Author Archives: Jorge Madrid

Art and Sustainability: The Next Big Thing

"Today is about making our community more beautiful,” exclaimed State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), at a recent EDF-sponsored community art show and mural launch complete with live DJ’s, an interactive urban planning workshop, local artists, and youth activists.

I know what you might be thinking. “Say what? EDF and art?”

This is one of the new routes we’re taking in our commitment to “finding the ways that work.”

We looked to accomplish two things with this project: to help spark imagination and civic pride by bringing local artists and youth together to create a vision for a more sustainable city, and to make a concerted effort to meet the community where they are on the environmental issues they care about. The results were both inspiring and enlightening.

Our first launch event, in Fresno, CA, featured local muralist Mauro Carrera and local nonprofit partner organizations Valley LEAP, Arte Americas, and Fresno Building Healthy Communities.

The vivid imagery of the Fresno mural was spectacular: an 8’ x 16’ mobile fresco honoring the agricultural heritage of California’s Central Valley and its hardworking migrant workers, while integrating and embracing a new vision of more clean energy, fresh water, bike access, clean air, and green space.

The mural will be rotated throughout the year around several local community organizations and used for future youth conferences and monthly art walks in downtown Fresno.

The next day we moved the party to Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, partnering with Pacoima Beautiful and local artist Kristy Sandoval for a 15’ x 30’ mural painted outside the city’s Community Center, which houses numerous non-profit youth organizations. This project featured a call to “keep Pacoima beautiful,” and a bold vision to capture some of the vast solar potential in sunny San Fernando Valley (a recent EDF study found that capturing just 5% of the rooftop solar power in the area could create thousands of jobs and reduce carbon emissions by over 200,000 metric tons per year).

The mural will expand in the future along the Community Center’s outdoor wall to include images calling to mind water conservation and urban greening, and will occupy an anchor spot on the regular Pacoima mural walking tour.

So why sustainability through art?

EDF’s Keith Gaby nailed it last month with a blog that set a refreshing tone for the environmental movement:

The reality is that environmentalists often have a difficult time reaching the people with whom we most need to build trust in order to accomplish our goals: Americans who don't feel a natural kinship with the traditional environmental movement. We need to accept that other people's priorities — economic or cultural — are valid and important.

Effective environmental policy needs to recognize and prioritize the local and regional needs of communities; part of doing this means communicating policies and values that meet folks where they live, literally. Public art (such as murals) is a special way to facilitate a conversation that anyone can access, a conversation that comes from the community, for the community.

In the weeks and months leading up to the mural launches, EDF staff and partners participated in local workshops with community members to discuss climate change, clean energy, and resiliency. Our partners led the conversation and the artists took in feedback about the collective vision, incorporating it into each mural’s design. The end result was something enduring and beautiful, a bold vision for a sustainable future and a rousing call to action to help us get there.

Stay tuned to EDF to learn more about the official mural launch parties – including two mini “web-isodes” – and more of our ideas on how we plan to jump on the “next big thing” in sustainability.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate | Comments closed

LASER: Turning the climate threat into a story of opportunity for Los Angeles

Jorge-Madrid(This post originally appeared on EDF Voices)

I’m an L.A. guy, so I like to think about things in epic story lines. And with today's launch of EDF and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation new "LASER" maps (Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report), I think we’ve got a real blockbuster on our hands.

The LASER story opens with a team of top scientists warning us of an imminent threat – climate change – that will cause widespread disruption and human suffering if left unmitigated.

Utilizing the groundbreaking work of Dr. Alex Hall and the UCLA Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, the LASER maps illustrate what climate change is going to look like in the Los Angeles region in just a few decades.

By mid-century, the region will experience a tripling in the number of extreme heat days in the downtown and urban core, and a quadrupling in the number of extreme heat days in the valleys and at high elevations.

The plot thickens as we get a clearer sense of the communities that are most at risk – those already dealing with bad air quality, lack of adequate green space and tree canopy, poor access to public transit, and other challenges like high unemployment levels, poverty and public health hazards.LAclimate_TempRise

This is the part of the story where we could give up in the face of seemingly impossible odds…but that’s not how we roll in Los Angeles.

The LASER maps also introduce a powerful narrative about how we can fight back by  mitigating the carbon pollution
driving climate change, building community resiliency through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and seizing opportunities for economic growth that reduce vulnerability.

