Monday, February 25, 2008

Environmentally Speaking II

When the Dalai Lama speaks out, we know that our hearts and minds should listen attentively. He is quoted as saying: "It is our collective and individual responsibility to protect and nurture the global family, to support its weaker members, and to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live." When the commercial world catches up to this eminent sage, then we know that real progress is being made.

Oft quoted on these pages were the efforts by the monied-world to embrace the seemingly foreign concept of environmentalism. Ads particularly have caught my eye, as you know. TIME magazine this week had two notable contributions. One was from the producers of CNN which touted its self-reportedly popular Solutions segments played on Wednesdays during Good Morning America and CNN Newsroom. Four environmental innovations graced the ad: "a greener tire" highlighted a factory that pulverizes used tires; "perfect print" informs us that free software is available to eliminate wasteful printing; "cheap solar power" shows how you can construct a low-cost solar oven with a $1 plan; and "bird calling" illustrates how one man has saved migratory birds with his Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP.) I was impressed that CNN carried such enlightened coverage, something that at least one of its competitors has not tried.

For the second ad, "Something good is bound to happen when you plant 1.5 million trees every day" was the line that caught my attention on the back cover of TIME magazine. Every day, I asked? Sure enough, this ad describes the wood and paper product industry's role in re-forestation by re-planting more trees than they cut. According to the evocative piece, they've "helped America's forests increase by 12 million acres since 1987" and invite the reader to visit for "easy ideas that will make a difference." Could it be this industry is trying to change its image as an irresponsible environmental partner for which it became famous in the late 1800's when it denuded vast tracts of land before moving on? Whatever the reason, I applaud the educational efforts on their part to let us know that change has indeed arrived.

Watching for change through ads has been a preoccupation of mine for a few years now. I pulled out one that I'd saved from 2004 introducing "Earth's First Hybrid SUV" from Ford. It goes on to say: "Meet Escape Hybrid. As the first and only gas/electric SUV, the Escape Hybrid compromises nothing. . . [yada, yada]. . . Which means this SUV, by nature, is kinder and gentler on nature. Greener vehicles. Cleaner factories. It's the right road for our company." So, if you think that hybrid vehicles have been around for quite some time, think again. Too bad the Ford hybrid couldn't save the company from the losses it experienced since then. Guess that would have taken more than an ad.

Another business sector, that of finance, has also responded to the environmental call. A beautiful, but melting ice-scape greeted the viewer of this huge, half-page ad in the WSJ last month and the orange words erupted from the page:
"CLIMATE CHANGE. ICE MELTS. BUSINESS REACTS. Introducing DWS Climate Change Fund." It' was certainly an attention getter from the Deutsche Bank Group that delivered the punch-line: "The changing climate is a global trend that presents opportunities for businesses and investors alike. Visit" It was probably not surprising that a European financial institution fronted a fund that invested in "companies worldwide that are developing products, services and technologies focused on reducing the impact of climate change and helping the world adapt to its evolving environment."

What struck me as strange was that American companies took so long to smell the green
dough. But, apparently, the ever-inventive U.S. credit card companies finally got a whiff, if only last year. According to the WSJ, " 'green' cards allow users to channel a percentage of their spending toward efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. General Electric Co.'s Earth Reward Platinum card, targets as much as 1% of total spending on the card toward emission-reduction projects" (2-6-08, D1.) The Bank of America's Brighter Planet card followed late last year. It matches dollar for dollar a buyer's purchases with points for carbon offsets. Europe, where the green cards have been widely used for years, was ahead of the curve on this movement. Surprisingly, it would appear that homegrown environmental politics got in the way of the usual American capitalistic instinct, such a part of our financial sector. But as they say, better late than never.

That it took Al Gore to bring this movement to America has always been a wonderment to me; that he would have a different presentation for different groups further proved that he was able to adapt his inconvenient truths to a wide audience. Take his recent presentation to the religious left at the Celebration of New Baptist Covenant on January 31st where several thousand listeners paid $35 a head to hear Gore's speech. It wasn't his usual slide show that thrilled them, but a new presentation interspersed with Biblical quotes. He was even extolled as a "prophet." For a reason known only to Mr. Gore and the conference organizers, including Covenant founder Jimmy Carter, media was excluded from the event, much to their chagrin. When further pressed, however, the conference spokesman admitted that the "former vice-president did not want the slides of those biblical passages to get out on the Internet." Must be that Mr. Gore was worried about one set of inconvenient truths getting overshadowed by another. Would a true prophet, who had the courage of his convictions, have to worry about such mundane matters? Maybe we'll as CEO God to weigh in on that next time He makes an appearance.

And finally, get out of the way of the Chinese Greenies who have taken their country to task for using disposable chopsticks. According to these militant men and women, the ubiquitous eating utensils are destroying China's forests when trees are downed to produce 63 billion of them annually. Even an activist in an ape suit got into the act by making hit and run appearances at corporate headquarters all over this Asian behemoth. Microsoft, Intel Corp and IBM were all targeted by the stealthy ape-creature, who symbolized the ecological perils embodied in disposable chopstick use. Budding communist-capitalists responded quickly to protect the 100,000 workers making the eating devices--and the war between the groups has raged since.

Greenpeace orchestrated the latest campaign, which has found China to be its next biggest frontier. One wonders what form the chopstick wars will take come summer during the Olympics in Beijing. If you see an ape-suited creature streak across your screen, you can be sure the Chinese Greenies have a few surprises in store.

Of note: The last two entries are compliments of the WSJ, both from the February 8, 2008 issue. The picture of white Datura flowers was taken in late fall 2008 by this blogger. It was her first attempt at growing Daturas--which are native to Central America--in her Wisconsin flower garden. Of course, Daturas are the size of trees in Central America and were no taller than 2 feet in her garden!

Todays Weather Report: Bright, sunny and 30 degrees. Gorgeous.

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