Who Will Have a Better Season, Gang Green or the Green Movement

AS NFL TRAINING CAMP BEGINS AND THE LEVEL OF CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE PASSES THE 400 PARTS PER MILLON (PPM) MARK, THE NEW YORK JETS AND THE GREEN MOVEMENT HAVE LOW EXPECTATIONS, SOME REASONS FOR OPTIMISM*

* This has to be the first time in human history that anyone has linked the NY Jets and atmospheric CO2 levels.

I am a Jets-a-holic.  One of the longest-suffering (since 1966) of the many long suffering Jets fans.  I remember our One Shining Moment–Broadway Joe Namath’s Guarantee and Super Bowl III–but also the Fake Spike, Rich Kotite, the Butt Fumble and many other ignominious Sundays and Mondays.  If there were Jets Anonymous, I’d be going to meetings regularly (Me:  ”Hi!  My name is Lew and I’m a Jets-a-holic”  Everyone Else:  ”HI, LEW!!!”).

rich-kotite

Former Jets Head Coach Rich Kotite, who had a 4-28 record in 2 seasons (’95-’96).

 

I have also devoted much of the past 8 years of my professional and personal life to educating people and corporations about the severity of the human-caused climate crisis and motivating them to make significant micro and macro changes to help reverse it.

Both pursuits, one relatively trivial, the other of vital importance to SHAWKI (Saving Humanity As We Know It) (some of you may have trouble figuring out which is which), may well be masochistic .  And pessimism certainly abounds about the prospects of both the Jets (perhaps the worst quarterback situation in the NFL, no one decent for the QB to throw or hand-off to) and for reversing climate change and its disastrous effects (a Price on Carbon–i.e. carbon tax or Cap & Trade–is not being spoken about at all in Congress nor, sad to say, by the President, despite the aforementioned 400 PPM atmospheric CO2 levels being reached, Climate Change is largely ignored by the mainstream media in the US).

But, there are reasons for hope and cautious optimism in both camps.

NEW YORK JETS

  • A young, active defensive line.  The Jets have drafted defensive linemen in the first round in each of the last 3 drafts and this may finally translate into a strong pass rush and a stout run defense.  The first of the D-linemen, Muhammad Wilkerson, is poised for a Pro Bowl season.  Last year’s pick, Quinton Coples, played very well down the stretch.  And, though it’s early in camp, Sheldon Richardson of Missouri, this year’s D-line #1 pick, seems like he could be the real thing.
  • Hunger.  The Jets under Rex Ryan have performed better when little was expected of them and have stumbled when projected to be a top club.  Well, VERY little is expected this year.  New GM John Idzik dismantled the largely older roster in the off-season.  Expect a young, hustling club.

CLIMATE CHANGE

  • 80% of US voters under 35 support President Obama’s climate change agenda, in a poll fielded last week.  80%!  The numbers get better the deeper you dig into the study: For voters under 35, when asked which words describe a climate change denier, 37% said “ignorant”, 29% said “out-of-touch” and 7% said “crazy”.
  • Renewable energy, paternalistically dismissed by the fossil fuel industry as “niche”, has been growing dramatically (albeit from a low base) in both the developing world and here at home.

Kenya Wind

This wind farm in Kenya came on line in 2012, increasing total power there by 30% (Worldchanging.com)

 

Of course I’m having a bit of fun with this Jets-Climate Change comparison.  ”Fun” and “Climate Change” are used in the same sentence about as often as the “New York Jets” and “Climate Change” are, so some levity can be helpful.  But, there is a serious point to be made here.  It’s very easy to be cynical and negative about perennially disappointing sports teams like the Jets as well as about the prospects for elevating concern about climate change to the point that meaningful action will be taken around the world.  I can’t do anything about the Jets on the field.  On climate change, however, I-and y’all–can and must do something(s).

“What can I do?”, you may ask.  LOTS!  Here’s one thing:  Check out realitydrop.org.  It’s a new website from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, the non-profit that trains grassroots folk around the world to give an updated version of the slideshow that was at the heart of “An Inconvenient Truth”, to, well, anyone who will listen (full disclosure:  I was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2012).  Reality Drop allows visitors to help stop climate change in real time by directing them to articles by climate deniers and arming them with Facebook posts and Tweets and Letters To The Editor debunking the deniers (it also points folks to articles confirming the science of the climate crisis and provides comments supporting those stories).  It’s simple to use.  And it’s important.  Let me know what you think, if you’ve tried it, etc.

