The Rising Tide of Climate-Based Projects

sox worry


We’re not telling you to worry.  We’re telling you that people are worried.  People with money.  People who launch and sponsor projects.  They’re worried to the tune of nearly half-a-trillion US dollars.  Where is this worrying taking place?

Deep in the heart of Boston.  Thus, the image of the very worried young Red Sox fan in this post.

On the same day that John Henry, one of the owners of the Boston Red Sox, buys the Boston Globe, the front page story covering that news item is dominated by another, larger-headlined front page story by Casey Ross, entitled: A Rising Tide of Concern.


The article discusses reaction to climate change by real-estate owners and developers based on real and predicted sea-level and extreme weather changes.

You don’t have to believe ANYTHING about climate change – whether or not its real, who causes it, what the science behind it is or isn’t… all one has to do is look at the article and the amount of money at least imagined to be at risk, and the projects that this concern is launching, to realize that as a project manager, it’d be smart to be smarter about the subject in general.  That’s the point of EarthPM and the point of  our book as well as new chapters in books like the one just participated in, Sustainability Integration for Effective Project Management, and an upcoming chapter on sustainability in the AMA Project Management Handbook.

Being SMARTER (actually one of the concepts from the book Green Project Management) is the right thing to do.

Start by reading the article and you let us know if you do NOT see the intersection of climate change and project management – of sustainability and PM.




We have always asserted that vocabulary is particularly important for project managers.  Why?  Glad you asked.

It’s because we end up overseeing – coordinating – animating – conducting work in which we are not necessarily the leading expert.  What that means is that we must know the SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to seek out to be able to run our projects properly.  And to do that well, we need to be able to gain their trust and confidence and of course we need to be able to ‘talk the talk’ of the particular practice area, even if we are not the experts ourselves.

So yes, we hope you agree that for our discipline of Project Management, vocabulary is important.

And today we want to focus on a word not used every day (other than perhaps in the film industry): juxtaposition.

Here is the definition:




1. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
2. the state of being close together or side by side.

OK, great, you (may have) taught me a new word, EarthPM, but what the (bleeeeep)* does it have to do with Project Management or Sustainability?  Or are you going to again tell us that it has to do with both?

Well, yes, of course we are.

Have a look at this clip from the just released PM Network magazine:


The articles shown are both interesting and we recommend that you read PM Network.  As a PMI member, the magazine is free and it’s a tremendous resource.

But now, finally, to our point.

The two articles are juxtaposed perfectly – PERFECTLY – to make our ongoing points.  Start with the article on the left, “ANCHORING PROJECTS TO STRATEGY”.

1. Projects (and project managers) are located specifically at that junction between strategy and operations.  We are where the rubber hits the road.  Or in this case, the ship plies the waters (using their ‘anchor’ metaphor).

2. Enterprises are increasingly making sustainability a big part of their mission and vision statements and thus, of course, their strategies.

3. Projects (and project managers) should be connecting (anchoring) their project objectives to the more strategic objectives of their enterprises.

Now, bring your eyes slightly to the right, to the perfectly-juxtaposed article “SMOG CASTS SHADOW OVER RAILROAD PROJECT”.

Looks to us as if this is an example of a project which became ‘un-moored’, ‘un-anchored’ from its strategic objectives, at least a little.  And we think it’s quite relevant that the objective in question is a sustainability-based objective.

It’s not the articles themselves that’s so important – it’s their juxtaposition.

And if nothing else, you have learned how that word – juxtaposition – can be used and put it into your vocabulary.  Who knows.  Your next project may involve a film director!

 *you already know this word

Hypoxia Revisited

We blogged about hypoxia (this seems surreal) more than three years ago, at which time we referred to our book, Green Project Management, as “our upcoming book”.  A lot happens in three years.  The book is out, has been recognized with PMI’s highest award for literature, and has been used in University courses on sustainability.   And, that book directly covers the topic of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, and today it (hypoxia, that is, not our book) made it into the CBS Evening News:

You may want to visit our older post, here.