Utilizing sophisticated GIS mapping tools and other data, LASER shows the tremendous environmental and economic potential for rooftop solar in Los Angeles County:

  • Nearly 29,000 local jobs in solar panel installation could be created if merely 5% of the rooftop solar energy generating potential in LA County was realized.
  • If LA rooftops were able to capture that 5% of solar capacity they would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.25 million tons, equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road annually.

LAclimate_JobsAnother LASER plot line involves energy efficiency, one of the cheapest ways to reduce carbon pollution and lower utility bills at the same time. The LASER maps show that:

  • Nearly 1.5 million buildings in LA County were built before energy efficiency codes went into effect, which means…
  • 80% of all buildings in LA County have elevated potential for cost-saving, energy efficiency investments.

If this were actually a Hollywood blockbuster, we would probably cut to a final, climactic showdown and a dramatic rescue from impending doom. But unlike Hollywood, there is no pre-written ending to the climate crisis.

To mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and prepare vulnerable communities for the climate impacts already on their way, we need serious investment and deployment of clean energy and low-carbon infrastructure – particularly in those communities that will be hit the hardest.LAclimate_Buildings_2

LASER provides tools that can help elected officials and advocates pinpoint the communities that are most vulnerable to climate change, identify the region’s clean energy investment potential, and then develop policies and funding mechanism to unleash it. EDF is here to help in that effort, and look forward to supporting our friends and allies in Los Angeles who are working to make the clean energy potential profiled in LASER a real-life success story.

In the end, LASER tells a tale of threat and opportunity in Los Angeles. Now it’s time to get to work to make sure this epic has a positive ending.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Engaging Latinos, Jobs | Comments closed

It’s Time for Latino Leadership on Climate Change

(This post first appeared on EDF voices)

Source: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

I love California in the summertime, and Fourth of July weekend is one of my favorite holidays. But it is getting excruciatingly HOT out here, and according to the best science, it is going to get much hotter.

This past weekend the West Coast broke nearly every temperature record on the books, well ahead of August and September, which are usually the hottest months of the year.

And last year was the hottest year on record for the continental United States. Crops were devastated, cities were hit by supercharged storms, and people, mostly the poor, suffered and died amid some of the most destructive extreme weather events in our history. All told, the United States spent more than $110 Billion on weather related disasters in 2012.

There’s more bad news ahead. Extreme heat projections for the U.S. in 2030, based on research from Stanford University, shows that the West and Southwest are going to get really, really hot!

Those regions, incidentally, are going to have the largest concentrations of people of color in the country, and Latinos will be the fastest growing part of that demographic.  It doesn’t take a scientist to see that two freight trains – Latino population growth and extreme weather driven by climate change- are heading directly towards each other.

So will the climate change story end in disaster?  Or could this be an opportunity to adapt to and overcome a great challenge?  Latino leadership will be key to answering this question.

National polling data tells us that Latino voters see that something is terribly wrong, and overwhelmingly support action to fix it. Seventy-four percent of Latinos polled earlier this year believe climate change is a “serious problem”, almost 10 percent higher than the national average among all American adults.  Another poll tells us that 86% of Latinos strongly support President Obama taking action to reduce pollution that causes climate change. What’s more, gender, income, education, nativity and even party affiliation do not significantly move the needle on Latinos’ commitment to tackling climate change.

Now for the exciting part: adapting to climate change will present one of the greatest opportunities to rebuild and enhance our infrastructure and economy, and to improve our public health. Why? Because adaptation will require major investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, as well as more green space and trees in our cities and more reliable (and low-carbon) transportation. We also need to stop burning the fossil fuels that are cooking our planet and polluting our air.

Got Sun? 

For a start, why not begin capturing all that free solar energy with rooftop solar panels?  This will reduce the strain on our electricity grid, and allow communities to stay cool without breaking the bank on the energy costs of air conditioning. Better still, building out solar will be good for the economy. In California, my home state, 92% of Latino voters want to increase the use of renewable energy and 87% agreed that “growing the state’s solar energy industry will create new jobs in California.”

I’ve written before that the Clean Energy economy is an opportunity for Latinos, creating new demand for goods and services, new businesses and new jobs. After all, somebody has to design and install all those solar panels, plant the trees, weatherize the homes and businesses, and operate and maintain our mass transit systems. That’s an easy argument to make to Latinos voters, 86% of whom said that they would prefer the country to invest in clean, renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels.

Last week I joined Latino leaders from Voces Verdes and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) to have a conversation about the need for better and cleaner infrastructure in a warming world. And President Obama made it clear last week that his administration will double down on climate change, calling for all of us to “seize the future.”

