus the acronym YERT — the film covers all 50 states in a search “for innovators and citizens solving humanity’s greatest environmental crises.”
The trio of filmmakers says they were “called to action by a planet in peril.” Producer Mark Dixon tells me he’s up for more screenings. So if anybody’s interested …
Solar Workers Find Green Jobs Aren’t A Myth
Think Industrial Revolution
The drumbeat over whether green jobs really exist has been steady throughout 2011. Much of the debate stems from the definition of “green,” but a front page story in the Riverside Press Enterprise on Christmas Day is worth noting.
The headline reads, “Solar Projects Bring Precious Jobs.” Here’s a link to the online version of the story.
The article by Leslie Berkman quotes a handful of formerly unemployed truckers, construction workers and others who are among some 700 people building the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating site in the Mojave Desert - one of several large-scale solar projects under way or proposed in Riverside, San Bernardino and Imperial counties.
“This is a godsend for a lot of people,” said Tim West, a carpenter quoted by Berkman.
The plants will help California reach its 33 percent renewables mandate, but also provide badly needed jobs during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Construction jobs in the Inland Empire portion of California have fallen 57 percent since the height of the building boom, Berkman writes.
The solar construction boom is expected to last in that region for at least five years. Those plants won’t require as many employees when they are operating, but at least people such as West and Lee Russell, a former trucker driver-turned-apprentice who now earns $24 per hour at the solar plant and who also was quoted in the Press Enterprise article, are working now.
The Mojave Desert isn’t the only place in California where solar jobs are likely to soar. Dozens of solar projects are making their way through the planning process in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties as well, where planners are being cautious to avoid avoid conflicts with prime farm land. Read more here.
Meanwhile, the solar and wind industries are attracting some savvy investors, such as Warren Buffett, Google and KKR & Co.. They are investing in select projects in California and elsewhere. You can bet they wouldn’t be if they didn’t expect good returns. Buffett, who has investments in oil companies too, bought solar projects that have power purchase agreements in place, noted The Motley Fool.
Critics contend solar energy is too expensive and can’t last without subsidies, but prices are falling, panels are becoming more efficient and it won’t be long before solar electricity reaches grid parity. In fact, some experts say it’s already there. Check out this recent blog post by my colleague, Mike Nemeth.
Solar energy isn’t the only green industry headed for prime time. Corporate America has discovered that going green adds more green to its bottom line. Major companies are beefing up their sustainability departments (dubbed “green teams) and are seeking out ways to cut energy consumption. And let’s not forget energy benchmarking, which is gaining a higher profile, especially in California where a law requires data before certain property can be sold.
Find out more here, here, here and here.
Or listen to Cal Poly’s Mr Eco rap.
Sure, green companies will come and go. There will be some high-profile implosions like Solyndra, and others will just kind of slip away into the night. Big companies will acquire smaller ones and consolidations will occur. Startups will carve out a niche, and established businesses will expand to take advantage of green opportunities.
This is a young dynamic industry - and it’s on the move.