From the World’s Water to West Oakland,
From Desalination to the Salton Sea,
The Pacific Institute in 2006
In 2007, the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its founding. As we look back at our accomplishments, we are developing innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to the next generation of challenges.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute works to protect our natural world, encourage sustainable development, and improve global security. The Institute tackled numerous problems in 2006, including the questionable economics of desalination, the inequitable costs of freight transport, and the looming environmental hazard of the Salton Sea. Through its interdisciplinary analyses, the Institute is commanding the attention of decision makers and the Institute’s recommendations are reflected in new regulations and administrative decisions.
The World’s Water Turns 10
For ten years, The World’s Water has informed and challenged standard thinking about global water issues. This tradition continues with the November release of The World’s Water 2006-2007. The current issue covers a variety of topics, from equity (Environmental Justice), to economic (Business Risks of Water), to security (Water and Terrorism).
“It’s time to be a little more aggressive about water problems and solutions,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute President and Co-Founder and editor of the World’s Water series. “There have been a billion people without access to clean drinking water for a long time. And we’re making some progress, but … we’re not making progress fast enough.”
“Essential … It’s really an overused word for mostly over-hyped products,” said Ambassador Hattie Babbitt at a reception for the release. “But this is essential reading for people.” (More on the book release here).
The World’s Water 2006-2007 is available for purchase from Island Press in paperback and hardcover editions.
Pacific Institute Honors and Awards
In early 2006, Pacific Institute Senior Associate Meena Palaniappan conducted research in India as part of a Fulbright fellowship. Her objectives included researching and implementing effective water and wastewater projects that address community involvement in water services, alternative wastewater treatment technologies, and demand-side management approaches to water management. In a series of diary entries available online, Palaniappan elaborated on her experiences abroad.
In April, Pacific Institute President Dr. Peter Gleick was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. more
That same month, the U.S. EPA honored the Institute-borne West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (co-chaired by Margaret Gordon, at the podium in photo at right) as an environmental hero.
In June, BREATHE California awarded the Pacific Institute-led Ditching Dirty Diesel collaborative for leadership and grassroots advocacy. The award recognized the group “for developing strong, collaborative solutions to reducing diesel emissions in the Bay Area. … Their advocacy has educated and built awareness and is leading to positive environmental change in the community.” More
Saving the Salton Sea and Preventing Future Health Calamities
The Salton Sea is shrinking, and without a restoration project it will deteriorate from being California’s largest lake to becoming an economic, health, and environmental hazard. In order to spur state officials into action, the Pacific Institute detailed the Sea’s potential 75-year crash course in Hazard: The Future of the Salton Sea With No Restoration Project. The report – a scientific warning on the perils of inaction – generated substantial media interest, with print stories in more than 30 papers nationwide. Many of the report’s recommendations were incorporated in the California Department of Water Resources’ Preliminary Environmental Impact Report.
Throughout the year, “Hazard” author and Pacific Institute Senior Associate Michael Cohen backed up his research with active involvement in the Salton Sea Advisory Committee and the Salton Sea Coalition. In October, the Coalition released a report card grading the State’s delayed report. With a final proposal for how to save the Sea due in early 2007, look to the Institute to continue its efforts to develop a viable restoration plan.
The Salton Sea is just one grim symptom of the ailing and overdrawn Colorado River. In collaboration with several other NGOs, the Institute drafted an alternative set of Colorado River shortage criteria this year. These criteria generated considerable interest from the Bureau of Reclamation and from representatives of the basin states. Many of their key provisions were incorporated in the basin states’ February proposal, and will likely form the basis of the final shortage policy.
2006 Pacific Institute Releases
- “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt – A California Perspective“ Heather Cooley, Peter Gleick, and Gary Wolff
- “The Emerging Role of Private Social and Environmental International Standards in Economic Globalization” (PDF) Jason Morrison and Naomi Roht-Arriaza
- “HAZARD: The Future of the Salton Sea with No Restoration Project,” Michael Cohen
- “Paying With Our Health: The Real Cost of Freight Transport in California,” Swati Prakash, Meena Palaniappan, et al.
