“I need advertising,” said Earth

“I need Advertising,” said Earth.
A Call for RFPs by Martha Shaw

Submitted by: Earth Advertising
Categories:Environment, Activism
Posted: Apr 20, 2012 – 05:27 PM EST

NEW YORK, Apr. 20 /CSRwire/ – If Earth had an ad budget, it would hire Earth Advertising, or at least that was my assumption when I invented the agency in 1999, originally eFlicks Media. “Earth needs a good ad agency,” Walter Cronkite had suggested to me back then.

Here on the eve of Earth Day, there is tremendous pressure to share what it’s been like over the past 13 years since Earth Advertising hatched in Soundtrack Studios. It’s been up and down. The fisheries went down, the trash went up. Water down. Temperature up. Species down. Chemicals up.

But, Earth Day is a day of celebration, not mourning. Although not the kind of celebrating we’re used to. Celebrating without plastic balloons, stirrers, straws, cups, bottles, bags, plates, forks, spoons and other harmful substances. We can celebrate by refusing single use disposable plastic on Earth Day. I know I’ve given up all these addictions, including on special occasions. Believe me, I fall off the wagon. But I get right back on. You can even take a pledge. Go to http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/support/pledge/

But I digress. If Earth did have a budget for an ad campaign clearly nobody would ever agree on which agency to hire anyway. And should it be positive or negative?

With the help of Stuart Ross, an advisor to Earth Advertising, we brainstorm the idea via social media. His ideas arrive by simple text, “What if there was an RFP?” I text him back that I love it. “Help Wanted. Mid-sized terrestrial planet seeking immediate advertising support.”

Objective? Long-term sustainable relationship with inhabitants.

Single Most Important Message? Help Wanted.

Most Valuable Available Asset? Unlimited intellectual capital.

Single Most Limiting Factor? Natural resources.

Single Biggest Challenge? Old habits.

Metrics for Success? Cleaner atmosphere. Fresher water. Healthier people. Abundant fisheries. Fertile land. Swimmable oceans. Peaceful co-existence.

As the world turns its attention to Rio+20, the 20-year anniversary of the first global Earth Summit, an RFP from Earth is a novel idea. World leaders need our community’s help right now. They need a collective RFP.

Connect with us on Twitter: @earthadv.

Sylvia Earle and Sam Low Win Cronkite Award as Mission Blue Debuts on Martha’s Vineyard by Martha Shaw

What do Walter Cronkite, Sylvia Earle and Sam Low all have in common? They have mastered the might of media on behalf of the sea.

The 2014 Walter Cronkite Award was bestowed on ocean all-stars Dr. Sylvia Earle and Dr. Sam Low by the MVYLI, Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative, which honors people who create positive social change in the world through the power of media.

Like the award recipients, Walter Cronkite was a champion for the 71 percent of Earth’s surface that is the sea—our omnipotent, astonishing, complex, generous and sorely neglected neighbor who rules our planet and keeps us terrestrials alive. Since the industrial revolution, the ocean has been polluted, and literally put through the meat grinder as never before in its 4 billion year history. Walter stirred the hearts of people, young and old, to take an interest not only in the beauty and bounty of our ocean, but in its health and future. The Walter Cronkite Award recognizes leaders who provide this level of inspiration to today’s youth.

Award recipient Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is a world-famous ocean pioneer and former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who has spent her life exploring the world’s oceans and sharing her boundless curiosity for what lies beneath the surface of sea—once a glass ceiling for women scientists. In 2009, she formed Mission Blue as a collaborative platform to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas large enough to save and restore the “blue heart” of the planet, known as Hope Spots.

“We are at the sweet spot of human history,” said Dr. Earle. “More has been learned about the ocean in the last decade than throughout all of human history. For the first time, we have access to information about our ocean as never before. Now we can actually do something. What will we do with this new knowledge? As a new generation that knows more than anyone has ever known before, what will you do with your future?”

“Walter Cronkite epitomized the spirit of what went up (to space) and what went down (to sea) and as a young scientist that inspired me,” said Earle. “I see his presence is still alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard. I am honored to be receiving this award with Sam Low, who has offered such a boatload of information about the ocean to all of us. I bow low, to Sam Low.”

The co-recipient was Dr. Sam Low, an anthropologist and award-winning storyteller dedicated to island people in their quest to raise awareness of our planet’s fragility, of which islands are most vulnerable. His film, The Navigators—Pathfinders of the Pacific, and recent book,Hawaiki Rising—Hokule’a Nanoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance, tell the story of the Polynesian settlement of the Pacific and ancient mariners who use native intelligence and natural signs to navigate our ocean. Low has both Vineyard and Hawaiian roots, and will join a global voyage in an ancient Polynesian canoe with the Polynesian Voyagers Society to share and celebrate the ancient wisdom of the sea.

Following the awards presentation, young leaders from MVYLI remarked on how the ocean was bringing everyone together, particularly island people, and shared their ideas for creating a more sustainable blue planet.

At sundown, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival set up a big screen on Menemsha Beach to premiere Mission Blue, the remarkable and breathtakingly beautiful documentary about Dr. Sylvia Earle’s life. The film was directed by Vineyard filmmaker Bob Nixon, and Fisher Stevens, who followed Earle with their crew around the world ocean for more than five years. Island residents and summer visitors laid blankets on the sand to be among the first to see the film, before it goes up on NetFlix on Aug. 15.

Native Vineyard fisherman and advocate for sustainable fisheries, Buddy Vanderhoop, shared his admiration for the mission of Dr. Earle and his support for marine protected areas to allow the depleting local fish population to spawn and populate again, and to prevent massive fish factory ships from destroying what is left. Dr. Earle promised to return to Martha’s Vineyard and work together toward this, in light of NOAA’s recent invitation to communities across the nation to nominate national marine sanctuaries.


