Wednesday, June 18, 2014

96F/36C Degrees in the Shade!

Coping with extreme climate heat. Carbon farming with Courtney White, socially responsible investing with NYC advisor Louis Berger, plus tips for staying alive, and keeping the garden alive, during extended heat. Radio Ecoshock 140618

Yes, the hot summer is coming to the northern Hemisphere. If you are in the American south or California, it's been toasty for some months already.

The future looks hotter still, as our emissions cause the climate system to swing toward it's greenhouse state. Farms will be in trouble, and so will your own home garden. Later in this program I'll continue with our series on growing in the heat. We'll hear great tips from experts in Florida and Colorado - ideas I'm already applying in my own garden.

I also have two interviews for you. Pretty well every aspect of our problems, and the solutions, involve the flow of big money. Many of us are unwilling partners in the mal-investment in corporations profiting from damaging the environment. It could be pensions, investments, or just your savings in the bank - where is it going? We'll talk with a heavy-weight New York investment advisor about the realities of Socially Responsible Investing.

But first, I want to get back to one of the few natural big-scale possibilities to save ourselves from the worst of climate change. It's not glamorous. It's just really, really important.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


You know we are in a big mess with climate change. At this point we need big solutions - and there may be something much more natural than geoengineering. Is it possible we could even turn back the clock, even a little, on global warming?

I've interviewed experts about the importance of carbon in the soil. Some stress there is more carbon in the earth than in the atmosphere, so we must not continue to release it by poor agricultural practices and deforestation. Others strongly believe we can capture a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere, putting it back in the soil. This could be the best, or even at this point the only, way to actually reduce the build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

We've had Alan Savory as a guest on Radio Ecoshock. He pioneered the use of carefully controlled cattle herds to replenish carbon in the soil. We just had a guest, Kip Anderson of the film Cowspiracy, tell us that some researchers, including the World Watch Institute, say the livestock industry is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet. Can we still eat meat without killing the climate?

I keep listening for more soil carbon news. It's not big on CNN or You tube, but it's big news for the future. That's why I was pleased to find Courtney White has tied a lot of on-the-ground experience together for his new book "Grass, Soil, Hope." In a foreward, Michael Pollan wrote "this book promises to stir up hope even among those made cynical by relentless bad news."

Courtney White takes us on "A Journey through Carbon Country."

It's pretty wild that governments are willing to spend countless billions on all kinds of schemes, including giant farm subsidies, but I'm not aware of any government willing to pay carbon farmers.

Courtney, was a Sierra Club activist, but now he calls that the "conflict industry". We talk about why.

White went on to found the Quivira coalition, which he led until recently. Now he's taken time off to tour the country to research this book, and the promise of soil carbon.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Courtney White in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

More links for Courtney White:

Here is a video about the new book.

Here is a link to the publishers page for the book.

And you can read famous foody Michael Pollan's foreword to "Grass, Soil, Hope" here.

Find the Quivira Coalition web site here.


Here on Radio Ecoshock we normally interview scientists, authors, and activists. But behind almost every problem and solution we encounter, there is a flow of big money.

After the financial crash, and admissions of guilt by major institutions we trusted, many of us are suspicious of investing. Big money is being channeled into projects that actually wreck the world. Is socially responsible investing possible?

Whether you have money to invest or not, the answer to this question could literally determine your future and the fate of our civilization. We can pretend that world of high finance is too dirty, or will fall any day. Instead, I've called up Louis Berger, the Principal and Co-Founder of Washington Square Capital in New York.

Berger was big in the financial end of Hollywood, before becoming an advisor for the Swiss bank UBS. He then co-founded his own investment firm.

I hang around the Zero Hedge website, with peak oil people, and a crowd with a bleak view of our prospects. So I ask Louis if he is optimistic or pessimistic about the economy? He is guardedly optimistic, seeing many signs of recovery - but says the original problems in the financial system were not fixed. Also, the whole market system is still too heavily dependent on the Federal Reserve buying 35 billion dollars worth of assets every month.


We talk about the move for Universities and Churches to divest from fossil fuels. Berger says the big fossil fuel companies are a bad investment in the long run anyway. as people become more aware of climate change, he thinks some kind of carbon tax is inevitable.

We discuss how to find out if "green" investments really are OK for the planet. And we talk about Louis' article about the risks of some green investments, based on the case of Mosaic - the crowd-funded company investing in small-scale solar projects. It's a good company he says, but it could be hard to get your money out if needed, and there is some risk the project could fail.