One final note:  Last February, I stood out in the freezing cold outside the White House, protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.  My strong hope is that President Obama heard the 30,000+ of us who were there and the many others who couldn’t make it and will make the decision to stop the pipeline’s completion.  This coming February 2 (my BIRTHDAY!), Super Bowl XLVIII will be played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.  It is my strong hope that the New York Jets will be playing in that game.

The odds are much better that Obama says NO to Keystone XL.

 

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Uncharted Play Scores with SOCCKET, The Soccer Ball that Lights Up Lives

AT THE INTERSECTION OF SPORTS AND GREEN, TWO YOUNG HARVARD GRADS DEVELOP A SOCCER BALL THAT, WHEN KICKED, STORES ENERGY THAT IS USED TO PRODUCE LIGHT.

In 2008, Harvard juniors Julia Silverman and Jessica O. Matthews were tasked by a professor with developing a multi-player game that would address a real world problem by merging art and science.

After some trial and error, they came back with the SOCCKET, a soccer ball that, when kicked, generates and stores energy as electricity through a pendulum-like system embedded inside.   The ball can then be plugged in to lamps, providing light to people who often have none.  Playing with the SOCCKET for 30 minutes yields 3 hours of light!  Considering that 1.3 billion people worldwide live without reliable access to electricity and that soccer is the world’s most popular sport, the SOCCKET not only garnered Jessica an “A” from that professor, it also got the attention of former President Clinton (you’ve got to check out this 1 minute video featuring SOCCKET and Clinton here), who, in 2010, invited Julia to speak to the Clinton Global Initiative.  In 2011, Julia and Jessica decided if SOCCKET is good enough for the 42nd President of the USA, then they should  put their idea to the test. Thus UNCHARTED PLAY was launched in 2011 as a New York City-based for-profit company, dedicated to improving lives through play.  To me, Uncharted Play’s mission is just about the most powerful example of the positive aspects to the intersection of green and sports I’ve seen.

Soccket

Intrigued, Green Sports Blog caught up with Melissa Seligmann, Uncharted Play’s Vice President of Business Development on Friday to find out more about Uncharted Play and SOCCKET.

GREEN SPORTS BLOG:  Did either Julia or Jessica play soccer at Harvard or before?

MELISSA SELIGMANN:  No, Jessica was a runner and played basketball.  Julia rowed crew.  They came away from those sports inspired by the positive role team sports and play can have in people’s lives.

GSB:  Did Julia and Jessica go into that class at Harvard with soccer in mind as a vehicle for change?

MS:  No.  Their first project was healthcare-related.  The professor threatened them with flunking.  Julia likes to say that “we didn’t go into it trying to make a difference; we just wanted to pass a class!”

GSB:  I see that State Farm is a sponsor of SOCCKET.  How did that come about?  Has the sponsorship been a success?

MS:  State Farm saw SOCCKET as a great opportunity to target the many Hispanics living in the US who support family members in Latin American countries.  State Farm demonstrates it’s helping people “Get To A Better State” through its sponsorship and distribution of SOCCKETS in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and the US.

GSB:  Is sponsorship the main source of revenue for Uncharted Play?

MS:  Sponsorship is the main source right now but we’re aggressively planning the launch of our e-tail business later this year which will allow individuals to order a SOCCKET.  A portion of the price, expected to be less than $99, will be devoted to funding the donation of SOCCKETS in the developing world.  Our mantra is “Play.Power.Give”.  SOCCKET distribution at brick & mortar retail is also in the planning phase.

GSB:  How big is the prospective market for SOCCKET in your estimation?

MS:  Any way you look at it, the market potential is very big.  Here are two ways:

  1. The LOHAS market:  LOHAS is an umbrella acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.  The term designates the “ethical consumer” market and the fast-growing trend of making purchases tied to green and/or altruistic motivations.  Currently, the LOHAS market is valued at nearly $290 billion.  As the first product to combine sports activity and ethical giving, the SOCCKET stands apart from other LOHAS products in the space.
  2. The Tech Toy Market:   The global toys and games industry is expected to hit the $100 billion mark by 2015 (Global Industry Analysts, 2012).  According to a report released by the NPD Group, 2012 marked the beginning of the “Big Ask” toy trend, in which consumers are willing to pay more for toys they perceive as being beneficial to children’s play or learning experience.  Per NPD, in 2012, 3 of the top 5 revenue-generating toys were technology related and served an educational purpose.  With ground-breaking technology and a social mission, SOCCKET is well-positioned  within the Tech Toy Market.

