Friday, August 26, 2011

Weathering the Storm

And not just talking about hurricanes.

While we here on the East Coast hunkered down for the worst from Hurricane Irene, I noticed another storm on the radar not so immediately apparent, but important to watch, nonetheless. The green-building world is coming under siege, and anything related to making the planet a healthier place is being portrayed by some as tantamount to communism, failure, or perhaps even treason.

Sustainability backlash? Image: Wikipedia
OK, maybe not treason. But here's the situation: Recently the New York Times, typically a refuge for environmentalism in the mainstream media, published an article essentially calling the green jobs sector a colossal failure. The article enigmatically tossed aside contrary findings from a prior Brookings Institute report of "explosive growth" in the sector.

Perhaps the Times felt Brookings was off because it included workers in public transportation, green tech media, eco-smart retail, and sustainable restaurants in their green jobs assessment. Or maybe they were just feeding from the same trough as other media pundits, filled with endless tales of the mismanaged Seattle weatherization program or non-stop stories of Solyndra. Whatever the case, the newspaper has been blasted by the sustainability sphere, which believes that these jobs should be recognized as part of the new green economy, a sentiment echoed prominently Wednesday in a scathing rebuttal from activist and former White House adviser Van Jones.

Hurricane Irene, Philly.
Thus, to help the understaffed NYT correct its poorly researched argument (which has now gone nearly viral in the investment world and elsewhere), Home Science will feature a series of stories of everyday Americans working hard to build a sustainable green economy while making a living.

Our next post includes a visit with Philly musician Mark Snyder at his day job with an innovative Delaware compost company that gathers recyclable waste from local restaurants. Plus we're queued up to talk with some friendly folks who run a thriving eco home furnishings store in Houston - examples of sustainable businesses that are not running for cover. Call them truck drivers, salespeople, roofers, energy auditors, weatherization installers, app-makers, or IT specialists - if they're working for a business that specializes in improving the environment and getting paid for it, I call them green jobs people. Seems clear as spring water to me.--D.A. DeMers.

The Empire State Building: A Beacon for America's Energy Independence.  By Christina Nunez via National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge blog.

Many conversations at the American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference in Aspen focused on what needs to be done, what can be done realistically, and what isn’t being done to transition the United States away from fossil fuels.

Tallest green building. Image: Wikipedia.
So it was refreshing and inspiring to hear about something that has been done: retrofitting New York City’s Empire State Building so that it will cut energy consumption by 38.4 percent, creating jobs and generating revenue in the process.

Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who consulted on the project, and building owner Anthony Malkin discussed the retrofit at AREDAY Friday. Malkin said that the goal for the project was to go beyond “green building” standards that don’t address economics and lead to a chase for “points”: “Put bike racks and a shower in [your building], get three points. Put in a green wall with plants and a water feature in your lobby, get points.”   Read More...

Support Philly's Sustainable 19125 Community InitiativeSourced via the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

NKCDC office.
The people from Sustainable 19125 made a great YouTube video about all the green practices taking place in our local Philly neighborhood. Help them promote this community-led initiative by taking a moment to watch the video, hit "Like", and leave a comment! And as as noted in the organization's recent newsletter, "you may even be surprised to find a neighbor/friend making a special guest appearance." Watch it here...

Sustainable 19125 describes itself as "a broad and innovative partnership among community residents, businesses, and numerous government, nonprofit, and for profit partners to green the Fishtown, Olde Richmond, and East Kensington neighborhoods of Philadelphia." The organization states that it strives "to make 19125 the most sustainable zip code in the city." Their initiative is fostered by New Kensington Community Development Corporation, with help from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
For more info, including green community resources, forums, and ways to get involved, be sure to visit Sustainable 19125's newly redesigned website at

Other information for Philly's Kensington/Fishtown area communities, including general events and business news, can be found on the New Kensington Community Development Corporation website at

Stay safe and God bless.

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  1. It's almost surreal how the media turned from the Brookings report's positive account of green job growth to calling the sector a total failure within weeks. NPR came with the initial story saying sustainable jobs "outgrew those of the fossil fuel industry nearly two to one, based on the report. It said Brookings, in part, attributed sluggish growth in coal jobs on the industry's switch to Mountain Top Removal techniques, a change that brought in substantial  profits but created fewer new jobs than standard coal-mining (which is probably why it was so profitable). 

    The same was apparently the case with oil. A recent post in a widely read energy industry blog, which cited the New York Times angle, went a step further, suggesting that Americans should "respect" the worker-less efficiency of the oil industry, because it frees people up to work in other economic sectors. ??? To work where? At Walmart?

    This almost makes me wonder if the New York Times has been bought out by the Koch brothers or is somehow in collusion with traditional Wall Street investors. Does anyone see the contradictions these big energy companies are propagating? Up is down, down is up - it's suddenly an Orwellian world we live in. Who is telling the truth anymore?

    Jonathan V.

  2. a mixture of fact and fiction. alternate energy is and should be carefully considered when it is viable - most alt energy is not - ethanol -- drives up food prices, huge carbon footprint (if you're a greenie) and no distribution network to name just a few. Give me a break. Dems and reps support alt energy when it benefits people in their district or catches their fancy. Oil is not a jobless industry, and not "heavily subsidized" like the Obamanites say. America gave more tax money to bankers for them to give themselves bonuses and now a "free" trillion for healthcare. Understand economic reality.


  3. The truth is that many communities rely on coal mining or oil drilling and refining for their very survival. Until the renewable power industry consistently starts recruiting and hiring these same people to work in equally well-paying jobs, it wont ever be able to compete with coal or oil, which provides our nation with a dense form of energy.

    Bradley D.

  4. We all want to be "greener" but at what cost? The policy isn't sustainable in this short term. You're living in denial. Good try though. It will come in time. Accept it and move on rather than pushing a weak position that hurts our country. The numbers don't add up.

    Rick R.