Solar Power of the People, by the People and for the People

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Tired of playing the stock market? Wish you were in a position to invest in things that really matter, instead of just another bloated corporation? That alternative may finally be here.

Mosaic first made waves a few years ago with a platform to help communities crowdfund their own renewable energy projects. The idea, which we reported on here, was a solid one. The only problem was a limited number of projects and the fact that contributors didn’t see any return on their investment, besides a sense of community and personal satisfaction. It was kind of like when you donate to a Kickstarter campaign and just get a thank you note in return.

Just last week, the company made headlines again. This time, Mosaic announced that they were taking their crowdfunding investment scheme public. Anyone living in New York or California, or “accredited investors” living in other states, is invited to contribute what money they can, just like a typical crowdfunding campaign. The difference is, every cent contributed will be used to construct large scale solar projects across the nation, and the revenues are used to pay investors a handsome rate of interest.

“We see a massive transition coming from fossil fuels to clean energy, and we think people should be able to profit from that transition,” said Billy Parish, Mosaic’s President. “Mosaic is creating the architecture for mass participation in the clean energy economy.”

It’s hard to disagree with him. Why should venture capitalists and energy companies be the only ones to benefit from the efficiencies of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy? Also, why should we wait for them to decide it’s time to invest? Solar Mosaic’s public investment program puts the power to move forward on commercial scale solar into the hands of ordinary people like you and me.

The new online platform for investors opened on January 7th. Within 24 hours the first four projects were completely sold out, i.e. funded. Can you imagine getting funding from a bank or private investor that quickly? Over 400 investors took advantage of the opportunity, putting in between $25 and $30,000. In total, investors put in over $313,000 with an average investment of nearly $700. Unfortunately, I’m not a resident of the two qualifying states. If I were, it’d be no problem to scrape together $25 to help build a solar farm. And if I kept reinvesting it, that $25 could grow into much more with out a lot of effort on my part.

Mosaic’s first investment offerings for New York and California residents are in solar projects on affordable housing apartments for low-income residents in California and offer a 4.5 percent annual return, net of servicing fees, with terms of approximately nine years. With 10 year Treasuries at near historic lows, Mosaic’s expected yields are competitive with the best investment products on the market. And there’s no scary investment firm or high priced broker involved. It’s just you, your laptop and a few easy clicks.



Only 86 of These Orcas Still Exist, But They Don’t Deserve Our Protection

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Only 86 of These Orcas Still Exist, But They Dont Deserve Our Protection

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be reviewing a petition from the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation seeking to remove a group of orca whales from the endangered species list.

The petition, which was filed on behalf of two California farms — the Empresa de Bosque and Coburn Ranch — and the Center for Environmental Science Accuracy, argues that this group of whales does not need to be protected because they’re part of a larger population. The groups contend that because the population is technically a subspecies, it is illegal for them to be listed.

The real problem the petitioners have is that protecting these whales means protecting their habitat and the fish they eat, which has led to cutbacks in irrigation, which they claim has caused problems getting loans and an inability to expand their businesses.

The orcas in question, known as the southern resident killer whales, include three distinct pods who live in Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca during the summer months and migrate to the open ocean in the winter. Their route includes traveling through the San Francisco Bay area where they feed on Chinook salmon.

NOAA initially decided that the southern resident whales in the J, K and L pods were not a distinct population, but their findings were overruled by a U.S. District Court judge in 2003 and further study led to the conclusion that they are a distinct population. They were subsequently listed in 2005, reports the Seattle Times.

As a result of the findings, a recovery plan was developed and they were given 2,560 square miles of Puget Sound as critical habitat. As of now, there are only an estimated 86 living in the wild, down from 89 in 2006.

“Nothing has changed in the science to show that orcas are faring any better or are somehow suddenly undeserving of endangered species protections. Although the agency’s decision to consider the delisting petition is unfortunate, the species’ status is unlikely to change as a result of the agency’s review, and these irreplaceable killer whales will almost certainly keep their protections,”  said Sarah Uhlemann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Further study conducted by NOAA in 2009 found that water projects in California threatened endangered species and the salmon that the orcas rely on which led to more water restrictions the groups are complaining about.

