A Good Day

<p>Yesterday was a good day. I spent two hours working with the local Green Party candidate on the permanently soon-to-launch new website, with great productivity in terms of deciding what content to put up, and where to draw the lines around duplicating the central <a href="http://greenparty.ca">Green Party</a> website. </p> <p>Then I got a call from <a href="http://helmer.ca/blog">Jesse</a> and we had a good lunch at <a href="http://www.juiceforlife.com/">Fresh</a> -- the Ninja Bowl has the tastiest preparation of tofu I've ever had.</p> <p>Then I went into Pembina and did some actually-good work, which I'd been struggling to do this week. Then it turned out there were two events at the <a href="http://www.socialinnovation.ca/">Center For Social Innovation</a>, where Pembina has its office. The first was a "speed geek" event, where you went table to table for five minutes each, hearing about what people are doing. Then there was a free-beer party for a long-time <a href="http://www.environmentaldefence.ca/">Environmental Defence</a> guy who was about to start his own legal practice.</p> <p><a href="http://350.brighterplanet.com/"><img class="right" src="http://350.brighterplanet.com/images/badges/BP_badge_180x201.jpg" alt="Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge" border="0" /></a>The "Speed Geek" event was a fascinating examination of <a href="http://rob.infinitepigeons.org/blog/life/sabbatical/finding-leverage.html">leverage</a>. Jeff presented <a href="http://borealisoffsets.com/">Borealis Offsets</a>, who are doing tree-planting for carbon credits. They're selling "80-year carbon", which means that they sell today carbon to be absorbed over the next 80 years (unless those trees burn, or are eaten by pine beatles, or the land is illegally logged, or..) In the offsets biz, this is a pretty unpopular practice from what I can tell, but they still seemed to be getting going and planting trees pretty cheaply. He said they'd shift to one-year carbon as soon as it was cheap enough to do so; present voluntary carbon offset prices are in the $6-$10 per tonne CO2e* range. He had an interesting argument that, since we were already over the <a href="http://www.350.org/">350ppm</a> CO<sub>2</sub> that we need to safely end up at, emissions-reductions credits were bogus since we necessarily must do that anyway, and the only <i>real</i>carbon credits are true net-sinks of carbon, not just net-reductions. </p> <p>Jenny was representing a large but informal network of youth workers and researchers. It reminded me how little I know about working with people who aren't colleagues or peers or customers or teachers, but children or youth or troubled people or the elderly. They seemed to be almost forming non-labour union, objecting to the repeated bogus "consultations" from the government that went nowhere - though that certainly wasn't a central message, it was clearly something she felt very strongly about.</p> <p>But by far the most interesting group was <a href="http://www.marketsinitiative.org/">Markets Initiative</a>. In some sense, they were a free-marketers nightmare in terms of what they demonstrated. Essentially, 10 or so years ago, they walked into the paper industry, and asked paper mills why they weren't making more recycled paper and paper using sustainably harvested pulp, and the industry said there was no demand. They went to the publishers, and asked why they weren't buying, and the publishers said that it was a boutique product, and far too expensive. Markets Initiative got publishers to issue policies over a large (years) timescale about ramping up recycled paper usage, so the mills had a clear demand signal. They also got authors to sign on, requiring that their books be published on <a href="http://www.ancientforestfriendly.com/">Ancient Forest Friendly</a> (AFF) paper. That's a designation, not a certification, meaning (I think) that it's not monitored and audited as tightly, but they do depend on the <a href="http://www.fsc.org/">Forest Stewardship Council</a> for the certification of sustainable forests.</p> <p>The acheivements of a small group of people in greasing a market effect were phenomenal, aided in no small part by the concentrated clout of the authors - Margaret Atwood, J. K. Rowling -- as opposed to the much more diffuse clout of the book-buying public. But, they basically had to do all of this work not-for-pay to get it to happen, acting as free environmental and business development consultants to smooth things along. To me, it's a testament to the amount of market inertia, especially where costs are basically totally externalized, even in the presence of strong signals. The most recent Harry Potter book was published on fully AFF paper in 22 countries, and the presses were halted in Finland by Rowling because they weren't using it. Cool!</p> <p>After the party dwindled, a fella I know from the Green Party and a CSI guy who works for <a href="http://www.carbonzero.ca/">Carbonzero</a> and who is of asian descent talked about racism, multiculturalism, the subtle semantics of context in questions like "where are you from?", "where did you grow up?", "what's your ethnic background?" and whether (as I often think and hope) Canada, and especially Toronto, and especially the core, is finally entering a post-racist period, where your skin colour (though not where you grew up, or where you were educated) is finally becoming irrelevant. </p> <p>In other, less world-altering news, I've found some time to work on <a href="/mandarin/cubes.html">Learning Cubes</a> (formerly and maybe futurely known as <a href="/projects/pbrain">pbrain</a>, but all the good domains are taken), which is basically online collaborative flashcards for learning things that require brute memorization like languages. </p> <p>* tonne CO2e means "tonne of Carbon Dioxide or equivalent"; since some gases like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrochlorofluorocarbon">HCFC</a>s are actually have a much more potent greenhouse effect than CO<sub>2</sub>, you can offset a tonne of CO2e for a much smaller amount of HCFCs. Either the IPCC or Kyoto (or both?) have conversion rates to use. </p>
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