- “Remaining Drops – Freshwater resources: A global issue“ Peter Gleick, Jason Morrison [Paper]
- “Water and Terrorism,” (PDF from Water Policy), Peter Gleick [Paper]
- The World’s Water 2006-2007: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources, Peter Gleick, ed.
Institute Launches Science Integrity Initiative
The U.S. has seen unprecedented assaults on science this decade, from the tampering of scientific reports for political purposes to the gagging of leading scientists. In response, the Pacific Institute launched its Integrity of Science Initiative in February to help counter the assault on science and scientific integrity in the public policy arena. We are focusing on attacks on science related to water, climate change, environmental health, and security, with a special effort to educate media and the public. As part of this effort, the Institute launched the blog Integrity of Science, which features commentary and criticism, highlights relevant news stories, and allows readers to provide their own experiences with and insight into this disturbing trend. In December, Integrity of Science joined Seed magazine’s ScienceBlogs.
“The Pacific Institute was founded on the concept of using good science to inform good public policy,” said Gleick. “The abuse of science that we have seen in the past several years is leading to bad decisions, diminished trust in science and governance, and growing risks to the public. With this Institute initiative, we are pushing for transparence and honesty in the use of science by policymakers and supporting those who favor a fact-based government.”
In December, the Institute organized a top-level panel on science integrity for the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. The session (“Defining and Protecting the Integrity of Science: New Challenges for the 21st Century“) included Gleick, AGU President Timothy Killeen, Science Editor-in-Chief Don Kennedy, atmospheric scientist Judith Curry, and UCS scientist Francesca Grifo. A packed house of more than 450 scientists heard presentations and raised questions about political attacks and how to turn the tide in the coming years. More on the AGU Meeting.
Support the Pacific Institute !
Do any of these new reports sound interesting to you? Did you know that if you become a member of the Pacific Institute starting at the $100 level, you can receive five Institute publications of your choice* — a $100 value in research alone! Please consider supporting the Pacific Institute with your tax-deductible donation.
To donate, click here or call 510-251-1600.
*This offer does not include books from The World’s Water series
New Report Analyzes Desalination, California
The Institute’s year-long analysis on desalination has stirred debate in public and private circles. “Desalination, With a Grain of Salt,” found that most desalination projects proposed in California fail to adequately address economic realities, environmental concerns, and potential social impacts.
“Our communities cannot be rushed into desalination projects – the economic, environmental, and social costs of desalination are too high,” said Heather Cooley, Pacific Institute Research Associate and lead author of the report. “Local, state, and national laws do not sufficiently protect our communities from costly mistakes.”
Recent gains in desalination efficiency are being offset by rising interest rates and increased costs of energy and construction. Even the least expensive estimates exceed the costs of conservation and efficiency improvements, fixing leaks, and other sources of new supply. As a result, desalination remains an extremely expensive source of fresh water, and while desalination will continue to be an option, progress on it may be slower than some proponents may expect.
Taps on Tap at the California State House
The Institute was closely linked to two pieces of legislation in the California legislature in 2006. Sponsored by the Pacific Institute, Assembly Bill 2515 started out as a landmark water conservation bill aimed at improving and accelerating California’s commitment to water conservation.
“California has a long and proud tradition of leading the nation in developing efficient appliances and technologies that save water, energy, and the environment,” said Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City), who introduced the legislation. More.
In September, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a modified version of the Institute’s bill into law.
While one water conservation bill swam, another was shortsightedly flushed, yielding an Institute response in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Cleaning Up Freight Transport
The Institute was also successful in getting the California legislature to pass a bill that would impose fees on import containers; alas it fell victim to the Governor’s veto pen. However, even getting SB 927 (Lowenthal, D-Long Beach) to the Governor’s desk was an achievement for the Institute and its allies. SB 927 would have raised nearly half a billion dollars annually to help clean up pollution from freight transport. It was stuck in committee until 19 members of the Institute-organized Bay Area Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative (pictured right with Senator Alan Lowenthal) converged on Sacramento in August to educate California lawmakers on the effects of diesel pollution on their communities.
