Race and coronavirus, Reimagining capitalism & Billions in clean energy loans benched

A newsletter for people "woke" on carbon and climate

(source: Dr. Robert Ballard) “Father of Environmental Justice”

INSIGHTS

Pollution, Race and the Coronavirus


Two important pieces of coronavirus research have come out in recent weeks. One showed that African Americans are getting infected and dying from Covid-19 at disproportionately high rates. The other found that counties with higher levels of pollution are seeing greater numbers of coronavirus deaths than cleaner ones.

The data in both reports is preliminary. But environmental experts said that together, the statistics pointed to a troubling story of vulnerability in communities of color.

There is still much more to be learned. Many cities and states still are not reporting coronavirus data by race, and experts note that other factors, like income, also are in play. The pollution study, from the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, looks at aggregated data from counties, not individual cases, so it offers little insight into the role pollution plays in susceptibility to the coronavirus. LINK

“Father of Environmental Justice” isn’t surprised by the correlations

While COVID-19 is a new phenomenon, racial disparities in health outcomes are not. Dr. Robert Bullard, a professor and former dean at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, has spent the past four decades researching how natural disasters and health crises wreak havoc on society unequally. 

Bullard’s work catalyzed the American environmental justice movement, which argues that environmental problems disproportionately affect communities of color and the poor, and that race and class should be accounted for in their potential solutions. Texas Monthly spoke with Bullard about how the pandemic intersects with environmental issues and why people of color are more vulnerable to the disease. Below are select quotes by Dr. Bullard from that discussion:

“This virus does not does not look at your race, or your color. It looks at vulnerability.”

”You can try and look at geographic areas the virus is hitting and not look at race. But then if you put race back in, you will see that there is a discernible pattern. Often times, lax enforcement of environmental law means that communities on the frontline suffer. And that goes hand in hand with lax civil rights enforcement. Texas has the highest rates of uninsurance in the nation, and it has resisted expanding Medicaid, for example. So these policies have created vulnerabilities and it disadvantages communities.”

“The idea is that if a community is located physically on the wrong side of the levee, the wrong side of the river, on the wrong side of the tracks, it receives less protection than those who are on the right side. Communities of color are disproportionately more vulnerable.”

“You tell me your zip code, and I can tell you how healthy you are. And so when you talk about trying to map out those social, economic, and racial vulnerabilities, and then overlay health, you can see that there’s a big disparity. You can go from one census tract or one zip code to another, and life expectancy changes by more than fifteen or twenty years by just crossing that line.”

Creed Comments: The coronavirus mortality data is shining a light on the correlation between race, pollution and health. These problems are institutional. Climate justice must be addressed. LINK


READING

(source: Harvard Business School)

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire

By Rebecca Henderson


BOOK SUMMARY

Free market capitalism is one of humanity's greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the climate and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short.

Rebecca Henderson's rigorous research in economics, psychology, and organizational behavior, as well as her many years of work with companies around the world, gives us a path forward. She debunks the worldview that the only purpose of business is to make money and maximize shareholder value. She shows that we have failed to reimagine capitalism so that it is not only an engine of prosperity but also a system that is in harmony with environmental realities, striving for social justice and the demands of truly democratic institutions. 

Henderson's deep understanding of how change takes place, combined with fascinating in-depth stories of companies that have made the first steps towards reimagining capitalism, provides inspiring insight into what capitalism can be. With rich discussions of how the worlds of finance, governance, and leadership must also evolve, Henderson provides the pragmatic foundation for navigating a world faced with unprecedented challenge, but also with extraordinary opportunity for those who can get it right.


BOOK EXCERPT

“What can I do?” is the question I am asked most often and certainly the most important one. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that only heroes (and heroines!) can change the world. 

When we tell the story of the civil rights movement, we talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. When we talk about the New Deal, we talk about Franklin D. Roosevelt. When historians fifty years from now write the history of how we solved global warming, drastically reduced inequality, and remade our institutions, they will focus on a few key events—perhaps in the winter that three superstorms hit the East Coast of the United States, making fixing global warming a completely bipartisan priority, or in the summer that the harvests failed across Africa, sending millions of people north to Europe, making it clear that everyone on the planet had to be given the tools they need to feed themselves. Perhaps they will tell the story of the CEO who led the coalition that helped negotiate a global labor agreement, or of the Chinese and US presidents who sat down together to make a global wealth tax feasible, or of the leaders of the social movement that made it politically impossible not to solve climate change. 

But this focus reflects the structure of our minds and the nature of modern communication, not the way in which change actually happens. We use stories to make sense of the noisy, messy, complicated reality of the world, and stories need central characters— single individuals we can identify with and root for. 

