By Ida Kubiszewski, Australian National University
“At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.” — Paul Hawken
Imagine if a corporation used Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounting to do its books: it would be adding all its income and expenses together to get a final number. Nobody would think that’s a very good indication of how well that business was doing. Herman Daly, a former senior economist at the World Bank, said that, “the current national accounting system treats the earth as a business in liquidation.” He also noted that we are now in a period of “uneconomic growth”; where GDP is growing but societal welfare is not.
The good news is that there are several alternatives to GDP being actively developed, discussed, and used. One of these is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Continue reading
by Jill Carlson, Jenny Cooper and Marie Donahue
Detroit Skyline. Photo credit: Andrew Langdal, Flickr
Cities across America and around the world are feeling the impacts of climate change, and in their long-term planning efforts should be incorporating climate change—both reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change—into their decision-making.
A key step in the development of such urban climate change policy—a climate action plan—is understanding how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the city produces, and a baseline for these emissions. In other words, conduct a GHG inventory.
This week, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems published the first-ever comprehensive GHG inventory of Detroit, which was written by a team of University of Michigan graduate students from the School of Natural Resources & Environment and the Erb Institute (U-Mstudents complete Detroit’s first comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory). The GHG inventory will serve as a critical component of the work of the Detroit Climate Action Collaborative, a grassroots multi-stakeholder effort to develop a climate action plan for the city of Detroit. Continue reading
by Jacob Talbot
Behavioral approaches to energy efficiency have gained increasing acceptance over the past several years. Policymakers and regulators now incorporate behavioral techniques into their toolkits and private enterprises such as Opower and Tendril have achieved success in deploying for-profit behavior change programs. Thus far, these behavior change initiatives, as well as most research on behavior change strategies, have focused on influencing the behavior of people in their homes. There are legitimate reasons for this emphasis, but now with substantial experience in deploying behavioral programs in domestic settings, there is new attention toward using behavior change techniques to influence energy consumption in commercial buildings.
This new interest is well founded. Commercial buildings account for about a fifth of all energy use in the U.S. as well as a large portion of the waking hours during which people make decisions about how to use energy. Not only is the magnitude of energy use large, but also recent estimates by E Source place energy waste in U.S. businesses at a $60 billion annual cost.
In light of this opportunity for energy savings, the commercial buildings sector has long been a target of energy efficiency rebate programs, but these programs have largely ignored occupant behavior, in part because there are unique challenges to addressing behavior in commercial settings. For example, commercial buildings are far more heterogeneous than homes, so it is difficult to concretely identify which behaviors will be most impactful in a given building without seeing the equipment in situ. After all, how much do the energy loads in your local corner store resemble those of the coffee shop across the street? These differences make it challenging to scale behavioral interventions. Continue reading
By Kelsea Ballantyne
Professor Ravi Anupindi / Photo credit: Kelsea Ballantyne
When I joined the U of M Presidents Committee for Labor Standards and Human Rights last year, I had no idea how much it would open my mind to the power universities have to transform global supply-chains.
Helping to organize the Symposium on Global Human Rights & Labor Standards (commemorating the 15th year of the committee), brought me even more awareness of this enormous potential as well as a sense of the huge responsibility we bore to ensure that this event would push conversations to action. I knew the market for university branded goods was large, but I had no idea that the market for collegiate licensed merchandise was worth more than $4.5 billion last year.
Following U-M President Schlissel’s opening remarks, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, presented his argument for the role of American Universities in a globalized world citing university endowments ($450 billion dollars), food service, construction of new buildings, etc. “Each year, American colleges and universities spend hundreds of billions of dollars on commercial contracts for goods and services.” Continue reading
Remarks to the Erb Class of 2017, By Andy Hoffman
Community Day, Class of 2017 and 2016 mid-year admits
One of the benefits of being a professor is that we forget that we are aging. Each year, we are met by a fresh crop of new students that are always the same age. So, in effect, we are constantly surrounded by a group of people that never grow old. But of course we are aging. I can see things as they have evolved while you, the new students, see everything as if it were new. I envy your perspective.
I have been reflecting on this passage of time as I enter my last year as Faculty Director of the Erb Institute. Though my five-year term ends in September 2015, I will still stay involved with the institute and continue to work on sustainability research, education and outreach. But the pending end of my term as Faculty Director marks a significant point in our history that I think you will benefit from knowing, especially on this occasion of “Community Day” as you mark the beginning of a new school year. Continue reading