Or, for your convenience,

From, there is this very good and concise description:

Dead zones — whether hypoxic (very low oxygen) or anoxic (no oxygen) — are caused primarily by high-levels of nutrient pollution. This nutrient pollution — mostly the fertilizers used in industrial agriculture — causes large algal blooms which use up all of the oxygen in a given environment. As a result, the environment becomes devoid of life — a “dead zone”. These deadzones have been increasing in frequency and scale since at least the 1970s. More than 1.7 million tons of potassium and nitrogen make their way into the Gulf of Mexico every year as a result of agricultural runoff — via the Mississippi river.

If the 2013 Gulf of Mexico dead zone becomes as large as is being predicted it will cover an area the size of New Jersey. The 2013 predictions were made by modelers at the University of Michigan, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.

As we will be in Louisiana – New Orleans in particular – at the end of October, for the PMI North America Congress, we bring this again into focus as an example of a trigger for projects in the area of sustainability.  Anything that can reduce the flow of chemical fertilizers into the Mississippi, any ‘outcome’ that contributes to the decrease of hypoxia, is a ‘green by nature’ project, so it gets our attention.

And that’s not where it stops.  Not by a longshot.  Because hypoxia is a good example of the lessons to be learned for the other end – the ‘green in general’ part of the sustainability-in-PM spectrum.  We say this because it’s a very real example of how long-term thinking can and should be part of ANY project.  If your project produces a steady-state outcome (think: fertilizers into the Gulf) you can work this back into your risk register and an expanded definition of project success that will have you thinking – properly – like a a sustainability-oriented PM, an evolved PM.

In any case – it certainly cannot hurt to get educated about the science of hypoxia.

We look forward to meeting some of you in New Orleans!

Greenwishing? Greenwashing? Or Green?



Isn’t it interesting how air travel works?

You fly thousands, sometimes many thousands of miles (or kilometers), land, taxi to the gate and wait, either for a gate or a jetway.  The last few steps of your journey are tantalizingly close but somehow that last piece never gets done.

Last week, it was a jetway.  No jetway.  So we waited for the last 0.0001% of our journey to be bridged by what in effect is a large straw on wheels to roll up to the plane.  While we waited, I read United’s Hemispheres magazine. in particular, the CEO Letter, which caught my eyes because it was entitled “Eco-Skies in Action“.  Nice story.

In it, Chairman, President, and CEO of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek has compiled what appear to be some striking statistics to boast about:

  • reducing fuel consumption by 85 million gallons this year
  • using lighter products, ground power instead of onboard auxiliary power
  • improved flight planning
  • investing in 150 new 737 fuel-efficient aircraft
  • being the launch customer for the new Split Scimitar winglet which reduce fuel burn by 2 to 5 percent
  • Headquarters in Chicago is LEED certifed
  • Eco-Grants initiative gives 10 $50K cash grants to 10 local environmental organizations  associated with employees
  • and the list goes on

And this was going to be our post for this week.


Until what?  Until we noticed this posting on the FlyingClean website.  In this post, which we encourage you to read, we see a story behind this story.  Now we’re not saying that United should NOT be recognized for the work they are doing.  Of course they should be applauded for their efforts.

But – and this is where the connection to project management comes in – it’s important to look behind estimates, specs, requirements and other numbers like that to get the real story.

Here’s the key snippet from that posting:

“And the real story for United Airlines, is that they are actively and aggressively fighting a plan in the European Union that would reduce pollution on all flights going in and out of Europe.  This plan would save 200 million tons of carbon pollution from being emitted into the air in one year.  By comparison, all the activities United outlines in its “Eco Skies” project are aimed at achieving a reduction of 828,750 tons of carbon pollution in one year.  In other words, United is blocking a policy that would achieve carbon reductions 240 times greater than the current goal it is touting.”

Personally, I think part of the problem is that carbon pollution is measured in such large numbers that average laypeople can be satiated by what sound like gigantic sums, like 85 million gallons or 828,750 tons.  In this case that ‘s 0.83 million tons, when we’re dealing with hundreds of millions of tons when it comes to airlines – because they’re such a carbon fuel-intensive industry.

In any case we think this is a good reminder that when it comes to information presented to us as project managers, whether it’s sustainability info like this, or an estimate for refurbishing a machine part, or a vague requirement from a customer – that it’s our job to push back, dig deeper, and validate the information, otherwise we are working with bad input.

Beware!  As our blog post photo shows… Garbage In – Garbage Out.