The Arlington Way
By Penny Bonda, FASID
Portrait Photography By Jim Robinette
A keynote speech entitled
The State of the World is an ambitious undertaking,
even when the topic is narrowed to focus on an environmental perspective.
The state of the world is, after all, in flux in many ways with
global challenges that include climate change, potable water shortages,
habitat destruction and the role of the United States as it either
assumes or reneges its responsibility as a global environmental
The daunting task of intellectually attacking this subject was
put to group of three distinguished individuals at the recent EnvironDesign®7
conference in Washington, DC.
* Bill Browning, founder of Green Development Services (GDS), a
consulting unit of Rocky Mountain Institute that enables architects,
developers and real estate professionals to integrate energy-efficient
and environmentally responsive design into projects. GDS has demonstrated
significant opportunities for improving the comfort, aesthetics,
resource efficiency and value of properties while reducing pollution
and saving money. Recently Browning has been working with the Chinese
government as it confronts horrific environmental problems while
preparing to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
* Winona LaDuke, an internationally renowned Native American Indian
activist and advocate for environmental, womens and childrens
rights. She is the founder and campaign director of the White Earth
Land Recovery Project, a reservation-based land acquisition, environmental
advocacy and cultural organization. Shes also founder and
co-chair of the Indigenous Womens Network. LaDuke organizes
and hosts the annual Honor the Earth tour in conjunction with folk-rock
duo The Indigo Girls, with whom she was named by Ms. Magazine as
Women of the Year in 1997. She joined Ralph Nadar as
his vice presidential running mate on the Green Party ticket in
the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. She has written extensively
on national environmental issues and she lives with her family on
the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota.
* Robert K. Massie who, until January of this year, has tirelessly
served as executive director of the Coalition for Environmentally
Responsible Economies (CERES), a network of over 80 organizations,
including environmental groups, investors, advisors and analysts
representing over $300 billion in invested capital, public interest
and community groups, as well as 70-plus companies that have endorsed
the CERES principles, a 10-point code of environmental conduct.
Massie continues to serve CERES as senior fellow and as a member
of the CERES board, allowing him to continue to contribute his powerful
and visionary ideas and strategic thinking, including his organizations
Global Reporting Initiative, a mechanism to provide and promote
corporate accountability and transparency.
The session began with each of the panelists talking, storyteller
fashion, about some of the things that theyve seen and experienced
in their work.
Winona LaDukes Story
I come from the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota.
The issues that we struggle with in terms of cultural diversity
I think are very much a mirror of the broader issues of this society.
They are integrally related to biodiversity remaining on a worldwide
scale. By and large, the areas where there is the most biodiversity
in the world are also the areas where there are the most indigenous
We, in our own community, have a very rich history of architectural
diversity: native houses made of planks that are ornately carved,
houses made of sod and whalebone, two- or three-storied adobe houses
and, of course, the teepee! Colonialism does bad things to peoples
architecture and culture. Our community over the past 150 years
has seen a decline in the diversity of many of our dwellings and
in the sacred ceremonial spaces. So now, if you travel to most Indian
reservations in the United States, youll see houses that look
very similar, created largely by HUD. Representing about 80 percent
of our reservation-based communities, theyre all lined up
like pastel mints, and they create largely dysfunctional living
spaces for communities.
We are intimately aware of the relationship between the need for
space that is culture-based, that connects you to the broader role
of where you are today. Im concerned about the relationship
between cultural monocropping and architectural monocropping, and
how this is transforming us into something that we probably do not
want to be.
As a theoretical construct, historically and to this day, there
is a direct relationship between the development of the United States
and the underdevelopment of Native America. By and large, the natural
resource base that has been accumulated and created the wealth has
come from many of these indigenous communities.
On a worldwide scale there are about 5,000 nations of indigenous
people living in many diverse regions in the world. Were the
people who live in the Arctic. Were the people on the Pacific
Rim. Fifty million indigenous peoples live in the worlds rain
forests. Fifty million acres of North America is forest land that
is inhabited primarily by native people.
The reality is that we consume too much energy in this country.
