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By Julie Fox Gorte
Posted on: June 14, 2014
An externality is something that costs nothing on the part of the person or enterprise that creates it, but imposes a cost or conveys a benefit to others. The world is full of them. My children create them by Skyping with their friends at elevated decibel levels all night. Externalities come in all sizes too. Fortunately for my neighbors, the Skype externality stays within the walls of my house. Companies that emit tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) create externalities that are bounded only by the size of the planet. They get so big, in fact, they aren’t externalities any more. A company that... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: June 11, 2014
On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a major new program to tackle climate change. The program is the biggest step ever taken by the United States; it will go a long way to dispel criticism from other nations that we don’t do our share. But the action – bold as it is compared to prior U.S. policy – now needs to be taken forward via international diplomacy. We must get other countries to implement major reductions as well. The EPA’s program attacks the carbon emissions produced by the power plants that create electricity. Power plants here emit 39 percent of total U.S.... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: June 6, 2014
Any discussion of sustainability turns sooner or later to the question of the business case. Whether the focus is on environmental sustainability (like renewable energy), or intellectual sustainability (like improving education) or financial sustainability (like reining in “too big to fail” banks) we want to understand the business case. Do investments in sustainability pay off in real dollar terms? Or are they investments we make for moral reasons or marketing reasons, but without a clear and convincing financial payoff? Business cases involving sustainability evolve over time. As projects... read more
By Ed Malloy
Posted on: June 2, 2014
I imagine many Americans when reading the news about the latest report from the United Nations IPCC on climate change will hope somebody is doing something to stem the tide of a warming planet. It can seem immense and insurmountable when you think of the scale of the problem. People expect sweeping policy changes and hope that government will put those policies in place to have some immediate impact. The debate over climate change need not be about competing beliefs. It can be about defining a more sustainable society for many good reasons that create stronger communities. This week the... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 30, 2014
Advocates for a sustainable economy lament the problems created by investors’ intense focus on short-term performance. Short termism is blamed for many problems: It is blamed for the degrading of natural resources like rivers, forests and fisheries. It is blamed for the difficulties experienced by companies seeking capital for triple bottom line business plans (because they can’t offer the quick liquidity of traditionally-structured startups). And it is blamed for destructive economic development practices like business attraction strategies that create a race to the bottom among communities... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 16, 2014
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." So said Mohandas Ghandi, arguably the greatest expert in history in non-violent social change. Last month, a relatively unknown French economist, Thomas Piketty, published a game-changing work of economic research called "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," which is transforming our understanding of inequality, pushing inequality past the “laugh at you” stage in Ghandi’s famous dictum. Despite being 700 pages long and jammed with tables and footnotes, Piketty’s book hit the New York Times and Amazon best... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: May 9, 2014
The National Climate Assessment report, released this week by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, fundamentally altered our understanding of climate change, and dramatically raised the stakes. The report reflects the work of a team of more than 250 authors, mostly climate scientists with exemplary credentials. Its main conclusion is that climate change is already here. Worse, its effects have arrived with a speed and severity that few thought possible. This report resets the thinking on climate impacts in two important ways. First, it focuses on localized impact rather than national... read more
By Daniel Barlow
Posted on: May 9, 2014
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H.112 into law on Thursday, concluding a three-year campaign in Vermont to label genetically engineered food. How did little Vermont - with a population of 620,000 people - find itself on the forefront of the growing movement in the United States to label GMOs? Supporters of the labeling bill in the Green Mountain State included VBSR, Rural Vermont, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. VBSR had history here: We supported a bill in Vermont a decade earlier that would have labeling GMO seeds sold... read more
By Cynthia Montague
Posted on: April 30, 2014
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) recently introduced legislation, backed by Monsanto, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Koch Industries, to prevent states from passing laws requiring labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. The “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” - referred to as the “DARK Act” by critics - includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling” which enforces the goals of powerful interest groups that have already been actively waging war against Right to Know labeling laws. This coalition of powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups includes Monsanto,... read more
By David Brodwin
Posted on: April 29, 2014
In a ruling earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission abandoned its wavering commitment to Net neutrality and handed control of the Internet over to Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. This spells trouble all around for content companies, for the Internet and, ultimately, for American competitiveness. It is a mistake that will cost us for decades to come. The FCC said, in effect, that the providers of Internet connectivity to homes and businesses can divide the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes. The fast lanes will provide good enough service for video, computer animation,... read more

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