As the polls show, the President has overwhelming support for his initiative from Latinos in this country. It’s time for Latino leaders to follow suit by being at the forefront of those calling for action on climate change.

 

 

 

Posted in Climate, Engaging Latinos | Comments closed

California’s Secret to Green Jobs and a Thriving Clean Economy? It’s Policy.

California has a thriving clean economy. In fact, the Golden State boasted more green jobs in clean energy and transportation last year than the other top 4 states combined, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs.

Here are some more highlights:

Innovation – The state is a hub for clean energy innovation. Clean technology patents grew by 26 percent in the past 2 years, outpacing the country and the rest of the world.   It is the “undisputed leader in solar technology patents” according to Next10.org, with totals greater than the cumulative solar patents of the next eight highest states. 

Energy Generation – Total renewable energy generation has grown 28 percent between 2007 and 2011 and wind energy has doubled during this same period.  Earlier this month, the state broke its own record for solar power – over 15,394 megawatt-hours of power to the grid, enough for every Californian to keep a 100-watt bulb lit for four hours.  Not to be outdone, the state also surpassed 4-gigawatts of wind power – similar to what California's two nuclear plants can churn out at full power, or enough to momentarily supply over 2.5 million homes.

Jobs – Green jobs are growing four times faster than the rate of all other jobs nationwide, with the majority happening in California according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  EDF’s analysis of California’s clean economy finds that jobs in core sectors like energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean transportation, and advanced storage and materials have not only remained resilient during the worst of the Great Recession (2008-2010), they outpaced all other job growth and grew 109 percent from 1995 to 2010.

Green jobs are also good jobs in California.  They are diverse, across a wide range of education-level and skills, and almost half of all jobs in the clean economy don’t require a college degree according to the Brookings Institution.  On average, green jobs offer a higher median wage and career advancement opportunities. An analysis by Philip Romero, the former Dean of CSU Los Angeles College of Business and Economics finds that “workers command wages with a 50-to-100 percent premium over the average job,” and estimates that the overall clean economy will grow “by at least 60-to-100 percent” by the late 2030’s.

Something exciting is happening in California, and at this point you may be wondering what our secret is? 

It’s policy.   California boasts a legacy of innovation stemming from the state’s leadership in environmental policy – it happens here first and it transforms markets.  It is evidenced in everything from improved tailpipe emission standards and higher performing gas mileage in cars, greater efficiency in household appliances, and greener building practices that has transformed the sector and created hundreds of billions of dollars in economic value.  All these innovations started with policy

I believe good stuff can happen when you set clear policies that signal markets and influence behaviors.  There is a reason why 24 percent of hybrid and 32 percent of electric vehicles in the US are registered in California:  good policy that led to better cars and consumers who could see the improvement to their bottom line at the gas pump.  California leads in renewable energy, efficiency, and clean transportation in strong part because of strong policies like AB 32 which puts a price on carbon and sets a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard, providing a clear market signal for greater investment in clean technology.

And by the way, someone local has to install all those solar panels and wind turbines, weatherize all those homes, as well as maintain and operate all those buses and rail cars – good jobs in the clean economy follow smart policy.

It turns out that California’s “secret” to growing green jobs and a thriving clean economy is not so secret at all…it’s good policy.

Posted in Clean Energy, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Tagged , , , | 8 Responses, comments now closed

A Triple Bottom Line for the Central Valley: Environment, Economy, Equity

This week the Air Resources Board (ARB) held a public workshop in Fresno, California, to gather public input on ways to invest proceeds from California’s cap-and-trade auction.  ARB heard from a wide variety of individuals and organizations with bright ideas on how to spend this money on projects that can lower greenhouse gases (GHG) and maximize the benefit to disadvantaged communities who are the most vulnerable to climate change and pollution impacts.

I represented EDF at the workshop, and an extended version of my public comments follows:

 

Good evening, my name is Jorge Madrid, and I am speaking as a representative from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – I’m also speaking as a community member with roots in the Central Valley, where my family has lived for the past 11 years.

As I’m sure most of you already know, California’s Central Valley is home to four of the five most polluted cities in America, according to data from the American Lung Association.  And for those of you, like me, who have family members in the Valley who work outdoors every day, you know that the dual threat of dirty air and extreme heat is a recipe for poor health and costly medical bills.  We can’t afford not to act, and I am glad that the Air Resources Board is taking these bold steps to clean the air and fight climate change.