I was in Colorado recently, and I was looking at coal trains coming
from the Powder River Basin, from the Northern Cheyenne and Crow
communities. This is a state that gets one percent of its energy
from renewables, yet 10 times as much wind blows over the state
as would be required for power, and they have over 300 days of sun
a year. It has to do with choices. It has to do with selection.
It has to do with public policy.
There is also the issue of selection of products which contain persistent
organic pollutants that are showing up in womens breast milk.
We have Inuit women in the Arctic who have PCB contamination of
their breast milk that is 12 times that of an average American woman.
Indian communities have worked hard to secure agreements on eliminating
persistent organic pollutants at an international level. In our
community, we have a teaching which says, In each deliberation,
one should consider the impact upon the seventh generation from
now. And I think that that is perhaps a teaching that we could
all learn from.
Bill Brownings Story
Wendell Berry is a farmer, poet, raconteur and essayist. Some of
his most powerful writing asks the question: How do we all
become native to place? How do we all figure out a relationship
to place and land?
In the environmental movement you hear again and again the notion
that all people can do is screw up the land. And yet, as you begin
studying other cultures and as you work with some of the restoration
ecologists, you start to learn that there are many ecosystems here
in the U.S. and other places that cease to exist when you take the
humans out of them. The prairies of the Midwest, the oak savannahs,
which are one of the most beautiful and stunning ecosystems I know
anywhere in this country, cease to exist if they arent burned
every year and it is the people who set those fires.
At the Rocky Mountain Institute were increasingly doing more
and more work in China and many wonder why. Getting paid is nearly
impossible, the problems are just intractable. You can be in Beijing
in April and go for days and not even know where the sun is. Sandstorms
resulting from desertification, from cutting down trees and overgrazing
the grass have shut down airports for days at a time. There are
estimates that 10,000 people a year are dying from respiratory problems.
So what are they doing about it? Well, this sounds a little glib,
but theyre hosting the Olympics. In China, the implication
of having the Olympics is something phenomenal, something they never
thought they could do. Theres a level of pride that they have
not had in a long time. You can be in remote villages where people
havent seen a European person in 20 years, and youll
see a little billboard or a sign that says, Green Olympics.
Theres an enormous pride and theyve made commitments
that during that two-week period they will have clean air in and
Theyre cleaning up the dirtiest factories. All the taxis are
being converted to compressed natural gas. Theyre cutting
out coal burning and theyre going to natural gas. All of the
buildings being built for the Olympics are being done as green buildings.
In fact, theyre starting now some of the demonstration buildings
for the Olympics using the LEED Green Building Rating System,
and their goal is to achieve platinum (the highest) level. Because
they have massive government support, theyre using the Olympics
to kick off a green building campaign. This is for us a very intriguing
and hopeful note.
Bob Massies Story
We have just passed the 10th anniversary of the release of Mosaic,
which was the early Web browser, and that really struck me, because
in 10 years, so much has happened globally with the release of information.
In 1992, when Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running for president,
they issued a position paper that said as part of their administration,
they were going to work to insure that schools and libraries and
businesses and government would be connected to the internet by
2015. They thought it would take 23 years to achieve what we have
almost achieved, if not completely achieved, much faster than that.
I wanted to raise that because I think we havent fully absorbed
how this can affect our ability to organize differently, to design
differently, to bring people together in new and diverse ways that
find our common humanity and find our common desire for the future.
I want to give you a very specific example that I have had the privilege
of being involved with, which is the creation of the Global Reporting
Initiative, and I offer this as an example of what might be applied
to other things.
The Global Reporting Initiative, very briefly, grew out of the experience
of CERES, formed almost 15 years ago, to try to urge companies and
other organizations to disclose their environmental impacts. There
is an implicit theory that if you could get an organization, a company,
to set a goal and measure and disclose its progress against that
goal, you could create both an internal and external pressure dynamic
By 1996, this idea and principle was being widely accepted, but
there was an enormous debate about, well, what do you disclose?
And how do you measure? And what does it mean? Who gets to determine
it, and how will it be verified?
