On the day of a massive climate strike here in NYC and elsewhere around the world, I thought it appropriate to highlight this film/tour project from Josh Fox which I have backed.
Posts from climate crisis
I have been fortunate to work for the last 25 years in the Flatiron District of NYC, which is a mixed-use neighborhood (office, retail, residential) that has excellent mass transit options (three major subway lines converge at Union Square), great biking and walking streets, and a feeling of vitality that is infectious.
So this video I watched this morning rings very true to me. I think cities around the world (both new cities being built in Asia and existing cities looking to transform themselves like Los Angeles) can and will adopt policies that limit sprawl and get us back to living with other people in mixed-use environments that make us happier, more productive, and more sustainable.
While society debates how to deal with climate change, there are some scientists who are now saying that that time has passed and we now need to start planning society’s adaptation to the climate tragedy we have created on planet earth.
This scientific paper from roughly one year ago is super depressing. I am linking to it because I read it this week and it certainly made me consider how our way of life may change dramatically in my lifetime.
I am not yet ready to throw in the towel on our ability to react to the mounting evidence of a rapidly warming planet and dramatically slow it down with actions like the Paris Accords, recent laws in New York City and New York State, and everyone’s personal actions in what we do and how we do it.
And there is no benefit in getting depressed or defeatist about the climate change threat.
I think the opposite is true. It is time to stop debating whether the planet is warming. It is even time to stop debating about who is going to pay for the massive investments we need to make immediately to slow that warming. It is time to start making them.
The lawmakers in Albany have passed legislation known as the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) and it is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature.
There is plenty of debate on whether CCPA is good policy or bad policy. All you need to do is Google “New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act” and read the NY Post (against) and the NY Daily News (for) and you will see the various sides of the debate.
What this bill does is commit New York State to some of the most agressive goals of any city, state, or region:
This is a legally binding legislative act to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a goal of net zero.
My view is that we need ambitious goals like this and penalties for not reaching them (the stick).
But we also need new policies and new funding/investment to allow us to reach them (the carrot).
Most of the “green new deal” style legislation that is getting passed in NYC, NYS, and elsewhere, and being proposed in many other places, is long on sticks and short on carrots.
I believe CCPA is a good first step for NYS and I hope the Governor signs it into law.
But legislators and activists and the business community should not stop there. We need to follow these goal setting/penalty setting laws with more work around how we get there and there are many good ideas floating around on how to do that.
As hard as if has been to get CCPA done, I think the hard work is just starting because reaching these goals will require creativity, innovation, new technology, and a massive amount of investment and the willpower to see it through.
We really don’t have a choice. So let’s go.
I saw this project earlier this week and backed it immediately. Solar energy is not easy to adopt. But I have found that once you start, you get into it and keep going.
This might make it easier for some to start down that path.
Owning an EV in a dense urban city is challenging. Most people don’t have their own garages and so they park on the street or in large parking garages. We do the latter.
About five or six years ago, I walked into our parking garage and saw that the garage operator had installed a ChargePoint charging station in the garage.I literally walked back across the street to our apartment and bought our first EV. We now own three.
But charging with ChargePoint is not ideal. There are a limited number of these charging stations in our parking garage and more and more EVs. They are often filled up. And the rates that ChargePoint supplies electricity at are borderline gouging. They have a monopoly on our garage and price accordingly. I believe the rate we pay in our parking garage in NYC is literally double the rate we buy electricity from ConEdison in our NYC appointment.
In our homes in Los Angeles and Long Island we charge off our solar panels on our roofs and basically don’t pay to charge our EVs other than the depreciation on the solar installation costs. That is absolutely the way to go if you can afford the cost of a solar installation.
But back to dense urban areas like NYC. If we want more EVs and less gas powered cars on our streets, we need better charging infrastructure.
In Paris, where we have been for the last few days, they are trying an experiment with putting EV charging stations on street lights.
If the city makes those curb locations only available for charging and not parking, that could be a great option for encouraging more city dwellers to buy or rent EVs.
I believe the availability of charging options, whether it is a rational fear or not, is holding back a lot of people from moving from gas to electric. So anything that can change that dynamic is a good thing in my view.
We have had an order in for Tesla Solar Roof Tiles for almost two years, since they were announced back in 2017. Production delays and other issues have meant that we still don’t have them on our roof.
And they are more expensive than a regular roof plus traditional solar panels on the roof. But they look a lot better in my view.
This video explains all of that, and more, along with some helpful cost comparisons.
Our friend Eric sent us an article in the Globe and Mail yesterday about plans to build a 35 to 40 story tower in Vancouver out of wood. Here’s the link to that story but you can’t read it without a subscription.
Contrast that to the dominant way we build tall buildings in NYC which is out of concrete, steel, and glass.
The reason that a move back to wood based structures is so important is that the concrete structures are huge contributors to greenhouse gases. According to the Globe and Mail article, “concrete construction is responsible for an estimated eight per cent of all carbon emissions worldwide.”
The Gotham Gal and I are in the process of making two passive house apartment buildings in Brooklyn based on cross-laminated timber structures with only a small amount of concrete in them.
This is a photo of one of them back in December when the CLT structure had just been completed:
Our buildings are five or six stories high. The idea that you can make a building of 35 or 40 stories out of CLT and dowel laminated timbers (DLT) is very exciting to me.
I believe we can innovate our way out of the climate change mess we are in right now and changing the way we make our homes and offices is a big part of that.
I don’t write a lot about Etsy here at AVC. It is a public company and I am the Chairman so I have to be careful.
But today Etsy is announcing something that makes me so proud. I have to tell you about it. Etsy is the first major online shopping destination to offset 100% of carbon emissions from shipping.
Here is Etsy CEO Josh Silverman’s blog post on this news.
Etsy has been committed to clean energy for a long time. They will power 100% of their operations with renewable energy by next year. But the company understood that they could not stop there and needed to think about the carbon footprint of their network of sellers shipping products to buyers. And so they have taken the next step of offsetting all of the carbon emissions related to shipping on Etsy. This initiative comes at no additional cost to Etsy buyers or sellers.
To celebrate the launch of carbon offset shipping on Etsy, they are going to do something tomorrow to make a splash.
To jumpstart our efforts and celebrate this milestone, tomorrow (February 28), we will also offset shipping emissions for the entire US ecommerce sector for the day. In the US alone, every day approximately 55,000 metric tons of CO2e are emitted into the atmosphere by delivering packages from online orders. Offsetting this impact for one day is the equivalent of protecting 100 square miles of US forests for one year.https://blog.etsy.com/news/2019/on-etsy-every-purchase-makes-a-positive-impact/
I am a believer in doing well by doing good. There is a lot of that across our portfolio at USV and across our personal investments in tech and real estate. One of the good things we need to do for our world right now is reduce our carbon footprint. And we need to do that urgently. So I am thrilled and proud of Etsy’s leadership and work here. Well done Etsy.
The neighborhood where we live in NYC will be underwater with a 2-degree Celsius increase in global temperatures.
This Kickstarter project will create stickers that all of us can place on places like ours and remind everyone that climate change is a big deal.
I backed this project today and you can too right here.