Senator Lowenthal is expected to reintroduce similar legislation in 2007, and we expect that debate to be aided by a report the Institute released in November: “Paying With Our Health: the Real Cost of Freight Transport in California.” Freight Transport is a term for the movement of goods by ship, plane, train, and truck from the location of their manufacture or harvest to their final retail destination. Freight transport-related diesel pollution costs California hundreds of millions of dollars annually in health and social costs. “Paying With Our Health” examines these costs and finds that implementing state-recommended pollution controls would cost freight importers, exporters, and transporters less than a penny per dollar of their California-dependent revenue.
“The largest companies in the world enjoy the benefits of having cheap access to California’s ports, highways, and railways in order to ship their merchandise,” said Swati Prakash, Institute Program Director and co-author of the report. “Meanwhile, they leave a toxic cloud of smog and soot in low-income communities of color and don’t pay a penny to clean that up.”
2006 Staff Updates
In May, Principal Economist and Engineer Gary Wolff left the institute to accept an appointment by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to the State Water Resources Control Board
Office manager Shirley Brown, a constant source of help and smiles in her five years with the Institute, retired in May. The Institute welcomed Asha Nordwall to fill Brown’s role.
The Pacific Institute welcomed its newest program director in September. Swati Prakash took the helm of the Institute’s Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice program. Outgoing program director Meena Palaniappan is now working to expand the Institute’s international water and sanitation work.
Thinking Globally, Acting Globally
Achieving long-term sustainability – in the United States and worldwide – requires active and willing participation of multinational corporations. Mindful of this, the Pacific Institute led efforts in 2006 to better organize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world on corporate accountability issues. Over the course of the year, Program Director Jason Morrison worked to effectively coordinate NGO efforts to improve corporations’ social and environmental performance. Throughout the year the Institute drew together like-minded individuals and organizations from around the globe to assess where the Corporate Social Responsibility landscape is heading, and to begin to articulate different visions of what that landscape should look like. The Institute has also worked with a small collective of NGOs from around the world to launch the nascent initiative C-Change, which will center on improving the response of civil society actors to global challenges posed by the corporate-led globalization.
Furthering its commitment to promote the creation of sustainable development-related international standards, the Pacific Institute became one of a few inaugural Affiliate Members of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance. In doing so, the Institute will now have a voice in the coalition, which focuses on social and environmental labeling and certification efforts.
“Being an Affiliate Member of ISEAL will strengthen the Institute’s coordination with its member organizations,” said Morrison. “Working strategically with the ISEAL Alliance, we will collaborate to create and promote voluntary social and environmental standards in the private and public sector.”
The Pacific Institute’s longstanding efforts to promote corporate accountability at the local level reached a milestone with the inaugural workshops of the Facility Reporting Project. Working with CERES, the Institute served as a course provider for trainings held in Michigan, Colorado, and Georgia. Attended over 100 leading companies, the day-long trainings focused on best practice in facility-level stakeholder engagement and sustainability reporting.
Thinking Locally, Acting Locally
In October, the Pacific Institute and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project sponsored “Planning Healthy Cities for the 21st Century,” a forum that attempted to answer the question, “How healthy is Oakland’s development?” More than 60 participants came to listen to speakers and discuss the need for greater collaboration between health and planning interests. Through its work the Institute secured agreement from the staff of two Oakland City Council members to work on a City Council request to move a resolution enforcing already legislated authority to incorporate health into planning approval. The Institute also secured agreement to have Public Health representatives serve on the Technical Advisory Committee for a local improvement project. The Institute hopes to open further this dialogue throughout the region.
Stay Connected to the Pacific Institute in 2007!
Threats to sustainability aren’t going away, and neither are we. Stay connected to the Pacific Institute by subscribing to our monthly e-mail online updates. Click here to join.