Home>Latest Shows>>Economics and the Environment - Part 2

Economics and the Environment - Part 2

Feb 19, 2012|

A discussion with Kristen Sheeran, the Director of the Economics For Equity And The Environment Network (www.e3network.org), about the correlation between the national and global economy and the effort to save our planet from the current environmental crisis.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

You're listening to -- just go a series of interviews with people of interest in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington I'm your host Ted Douglas I am about to continue my conversation with Kristen -- in the director of economics for equity and the environment network or. PDX dot com and download the first part of the interview here it's quite a fascinating -- I kept pick up where we left off but for those joining us just now Kristen. Give people a little bit of background on what exactly. Sure -- -- director between network where national network and economists who are committed to developing new and better argument for protecting people on the environmental. So we're really about making economics real and using that tool -- of economists to actually support environmental protection around -- can't afford it which and so often seems to be the case. Well we gonna kind of rehash a little bit in this further conversational we do we talked about the last half hour. But that's based register people -- -- -- -- -- a brief have you been following the whole -- -- met with the science of climate change growing uncertainty -- one point it was kind of we think this is happening but now we're pretty sure this is happening that we're having some pretty major signs of it up around the world and you know -- even just in this country. Has certainly in this area we're lucky in that. Basically it's equated to gloomy Somers which is set you know certainly better than -- hurricane or tornado knocked her house down her fires a reporter also -- world is dealing with but with that means so certain now why. Haven't we been able to get legislation pass I'm on national scale. Well I mean I think there is there are a lot of reasons of course there's there's the usual sort of you know entrenched interest -- -- up against. Some strong lobbying power and effort and money associated with these people -- and and gas and and and coal lobby. But -- -- became -- kind of existed before and I managed to get you know we went after the big tobacco companies and finally we've sort of now have a country that's moving away from cigarette smoking. There's an amazing just like in the last ten years back almost all -- you don't. Sort of it can be done so I mean I don't wanna I don't wanna give them too much credit for having supported effort thus far I think that's you know. More fundamental I mean it's there at the challenge. And of course you know let -- -- any -- there. Actual legislation that can change impacts on the ground coming to Washington these days seems to be enormously challenging. All that aside I I think -- one major issue of course is that the science of climate change which Eddie's head is you know and so certain at this point in time that it hasn't really translated. Com for people in two dollar impact. That I think there is still you know climate change -- -- capped an environmental issue and I think some people still largely see it as an environmental issues of -- There and not only that but a political issue to be candid about it became one -- cold arms shipment. And the other side saying no because that's what they do occur right you know instead of actually looking at what was being said. Right and -- -- environmental economist -- I you know I can see the economics of almost every environmental issue -- you know it really is the case with respect to climate change because the major contributor climate change of course the emissions that come from burning fossil -- -- energy which is the basic input into all economic activity worldwide. Is -- the core of the climate problem. And that sort of the magnitude of the issue of the challenge that we're dealing with them out of the comment that fundamentally an economic issue and so -- you sort of need to address the issue on economic terms. And I think the fact that so many people -- climate change oh but it's an environmental issue yell we believe the science -- Smart people were well read people we believe this client. But it's still an environmental issue with they still don't really fully understand I think a lot of people is what this is going to mean to the quality of their life. On the quality of play on the and livelihoods of their children. What it'll mean for people communities -- regions how will be changed how we have to adapt and how we have to do business differently. I don't think people fully understand what those potential ramifications are and in fairness. Part of the reason why people don't understand it is because we haven't really done a very good job of telling that part of the story if I made it sort of sharing and an anecdote. I was this is about two or three days ago before the sun came out of -- this is all good news. Recent appearance out everything we had the about three days -- I was reading home on the bus from work and a bunch of people on the bus were complaining and we are all prone to do in the northwest about. How how gloomy and whether it is then and and then people start talking specifically about sort of what they were observing with respect to their gardens and -- comparing this spring to -- Spraying in terms of political and really cold and really clarity and really wet. And answer well people who you know they're not their cards aren't taking off. Right and there was one woman who basically has said and nobody was talking about climate change at this point but she sort of said what -- you know. And two years that this sort of whether I mean if if this could be the new normal. How he's going to grow any. Right you referring to her backyard guard yeah but you know. That's the question is yeah if the web sentiment in the key thing is going to change that your medically