GSB:  Do soccer players like the ball given that the ball is about 1 ounce heavier than a typical soccer ball due to the pendulum system?

MS:  While we don’t expect the SOCCKET to be used in World Cup matches, we are very pleased with how players have reacted to it.  Street soccer players LOVED IT (watch here)!  The extra ounce is not really a problem for players in the developed world.  And, we are constantly improving it, so I think that competitive games are definitely a possibility.  Players in the developing world are happy to have a new ball of any kind.

GSB:  Speaking of soccer players, have any world class players endorsed the SOCCKET?

MS:  Endorsements are a work in progress, but David Villa (Atletico Madrid) called it “an amazing project”, Sergio Ramos said (Real Madrid) said “this is something to be proud of”, Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) refrained “A brilliant hit” and Pepe Reina (Napoli) chimed in with “an unimaginable invention until now”.

GSB:  How is UP funded?

MS:  Until March 2013, we had bootstrapped.  Then we used Kickstarter in March and are now are seeking investors via fundable.com and potentially VCs.  For us, it’s about finding the company that believes in our mission as opposed to [generating] the highest returns since we are a social enterprise trying to combine good business with social good.

GSB:  What’s next in the Uncharted Play product pipeline?

MS:  We expect to be launching an American Football and a jump rope with similar power generating features in October 2013.  And more is on the way in 2014.

I left the conversation with Melissa excited about the prospects for the SOCCKET and for Uncharted Play.  And I know it sounds hokey/cliche but I’m getting a little bit more upbeat about the prospects for humanity now that I know products like SOCCKET are out there and that folks like Jessica (the CEO), Julia (Advisory Board Member), Melissa and the Uncharted Play team are working at the intersection of Sports and Green.  I will keep up with them and will report back what I find out.

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How Green Is Your New York (New Jersey) Sports Team: Yankee Stadium

PART 3 OF AN OCCASIONAL GREENSPORTSBLOG SERIES ON THE GREEN-NESS (OR LACK THEROF) OF THE MAJOR NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY SPORTS STADIA-ARENAS

After a drought in new stadium/arena construction in the New York City area from 1981 to 2007, an explosion in the construction of new ballparks took place from 2007-2012.  While none of the 6 stadiums/arenas built in the NYC-NJ area since 2007 were built to LEED standards, I thought it would be interesting to look at each to see how green they are (or aren’t).  Today’s column looks at the 3rd of the 6, the New Yankee Stadium.  Click here for Part 1, which examined Newark’s Prudential Center, home of the NHL’s Devils and here for Part 2, which took a look at Citi Field, home of the Mets.

The New Yankee Stadium, which was built on what was Macombs Dam Park, adjacent to the old stadium, opened in 2009, as did Citi Field.  Since the two opened within days of each other and due to the natural, if one-sided on field rivalry between the Yanks and Mets, a comparison of the relative greenness of the two is a natural.  Can you tell I’m a Yankee fan??

As a Yanks lover, I hate to say it but the Mets beat the Yankees decisively in terms of greenness, especially in the construction phase.  Most Yankee fans, if they even knew about the “green loss” to the Mets, would be much more upset (by about 1,000,000x) over the Subway Series drubbing the Yanks endured earlier this season (I admit, it was “mildly annoying”) but this green thing stings me.

In researching this piece, as well as another one I wrote on this topic around the time the new Stadium opened, I looked far and wide to learn about how sustainability/green/energy efficiency factored into the construction.  I called the Yankees.  Was referred to Howard Rubenstein, their PR agency.  Got shut out, basically.  I was unable to find anything that showed the Yankees factored sustainability into the construction of the new stadium (i.e. use of recycled steel, green roof, porous pavement, etc.).  The PR agency provided neither information nor insight.  Now, it’s possible the Yanks did employ green building elements and are just being quiet about it.  But every other sports team I’ve heard of trumpets their sustainable stadium construction chops.  It’s hard to believe the Yankees are the lone exception.  So my assumption is the Yanks get a big goose egg on the green construction front.

