Posts tagged ‘Environmental Protection’

It’s never been easy being green

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

Conventional wisdom laments that today’s political atmosphere has become so polarized that the nation isn’t able to establish consensus-based national policy on contemporary environmental and conservation issues like we did in the good old days when both major political parties and the public saw eye-to-eye.

My recent reading of Timothy Egan’s, “The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America” reminded me that it has never been easy being green.

Egan, a Seattle-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, outdoorsman, and columnist for the New York Times, tells the story of the August 1910 wildfire that consumed an area the size of Connecticut. The fire swept through parts of Montana, Idaho, Washington and British Columbia in a matter of days, wiping out entire towns, and killing more than a hundred people.

Woven into the narrative of the events around the fire is the story of how President Theodore Roosevelt and Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot were able to establish vast national forests.  As they put it, these forests should be for the use and enjoyment of all the people, rather than for exploitation by wealthy individuals and corporations, which had been the case until then. Most of us take the concept of the National Forests for granted. Yet Egan explains how radical the concept was at the time, and points out that there were many powerful forces aligned against Roosevelt and Pinchot.

It makes the reader wonder, how on earth Roosevelt and Pinchot did it. But, Egan shows us that Roosevelt and Pinchot had powerful forces of their own: their vision of what was best for the long-term, well-being of the nation, their energy and personal commitment, and their trust in the American people. The battle of conservation of our National Forests versus consumption by private industry continued throughout the twentieth century. As the twenty-first century emerged, conservation had ultimately prevailed due to reasons both economic and ideological.

I found the story inspiring and relevant to today’s environmental challenges, be they global, national, or organizational. When applied wisely, the combination of a clear and unselfish vision, hard work, and belief in the decency and wisdom of others can overcome significant resistance.

We’ve all fought uphill battles, albeit not on the epic scale of Roosevelt and Pinchot. I’d like to hear your inspiring stories. How have you overcome resistance within your organization to proposed EHS policies? How have you persuaded entrenched interests to support EHS initiatives with long-term benefit to your organization?

January 24, 2011 at 10:37 am 2 comments

Environmentalism is Patriotic

Carol Singer Neuvelt

While much has been written about our country’s abundant natural wealth, it bears reminding that our access to natural resources helped fuel our economic prosperity and leadership during the 20th century.

I know it’s hokey, but on the eve of Independence Day, I’d like to spend a few moments pondering the idea that environmental values are at the core of the cultural and societal values this country was founded on.

So in  the spirit of the day, I’d like to share what a few of our Presidents had to say about the importance of environmental conservation:

“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The solution of our energy crisis can also help us to conquer the crisis of the spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give our nation and all of us individually a new sense of purpose.”Jimmy Carter

“The American people have a right to air that they and their children can breathe without fear.” –  Lyndon Baines Johnson

“The people have a vital interest in the conservation of their natural resources; in the prevention of wasteful practices.”Herbert Hoover

“The recent upsurge of public concern over environmental questions reflects a belated recognition that man has been too cavalier in his relations with nature. Unless we arrest the depredations that have been inflicted so carelessly on our natural systems–which exist in an intricate set of balances–we face the prospect of ecological disaster.” – Richard Nixon

As we all prepare to close up shop and celebrate the Independence Day, I invite you share some of the patriotic environmentalist that have inspired you in your career and life.

July 2, 2010 at 4:20 pm 2 comments

So, who’s minding the store?

Frank Brandauer

I came up in a time when an “engaged and fair” regulator was viewed (if not begrudgingly) by industry as a necessary and valued partner. Their actions kept the playing field level, provided a measure of protection and helped industry keep its risks in focus. Whatever the relationship, regulators were seen as a real and significant force both in terms of actions and outcomes.

Nowadays there seems to be a never ending list of government branches and agencies that are unable to effectively regulate. And their failures have had profound and wide-ranging impacts on our society. From the financial sector (Enron, the mortgage collapse, AIG and Madoff) to Consumer Product Safety (imports from China, contaminated meats and vegetables) and most recently oil and gas exploration (BP and natural gas fracking), enforcement does not  appear to be what it once was.

Clearly there has been a shift away from strong and aggressive regulation toward a belief in the power of corporate governance, transparency and market forces. In light of recent events, I wonder if we can afford the costs when these other approaches fail?

We are in the midst of a great social experiment, be it planned or not. My brother-in-law says that “no one ever goes to jail,” and other than a few executions in China (in extreme cases), it seems that individuals are not being held accountable for their mistakes. Thus said, I believe (and truly hope) CEO’s around the world are taking a second look at their EHS risks and efforts after seeing how their colleagues at BP have fared in recent weeks.

From the perspective of an EHS manager, the questions I think are most interesting are:

  • Does reduced regulatory oversight or effectiveness actually increase or decrease industry’s EHS risk and associated costs?
  • Is the amount of EHS citations still an effective EHS metric?
  • Are market forces and NGO’s an effective substitution for regulation?
  • Have you talked with your management today, and if so what did you say? If not, why not?

Frank Brandauer is Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at Therapak Corp., President of Avail Consulting Services LLC and a member of the NAEM board.

June 28, 2010 at 11:17 am 2 comments

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