Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow Storm hits Occupy Wall Street - a sign of the winter of discontent.
"We knew this would be tough. We didn't start this as a sort of summer of love, it's the winter of discontent."

Alan Collinge, 41, (Seattle)

I’ve gained much respect for the Occupy Wall Street movement in the last few days. This new snow at the end of October will test the strength of this movement. I have nothing but high hopes for them.

Learning more about the discontent and their movement, I thought to be sympathetic. More importantly, I thought of their role in the global sustainable movement. I often find myself asking “what will this movement do for the eventual goals of sustainability?”

It’s interesting times we live in; accelerated environmental impacts coupled with exponential growth of communication make this transition period critical to the survival of our human experience. Less we work together, we have no hope – what we decide now will impact the generations to come. Yet, OWS seem to call for more division in these troubled times. I guess I’m just a pessimist, but who am I to say anything: actually finding something that I can do to contribute is hard work. Anything is easier said than done.

So I dismissed the OWS in the beginning for their disorganization. With this early snow storm signaling a rough road ahead, I know OWS will be tested in more than just one ways – more so than I can say for the Tea Party’s humble beginnings. I now have more respect for the movement as something that will endure – a transition that marks, at least for me, the long-term political impact of these like minded people.

Yes America, a fourth political body is emerging. I’m not sure what it is yet, but I hope it’s something of a mix for capitalist optimism with a core sense of social responsibility and cultural and social respect for all humanity – equity to the best of our ability that does not simply put the burden on welfare.

OWS at first hand seemed a disorganized venting mechanism, but I should have had the wisdom to know that given time order takes over by majority opinion; it’s about time we have a fourth political body joining the debate and move the gears of democracy. Our alternative would lead to conceding to some form of autocracy (banking or otherwise) – an unacceptable alternative.
Stay warm my friends, take some time to reflect on the significance of your movement. Tomorrow is a new day – following winter is always a Spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The irony of a sustainable outlook - Is sustainability inherently inconsistent with a global market place?

(This post is written for Sara Allen’s Green Bloggers’ Roundtable.)

A few months ago, couple of green bloggers got together online at the request of Sara Allen (The Green) to discuss topics generally and independently hoping that we could all get inspired and contribute to the overall efforts of changing the world.

What can I say, I’m an idealist and have always had high hopes for people. I gladly participated and it was a wonderful experience. At the end of our project the group decided not to let the initiative end. Fast-forward to a few days ago, Sara sent us a second round of questions to get our fingers moving and noggins turning. One of the questions Sara presented was whether sustainability is inherently inconsistent with the global market place.

This question struck me as odd and my first reaction is “it depends.” Then it struck me a second time (I’m thick skulled) – there is more than one way to interpret the question and whether “sustainability is inherently inconsistent with the global market place” depends on how you define sustainability in relation to the global market place.

The disadvantage of this question is that anyone with an agenda of pressing for profit alone, aside from the triple bottom line in business (people, planet, profit), can define sustainability in a way so that it is inconsistent with the global market place. On the flip side of the coin, politicians who wish to remain protectionist (of their corporate contributions) will leverage the ignorance of the 99% and define sustainability in a way that severs sustainability from the global market place – making it inherently inconsistent. (Rick Perry anyone?)

As I’ve said before, the answer depends – on who you are and how do you see human progress in this critical time of a sustainable crisis.

I have no definitive answers to her question, not even an ambiguously philosophical answer at the moment. I looked further at some of the other questions:

1. Do you believe that global days of action, like those we've seen from and 24 hours of reality, make an impact or affect change?
2. Are you a proponent of bottom up (small actions add up) or top down (corporations and governments need to lead the way) environmental initiatives?
3. What role do CSR campaigns play in the environmental movement?
4. What role does the climate change movement play in the Occupy Wall Street protests?
5. How do you deal with climate change deniers and why are they so passionate about their ideas?

(I left out a few other questions for another day because they are somewhat unrelated to what I intend to say here.)

I hope you see the common theme and what it is that makes me afraid. Let’s examine the questions within the context of inherent inconsistencies:

To those who see one-day global actions, 24 hour realities, as at least beneficial (whatever little efforts counts right?) will define sustainability in the short-term and will soon forget the day after what sustainability is all. Their conscience cleared for the time being, they have done all that they could leaving what remains to be desired for the next year. The few who are converted to act and change their motivation and behaviors towards sustainability will invariably benefit the movement, but the whole idea of 24 hour realities makes the rest of us forget why we do what we do tomorrow – isn’t tomorrow what this is all about? Forgetting means a continuation of acceptance of the current global market system – therefore defining sustainability in segments inherently inconsistent with a long-term strategic focus on People, Planet, and Profit. For the global market that cozies up to this kind of 24 hour action plans, it is no more than lip service coming from the PR department. Good will in the market place means driving profit and sales – still only focused on profit and letting people and the planet fall.

The Sloan Management Review recently pointed out that sustainability is not a high priority for most companies. Although the survey does not address corporate changes towards sustainability fundamentally, it is reasonable to guess that companies have not adopted a new sustainable way of designing their organizational structure and efforts to reflect the triple bottom line. So the 24 hour action plans and lip service is inherently consistent with their profit model, making sustainability inherently inconsistent with the current global market model.

As for the question about bottoms up action vs. top down corporate and government initiatives via environmental and human rights regulations and voluntary Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans: favoring one over the other means neglecting half of the equation. I’d say efforts from both the 99% (masses) and the 1% (corporate leaders and governance) are necessary to turn around our runaway train. Neglecting either means defining the global market place and sustainability efforts to mutually exclude one another. Again, the question divides the topic and sets the context to a limited degree that allow for coercive tactics that further only segmented interest (profit alone, or environmental policies alone). I’ve noticed that our politics are polarized. We can blame this on the demographics but I often fault this on the people who addresses the issues from their polarized views: environmental fundamentalist and corporate profit protectors alike, and yes, this also include those human rights activists who cares nothing for the planet or the great economic engine that makes the world turn.

I believe this polarized mentality drives at the heart of the moment that produces those climate change deniers. You make the judgment for yourself.

As for CSR and the environment question, along with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the green movement, relive my previous longwinded answer: segmentation of the issues and polarizing the topic does nothing for the overall long term sustainability efforts. I’ve called out to the 99% in my previous blog posts to this precise point: WAKE UP – what you do matters, but it is not about going to a protest and chanting some slogans and repeating what others are saying like parrots. The point about OWS and CSR is that corporations ought to be held responsible for their acts that violates the triple bottom line, but consumers – we the 99% - also ought to be held liable for our decisions to continue our support for the short termed green washed PR campaigns.

