Smart Green Venture Capital Firms

According to Climate Action, the Sustainability Sector employs over 4.5 million people!

Back in 2011, the Sustainability Sector only supported 3.4 millions. This massive surge is only indicative of a growing niche sector as apparel brands, like REI or Patagonia, continue to experience growth. And there is a reason why the outdoor industry is selling.

When considering the lifeblood of the American Economy, it would be part to mention industries without mentioning energy. Of that, installation and management of solar panels often lead to better paying jobs when compared to the median numbers. To elaborate, wages are higher than $17 / hr and result in an additional $5k per year. Definitely something to think about when considering whether college is worth it — something Gary Vaynerchuk loves to ask.

So, if you have a great idea and are seeking a capital infusion, here are a list of our favorite 5.

  1. BP Ventures

  2. DBL Partners

  3. Generation Investment Management

  4. IP Group

  5. SET Ventures

If you want to read more about the firms, check them out here!

The Truth About China Turning Away US Businesses

When it comes to recycling, most people have heard stories about China turning away US businesses. But most people don’t know the truth.

For years, China has taken waste from US businesses. Now they are saying enough is enough.

“Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association in the United Kingdom, said the ban is prompting more investment into recycling technologies.”  - CNN News

After a series of measures and even a recent Vox article, there is a lot of concern over what is going to happen to the recycling industry. In fact, many believe that the speculative future of recycling will lead to more US cities cancelling their recycling programs. Simply put, if costs increase, firms may be less likely to focus on environmentally-sourced products and go for options that cost the firm less (read: opportunity cost).

“U.S. consumers also face increased costs as refuse companies up their rates, because they are paying more to ship refuse to alternative countries, like India, and because they are spending more to clean and process the waste better to make it eligible for acceptance in foreign markets.” -NBC News

While these concepts are nothing new, there are several factors that account for China’s change in behavior. Primarily, there is an angle no one is talking about in the recycling sector. That is, China’s desire to become a more powerful nation. This idea stems from articles you may see talking about the ‘great power clashes’ that can manifest themselves in the form of South China Sea aggression.

For those unfamiliar with the contentious military exercises conducted in the Pacific Ocean near Japan, China, and Thailand — the root of it is China believes they have a legitimate claim to extend sovereignty because of a maritime law that allows ownership 10 miles from the coast and pretty much every Western nation disagrees.

Second, if China is viewed as the ‘garbage can’ for the world, they displace political capital. To elaborate, mothers often tell their daughters “you get the love you command/deserve based on how you are expecting to be treated” is just as applicable to geopolitics, as ever.

“He said that knowing the country would no longer be able to ship poor-quality recycling materials to China, its biggest buyer, meant the UK recycling industry had to start changing. Others will follow.” - CNN News

Thirdly, China is still accepting waste. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite what most believe, China has actually just lowered the threshold of contaminated waste that they are willing to accept. US Businesses, under these new guidelines, are unwilling to decontaminate the waste to the level requested. Therefore, whether consumers see a shrink in recyclable offered products, the reason could be US businesses just don’t want to do deal with the hassle.

What does this mean? Well, likely, the United States will ship waste to another developing nation in the Global South and business will continue. However, the growing tranches of the population that demand sustainable products is growing and savvy businesses would do well to capture the economic trends.

Our Greatest Challenge and Awareness Issues?

Akin to war, humanity is on the precipice of the greatest challenge. That is, existence. The outcome, however, is unknown and continuous. Therefore, every decision even the seemingly innocuous ones have massive ramifications. Further, big questions, such as understanding how governmental institutions and private sector forces ought to allocate seemingly abundant resources like capital or labor are more than challenging. This begs questions like: How should incentives be structured? What behavior ought to be promoted? How do we know if the implementation of certain policies are effective? Why should we solve climate change when initial investments to curb greenhouses will generate more carbon to be released? What is the right balance between saving the world, our fellow humans, and not derigging the economy that would lead to mass unemployment reflective of the Great Depression?

While some questions will remain unanswered, every generation on this planet has the ability to adopt the “Greatest Generation” moniker. But, we must start today. To reiterate, we stress impact over ideology. Pragmatism over rigidity. To elaborate, from famous activists like Julia Hill (defended a California Redwood tree for two years) to corporate leaders like Howard Schultz (former Chairman and CEO of Starbucks from 1986-2000 and 2008-2017) to our beloved parents, every person is a stakeholder in the ecological preservation of our planet. Stereotypes from the ‘conservative climate change denying capitalist’ to the ‘liberal tree hugging environmental-socialist’ are infantile and, either, distractionary or, potentially, detrimental to real progress. Or, in other words, from the arid, dusty battlefields of Afghanistan to aisle seven at Walmart, the individuals and infrastructure of a nation-state ought to incentive ‘Green Economics’. But, how?

Well, in November 2009, the Council on Foreign Relations published a comprehensive report about the “Public Opinion on Global Issues”. Similar to any issue is understanding and accepting that a problem exists -- like the 12 step sequence by Alcohol Anonymous. In particular, the report described the results of various respected polling agencies and concluded the following:

“Perception of Climate Change as a Problem or Threat A majority in every country polled says that global warming is a problem or a threat and that governments should give it a high priority, while only small minorities say it is not a problem. Despite these numbers, people tend to underestimate how much other people are concerned about climate change. While the number of people concerned about climate change has been increasing for some years, recent polls indicate that it may be leveling out.”

    -Page 1, Chapter 5a: World Opinion on the Environment

Based upon the Council on Foreign Relations’ findings, the issue is predominately not the lack of awareness.


Esther Duflo and Impact over Ideology

“Part of me always wanted to do something useful in the world. It came from my mother. She is a pediatrician and she was active in a small NGO for the child victims of war.”

--Esther Duflo, Economics Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Every year, over 300,000 deaths are attributable to climate change related issues. Even worse, the infiltration of pollutants and other negative, third-order effects of consumerism have impacted every facet of our ecosystem. From various levels of degradation in our air quality to temperature-related deaths or illnesses, every person on the planet is a shareholder in the success of our environment’s health and, certainly, we are all liable for various failures.

Given the loss of human life related directly to climate change, it is important to challenge the presumption that climate change is a future problem. Rather, it is a present problem. Therefore, an examination surrounding climate change and the way we live must not be confined to the academic realm. Instead, a radical approach on the issue that incorporates morality, philosophy, and pragmatism must establish a framework to provide a logical basis of why sustainable thinking ought to be promoted. Ideally, this framework shift will further efforts to preserve the sanctity of life of our precious planet and the lives of our fellow humans.

Sadly, climate change is far from easy to solve and is exacerbated by other, pressing social needs. Around the world, problems heavily impede the development of countries south of the equator. A lack of clean water, a distrust of preventative medicines in urban and rural settings, and inadequate supply chains that unevenly distribute ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in our societies are only a few issues that draw attention away from environmental economic inclusion. Furthermore, this, of course, does not include the religious conflicts and sectarian violent outbreaks that further entangle implementation of policy solutions devised by academic, public policy professionals, and subject matter experts.

