Cruisin’ on Denial

A story in today’s Washington Post, caught by an alert reader and sent to us as a “must read”, discusses the controversy over new EPA regulations which go into effect on August 1, regarding cruise ships  (and other large ships) which travel within 200 miles of the US and Canada.

The rules require the ships to burn cleaner fuels.

But what’s amazing is how dirty they are now.

We’re talking about sulfur levels that are two thousand times more potent than diesel fuels burned by construction equipment, smaller marine vessels, and trains.  We are talking about cruise ships which emit – each day – the equivalent of 13.1 million cars’ worth of sulfur dioxide.

Before you go after the current US or Canadian administrations, these rules were first proposed by the Bush administration, although under the Obama administration the limits were made more all-encompassing and more strict.  The new rule requires large ships to cut the sulfur content of their fuel, which now averages 2.7 percent, down to 1 percent next month; in 2015 it must drop to 0.1 percent.  From the article: “when the stricter limit goes into effect in 2015 it will be akin to taking 12.7 million cars off the road per day and eliminating their sulfur dioxide emissions, or the soot from 900,000 cars. Air pollutants from burning ship fuel off the Pacific Coast contribute to lung disease and affect air quality as far away as North Dakota, according to agency officials.”

But the “denial” part comes into play when you hear the voices of the cruise line companies and other local officials.

Again, from the article:  “Alaska officials are particularly worried about the program’s impact, because cruise liners destined for their state will be subject to the new limits for the entire journey, and because they receive almost all their goods by ship. Alaska’s attorney general filed a lawsuit July 13 challenging the federal government’s right to impose such limits, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has pressed EPA officials to work out a compromise with the industry.”

The cleaner fuel will cost more, in part because it’s not clear how ‘available’ the new, cleaner fuels will be . The EPA estimates that when fully implemented the program will add $18 to the cost of shipping a 20-foot container and about $7 per day to the cost of a passenger’s cruise ticket.  However, the air quality improvement is expected by the EPA to avoid between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths each year by 2030, which, aside from the altruistic value, also saves significant money in terms of medical costs, insurance, lost productivity, and so on.

Still, the cruise lines are complaining.

From the article: “Bud Darr, vice president for technical and regulatory affairs at the Cruise Lines International Association, said his members are worried whether there’s “sufficient quantity of fuel, particularly as it pertains in the Pacific Northwest” to meet the standards.”

So here’s the project connection.  Doesn’t it seem like the regulation would be a trigger for innovation?  Doesn’t it seem like this is a call to action for those who would develop a new, cleaner fuel to meet this new demand, and oh-by-the-way save lives, and oh-by-the-way preserve the very environment to which the cruise lines are sailing their passengers?  What are we missing here?  We’re not arguing that everything should be solved with strict legislation, but look at the real bottom line here.  Lives.  Money.  Innovation.  All good things, and all achievable, with a good portfolio of programs and projects to develop cleaner fuel.  Put your money and effort there, Mr. Darr, and less into lobbying to relax the laws so that Alaska can be greyer and sootier and warmer than it is now.  Because a grey, sooty, melted glacier is not going  to produce a sustainable customer flow for you anyway.

Think long-term business and it’s amazing just how sustainable your business plan becomes!


People, Planet, Profit – and Pulpit?

A new book by Katherine K. Wilkinson explores the changing relationship of evangelists and the realities of climate change.

The relationship is not trivial.  Evangelical Christians make up about a quarter of the U.S. Population.  Recent studies by MIT/Sloan show North America lagging other regions with respect to understanding and coming to terms with- or even taking economic advantage of aspects of climate change.

So a reconciliation between this community and activism on climate change is important to both communities.  This book shows how the various stakeholders have increasingly been collaborating despite some fundamental core differences in belief.  Actually, there are some good lessons learned for project managers here.  If the evangelical Christian community can see fit to collaborate with atheist scientists, then engineering and marketing can certainly work together, right?

