Will Bezos Save The Planet Before Destroying It?

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Jeff Bezos – key player and leader of Amazon.com, the world’s largest online supermarket – has pledged to spend billions of dollars to fight climate change.

Still of Bezos Instagram post

This is truly amazing and we need more people to step up and challenge modern day thinking about how people and economies should interact.

Let’s start with Amazon. I’m not afraid to admit that I frequently use Amazon.

In the long-run, I see a fleet of Amazon trucks doing routine deliveries all up and down our little suburban neighbourhoods, with the rest of us, well, fighting for space within our already crowded roads.

With that in mind, let’s encourage Amazon to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ before demanding everyone else take a leadership role.

So, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, let’s begin in your own backyard, so to speak.

Point one: repair our roads.

It seems counter-intuitive at first, but hear me out.

As it stands, if Canada were to get 3% of that $10 billion, it would equate to a mere $300 million. Now, some of us in smaller municipalities could easily repair many roads with $300 million extra for budget, but the reality is that our bigger cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver – needs TENS of billions in support in order to make their transit more efficient.

But at least we’d repair some of the bigger routes with repaving and resurfacing. This action would benefit you, Amazon and your drivers almost immediately because they wouldn’t have to take alternate routes because the main ones are so decayed.

And, you’d be able to claim that you’re not freeloading off the backs of taxpayers (ie. your customers) and municipalities that, honestly, can’t really afford these kind of megaprojects on a routine basis.

Don’t forget: because roads exist, Amazon exists.

Next, let’s talk about the vehicles they use. If Jeff Bezos and Amazon were serious about climate change, they’d turn the spotlight to themselves and force all delivery vehicles to be 100% rechargeable and electric. That includes third-parties to which they sub-contract.

Amazon stretching out their hands to another potential partner – eg. Tesla – would go a long way to pushing us into the 21st century and away from the age of the internal combustion engine. Establishing an electric fleet for ALL deliveries would guarantee you’d be the only online company I order from. Others would follow suit quickly.

Third, they should invest in regional ‘nodes’ of charging stations to ensure that there is at least 1 station per, say, 1,000 cars (or whatever math the gas companies use) and 5,000 people. This would ensure that they are leading the way with electric infrastructure and also encourage others that are on the fence when it comes to knowing that they can charge their cars when they need to.

A good place to start would be public parking garages and other downtown facilities that would allow for full charging through the day without really upsetting the balance of things with parking infrastructure.

Of course, you’d also have to have some ‘along the way’, so why not invest in a little ‘vertical integration’ and have a charging station, a coffee shop and, I don’t know … maybe a couple of books or magazines that people could browse?

Fourth, packaging. If so many products are basically hand-delivered, why does Amazon insist on so much extra packaging?

Next, and related to packaging: develop programs with test cities that focus on 100% re-use (better than recycling) of Amazon packaging and materials. If the box is treated properly and the plastic bubble packaging isn’t poked into oblivion, it can be re-used.

If that’s not an option, at least try to develop ways that your packaging materials can be ‘harvested’, sorted, chopped/sliced and recycled as something else. Go the extra mile and invest in ‘harvesting’ centres across the planet and stop contributing to the loss of trees and valuable forests so we can have pristine boxes with every delivery.

Another consideration? Live up to your name. The Amazon is being ripped up at a record pace thanks to right-wing, earth-hating, money-loving Jair Bolsonaro. Invest in ways to ruin any prospect of him and his cronies ever being elected again and PROTECT THE DAMN RAIN FORESTS AND THEIR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES!!!

Finally, make your $10 billion pledge an ANNUAL gift program and focus on specific areas or cities that would bump up the acceleration and adoption of green programs across the globe. Hell, have a contest on an annual basis, much like you did with the second headquarters a while back. I promise you I would encourage my local municipality to submit a proposal every year and you could do crazy stuff like make a Netflix series about it.

So there you go, Jeff. A practical and also creative list from a lay-person to you to help Amazon minimize it’s impact on the planet.

Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch the relationships with Amazon and China, shipping and other systems that need to be addressed!

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Wet’suwet’en Raids: We Step Back From Advancing

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In this case, it relates to the Wet’suwet’en Raids in BC.

Only The Tyee and Andrew Nikiforuk have had the audacity to make a statement about how the arrests of protesters pushes Canada back decades with respect to our (modest) efforts to move forward with First Nations rights and respect as well as climate change.

And the resulting anger from bystanders that are moderately inconvenienced when protests spread across the county? Spare me.

What we’re seeing is a massive step backwards into colonialism when the rest of the world is trying to move forward.

Shame on us.

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Paris Meets Jane Jacobs, Version 2.0

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Sometimes I admit I just scan an article and then post it for the wider audience to absorb. OK … it’s out there. Maybe blame a sense of impulse or maybe even just exuberance when it comes to sharing ideas.

Anyways, I read this article three times and counting now because I’m a big dork with a strange passion for urban planning.

This is an article about Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo; Carlos Moreno, a ‘smart city’ professor at Sorbonne; and Jane Jacobs, the Canadian-American city planner of the 1960s.