Saving our Seas: Tapping into the Wisdom of Ocean Elders by Martha Shaw

Saving our Seas – Tapping into the Wisdom of OceanElders
By Martha Shaw, OCEAN TIMES
(New York, NY) – For 10,000 years, the ocean has been the life support system that has generously supplied us with air, food, and shelter in the embrace of a livable climate. In a perfect world, human beings might have fit nicely into the Earth’s ecosystem, in balance with the rest of nature. Over the last half-century however, that’s not been the case. Since the industrial revolution, man’s effect on the ocean has been likened to an invasive species. Man’s greatest predator has quickly become man himself.
As a species, who will save the day?
One thing working against the ocean is that problems are out of sight, out of mind. Its wounds lie beyond and below our line of vision. Many people have never even seen it except on television, in books and movies, on menus, or in pictures on the packaging of ‘seafood.’ Of those who have seen the ocean, most only see a surface that glitters and shines, and splashes upon the shore in a spectacular show of white frill. What most of the population doesn’t see is that our ocean lies unprotected and exposed, subject to looting, polluting and plundering. As a result, we have depleted the ocean’s fish stocks by 90%, clogged it with trash, saturated it with chemicals, cranked up the temperature, and altered the acidity to the point where seawater is dissolving coral, cartilage and bone.
On a positive note, with new technologies and greater knowledge we now know more about the ocean than ever before. With the advent of these new tools, a woman named Gigi Brisson has become determined to make a difference. After an inspiring Mission Blue expedition with oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle in 2010, she decided to start something that would have the potential to reverse the ocean’s steady, if not alarming, decline. She developed a plan for how people of influence could pool their talents and resources in the best interest of the ocean, and founded OceanElders.
OceanElders combines science, business, philanthropy, art and star-power
Launched in 2012 with its first member Dr. Sylvia Earle, OceanElders now includes H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Sir Richard Branson, Jackson Browne, James Cameron, Dr. Rita Colwell, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Jose Maria Figueres, Graeme Kelleher, Sven Lindblad, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nainoa Thompson, Ted Turner, Captain Don Walsh, and Neil Young. Founder Gigi Brisson said, “These are people with power, experience, success and connections who are all passionate about the ocean and combining efforts to reverse its declining health. The plan is to grow over time and include individuals from Africa, China, India, Japan, and Central and South America.”
The hope is that the OceanElders can get things done together while everyone else is still talking about it, according to Dr. Sylvia Earle. “We used to think that the ocean was too big to fail. Now we’ve learned that it can. We are in a narrow window of human history when we have the knowledge and the technology to tackle these problems — just in time. It’s urgent. The next ten years can be the most important of the next 10,000.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGQJN0hgokg&feature=youtu.be


When asked about being an Ocean Elder, Ted Turner said, “OceanElders are older and supposedly wiser people trying to concentrate on solving the problems of the ocean.” Graeme Kelleher said, “It’s a group of people dedicated to saving the world ocean and the entire biosphere, including humanity. Sven Lindblad described the group as an aggregation of diverse influential voices that can collectively help shape ocean policy. Science advisor Dr. Greg Stone said, “It’s a committed group of people effecting change.” One of the earliest and oldest OceanElders, Captain Don Walsh described the group simply as people who can pick up the phone and do something, or stop something, as the case may be. There are rumors that more star power that can do just that will be added soon.
To date, OceanElders has been effective by partnering with global organizations to support ocean protection in the form of appearances, videos, Op-Eds and letters, including a letter to President Putin in support of Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
The Time is Now, OceanElders Summit 2014
OceanElders (OE) held a summit entitled The Time is Now on the eve of Climate Week 2014 in New York City. Colleagues, who shared the OE mission, gathered to meet one another with the intent to share wisdom and experience, explore new ideas and incite successful collaborations.
Speakers at the event emphasized the need to work together for a new global architecture for the high seas, the half of the world that is beyond national jurisdiction and lies unprotected. Trevor Manuel of the Global Ocean Commission and Dr. Sylvia Earle presented a poster to Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, reading “257,000 people from 111 countries want a new agreement for high seas protection.”
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco said, “There cannot be social economic development without resilient and productive oceans.” The Prince went on to say, “The Earth’s marine environment provides humanity with a number of important services ranging from the air we breathe, to food security and storm protection. These in turn underpin lives and livelihoods around the globe.”
In reference to one of the biggest problems that plagues the ocean, IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing), Under Secretary of State, Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Catherine A. Novelli said, “It is only fair that we both level the playing field for honest fishermen and do everything we can to manage fisheries around the globe in a sustainable way.”
Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. shared the wisdom of his island’s ancient tradition of “bul,” which places a moratorium on fishing in order to replenish those stocks and maintain balance. In this tradition he has declared his country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as a marine sanctuary, the first of its kind in the world. “We are on the brink when this free-for-all is coming to an end,” he said.
The event concluded with a brilliant performance by celebrated artist Norah Jones. Dozens of attendees then gathered at a nearby establishment to further the discussion.
Join the discussion
OceanElders invites everyone to join in the discussion athttp://community.oceanelders.org/forums/135006-discuss-your-ideas


Meeting of the Minds by Martha Shaw


Business and environmental leaders brainstorm sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

by Martha Shaw

(San Diego, CA) – May 15, 2013 – What would happen if you sequestered big business leaders and entrepreneurs with environmental thought leaders and encouraged them all to brainstorm ways to reduce our tread on the planet? With a little luck and a lot of work, you get sustainable solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges.