Moving forward, the best approach to tackling complex crises is to favor impact over ideology through framing environmental and economic successes as contextual rather than generalizable. Whether grand universal theories exist to unite our understanding is not the intended purpose of this book -- instead, ideally, our readers will further an understanding of how to shift their personal habits towards sustainable development and internalize the importance of environmental economics. Hopefully, ideas will align, naturally, with solutions.


Silk Tougher than Steel

Spider silk is an amazing material known to have a strength to weight ratio comparable to some steel alloys. However, a group of professors and students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found an even more amazing (and useful) discovery. Spider silk was found to have a super contraction quality in the presences of moisture. They found this property accidentally when a strand of the silk started to rotate and coil during a study looking at the effects of humidity on spider silk. Upon further investigation, the phenomenon the researchers discovered had immediate applicability to robotics and prosthetics. 

Currently actuators simulate muscle movements in several forms: electric, pneumatic, and thermal actuation. A large number of the artificial muscles on the market today use Nylon, a non-biodegradable material that is largely responsible for the pollution of the ocean in the form of micro-plastics. The production of Nylon also releases greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, a major contributor in global warming. As the demand for more intricate prosthetics and robots increases, contributions to pollution and global warming will only get worse if an alternative cannot be found. Although spider silk could be this perfect substitution, as of today the supply of spider silk unfortunately is not enough to warrant this switch. However, research on generating synthetic spider silk through genetic engineering is making headway. Researchers at the University of Washington in St. Louis discovered a way to make genetically-synthesized spider silk that can rival the real thing just this past year! With this new and exciting discovery of super contraction there may be enough interest from private sectors to invest in creating genetically-synthesized spider silk to replace the Nylon currently being used in so many products today. If done, this manufacturing process could have a great impact not only in the engineering and robotics world, but also in the health and sustainability of our global environment.

Georgetown Strategy Group: First Annual Letter - 2019

DEAR FRIENDS:

On May 1, 2018 at 6:00 am, we launched the Georgetown Strategy Group with a social media campaign attracting 20,000 people in its first days. Last week, the the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced me, “the Managing Director of the Georgetown Strategy Group,” as its first witness of the new 116th Congress to speak about U.S. Policy in the Arabian Peninsula (read statement and watch hearing). Every day in between has been heady, exciting, exhausting but always interesting.

OUR MISSION

From the outset, the Georgetown Strategy Group had one mission: to leverage talent, technology, and capital to help solve some of the world’s most complex problems. Working with the private sector, communities, and governments, the Georgetown Strategy Group seeks to promote trade and investment, develop economic opportunity, advance security and stability, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the Middle East and Africa. The leaders of the Georgetown Strategy Group have dedicated their lives to improve the human condition. We have designed and managed programs to deliver essential services; negotiated agreements to facilitate the movement of goods and people; developed businesses and tech ecosystems; and contributed to building more effective institutions throughout the Middle East and Africa during times of war and crisis.

THE RESULTS

In the first 8 months, the firm has demonstrated profitability, growth, and impact. Revenue exceeded projections; strong earnings continue in early 2019. The firm has diversified its client base with 12 customers and prospects for 50% further growth by the end of the first full operating year. Importantly, the firm has no long term liabilities and has sufficient financial sustainability to continue to grow. Aside from a financial bottom line, the firm has assisted non-governmental organizations and for-profit corporations manage critical challenges. The firm is positioned to take advantage of the growing nexus between capital and technology in frontier markets. We have advised FinTech companies intending to launch in Yemen, agricultural firms seeking to open high-end markets; structured big data analytics throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Africa; provided strategic management for leading DC consulting firms; and helped bring pre-commercial research and development of remote sensing, advances in renewable power and water, and operational research and analysis to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

The Georgetown Strategy Group (GSG) entered into two strategic partnerships in 2018. In June, GSG announced its partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory. MIT’s mission is “to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world,” and through Lincoln Laboratory, has developed novel technologies in support of stabilization and humanitarian assistance. The Georgetown Strategy Group and MIT Lincoln Laboratory seek to disrupt and improve humanitarian and disaster assistance response capabilities to meet the most pressing challenges of this century.

In November, the Georgetown Strategy Group entered into a joint venture with Souktel Inc., a leading provider of custom digital solutions solutions for emerging markets. Through this partnership, the firms will work jointly to expand into new markets across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — building on Souktel’s decade-long track record of digital solutions delivery, to add new private sector business lines in 2019. With the launch of the new partnership, I have assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer for Souktel, Inc. and will continue to lead GSG.

INTREPID OPPORTUNITIES

While scouting opportunities for the Souktel-Georgetown Strategy Group joint venture, I traveled to Gaza in December. This time not as a diplomat, journalist, or aid worker, but rather as an entrepreneur in search of software developers and rugged water technologies. My first stop: Gaza Sky Geeks. This Mercy Corps incubator operating in Gaza City helps startups build products and offers teams of designers and full stack developers for international clients. I then met with the CEOs of half a dozen firms leading the Gaza tech sector; these firms are doing early stage outsourcing in the region and beyond. Collectively, their firms employ over 150 engineers who work through blackouts, disruptions, and conflict to deliver services to the world. The eager young developers at Gaza Sky Geeks, coupled with the more seasoned tech firm leaders, provided great insight into the emerging talent, passion, creativity, and drive that can flourish, even in one of the most challenging of circumstances.

Software is not the only nascent sign of hope. The collapse of the water aquifer and the resulting necessity of desalination of nearly all the water in Gaza has propelled new thinking in water and treatment technology that could be viable in frontier markets around the globe. MIT is piloting a community based off-grid solar desalination plant for brackish water; this technology is pre-commercial but primed to hit emerging markets in 2019. This technology adapted in Gaza would be effective for the people of Yemen and can readily be employed as an off-grid alternative to refugee communities along the Syrian border or in the horn of Africa. Moreover, Gaza is ripe to test other, newer technologies such as air-to-water systems, greywater re-use in rugged environments, and private community solar and water, obviating the need for large-scale government infrastructure.

THE MEDIA

The firm’s expansion strategy includes building a name brand public platform. In the first 8 months, the firm has been prominently referenced in leading U.S. and international media including the New York Times, National Public Radio, The Hill, The Atlantic, Associated Press, United Press International, and Jerusalem Post coupled with television interviews on Al Jazeera, i24, TRT and other channels. This profile has led to numerous speaking engagements throughout the country and has helped to drive business opportunities in the Middle East and beyond.

POSITIONING FOR THREE TRENDS IN THE NEXT DECADE

The Georgetown Strategy Group sees three macro political-economic trends shaping the Middle East and Africa in the decade ahead

First, the world order as largely built by the U.S. post-World War II, which has served as the greatest force for peace and prosperity in history, is being challenged by emergent world leaders. These WWII institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the UN, and the multilateral finance banks served as global shaping forces for more than 70 years. We are now witnessing the rise of a new great game with China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran vying for power, position, and markets throughout the Middle East, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula as well as in the Horn of Africa.

