2005: THE YEAR IN REVIEWFor nearly twenty years, the Pacific Institute has worked to protect our natural world, encourage sustainable development, and improve global security. With those goals in mind, 2005 was a trying year for many communities around the globe, but the Institute achieved some notable successes to help make our world more sustainable and better able to cope with and avoid future disasters. The Institute focused on state, national, and international water resources; environmental justice in the San Francisco Bay Area; and corporate accountability and international standardization. To this end, the Institute released eight reports and white papers in 2005, and Institute staff were recognized with awards and appointments.

Natural Disasters

From the aftermath of the deadly pan-Asian tsunami, to the domestic impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to the earthquake in Kashmir, natural disasters characterized 2005. “The tragedy that has unfolded over the past week in Asia reminds us of the power of water to both give life and take it away,” wrote Pacific Institute president and co-founder Dr. Peter Gleick shortly after the tsunami.

Aid agencies, governments, corporations and individuals are rushing bottled water, filters and chemical purification systems to help with these short-term urgencies. This is as it should be, and the outpouring of help from the Bay Area and around the world is wonderful evidence of the richness of our hearts and pocketbooks.

But hidden behind the current disaster is a greater tragedy too often ignored by governments and the world community: According to the World Health Organization, billions of people in the developing world lack safe water and sanitation systems and, as a result, 5,000 to 10,000 people, mostly children, die every day from preventable water-related diseases. These deaths are not the result of natural disasters, but of government failure, inadequate infrastructure and insufficient international aid.

… Only by helping communities build permanent, sustainable water systems can we hope to stem the daily disasters we don’t read about or see.

Hurrican Katrina's Aftermath (Photo courtesy NOAA)Months later, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita obliterated whole communities along the Gulf of Mexico Coast. But when the skies cleared and the sun came out, it was the worsening disaster in New Orleans that captured national and international focus.

“For skeptics who think that our wealth and economic strength insulate us from our natural world, Hurricane Katrina is an urgent wake-up call,” wrote Gleick. In an October column for the Environmental News Network, he called on leaders to renew investment in infrastructure, management of coastal ecosystems, and heed climactic warnings.

“[T]wentieth century tools for managing our natural resources are inadequate for the twenty-first century,” wrote Gleick, “the kind of disaster we’re now dealing with along the Gulf Coast may await people living in Miami, Washington, California, and indeed, much of the world.”

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Pacific Institute Honors and Awards

On December 7, the California Urban Water Conservation Council (CUWCC) recognized Pacific Institute president and co-founder Peter Gleick with the 2005 Excellence Award for Statewide/Institutional Innovations. The urban water agency professionals, public interest advocates, and private interests who constitute the CUWCC gave the award in recognition of Dr. Gleick’s

… extraordinary contributions over the past twenty years as head of the Pacific Institute, wherein he helped define and promote sustainable water policy in California. His creative, critical, and influential research into water efficiency options as part of statewide water resources planning has been invaluable to the California Bulletin 160 process by placing water efficiency squarely on the table. His leadership on water and climate issues have justly earned him a worldwide reputation as a thinker, scholar, visionary, and prophet. California is lucky to be his home and the constant beneficiary of his vision and research.

Adding to the Institute’s recognitions in December, the Community Indicators Consortium, with support from the Brookings Institution’s Urban Markets Initiative, honored the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) with a 2005 Community Indicators Award, earning third prize, nationwide. At a ceremony in Burlington, Vermont, WOEIP was recognized “for its effectiveness in using the ‘Neighborhood Knowledge for Change’ to catalyze action and drive community change.”

Water, Water, Everywhere

In January, the Pacific Institute released “Investing in Clean Agriculture: How California Can Strengthen Agriculture, Reduce Pollution, and Save Money,” by Dr. Gary Wolff. In the report, the Institute’s Principal Economist and Engineer outlines a plan that “will reduce pesticide use, protect public health, preserve the environment, and help California’s farmers stay competitive in a rapidly changing economy.”

“The Pacific Institute’s innovative proposal will reward farmers who are willing to learn about farming practices that protect water quality,” noted Leland Swenson of the Community Alliance With Family Farmers

The Institute engaged in California’s ongoing Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program, which is developing a preferred restoration plan and a least-cost restoration plan for the Sea by December 2006.   Commenting extensively on the Program, the Institute stressed the need to develop alternatives and emphasized the importance of protecting habitat and the hundreds of species of birds that depend upon the Sea.  In March, the Institute released the edited proceedings of an experts’ workshop evaluating the Salton Sea Authority’s preferred alternative for the Sea.