Fortune Brainstorm Green
Fortune Brainstorm Green opened on April 29 in Laguna Niguel, California with actor Harrison Ford and Peter Seligmann of Conservation International, and continued for twenty-four hours spread out over three days of panels, breakout sessions, meals and soirees. CEOs and sustainability officers of the largest multinational corporations on Earth shared progressive ideas and presented smart solutions in an atmosphere of friendship and goodwill, not to mention breathtaking ocean views. These executives face the challenge of achieving ever-increasing profits for their public companies, while reducing their impact on the environment.

Social Venture Network’s Courageous Conversations
Some of the attendees had just come from Social Venture Network’s Courageous Conversations (SVN) conference in San Diego, April 25-28. At SVN, social entrepreneurs were looking deep into the supply chain to launch and grow businesses that help solve problems that plague the planet and the poor. These eco-preneurs face the challenge of raising capital and gaining distribution while struggling to keep their companies privately held, thus immune to the destructive effects of rapid growth expressed in the quarterly earnings of public companies. Many, in fact, were on their way to the national gathering of Slow Money held in Boulder. Errol Schweizer of Whole Foods inspired the group with excellent examples of mutually beneficial relationships throughout the supply chain that nourish the planet.

Conservation International – a balancing act
Conservation International (CI), a not for profit organization that helps big companies go green, and encourages green companies to grow big, among many other activities, has a vision for an environmentally healthy world with economic security for all. At Fortune Brainstorm Green, CEO and Co-founder Peter Seligmann shared that vision in which Earth’s natural wealth serves as the cornerstone for vibrant, thriving human societies. He cited the need for a global shift in attitudes and actions. As an example of tools available to gauge progress or lack thereof, Deb Zeyen of CI’s Marine Division, revealed the new Ocean Health Index which calculates an annual global score that assesses the condition of marine ecosystems, an indicator for the health of the planet. From fisheries to farms, natural resources are at the root of the supply chain, and many argue that these resources belong to the commons, not the corporations.

Greening the supply chain
A supply chain is a series of links that begins with natural resources and the people who live in communities among them, and ends up as a product or service on the market. If that product, for instance, is sold by a public company, the stock market is yanking at the chain. The dichotomy is that without the omnipotent reach and infrastructure of big business, the task of smaller businesses getting products to market is daunting, and investors eventually want their investment returned. This often leads to mergers and acquisitions. SVN member Greg Steltenpohl, founder of Odwalla that sold to Coca-Cola, summed up one advantage of getting healthy green products to mass market by saying, “Thank gawd for Odwalla Superfood in airports!”

An ideal green economy is a complex integration of nature and people within an ecosystem. Much of the talk at sustainability conferences is about how to define an ideal modern day ecosystem. Because of the keen level of sophistication and passion in the room, these conversations often lead to the topic of biomimicry. Ethical Biomimicry Finance™, a joint venture between Biomimicry 3.8 and Ethical Markets, brings Nature to Finance. What can we learn from nature about balance? Everybody is talking about a circular economy.

Circular economy – the new buzz words
The concept of a circular economy is a common theme at business conferences which address a forthcoming scarcity of natural resources. Though reusing, recycling and recovering materials can certainly mitigate some of the environmental degradation, the business cases for a circular economy vary as dramatically as the materials themselves. From local vendors like Jade Planet that uses found objects to make footwear and handbags, to Yerdle’s model of sharing, to Alcoa mining trash for aluminum, one can find a wide range of promising examples where businesses are engaging in the complete life cycle of materials. One has only to view the satellite images of the plastic gyre in the Pacific, or the landfills of Brazil, to agree that it’s not a moment too soon.
The rapid expansion of manufacturing and commerce over the past five decades or so has left rubble on our land, toxics in our water, dead zones in our oceans, and poison in our skies. We discovered that man has a ravenous propensity to accumulate, consume and toss natural resources without thinking much about it. As a species, we are taking a look in the mirror and not liking what we see. The mass population of people on the planet has lost the native intelligence to protect our habitats, unlike bees and other species for example. We don’t live conservatively in a circular economy. At the cash register and on e-commerce sites, we invest our money in conveniences often destined for our oceans, and our own living environments in a linear direction.

Communications and Relationship Building
The tactics of environmental advocacy groups often fail by reprimanding man for acting like man. Though well-meaning, these efforts pale in comparison to the opposing well-funded forces convincing us that we’ll be much happier with more everything. This leaves us alarmingly dependent on businesses to do the right thing and help figure out how ten billion people could potentially be sustained on Earth in a socially equitable fashion. That’s why these business conferences are so important. They create opportunities for collective intelligence that we have not demonstrated on our own, and have stopped seeking from our governments.
From sustainable clothing manufacturers that support women below the poverty line, to juice makers striving to grow healthy local economies, to multinational soda and beer bottlers exploring ways to use their omnipotent presence for good, to shipping companies leading the way in green transportation, there is a lot of business going on in the world to feel good about. Regardless of how people feel about the corporate monopoly on resources, it is generally agreed that relationships are a good thing, and businesses are the real pros at building them. Successful enterprises are dependent on successful relationships. Green conferences are a means to that end. Sharing a coffee or a beat on the dance floor can lead to sharing a point of view. When you see an environmental leader dancing with a stockbroker, there’s the opportunity waiting to happen.

What about the United Nations?
While some look to businesses, others turn to the United Nations. This month, countries from around the world convened at the UN on the subject of protecting the ungoverned high seas, also known as Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), from industrial fishing gone haywire, deep sea mining, and other private interests that have a destructive effect on the health of our planet. But the business working group at the UN is more likely to represent the chemical and extraction industry. While area-based management tools, marine reserves, and environmental impact assessments are critical to our oceans’ future, they represent a restriction to multinational business activity, and to countries hoping to reap the rewards of the sea as though gold mining. A good effort but progress is slow.