Slogans from companies and slogans from OWS are two of the same: just slogans reflecting short term madness and ignorance. To really change the world, make a difference, 24 hour actions and protests are no more consistent with either sustainability nor global market place. Either will polarize the conditions and create the context for inconsistencies. If we are to save our planet and our people, everyone must act in one direction – a sustainable direction. Cooperation is the key and we have to find the door first.

In a recent book, Management Reset, Chris Worley and Edward Lawler pointed out that sustainability measures requires more than just corporate management giving lip service. They called for a management reset that starts with a business strategy that is intended to produce positive results in all three areas of sustainability (people, planet, profits). Lawler argued that this “is only likely to occur if the organization’s leadership believes that sustainable performance is critical and that achieving it can only be accomplished with a management approach that focuses on it.” I will add that this will only occur when consumers demands it as a long term viable plan, as opposed to 24 hour actions or only grassroots initiatives.

Wake UP you 100%. This is our planet and our human experience. Stop polarizing the movement and start creating progress. I beg you, this is for the good of all of us.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“Warning: In our silence today, we are committing suicide tomorrow.” – comments on Paul Farrell’s thoughts.

“Yes folks, I am mad as hell. The America I believed in when I volunteered for the Marine Corps, went to Korea, that America has been hijacked by an irrational, dark force that’s consuming our political system.” 

- Paul Farrell

I echo the sentiment. The America I come to believe after my tour in Iraq has been hijacked by not only the irrational politicians, but lost youth so indulged in their selfish acts of protest; both soon to forget nothing will make this country better, the world better, except by starting with ourselves – a deep look at our own actions and ask what can we do? – “what is it that we OUGHT to do?”

These days, if I’m not wasting time protesting then I am not with the 99%. If I am not working hard to preserve the capitalist greed, then I’m not with the mainstream adults. Where does that leave a dreamer who wants to partake in the changing world and shaping it to the way I see to be sustainable for everyone?

I watch the news but my soul hurts when I hear things like “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

This kind of extremist no-compromise standard has gotten us nowhere, the political fundamentalists have led our people to a “vengeful cult” that will never work to make progress, only political gains. I just have to ask: what does these political gains mean for the country? Probably nothing, but for the few rich and powerful careless people, it means everything – money, greed, and no tomorrow for our children.

“My America is out of control, babbling nonsense, acting like a junkie, addict, very bad alcoholic . . . Today everywhere I see a nation consumed by addictions: self-centered, selfish, greedy, aggressive, power hungry, lost souls with no moral compass, in denial of their suicidal mission, incapable of stopping.”

– Farrell

“Act now, we’re told, if we want to save the planet from a climate catastrophe. Trouble is, it might be too late. The science is settled, and the damage has already begun. The only question now is whether we will stop playing political games and embrace the few imperfect options we have left.”

Environmental economist and eco-activist Bill McKibben

Today, we face economic meltdowns, massive protests, distributed violence, religious polarization, warfare, famine, irreversible environmental damages to our planet, and most significantly – OVER-POPULATION. Former Greenpeace CEO, Paul Gilding, warned us that it may be already too late to make amends with mother earth, that we should just “brace for impact.”

“One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse,” warns Jared Diamond, in “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Many “share a sharp curve of decline” that often begins “only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.” Why? Leaders are in denial, unprepared, like many of today’s senators and presidential candidates who say climate change is a hoax.

Diamond’s two-decades-to-collapse warning coincided with an even darker Pentagon report analyzed in Fortune eight years ago: “Climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues” Unrest would create “massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes … by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening ... As the planet’s carrying capacity shrinks, an old pattern could emerge; warfare defining human life … an ancient pattern of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies would emerge. ” Warning, the 2020 plot line is accelerating.

Paul Ferrell

Today, America and other developed world’s citizens consume 32 times more resources and put out 32 times more waste than Third World citizens. Countries like China is trying to catch us in this wasteful pattern, but where does that leave our finite resources? The global governance has well intended messages, bring everyone of this world out of poverty and into the enlightened age. Yet, if all nations consumed resources at the same rate as America today, where will we be tomorrow? War?

Warning: In our silence today, we are committing suicide tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Food and Ivy League - the man's thing to do?

The Green Elephant started its journey on Sustainability with a focus on food. At first I was confused about what food really meant to me, having grown up in China and eating everything from chicken feet to brains. I’ve heard interesting criticisms about my passion for eating: some thought I was a foodie crazy about the “Organic” label and the status symbol of boutique eater; some thought I was nuts for thinking healthy food for the poor is economical. I had even tried to engage legal academics, but the response I got was some protectionist argument about how China banned our chicken exports.

I put the topic on hold and started to dig into more about the three faces of sustainability – people, planet, and profit, hoping that either the conversation about food will be more productive when converged with these things or that people start to realize we really do relate to food in fundamental ways that shapes our everyday behaviors that impacts the world.

Recently, the Food Law Society at Harvard Law School hosted a conference on our food policy. The Ivy League crowd discussed healthy diets, federal agricultural laws, hunger, and how to encourage healthy eating; it highlighted the need to increase access to cheap, healthy food and to rebrand healthy food as something with more mass appeal than the trendy foodie’s crave to be special.

Legal and economic issues were the focus; and “the U.S. hunger paradox” was specifically addressed. I guess the idea that there is more food to go around in our country, more cheaply than any nation in history, yet more people are going hungry seems to be at odds with the availability.

The problem, as Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s Co, explained, is that we have so much cheap (fossil fuel driven and subsidized) food that people who can afford to buy can afford to waste; it’s so cheap that many people throw good food out unconcerned. On the other side, Rauch said, the poor either can’t afford healthy food or have no access to healthy choices, thus leading to malnutrition, obesity, and other related health problems. These are also people likely to be without health insurance, and visit the ER rooms often without paying the bills – driving up the cost of health care on all fronts.

Jennifer Pomeranz, the director of legal initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, criticized the restaurant industry for lobbying to keep calorie counts off of menus. therefore worsened access and understanding to healthy food.

Freya Williams and Graceann Bennett—two executives at OgilvyEarth, observed that environmental sustainability and healthy eating is seen by the football loving macho mentality nation as “feminine” or “for rich elitist snobs and crunchy granola hippies” as hindrances to greater sustainability. The apparent “gayness” of eating less meat and less good old American fast food means generations of inspiring the wrong kind of eating habits and the foodie mentality prevents the healthy eating trends from taking root in the moderate middle class mentality.