From today’s Boston Globe:

Wilkinson tells a vitally important, even subversive, story at the heart of this carefully researched book. Over the past 30 years or more, even as the culture wars raged, an honest-to-God “evangelical Center” came to life in the political no-man’s land between the old-guard religious right and the secular liberal establishment. And as Wilkinson shows, one of the most significant expressions of that increasingly assertive center — as it seeks to broaden the “evangelical agenda” beyond abortion and sexuality to include global poverty, health, and social-justice issues — is a far-reaching environmental movement, based on the theology of “creation care,” and the effort by a new generation of moderate leaders to put climate change on the evangelical map.


Read the full review from The Boston Globe here.


Here’s a description from the publisher:

“Despite three decades of scientists’ warnings and environmentalists’ best efforts, the political will and public engagement necessary to fuel robust action on global climate change remain in short supply. Katharine K. Wilkinson shows that, contrary to popular expectations, faith-based efforts are emerging and strengthening to address this problem. In the US, perhaps none is more significant than evangelical climate care.

Drawing on extensive focus group and textual research and interviews, Between God & Green explores the phenomenon of climate care, from its historical roots and theological grounding to its visionary leaders and advocacy initiatives. Wilkinson examines the movement’s reception within the broader evangelical community, from pew to pulpit. She shows that by engaging with climate change as a matter of private faith and public life, leaders of the movement challenge traditional boundaries of the evangelical agenda, partisan politics, and established alliances and hostilities. These leaders view sea-level rise as a moral calamity, lobby for legislation written on both sides of the aisle, and partner with atheist scientists.

Wilkinson reveals how evangelical environmentalists are reshaping not only the landscape of American climate action, but the contours of their own religious community. Though the movement faces complex challenges, climate care leaders continue to leverage evangelicalism’s size, dominance, cultural position, ethical resources, and mechanisms of communication to further their cause to bridge God and green.”

 We’d suggest that this would be a good read for our blog followers.  Again, it helps to illustrate how a wide range of stakeholders can work together for a common cause.

And that’s a good thing.

Écologie, de gestion de projet, et le cirque au Québec

One of your humble blog editors is visiting Quebec City this weekend.  During the visit, we (very casually) got a firsthand look at some of the ecological projects here.

One – pictured in this post on the left, is the Ecolobus, a small electric bus which runs a partial route through Quebec’s Old City.  The bus, which holds 20 passengers, has been in service since July 5, 2010.  The cost to ride the bus is 1 Canadian dollar, which now is roughly equivalent to the US dollar.
This link, from the Canadian government, provides excellent details about this green transportation project.

Like any project managers, we were immediately drawn to their Lessons Learned section, which is summarized as follows:

Lessons Learned

The decision makers and planners responsible for the Écolobus project had to overcome a number of challenges in designing the Écolobus system. In particular, a major challenge was finding a way of operating the system safely and reliably in the context of Old Quebec’s topography (many steep grades), urban form (narrow streets, tight turns), and the harsh winter climate (icy roadways, extreme low temperatures). A key issue was finding a vehicle capable of operating under the aforementioned conditions.
Other specific initial challenges included:

  • Being able to operate the eight electric minibuses autonomously (without external power) for 19 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Difficulties in estimating ridership and managing crowding on the buses, whose capacity is 20 passengers, especially during the summer peak tourist period. The frequency of the service had to be increased soon after it was launched.
  • Training drivers, as operation of the electric minibuses is significantly different from that of conventional buses.
  • Training of mechanics, unfamiliar with maintenance of electric vehicles
  • Modification of some vehicle components for the extreme winter conditions. For example, a diesel-based heating system had to be added because the Gulliver minibuses built-in heating was insufficient on colder winter days.
  • Technical issues, such as the overheating of batteries because of overload buses, hills, and insufficient driver draining
  • Communication with the Italian bus supplier, complicated by differences in technical standards between Europe and Canada and linguistic barriers.