While the sustainable consumption movement has high hopes for the general public to become advocates for the environment through purchase choices and lifestyle, the level of activism has yet to reach expectations. For instance, we go through 500 million plastic straws per day in the USA alone and 38,000 per person per lifetime, when all one has to say is “No straw, please.” People like straws and don’t want to give them up despite being environmental hazards. Though the general trend may be toward conservation, it isn’t happening fast enough to keep us and our fellow critters from drowning in our own trash.

Business conferences may be the answer
What do sustainable business conferences lead us to? Evidence that our species has all the brain cells we need to solve most problems. We might have what it takes to create harmony with nature if business relationships are built for the good of the planet. When business people come down from the skyscrapers, out of the factories, off the rigs, and up from the tankers to mingle for the sake of their grandchildren’s future, magic can happen. When the great social entrepreneurs of our time gather to share best practices together, our adrenalin kicks in and we get jazzed. Whether it’s Whole Foods or Unilever, retailers at the gateway can’t go it alone and they don’t want to. Environmental and social professionals working at the bottom link of the supply chain are resolving issues with computer manufacturers and apparel designers. Responsible restaurateurs know they can’t choose which fish to serve without consulting experts. Even at Rio+20 Earth Summit, it was the businesses that made the greatest milestones.

Why teleconferencing can’t cut it
Can virtual conferences replace live meetings so that nobody ever has to leave his or her office? Like all species, we thrive, grow and flourish on personal interaction. Despite new technology, we can’t create fully symbiotic relationships of the magnitude needed online, any more than a coral could Skype a fish to form an interdependent, mutually beneficial relationship in balance with the ecosystem. Living happily ever after as a species requires a determined, concentrated effort to cooperate and mingle together. It’s not just networking, it’s friend making and the joy of belonging to an ecosystem.

The hum
If you step back and listen to the distinctive hum of a happy hour at a sustainability conference, it has a buzz unique to the cross-pollination of ideas. That’s the vibe that may save our species yet.

The minus of Rio+20

The Minus of Rio+20

The final days of the Rio+20 Conference were the culmination of years of pre-negotiations and expectations among tens of thousands of diverse leaders representing billions of people and enterprises all over the world. Included was representation of the future generations of humankind, and hundreds of millions of other species, many of which have yet to be discovered.

The Conference goals were to reduce poverty, advance social equity, and ensure environmental protection, including renewable energy use, on an increasingly crowded planet.

Though expected, it was discouraging that there was more talk than action about the rather weak pre-negotiated document. Everyone put in their final two cents as government leaders gave it the rubber stamp with some omissions and edits. There were high hopes that there would be more input to strengthen the outcome.

See the final 53-page final “Future We Want” outcome document here.

The meetings that led up to the meetings
The three days of meetings of the third Preparatory Committee began on June 13 when government representatives negotiated documents to be adopted during the final high-level meetings of June 20-22. During this time, an additional 500 side events were held by governments, UN Major Groups, organizations within the UN system, and other international organizations. In between were the Dialogue Days from June 16 –19, with another hundred meetings. Parallel to all of the above were dozens of conferences, award shows, protests and demonstrations, dinners, and private receptions by business groups, governments, corporations, public-private partnerships, womens groups, environmental groups, ngos and activists.

All in all, a unified and aggressive outcome to save the world was a tall order. The thick fog that hung over the dramatic landscape and seascape of Rio de Janeiro, coupled with the gridlock of busses and cars, came to symbolize the event.

Lost at sea
Pushing for protection of our oceans was the High Seas Alliance. The group worked around the clock seeking agreements in the final outcome document that would determine the fate of vast areas of the ocean beyond jurisdiction, now a no-mans-land that is free for the taking, and ravaged by destructive fishing techniques, dumping and mining.

Hopes were dashed upon discovery early on June 19 that a 3 a.m. coup by a coalition of the US and Venezuela, helped by Canada, Russia and Japan, vetoed text in the final document for a UN treaty to protect the high seas and create an international network of marine protected areas, including the Arctic Ocean. On Tuesday the Secretary-General of Rio+20, Sha Zukang, confirmed that there would be no further negotiations on that particular text which signaled the continuation of mining and oil extraction to those countries staking their claim.

The loss was both a disappointment and a shock after being named among top priorities through public pre-voting and by experts at the Sustainable Development Dialogue on Oceans. The Dialogues, moderated by Phillipe Cousteau, included his uncle Dr. Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society, and Dr. Sylvia Earle, Founder of Mission Blue, whose speech can be viewed here.

In a final statement issued by the High Seas Alliance, Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group said, “We came to Rio with high expectations for action to address the ocean crisis. It would be a mistake to call Rio a failure, but for a once-in-a-decade meeting with so much at stake, it was a far cry from a success.”

Alex Rogers, scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean said, “What I have seen at this summit has utterly appalled me. I have recently been observing seamounts in the southern Indian Ocean devastated by trawlers. These ecosystems take thousands of years to develop. I wish the negotiators here could witness what I have seen.”

Hope that the tide will turn
Though there was a net loss to oceans, the final Rio+20 outcome document does include a commitment to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources, especially plastics, as well as persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds. It also includes a commitment to take action on ocean acidification, fishing subsidies and overfishing.

Some advocates looked at the bright side and felt positive that for the first time attention had focused on this 71 percent of our planet’s surface long considered a grab bag and universal sewer. “Oceans are on the record in a way that they weren’t 20 years ago – and we will hold governments to this record,” said Charlotte Smith of Oceans Inc. Also cited was World Bank’s commitment to the Global Partnership for Oceans.

Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “Rio+20 has shown less backbone than your average cnidarian [jelly fish] but if we use this to take the action clearly indicated then progress will have been made.”

Leila Monroe, an ocean conservation attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, spoke also of a silver lining, saying that Rio+20 was “a hugely valuable gathering of the smartest minds in business, law, and policy.”

Public protest
Though all participants at Rio+20 were encouraged in the media and at the side events to register voluntary commitments for sustainable development, this did not come close to satiating the public for input.

A protest at the Rio Centro led by activists including 350.org founder and CSRwire contributing writer, Bill McKibben, called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. On the beach at Copacabana, a two-hour traffic jam away, a giant trillion-dollar bill had been unfurled to represent the trillion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies to “polluters” that could otherwise be used for clean energy and sustainable development. In the weeks leading up to Rio+20, it seemed unlikely that fossil fuel subsidies would enter into the negotiations, but massive public outcry including a viral petition to world leaders signed by over a million people, and a star-studded, record-breaking twitterstorm pushed the issue.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon took a meeting on the last day with representatives of the Peoples Summit who delivered a rejection letter and harsh criticism against the Rio+20 final document. Demonstrations are planned to continue throughout the weekend.

Later, hundreds of civil society members, led by members of the 350.org movement and youth organizations, decided that their message was “Walk Out, Not Sell Out!” and they officially walked out of the Rio+20 negotiations. The protesters rallied through the stale Rio Centro halls shouting, “The Future We Want is not here!” Handing in their badges, many of them decided that the People’s Summit is where they want to shape the plans for the future.

Attention span waned on final day
During the final three days at Rio Centro Media Center, in between press conferences, the media sat at rows of tables under large screens that streamed the high-level meetings live. One after another, heads of state read prepared statements without much discussion. Many of the side events were in a similar format, with panelists reading statements, including one where a speaker read in monotone directly from his iPhone for nearly half an hour. Celebrity deliveries were a welcome reprieve, including one about high seas by Richard Branson. Power plugs in the media center were claimed early, denying many reporters a computer connection, leaving little distraction as the hours wore on and nothing much happened in regard to the final outcome.

Conversations often led to expressions of frustration about how trying to save the world was not only remarkably discouraging, but incredibly boring.

The plus of Rio +20
On the plus side, relationships were formed, public private partnerships forged and many important issues were spotlighted for the world to see.

Voluntary commitments from countries and companies resulted in a pledge of $513 billion toward efforts to curb the use of fossil fuels, conserve water and encourage wider use of renewable energy. Businesses and investors committed more than $50 billion to Sustainable Energy for All.

Also promising were advances among local authorities. Four dozen of the world’s largest cities have taken steps to cut 248 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, showcasing goodwill and cooperation from business where the innovations come from.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff kept a positive spin on Rio+20. “I am convinced that this Conference will have the effect of bringing about sweeping change,” she said in her concluding remarks.

In the closing ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “The speeches are over. Now the work begins.”

In her concluding remarks Henrietta Elizabeth Thompson, Co-Executive Coordinator of Rio+20, reminded everyone that Martin Luther King spoke not of the nightmare, but of the dream.

Corporate Sustainability Leaders Convene at Rio+20

In this first of a series of dispatches from Rio+20, CSRwire’s Martha Shaw reports on the Corporate Sustainability Forum.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (June 19, 2012/CSRwire) – Hundreds of side events around the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) are taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week with an estimated 60,000 guests, including delegates, heads of state, government leaders, CEOs, sustainability directors, students, researchers, political decision-makers, non-profit organizations, media, event support teams and spirited activists. Their hope: eradicating poverty, curtailing environmental destruction and ending social injustice.

The UN Global Compact, which establishes an alliance between the UN and the private sector, now has 10,000 corporate members, with 7,000 of them active.The United Nations Global Compact’s Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum: Innovation and Collaboration for the Future We Want was one of them. It wrapped up on Monday, just days before the official Rio+20, known as the Earth Summit, convenes.

Progress, Problems Noted, Role For Private Sector
Queen Silvia of Sweden addressed the UNGC closing gathering, reflecting on the progress since the first Earth Summit in1992. She pointed out that in many countries, the air quality in cities has improved, as has the water quality of rivers and lakes. She also reminded the group that there are still many problems, including biodiversity and the stability of our climate, and that we must turn into opportunities. “This is something business is good at,” she said. “Because the private sector is focused on innovation and change, there is great potential for business to lead the way.”

Other speakers agreed that we can’t wait for governments to get it right and that corporations focusing on the long-term fate of our planet should be commended.

UN Global Compact

The UNGC’s Corporate Sustainability Forum was held in cooperation with the Rio+20 Secretariat, the UN System and the Global Compact Local Network Brazil in the days leading up to Rio+20 to bring greater scale and quality to corporate sustainability practices.

As a showcase for innovation and collaboration, the Forum was designed to be a launching ground for widespread action, representing business as well as investors, governments, local authorities, civil society and UN entities. “We are of course delighted that over 3000 people have come here for three days of hard work in 120 sessions on six tracks,” said Georg Kell. “Many of the solutions we need already exist, and we have demonstrated that on a massive scale… two hundred concrete commitments have been gathered.”

Speakers on stage reminded the gathering that although businesses may be ready to take action and mobilize capital, there remains a need for government support and that businesses working with the United Nations will help to unlock that potential.

One strong recurring theme in Rio this week at every level is ending subsidies for fossil fuel. And, while we are at it, ending subsidies that lead to over-fishing. Check back here for more news from Rio+20.

What do you think about what’s happening at Rio +20? Share your thoughts below—especially if you are attending.