There are no real and easy answers. Even with a lot of market cash and advertising powers, men will not think of being sustainable and healthy. That is just not the manly thing to do. Many manly things, however, appears to be counterintuitive and retarding our process of evolution. What is a man to do in this manly world?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alternative Real American Jobs Act.

Obama’s new job’s bill is all the rage these days. He’s in a shiny new tour bus coasting around the country drumming up support for his efforts; all the while the Republican candidates are playing like kids in a mud pit, slinging for shits and giggles.

What about this new jobs bills? How do we grow more jobs at a sustainable rate? Those are two very different questions that people forget to ask sometimes. Just because there are 200 new construction jobs added to my city for building roads, it doesn’t really mean those jobs are here to stay, does it?

The complicated mess of growing jobs is a tough topic and I don’t pretend to have any solutions to the problems. What I believe, only a matter of opinion of course, is that at least some degree of interconnectedness between market expansion and new industry prosperity can help sustain a meaningful job creation policy.

Take the energy sector for example: if we are adding new technical jobs for operating and maintaining solar fields, or adding jobs that create renewable energy for small communities, are these jobs more likely to stay? Are these jobs more likely to lead to new opportunities for other innovative ideas for entrepreneurs? In my perfect bubble of a sustainable world, I hope so.

In all reality, I know the matter is more complicated. It will depend on things like our policies to encourage new ideas, research and development, sustainable planning, etc., all of which are at the hands of both politicians and larger corporations – corporations that are strongly tied to the old ways of doing things, tied to the fossil industry.

I’m not going to bash the fossil players, they are playing the hands we the people dealt them to make them rich. They are at fault for not wanting to change, but change come from us mostly – the 99% has the will power to make things happen, we are just too lazy and dumb to let the 1% take advantage of the situations that’s all.

According to a “National Solar Jobs Census 2011: A Review of the Solar Workforce,” conducted by The Solar Foundation with the labor market consulting firm Green LMI Consulting, and assistance from Cornell University, there is a 2 percent net job loss in the fossil energy sector while there is a growth rate of 6.8 percent in the solar industry. More than 100,000 people are employed in the U.S. solar industry and close to half of all employers plan to hire additional workers in the next twelve months. The solar sector have created a total of 24,000 new jobs according to the report.

24,000 may not seem like a large number; most of us probably haven’t seen where these jobs are or who’s working these new fancy operations, but at least these jobs are competing for a larger growing share of the global market for the emerging industry. The Republicans proposed an alternative job creation policy last week in response to the Obama plan, but the “alternative” encourages growth in fossil fuels through increased drilling and decreased environmental protections.

I’m sorry, but is this going to get us anywhere in the next decade? What happens when the rest of the world are switched over to renewable energy and the price of that energy drops below the subsidized fossil energy? Will the tax payers have to bail out the executives once again?

I also recall the military is aggressively investing into the renewable energy sector. This is both for operational needs and long-term necessity planning. It seems odd that the new alternative the Republicans put forth seem to contradict the DoD’s future energy strategies?

"Entire Army bases are going off-grid, for example, and Navy jet fighters are adopting biofuels. The symbiotic relationship between national defense, federal energy policy and job creation is on full display through the relationship between the U.S. Air Force and Magnolia Solar; the Air Force is funding Magnolia’s development of high efficiency solar technology, and it will also be an eager customer for Magnolia’s products."
Triple Pundit: Solar Industry Jobs Growing Fast, Now Topping 100,000 

The Republican legislators have dubbed their alternate plan the “Real American Jobs Act.”

What is their definition of a “Real American?”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bipolar politics and the madness of King Coal.

I’ve noticed a national rollback on our investment into the green sector. This is understandable: our budget is in crisis, the administrations have over spent their policies, and continued money burning cycles without real solutions is not a solution; our banking infrastructure and corporate culture needed to be curtailed to what is reasonable and necessary and only then can the nation survive and prosper. I still believe investment into the sustainable businesses and I still hold reasonable to expect the system to work, if only by the sheer evidence of an international trend of power by the people converging on choices for the people yet violence still broke out; but this is only my opinion and should not dictate national policies.

The world’s trouble and fundamental conflicts with human rights is a complicated issue, our emergence from feudal society with dignity and human rights still immature. Our transition to a harmonious and sustainable society will take time and we are racing down the destructive path we inherited from our troubled past. Where will we be tomorrow, I can only guess.

Here in the U.S., our conflicts seem to dwell on regional splits and a confusing popular support structure for federalism that empowers states to act and displaces responsibility of the national government where necessary. This curious bipolar personality of our nation’s politicians has created a compliance political structure and an opportunist business and banking sector that all too willing to take advantage of the poor and undereducated. Where big coal industry and other related special interests have force, the states are silent on green investments; where the progressive demographic reside, heavily influenced by international trends, green business flourishes. The resulting regional activities of green investments in states like CA, OR, MA, led to an ecosystem of green businesses in related fields. New ventures flock to these areas for their mutual supports and ready market.

But that’s not the end of a story. Where these states succeed, they are competing with a global market with major players like China, Japan, Germany, and many more. Nations are setting their priorities to increase pollutant standards (see China’s new Clean Production Laws and Circular Economy Laws, or the not-so-old Japanese and German Circular Economy Laws, for example) and promoting the green business sector aggressively.

Recently, a U.S. company Boston Power, a lithium ion maker, decided to move its headquarters from Massachusetts to China. The company founder cited her reason as a

"combination of financial support from the government, very eager and aggressive Chinese investors, and the fact that it's the biggest (green-tech) market in the world . . . ."

U.S. states and cities are disadvantaged economically because we don’t have consistent federal policies effectively challenging those countries. We have still yet to shift our focus to consider clean energy a key part of our economic growth strategies,

"Yes, we'll have leadership and successes in California, Oregon, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, but the lack of a national baseline handicaps all of these players . . . "

Ron Pernick, managing director of research company Clean Edge.

Couple this with the new slogan to slash and cut EPA’s role in our nation’s future planning, we are looking at a race to the bottom where no one else seem to be racing that way. While most other nations are racing to the green top, we are digging our dirty coals and calling for less regulation into people’s health and the planet’s long term survival. There has been a lot of news lately about EPA crippling our nation’s economy. Their argument is that EPA’s rule-makings would adversely affect coal-fired electric generation, forcing utilities to decide whether to upgrade those plants or to retire them. These upgrades are too expansive and will hurt businesses and reduce their profit, thereby reducing the new labor they can afford to hire.