In terms of stadium operations, the Yankees pretty much match the Mets (and, my guess most US/Canadian pro teams in all sports) in terms of energy efficiency and sustainability.  The club has a Green Initiatives section on yankees.com that provides the details.  Highlights include:

  • Purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and carbon offsets
  • Energy efficient lighting
  • Recycling and composting
  • Waterless hand soap

Finally, regarding the aforementioned Macombs Dam Park, one of the Yankees’ commitments to the local community when getting approval from the city government to build the new ball park, was that they’d replace all of the acreage of parkland that would be lost due to the stadium’s construction and it would be done in a “timely manner”.  The new Macombs Dam Park opened in 2012, 3 years after the Stadium, and with 3 less acres of green space which means 2 less ballfields (how ironic).  Additional green space was opened in separate swatches of the Bronx, near the Harlem River, that almost make up for the 3 acres lost.  And, it must be noted, the new Macombs Dam Park is state of the art and thus is in much, much better condition than the old one.  And since much of it is built on top of a parking garage, the Yanks get points for smart land use.  Overall, I call the Macombs Dam Park issue a slight green loss for the community (A much better park – 2 ball fields – 3 years without a park at all.

Macombs Dam Park

As the Yankees’ legendary Hall of Fame shortstop, former announcer, and poet laureate, the late Phil Rizzuto might have said, the Yankees were real “huckleberries” when it came to green construction of the new Yankee Stadium.  And, despite operating the ballpark in a green fashion, it was the failure to integrate sustainable practices into the planning and building of the new stadium (while the Mets did) that makes Citi Field the greener ballpark.  Hey, I have to call it like I see it!

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How Green Is Your New York (New Jersey) Sports Team: Mets/Citi Field

PART 2 OF AN OCCASIONAL GREENSPORTSBLOG SERIES ON THE GREEN-NESS (OR LACK THEROF) OF THE MAJOR NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY SPORTS STADIA-ARENAS

After a drought in new stadium/arena construction in the New York City area from 1981 to 2007, the 6 years from ’07 to ’12 saw an explosion in new sports palaces.  While none of the 6 stadiums/arenas built in the NYC-NJ area since 2007 were built to LEED standards, I thought it would be interesting to look at each to see how green they are (or aren’t).  Today’s column looks at the 2nd of the 6, Citi Field, home of the New York Mets in Flushing, Queens (click here for Part 1, which examined the greenness–or lack thereof–of Newark’s Prudential Center, home of the NHL’s Devils).

Citi Field, which was built in what was the parking lot of the ballpark it replaced, Shea Stadium, opened in 2009, as did the new Yankee Stadium.  Since the first game at Citi Field, a college baseball game between Georgetown and St. John’s, was played before the first contest at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field gets the #2 designation in this series, with Yankee Stadium to follow.

And, as a diehard, lifelong Yankee-lover/Met-hater, it pains me to say this but Citi Field, from its construction to its operations, is greener than its counterpart in The Bronx.

In fact, while Citi Field did not receive LEED-status (the Good Housekeeping seal of green building) that’s mainly a function of the fact that LEED standards for open air facilities were just being developed when the new ballpark opened.  And while I’m not expert enough in the ways of LEED to know if Citi Field would’ve qualified if the standards were fully formed back in ’09, I do know this–they did a lot of things right, including the use/installation/purchase of:

  • Recycled steel during construction (huge energy saver, both in terms of CO2 emissions avoided in the making of the steel and in its transportation)
  • Recycled waste oil
  • Porous pavement, which prevents storm water run-off and allowed for the planting of trees.
  • Green roof
  • Low flow toilets/waterless urinals
  • Green energy through Renewable Energy Credits (RECS)

The Mets’ greenness didn’t stop with the opening of the ballpark.  They went all-in with composting at all of their restaurants and suites in 2012 and are using green cleaning products throughout the facility.

All in all, Citi Fields stands as an exemplar of sustainable ballpark/arena construction and operations (if not LEED level).  If the Mets could translate their greenness to their on-field performance, they’d actually be worth watching–on days that Matt Harvey isn’t pitching.  OK, I know that’s snarky but, hey, it’s hard for a Yankee fan/Met hater to write an entire pro-Mets column.

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President Obama’s Climate Change Speech and The Heidi Bowl

Last week, there were 3 domestic mega-news stories:

  1. On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court essentially struck down the Voting Rights Act.
  2. Also on Tuesday, President Obama gave a long-awaited speech on Climate Change.
  3. On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court finished its session by issuing 2 rulings that made federal recognition of gay marriages a reality.

Big news week, to be sure, especially when you add the Paula Deen (who is this woman and why should I care?) to the list.  However, leaving Ms. Deen out of it, only 2 of these stories were treated like mega-stories.  Both Supreme Court pieces got the wall-to-wall coverage one now expects on all of the cable and broadcast news shows as well as page 1, above-the-fold treatment in the major newspapers.