The Institute continued to apply its research and policy analysis tools toward the Colorado River and its delta. Welcoming the invitation of the Central Arizona Project, the Institute  participated in a working group to bridge the differences separating water users advocating the operation of the Yuma Desalting Plant and conservationists advocating the protection of the threatened Cienega de Santa Clara.  After eleven months of work, the working group released a white paper in April, “Balancing Water Needs on the Lower Colorado River: Recommendations of the Yuma Desalting Plant/Cienega de Santa Clara Workgroup” (PDF). In addition to offering innovative solutions, the working group signaled the importance and value of a collaborative approach between water users and conservationists.

Michael Cohen“The future of the Colorado River delta depends on these kinds of collaborative approaches, which demonstrate that reasonable solutions to complex problems can be found when reasonable people sit down together to work through their differences,” said Michael Cohen, Pacific Institute Senior Research Associate.

San Francisco welcomed the United Nations Environmental Programme in May for World Environment Day. The Pacific Institute and Earth Day Network created “Solving Water Challenges” to detail looming threats to the world’s fresh water resources and provide practical solutions to help policymakers protect water supplies, improve efficiency, and ensure fair access at the local and regional level.

The Institute and several other NGOs with interest and expertise in Colorado River issues released the Conservation Before Shortage (PDF) proposal in July, which offers an approach to the management of shortages in the Lower Colorado through the implementation of a tiered conservation program that is tied to the surface elevation of Lake Mead.

In September, the Institute released “California Water 2030: An Efficient Future” to immediate statewide fanfare. The report detailed how California could use available technology to reduce wasteful statewide water use by 20% in 25 years, even with expected population growth, a vibrant agriculture sector, and a health economy. The editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle took notice:

Rather than wait until another drought is upon us, we must move far more aggressively to conserve water. The ‘high efficiency’ scenario outlined by the Pacific Institute provides a blueprint for how to begin doing so — today.

Two months later, the Institute released “Understanding Flows Through the Remnant Colorado River Delta: Recommendations for Streamgage Sites and Data Collection” (En Español). The white paper recommends installing streamgages and improving data collection in the remnant delta to facilitate restoration efforts and improve understanding of the delta’s hydrology.

Hoping to steer water managers away from the counterproductive debate over whether or not to privatize water systems, Gary Wolff and Eric Hallstein released “Beyond Privatization: Restructuring Water Systems to Improve Performance” in December. The report finds that public versus private is not the bright line that separates success from failure. Instead, it provides lessons and guidance on effectively improving water system efficiency, with or without privatization.

Upcoming: The Institute is preparing a comprehensive analysis of desalination in California for early 2006. The report will include work on the energy implications of desalination and a comparison of alternatives to desalination, including conservation and efficiency.

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2005 Pacific Institute Reports and White Papers

Environmental Justice
and Diesel Exhaust in the Bay Area

Focusing its efforts on the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pacific Institute worked vigorously to attack the health, safety, and environmental problems associated with diesel exhaust. February was a key month for efforts to reduce diesel pollution in West Oakland, West Contra Costa County, and throughout California: Institute staff worked with the Regional Air District and the Port of Oakland to improve enforcement of truck idling restrictions and to provide incentives to truckers to get newer, cleaner trucks on the road.

In conjunction with World Environment Day, the Institute created the “West Oakland Environmental Victories Tour,” which was well-attended and garnered much media attention. Community activists joined members of the press on a bus tour through some of West Oakland’s most notorious pollution hot-spots, as well as its greatest environmental justice victories.

In July, the Institute presented “Deluged by Diesel: Healthy Solutions for West County.” Following months of community meetings and research, the report finds that West Contra Costa County residents are exposed to far more than their fair share of toxic diesel pollution: average diesel emissions in Inner West County are 40 times higher per area than the California average.

“[T]he good news is, there are a host of solutions that can cut diesel soot, clean up the air, and help protect the region, without harming the economy,” said Meena Palaniappan, Pacific Institute Program Director. The report gained widespread media attention and vocal support from public officials and community members.

The Institute saw the final approval of a new West Oakland truck route in September. In the Institute’s groundbreaking 2003 study, “Clearing the Air: Reducing Diesel Pollution in West Oakland,” community residents identified the truck route as the top solution to mitigate the impact of truck traffic emanating from the Port of Oakland. The Institute and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) spent a year helping to convene residents, truckers, Oakland city staff, the Port, business and neighborhood councils to establish the route, which finally directs big rig traffic away from residential areas of West Oakland.

Margaret Gordon emceed the Don't Sit Idle press conferenceThe following month, the Institute and WOEIP, along with the Bay Area Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, launched its “Don’t Sit Idle” campaign with a day of action. Bay Area community activists distributed more than 8,000 informational anti-idling fliers to diesel truck drivers, bus drivers, and local residents. A press conference emceed by the Institute staffer and WOEIP Co-Chair Margaret Gordon featured elected officials, community and labor leaders, truckers, and health experts.