We know there are almost 50 million Americans on food stamps, and millions more very poor people in Canada, the United Kingdom, - pretty well everywhere in the developed world. At the same time, there are more millions who are making good money, plus a wave of inheritances as the generations change. What questions should the millenial generation have for experts who advise where to invest?

This whole question of investing puts some people in a strange spot. They may picture themselves critical of banks and the stock market, and yet depend on them, whether they know it or not, for pensions and savings. That's a stress-point for some folks, and they try to sit on the sidelines with cash. But is there really any "sidelines" or opting out of this financial system? All the money flows somewhere.

There is a growing resentment against Too Big To Fail Wall Street Banks, who appear to get away with price fixing or even fraud with no criminal charges. It's my impression this resentment is spilling over to ANY investment, or anyone in the investment field. This kind of disconnect could hurt the whole industry - and Louis Berger says the distrust is valid, considering the way the Too Big To Fail banks operated.

Here are some key points from investment guru Louis Berger:

"* Our view on socially responsible investing is that it's a way for a person to take ownership and responsibility over their investments -- to ensure that the companies they're invested in are aligned with their values.

* In the last several years, many progressives in the US have begun questioning their consumer choices -- where/how their food is grown, goods are made, energy is sourced etc. It's a natural progression to begin thinking about how and where their money is invested.

* Traditionally, most people have separated their investments and their philanthropy -- invest their money at a bank or brokerage and make a charitable contribution to a non-profit working in a space they care about (ex: environmental protection). Trend is now towards merging the two.

* There seems to be a movement towards SRI in the millennial generation. We're encountering new clients that are young and care about environmental/humanitarian issues. Often, they've inherited money from a parent or grandparent. They also inherit a financial advisor who is either not interested or incapable of providing SRI advice. We see it as a major growth opportunity going forward as this wealth transfer continues and the vast majority of financial advisors are not equipped to provide SRI advice. The big banks have begun to take notice as well.

* While we understand there are limitations to the amount of social good one can make by investing in the public markets, the fact is we live in a world (perhaps more so in the US) where at least some portion of our net worth is tied up in the stock/bond markets (brokerage account, retirement/pension account, college savings account, etc). This is the way our financial system currently works. Therefore, it's imperative for those people who care about environmental and humanitarian issues to ensure the companies they invest in are on the same page. By investing in oil/gas, weapons manufacturers, mining companies, tobacco companies etc -- even if it's unintentional -- you are not only endorsing their corporate behavior, you are helping to foster their growth.

* SRI is challenging many companies and industries to begin changing the way they do business. There is still a very long way to go, but it's definitely moving the needle in the right direction."

Find more info about Louis Berger here.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Louis Berger in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Last week we heard Marjory Wildcraft with tips on gardening in extreme heat. Marjory will be joining us in a program soon. You may think you will grow some of your own food - but how will you deal with record heat or drought? Even more worrying, as we heard on our show a couple of years ago from You tube garden guru HumptyDumptyTribe, if the nights don't cool down, plants won't produce fruit. You can have flowers, busy bees, and still get no tomatoes. That's going to be a problem for most of us in the coming years.

Let's start with this recording of a You tube video from Carol Omera, a horticulture expert from Colorado State University. She recorded this essential video during one of Colorado's stunning heat waves. Her tips are basic, about how we plant, ensuring enough water, and the big lesson for me: get your shade cloth ready. If you want to keep your cool-weather plants like peas and lettuce producing, we will have to shade them.

Watch the video with Carol Omera on You tube here.

So let's get to Florida, where it's hot, hot, hot - and humid too. Sumter County Extension Agent Brooke Moffis tells us how we can keep ourselves safe from heat stroke, while keeping summer plants alive. Yep, it involves broad-brimmed hats, being sensible about when you are out there, and learning the signs of heat stroke (one of which is impairment of judgement...) Then Brooke talks about plants that will still produce in high heat, like Okra.

My thanks to the University of Florida for that audio. Watch it here.

This has been Radio Ecoshock. Don't miss our Soundcloud page, and all our past programs as free mp3 files at

The theme song this week was "96 degrees in the Shade" by the band Third World. The song is about the Jamaican hero Paul Bogle, who was hanged in 1865 after demanding civil rights for all.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and caring about our world.

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