“If there was ever a poster child for this type of subspecies, it’s the killer whales,” he said. “It’s not just their genetics, it’s culture. These clearly are the tribes of the sea, and if you extirpate that population not only do you lose the genetic code, you lose a unique brain trust,” Fred Felleman, an advocate for the original listing, told the Seattle Times.

According to NOAA, accepting the petition doesn’t necessarily mean that they will propose delisting. The agency will be reviewing information and has a year to make a decision.

TAKE ACTION!

Please sign the petition asking NOAA to protect Puget Sound’s orcas.

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Global tourism is a massive industry. But while it can bring enormous benefits to communities, people and animals, it can do great harm when it comes at the expense of wildlife and the environment.

IFAW promotes responsible tourism, but travellers themselves make the…

Green Gift Guide 2012

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Oh the perfect gift! It’s easy to find right? (Insert record screech here). Well no, not exactly. So let us do that job for you. For several months, we’ve scoured the interweb for our 2012 holiday gift guide with one major goal: These gifts won’t earn that shaky turned up corner of the mouth, polite cough, and long drawn out, “oh, ah, um, thanks…” Translation: This sweater that looks mauled by a dog is heading right to an already overflowing landfill.

So whether your shopping for the hard-to-please boyfriend (enter cuff links made from recycled skate boards), the mother-in-law with a passion for cooking (a DIY micro greens kit or an award-winning bottle of organic olive oil), Fluffy the cat (watch him curl up in a recycled iMac), the design junkie (the perfect home office chair or a gorgeous wall-mounted terrarium), and just about everyone else on your list, the search stops here.

Here at TreeHugger, we think a lot about living with less, for more happiness — a principal that really gets tested around the holidays. All of these gifts — over 100 in 10 categories — are carefully curated for thoughtfulness, usefulness, durability, and longevity. Many don’t take up space at all (saving adorable lion cubs on a volunteer trip).

And need we mention — we are TreeHugger after all — all have minimum impact on our earth. Now that’s the gift that keeps on giving. — Produced by Mairi Beautyman

Don’t forget to check back for more green gift guides as we approach Christmas!

California’s New Cap-and-Trade Emissions Trading Program is Second Largest in World

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California’s cap-and-trade program, six years in the making, starts today, with auctions for permits to pollute starting this morning and the results announced next Monday.

The basic details are as follows:

It’s the second largest carbon trading program in the world, after the EU’s—which probably isn’t surprising to learn if you remember that California’s economy is alone in the world’s top 10.

The auction part isn’t to see who wants the right to pollute more next year—nearly all of the pollution allowances in the program for 2013 have already been given to utilities and industry in the state—rather the auction is to determine what price the market will bear for the carbon.

Auctions will be held four times a year through 2020, with the total amount of carbon pollution allowed to be emitted declining over time—and as such, should drive up the cost of polluting, thereby encouraging industry and utilities to choose non-carbon emitting ways of doing business.

The money from the auctions will go towards state-level investments (though the details of that are TBD), with 25% of proceeds used in ways that target disadvantaged communities.

Right now only large polluters are included in the program, but that will expand in years to come.

One looming question: Will the California program be able to avoid the price volatility that has plagued the EU experience with carbon trading? There’s a price floor of $10/ton established, intended to ensure that even when prices fluctuate polluting is still more expensive than not polluting.

Help Leonardo DiCaprio and protect Antarctic marine habitat

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Leonardo DiCaprio is pushing for the creation of a marine sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean and needs your signature. Take a minute and help out.

Please take a moment to click over and sign a petition on Avaaz.org asking that a portion of the Antarctic Ocean be turned into what would be the world’s largest marine sanctuary. Antarctica is governed by the Convention for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (also known as CCAMLR), a unique organization made up of 50 nations that have agreed on a 14-article treaty laying out how things are run on the world’s only continent without permanent human population.
 
The petition on Avaaz.org asks that CCAMLR designate a large swath of the Antarctic Ocean as a protected marine sanctuary. These waters are the feeding, breeding, and living grounds of innumerable species of fish, whales, penguins, and other marine animals and they need to be protected.
 
There are more than a million signatures right now with a goal of 1,250,000. Please take the time and help get one signature closer.
 
Thanks!
 
And thanks to MNN editor-at-large Karl Burkart for tipping me off on this one.
 
You can find Leonardo DiCaprio on Twitter and read more about the battle for the world’s oceans here on MNN.