The question we began to ask ourselves that I would like all of
you to consider in your work and in your lives: What do we really
want? CERES was working on, in some sense, interim strategies, but
what we truly wanted was for everyone to agree on a common disclosure
standard on human rights, on the environment, on greenhouse gases,
on land use practices and so forth, and then for people to report
against that, and then for that to be linked to the other systems
in our society of finance, economy and government. We then proposed
to convene the group to work on a common standard, and the way we
did thisand I think this is significantis we basically
set out from the beginning, saying, We are going to create
a public good, and we were able to create a kind of swirling
whirlpool of people who wanted to make it happen. And I can tell
you when you start to unleash that, amazing things begin to develop.
My general principle that I drew from this is: exciting is stronger
than boring, and big trumps small.
We pulled this together very quickly. Because of the Internet, once
wed met, we could then share documents in real time, in ways
that none of us had ever really seen before. We had people from
Japan, South America, Africa, Canada and all over Europe globally
working together, we approved things in three weeks, four weeks
and had an exposure draft out in March 99, an early prototype
out in June 2000 and the next version out in 2002. We launched the
permanent organization with its own board and staff, based in Amsterdam
and its now being used by more than 200 global companies and
we have blown away the argument that it could never be done, which
was the biggest single impediment. We made real progress because
we were able to take this new Internet technology and combine it
with desire and vision and the willingness to cooperate in a way
that was additive over time.
We live in a society where the dominant model is winner take all.
You win by 1/100ths of a second, or by a few dollars, or by a single
point, and you get all the credit, and the person who just barely
missed it gets nothing. That is not a sustainable model. The sustainable
model is people coming together from many points of view, from cultural
and global diversity, and coming to understand what goals we really
want as a community on the earth.
Human beings desperately need to be encouraged to build what they
really want, and what they really dream about. Some people have
the privilege of being able to invite you into their lives and are
able to ask you to help them do that. But people need that vision,
they need that sense of the possible, and sense of imagination that
you can help release, not just in your professional lives, but in
every part of your lives.
BROWNING: Bob, bringing up the
Internet for me is intriguing as well. I have a friend whos
native Hawaiian. She has organized a group, largely run by women,
to recapture their language and their culture and help celebrate
place again. Going from island to island would be hugely expensive,
and these are largely folks who cant afford to get on an airplane
and go to meetings. So they run this whole network through the Internet.
The Internet is becoming a place for empowerment of people who didnt
have voice before.
LADUKE: I get excited when people talk about engaging
themselves on all levels. I think that people need to engage politically.
I also think that there are many ways to do that, whether its
a renewable energy standard in a state, or whether its one
of these issues of toxins in buildings or zoning issues, or one
of the things that Ive been involved in most recentlyfunding
energy projects such as wind turbines. I like this technology and
Im working on trying to leverage funding for tribal wind projects.
Renewable energy addresses a lot of the social issues in our society.
In my mind, whether its the choices you make in the construction
of your house, making it energy efficient and putting in passive
solar systems, it is about democratizing power production in this
country, which is one of the things that we absolutely need to be
about. Because in doing that, what we do is we allow ourselves to
be responsible more for our own production. You hook up to the grid,
and you sell the power back to the grid, if theres a surplus.
You have these power lines that dont just distribute, but
they collect. This begins this process of transformation from a
society in which there is centralized production and profits made
by some and expenses incurred by others, to much more local control.
How do we engage in some other processes of transforming, of change?
MASSIE: Id like to take a crack at that, because
I forgot to mention something that I think is quite exciting and
encouraging, and thats sort of outside the normal political
realm. It was mentioned earlier that CERES does a lot of work with
institutional investors, and one of the things that we realized
is that institutional investors have a lot of money, and they own
a lot of companies, and big pieces of companies. And despite whats
happened in the stock market recently, the total portion of pension
money and institutional investor money continues to grow in the
United States, and yet for the most part, that has never really
been mobilized. One of the things that is happening now is the assertion
of the rights of the diversified capital over corporate governance.
The largest physical changes in the history of human civilization
that are coming down the pike in the form of global climate change
are not evaluated in the potential long-term consideration of portfolios.
Think about that. The biggest thing human beings have ever seen
in terms of what it could do to our economy is not even considered.