The long road to Rio: Why the UN kept the lights on last weekend by Martha Shaw

Rarely is a more diverse collection of people found under one roof than the 500 or so working around the clock last weekend at the United Nations to hash out “the document” — a.k.a. the Zero draft of the outcome document — being submitted to the Rio+20 Earth Summit later this month. Working in the spirit of international, multilateral agreement were diplomats, delegates, youths, farmers, community leaders, indigenous people, local authorities, NGOs, scientists, technologists, women groups, activists, workers and trade unions, multinational business and industry representatives, and nonprofit organizations of all kinds. They were scrutinizing every word in every paragraph seeking common ground. One thing that everybody clearly had in common was stamina.

Though there were plenty of newbies to the process, this was not new for the many veterans who have been dedicated to the pressing global issues addressed in the document since the first Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro. This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the first document in which so many sections were agreed upon, but few implemented.

Filling in the brackets

Among those people who have been party to the process nearly since its inception, is Remi Parmentier, who has more than 35 years in the environmental movement working with many of the key players in the UN and other intergovernmental organizations. (See his blog: www.chezremi.com.) As the weekend at the UN wore on, I asked Parmentier if he was disappointed in the lack of agreement in key areas of the document. He shed a new light on the term “agreement” for me, pointing out that if we resorted to the lowest common denominator, it would be a document of little substance. In the document, the bracketed areas of text — the unresolved issues — represent areas where the envelope was being pushed. Remi Parmentier writes:

It is true there is at this late stage far too much square bracketed text reflecting disagreements in the overall negotiating document, hence it is going to be a real challenge to negotiate on so many issues in Rio and to get an outcome that makes sense. But at another level, it is important to recognize it is a good thing that countries that have a progressive agenda haven’t caved in completely. UN processes are too often a race towards the lowest common denominator, but the large amount of square bracketed text shows that we’re not there yet, even though what is considered “progressive” in the text could and should be stronger. If there was no key square bracketed text, there would be no tension, no drama, hence no story, hence little to report from Rio.

The New York-based diplomats are very good at maintaining and defending the positions of their respective countries, but by definition they do not have enough of a mandate or the necessary flexibility to negotiate in earnest; only the politicians can do that. So now that the negotiation is moving to Rio and the politicians are going to become involved we must maintain hope that real progress can be achieved by them. In a way it is a blessing that the diplomats haven’t dived into the lowest common denominator as they often do too fast, before handing it over to the politicians. It is not too late, almost everything is possible now, within the constraints of the negotiating text, if the governments come to Rio with a strong political will.

A triathlete in the race

Chantal Line Carpentier, the Sustainable Development Officer & Major Groups Program Coordinator of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division for Sustainable Development, has the task of coordinating the “Major Groups” throughout the Rio+20 process, including on the ground in Rio. What is evident in Carpentier is an in-depth understanding of the issues, the endurance of a triathlete, which she is, and a knack for “herding cats,” as the expression goes. She remained composed and incredibly organized throughout the process.

In an interview with Civicus, the world alliance for citizen participation, Carpentier said, “My hopes are high because the stakes are high. While countries have made some progress on changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production over the last 20 years, in the context of escalating economic and environmental pressures, and increasing populations, overall things have worsened. We are using resources at an increasing rate and the gaps between rich and poor are widening. Most of the world’s ecosystems are in decline. Meanwhile, more than one billion people lack access to food, electricity or safe drinking water. When you consider all that, it’s not really surprising that social unrest is on the rise.”

Nearing the end of the road
The last of pre-negotiations to Rio+20, now just two weeks away, concluded Saturday night with the book launch of Only One Earth, by Felix Dodds, Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum, and Michael Strauss, with a foreword by Maurice Strong, Secretary-General of the Earth Summit in 1992.

Strong writes: “In the same way that banks succeeded at privatizing the profits and socializing the losses as they led the global economy to the brink of collapse, we are in danger of doing the same with the environment. Humanity has taken a huge leap in the last decades and become a planetary-scale force – we need to behave as a global civilization if we are not to face catastrophic consequences.”
The book looks back over what has been achieved in the past 40 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the first Earth Summit in 1992, and ahead to what critically needs to happen at Rio+20 and beyond.

This excerpt from Only One Earth is especially pertinent to Rio+20:

Rio+20 is a unique opportunity to make the “change-of-course” called for by business leaders at the Earth Summit in 1992. It requires fundamental changes in the way in which we manage the activities through which we impact on the Earth’s sustainability. This will require a degree of cooperation beyond anything we have yet experienced at a time when competition and conflict over scarce resources is escalating.
Underscoring this were the closing remarks of Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of Rio+20, that commended everyone for their tireless efforts but also referred to the document as a far cry from the focused political document mandated by the General Assembly. “We have had an intense week of negotiations, and I sense real progress. Still, as everyone in this room is well aware, we have much hard work ahead of us in Rio. I have listened to both the plenary discussions and many of the informal splinter group discussions. I sense a real dialogue; a real willingness to find common ground. This spirit is encouraging, and we must carry it to Rio. Yet, we must drastically accelerate the pace of our negotiations,” said Sha. “We need action. We need government commitment to action, in the outcome document. And we also need voluntary commitments from all stakeholders.”

The next and final Preparatory Committee meeting will be held in Rio June 13-15, just ahead of the Rio+20 Conference itself, held from June 20-22. The Rio+20 Secretariat has also opened a registry of commitments on the Rio+20 website that is designed to complement the government-ratified outcome document. To join the global conversation, visit Rio+20: The Future We Want.

Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20

Missing Voices: Green Business Leaders Discuss Representation at Rio+20
Sustainability and Green Leaders Meet with United Nations to offer representation at Rio+20.