I just posted an article about how New York is ranked number 1 when it comes to their impact on the climate (as in the lowest or best). Vast subways, efficient use of space, cycling networks and creative ideas like the High Line.

Not every city has the granite core that Manhattan does allowing for layer upon layer of subways. They don’t even have the limestone core that Paris enjoys … allowing for similar results.

But the plan – the 15 minute city – can be implemented anywhere in the world. And it SHOULD be.

Here are just a few top-level recommendations that come from Hidalgo’s ‘Paris en Commun’ plan:

  • Focus on a people-friendly city
  • Removing parking space – 72% of them! or 60,000 of the 83,500 on-street parking spaces – in favour of sidewalks and bike lanes
  • Pedestrian plazas instead of parkades
  • Creation of a ‘segmented city’ that allows for people to experience and obtain most of their needs within 15 minutes of where they live; allowing for green spaces, garden/vegetable plots, local markets and more all within a short walk of your home.
  • More ‘nodes’ that allow people to work within a short distance of their home

 

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The words of Moreno are insightful and inspiring:

Moreno observes that cities are “still driven by the paradigm of the oil era and its impact on roads and general urban planning” but that the “era of omnipresent cars” is coming to an end.

“Pervasive petrol-powered transport” has to be designed out, believes Moreno to enable “real quality of life.” He admits his is an “ambitious urban policy” that will require a “radical transformation of our lifestyles.”

It is “about challenging our urban pace of life,” says Moreno.

“Chrono-urbanism must be at the heart of our roadmap for the years to come,” he states.

“Preserving our quality of life requires us to build other relationships between these two essential components of urban life: time and space.”

My take on his comments: we have to stop building cities that revolve around cars.

TODAY.

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Cities, Transportation & Climate Impact

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This is an intreresting report on the top 100 cities in the US and their position with respect to their impact on the climate.

The purpose of the data in the report, derived largely from location-based data generated from smartphones, is intended to serve as high-level information for cities aiming to explore policy directions to reduce greenhouse gases.

Reducing car use, or at least single-occupancy trips, is the most obvious path to an improved climate index score.

The top three?

  • New York City, for its density of public transit, especially subways
  • San Francisco, largely for dominance of bikes and pedestrians
  • Madison, Wisconsin

What do we need to do? Be created and kick in a plan to marginalize single-use aspects of our transportation infrastructure, especially parking lots.

And as cities explore the many ways to eliminate car trips from their transportation footprint, they should think creatively about the transportation networks and infrastructure they already have.

“Any move away from a kind of single-use urban design strategy is a good one,” said Christopher Hawthorne, chief design officer for the city of Los Angeles, as he encouraged multiple uses for parking lots, allowing them to transition into package or food delivery staging areas.

“We no longer have the luxury of giving over territory of the city to spaces that only have one use. And certainly a parking structure, or parking lot, is part of that,” said Hawthorne.

Lots of questions, but not a lot of answers … yet.

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The 100 People and Companies Responsible for 71% of the World’s Carbon Emissions

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Sure, we can cut down on our plastic lids at Starbucks or reduce our bags at the grocery checkout.

And maybe we can try to have a backyard composter to ease up on the waste that makes it to landfill.

Some of us are even going vegetarian or vegan to help cut back on carbon-producing animals that were once a mainstay of our diets.

Of course, when we recycle, we know a LOT of it winds up in landfill or the ocean.

We do the little things because we want to believe the little things will add up.

But they won’t.

Just 100 people head the 100 companies that produce 71% of the world’s emissions.

Here’s some additional insight on this report from The Guardian UK.

Carbon Tracker study in 2015 found that fossil fuel companies risked wasting more than $2tn over the coming decade by pursuing coal, oil and gas projects that could be worthless in the face of international action on climate change and advances in renewables – in turn posing substantial threats to investor returns.

A fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions are backed by public investment, according to the report. “That puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk,” says Faria.

Investors should move out of fossil fuels, says Michael Brune, executive director of US environmental organisation the Sierra Club. “Not only is it morally risky, it’s economically risky. The world is moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy and is doing so at an accelerated pace. Those left holding investments in fossil fuel companies will find their investments becoming more and more risky over time.”

Of course, none of these companies would exist if we simply dialed back on everything we consumed on a daily basis, but it’s an important reminder that change will have to come from 7 billion of us demanding our governments to take action against these corporate giants.

For the record, some of this information is moderately misleading. The Pentagon is recorded as the world’s single largest emitter of greenhouse gases compared to the rest of the US government. If I make a similar leap in logic, then we’d get rid of all military around the globe, but we know that’s just not going to happen.

Which brings me back to the key question of the article: can we as individuals have an impact on what happens on a global level or should we pressure our governments to institute reforms that might work against the interest of specifici companies and their shareholders?

An alternative is that if we have money to save, we make that our investment managers or our own decisions go towards options that focus on renewables and companies that have a substantially smaller carbon footprint.

Or maybe all three (and more).

Let’s go!

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