Building Green
Bill Baue

Seachange_square300_small Building Green

Alex Wilson

Alex Wilson founded in 1985, when the green building movement was in its infancy.  As executive editor of Environmental Building News, the bible of green building, Wilson has provided the information that has formed the building blocks of the movement.  In November 2008, Wilson received the Leadership Award for Educationfrom the US Green Building Council, whose board he served on from 2000 until 2005, the crucial period when the organization created theLEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Wilson launches the conversation with a primer on green building and its history, starting with an explanation of LEED.  He then compares indigenous structural design, such as the Anasazi, who oriented their dwellings toward the sun to capture solar energy, compared to design that developed in the age of cheap fossil fuel, which abandoned age-old principles of efficiency.  Wilson points out, however, that the Anasazi  civilization collapsed due to reliance on unsustainable water use — a fate our current culture may share with them.

Wilson highlights solutions, such as green roofs and urban agriculture which integrates into the built environment, citing the example of City Farm in Chicago.  He then proposes the idea of passive survivability, the notion of designing our buildings to survive the kinds of challenges that will become more prevalent as the climate changes, such as power outages and water shortages.  The beauty of this idea is that it’s exactly the kind of design we need to achieve sustainability.

NewsAnalysis: Fairtrade Cocoa Goes Big League

Cadbury Dairy Milk Goes Fairtrade Cadbury, the popular British chocolate maker, just agreed to source Fairtrade cocoa for Cadbury Dairy Milk, the top-selling chocolate bar in the UK. The move effectively triples sales of Fairtrade cocoa for farmers in Ghana, where Cadbury sources from Kuapa Kokoo.  It was one of the first cooperatives there to beFairtrade certified in the ’90s.  In the late ’90s, Kuapa Kokoo also started its own brand, Divine Chocolate, to keep more of the value that typically gets skimmed by middle-men and big chocolate companies.  Erin Gorman, CEO of the Divine Chocolate USA, welcomes the move, which validates its model of Fairtrade sourcing.   Bama Athreya, executive director of the activist NGO International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), also supports the development

Athreya and other activists have been campaigning for over eight years to convince major chocolate companies such as Nestle, Mars, and Hershey’s to purchase Fairtrade cocoa.  The Commitment to Ethical Cocoa Sourcing, a set of guidelines signed by activists and progressive chocolate companies such asEqual Exchange, argues that Fairtrade helps stop the worst forms of child labor and trafficked labor.   Both are widespread problems on cocoa farms in West Africa. Chocolate companies balked at the Fairtrade solution.  

Erin Gorman of Divine points out how Fairtrade addresses not just the symptom of child labor, but also the root causes that underpin child labor.  Check out the Divine Chocolate website for videos of Kuapa Kokoo members.

ViewPoint: Covering Climate Change? Not!

Karl FrischAs the climate heats up, the press treatment of climate change is cooling down.Karl Frisch ofMedia Matters says it used to be that the press treated climate change as a debate between 2 equal partners — on the one hand, the overwhelming majority of scientists who said climate change was happening–and on the other, the miniscule minority of climate change deniers. That’s gone by now, Frisch says — but the press is still dropping the ball on covering solutions to climate change.  Frisch discusses why. He also talks about acolumn by George Will in theWashington Post that sparked a storm of protest from environmentalists.  Andy Revkin of the the DotEarth blog at the New York Times – a reporter who usually gets climate change right —compared Will to Al Goreembroilinghim in controversy.