Somewhere in there is a leap of logic. How did we get from higher health and environmental standards to less labor? If we require new technologies to control major pollutants -- investments that the EPA says will lead to better health and greater productivity, as businesses invest into these new clean “green” tech, won’t the activities also create jobs in areas where we need to competing with countries like China, Japan, Germany?

Of course, a lot of this is pure politics, nothing else. I’ve already heard rants about how useless the EPA is and why we need to create a dirty environment to solicit dirty businesses and create even dirtier jobs. What a senseless national policy, but this is our bipolar federalism at its best!

“The House . . . is attempting to cut EPA’s funding by 18 percent . . . . Their points have made inroads with those in coal-producing states, not to mention the Obama administration. Already, the White House has slowed the start of new ozone rules that affect smog and most recently, the postponement of greenhouse gas rules. It has also made slight modifications to “cross-state air pollution rules” pertaining to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.”

The EPA’s new rules would force utilities that depend on coal to decide whether to upgrade those plants or to retire them. The tactics and arguments that EPA’s rules hurts our economy and jobs creation are counterproductive. The goal of these arguments is to provide regulatory certainty, but someone forgot to mention that those same corporate interests depended on coal are also the same ones reluctant to allocate the necessary capital and invest in the green sector. If "EPA’s wings are clipped and Congress is so bitterly divided," who will lead our national economy to compete with China – a massive market force joined by Japan, Germany, most of the EU, and the world?

“We are at a juncture when necessary upgrades are long overdue, and an experienced workforce is fully available to complete the effort,”

David Foerter, executive director of the Institute of Clean Air Companies.

Where will our nation go from this point is up to our politicians. What our politicians will decide depends on your participation and involvement. Your participation and involvement will involve a look at the larger international trends and a cooperative perspective. Protectionism will never effectively lead this country out of its problems; it will only lead our people into more troubled times; not to mention richer executives and larger profits for the few industries that have largely destroyed our planet, our people, and our profit model in a free market economy. Wake up you 99%. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Boldly going where no nuclear has gone before.

I’ve noted before that nuclear power is not likely going away anytime soon. As a Techie and a Trekkie, I have high hopes for nuclear power leading to the next great breakthrough in intergalactic propulsion. I want my kids not only make it to the moon, I hope they make it to “where no man or woman has gone before.”

Is that too much to ask?

It would be if we had no collective conscience and our nuclear operations are still driven by an arms race. But I found out today that our corporate sponsors and NGOs have been working on a instrument of “Principles of Conduct” with regards to nuclear power since 2008.

The Principles of Conduct was facilitated by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Participation came from various entities including law firms (one of which writes a regular blog I follow).

The Principles set forth expectations in the following areas:

1. Safety, Health, and Radiological Protection;
2. Physical Security;
3. Environmental Protection and the Handling of Spent Fuel and Nuclear Waste;
4. Compensation for Nuclear Damage;
5. Nonproliferation and Safeguards; and
6. Ethics.

The instrument began its drafting before the Fukushima disaster and naturally it incorporated the lessons learned from the disaster.

“Whatever lessons particular countries draw from Fukushima over time, new nuclear plants will continue to be built, some in countries that have only recently begun to utilize nuclear power. It is therefore imperative that nuclear energy is implemented safely and responsibly in both emerging and developed markets.”

Richard Giordano, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Carnegie Endowment

Principle 6, according to Mr. Gare Smith, attorney at Foley Hoag LLP (who also help drafted this particular provision), focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility and ethics. The provision calls for safety and wellbeing of the communities near the plants including effective (mandatory?) communication with the members of that community. It also calls for respect for human rights declared in the UDHR and fundamental labor rights protected by various International human Rights instruments.

Mr. Gare also stated “fighting corruption” as one of the primary concerns. The provision states nuclear operations will

[h]ave in place internal programs to discourage corruption and encourage compliance with anticorruption laws, such as those implementing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and/or the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and seek to obtain a reciprocal commitment from Customers . . . .

To date, the following companies have adopted the Principles:

• ATMEA (an AREVA-Mitsubishi joint venture)
• Atomstroyexport
• Candu Energy (the successor exporting company to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited)
• GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
• Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy
• Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO)
• Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (including Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems, a subsidiary)
• Toshiba
• Westinghouse Electric Company
The question from here is how many more will voluntarily commit themselves to the instrument and these Principles? Will these Principles rise to the level of international law at some point? Will country like China be open to this kind of thinking?

As a side note, I've been spending a lot of time trying to write my law review note. One of the point I want to make is that China has a rich history of Corporate Social Responsibility but the principles are largely forgotten due to the modern era warfare and transition into a People's Republic. There is no reason, however, that China cannot bring back its Confucius style CSR implemented for the modern society. If that should be the case, I hope, The Chinese Communist Part and the Chinese government ought to implement a uniquely Chinese CSR type nuclear Principles to govern its many operations. Same should apply to its other energy sectors.

In fact, I believe every sector of the free market economy ought to implement some sort of CSR Principles, not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because it may just drive up profit and help sustain the business and social model long enough for my kids or grand kids to fly to Alpha Centauri.

"Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again"
Make it so Number One.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Earth Advantage Institute's Eco Neighborhoods

古之欲明明德於天下者, 先治其國。欲治其國者, 先齊其家。欲齊其家者, 先修其身。欲修其身者, 先正其心。欲正其心者, 先誠其意。欲誠其意者, 先致其知。致知在格物。

Earth Advantage Institute announced last week that it is seeking applications for a pilot program Eco Neighborhoods. The certification challenge focuses only on neighborhoods that are at least five years old and can demonstrate a level of achievement; but Earth Advantage Institute will also include neighborhoods that can “go beyond green” to encompass a broader set of social, economic, and cultural accomplishments.

This is a different approach than the otherwise popular designer communities such as the Eco-Village in Los Angeles. This is a great step forward recognizing that sustainability and green is not just a rich man’s game, but a everyman’s dream (I use the word “man” loosely here to include every man, woman, child, alien, and my green cousin from Mars). I've said this before: you don't need a designer mix breed Puddle and Shepperd and call it Shepuddle; neither do you need a designer "green" community that no one can afford beside Mr. Edge and the rich and famous of Beverley Hills.

But that is besides the point.

Earth Advantage's press release stated that applicants may include residential areas, condominiums, public housing projects, business districts, office and industrial parks, shopping centers, resorts, institutional campuses, and military housing areas; but the list is not exhaustive – what you think of as a community is your business, Earth Advantage Institute wants you to see it as a community and see how it is green.

This forces us to think of green in new old ways, understanding our perhaps institutive ways of living sustainably. I’d say this is a better incentive for us than a new award given away to the next new hot architect, whose work you can only admire in some fancy digest you picked up at the airport.

