John Doerr on Global Warming at This Year's TED Conference

“[John Doerr] is, by all accounts, the most influential venture capitalist of his generation.”
Fast Company

Quote: Going green could be the biggest economic opportunity of the 21st century.

Some great facts he mentions in his talk


  • If it were a country, Walmart would be the 6th largest trading partner with China
  • The largest private employer in the U.S.
  • Largest private user of electricity
  • Fleet travels 1B miles per year
  • They sold 65M CFLs last year

Why so much Ethanol in Brazil
The government mandated that all new vehicles would be flex fuel compatible and that every gas station in the country would carry ethanol.


  • 29,000 ethanol pumps in the Brazil vs. 700 in the U.S.
  • Their car fleet is 85% flex fuel compared to 5% in the U.S.
  • Saved 32M tons of CO2 (about 10% of all emissions for the country)
  • 1.3% of world’s CO2 emissions

Link of the Day: Global Health TV

Global Health TV

Global Health TV

This TV channel is produced for the Global Health Council and will enable health organizations around the world to share the work they are doing to address complex global health problems with a diverse audience made up of health-care professionals, health foundations, businesses, government agencies, academic institutes and interested parties. Many of these organizations who are broadcasting their work, operate in remote areas where previously it was difficult for them to share their stories and examples of their best working practices.

via THD Blog

Alternative Charcoal Project Wins Development Marketplace

Amy Smith, Amy Banzaert and the rest of the Development Marketplace winning team Our colleague and advisory board member, Amy Smith along with the rest of her team has won a $199,650 Development Marketplace Grant from the World Bank for their “Fuel from their Fields Alternative Charcoal” Project [#07-0540].

Here is their description of the project from DM site at the World Bank.


To improve human health by creating micro-enterprises in Haiti that specialize in the production and sale of affordable, clean-burning cooking charcoal made from agricultural waste.


In Haiti, half of the population uses wood and/or agricultural residues as their primary cooking fuel. Breathing the smoke from these fires leads to persistent acute respiratory lung infections, mostly in children. Cleaner-burning wood charcoal is available at great expense (often 25 percent of a family’s income) leaving families with less income to cover basic health needs such as medications, food and clean water. A clean-burning, affordable cooking fuel can have major health, environmental and economic benefits for Haiti and other countries around the world.

Innovation / Expected Results

This project has developed an array of technologies to produce clean-burning cooking charcoal from agricultural waste materials at a lower cost than current methods. Converting agricultural residues to charcoal leads to a significant reduction in airborne particulates, and thus to improved respiratory health. This agro-charcoal does not contribute to deforestation and is more affordable than conventional wood charcoal. Moreover, local jobs and micro-enterprises will be created, further increasing incomes and consequently improving health. This project will train at least 1000 agro-charcoal producers, with a goal of achieving a production rate of 100MT (metric tons). By the end of two years, more than 10,000 families are expected to be using the agro-charcoal and producers’ incomes will increase by US$500. Since the process can use a variety of agricultural waste materials it can adapt to suit diverse local conditions and is thus easily replicable.

Congratulations, folks.

Also of interest:
Check out the Haiti section of the blog
D-lab/AIDG trip to Haiti

Testing the Macadamia Machine at Comunidad Nueva Alianza

Testing the Macadamia Machine at Comunidad Nueva Alianza

Caption: “At long last, the workers of Nueva Alianza have purchased a machine that shells the macadamia nuts without damaging the nut itself. Here, the machine gets its first test run on the porch of the office.”

Photo by Flickr user nmarritz

The folks at the finca have been wanting this machine for a good long time. Whole macadamia nuts sell for several times more than chopped nuts, so this is a very worthwhile investment for them.

Resurrecting the Book Club: Gaviotas (Part 1)

Gaviotas Once upon a time I had the bright idea to do a book club. Unfortunately, time evaporated after the first book. Well, I still don’t have any time, but I did managed to read the second book on the list, Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, while on vacation. Over the next week or so, I’ll put down my observations/thoughts inspired by the book.

Book synopsis
In the 1970’s, a group of scientists (engineers, biologists, botanists, agriculturists, sociologists, doctors), teachers and artists founded a community in the llanos region of Columbia. Before they came, many would have called those miles and miles savannah north of the Amazon rain forest, a wasteland. However, the founders saw a dream. They wanted to show the world a different way of living: sustainable, self-sufficient, and environmentally viable. Not a utopia, per se. They didn’t believe those were possible anyway, but they did believe that they could create a decent approximation. Given the state of the world at the time, they also figured that people would need to learn how to make such uninhabitable places habitable. With the relentless urban expansion, the depletion of non-renewable resources, and continued poverty, people would be pushing into these areas sooner or later anyhow. The Gaviotans wanted to lead the way.

Somehow, Gaviotas became an oasis of calm in the midst of maddening turbulence. In her heyday, Colombia was a pearl, but drug trafficking, guerrilla warfare, paramilitary action, and kidnappings had tarnished her tremendously [Read the 5/17/07 BBC story of hostage escaping the FARC]. Somehow, Gaviotas was relatively immune to the violence that surrounded it. I say relatively because there were instances where people were taken away by guerrillas never to be seen again.

Overall, the community sounds like a paradise for thinkers and inventors, where your garage workshop grew to encompass an entire village. Together, they made marvelous things: a solar kitchen, biogas systems, solar panels, windpumps, water purifiers, etc. etc. By the end of the book, they also started to beat back the savannah, turning it back into forest.