EDF is committed to working with the strong coalition of organizations from across the state, representing a wide array of interests and stakeholders, who are committed to seeing that proceeds from the cap-and-trade auction are directed to projects that will advance the goals of AB 32 in an effective and equitable manner.

We especially want to see projects that can deliver a “triple bottom line,” which benefit people, the planet, and the economy.  We know that all three of these things can grow together, and this is a fantastic opportunity to lead the rest of the country.

There are many examples of triple bottom line investments; here are a few that should rise to the top:

  • The ARB should prioritize smart investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  These investments will reduce greenhouse gasses, while also providing savings on utility bills, and creating jobs in the construction sector – which is still experiencing disproportionately high unemployment levels in this region.  Further, 89% of the materials used in building retrofits are manufactured right here in the U.S. and 91% of the firms performing retrofits are small businesses.   There is no reason why we can’t grow these jobs and businesses in the Valley.

Schools and community colleges are a good target for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, because lowering a school’s utility bill frees up resources for other expenses like more teachers and computers. An upgraded “green” school uses 33 % less energy and 32% less water on average, saving $100,000 per year on operating costs – according to the US Green Building Council.

The Madera Golden Valley Unified School District is already taking action, utilizing renewable energy to help combat constrained budgets. It purchased a 1.1-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system that supplies 80 percent of the district’s total annual electricity consumption – preventing 2.3 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution each year, and is expected to achieve up to $250,000 in cumulative energy savings by 2017 and up to $9 million in cumulative energy savings after 25 years of operation.

  • Cleaner transportation, both operations and equipment, should also be prioritized for investment. Nearly 40% of all GHG in the state are from the transportation sector, which is also the largest contributor to harmful smog and particulate pollution that aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

During the hot summer days with the highest levels of pollution, youth in the Valley are 69% more likely to be admitted to the emergency room for asthma, according the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Each of those ER visits costs an average of about $1,500, and hospitalizations can cost 10 times that.

Investing auction revenue in mass transit, cleaner fuels, and cleaner vehicles, can help get folks out of their cars and reduce harmful pollution, while also increasing mobility and equity for people who can't afford to drive.

  • Of course the Central Valley’s biggest employer is agriculture, and no conversation would be complete without mentioning the potential for GHG reductions from this sector.  EDF is committed to working with scientists, policy makers, and farmers to evaluate the best ideas and practices.

One idea is to incentivize the preservation of agricultural lands which will reduce urban sprawl and the increased vehicle trips that come with it.  Another idea can include incentivizing better fertilizer practices, which will reduce the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, a potent GHG, as well as reduce the release of nitrates and other toxins into the water supply.  These kinds of investments can benefit farmers who own the land, and promote cleaner air and water that helps the people, like my family and friends, who pick the food.

These are just a few examples of the “triple bottom line” we can create with smart investments.  We can improve our environment, improve our health, and grow our economy.

We support an ongoing discussion of the best use of auction proceeds, and feel confident that good ideas will rise to the top. We want to help make sure the investments, and the process for choosing them, are sound and include the best thinking and analysis possible, as well as the largest array of voices and stakeholders as possible.

Posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Engaging Latinos, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Jobs | Comments closed

Latino Support Surges for the Environment

California lawmakers take notice: Latino voters want a strong economy AND a clean environment, two things they believe are not mutually exclusive.

A new poll released by the California League of Conservation Voters finds that an overwhelming 90 percent of Latino voters believe that the state can “protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.”  This number mirrors national trends among Latino voters, including a recent national poll by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Sierra Club, which found that 90 percent of surveyed voters believe that protecting land and water resources is “critical to the economy.”

Here are three major takeaways:

  1.  Latinos are the fastest growing electoral body in the country, and in California they account for 38 percent of the state’s population and 25 percent of the electorate in 2010. There are over 2 million eligible but unregistered Latino voters in the state and almost 2.4 million legal permanent residents who are eligible to become citizens and vote.  With the most recent redistricting process in California, 19 out of 53 congressional districts now have a Latino majority, the largest number of such districts in the country.  In the state legislature, nearly 40 percent of both the Assembly and State Senate are Latino-majority districts.
  2. Latinos can see the direct impact of pollution in their daily lives: 85 percent of those polled have “serious concerns” about toxic pollution affecting the health and wellbeing of their families.  Their concerns are well-founded – California is home to the top 5 most polluted cities in the country according to the American Lung Association, and Latinos make up more than half of all residents in these polluted cities, with populations in the Central Valley reaching a whopping 60 percent.
  3. Latinos want clean energy, and they are willing to pay extra for it.  Latino voters show overwhelming support (83 percent) for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of the main components of the state’s landmark legislation AB 32, which requires one third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2020 – compare this to 51 percent of Latino voters in the state who oppose drilling off the coast, or a meager 44 percent who favor coal as an energy source.  Most surprisingly, support for the RPS remains strong even when voters are told their energy rates may increase.