Earth Advantage is interested in the following subjects in the call for applications (I have a feeling they are learning as they go like the rest of us – but admirable actions nonetheless):

Natural Capital
• Land – open space protection; erosion prevention
• Air – boiler pollution emission retrofits; truck idling reductions
• Water – wetlands restoration; onsite stormwater treatment
• Climate – electric vehicle-sharing; heat island reduction

Built Capital
• Businesses – incubator start-up facility; mentoring program
• Transportation- pedestrian/bicycle facility investments; transit service expansion
• Energy – onsite renewable power generation; building efficiency retrofits
• Wastes - central composting stations; hazardous waste collection

Social Capital
• Governance – exemplary inclusion/participation in civic organizations
• Social services – tool-sharing program; emergency preparedness training
• Cultural institutions – social/commemorative events; historic/cultural exhibitions
• Equity – first-time homebuyer assistance; nutrition information access

Human Capital
• Health – low-allergen landscaping; seniors active living program
• Education – adult literacy program; youth internships
• Employment – job training program; local hiring preferences
• Recreation – youth athletic league; park improvements

If you live in a close-nit neighborhood and homeowner associations, public housing tenant associations, business improvement districts, transportation management organizations, community development corporations, and owners or managers of resorts, shopping centers, office and industrial parks, institutional campuses, and military installation housing areas, or anything you may consider a community, consider your green activities. My neighbors are mostly serious gardeners and they have been planting native grass and vegetations to help retain water and ease the lawn maintenance. I know we have a lot of things we can do to help cut back our emission and impacts, build social and economic capital locally, and improve and retain human capital. So far, our neighborhood is not actively engaged in these areas. So I see Earth Advantage’s list of criteria as a checklist for us to consider. Nothing in their press release says you can’t steal their idea and help your communities.

Some have raised the sentiment that the world doesn’t need another criteria certification system. I agree but I see this as a knowledge sharing opportunity. To learn is more than to be rewarded – the reward in learning is in itself, a satisfaction and knowledge that no one can take away form you. In essence, it is the intrinsic motivation of things.

Earth Advantage Institute is “a nonprofit green building resource that has certified more than 11,000 homes nationally;” it is based in Portland, Oregon. It believes that certifying the accomplishments of the places where we live or work can help us improve them.

The ancients, who wished to spread virtue throughout the world, began with their own States. To govern well their States, they gathered their families. Wishing to unite their families, they cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they rectified their hearts. To rectify their hearts, they sought to be sincere. To be sincere in their thoughts, they cured their imperfect knowledge through learning. Knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

- The Great Learning, Confucius

Monday, October 10, 2011

Xinhai Revolution and Occupy Wall Street - what we do matters.

A hundred years ago today, a revolution that started in my father’s hometown Wuhan, China; the revolution ended imperial rule and changed the course of China’s history. To this date, the Communist Party of Mainland and the Nationalist Party of Taiwan, both born of the 1911 revolution, still debate their legitimacy to China’s throne.

The revolution was a reaction to the declining Qing state and its inability to reform and modernize China. People were poor, land unevenly distributed, and the majority population oppressed by the Manchu rulers; foreign invaders pillaged and carved China like it’s the next new America, the Chinese the next new savages to be bought and sold as slaves or servants. Chinese citizens on its own land were second-class to the rich, the foreigners, and the imperialists who cared for no one but their own families. Along with domestic decline, the majority took to the streets and demanded change.

Look at China today!

Today, we also mark one month long of Occupy Wall Street and the movement shows no signs of retreat. The message – end corporate greed and capital imperialism – “we are the 99 percent.”

The OWS General Assembly has not yet formally ratified any demands but they have posted some on their website. These demands look eerily similar in spirit to the ones that sparked the changes in China a hundred years ago: fair wages, end corporate corruption, equalize social and environmental impacts and reducing our harm to the planet that seem to only affect the poor . . . .

Yet I note the slight different tone of selflessness in these demands: free college education, investing in alternative energies and infrastructure, a $1 trillion investment in ecological restoration, a racial and gender equal rights amendment, open borders, closing all U.S. nuclear power plants, and complete international debt forgiveness.

While I don’t think these demands are reasonably achievable in the near future. 20% of our national energy grid depends on nuclear power, and closing them down tomorrow means a serious social disorder will loom over our heads. I won’t even venture to guess what will happen if we implement complete international debt forgiveness. It may sound good to us, but will it sound good to our debtors? To China?

Some politicians, million dollar campaign runners, suggests that this is simply class warfare. "Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself," Herman Cain said.

That was the exact same kind of bull crack the Manchu royalty fed to the Chinese people: if you aren’t born into the riches, or won’t cut your own balls off to serve the imperialists, then blame yourself.

Look where has that gotten our friendly last emperor?

What about those Americans who have been laid off and have spent years futilely looking for work? What about the young people graduating college with tens of thousands in student loans? What about families who lost their homes to the very banks who profited off of betting against their mortgages?

Look where they will take our friendly last banker?

"In order to understand our own time and predicament and the work that is to be done, we would do well to shift the terms and say that we are divided between exploitation and nurture . . . By now the [exploitative] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water. Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution has imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution . . . . . The first casualties of the exploitative revolution are character and community . . . .”

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America.

Sometimes I wonder if history repeats itself in patterns to test and see what we do as humans under different ontological conditions. Like a mouse in a maze, different smelling of cheese, that’s all. I hope you see my analogy here: we may be confronted with a practical different scenario, a different maze if you will, but we face with the same metaphysical oppression by the rich, the powerful, the people hiding behind “walls” – be it a Great one, or a one of a Street.

Jaclyn Bruntfield argued that we are at a tipping point now on a continuing path of “unrelenting self-interest.”

Such a culture fosters not cooperation and sustainability, but pitting people at odds with one another while "following one's own interest as far as possible."

Jaclyn Bruntfield, Occupy Wall Street, Sustainability and 'The Unsettling of America'

Wendell Berry argued that exploitation of people and natural resources shows a lack of character and virtue. This is manifested by both the dissatisfaction for the Manchu Qing, the last dynasty in China, and by the protesters of Occupy Wall Street. During the Qing dynasty, the imperialists contributed massively to human rights abuses, wealth inequality, horrid living conditions in the country-side. Today, careless bankers and corporations contribute massively to wealth inequality, unfair debt distributions, implicit and uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions and enormous waste in our landfills polluting water supplies and our air; all of this leading to decreased quality of life and increase sentiment of helplessness as the Chinese faced in 1911.