By Martha Shaw and Aman Singh

Nearly 100 sustainable business leaders crowded onto the 10th floor of the UN Church Center in New York City on May 1st to join a conversation with Chantal Line Carpentier, Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and other UN representatives.

The topic: To hear from the “missing voices” of over 200,000 entrepreneurs from organizations including the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), Social Venture Network, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), B Lab, CSRwire, Green America and ‘buy local’ green business networks.

The meeting was hosted by The Temple of Understanding, and organized by Martha Shaw, to explore ways that founders of socially- and environmentally-responsible ‘triple bottom line” businesses might bring their voices to Rio+20, and beyond.

“We Must Raise Our Voice Now”
ASBC’s David Levine started the conversation by stressing that the gathered entrepreneurs are conscious of their global counterparts who are also running businesses that presuppose green practices and help serve social needs while making money.

“Whether they are social enterprises, micro enterprises, women’s groups or development groups, they all carry the same sensibilities of a triple bottom line. They are finding a balance between profits, social and environmental goals,” he said. “This voice is missing in our country today because a monolithic voice led by multinationals dominates all dialogues.”

Levine ended by emphasizing that this is the opportunity for the entrepreneurs to market their leadership and present their pioneering work on a global stage as a way of creating shared value. “This voice is new and we must raise it,” he ended.

“Define Sustainable and Green Business”
Green Map System’s Wendy Brawer picked up where Levine left by adding that until we define what “sustainable business” means, creating this coherent voice will be hard.

Jumping into the dialogue, CSRwire CEO Joe Sibilia made it clear that “any business that integrates the human condition into its operations, whether you call it humanity or spirituality, is sustainable. These entrepreneurs are using business to create a values-driven and sustainable world,” he said. “Financial gains cannot be the only objective. It’s that simple.”

Eco-preneurs at Rio+20
Temple of Understanding’s Grove Harris interjected by adding that it is “practices like the ones Joe is highlighting that need to be voiced at Rio+20. It is important to bring these issues to the table by showing business practices that manifest in social value.” She also added that traditionally, non-governmental organizations have not proven sophisticated enough to support our future and voices. “We need business to be there.”

More examples of mission-driven business enterprises solving many social and environmental problems, including the eradication of poverty, were offered, as was a comparison to the restraints of multinational corporations who are bound by law to act in the best interest of stockholder profits.

Though Sibilia, Harris, Brawer and B Lab’s Peter Strugatz offered several examples of supply chain relationships among green businesses and corporations going green, they also pointed out that many other models exist for ways the world can do business outside the restrictions of a corporation.

United Nations: Collaborate & Lead The Conversation
After hearing everyone out, Chantal Line Carpentier, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Officer and Major Groups Program Coordinator, took the floor to urge the attendees to work with the UN in representing their issues at Rio+20.

She also emphasized clarifying ambiguous language about sustainability and suggested that the sector come to an agreement on what “private public partnerships mean” and “how you can help influence policy and regulatory frameworks.”

“Consider this as a strong call for leadership. There is a lot of talk about business doing more but how? Show us, offer best practices, define CSR, and align practices with the United Nations Global Compact guidelines,” she said.

Carpentier also recommended that the entrepreneurs make an effort to demystify the language around lifecycles, supply chain analysis and sustainability.

Finally, Tess Mateo, an advisor to the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), pointed out that the Women, and Indigenous People Major Groups would be good allies and recommended that we remain cognizant of working together with the other enterprises in promoting our voice on the global stage.

Durban Climate Talks Highlight Agreement, Not Negotiation

As thousands of Occupy COP 17 demonstrators protested the injustice of climate change and slow progress of governments to do something about it, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), addressed the crowd last Friday. “Do more than you think you can do, and then do more,” she summoned those gathered outside the COP 17 headquarters, where delegates negotiated agreements on greenhouse gas limits. There was something refreshing about an event organizer encouraging discourse. “>See CSRwire article

By chance, Christiana’s brother, José María Figueres, past President of Costa Rica (1994–1998), was passing through the raucous crowd with me and Peter Boyd, President of Carbon War Room, an organization founded by Richard Branson and others to harness the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change. We encountered human rights leader Mary Robinson, the seventh President and first female President of Ireland (1990–1997) on her way to the COP 17 conference center, who congratulated the protesters for their passion and support. After all, it is the residents of Planet Earth whom the negotiators are fighting for behind closed doors.

This was the first of many uplifting encounters here in Durban, where thousands of innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and government officials are earnestly exploring new ways to create commerce while showing new respect for our planet, and for one another. As an American from the least popular country here at COP 17, it has been a humbling experience. I’ve had to answer a lot of questions like, “Are you sleeping?” It’s evident we are missing the boat when it comes to capitalizing on the emergence of new business opportunities with the rest of the world. How many Americans really want to sit back collecting unemployment and watch the world go by? Though I came here to look closer at the injustice of climate change, it was hard at first not to notice the clean tech deal flows, funds and jobs going to other countries here, and find even that unfair. Have Americans let fossil fuel lobbying, media brainwashing, right-wing fanaticism, subsidy corruption and campaign financing keep us out of the game? That, however, is another story.

Populations, of all species, afflicted by climate change and other environmental ailments are most certainly at the wrong place at the wrong time in history. Injustice runs rampant on this planet of finite resources: resource hoarding, dynamic physical forces and the destruction of so much by so few. Homo sapiens don’t have a balance with nature and we suffer from that, and so do the other species that call this planet home. Disparities among peoples, genders, generations, geographies and species can’t be fixed at COP 17.

