Relaxing by the Eel River

A few weekends ago, Jake and I drove up to spend the night pseudo-camping at our friends’ house up in Garberville. It’s up in Humboldt County, about 3 hrs north of Petaluma. Janice and Jerry invited us up for a quick getaway, and little did I know I would be staying right on the Eel River!

For the last several months, I’ve been doing research with my friend David at Friends of the Eel River. One of the major concerns with the Eel River water supply is that much of the water is diverted to the Russian River via PG&E’s Pottery Valley Project. While I’m still learning the ins and outs of the water world in California, it is very exciting for me when I get to see the subject of my research.

According to Janice, the river level was much higher in previous summers. This summer, there is a lot more visible gravel along the river bank than in previous years.

It was a wonderful getaway, though probably too short. We look forward to going back again soon.

Water, Water Everywhere, in San Francisco Bay….But a precious resource, indeed

It’s a beautiful part of the world. San Francisco Bay has become our new home this last year, and we’ve loved exploring the area. Last week we took the Larkspur Ferry into the city, and seeing the water and beautiful views reminded me of why I care so much about the health of the environment and protection of our natural resources.

Many of our dinner conversations lately have circled around one of the most precious natural resources: water. With all the water that surrounds us here…the bay, the ocean, the rivers…it is easy to forget how important it is to conserve water. In California, our water bill is by far our highest priced utility. It costs so much because there are so many people in California who draw from a rather limited water supply. It makes me wonder, do people really pay attention to their water usage? When taking a shower, does someone turn on the water and wait 5 minutes for it to get to just the right temperature? What about landscaping. When designing the layout for the front yard, does someone in California choose local plants and landscaping that doesn’t require an excessive amount of water, or lush grass that requires water every other day? These have all been on my mind lately.

I imagine this will be an ongoing discussion for me, so I encourage you to include your thoughts. I am also interested to know how people feel about water usage in different parts of the U.S., or even the world.

I encourage you to take note of the amount of water you use in a day, and see where in your routine you might be able to save a gallon or ten. If everyone made an effort to conserve water, and only use what they needed, surely we could better protect such a precious resource.

For the Beauty of the Earth

Today is Earth Day, a day focused on the protection and celebration of our natural environment. Earth Day is a global celebration.  The health of our environment is important here in the U.S., in Central America, in Africa, in Europe and throughout the world.  Our very survival is dependent on clean and adequate water and a plentiful harvest.

So today, we celebrate the beauty of the earth:

We are grateful for clean water for bathing, drinking and farming:

We recognize the importance of our oceans, lakes and rivers and their role in providing food, transportation, drinking water, and other necessities and pleasures in our lives:

We respect the importance of protecting our water, our air and our soil so that we have adequate food to eat and water to drink here in the United States and throughout the world.  We recognize that adequate food and water are important for the health and security of our own families and for our worldwide populations.

While none of us can individually solve the problems of environmental pollution, we can each help to protect our world resources by planting trees, recycling trash, avoid polluting our water, soil and air and reducing our energy consumption.

As we honor the importance of water, earth and air in meeting our basic necessities, we are also grateful for nature’s beauty in our parks and gardens that feed, not the body, but the soul.

On Earth Day 2012, and every day, we wish you well and ask you to GO GREEN.

What is the United Nations Global Compact and why does it matter?

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

Anyone who cares about global competition and free trade, will also care about the United Nations Global Compact. Like SA 8000, a global social accountability standard for decent working conditions, it focuses on the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.  There are many prominent U.S. businesses that have committed to the principles of the compact: Levi Strauss, Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Price Waterhouse auditors and Nike are all participants.

Each business that joins the UN Global Compact is expected to embrace the 10 fundamental principles of the Compact, to the best of their ability and within their realm of influence. As listed on the organization’s website, here are the 10 principles:

Human Rights:

1)             support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and

2)             protect against human rights abuses.

Labor:

3)             uphold the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining

4)             the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;

5)             the effective abolition of child labour; and

6)             the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.

Environment:

7)             support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;

8)             undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and

9)             encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti-Corruption:

10)          work against all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery.

The Compact is designed as a forum for businesses globally to collaborate within a practical framework to exchange best practices and facilitate the development of sustainable business methods. According to its website, www.unglobalcompact.org, the Compact has over 8700 corporate participants in 130 countries. With this kind of participation, there is certainly hope that businesses can start working together on a global level to infuse human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption ideals at a global level, and that those ideals can have an impact locally.

It should not surprise us that companies that take to heart the provisions of SA 8000 are often committed to a broader range of compacts focused on global equity, protection of the environment and protecting our natural resources.  We believe the principles of the UN Global Compact and SA 8000 are important in “shifting the balance” toward a healthier planet.