The “99 percent" is the same 99 percent any way you look: any society you examine and any careless and exploitive political imperialism you encounter acts in the same careless ways. I suspect the end result may be the same any way you dice.

But there's hope, Bruntfield and Berry argues, and

it comes in each of us making more thoughtful decisions in what we buy, what we do for a living and the causes that we support. Ultimately, if you don't agree with how a company treats people and the planet, Berry says to engage in "responsible consumerism" by not buying their products.

This may be the fundamental differences between the condition of China in 1911 and the condition of America in 2011: people didn’t have choices then, we do now. We live in a free country where men and women willingly lay down their lives to defend your freedom – make it worth their lives!

"End corporate greed" is just as a strong argument as “end consumer dependence.” If you're concerned about the environment, it would not make sense to buy the most gas guzzling car; if you think there is income disparity and lack of equality, then let go of your precious $18MM football player and supplement our teachers for a better education and increase the chances of our children having a equal competitive ground. There are many things we can do to meet the demands of OCW ourselves. That is why I have not voluntarily spent any time looking at the news or media for their progress – I believe the real progress is to be made by each of us, in turn shaping the compliance of corporations and bankers.

At least in this country, at this day and age, we can make these changes in a cooperative manner. There is no need for violence. That was not the case back in 1911.

"The use of the world is finally a personal matter, and the world can be preserved in health only by the forbearance and care of a multitude of persons. That is, the possibility of the world's health will have to be defined in the characters of persons as clearly and urgently as the possibility of personal 'success' is now so defined."
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America.

We live in the land of the free, let’s not waste this land on the pointless things such as consumerism or occupying a street making empty demands. Let’s make this happen in our ways for our children.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sustainability and Chinese Existentialism – Steve Jobs and Andy Rooney

My writings are often confused, disjointed opinions to deal with an incomprehensible world.

Amongst the discombobulated thoughts and pontification of flatters for no one, I find some clarity – enough to see where I have gone wrong and where I need adjusting because my information is incomplete and my style immature. So I keep writing a blog that is scantly visited not for you to see, but for me to learn. Maybe I am attempting to reach the impossible and prove Gödel wrong, but I figure today I have better things to do than to fly with my cape on. Today I must write to remember a week of passing of the Age.

Andy Rooney gave his last commentary on 60 Minutes this week. He signed off unapologetically; he will be back soon to tell us the things we don’t want to hear but love to listen. It was sad and at least nostalgic by representation. I hope Mr. Rooney the best and that he enjoy retirement to the fullest extent. Come back and visit with us soon.

Steve Jobs passed this week. I’m afraid he forever won’t be coming back in his jeans and turtleneck to deliver another paradigmatic surprise. I still have yet to comprehend how to feel about this – are we sure this isn’t some badly publicized media stunt for the next iGadget? I have the urge to believe he will again surface on stage, next to his chair and coffee table, playing with whatever is the next thing that we absolutely need.

Ironically, I remember Mr. Rooney making a comment about the one typewriter he owned as a writer and the many computers he had to buy in his later years in the profession. I got to think about the impact on resources, the environment, and our way of culture and social rights in light of our economy of gadgets, in light of Mr. Jobs passing. I asked myself if the world would’ve been a very different place if we did not have some of the inventions or if we did not misuse these inventions. The atomic bomb is the obvious token, but has many of us really questioned the impact of a ever demanding and short lifespan of our electronic product consumption – our iNeeds?

Are five laptops with toxic chemicals and rare metals that plugs into a dirty power-grid really better than one typewriter faithfully challenging our intellectual skills?

Sure, having the world-wide-web made less demands on our efforts to learn, but looking at facebook, are we faithfully learning as we should be or are we wasting away our time with Angry Birds?

I am guilty of this unquestioned loyalty to consumerism, I have a Circus on my phone that sells digital balloons to the microprocessor that is running the thing I call a phone. I plug many things into the wall that I don’t necessarily need and I justify watching the Simpsons as “learning social psychology from pop media.”

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Steve Jobs is a benevolent genius. He is also human, and he has high aspirations for people; that is what ultimately failed him. Just like Einstein attempted to warn the dangers of weaponizing atoms, Jobs recognized the dangers of our continued obsession with iWhatevers. In 2009, Apple left the Chamber of Commerce citing that

[Apple] strongly object to the Chamber's recent comments opposing the EPA's effort to limit greenhouse gases. As a company, [Apple is] working hard to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions by relying on renewable energy at our facilities and designing more energy-efficient products for our customers. We have undertaken this unilaterally and without government mandate, because we believe it is the right thing to do.

Of course I know Apple has also done disreputable things to risk our planet, but I don’t fault them for what they have done for not knowing – I hole them responsible for carrying the wishes of the “right thing.” Under Jobs' leadership, Apple is one of the few companies that cares about overhauling its office buildings as well as addressing its supply chain impacts. 

But onto the part I waited for – Chinese existentialism.

When one of the consumers was interviewed about Jobs’ death in a Apple store in ShangHai, he wished for a Chinese innovator who can match Jobs’ talent so that China isn’t just making “counterfeit things.”

I concur. For a people that invented paper, compass, gunpowder, printing, and has a tradition of inventing energy efficient machines for development, China’s now problem is trying to reconcile the thousand year old legal tradition of open license for inventions and thus abiding them to social good. Innovative forces are focused to not making profits but to contribute to social goals. But since China is adopting an outdated capitalist model, it is having enforcement problems at the grassroots level where historical significance has penetrated by generations of its acceptance.

China today is building cheap and in mass quantities without due consideration to impact or social value. No one is stepping up to invent a solution to the problem because it’s a political problem. It’s a political problem because it's a transparency problem and ultimately a people's problem. The government think open innovation is dangerous so they are happy to apply a first generation capitalist theory to control its people.

Get rich, but you can't share your thoughts. If the middle class is happy and buying, they won’t complaint about the lower class not having enough – right?

I can’t figure out at what point when a people’s republic is so blinded from government actions came to existence. Are the Chinese people simply allowing the repeat of thousands of years of Imperial rule to settle back into their collective consciousness? Or are the people asleep to the idea that "to get rich is good"?

Or are we better than that to be able to determine our own fates?

If China is to have a harmonious society, why is it so reluctant to become more transparent and consistent to foster more harmony between the people and government? I once heard someone say that the Chinese intellectuals have had their balls chopped off. Like unic serving their emperor, the scholars will say whatever the government wants them to say and no more. Could this have inversely affected China’s ability to innovate? You be the judge of that.

My point is that if China wants a Steve Jobs, it’s not that difficult. Allow the People real opportunities to be innovators and creators – ARTISTS.