Related to the project of launching this bus route, is the electricity itself.  Of course, much of Quebec’s power is generated via water (hydro).  Learn more about Quebec Hydro here.  As if to make our point from a recent point (regarding the Rio +20 Conference) have a look at that wikipedia entry on Quebec Hydro and note the dozens of times that the word project is mentioned.  Compare and contrast that to what we found in the huge Rio +20 declaration in which “project” was mentioned exactly twice.

One other piece, and we’ll probably blog on this topic again, and that is related to a gentleman named Guy Laliberte.

This name should ring a bell.  Or at least it should put a red bubble on your nose.  Guy is the Quebec-born creator of Cirque du Soleil and also an environmentalist.  Having been on the International Space Station, he has taken photos from space and has them on exhibit here in Quebec, under the name The Gaia Exhibit.  More impactfully, he has launched One Drop, a portfolio of programs and  projects which are summarized here.

Note the project orientation of the One Drop mandate:

In Canada, ONE DROP is a charitable organization that develops integrated, innovative projects with an international scope, in which water plays a central role as a creative force in generating positive, sustainable effects for local and foreign populations and in the fight against poverty. More specifically, ONE DROP Canada, in cooperation with partner Oxfam and others, develops access-to-water and sanitation projects in countries where access to this vital resource is lacking. In addition, ONE DROP is involved in raising awareness among individuals and communities on water-related issues to convince them to mobilize for universal access to water and urge them to adopt sound habits for managing this precious resource for future generations. In closing, ONE DROP Canada is also involved in fundraising—a crucial activity if it is to realize its dream of water for all, today and tomorrow. To this end, the partners of ONE DROP have joined forces with the organization for pursuing this objective.

Very impressive.

You can learn more about the GAIA exhibit here.

You can learn more about One Drop here.


Et maintenant, pour votre commodité, nous fournir une traduction vers le français.


Un de vos éditeurs de blog humbles est en visite à Québec ce week-end. Lors de la visite, nous (très décontractée) a obtenu un coup d’oeil de première main à quelques-uns des projets écologiques ici.

Un – photo dans ce post sur la gauche, est le Écolobus, un petit bus électrique qui fonctionne grâce à un itinéraire partiel Ville du Vieux-Québec. Le bus, qui détient 20 passagers, a été en service depuis Juillet 5, 2010. Le coût pour monter dans le bus est de 1 dollar canadien, qui est maintenant à peu près équivalent à la valeur du dollar des États-Unis.
Ce lien, du gouvernement du Canada, fournit d’excellents détails sur ce projet de transport vert.

Comme tous les chefs de projet, nous avons été immédiatement attirée sur les leçons apprises de l’article, qui se résume comme suit:

Leçons apprises

Les décideurs et les planificateurs responsables du projet Écolobus a dû surmonter un certain nombre de défis dans la conception du système Écolobus. En particulier, un défi majeur était de trouver un moyen de faire fonctionner le système en toute sécurité et fiabilité dans le contexte de la topographie du Vieux-Québec (de nombreuses pentes raides), la forme urbaine (rues étroites, des virages serrés), et le climat rude hiver (routes verglacées, l’extrême basses températures). Une question clé était de trouver un véhicule capable de fonctionner dans les conditions précitées.
Autres défis spécifiques initiales suivantes:

    ÃŠtre capable d’exploiter les huit minibus électriques de manière autonome (sans alimentation externe) pendant 19 heures par jour, 7 jours par semaine.

    Difficultés dans l’estimation de l’achalandage et la gestion de l’encombrement sur les autobus, dont la capacité est de 20 passagers, en particulier pendant la période touristique estivale. La fréquence du service a dû être augmenté peu après il a été lancé.

    Formation des conducteurs, comme l’exploitation des minibus électriques est significativement différente de celle des bus classiques.

