The ForeFront Mission

ForeFront CSL is dedicated to helping communities and individuals work, play, and live in a more sustainable way, by sharing new technologies and initiatives, and developing innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials we use on a daily basis; championing renewable energy resources, waste management and local production as methods for living in a more sustainable manner.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Pachamama Alliance; Changing Attitudes to Changes the World

On November 8th, I had the chance to attend the Pachamama Alliance Luncheon and Fundraiser. I was deeply moved and inspired by the commitment and energy demonstrated by the organizers and participants at the event. The movement sprang (in the 1990s) out of a simple, but profound idea: That in order for the Achuar (an indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest) to survive the onslaught of development and influence from the modern world, this small group of people would simply need to change the way the rest of the world thinks about our relationship to the earth and the preservation of the environment. In 1995, a group of people, including John Perkins, Bill Twist and Lynne Twist, traveled to the rainforest at the invitation of Achuar leaders to learn more. From this meeting, a global movement of enlightenment and action has grown, inspiring professionals, academics and people of all ages to make a new commitment to stewardship of our planet.

Working at a global, regional and local level, the Pachamama Alliance is generating a critical mass of Conscious Commitment. Empowered by their partnership with the Achuar people, The Pachamama Alliance inspires and galvanizes the human family to generate a critical mass of conscious commitment to a thriving, just and sustainable way of life on Earth. Consistent with this larger vision, they generate and engage people everywhere in transformational conversations and experiences that:
  •     Weave together indigenous and modern worldviews
  •     Connect human beings with their inherent dignity
  •     Reveal the magnificence and opportunity of this moment in human history
  •     Transform human relationships – with ourselves, with one another, and with the natural world.
I am committing myself and ForeFront CSL to follow the example set by the Pachamama Alliance. I look forward to finding ways to work with the Alliance and the related 4YG group, which is a campaign to shift humanity’s course toward a just, fulfilling and sustainable future by the end of 2014. I invite you to find out more about these powerful and proactive organizations:

The Pachamama Alliance:
Four Years Go:

Monday, November 14, 2011

ELP Prepares Tomorrow’s World Leaders in Sustainable Environmental Management

The application period is now open for the 2012 Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) at the University of California, Berkeley. The program offers a unique learning opportunity for mid-career practitioners and decision-makers to broaden their knowledge and perspectives on environmental and natural resource science, policy, management, and leadership.   Through exposure to innovative sustainability approaches and dialogue, ELP participants develop the tools and skills necessary to meet environmental goals that also reduce poverty and social conflict.  Established in August 2000 with seed funding from UC Berkeley alumni Carolyn and Richard Beahrs,  the ELP offers an annual three week summer certificate course at UC Berkeley, and coordinates the Berkeley ELP Alumni Network with nearly 400 members from over 90 countries.  The ELP also supports post-training  conservation and sustainable development collaborative projects with alumni, their organizations and the UC Berkeley community of faculty, staff, and students.
ELP alumni have gone on to win awards, like the prestigious The Goldman Environmental Prize, and become key international players in projects and policies that are impacting environmental restoration and preservation efforts throughout the world. To find out more, visit the website for the program and download the application for the 2012 edition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saving the Planet One Garden at a Time

Leaving Plant Litter in Place
by Ira Johnson, Principal of Rainscape Design (featured contributor)

The common landscaping practice of mulching under and around plant material to conserve water, help maintain consistent substrate temperatures, and as a weed inhibitor, can also play a role in carbon sequestering and global warming. Of the variety of mulches used in landscape maintenance, the most important and least used is litter from the landscape itself. The biomass generated by trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground covers (high in Carbon content) is typically blown off and hauled away, adding unnecessary expense to usually tight maintenance budgets. If the collected plant litter is placed in landfill sites, then the 45%-50% of carbon contained in the material is slowly converted to methane gas (Smith and Heath). Methane gas is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas (Keppler and Rockmann 54). Alternatively, if plant litter is left in place then the carbon it contains is sequestered for extensive periods of time while the material decomposes and is absorbed by the soil (Hu). In addition, while covering the soil surface, plant litter slows down emissions of CO2 from the soil to the atmosphere (Si-Qing et al).
We recommend in our maintenance specifications to leave all but large, hazardous, and unsightly plant litter in place to help establish a sustainable nutrient cycle.

Visit Ira at Rainscape Design
Keppler, F. and Rockmann, T. 2007. Methane Plants and Climate Change. Scientific American, February.
Hu, Shuijin 2001. Nitrogen limitation of microbial decomposition in a grassland under elevated CO2. Nature, January/409. 188–191.
Si-Qing, C., Xiao-Yong, C., Guang-Sheng, Z., and Ling-Hao, L. Study on the CO2 release rate of soil respiration and litter decomposition in Stipa grandis Steppe in Xilin River Basin, Inner Mongolia. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Changing the Way We Live

According to the World Resources Institute, the United States’ per capita energy use exceeds the world average by more than four times. We lead the world in per capita waste production and have only recently been edged out by China as the leading producer of CO2. Notwithstanding our second place rating, our per capita CO2 production is still four times that of China (source: US Department of Energy). While proud Americans should still boast about our freedoms and opportunities, we should be able to agree that our liberty is not directly tied to our need to consume such a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources.

So how can we, as a nation, confront this issue and begin to turn the tide before it is too late. Perhaps more importantly, how can we live up to our role as a world leader in technology and innovation, helping to find solutions that will serve humankind globally. Do we really need to:
  • Bring our industrial complex to a grinding halt in order to restructure the methods that we use to generate the energy that drives production?
  • Stop enjoying our American way of life and abandon the American dream for a lifestyle more in line with developing countries?
  • Stop driving our cars and shun all products that are petroleum based?
No we don’t, and the truth is that sadly (as a nation) we would not do these things even if that is what it took to save the world. Instead, it is important to reflect on how much the lifestyle that we so enjoy can be preserved while still altering the way that we consume energy and natural resources. Can the power and creativity of our industrial might not also be used to lead the world in developing sustainable technologies? Does our way of life depend more on how many resources we consume, or is it more a reflection of how we live together and express our freedoms? If we can maintain the same level of mobility, wouldn’t we gladly utilize convenient public transportation that uses renewable energy resources, and would it really matter to us what powers our cars?

Professor Jeffrey Sachs talks about changing the way we live and setting realistic goals for revamping how we work and live. He suggests that we need to formulate a vision for thirty or forty years down the road, when clean energy technologies and new production methods could realistically be implemented and become part of our established way of living.

According to the Energy Information Administration, our energy use by sector in the United States is relatively equally divided between the industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors. In turn, each sector presents unique challenges and opportunities for how to reduce our energy consumption. The trick will be to develop and introduce new technologies, altering our lifestyles in ways that will be acceptable to the majority of consumers. The same is true of the consumption of other resources; how we use water, and how we use and dispose of materials like plastic, wood and glass. Trends in household energy use by Americans show that we do want to be more responsible and consume less. But, the process of changing how we live day-to-day will take time and commitment. The simple truth is that, as a nation, we cannot continue on our present course and not expect to suffer for our irresponsibility. The time to start this process of change is now; each one of us, day by day, reshaping how we live, and doing our incremental part to alter the direction of our current consumption habits.

This is an excellent talk by Jeff Sachs about the future of energy and the global environmental movement. He is very realistic about 'what it is going to take' and also very critical of the world's governments and their ability to confront the issues and make the tough decisions.
Jeffrey Sachs Talks at the Harvard Future of Energy Seminar