A friend of mine recently asked what I think of when I think of Chinese existentialism. My first answer is Lu Xun, a turn of the century writer who inspired a generation of intellectuals. But I only realized today that Confucius is the granddaddy of all Chinese existentialists and we haven’t thought of it as an existentialism thing until the reintroduction of individual rights in the recent years.

Individual rights came as a package deal from western thoughts in capitalism. Self-preservation and economic order by the “invisible hand” sounds magical. No one ever bothered to ask what the “invisible hand” is actually doing or what individual rights to get rich actually meant – killing or building?

That is the Chinese existentialist question. In a world where China will dominate the world in population, consumption, and construction; where will the Chinese be to account for the consequences? Hiding behind the walls of the Forbidden City or out in the open with its people and people of the world? How will the Chinese People see its tradition? With the likes of Confucius and Lu Xun or in the image of Wall Street suits?

Jobs short 56 years arguably transformed more aspects of our lives and impacted more of our sustainability thinking than any previous inventors. He likes turtle-necks and jeans. I sometimes question the real impacts of his inventions on our environment, our society, and on our economies and I blame some problem on us the consumers. I never questioned his intention.

I also blame the producers like Apple for not anticipating their impact more accurately and sometimes falsely leading us down the wrong path. Now that we know more, we have no excusable alternative from the right thing to do. I don’t question Steve Jobs’ leadership in that direction.

If the world is to come to a sensible grip with its problems in light of globalization, we need China’s government to open its innovation reserves and allow the open thoughts reign. The rest of the world may have to take a closer at the uniquely Chinese Intellectual Property traditions and learn how to harness the tradition to benefit sustainable development and socially responsible economies. This is where Jobs is going, in his uniquely American ways. There is no reason why we cannot learn and aspire to his success and keep his dreams alive. There is no reason why the Chinese people cannot have its own Steve Jobs with already the wisdom of a deeply Chinese existentialist.

Steve Jobs would be so proud. I wonder what Andy Rooney would say to all of this?


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Voluntary and Mandatory, a step at a time but can you ever take just one step?

I started learning about sustainability a little over a year ago. I first began with environmental laws; the nuisance of back and forth litigations about EPA rules and Congressional enactments drove me nuts. I wondered if I am forever doomed to continue the work of badly publicized lawyers to litigate meaningless and frivolous things – or are they meaningless and frivolous as the public make them out to be?

Then I learned about health and food and the sustainable culture (or unsustainable culture) of the way we eat. This led me to ponder my childhood, growing up in China and eating veggies grown by farmers nearby. I pontificated the benefits of it all and reminisced the things forever lost. Today, China is on a path of fast foods, childhood obesity, and rising healthcare cost just like America; today, China and the U.S. is in a tug of trade wars about importing industrial meats and ideological protectionism. I won’t say who is right or who is wrong here, but the badly needed constructive dialogue between the two nations seems amiss at times.

I also started a one-man operation a year ago hoping to combine social entrepreneurship and sustainability in some meaningfully packaged way to use technology as a facilitator for progressive growth in the area. As my operation unfolded, I learned the vast gap between my knowledge base and the market forces that creates profit – starting a business is not as easy as I had envisioned, but giving up is an undesirable option.

So in the mean time, I am learning as much as I can, and pushing forward as slow as it is necessary. I am more cautious these days, always thinking how to leverage the best of the differences.

Recently, I started to see a growing trend of voluntary participations from large businesses in the new green trend. At first I was cautious, the green-wash for profit is entirely possible and I am wary about the motives behind their incentives. But then I came to a light in the darkness – the incentive is money and that is the only thing that will motivate companies and the rest of our great global economic engine turn. Sure we are faced with a crisis environmentally and socially, but it is not until the economy comes to an edge do we see the necessity of changing our ways. Crying foul and arguing that it is too late will accomplish nothing, so I happily joined the thoughts of many and began to look at Corporate Social Responsibility seriously.

Coming to a full circle, I now wonder about the difference between enforcements and voluntary participations. This distinction is also very helpful in understanding the inherently different approaches taken by China and the U.S.

China’s new Clean Production Laws and Circular Economy Laws are aimed to enforce regulations about environmental compliance, supply chain standards, and social and economic impacts. This makes sense given China’s centralized law making powers. It wouldn’t necessarily work in the U.S. given our favoritism for federalism. The U.S. on the other hand, only has a baseline environmental compliance program and even that is hotly debated. In order for the U.S. to make any significant progress, and keep its innovative advantage for its companies, it will have to promote voluntary incentives for the likes of P&G and Walmart to participate. From what I can tell, these coglmerates are already on board and the work of figuring out how to make sustainability work for profit has already began.

What will be the results of each nation’s actions remain to be seen.

This brings me to the analogy I want to make. As the human specie, we have grown into different types based on our cultural differences. If you ask my wife, a diehard cultural psychological anthropologist, she’d tell you about why people are inherently different and why different cultures will take different steps in accomplishing the same goal. I always wondered if we could ever be in sync as a collective whole and march toward progress not as Chinese or American, but as HUMAN.

Maybe this is because I grew up as Chinese and matured as an American – I am partial to finding a cooperative way for my own identities to coexist.

Selfish considerations aside, the whole point about this particular post is to alert you to the steps we take as human beings and how the left foot will always be different than the right, but that does not mean we have to separate the two legs and walk in different directions.

Chinese style regulations are generally highly prescriptive with specific components. The new laws include standards to be met, describe principally what actions must be taken, and then require compliance at the provincial levels.

U.S. volunteer sustainability projects often start with citizen and corporate actions that provide a definition of goals, grassroots agreement on how to achieve those goals, a method of analyzing the results and monetization on measuring the success of those goals.

The biggest difference between them comes from management for investment in the projects. While in a Chinese context, where central authorities have mandated the programs, ROI is often left to the provincial officials to work out. In the U.S., the ROI is not easily quantified for any kind of bottoms-up compliance programs. We as Americans can understand EPA regulations and fines that are imposed, but capturing ROI for voluntarily participating in a sustainability program is hard to capitalize on charts and in boardrooms. Maybe that’s why a lot of environmentally aspired law students are so set on working for the EPA to go after the bad companies. A win is a win and a fine is less dollars in the hands of dirty polluters. But this does not address the source of the problem and it does nothing to shift the mentality of corporations.

That is why I am glad there are more companies participating in voluntary CSR type sustainability programs. Their hardest work will not be evading the EPA, but making a combination of collaboration work – voluntary and compliance.