Second, the decade ahead will be defined by rapid technological changes, (particularly in artificial intelligence and big data analytics), rapid public and private capital flows (including increased financing from non-U.S. sources), the continued mass movement of people across borders and regions as we have seen in Syria, and a shifting of markets and trade routes away from the dollar economy in favor of our rising nation state challengers.

Third, national aspirations, particularly in the Gulf states, will result in unprecedented opportunity and serious inflection points for American business leaders. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are rising regional powers with complementary and, at times, competing geo-political interests. Saudi Arabia has an ambitious economic vision for 2030 that will require a respect for human rights and consistent rule of law if it hopes to actually implement its vision. The United Arab Emirates seeks economic expansion and political influence, as demonstrated specifically by its race to build regional seaports, boost trade partnerships, and create new markets. Rising national aspirations, coupled with rapid technological and financial trends, will likely accelerate the Israel-Sunni bloc re-alignment in way which will be exciting and unexpected in the U.S.

THE YEAR AHEAD

The Georgetown Strategy Group has a bold vision for 2019. Specifically, the firm seeks to aggressively position for market share at the corner of capital and technology. Further, the firm’s agility and speed will allow it to effectively capitalize on the three macro political-economic trends ahead. This vision will begin by expanding into power and water technologies adaptable for complex crises in the first quarter of 2019. This strategic alignment coupled with Souktel’s corporate capabilities will position both firms to drive transformative impact in frontier markets throughout 2019.

CONCLUSION

The future favors the bold. The Georgetown Strategy Group seeks create a legacy that positively shapes and influences the future for generations. 2018 was just the start.

Sincerely,

R. David Harden

***Originally published on Medium by R. David Harden.***

RecyProcity Takes the Lead After China Stumbles

China imports an estimated 45% of the world’s plastic for recycling.

Almost 106 million metric tons of waste are sent on barges to be reintegrated in China’s green economy. For many developed nations, exporting waste can be more profitable than recycling.

“The only reason recyclables are that contaminated is because the majority of worldly citizens don’t separate their waste and recyclables.  But if they did, or at least did better at it, the US, UK, and really the world would not need China that badly anymore. We wouldn’t need them at all actually, because we could do our own refining here! More jobs, easier materials to process, the whole thing would set us free from sending waste to Asia.” - Chris Hauser, Founder of RecyProcity

However, China has new plans. Since the 2017 National Sword Policy passage, China has taken actionable steps to pivot away from its role as the global leader in recycling. Universally used plastics, such as PET or PVC, are now banned; along with 24 other types of solid waste products that are now illegal to import.

Not only has the Chinese Government cited both detrimental environmental effects and public health concerns as new worries, but this new law is also projected to displace 50% of all plastics from 2019 to 2030. Or, in other words, 111 million metric tons of plastics will not have homes.
"What we need to do is take responsibility in making sure that waste is managed in a way that is responsible, wherever that waste goes — responsible meaning both environmentally and socially.” — Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia

RecyProcity Pays You To Recycle and Solves The China Issue.

This New York based recycling company not only will accept plastic waste that China no longer will take, but they also pay you. It is an opportunity for Americans to benefit from improving their environmental impact, without the difficulty or time it takes to recycle.

We are faced [with], what I believe, is the greatest moral crisis of our time…[that] those least responsible for nature’s destruction will suffer the greatest consequences. We need nature now more than ever because nature doesn’t need people, people need nature. — Harrison Ford

RecyProcity is set to launch in April 2019. This highly anticipated firm has negotiated with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service and includes three nationally-recognized recycling businesses. In terms of demographics, RecyProcity has partnered with over 300 facilities that intend to use the service in at least eight U.S. states and is also available in the U.K. Specifically, this includes: California, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and cities in the United Kingdom like Birmingham or London.

In our previous article, our team wrote about the payment structure. However, as a brief recap, we wanted to reiterate why signing up for RecyProcity will be a good idea. For less than the price of a Netflix membership, users can either “drop and go” or use “the exchange” to redeem recycle materials for cash. Not only does the service streamline the customer experience, but there are no contracts or termination charges with anyone. Further, the app is localized to users within a specific, geographical radius.

To elaborate, with their patent pending ‘App’, the user is able to locate and exchange recyclable items in return for cash that is electronically transferred into and out of their accounts. After the transaction is made, the other user will pick up and transport the items to a processing facility. Just like Uber has replaced cab drivers, the RecyProcity App has the ability to create new, green jobs that connect consumers with third party service providers to maximize trips from ‘the exchange’ to the redemption facilities!

Parting Thoughts

Read about RecyProcity in our previous article! If you want to learn more, please visit their website by clicking here.  Their Twitter account is @apprecyprocity, and their Facebook page is here, and their Instagram is here.  We hope you check them out because they will revolutionize this space!

Bernie Sanders: 2020 Climate Change Revolution?

In just 24 hours Senator Bernie Sanders raised $6 million from 225,000 donors, averaging $27 per person. 

On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced his joining of the 2020 presidency race. Unlike his Democratic counterparts, he only is taking donations from individuals — no big corporations or government employees. Not only is his following clearly strong, but his views are too. In addition to promising Americans free health care and free college tuition, he is most adamant about the need to address climate change, stating: 

“The scientists have told us -- despite Trump's absurd thought that this is a hoax -- that the future of the planet is at stake.”

Senator Saunders interview with CNNs John Berman

This past December, during his town hall meeting at the Hart Senate Building he stressed the importance of confronting climate change directly, saying that it is the great crisis facing our planet and facing humanity.” In the 2016 presidential elections, Senator Sanders opened up the most ambitious climate platform, the “American Clean Energy Investment Act”, than any other candidate, promising the American people that he would slash carbon dioxide pollution by 40% by 2030, end fossil fuel subsidies, and ban fracking. 

These are aggressive but necessary steps for our future planet and safety of the American people. Acknowledging this importance, Senator Sanders has made a critical point to make climate change a key issue for his second White House run. He wishes to combat climate change on two fronts: energy and carbon emissions. His goal is to convert 100% towards renewable energy as well as largely invest in clean energy technology and green infrastructure in much the same approach as his free medical care proposal, including bolstering the “Green New Deal.” For carbon emissions, unlike the resolution supported by Senator Ocasio-Cortez who wishes to significantly reduce the emissions, Senator Sanders wishes to zero out carbon emissions altogether. He believes that only this aggressive, immediate action can offset future impacts.

Although this seems ambitious and almost rash, scientists have found truth in his claims for immediate action. This fall that the world must make “unprecedented” steps towards reducing carbon levels so as to prevent the global warming increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). At that heat, we would be beyond the threshold of return. This, at the very least, is a “deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen” as many of the scientists have put it. So, maybe Senator Sanders is not entirely extreme.  