how are -- going to grow food. Well we're not ignoring everything -- didn't -- places that we are now -- and if you look at some of the estimates coming out of the food and agricultural organization. That out of the United Nations and so forth. The impact on food supplies worldwide. Are extremely dire and down and thinking with fresh water supplies so. And -- fundamental issues that get his basic health and livelihood people not only in our country but of course. Others worldwide where they don't have the resources and the infrastructure to to adapt nearly as readily as soon as we may have here. And I think until people start to understand what these sort terrorist impact it may mean and how fundamental they are. To everyday life. Then it's still remains an environmental issue -- about polar bears can you may be it's about flooding in some low lying island nation somewhere right and that's about as much of the impact and because most. Well enjoy -- you equate this food issue with your pocketbook if we do I -- certainly you know humanity has gone on and gone through a lot. But -- and we can certainly adjust to some of these things and if we need to move worm food is grown and developed we can we can do that -- what that means to your pocketbook is that those prices for that's that's gonna go through the roof I mean there already is just because of fuel prices. Right I mean and it's so that sort of speak to that a lack of resilience you know that is that this. Inherent to our to our energy and -- system at the moment -- the fact that here's a fossil -- dependent right course for fossil -- are dependent on foreign oil supplies that are increasingly unstable and -- reliable from now if anybody wanted -- reason to -- -- thinking about well how can -- -- -- -- -- system and and change our transportation systems and our energy systems to be less -- -- and their local -- homegrown energy seemed a lot more appealing -- -- look at these -- of instability that -- that we're grappling -- right now and -- threatened to basically keep -- -- -- in a recession -- Flash. Recovery that's very slowly and barely inching along depending upon who you ask in the first place. So let's talk about speaking of energy -- some of the the the the clean energy ideas that are coming forward and various pieces of legislation trying to be -- put clean energy into place proponents of clean energy seemed to promise that that's going to help the economy is going to -- new jobs and efficiency but there is an apparent lack of traction for such -- thing oh why is that why that says skepticism when it seems like you know it -- certainly right now with -- -- -- it is. Helping things out and offering more jobs seems like that would be a huge boon. Right I think it's a couple of things happening on the one hand pitcher really is -- scaled the technologies that we need to chance former energy system. To make things like wind and solar and geothermal and other potential energy sources both on imagined at this point in time to get those. To the point where they are cost competitive with fossil fuel takes. A certain amount of time and an awful -- of getting the technology up to a particular size and scale of capacity and we're not quite there yet -- -- has been amazed at how quickly we are moving along the cost curve. Purple of those. -- from both wind and solar as well as a suite of other potential energy sources and I'm in recent years so their costs are coming down and becoming increasingly competitive. Let -- thank you expect when we spoke to an in the first segment of the interview which is. You know the stuff happens gradually and while some of that technology who might not be there right this minute it is being developed it'll be along shortly. Right and the truth is of course that if it if we have the right medicine -- -- place to be developed a lot more quickly I mean you know what -- plea -- what we have to think what Indian minister or capital to be deployed in alternative energies right where they think the demand for alternative energy is going to come from well. Clearly if there was say you know a national program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels there would be the -- for alternative energy right and return it. Help mobilize and -- capital into the kind of energy resource -- -- moving there anyway because investors and so forth are forward thinking and they can read the tea leaves them they can read by and then and sort of know that could be competitive in the future is going to mean developing these kinds of technologies but. Imagine how much faster we get there there was a concerted effort. If our government was doing a better job brokering public and private partnerships. If a lot of the research and development it's still have to take place to really sort of evolved -- of the problems inherent in these kinds of energy you know -- new energies. If that kind of research and development and actually being funded on the scale that it needs to be funded right now. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- You know industry's been looking for a firm price signal on carbon for a long time now. Hoping it would come along because the clarify a lot of things in terms of how are you going to invest your money and what kind of technology you need to what kind of building the facilities very going to create and we have been able to give it to them yet. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- That's a good question yeah. -- I find myself surprised all the time -- that it doesn't -- cued her for so many people you know I think that -- that alive. -- messaging around the -- like what it would actually take -- switch off fossil fuels and -- people I think who who still foolishly believed that -- -- get -- fossil fuels will mean either paying these huge energy bills on a monthly basis or you know turning the -- -- going around with candle power. Are well honestly I mean we're already paying huge energy bill also. How much higher is that going to get. You're way ahead. One of the other untapped resource is that that we haven't really talked about his energy efficiency and just -- grossly inefficient our energy uses across the country and means that in the first resource we should be happy that the easy resource to be happy because it doesn't necessarily mean we can be conserving so much energy using technologies and know how that are commercially available today. That we just had not implemented on a wide enough scale. On that liberals are literally dollar -- here sitting on the sidewalk and walking by them on a daily basis and we're just not picking them up and at the same time we're trying her -- up in the air and saying look she's just the big climate problem we just don't have any money to deal with it it just makes it it makes very little -- and you know and then on the energy at his -- front I think it's one of the challenges has been trying to understand from a behavioral perspective why individual -- And families and helpful and so forth why they are not taking advantage you know -- Easy what should be therefore easy sort of conservation type measures -- -- the behavioral things that stand in the way. There's financing issues right I mean we're talking about making investments and more energy efficient appliances making changes to our homes were heating systems is Petr both have high upfront cost. That they will pay back energy savings over the lifetime of that investment. Well and also there I mean because I have talked to a number of organizations -- -- just that right with energy efficiency. And you know there are so many incentives out there both in those upfront cost to help you buy that new appliance or changer heating system in your house or changer -- system or even you know there are organizations out there that will send you the new energy efficient light -- -- -- -- You just need to go to the website and then sign up and I. -- remember the name right now could say goes into it is but if you look at up online they're in their places all over the country that'll do that friend and so there are ways to do it is just. People need to Gupta but do it. I mean that's that's part of it I mean there are some larger structural problems I mean you know I think you know creative financing will go a long way toward helping particularly small businesses and households make some of those changes. But these shipping priority areas for our policy makers these are exactly the kind of examples where you can have will design -- of public policy. And I really wanted to find you know whether the Democrat or Republican who wants to stand up and say that they don't support energy efficiency initiatives because. You know -- -- had to do so it basically say I believe -- throwing money on the sidewalk and letting people walk all over -- and ignoring those opportunities for real energy -- this is one that should not have been energy efficiency is not a partisan issue and you know we should be documenting -- efficiency -- irrespective of climate change the climate change of course. They can be important. A happy -- energy efficiency as the potential resource -- the potential emissions mitigation measure. I was go back and think about -- sounds a little silly but. The first Superman movie at the beginning of the movie his father Doral is standing in front of the council and explaining that hey have done all these calculations. And our son is going to crash into our planet and -- -- go well were Rory nuclear your editor -- gets it turns in this political debate needs like it whatever -- sun's gonna crash into us. And everyone says no no no and sure enough for a day later the -- crashes into them and she sure that's a silly comic book reference but I feel like we're stuck in that. We are sort of stuck and that I mean it is physically lost sight of the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is that you know our our planet's climate system is changing in ways that are being you know the very uncertain that. All of this played suggests could be potentially catastrophic in terms we pass certain critical threshold that we can't even concretely identify. Even even know I mean it's catastrophic -- now what do the number of hurricanes earthquakes tornadoes fires all the substance that seems to be growing exponentially every year. Right now it sits at the sun is crashing into the planet so to speak and we continue to. Sort of you know pretend that this this particular about politics that this is about tequila lifestyle that this is about autonomy that this is about you know US China rivalry I mean you name and I -- I I've I've heard the excuse but -- That all they are -- excuses for putting the blinders up to the reality which confront -- And you know we could choose to be negative about it which is the way -- week we've I think we've tried to tackle this problem right to talk about all the reasons why we can't do it. We're all the reasons why we must do it because of all the dire consequences we've basically done and what we haven't really done a good job of just telling the story in terms of opportunity. That is if we embrace this as they challenge a similar facial challenge which it truly is and you -- as inspiration. In inducement. To be more innovative to think. More about how we live with in. The limits of our natural systems in the 21 century about how we meet not only our own needs but the needs of the growing population on the planet. How we can embrace technologies to develop new technologies to be more efficient. Addressed other environmental issues that -- -- -- been pushed to the back burner but are no less dire pressing them they've ever been what's happening to the world oceans what's happening to biodiversity what's happening to the world's forests it's a tremendous opportunity. To address these issues and we should see this challenge of opportunity. Instead of pretending the challenge doesn't exist or just choosing to see the negative. Yeah more -- and it politics right now so. Settle sounds fairly Graham from is there any good news to report I -- really having any any forward momentum that we can have some opened. Absolutely I mean. And I think he had just because the national debate over climate change it and get. Dorsey