The President’s 45+ minute speech that announced major rules changes, through the EPA, that will limit carbon emissions from coal plants, as well as other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy technologies and to mitigate against the already baked-in effects of climate change?  Uh, not so much.

The speech, termed the best on climate change by any US President by Al Gore, was shown in brief snippets on the cable news shows.  MSNBC only showed it for 41 seconds.  Fox aired it for a few minutes and then did an interview with a climate change skeptic (surprised?).  CNN, which did about a week of non stop coverage of the “Poop Cruise” could only spare 5 minutes on the President’s speech on perhaps the most challenging and important issue facing the planet.  And Wolf Blitzer was talking over the President and then they cut away for “breaking news” at the Trayvon Martin trial.

This pathetic coverage brings to mind The Heidi Bowl.  What is The Heidi Bowl, you may ask?  Late November, 1968.  The New York Jets are playing the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, with both teams vying for supremacy in the upstart American Football League and, eventually, perhaps, a spot in Super Bowl III vs. the champions of the established National Football League.  The game started at 4 PM EST and was televised nationally on NBC.  It went long because of an unusual number of injuries, fights and penalties.  With about a minute and change left, the Jets were up 32-29 and the Raiders had the ball.  At 7 PM EST, NBC chose to send the east coast viewers to see their “regularly scheduled program”, in this case, the children’s movie, “Heidi”.  I was 9 years old at the time, an absolute Jets nut (still am) (hold the snide remarks, please) and remember rushing to the radio to try and tune the game in, bewildered that my TV screen showed some annoying little girl strolling through the Alps.  Of course, in that 1 minute and change, the Raiders scored a touchdown, recovered a Jets fumble on the ensuing kickoff and ran that in for another touchdown.  The Raiders won 43-32.  People went nuts.  NBC’s phone system crashed.  David Brinkley had to go on the nightly news to make an apology.  The Heidi Bowl has long been a part of football lore.

What is the link between the Obama speech and the Heidi Bowl?  The networks decided both the President’s speech and the Jets-Raiders game were not ratings winners and decided to cut away to programming that would, they thought, draw a better audience.  The difference, of course, is that nothing has proven to draw better ratings more consistently than pro football.  In fact, the Heidi Bowl was the last time anyone would be stupid enough to cut away from a pro football game for regularly scheduled programming.

On the other hand, it’s likely any future speeches climate change speeches from the President will get continue to get the Jets-Heidi treatment.  Because climate change is not yet a ratings winner, sadly.  Why?  There are many, some more obvious than others.  I’ll focus on one here, the winner-loser phenomenon.

Football (and all other sports, for that matter), have a winner and a loser in a relatively short (3-4 hours) period of time (except Cricket which can last for days) (but no one in the US cares about Cricket).  Climate Change?  It’s effects are years, decades, sometimes centuries in the making.  And, while it’s certain, scientifically, that climate change is real and it’s human-caused, ascribing any weather event (Sandy, Katrina, drought, etc.) to climate change involves nuance (i.e. Sandy may have occurred absent climate change but climate change likely made it more severe).  Yes, we do see powerful effects of climate change in real time but even that is not sexy to the population at large.

So, you have football/other sports with  clearly defined winners-losers and quick results.  Climate Change:  No clear results and long-time effects.  How do we who care about Climate Change and, thus, Saving Humanity As We Know It, change this?  It ain’t gonna be easy, I’m not gonna lie to ya!  But it’s possible.  A couple of small-ball suggestions:

  • See the the fantastic documentary Chasing Ice to see Arctic See Ice Extent Loss made (somewhat) sexy!
  • Become a climate change activist and spread the word.  It’s quite easy to do.  One way is to visit realitydrop.org, a new site from the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore’s non-profit that has trained 4,000+ volunteers over the last 7 years (including yours truly) to give the “An Inconvenient Truth” slide show in their communities.  Realitydrop posts articles that deny the truth about climate change and provides an easy way for you to debunk those articles in the media in which they appear (ready-made letters to the editor).  It also allows you to write in in support of articles that tell the truth.  Easy, easy way to make an impact.
  • Write to the cable news networks (CNN, Fox, MSNBC) and demand they cover climate change more aggressively.  Tell them their lack of coverage of the President’s speech was like the Heidi Bowl.  I’m going to write them today–will share the letter with you.
  • Start your own Climate Change Programming Network!  If you choose this option, it’s a good idea if you’d have some serious $$.  Also if you choose this option, let’s talk, I could be one of your anchormen!!

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