In fact, he sees himself as a voice for the people, and with that, he expects people to demand fundamental changes with him. However, his stance is not just limited to liberals, and climate change enthusiasts. He claims to reach out towards all Americans and conservatives who do not believe in climate change, that this is a serious issue and international crisis.

“We need millions of people all over this country to stand up and demand fundamental changes in our energy policy in order to protect our kids and our grandchildren and the planet. The good news is the American people are beginning to stand up and fight back.” 

Senator Sanders phone interview with the Huffington Post

This fight could not be more evident than the substantial support of individuals reflected in his donations from this past week.  

The Conservation Alliance

Environmental Businesses Should Check Out The Conservation Alliance.

The Conservation Alliance was founded in 1989 by key outdoor industry leaders, such as REI, Patagonia, or The North Face. Since the organization was established, the Conservation Alliance has worked with businesses of all sizes for the shared goal of increasing preservation efforts. With over $20 million in donations, the Alliance has managed to help save “51 million acres of wildlands; protect 3,102 miles of rivers; stop or remove 30 dams; designate five marine reserves; and purchase 13 climbing areas”.

To be a member, however, there are stipulations. Not only does a business have to complete an application, but the firm also has to contribute at a rate of $1,000 per $1,000,000 in revenue or 0.1%. Also, what’s fantastic about the organization is the knowledge that 100% of funds go directly towards 501c3 organizations. The operating expenses are paid for by the Legacy Fund Endowment and additional member funds that are specifically earmarked.

Not only does the Conservation Alliance provide transparency on their website on how funds are appropriated, but the organization has received positive reviews from charity watch-dogs. One example is “Charity Navigator” that provides a thorough compensation breakdown of the organization leader, the revenue and various expenses of the firm, and financial indicators like “fundraising efficiency”. For the Conservation Alliance the cost to raise $1 is only $0.02.

So, next time you are thinking about giving someone your 2 cents — think about giving it to the Conservation Alliance.

Parting Thoughts!

If your business is interested in aligning its environmental values with an established conservation organization, be sure to check out the Conservation Alliance!

WEEKLY ROUND-UP: Han Solo, IPPR, and the Wall

Over the past week, three big headlines dominated the news.

  1. Han Solo gives a talk to the World Government Summit. The 76 year old actor, Harrison Ford, spoke out about how the degradation of our environment is the greatest moral crisis of our generation. The summit was held in Dubai, UAE this year. Leader from over 150 participating countries with an estimated 4,000 attendees joined Harrison Ford in discussions.

  2. The Progressive Think Tank known as the “Institute for Public Policy Research” released an environmental report detailing the breakdown of potential catastrophes that may affect society if global temperatures rise 2 degrees Celsius. The report highlighted how humans have historically perpetuated the notion to disregard anthropocentric climate change. Further, the report also argues humans are reaching an inflection point that has dangerous implications for all members of society.

  3. President Trump is on course to declare a state of emergency, as reported by senior White House officials. The state of emergency surrounds the construction of the wall that would run along the southern border and between the U.S. — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California — and Mexico. The state of emergency is based out of the Trump Administration’s claim that the failure to have a strong southern border is a national security issue.

BRIEF COMMENTARY: El Salvador, Elliot Abrams, and Rep. Omar

BRIEF COMMENTARY: The House Foreign Affairs Committee Looked Like an Episode of Reality TV, Yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is, again, in hot water. Yesterday, in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Omar attempted to take down Elliot Abrams. For those unfamiliar with Elliot Abrams, he is universally viewed as a neoconservative, foreign policy icon. Although, he was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, he has impressive credentials and serves as a Fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations which is notoriously difficult to obtain.

El Salvador was a particular focal point in the back-and-forth between the freshman congresswoman and the veteran foreign policy icon. While Rep. Omar’s line of questioning attempted to emphasize the failures of U.S. diplomacy, our team at Counter Current wanted to examine the biodiversity, climate, and geography. Has there been any improvement in the El Salvador’s environment since it became a ‘more free’ country?

Biodiversity, Climate, and Geography

El Salvador lacks a robust environmental policy to protect the biodiversity of its species. However, in 1997 and in 1999, the government established the ‘Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ and passed legislation that can most accurately be described as “general environmental framework law”. The path forward has precedent, but conservation efforts need vast improvement — from carbon tax regulation to wildlife efforts.

In terms of climate, El Salvador is exposed to a massive array of natural disasters because of its geography. Located near two Teutonic plates and given El Salvador’s proximity to the equator, the country is immensely susceptible to both cataclysmic weather events, volcanic activity, and earthquakes. The randomness of a flood destroying 80% of crops, like in 2001, makes El Salvador’s ability to act in an environmentally conscience manner more challenging. Further, the high poverty rates coupled with unfortunate geographical position of the country, ultimately, inhibits a sustainability focus as the country cannot move past Kuznet’s curve.

Why Germany Should Abandon Coal

On January 31st, Germany’s Coal Commission debuted its recommendations to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038. The plan, derided by some as "dumb" is hardly that. This plan is not perfect, but it confronts two important challenges: healthcare cost containment and greenhouse gas reduction.

Without equivocation, coal is harmful to society.  Between coal dust inhaled by miners that causes lung cancer to air pollutants released from coal-burning facilities, the economic calculus is clearly negative.  Containing healthcare costs requires a market-based solution and it starts with either capturing the negative consequences of an economic action or prohibitive legislation or both.

For example, Canada has employed a successful revenue-neutral carbon tax since 2008 in British Columbia.  The revenue-neutral carbon tax shifted the taxation burden from ‘desirables’ such as taxing income or sales to ‘undesirables’ such as greenhouse gas emissions.  Further, the policy was shown to have a negligible effect on economic growth and led to a 15% reduction on provincial emissions. Simply put, if Germany does not move forward with the precedent established by Energiewende (Ammendment to the EEG) and the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG or German Renewable Energy Act), the society will absorb the cost through increased healthcare taxes or less healthy citizens.  

Germany’s plan to address climate change, a critical threat to the environment, starts with the reduction of fossil fuel emissions.  It is universally well-known that climate change is linked, inextricably, to fossil fuel consumption. Emissions release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, increase carbon dioxide levels, trap heat, and raise temperatures.  

Further, the failure to shift away from an archaic and inefficient energy source is speculated to lead to dire results.  In a U.N. report, higher temperatures are predicted to cause life-threatening heat waves, water shortages, coastal flooding, and mass migration. Germany is well-equipped to rely more in renewable energy resources. In 2018, 40% of Germany’s electricity mix came from renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower. Coal-fired plants release more greenhouse gases per unit of energy than any other energy source, according to Green America, an energy advocacy group whose mission is to harness economic power to create a “socially just and environmentally sustainable society”.