has seemed to have ended at least let -- act on the back burner that time. Yes but -- in the debate about I think changing climate policy hasn't -- it's just moved out of the legislature and the broader policy arena and for the bucket sort of didn't pass but when you look around the country when you look at you know some very incredibly ambitious climate action plans that are being passed around the country -- Quite cities by the metropolitan regions -- statement. -- when you look at what California is going to do with it AB 32 and it's a cap on carbon emissions I mean you know what happened in California means they are one state but they are huge I mean their economy is larger than that -- -- had any countries and also. It's not insignificant it will have an impact on how the rest of the country and they're doing business as a result. So these are all very positive signs and what happens in California. Will help you know proof of concept -- for what -- similar type bill for the country could do so I think those are all very positive all of the data I've seen here recently coming out regarding the cost of solar and wind technology is. -- and other technologies I think is incredibly hard incredibly positive and just very good news. I'm I'm all that front I think when we look around the world. What we find -- an incredible amount of momentum building in places in the world where you wouldn't necessarily expect to find it. If you look at the developing world. China India they are taking it very big step forward toward people dealing -- their own emissions problem. And thinking very innovative -- about how they're going to meet their nations emerging energy needs. Investing in solar and particularly in China and wind technology is. We hear in this country we kind of he had India and China are sure to get held up says. Over the other reason why we should just give up and go away and go home on the climate problem because. No matter what we do you know there's these you know writing economies that are -- all of their emissions -- will dwarf car emissions reductions and yet. When you actually look at their track record getting more than we are round. Yeah eventually we're gonna ever gonna turn around a look and didn't realize that oh. We're the only people still doing in this went missing. But we're the ones who need -- change. Like India for example has the new tax on coal consumption. And they're targeting the revenues they generate to build a Green investment bank a bank it'll basically invest in sort of Green new energy type infrastructure. India tried talking about technical in the United States to see how far you know get it where it gets here. And South Korea the security of the recent fiscal stimulus package designed to create jobs was targeted toward environmentally friendly infrastructure and and other kind of you know Green industry initiatives that the seven industries that China the Chinese Government has pulled out as priority industries that look sort of get preferential access to government loans and and that sort of thing. I'll hold the seven industries have strong link back to low carbon model. And China is at the early stages of launching a pilot carbon trading program internally though. You know the you know things are happening there is momentum happening worldwide. These things are bubbling up and I think the real question at this point the United States is not whether. The rest of the world is going to actually managed to do something recently emissions. And whether there is going to be a revolution in terms of how we produce and consume energy that is going to happen. It isn't happening slowly but surely to the question of the United States this is what. -- you gonna play yeah. Yeah are you gonna be the importer -- -- technology. -- because at at the -- we're sort of in the nation where we may find yourself having to import those tech. I already have a what if we step ahead what if we develop these technologies and that becomes is giant new industry for us in the world. Absolutely and that's that's the way we should be I think. It's certainly use a new -- -- And new industry to boost our economy. Exactly I mean you know private capital in this country need something new to invest in. We need new industries you know we've got and the technological capacity here in the United States to do this to be the global leaders. What we don't really have this sort of the political will at this point in time and the world waits for no -- so yeah -- If we don't do it somebody else will. Then if we find ourselves too far behind on the technology curve than we end up being -- importers of those technologies at some point in the future and I think that's the important question. If this is the direction for innovation then where is the United States going to be in that race to the future and right now we're having lived where we're taken our time getting up to the starting line yeah. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Absolutely we'll have to have you back a couple months to I'm sure war -- you know he's still even after our talking about this only hitting the tip of the iceberg. I am also. All right that'll do it for this -- to match scoping Entercom communications public affairs program I've been your -- had Douglas if -- nonprofit or public affairs organization that you would like to let others know about please email me -- -- to scope and entercom.com and -- start to the need. And please put metro scoping. The subject lines it just gets snagged by my spam filter hoarding go directly to the station's website click on the community -- to -- your information there. Also it's like you're this program again as well as the first part of the interview please go to our podcast -- a mattress -- X dot com. We'll find both these episodes and the last couple months worth of episodes and please feel free to post. Your FaceBook your blog your MySpace you still have one. Whatever -- trying get this information on this very important information out to as many people as possible I think you also much for listening to do again Kristen. This is then -- scope.