The real world doesn’t actually work that way. Effective leaders ride the wave of change they find bubbling up around them. Martin Luther King did not create the civil rights movement. It grew from decades of work by thousands of African Americans and their allies, each doing the dangerous and difficult work of standing up for change. Rosa Parks was not a lone heroine who simply decided to stay in her seat one evening. She was a deeply committed civil rights worker whose decision that night was taken in close collaboration with a network of experienced female activists. Nelson Mandela did not single-handedly end apartheid in South Africa. He built on fifty years of struggle in which thousands of people participated and hundreds died.

You are vital, and there is lots that you can do.

Creed Comments: I rarely (if ever) give a full throated endorsement of any creative work - this book is that exception. Dr. Henderson has produced a book that will shift the conversation about sustainability and the future of capitalism for decades. LINK


Issue No. 25 - May 3, 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of Carbon Creed - a curated newsletter for people “woke” on carbon and climate.

My name is Walter McLeod, and I’m glad you’ve joined our tribe! We hope to hear from you as we navigate this weekly journey through the good, bad and ugly of carbon and climate. 

Last week our top two (2) articles were:

Save the date!

Our next open thread will post on Friday, May 8th at 9:30am EST. We really want to hear your voices and learn more about what you’re interested in - the open thread gives us an opportunity to do that. So add it to your calendar now and join the conversation!

As always, feel free to ping me anytime at mcleodwl@carboncreed.com.

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Now, LET’S DIVE DEEP!


GOVERNMENT

Billions in clean energy loans unused as coronavirus ravages the economy

(source: Tech Crunch)


As Congress rushes out trillions of dollars to prop up businesses, the federal government is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects, and critics are accusing the U.S. Energy Department of partisan opposition to disbursing the funds.

Congress is already considering more coronavirus relief, despite a growing concern for an annual budget deficit projected to near a staggering $4 trillion. To some energy experts and lawmakers, it is unconscionable that tens of billions of dollars that Congress long ago authorized has sat unused.

“We’re searching high and low all over Washington, D.C., for money to put people back to work and here we have more than $40 billion”

- Dan Reicher, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance Stanford University


The loans — which would aid renewable power, nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage technology — had some bipartisan support even before the coronavirus pushed 30 million people onto the unemployment rolls. But some supporters of the program said it was being held back by a president who has falsely claimed wind power causes cancer and consistently sought deep cuts to renewable energy spending, including the loan program.

The last new project approved under the programs came in late 2016, a loan to a carbon capture and storage plant in Louisiana. The Trump administration did approve one follow-up loan for a nuclear reactor project in Georgia, but the process had begun under the Obama administration.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, declined to explain why loans are not being disbursed. She said the Trump administration had supported renewable energy in other ways, like funding research and development for wind and solar power. She also said in a statement that Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had directed the agency to “utilize all of its resources to be supportive of the energy industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, including the loan program office.”

Creed Comments: This is no time for partisan politics - SAVE JOBS AND SPEND THE MONEY! LINK


CORPORATE CITIZEN

Sustainability initiatives are the first things to go when companies face crisis

(source: sustainAbility)


Today, every occupant of every C-suite is trying to figure out what they’re willing to throw overboard as the economic storm spawned by the pandemic is swamping their ships. Businesses that were planning to help save the world are now simply saving themselves.

“Action expresses priorities,” Gandhi said. Amid extreme distress, one immediate priority overwhelms all others. Entities from one-cell organisms to multinational conglomerates shut down everything except what they need to survive. Efforts once deemed critical suddenly feel like luxuries. That feeling might last a month, a quarter or a year, but consequences can linger.

“Belief in a new ‘sustainability’ model of capitalism is growing but will it endure?”

- Paul Pellizzari, Sustainability Chief Hard Rock International


History suggests the new sustainability paradigm is probably on the back burner.

The Corporate Social Responsibility movement, or CSR, was just getting off the ground in 2001 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened. CSR did not die, but its’ immediate priority waned.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, companies again went into survival mode. “Spending on community and philanthropic programs and internal capacity building dropped,” according to Pellizzari.

As the economy roared back, CSR became chic. Investors like BlackRock Inc. pushed for more sustainable practices. Retailers and restaurants reduced waste because customers were willing to pay for greener options.

In recent weeks, however, executives have called a timeout.

Unilever PLC suspended a number of its “change initiatives” that tackle complex social and environmental problems. General Motors Co. killed its car-sharing program. Ford Motor Co. canceled an electric-car project and postponed autonomous vehicles. Starbucks has paused the practice of filling reusable cups.

Companies have delayed sustainability reports. Airlines are asking for climate-regulations to be relaxed. New York, San Francisco and other cities or states have temporarily waived plastic-bag bans.

But it’s unclear if consumers, businesses and governments will have the money or the appetite to save the planet with the same gusto that existed pre-pandemic.

Creed Comments: Implying that the public won’t “pay” for climate change is a false narrative. The public has proven it can effectively decarbonize by spending less - witness the recent shelter-in-place measures. Business will give customers whatever they want - and the public wants sustainable products and services. Governments change.


RESOURCES


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