December 2010

Dave Hughes vs. The New York Times

On November 17, The New York Times published a long article under the title “There Will Be Fuel,” maintaining that “the outlook, based on long-term trends barely visible five years ago, now appears to promise large supplies of oil and gas from multiple new sources for decades into the future.” The basic argument: Shortages and high prices have stimulated exploration and discoveries, and unconventional fuel sources (from the deep oceans, the tar sands and so forth) will provide reasonably-priced oil for many decades to come. You can read the piece here:

Nonsense, says David Hughes, one of our earlier interviewees.

Green Speaking in Halifax and Prince Edward Island

I do a lot of public speaking -- please remember that, if you're looking for a speaker! -- and speaking generally involves air travel. That troubles me. I do buy carbon credits to offset my emissions, and I always manage to amortize the emissions over several projects by doing a variety of things at my destination -- picking up material for columns, doing new Green Interviews, networking and so on.

But the better solution would be to do the speaking without any travelling -- and the Prince Edward Island Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development recently gave me a chance to try that. We recorded the third of three sessions on a separate video camera, and posted that session on this site, so that participants from all three occasions could see it on the web.

That means you can see it, too, and I'd love to have your feedback both on the technique and on the content. To see the presentation, just click here:

New interview -- Dr. Ronald Colman!

Dr. Ronald Colman is executive director of GPI Atlantic, a non-profit organization that set out, a decade ago, to create a Genuine Progress Index for Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is an ideal test-bed for such a project, with fewer than a million people living on a peninsula – but with a full suite of sophisticated institutions, including numerous universities and its own provincial government.

The Nova Scotia GPI, completed in 2009, provided fascinating insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the province, and into the trends that were changing it. Just one example: the GPI measured the enormous contributions of volunteers to the community's well-being – but it also noted that volunteering was declining for a variety of reasons, and that the province was measurably poorer as a result.
GPI Atlantic is part of a whole international movement to create better measurements of human development, a movement which is also the subject of this week's Sunday Herald column. GPI's pioneering work in devising an alternative to the one-dimensional measurements of the Gross Domestic Product attracted attention in places as far away as New Zealand and Bhutan.
Bhutan in particular was attempting to devise a credible and appropriate system of measurements for its national goal of maximizing the Gross National Happiness. As a result, Ron Colman became a top adviser to the Royal Government of Bhutan, where he now spends much of his time. In this absorbing conversation, he talks passionately about the experience of working on these innovative projects in two very different societies on opposite sides of the globe.

The Happiness of David Cameron - Sunday column, December 5, 2010

And now for some good news. David Cameron – not my brother, the guy in No. 10 Downing Street – has been musing aloud that maybe the Gross Domestic Product, a narrow financial measure developed during the economic maelstrom of the 1930s, doesn't adequately describe human life in the globalized 21st century. 

In these musings, Cameron echoes French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who in 2008 commissioned a panel of eminent economists to seek a better measurement than GDP. He also echoes Simon Kuznets, who invented the GDP but cautioned against using it the way we use it today. “The welfare of a nation,” Kuznets said in 1934, can “scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.”

With both Sarkozy and Cameron looking beyond the GDP, the idea of a better measurement of well-being really has entered the mainstream. And that's very good news.

The Community as Campus -- Sunday column, December 12, 2010

I am standing atop a narrow ten-storey building in downtown Trois Rivières, Québec., gazing out across the immensity of the St. Lawrence. My companions include Rémi Tremblay, a senior administrator at the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières, and Jeanne Charbonneau, who heads a social enterprise known as Vire-Vert. Jeanne is aglow with excitement. In a few days, when the deal closes, Vire-Vert will own this building, and in close partnership with UQTR, it will convert the old commercial block into Canada's first Écol'Hôtel.

Canada's first what?

A Gift of Forest - Sunday column, December 19, 2010

What I want for Christmas is a forest.

I don't want just any forest. I want a 313-acre tract of woodland near Scotsburn, Pictou County. Until this month it belonged to Wagner Forest Nova Scotia Ltd, an American forest products corporation. It now belongs to the Friends of Redtail Society, a locally-based conservation group formed specifically to acquire it. I want my share.

The Power of Bullfrog

The Green Interview is featured in the current issue of Bullfrog Buzz --  the newsletter of Bullfrog Power, the green power company which now serves Canadians from coast to coast. It's a fine piece, and it gives an excellent insight into The Green Interview -- who we are, why we're doing what we do. To read it, just click here.

We have Bullfrog power in our offices, which means we pay a little more for power – less than a dollar a day – and Bullfrog's clean generators inject renewable electricity into the regional grid to match the amount of power we use.

Bullfrog's electricity comes exclusively from wind and hydro facilities that have been certified as low impact by Environment Canada under its EcoLogo program instead of from polluting sources like coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. The company now serves 8000 homes and 2000 businesses across the country. 

We're delighted that Bullfrog makes it easy to vote with our wallets, and we've enjoyed meeting their people – a bright, lively lot. And we're really pleased that they've chosen to do a big interview with Silver Donald Cameron in their current newsletter. We've posted it on The Green Interview site, here.

The Green Interview is On The Air!

 The Green Interview is on the air! Segments of the interviews are being broadcast over the educational services of Mount St. Vincent University. That's Channel 333 on Eastlink Cable anywhere in the four Atlantic Provinces of Canada, and over the air on ASN (the Atlantic Satellite Network).