Over the next 20 years, members of the Coal Commission, private sector, and other government officials will be able to curtail dependence on coal.  Chancellor Merkel would be wise to adopt the commission’s recommendations.

This article was co-written by Matthew Minor and Ryan Harden.

Warfighting And Biomimicry in the 21st Century

How Does An Army Bombing Range Support Conservation And Protection Of Endangered Species?

Contrary to conventional thinking, the military and conservation efforts are not diametrically opposed. In fact, if we dive beneath surface-level assumptions that the military does not possess sustainable mindset, we will unravel a very different story.

In the United States, military land totals roughly 25 million acres. These are lands that are protected from commercial development and support numerous biomes. Often, these lands are considered to be rare, unique, and — typically — have endangered flora and fauna. Once the 1960 Sikes Act was signed into law, the value of the natural resources on these lands were officially recognized. Subsequently, mandates from the Secretary of Defense followed suit, specifically for the implementation of programs that “[provided] for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources on military installations.”

Further, the Sikes Act requires that the installation commanders are to create a comprehensive plan to manage natural resources effectively. Then, in 1997, the Sike Act Improvement Act broadened the scope of natural resource management to provide for the following: more funding, greater scientific research, and greater civilian oversight of existing environmental programs.

Did This Law Work?

Welcome to Townsend, Georgia the home of the Townsend Bombing Range that is ‘owned’ by the U.S. Marine Corps, but used by all branches of the military. Near this forty-mile, coastal strip of land is a ‘wildlife greenway’. Or, in other words, a corridor for conservation that actively works to reduce habitat fragmentation by keeping wildlife zones connected.

Since the 1960 and 1997 Sikes Act and Sikes Act Amendments, respectively, the Department of Defense has contributed $26 million to the $93 million project. The funds are used to prevent developers from breaking up these fertile areas into commercial or residential properties. Further, the Marine’s land management program is actively working to not only bring the frosted flatwood salamander back from the brink of extinction, but to also expand livable areas for the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and to protect the water quality in the vicinity of the bombing range. These efforts highlight the positive role the military plays in conservation and sustainability efforts.

Why Are Environmentally Responsible Policies In The Best Interest Of The Military?

Since natural resources are used widely at military installations, there is an inherent national security necessity to protect and sustain. For instance, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, a 6 megawatt solar array was installed with the ultimate goal of generating 100% of the base’s electricity on-site. This example addresses the environmental need to be decrease reliance on coal and also serves a fundamental function of government to provide value to taxpayers. Another example is the development of pulse technology by the Army. This pulse technology increases the life lead-acid batteries by 80% — a remarkable feat. Not only does the increased life of the battery reduce toxic waste from entering the environment as quickly, but it also significantly reduces costs for taxpayers and extends the product lifetimes for the Army.

Another reason for the military to promote sustainability is the availability of unique biomes for training. The Army’s 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, NY, is focused on warfighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. It is also home of the Sustainability Expo that brings together military and contracting personnel with sustainable vendors and innovators. Conservation and sustainability are critical to the Division because of their unique need to mimic the undeveloped mountainous terrain and snowy conditions that soldiers would experience abroad. Simply put, this training environment cannot exist without habitat protection and comprehensive sustainability planning.

Parting Thoughts

Not only are environmental stewardship and sustainable practices in the best interest of the Armed Forces, but the military has aligned their interests with conservation efforts. To be an effective warfighting force in the 21st century, it is critical for military members and all of society to recognize the need for environmental action and its impact on national security and natural resources critical to the military’s mission and success.


Chick-fil-A's Eco Contribution

Chick-fil-A is America’s favorite fast-food chain.

In the United States, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Chick-fil-A is the most popular fast-food establishment. As the apex predator for the third consecutive year, Chick-fil-A rose to the top of the food chain by delivering quality service, good sandwiches, and living their Judeo-Christian values.

Whether some may disagree with the values they preach or are just upset that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A has a rapport for garnering national attention to promote target messages that relate to their core principles. This led Waverly — an enthusiast for all things Chick-fil-A —to speculate more about another more subdued message.

“Is Chick-fil-A suggesting that eating chicken, as opposed to cows, is better for the environment?” —Waverly

Not only does the iconic Chick-fil-A mascot (read: cow) suggest that consumers “Eat more chikin”, but there is a lesser well-known environmental truth attached to those words. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences answered this particular question by stating “beef” was worse than “chicken” when considering the carbon emissions of greenhouse gases for the environment.

Further, the study focused on the environmental impact of chickens and cows on land, air, and sea. Specifically, the survey focused on greenhouse conditions — the same conditions oft-cited when discussing our planet — and the nitrogen burdens required in the United States. The study concluded that beef is 10x more damaging to the environment than any other types of meat, including chicken. However, the verdict is more difficult to uniformly apply since the mitigating factors are harder to calculate. Especially, when considering the agricultural industries carrying capacity to switch from beef to chicken or vice versa.

In addition to former Truett Cathy’s claims that he applied God’s principals to Chick-fil-A operations, Chick-fil-A still is working on improving their current environmental standards to diminish its environmental impact. So what’s the issue?

Questionable Chicken Ethics and Dicey Involvements with Factory Farmed Chickens Plague Chick-fil-A

In 2014, Chick-fil-A announced they would no longer use chickens that were raised with antibiotics. Their ambitious plan had a five year time frame. Historically, to place this plan into perspective, the firm created an annual 282 million sandwiches — equating to 141 million birds — in 2010. So the 2014 transition, truly, is a paradigm shift.

When considering the role of factory farming, however, these birds are kept in poor conditions even if antibiotic use was excluded. Dirty, cramped, and with little space are commonplace for these birds. As many of our readers may know, antibiotics are added to livestock to simultaneously prevent disease and increase growth. In the National Public Radio’s most recent broadcast, “Finite”, their was discussion that this practice of liberally injecting antibiotics into livestock is detrimental to bio-security for humans as pathogens become more resistant with each use. Lastly, in 2016, they announced their mission to source 100% of cage-free eggs in the next 10 years — another ambitious plan we will be sure to verify in 2026.

So How Successful Was Chick-fil-A?

After the five year mark for Chick-fil-A’s “No Antibiotics Ever” commitment, the firm proudly reported that upwards of 80% of their chicken supply is raised without antibiotics. A remarkable step in the right direction. By December of this year, Chick-fil-A will attempt to convert that figure to 100%.

While Truett Cathy has made bold claims in the past, maybe his words were not too far fetched? The firm has made changes to become more environmentally sustainable while still maintaining its ability to compete and succeed with near-peer competitors. When considering all the factors, it is impressive. After all, Chick-fil-A is a fast-food chain reliant on chicken.

Mor Than Chikin’

Chick-fil-A has a few other goals on the topic of environmental sustainability. Specifically, they primarily focus on the four areas listed below.