    La formation des mécaniciens, peu familier avec l’entretien des véhicules électriques

    Modification de certains composants du véhicule pour les conditions hivernales extrêmes. Par exemple, un système de chauffage à base de gazole a dû être ajouté, car les minibus Gulliver construits en chauffage était insuffisant, les jours froids de l’hiver.

    Les problèmes techniques, tels que la surchauffe des batteries en raison de la surcharge des bus, des collines, et le conducteur drainage insuffisant

    La communication avec le fournisseur de bus italien, compliqué par les différences dans les normes techniques entre l’Europe et le Canada et les barrières linguistiques.

Relatif au projet de lancement de cette ligne de bus, est l’électricité elle-même. Bien sûr, une grande partie de la puissance du Québec est générée par l’eau (hydroélectricité). En savoir plus sur Hydro-Québec ici. Comme pour faire valoir notre point d’un point récente (en ce qui concerne la Conférence Rio +20) jeter un oeil à cette entrée de wikipedia sur Hydro-Québec et de noter les dizaines de fois que le projet mot est mentionné. Comparer et contraster cela à ce que nous avons trouvé dans l’immense Rio +20 déclaration dans laquelle «projet» a été mentionné exactement deux fois.

Une autre pièce, et nous allons probablement blog sur ce sujet à nouveau, et qui est liée à un homme du nom de Guy Laliberté.

Ce nom doit sonner une cloche. Ou du moins il devrait mettre une bulle rouge sur le nez. Guy est le créateur né au Québec du Cirque du Soleil et aussi un écologiste. Ayant été sur la Station spatiale internationale, il a pris des photos de l’espace et les a exposées ici, au Québec, sous le nom de L’Exposition Gaia. Plus impactfully, il a lancé One Drop, un portefeuille de programmes et de projets qui sont résumées ici.

Notez l’orientation du projet du mandat One Drop:

Au Canada, ONE DROP est un organisme de bienfaisance qui se développe des projets intégrés et innovants avec une dimension internationale, dans lequel l’eau joue un rôle central en tant que force créative dans la des effets positifs et durables pour les populations locales et étrangères et dans la lutte contre la pauvreté. Plus précisément, ONE DROP au Canada, en collaboration avec le partenaire d’Oxfam et d’autres, se développe l’accès à l’eau et d’assainissement dans les pays où l’accès à cette ressource vitale fait défaut. En outre, ONE DROP est impliqué dans la sensibilisation des individus et des communautés sur les questions liées à l’eau pour les convaincre de se mobiliser pour l’accès universel à l’eau et les inciter à adopter des habitudes saines pour la gestion de cette précieuse ressource pour les générations futures. En terminant, ONE DROP au Canada est également impliqué dans la collecte de fonds, une activité essentielle si on veut réaliser son rêve de l’eau pour tous, aujourd’hui et demain. À cette fin, les partenaires de ONE DROP ont uni leurs forces avec l’organisation pour la poursuite de cet objectif.

Très impressionnant.





Solving World Hunger Is A Good Thing. Duh.

So we just finished skimming through the 283 sections (!!!) of the Rio+20 declaration.  Click here to read it yourself.

Now we’re not saying that it’s a terrible document.  But we are acknowledging what we are hearing in the press about the declaration not being too …action oriented.

Click here for a CBC (Canadian news agency) report which pretty much sums up what we’re hearing from our sources.

In fact, one of the tricks we used here, and suggest you try for yourself is to search on the word “project” in your organization’s guiding documents.  It gives you a sense how geared an organization is to getting things done – to connecting ideas to reality – to having something done about what they’re saying.

But we digress.

Here’s what bothers us about this document – and don’t get mad at us right away, hear us out.

Of the 283 sections, section 2 says that we should “free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency”.


Yes, solving world hunger is a good thing.  We’d have to be cruel and/or crazy people to disagree.  However, this conference has gone off track in its second of 283 sections.  It is literally- LITERALLY – trying to solve world hunger in the second bullet, less than 1% into the document.