One of the things that weve done is convene a state comptroller/treasurer
and investor summit on climate risk. Because we may have it at the
U.N., were going to pull in a lot of people. Were simply
going to ask the question, Under what conditions could the
radical changes that may take place in the climate affect your long-term
valuation? There is no current answer on Wall Street to that
question and thats going to be something that corporate America
is really going to have to think about.
One other thing that many of you may not have noticed is that the
Securities and Exchange Commission has ruled that, starting in 2004,
all mutual funds must reveal their proxy voting. So if you have
a 401(k) or any kind of mutual fund, you should write to your fund
manager and ask how they plan to vote on the issue of climate change.
I also want to fully endorse what Winona said. I know were
all busy, but really, if you have a lever on power and you dont
pull it, then we bear some responsibility.
BROWNING: Twenty-six percent of the real estate of the
country is held by pensions. Most people dont even realize
it, dont even think about it, because of the way its
aggregated and purchased and all of that. A year and a half ago,
when the state pension for California announced that all of their
new investments would be in LEED-certified buildings, that had a
bit of a ripple. Sometimes it means chasing the money to see where
its goingand have conversations with those folks.
LADUKE: On our reservation we work on a lot of issues.
For example, were trying to recover our land base by acquiring
land and holding it as a trust. Then we capture the value added
by our work force, such as a maple syrup operation or the wild rice
grown on our lakes. Were also doing some work with wind turbines.
We put one up on our reservation, and now we have what I call wind
turbine envy from farmers and other reservations. These are
all examples of our response to globalization: relocalization or
the rebuilding of local economies that not only add value, but they
MASSIE: I would say that the
industrialization of agriculture is mostly a very bad thing. Unilever
is this global monopoly that controls and distributes something
like 13 percent of the worlds frozen peas and 15 percent of
the worlds frozen spinach or something of that magnitude.
What can we do? I would say to try and buy more stuff locally and
while you may pay a little more, think of it as a health and happiness
BROWNING: Theres this great movement that started
in a couple of villages in Italy called slow food and
its more than just an anti-fast food thing. What its
really about is celebrating whats produced locally, but its
also become a really powerful economic development tool.
Similarly, lets start asking the questions. For example, is
sustainability even possible or is this merely prolonging our own
inevitable extinction? Or, as Paul Ehrlich asked, Are we just
rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? All species eventually
go extinct. Were the first to be able to make the choice.
How we behave will largely determine that. But I sure wouldnt
be doing what Im doing if I thought that there wasnt
LADUKE: We have a teaching from a long time ago that
talks about a prophecy that said there would be two paths ahead
for our people. One was well-worn, but it was scorched. The other
path was not well-worn and it was green. It was our choice on which
path to embark. That is our teachingthat you have a choice.
And thats what I really believe. We are the richest, the most
powerful country in the world, and there is no absence of technology
or the finances to do what needs to be done to make the kind of
changes that would protect and restore. Its just a question
of the commitment.
MASSIE:: Sometimes people in
the environmental communities ask why people arent more active
on the question of climate change. Maybe we havent explained
to them that this thing is really coming and is really going to
One of the unaddressed problems is the issue of despair; particularly
if youve been committed to a better world, you can get to
a point where you feel as though you bear the whole world on your
shoulders. The bigger the problem, the smaller you feel, the more
the temptation of despair. Its actually okay to feel that
as an individual for awhile because were human, but I think
it is a real sin for a community to despair. Were here to
help and reinvigorate each other, reimagine the future, bear each
others burdens, and to carry forward. If somebody has to sit
down, or if we have to carry somebody for awhile, thats okay.
I think hope is a gift. We give it to each other, and thats
how were going to keep this thing going.
Id like to finish with a verse from a poem that I love from
Gerard Manley Hopkins, which, despite its slightly antiquated gender
language, captures something about the challenge that we face.
Generations have trod, have trod,
And all is seared with trade,
Bleared and smeared with toil.
And wears mans smudge, and shares mans smell.
The soil is bare now,
Nor can foot feel being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent,
For there lives the dearest freshness, deep down things.
I think that as citizens, were called to find that dearest
freshness, deep down things, and bring it into our world and into