On this last point, I’ve written before that the clean economy is an economic opportunity for U.S. Latinos, and the NCLR/Sierra poll confirms that Latinos would rather work in the clean energy sector, with 83 percent calling coal plants and oil refineries “a thing of the past.”  National polls also indicate that Latino voters largely reject the notion that clean energy and environmental protections are “job-killers” or bad for the economy.

While jobs and the economy are still the number one issue on Latino voter’s minds, it is clear that they believe economic growth at the expense of public health or environmental protection is a no-go for California.

 

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Engaging Latinos, Politics | 1 Response, comments now closed

The Clean Economy is an Opportunity for US Latinos

(Excerpt from original post on Fox News Latino on 9/13/12)

Economy and jobs are the top issue on Latino voters' minds, according to the 2012 “Latino Decisions Poll,” a theme that will be featured prominently in this week’s Hispanic Heritage events in DC.

It's all the more reason to discuss a powerful engine of opportunity in this country called the clean “green” economy – it is here, it is real, and it is one of the few bright spots in an economy desperate for a comeback.

In 2010, I wrote “Green Can Grow Latino Business,” arguing that the clean economy will create new demand for goods and services, new supply chains and niche markets, and opportunities to create new business models and reinvent old ones.

This is a boon for all would-be entrepreneurs, including Latinos — the nation’s fastest growing demographic. Further, new business creates jobs, and jobs create more demand for goods and services, and the virtuous cycle continues.

The results?  Despite the persistence of a national recession, the clean energy sector grew at double the rate of national economy from 2003-2010, attracting record-level investment and venture capital last year, and boasting twice the export value of traditional sectors.  In total, “Green Goods and Services” as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor accounts for 3.1 million U.S. jobs, with more than one-third of those jobs in the struggling construction and manufacturing industries.

In my home state of California, where Latinos make up 38 percent of the state’s population, the numbers are even more striking:

  • California leads the country in clean economy jobs and solar power generation, and wind power has doubled since 2002.
  • The state accounts for 13 percent of all “environmental goods” exported by the U.S., the majority in renewable or efficiency products.
  • From 2002 to 2011 the state produced 9 percent of worldwide clean energy patents,
  • Since 2006, $9 billion in venture capital has flowed to California clean technology firms.

Jobs in the clean economy are diverse, across a wide range of education-level and skills.  On average, clean economy jobs offer a higher median wage and career advancement opportunities, and almost half of all jobs in the clean economy don’t require a college degree, according to the Brookings Institution.

An analysis of clean energy jobs in Southern California by Philip Romero, the former Dean of CSU Los Angeles College of Business and Economics, finds that “workers command wages with a 50-to-100 percent premium over the average job,” and estimates that the overall clean economy will grow “by at least 60-to-100 percent”  by the late 2030’s.

If we want to compare this to fossil fuels, we find that the overall clean economy employs “more than ten times as many workers in the LA region as does petroleum and coal products production,” according to Romero — and analysis of the oil industry’s own job estimates finds that more than half of all the state’s “direct jobs” are gasoline station attendants making minimum wage.

If we want to have a serious discussion about economic opportunity – for all communities – we need look no further than the clean “green” economy.

It is an economic engine that is creating new demand, new investments, well-paid jobs, and new business opportunities, all in spite of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

And, by the way, it is creating economic growth without harming the planet and poisoning communities with toxic pollution.  If we want America to continue being the land of opportunity, then let green grow!

 

Jorge Madrid is a Fellow with the Environmental Defense Fund. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Voces Verdes, and a former Graduate Fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and the California Latino Caucus Institute.  He can be reached at jmadrid@edf.org 

See original post at: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2012/09/13/jorge-madrid-clean-economy-is-opportunity-for-us-latinos/#ixzz26SmlEJOy

 

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Engaging Latinos, Jobs, Politics | 1 Response, comments now closed