  1. Sustainable new restaurant development

  2. Reducing energy and water consumption in existing restaurants

  3. Sustainable supply chain

  4. Cup recycling

Right now, the firm is working towards the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard. This is an internationally recognized green building certification system and, notably, gold is the highest attainable certification. Presumably, the gold standard indicates that a building is actively consuming a fourth less energy and generates 34% less of greenhouse gas emissions than previously.

For Chick-fil-A, they are planning to launch their firm’s first test kitchen in Fort Worth, Texas! For other existing restaurants, the goal is to reduce energy usage and water consumption by reinstalling more efficient utilities — including lighting, refrigeration, and water faucet restrictors. Further, when considering the supply chain, the firm is working with suppliers to establish more green-friendly changes. Lastly, Chick-fil-A claims that its use of foam cups are recyclable, whereas some plastics are not. While one maybe the lesser of two evils, neither can be wholly acknowledged as “great”. Notably, foam has many documented challenges with recycling.

Chick-fil-A is not a perfect model for environmental sustainability. However, the changes that it and other fast food chains or companies are committing to making (and actually following through) are and will make a significant substantial impact. Kudos to the firm for working towards a better future.

An Honest Review Of The American Conservation Coalition: Part 1

Conservatism and Environmentalism Are NOT Mutually Exclusive

Disappointingly, most conservative Republicans do not believe in anthropocentric climate change.  According to a previous article titled “The Conservative Case for Conservation”, only 40% of conservative Republicans believed in climate change and only 26% believed that climate change is linked to human activity.

Despite credible evidence from climate scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), there is a partisan gap when we think, discuss, and read about our ecosystem. This does not mean that Republicans are not proponents of environmental stewardship, rather the statistics gathered by Yale University in 2018 indicate conservative Republicans are misinformed about their own environmental history.

What is Conservative Environmental History?

In the 20th century, Republicans laud Reagan like Democrats laud Kennedy.  With the exception of William F. Buckley Jr., President Reagan reached the zenith of influence among conservatives, yet most cannot recall his environmental stance. With just a cursory Google Search it appears the last article about Reagan’s environmental stance is by the Weekly Standard in 2013 -- approximately 6 years ago.

Despite various embattlements of the conservative Reagan Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, the IPCC was developed as a compromise between two competing beliefs.  The ideological locking of horns, if you will, is an old engagement between realism and liberalism that still influences military intervention debates in the halls of the Capitol and within the illustrious Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Simply put, Reagan’s Administration bolstered U.S. scientists to key positions on the IPCC.  In exchange for participating in the United Nations, U.S. scientists were able to influence foreign powers, communal legislative bodies, and other intergovernmental organizations.  Further, meteorological data was shared amongst those foreign powers along with best practices, honest diplomacy, and the occasional drink. As a result, scientific bodies were able to provide legislators with assessments of “socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change and options for adapting to it.”  Clearly, this is a boon to policymakers and instrumental for the 90 member Climate Solutions Caucus in the House of Representatives.

How Does This Environmental History Relate to Contemporary Conservatives?

Typically, media outlet headlines are dominated by mainstream policy debates ranging from social security solvency to who committed which crime to the role of government in anything.  Rarely, environmental issues of today are discussed with importance. Instead, disdain despite the rich history rooted in traditionalism is commonplace.  Even worse than not having the conversation is to provide non-sequitur analysis that can be characterized as, perhaps, purposefully deceitful rhetoric.  It’s even suggestive that the conservative-demographic base cannot, simply, understand science. A degrading insinuation, at a minimum, or a forthright insult.

However, the American Conservation Coalition, or ACC, is resurrecting an archaic idea in a new century.  Last year, a band of young, Republican environmentalists founded this organization that promotes environmental stewardship by directing attention on inefficiencies in our government-regulated, market-based economy.  While the ACC -- not to be confused with AOC -- appears to be a fantastic organization and desires to make an impact, Counter Current would like to provide a few helpful recommendations to make the ACC platform more effective in the second half of this two-part series.  Before exploring recommendations, Counter Current had the great privilege of corresponding with one of their staff writers, David Saul Acosta.

Meet David Saul Acosta.

David, a first generation Cuban-American, is just one story of many woven into the fabric of our nation’s, great, American Dream.  As a Miami native, he witnessed first-hand the influences of Latin America, the Caribbean, and “the importance of a strong America on the world stage.”

“I have been fortunate of the opportunities I have received throughout my life, and [have] never [forgotten] the hardships and sacrifices my family has had to endure...in order to open the doors of opportunity and be better able to pursue my own American Dream.”

Not only was he exceedingly keen on the struggles of his grandparents and parents (and discernibly grateful), but it was visible he realized that the United States was truly a land of opportunity like no other.  David’s parents sacrificed to ensure he had access to a quality education. As a proud graduate of private catholic schools -- during his formidable years in primary, middle, and high school -- he excelled academically.  Recently, David graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Miami. Now, he is pursuing a Master’s Degree from Harvard University in International Relations. Needless to say, he is impressive and will either further U.S. Foreign Policy to some degree or stay engaged with Miami’s ‘Young Republicans’.

“I believe the Republican Party must re-embrace the environmental stewardship legacy of its past, and champion free market solutions and sound government policy to meet the climate challenges of today, bolster its appeal to younger Americans who care deeply about climate change and expect action from their leaders in public office.”

Furthermore, as a staff writer for the American Conservation Coalition, David enjoys highlighting both “innovative programs and technologies -- particularly those of which come from private businesses and free market forces -- have had on the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.”  In addition, he finds it fascinating that “America’s business are stepping up to meet the challenges of our time”.

“As a lifelong resident of Florida, I have had the great fortune of living in state with great natural wonders and beauty. From our beaches to the rivers of grass in the Everglades, Florida is home to some of the most ecological significant environments in all of North America. As a child, I have always understood this distinction — with educators and class lessons in primary school highlighting the importance of environmental stewardship and conservation for the benefit of Florida’s environment, and its protection for future generations.”

Understandably, if the organization is filled with well-intended intellectuals, like David Saul Acosta, then the future of the ACC seems promising.

This is the first part of a 2-part series on the American Conservation Coalition. In the second half, Counter Current will critique, praise, and provide recommendations that, hopefully, will be received with optimism.


Soy Crops and Subsidies

Soy is a core crop in our modern world.

Globally, soy is heavily subsidized by the government and consumed in vast amounts. When consumed in moderation, soy has a two-fold effect. It helps to spare animal lives and it also offers potential health benefits. (McCue & Shetty, 2004). In particular, vegans are huge fans because no animals are harmed or killed in the process of soy production. However, underlying these surface advantages, soy-lovers must face the hard truth of its severe environmental impact.

Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest

Soy is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. (Brown et al., 2005). The high demand for soy has led to an uptick in production. In other words, this drastic increase in consumer demand for soy is at the cost of the Amazon. Sadly, the Amazon is undergoing massive deforestation — at an astonishingly high rate — to make more land available for soy. Additionally, soy production has a negative impact on the biodiversity of the rainforest. (Fearnside, 2001).