“It has fallen on our communities to get the word out about the health, environmental, and legal ramifications of diesel idling,” said Karen Pierce of the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates. “Limiting truck idling to five minutes isn’t courtesy, it’s the law.”

After months of advocacy by the Institute and regional partners, the end of 2005 also marked the successful inclusion of community representation in California’s Cabinet Level Goods Movement Working Group to address increased goods movement around California’s ports, rail yards, and trucking industry. Palaniappan and Gordon both sit as community representatives on the Working Group.

Upcoming: The Institute is partnering with the WOEIP and the Department of Health Services to conduct an indoor air monitoring project to evaluate the effectiveness of personal air purifiers in reducing black soot, a marker for diesel pollution, in several West Oakland homes. The study is targeted at seniors, and results of the study will be released in Spring 2006.

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2005 Appointments

February
Jason Morrison named U.S. NGO representative for a new ISO Social Responsibility Group

March
Gary Wolff was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to a water quality expert position on the nine-person San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board

July
Jason Morrison elected to serve on governing body of ISO Social Responsibility Working Group

October
Peter Gleick named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Peter Gleick named a Fellow of the International Water Resources Association
Meena Palaniappan and Margaret Gordon named to the Governor’s Cabinet Level Goods Movement Working Group

November
Jason Morrison accepts American Chemistry Council invitation to serve on Responsible Care Program Strategic Review Board

Corporate Accountability
and International Standardization

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) began creating technical standards for things like hardware and photo film in the late 1940s. In recent years, ISO has been expanding into matters relating to social and environmental policy. This quiet transformation has gone virtually unnoticed and unchecked by environmental and social justice organizations, but the rules established by ISO will have a major impact on national and local environmental issues—from the environmental management standards deployed by major multinational corporations to eco-labeling, water privatization, global warming, and corporate social responsibility.

The Pacific Institute’s International NGO Network on ISO (INNI) works to ensure that any ISO-created standards serve the public interest by protecting the environment and improving social justice. To accomplish this goal, the Institute provides guidance to decisionmakers, works to shape public opinion, and conveys timely ISO information to network organizations so that they can activate their members. There are now roughly 250 organizations from 49 countries (32 developing) within the INNI network.

The Institute reached a landmark agreement with ISO in January that makes draft ISO standards publicly available on the Institute’s INNI Web site. The agreement creates a one-year pilot project that will conclude with a Pacific Institute report to ISO.

“This agreement is a landmark victory for public interest organizations, because it is ISO’s first recognition that–as it moves into these new areas of social and environmental standardization–it faces a higher bar in terms of transparency and public accountability.” said Jason Morrison, Pacific Institute Program Director and INNI Secretary.

To help communicate to the wider public the significance of this evolution in the role of international standards, the Institute developed a Frequently Asked Questions about ISO, an updated INNI Fact Sheet (PDF), and publishes a quarterly INNI update.

In August, the Institute co-hosted an NGO-industry roundtable workshop on corporate transparency and accountability. Sponsored by the Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI), several dozen environmental organizations and US-based multinational corporations attended the Oakland event to discuss GEMI’s guidance on transparency.

“This workshop helped companies understand the need to improve the way they engage their stakeholders,” said Morrison. “Improved  engagement will lead to better understanding and enhance companies’ ability to respond to stakeholders’ social and environmental information needs.”

In the fall, the Institute played a lead role in producing the “Cross Walk Matrix on Current Best Practice Guidelines for Environmental Management System Implementation” for the U.S. Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE). The agency will soon release the Cross Walk in final form, adding it to the suite of federal tools and guidance documents on maximizing the use of high-performing Environmental Management Systems at federal facilities.  It will also be added to the tools for cooperative conservation in line with Executive Order 13352.

Later last fall, the Pacific Institute participated in the Reinventing Globalization 2005 workshop in New York City, which was attended by over 80 organizations and individuals working to make globalization more democratic, equitable, and sustainable. The event had two objectives. The first was to share, analyze, and celebrate the strategies and tactics that are working to bring about real change in the fundamental nature, processes, and institutions of globalization. The second was to explore the possibility of creating one or more “communities of practice” among the NGOs and funders attending the meeting.

Morrison, who served on an eight-member design team for the conference, said “At a time when the daily news is so bleak, it was heartening to learn about all the successes environmentalists and social justice advocates have achieved around the world.”

Upcoming: The Institute has partnered with Naomi Roht-Arriaza of University of California at Hastings School of Law to write a chapter on private and quasi-private standard-setting for the Oxford University Press International Environmental Law Handbook.  The chapter focuses on the changing role of international standards vis-à-vis international environmental law and public policy, and demonstrates how the line between public and private standards (both in terms of their development and implementation) is becoming increasingly blurred.  The Handbook is scheduled for publication in mid-2006.

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