But here, you find a lot of very smart people who want to give it a go. The common denominator we all share is the will to survive. Nobody is arguing that we need clean air and water, healthy food and a safe place to live—and most now agree on access to clean energy. Taking that further, most experts agree to the urgent need for a new, low-carbon economy with green infrastructures, more innovative thinking, technology transparency, project implementation, conservation, economic stimulus and funding mechanisms to correct our course. Like the winners and losers in a carbon economy, there will be winners and losers in the low-carbon economy. Some people will get rich. But, overall, fewer will get sick.

At COP 17, you don’t find people who won’t acknowledge that atmospheric carbon overloading is cooking us and causing all kinds of other problems. Those people must have stayed home. Embarrassingly, many of them are in the U.S.A. We try not to think about them, though the need for better communication in science is a hot topic. Groups toss around ideas like positive vs. negative messaging, how much information is too much or too little. What’s the public tipping point for doom and gloom, and how do you combat ignorance? You could hold up five fingers to some people and they’d only see four no matter what you say. They might even see three. It’s exasperating, but we need to move beyond that and work together with all those people who see what’s in front of them—science. There’s a sense of community here at COP 17 about moving on from the believer/non-believer argument to focus on fair and equitable solutions to a stressed-out planet.

I don’t see much promise at COP 17 for the winners of the industrial revolution to pay the losers for their trouble anytime soon. It is evident the one resource we have not depleted is the kindness of the human heart. Governments, foundations and businesses are springing forward to make sure this new, low-carbon economy creates prosperity among the most vulnerable people on Earth.

About Martha Shaw

Martha Shaw is a contributing writer for CSRwire covering clean technology and other topics. Martha has been named an Adweek Creative All Star and is the winner of international awards in communications. She is a member of the Climate Literacy Network, Fellow of the Explorers Club, board member of NYSES and CEO of Earth Advertising.

This commentary is written by a valued member of the CSRwire contributing writers’ community and expresses this author’s views alone.

Readers: Can the Durban climate talks flip the switch from talk to action? Weigh in on Talkback!

US and Canadian Youth Demand Generational Justice

The U.S. youth at the climate talks are making a big play for justice on behalf of their generation during the last days of COP 17, claiming that the U.S. negotiators are putting their futures at risk.

Abigail Borah, a student from Middlebury College interrupted lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s concluding plenary speech on Thursday, pinpointing members of the U.S. Congress for impeding the progress of the summit. She also made a passionate plea to her government leaders to join the rest of the world in a fair and binding treaty.

Claiming that she was speaking on behalf of her country, Borah said that the negotiators themselves “cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America” because “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.”

Borah was ejected after completing her speech to voracious rounds of applause from the entire plenary of global leaders.

Ready for Change

Her actions, however aggressive, reflect the growing feeling of injustice among educated American youth who feel that their leaders have turned a blind eye to the facts at the expense of their own future on this planet. Afraid that each step of inaction will force them to suffer the worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable or unwilling to address, they are resorting to disruption.

Their list of complains isn’t restricted to inaction.

They also hold the U.S. responsible for foul play and claim that a few outspoken and misdirected Congress members, who continue to successfully hijack negotiations, are blocking progress. This has put off urgent pollution reduction targets until the year 2020, jeopardizing billions.

(Lack of) Public Activism

Some of them also believe that the American public is not outspoken enough. Mind you, these are kids seem to have done their homework: Overwhelmingly conclusive research shows that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction will likely cause irreversible damage and suffering to the world they will inherit, including destruction of air and water, more severe weather patterns, worsening droughts, devastation to American communities, and a dismal outlook for the American economy.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah.

Earlier in the week, the head of the European Parliament’s delegation to the summit Jo Leinen expressed his frustration by the stalemate, also referred to by another official as a “ping-pong game” between the U.S. and China that is unacceptable and intolerable.

Leinen, who chairs the European Parliament’s environmental committee, noted that China had for the first time indicated that it might be willing to take on binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – but only after 2020. However, he did not see any such commitment from the U.S. “The one is not yet ready, and the other is not willing,” Leinen said.

On Borrowed Time

Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, argues that “the Cancun commitments, and the ones made at Copenhagen (in 2009) cover 80 percent of global emissions and while they are not legally binding, they are politically and morally binding.”

Yet, the U.S. youth at COP17 claim that they are inheriting a big mess.

“An impossible burden is being put upon us,” says MJ Shiao, who is 26 years old and is a member of the youth delegation SustainUS. He thinks the U.S. operates on fear-driven politics rather than science and solutions.

“They are borrowing time at the expense of my generation. If we don’t peak our emissions in the next five years, what are we supposed to do? The main thing is that we just want to have a fighting chance by the time we are in positions of leadership.”

Canadian youth also made their presence felt at COP17 with several getting ejected earlier this week as Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent delivered his opening address. Just as Kent began his speech, six stood and turned away from the Minister revealing the message “Turn your back on Canada” prominently displayed on their shirts. These young people have challenged their leaders’ negotiation strategies, the close relationship between Canada’s climate policy and dirty fossil fuels, and the lobbying to lower fuel quality regulations to allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands.

At COP 17, climate injustice is being addressed from all sides, including gender, race, geography, poverty, and the rights of nature itself.

The world’s youth are recognizing the magnification within their lifetime of all of the above, which is denying them the kind of world that has been enjoyed by those making — or not making — the decisions.

There might be hope. COP president, South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane assured that COP 17 would involve younger delegations. Already, more than 150 of them have been accredited. “The decisions we make today will not affect us, you will inherit that legacy,” she emphasized.

And the nearly 200 countries at COP17 have reached a deadline to broker a deal on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Connie Hedegaard, European climate change commissioner, says that countries unwilling to make commitments for the years to come are taking on ‘an almost unbearable responsibility’ for consequences that are sure to prove catastrophic.

Readers: Will the U.S. youth’s activism be enough to nudge the status quo?