“Permaculture is a great way to reduce water and pesticide use. We need to find a way to bring these practices back into the agriculture system… I am cautiously in favor of fracking as a means to move us off of more carbon intensive sources of energy.” - Jen
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Interview with Jen by Willi
Who or what is against sustainability?
Anyone who claims to be against sustainability really doesn’t understand it – the principles make sense for any business or political leader to get behind.
Continuous pursuit of growth is not possible with our limited resources. How do you convince Boards to adopt a new paradigm based on scarcity?
Framing the conversation around scarcity is the right way to go, because business people understand that limited supply means increased cost. We frame the discussion around the increased costs of energy, water, shipping and materials that climate change will bring to businesses.
Another good angle is to discuss risk and the uncertainty that climate change will bring to global commerce – extreme weather events will worsen, which means supply transport will be disrupted and costs will increase. If you look out far enough, most organizations face some increased risk due to climate change and it’s just good business practice to look at how those risks will impact the bottom line.
How do you see the impact of fracking in CA? Which side are you on?
Fracking hasn’t become a runaway industry in California the way it has in other parts of the country, but it looks like that may change. Given the immediate challenge posed by climate change, and especially the onslaught of wildfires we’ve had in the region, I am cautiously in favor of fracking as a means to move us off of more carbon intensive sources of energy.
Unfortunately, we’re in a position where we need to choose the lesser of two evils. Of course, water contamination is a big concern and I believe we need more stringent regulation around water table contamination and protections for landowners.
Tell us about the challenges in branding sustainability? Is this different from a “regular” corp.?
Companies that choose to brand themselves with a sustainability message do face additional challenges in terms of public scrutiny, and they also have to offer increased transparency in order to demonstrate how they operate sustainably. This honesty is often rewarded in the court of public opinion, though. In the age of social media the public appreciates transparency and open discussions around sustainability, even if a company hasn’t totally solved a problem yet.
Gov. Brown’s water pipeline to the distant farms in the central valley is far from a done deal. Who owns CA’s water, Jennifer?
Water rights in California are a very complicated issue going back hundreds of years. Since California’s farmers provide nearly half of the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts and CA ag generates $37.5 billion a year, this industry is obviously tremendously important to the country’s health and the state’s economy - more than 90% of farms are owned by family farmers. However, there is no doubt we could do a better job incentivizing water conservation in the agriculture industry.
How is sustainability like a religion?
I wouldn’t describe it that way, since most sustainability practices are based in science (consider Herman Daly’s writing on the first and second laws of thermodynamics and how they should inform economics) rather than faith.
Can you give us a story about sustainability that could one day rise to a universal myth?
Principals of using what you have, not borrowing from the future (making loans you can’t repay), considering the needs of others, and the long term consequences of greed are all prominent in sustainability.
Can you think of any new community or family rituals that are based in sustainability metrics or laws?
Families have always done a better job of teaching sustainability than companies – every basic we teach our kids from “share” to “do the right thing” has a sustainability corollary. If executives ran companies the same way they taught their kids to act, we’d live in a more sustainable world.
What is your understanding of permaculture and its low tech role in a sustainable future?
Permaculture is a great way to reduce water and pesticide use. We need to find a way to bring these practices back into the agriculture system.
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Jen Boynton’s Connections –
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