Combining the two types of thinking may also lead to meaningful impacts for a company – reducing duplicated data collection, eliminating internal confusions about compliance and profit driven voluntary initiatives. This may also increase the chances of synergy between compliance work and voluntary work and a company may discover innovative methods to improve on existing processes.

Voluntary programs, due to its inherent visionary nature, may have significant benefits for the compliance side of the house. In the U.S. climate, often voluntary standards become the mandatory standard – call it the race to the top corporate phenomenon. Using voluntary programs to shed light on mandatory compliance will help a company gain advantages in the market place in China or the U.S. The added advantage is compliance side and voluntary envisioning side will walk towards the core middle of a company’s mission – brining together profit with its focus on the environment and social responsibilities. This can only mean more market exposure and profit opportunities – a win win for the company and consumers.

Why is this important you ask? Well, it seems that China is rolling out the red carpet for foreign companies to invest in its green sector as of late. A Massachusetts-based lithium-ion battery maker was recently awarded $125 million in funds, loans, incentives and construction assistance for a new plant in Shanghai. There will be more, companies and investors are lining up to get in on the new upgrades in China’s market economy. Once the currency problem works out and the China U.S. BIT is put in place, you can bet on even more competition in the sustainability “green” industry will arise.

The kind of bilateral thinking about compliance and voluntary visionaries will help you gain an edge in the next few decades – but that’s is just me pontificating.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Zen moment in reflecting social, economic, civil, and political rights.

One of the beauty about living in a society that affords a bit more civil and political freedom, at a baseline of social and economic effort, is the ability to access information unrestricted; but this beauty is wasted on the unwary people if that people choose not to act or they lack the access to act for some social and economic reasons. Restrictions to information and lack of access to political will, are two of the same problem we face in modern society, are independently detrimental to sustainable progress.

Here in the U.S., we sometimes forget that acting is only a part, reasonable actions that will yield constructive consequences is the other. Polarization is in part to blame for lack of political will and mismatched action for improper results; we also hear voter fraud at times to question the integrity of the distributed political system; but these are problems I want to put aside for the moment. The focus here is the connection between social and economic rights in the U.S., the status of a welfare State, and our civil and political rights that should act as a safeguard to some amorphous democratic ideals - I want to reflect on something that is potentially useful.

I believe there is a good reason that the U.S. has not ratified the Covenant on social and economic rights. Aside from political polarization and infrastructure problems, I believe the legality of social and economic rights may further corrode the western style republican states. The U.S. politics distributing its decision power to the furthest reach of a federal government possible. This places less burdens on the central government thus promoting more incentives for innovation and progress at the local level. This system depends on the ability to act the quality of those political actions at the local level. If we have a constituent base acting on fundamental principles and are not willing to work with other ideas for uniformed gains, we risk counterproductive action and we are susceptible to corruption. Ratifying the Covenant on social and economic rights would further remove the incentives to act and burdens the already bankrupt system more. The U.S. is already a welfare state, it is now our responsibility, as citizens, to act and shape the system. If other nation of people can start a revolution, there is no reason why we Americans can’t simply cooperate and build a better nation – without the need to continue to upgrade our welfare state. We badly need to restore some fundamental access to responsible actions via education, we don’t need another entitlement program or less government regulation without citizen accountability.

We see NGOs adapt to this strategy. Green Peace, instead of organizing one more protest or stage one more Wale War, decided to educate the suppliers and work with the fishing industries. They came up with solutions to drive sustainable practices rather than more problems for a business. In this economic climate, businesses are trying to survive and if the consumers can help them create sustainable opportunities, these businesses could be the biggest motivator for sustainable transitions in our society.

This is why I have not addressed the protests in New York in this blog or elsewhere. I understand what these protests are about and I think it may be necessary to wake up some Wall Street people who are too far off on the reasonable grid to be effectively converted by meaningful cooperation. But I also believe the best place to effect change is to inspire constructive change. So my place is here, pontificating on a Saturday.

Equally valid is the Chinese’s uncertainties for the Covenant on civil and political rights. China has not signed on to the Covenant for the same basic principles, if only ontologically different than the U.S. with regards to the social and economic Covenant.

Neither protests nor judicial fairness are available to China's citizens to the fullest extent; effecting sustainable changes in China requires a different finesse. A friend told me a few days ago that China is already a democracy and calling for democratic changes in China is like elephant to fly - not that its impossible, but implausible for the purpose of real progress.

My friend asked that I consider this: the Chinese Communist Party has over 70 million people, more than France. It has a voting system and strife just as any political system. On its surface, it may not be a bipartisan system, but it is checked and harmonized for function and for the world to see. It does not distribute its political power further because the basic social and economic goals have not yet been attained at its grassroots. Unlike the U.S., China would not come to sensible conclusions if full civil and political rights are put into practice, we seen one Cultural Revolution already, I hope for not another one.

I believe China is actively trying to update and upgrade its economy given the recent Clean Production Laws and the new Circular Economy Laws. It may not reach a social and economic market maturity comparable to the U.S. of today, but I have high hopes for its soon expansion of civil and political rights. It may need to upgrade its legal system a bit more, in its uniquely Chinese style, and not Western type of litigation driven system. China favors mediation and its should be its focal point. I trust in the mean time the Chinese people and its government will continue to work with the rest of the world in its upgrading its market process not only domestically, but also abroad in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere where China is investing in development.

What is interesting is China has allowed their green movements gain more influence and momentum in its social media coverage. This perhaps suggests a willingness of China to acknowledge civil and political rights. I also see some news about China allowing citizen to use the Constitution to address legal issues. I think these all point to a positive direction, a direction dramatically different than the China I remember.

In some ways, the protest in New York reminded me of the protest in China all those years ago. This particular post is disorganized because I'm still trying to make sense of 1989 in light of my experiences.

There are all sorts of different acts; this act in itself implies a political necessity – reaching a consensus of what that act should be. Within this act lay the rights of us, men and women and all ages and races alike, of civil and political and social and economic. We are all at different stages of our existence to afford our people different levels of these rights adjusted and tuned to the conditions of the land. We reach a universal harmony and progress is possible. Global coexistence is a good thing, not all global actions are necessarily evil. If we were invaded by aliens, wouldn’t you wish all people of all nation rise to defend our rights?

So let’s not pass globalization as a bad thing just yet. Let’s keep the protests going and the blogsphere active in all nations to let the information flow and the learning continue. Nothing violent will ever resolve anything useful. Leave that in the past and at the hands of dead soldiers and their widows. They have made the sacrifice so you and I don't waste our opportunity to act. Let the good times roll.