Global warming and the need for leadership – Meg’s research from 2008

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

I wrote this as part of my senior thesis at the University of Kansas in May 2008. The class was about the history of accidents, both natural and human-induced. I looked at a place in Greenland dubbed “Warming Island” that was visited by a U.S. delegation led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of representatives.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, the representative from the 5th District of Missouri (Kansas City area), was a part of the delegation to Greenland. In the two summers following his trip, I was able to intern in his DC and Kansas City offices. His ideas about global warming and the environment in many ways sparked my current interest in environmental health. He is so unbelievably passionate about bettering the world, it just naturally rubs off on anyone he meets. During his initial campaign for Congress, my granddad Mesle met him and worked on his campaign. Granddad still talks about how nice Rep. Cleaver was to be around, how he wears his love for his community on his sleeve, and always asks me to tell him hello.

I don’t necessarily mean to sound like I’m putting in my plug for Cleaver, I just think it’s important to understand where the inspiration comes from. He really has been a significant influence in my growing interest of balancing community needs with environmental needs, all while juggling the various issues of the world. I’d like to share an excerpt from my 2008 thesis about Warming Island in Greenland, and Rep. Cleaver’s commitment to community and environmental health. Please note, the following information is current as of May 2008.

Here you go.

 “Warming Island” in Greenland

The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is the second largest ice sheet in the world next to the Antarctic Ice Sheet. During Speaker Pelosi’s delegation to Greenland in May 2007, she noticed the rapid speed at which the ice is breaking off and melting. She learned the amount of ice breaking off in two days time would provide enough fresh water for all of New York City for an entire year. The delegation inspired other political officials to travel to the island, including several Senators, in July 2007.

Some scientists say the melting ice is being offset by the amount of snow accumulation during the winter months, but there is also a highly significant correlation within the last decade of temperatures in Greenland with the Northern Hemisphere. This correlation suggests that global warming may very well be emerging within GrIS in the present day. One man, who is a veteran arctic explorer, made a discovery several years ago that would change the visible perception of global warming.

Dennis Schmidt is an explorer who discovered “Warming Island” in Greenland in September 2005. It is an island on the east side of Greenland, about 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, which was previously thought to be a peninsula. During an expedition to GrIS in September 2006, Schmidt commented that documenting the island was important because it is, “a very visual, very graphic example of climate change… maybe the best that exists in the world today.” Makers of this video documentary who traveled with Schmidt reflected on how scientists had been warning for years that the warming atmosphere would “wake up” the ice sheet and send hundreds of billions of tons of ice surging into the ocean, raising sea levels and drowning coastal cities. (To see a brief video documenting the island, click here.)

“I think a lot of people that will look at this will be fascinated because of its beauty, but also interested in it because it is a clear example of climate change,” commented Schmidt about the view of the landscape. In the documentary, the visible gap between the mainland and the now island appears to be at least several hundred feet. When Speaker Pelosi’s delegation travelled to the island in May 2007, they witnessed these effects first hand and realized the severity of global warming.


Cleaver’s commitment to the environment

To approach the issues surrounding global warming, Congressman Cleaver uses many different strategies. It is my understanding that neither oil companies nor delegates for non-renewable resource companies financially support Cleaver’s political office. He is therefore more flexible to speak openly about his concerns for the environment and what he believes to be the root causes for those concerns (such as oil companies drilling in the Chukchi).

When he addressed the Progressive National Baptist Convention in August 2007, Cleaver asserted to his listeners to make the earth’s environment a high priority. “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the sin of materialism and greed are inextricably linked to the alarming rise in greenhouse gas emissions, and that, my friends, demands an urgent response,” he asserted. This comment followed a lunch conversation I had with him while in Washington D.C. during the summer of 2007. Cleaver believes there are many ways to attack the problems of global warming. One of those ways is through politics and legislation, and the other way is through religious promotion of possible solution. “If one Sunday, every preacher in the country said that everyone needs to use less gas, less water, recycle more, and care more about our environment, on Monday morning, everyone would be out buying a hybrid car.” He acknowledges that there is more than one way to approach global warming, and it is important to try to get through to people on multiple levels to ensure that the message about global warming gets across.

Protecting the environment and the vulnerable communities in the world from global warming is an important issue for which few people are up to the task. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver focuses on bringing together communities and protecting them from social and environmental injustice, which makes him a perfect candidate for provoking global unity. Cleaver is a man who is focused on solutions to problems surrounding struggling communities, whether they are black, poor, polar bear, or arctic ice. He believes in a balance within the social and spiritual spheres that keeps the world in harmony. When that balance is shifted, the world struggles, and Cleaver takes it upon himself to help bring the world back into balance.

– Meg McCollister, May 2008