Unfortunately for the Amazon, deforestation and depletion are embedded into its rich history. Interestingly, deforestation rates resulting from soy production are similar to deforestation rates resulting from cattle farming. One of the reasons for this is that soy is used to feed “pork, poultry, and dairy cows,” and is also used in the production of bio-diesel and vegetable oil. This finding is alarming for those who consider themselves plant-based foodies and, especially, if those plant-based foodies are seeking to make significant environmental change.

Adding onto the list of negatives, indigenous people are being displaced as a consequence of the Amazonian deforestation. Again, the consumer demand for the soy crop is in such a high demand, therefore, this causes deforestation to occur at a, simultaneously, high rate. To emphasize, this again leads to indigenous people being kicked off their lands at a high rate.

While it is intuitive that the food we buy (read: agricultural industries we support) have environmental implications, we do not often realize the humane implications as a result of our purchases — they are, truly, nothing short of eye-opening.

Plant-Based Diets?

When people choose to transition to a more plant-based diet, it is common for them to purchase meat alternatives to facilitate the diet change. Luckily, there are a large number of companies that produce meat alternatives to support vegans, vegetarians, or the occasional Meatless Monday practitioner. However, we must be wary of these alternatives as many of them are made with soy. One of the many reasons that people may choose to change their diet may be to reduce their impact on the environment. However, if individuals with this goal are doing so by consuming meat alternatives laden with environmentally-taxing soy protein, they are not achieving their goal!

As mentioned in an earlier post, eliminating animal products from our diets is a huge step towards sustainability. But, we must also be wary of the amount of soy that we use as replacements for the animal products that previously existed in our diets. So, instead of going to the store and purchasing the latest meat or cheese substitute--which is most likely made with soy--consider buying some sort of non-soy legume such as black beans, lentils, or chickpeas which will still provide protein without sacrificing the health of our planet.

Non-Digital Sources:

  1. Brown, J.C., Koeppe, M., Coles, B., Price, K.P. (2005). Soybean Production and Conversion of Tropical Forest in the Brazilian Amazon: The Case of Vilhena, Rondônia. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. 34 (6).

  2. Fearnside, P. (2001). Soybean cultivation as a threat to the environment in Brazil. Environmental Conservation,28 (1), 23-38.

  3. McCue, P., Shetty, K. (2004) Health Benefits of Soy Isoflavonoids and Strategies for Enhancement: A Review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 44:5, 361-367

Polar Society

If you love Polar Bears, you may want to check out the Polar Society.

Polar Society is an apparel company founded by Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong. When they first started, in 2008, the two conducted research and discovered that the polar bear was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) specifically because of the projected effects of climate change on their habitat. As you may recall in our earlier articles, there is significant precedent that climate change is real and environmental stewardship is a necessity.

“There needs to be a reduction of gas emissions in order to prevent the declines in polar bear population.”

—Geovana Flores & Joanne Wong of the Polar Society

Polar Society’s apparel brand is “not only fashion forward[,] but provides a means to improve the current natural habitat for polar bears and their preservation.” With every purchase, Polar Society donates a part of their profit or proceeds to organizations that “support polar bear conversation and habitat preservation.” Clearly, both Geovana Flores and Joanne Wong are inspired about how to be activists in a consumer-based economy. They are inspired, simply, by both preservation of the polar bears as climate change worsens and are concerned about the future generation.

Success for the duo is a work in progress. Each time the company is able to donate part of their profits to Polar Bears International is something they consider a success. In January 2019, the company donated $300 to the cause! This is fantastic! Further, the love and positive optimism they have received from customers or with their brand ambassadors is what helps them keep their focus, according to the owners.

Parting Thoughts

When asked what are a few things that everyone should know, they said… eat less meat, use energy efficient light bulbs, turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, walk, ride bicycles or take public transportation whenever possible. Not only are there immense benefits to you health, but these simple ideas have benefits psychologically too! So, be sure to get out there and save the world with one small decision at a time!

If you want to learn more, check out their website or follow them on Instagram at @polarsociety!

Life as an EcoFellow: Morgan and Natasha

The Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is way ahead of its time. 

In the last three short years — from 2016 to 2019 — of its 40 year establishment, the Center for EcoTechnology has made a massive impact on consumer practices. CET is projected to help approximately 95,000 people and businesses in three ways. Firstly, CET is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 391,000 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road for one year! Secondly, CET has helped to keep 80,000 tons of waste out of landfills. Thirdly, CET has saved the equivalent energy of powering 35,000 homes for a year. But, best yet, they have saved $70 million (that’s right million!) in lifetime savings for both individuals and businesses by “going green”.

Change-Agents Combating Climate Change.

This non-profit organization helps both individuals and businesses to “go green” by reducing energy and waste consumption. Their website has a fantastic step-by-step guidance system that discusses renewable energy incentives that are available at the local, state, and federal levels. Often these local, state, and federal initiatives work with Solar Access and are funded by both the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Department of Energy Resources.

These three organizations offer credibility to the Center for EcoTechnology’s mission. Between qualification, certification, and other forms of quality controls, CET clients are assured that “going green” can be profitable for both firms and individuals. Included in profitability metrics is also the inherent good generated by thoughtful, conscientious consumerism. In terms of the financial breakdown, the Federal government provides a 30% solar tax credit and Massachusetts also provides a 10% solar tax credit. These type of sensible policies are just one of many reasons why the solar industry is growing so rapidly!

Green Practices Galore!

Not only does CET focus heavily on waste reduction, but they also provide assistance on reduction guidance and how to optimize food donations, trash collections, which construction and demolition materials to use, and other topics on waste. Just like a for-profit organization that provides business to business (B2B) services, the non-profit matches people and businesses with recycling and redemption facilities. The Center for EcoTechnology truly maximizes ways to make recycling, reusing, and waste reducing easy. In Massachusetts, they rely on a partnership with RecyclingWorks to get the job done.

We at Counter Current love to write about the environment. Even more fun than writing about the environment is the ability to feature good people who are passionate about an environmentally-focused cause. Therefore, it was an absolute no-brainer getting the chance to interview a couple of recent college graduates, Morgan Laner and Natasha Nurjadin, who have delved deep in CET’s mission through their 11 month EcoFellowship Program

Morgan Laner

Morgan loves trash! While studying at Rollins College in Environmental Studies, she made the leap to study abroad her sophomore year in Australia. This decision is what sparked her passion about waste. While she was in Australia, Morgan attended a lecture. When she walked in and sat down, she initially thought it was just going to be like anything else — just a lecture. However, this one was different. The lecturer was enthusiastic about the material and discussed why the concepts of “zero waste” and “voluntary simplicity” matter in our society. Morgan recalled that it was at this moment when it all clicked. When Morgan returned to Rollins College, she increased her focus and became heavily involved in sustainability programs on campus. In particular, she focused her energies on reducing waste, increasing recycling practices, and she created the “plastic bag ban” at school.