My gut reaction:
It was my third time trying to read the book. Though the writing itself is good (Weisman knows how to turn a phrase), the execution is somewhat tedious. So many people were involved in making Gaviotas a reality; Weisman was bent on recognizing them all. While this is quite fair, it makes a good chunk of the storytelling a litany of names and comings and goings. Yawn. You get to know Gaviotas the place, but you don’t get more than a passing sense of any of the remarkable people who live(d) there. Okay okay, since it is a story of a semi-socialist shangri-la, it makes sense that no single individual stands out as the hero of the piece. Still.

Otherwise, it’s a good read.

This Week’s Top 10 (5/6/2007-5/12/2007)

Here are my favorite environment, health, climate change, international development or country specific blog posts (and articles) for the past week in no particular order.

  1. Make Money, Save the World from NYTimes

    ALTRUSHARE SECURITIES is a brokerage firm, engaged in the sort of things you might expect of a Wall Street outfit, like buying and selling stock, and providing research on companies. Unlike its peers, however, the firm is majority-owned by two charities that each control about one-third of it.

    So is it a for-profit business? Or a nonprofit fund-raising machine?

    In fact, like hundreds of new businesses starting up around the country, it is both. Altrushare is an example of the emerging convergence of for-profit money-making and nonprofit mission.

    The practice is even creeping into corporate bluebloods like General Electric, whose $12 billion Ecomagination business promotes its products’ minimal environmental impact as well as their positive impact on the bottom line.

  2. Suzuki edits the Sun from Gristmill

    Famed Canadian eco-hero David Suzuki was handed the reins to guest edit an entire edition of the Vancouver Sun on Sat. May 5.

    “What I would love to do is put a green slant in every area,” he added, explaining he thinks the mainstream media do not do enough to highlight how the environment is connected to all areas of the news.

  3. Veiling Our True Predicament: Part I – Global Dimming from Celsias
  4. Urban farms empower Africa from Christian Science Monitor
    Aid providers in Congo and elsewhere are discovering that lessons in farming can succeed where food handouts have not.
  5. For a warmer future, Australia employs Aboriginal wisdom from Christian Science Monitor

    To white Australians, the flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos which flap above tree canopies are a memorable highlight of any weekend hike. But to Aborigines, the parrots are living, squawking barometers.

    “A month ago when the cockatoos were flocking and the wattle bushes were flowering, we saw that as signs of rain,” says Jeremy Clark, chief executive of the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in the Grampian Mountains of Victoria State. “Sure enough, we’ve just had two weeks of rain.”

    Where meteorologists base their prognostications on satellites and synoptic charts, generations of Aborigines have observed the behavior of animals and the continent’s flowering of plants.

  6. Crime in the Caribbean arrests growth from PSD Blog
    “The new UN–World Bank report links the low rates of economic development to record high crime levels in the region.”
  7. Ethical investing and Darfur: Genocide in the boardroom from Economist
    A moral dilemma interrupts Warren Buffett’s love-in

    The bigger challenge was a debate on a special resolution calling on Mr Buffett to disinvest from PetroChina, a Chinese oil firm, which some shareholders claim is indirectly providing financial support to the genocide in Darfur.

    The fact that Mr Buffett allowed a long debate on the Darfur resolution is to his credit. Most bosses hate this sort of shareholder resolution, almost as much as they dislike being asked to justify their enormous pay packages. By participating in a lengthy, no-holds-barred discussion with shareholders, Mr Buffett showed that he takes their views seriously, even if he disagrees with their conclusion. The mass of them supported their hero, rejecting the resolution overwhelmingly. Of course, the fact that the investment in PetroChina has been spectacularly successful had nothing to do with this result.

  8. Lighter Footstep: A Giant List of Summer Cooling Tips from Green Options
  9. IBM Jams: Big Blue Goes to the BOP from WorldChanging

    The “ThinkPlace Challenge” is a 3-week exercise designed to generate ideas for IBM innovation and strategy teams. Of specific interest is the company’s newly-formed World Development Initiatve, which is essentially a base of the pyramid tiger team comprised of 30-odd employees from all over the company. This is very cool. Companies don’t usually start with a tiger team; BOP projects tend to begin on the corporate responsibility side and then slowly, gradually (if at all) port over to the business units. Kudos to IBM for getting this structural element right.

  10. Global warming in Africa: Drying up and flooding out from the Economist
    Rich countries may be largely to blame for adding climate change to Africa’s litany of problems, but the continent’s own politicians have yet to take it seriously

Video: A Love Song to Public Transit [GOOD Magazine]

Good asked a musician to write and sing a love song to public transit on Portland, Oregon’s new aerial tram—one of only two commuter trams in the country (the other is in New York City).


Other great videos from Good:

Needing to chuck your old electronics? The Basel Action Network, who contributed documentary footage to this video, compiled a list of Responsible Recyclers that will not export your old computer. Check out their list here:

Totes are Hot (Plastic Sucks)
On March 27, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags. The impact of plastic bags on the environment is well known, but what is not as widely discussed is that paper bags are harmful as well. Be a dutiful citizen and use reusable or compostable bags that dramatically lessen your impact on the Earth.

Edward Norton and the High Line
Edward Norton and The Friends of the High Line are helping convert a historic 1.5 mile elevated railway into a beautiful public park.

Jeffrey Sachs, An Interview
Ben Goldhirsh sat down with Jeffrey Sachs in New York to talk about his campaign to end extreme poverty in Africa by 2025. Sachs wrote the END OF POVERTY and is the director of the UN Millennium Project and The Earth Institute at Columbia University.