And here’s the killer.  The word “project” occurs…well, guess how many times?  How many times do you think the word PROJECT (or its varieties) should appear in a world conference declaration about sustainable development, given that projects are the instruments of implementing strategy?  50? 100?

Try three.

Yes, the word project only occurs 3 times in the entire declaration, all 49 pages.

And when it does occur, it occurs (down there at section 265) in the context of the GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF), which we’ve blogged about before.  This is an instrument of the UN for funding environmental projects.  It’s a good thing – why do we have to read over 94% of the document before we encounter it?

When they finally do mention projects in the sense of the single vehicle for getting things done, it seems like these folks got out their machine gun and tried every word they could think of:

“283. We welcome the commitments voluntarily entered into at Rio+20 and throughout 2012
by all stakeholders and their networks to implement concrete policies, plans, programs,
projects and actions to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication. We invite
the Secretary-General to compile these commitments and facilitate access to other registries
that have compiled commitments, in an internet-based registry. The registry should make
information about the commitments fully transparent and accessible to the public, and it
should be periodically updated.”

It seems to us that once again, project management can use more sustainability thinking, and those involved in the world of sustainability could use more project management thinking.

That is, if they can stop themselves from writing 283 sections to finally come to some action – and vague action at that.

So, back to hunger.

We think sustainable development contains 4 elements – People, Profit, Planet, and Projects.  The “People” part includes the elements of fair trade, equality, assurance of the food supply, equity in pay – all of those things.  Does sustainable development and “Triple Bottom Line”  thinking directly solve world hunger?  No.  It’s a contributing factor, of course, but it is not focused only on hunger or even poverty, per se, in our opinion.  Once again, please do not think we are trying to say that poverty and hunger aren’t valid concerns, of course they are.

But we think solving world hunger has taken the conference’s eyes off the prize here.

We welcome your comments – we’d love to hear what we missed or misinterpreted.  What do you think?  Would you have expected to see “projects” feature more prominently in this declaration?  Do you think this conference could have used a project manager or two driving these folks towards ‘implementation’?


Will Massachusetts be the first to ban food waste?

Front Page Story, Boston Globe, Friday, 4-May, 2012: “Commercial food waste to be banned“.

The story says that starting in 2014, hotels, large restaurants, as well as big businesses and institutions will not be legally allowed to put food waste in the trash, starting in 2014.  In coming years, this could be extended to homes.

For me, this is nothing new.  Not by a long-shot.

You see, my family lived in The Netherlands for 2 years – about 10 years ago.  Already, back then, we placed food waste in a separate container which was hauled off each week by a service that took care of removing and composting food waste (rather than just dumping it in landfills).  Landfill capacity in Massachusetts is estimated to drop from 2.1 million tons in 2012 to only 0.6 million tons in 2020.

How much of this food waste goes into landfills currently? 1.4 million tons, yes that would be nearly 3 billion pounds.  THREE BILLION POUNDS.  A year.  A YEAR!

Initially this program is planned to divert a third of this (a measly 1 billion pounds) from landfills to composting sites and plants that can convert waste into energy, heat, and/or fertilizer.
Why is this showing up on a Project Management blog?

Shouldn’t take too much to connect the dots here.  A program like this is going to ambitiously require an entirely parallel waste system, including collection, transportation, processing, tracking, and so on.   On top of this, of course, is the creation of the plants to do the conversions to energy, heat, and fertilizer.  I can easily imagine hundreds, maybe thousands of projects being launched based on this effort.

So it behooves us as PMs to learn the vocabulary, the rationale, the logistics behind this.  Agree or disagree with the reasons for doing it – or whether we do it at all – knowing more about this may (ironically) feed your family.

Learn more about the food we throw away on this link.

Oh – one more thing… enjoy this wonderful video – an oldie but a goodie – about food waste –  by Shel Silverstein.