Not only is Morgan an EcoFellow who focuses on Program Operations, but she also enjoys the challenge. Working at a nonprofit, the challenge she encountered was how to sell a free service. When she would cold call individuals, firms, and partake in other forms of outreach, she noticed most people aren’t used to hearing about free products. Her second love is crafting. In the EcoBuilding Bargains store, Morgan has demonstrated how waste can be diverted from landfills in creative and eco-friendly ways.

Another experience Morgan particularly enjoyed during her EcoFellowship was the opportunity to grow professionally. Such opportunities included shadowing other members of the CET team, talking with experts in fields she was interested in learning more about, and participating in a Career Day organized specifically for her and the other EcoFellows. For Morgan, she knows she wants to stay in the environmental sector and share her passion for waste reduction with others, so this opportunity was key toward reaching her future goals.

Natasha Nurjadin

Over the last 6 months, Natasha’s concern for the environment has really flourished! She credits the Center for EcoTechnology’s EcoFellowship Program as a key influence in developing her concern. Before her EcoFellowship, Natasha studied Earth & Environmental Science and History at Wesleyan University and was involved in the University Sustainability Office, accidentally. Her intent was to work in the Administration Office, but Natasha quickly shifted gears towards sustainability when a spot opened up.

Upon becoming an EcoFellow, Natasha found herself on the “Lifestyle Talk Shows” on Mass Appeal TV every Thursday morning. On the local station, Natasha had a platform to share her ideas with 1,000s of viewers. This platform exposed Natasha to become more comfortable with advocacy and public speaking. However, Natasha is still committed to finding a quantitative way through data management to provide an eco-friendly perspective to individual consumers and firms!

Natasha’s involvement on Building Science and Solar Access has led her to combining several atypical skills. In particular, she has learned how to incorporate urban planning with energy efficiency — not a practice most recent college graduates are familiar with! In the future, Natasha plans to continue her education in graduate school through an environmental program ranging from sustainability to urban planning. Her interests are expansive, but mesh together nicely!

In just half a year, these amazing women have done so much for the environment!

If you liked reading about Morgan and Natasha and want to meet more people like them, check out CET’s website! Further, if you want to be like Morgan or Natasha, then mark your calendars! The EcoFellowship Program Application is open and available until February 17. Follow them also on Twitter, @CETOnline!

To Coffee Lovers

Do you love coffee?

Well, guess what? You are not alone! There’s over a 50% chance that you, as an American, wake up and gulp down at least one cup of coffee each day. Actually, it’s closer to 1.6 cups of coffee, but that’s not the important part. You and 150 million of your coffee drinking companions should expect a great deal of change to your daily ritual. Recently, a study published in Science Advances Magazine determined that over 60% of coffee species are at risk of extinction! Additionally, just over 10% of the 124 species examined were classified as “data deficient”. The term “data deficient” means that the species are not used enough in the coffee production supply chain to determine whether the strands are healthy. Or, in other words, less than 30% of all known coffee species are not at risk to extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s various standards.

Did you know that — worldwide — coffee plants are 3 times more at risk of extinction than any other type of plants? Want to know why? Well, even if we ignore the effects of climate change in the study about Coffea Arabica (the most commonly traded coffee species) we would have to discuss deforestation. Also, as a fun fact, Coffea Arabica amounts to 60% of the worlds coffee trade!

These coffee species moved from the category of Least Concern (LC) to Endangered (EN) almost overnight!

This suggests that if we were able to acquire similar levels of data for all other coffee species similar harrowing inquires may be found. However, climate change is not the only human-induced threat to coffee!

Deforestation plays a significant role in threatening our coffee.

Deforestation is another example of a perverse incentive. When we consider the quality of wood from coffee trees, generally, people in the area desire to use it for timber. This practice coupled with other types of habit-loss inducing practices — raising livestock or other agricultural activities — lead to the continual decline of safe and protected forested areas for coffee to grow.

While it may be hard to give up coffee, it is possible to ensure the health and prosperity of coffee species around the world. In order to make an impact on an individual level, there are two things we must do. Firstly, we have to enhance research capabilities and continue studies by Science Advances Magazine and other organizations just like them. These researches allow us to focus on derivatives in species state of health and give us a higher fidelity look into the problem at hand. Secondly, we must work to ensure more protection of the forested ecosystem that coffee inhabits occurs. This is meant to slow down the continual rate of decline. More time to tackle the external consequences of drinking coffee, also will allow us to help solve the world’s greatest problem. Climate change.

Save our coffee species so we can stay awake in the mornings! If you like what we write, follow us on Twitter @CountCurrent or Instagram @thecountercurrent! Or find us on Facebook!

Hang In There, Bats!

Having trouble sleeping? 

So do your friends, bats! Bats are a vital group to the ecology of mammals, representing 20% of their diversity with over 1200 species

Fruit-eating bats pollinate and disperse seeds for more than 50% of the rainforest, ensuring its vitality. Insect-eating bats control most of the agriculture pests in the United States and those pesky mosquitoes. They have seriously helped humans deal with Nipah virus, SARS, Ebola, malaria and other viruses

Some studies show that bats eat more than 70% of their weight in insects every night!

What does that even mean? According to Bat Conservation International, this would be about 1000 mosquitos in an hour. They don’t only eat mosquitoes either. Some bats even eat stinkbugs on macadamia nut farms, which are a major agricultural pest. In short, bats save lives. 

Texas loves them!

Braken Cave is known to have the largest bat roost in the world, with over 20 million. But, bats are suffering to stay alive elsewhere because of a fungal disease called White Nose Syndrome, wiping out populations in the U.S. and Canda. This fungus originating from Europe resides in more than half of the U.S. and five Canadian provinces. Some scientists even predict regional extinction of bat species from this fungus. The reason it is called White Nose Syndrome is that a white fungal growth becomes apparent on the bat’s muzzle and wings once infected. 

“The mortality is unprecedented in my experience, and I’ve been working with bats for 40 years.”

Thomas Kunz, Biology Professor and Director of Boston University’s Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology 

Since 2000 the leading causes of bat population decline has been from White Nose Syndrome and collisions with wind turbines. So how are we impacting their population? Climate change. Although it is unknown why White Nose Syndrome is spreading and killing more bats , we do know that fungus only grows at cold temperatures. In Albany, NY, people noticed that bats were flying during frigid days rather than hibernating in their caves and being nocturnal. As much as 97% of bat populations have thinned in the North East including New York, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. With climate change, weather patterns are becoming more extreme (like the polar vortex sending down Arctic winds to northern, mid-America). With colder weather, bats are likely to come out of hibernation early or offset their nocturnal sleeping patterns. Not only is this disruptive but it severely hurts their immune systems, potentially causing their inability to ward off the infections from White Nose Syndrome as effectively as they could.  

Bats help us fight infections, so let’s help them fight off infections too!