The not-so slippery slope of climate change


Living, as we do, in the United States’ far northeast area – called New England, we’ve done our fair share of skiing, shoveling, snowblowing, driving in the snow, getting into some really nice snowball fights, and making snowmen.  So we’re very familiar with snow.  Recently, there has been some very interesting conversation about the Polar Vortex which brought a ‘big chill’ to much of the US.  Some have used the cold weather as a “proof” of the “fiction” of global warming.

Donald Trump, for example, tweeted this (really) last week:

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”
“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”


So a sampling of one day or two of cold weather was enough – for The Donald – to disprove global warming.  Perhaps so – because as most of us know it’s not the proper name for what we’re seeing – it’s climate change.    In fact, as Donald Trump’s New York was freezing, countries like Brazil and Australia were sizzling at temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s the temperature extremes and the longer-term trends that we’re talking about here, ladies and gentlemen, and of course, project managers, of the world.

So now – back to our New England and our beloved snow.  Recently, Boston Magazine featured a story on the effect of global warming – oops! – climate change – on the ski areas in our region.  The business – and project – impact is high.  This has been our ongoing point.  Project managers and business managers alike need to recognize what climate change may mean to their organizations.  600 ski areas have closed in the US in the last 6 decades.  Says the article, “if global emissions continue to rise at current rates, in 30 years only about half of the 103 ski areas in the Northeast covered by the study will be able to maintain the 100-day season they need to be sustainable—and none of them is in Massachusetts.”.  And, “researchers say only 34 ski areas across the entire Northeast will be viable.”

But the single most powerful piece of the article – the one that aims its arrow of meaningfulness at the heart of a perceptive project manager – is this one:
Here in New England, the loss of the ski industry would be acutely felt: Northeastern ski resorts record more than 13 million skier visits per season—the highest of any region in the country—and help prop up many related businesses, including apparel, boot, and gear companies (to say nothing of mountainside restaurants, shops, and hotels). Snow sports contribute billions every year to the region’s economy and employ as many as 46,000 people. Even just tacking on a few more inches of snow to a regular season—and perhaps extending it by a couple of weeks—can translate into an additional $13 million in revenue. But those days seem to be waning. With snowy winters no longer the norm, the University of Waterloo’s scientific models suggest that northeastern ski areas will lose $3.2 billion in annual revenue over the next 40 years.

That $3.2 billion in annual revenue is used to open new ski runs, build new lodges, make improvements to the IT of these ski areas… in other words, to employ project managers.  So this should get your attention.  As a project manager, don’t be fooled by tweets.  Don’t be fooled by incorrect terminology.  Learn the vocabulary and become familiar with the facts.  We’re not saying that you should join Greenpeace – we just think it is beneficial to know what’s going on and not to rely on a sample of one location and one week to make judgments.

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bull**** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice”

For a lighthearted (and a little ‘risque’) view of this, (so yes, this has some mature material) have a look at this video.

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.


Fee Fi Foe Foam: Banned in Boston


Banned in Boston” used to be a phrase associated with a literary or performance work that was considered inappropriate.  The city fathers, carrying on in the Puritan heritage, often banned plays, books, and the like, if they found said works to be “objectionable”.  As it says in Wikipedia, this often had a reverse effect: Commercial distributors were often pleased when their works were banned in Boston—it gave them more appeal elsewhere.  So, we’re not sure who had the last laugh.

Speaking of lasting, but perhaps not laughing, we wanted to bring you a very short news item from Boston Magazine about Styrofoam.

Styrofoam does a great job of insulating because of the amount of embedded air in the product.  But it has a few problems, according to the Earth Research Foundation:

  • The biggest environmental health concern associated with polystyrene is the danger associated with Styrene, the basic building block of polystyrene. Styrene is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, and resins. About 90,000 workers, including those who make boats, tubs and showers, are potentially exposed to styrene. Acute health effects are generally irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A voluntary compliance program has been adopted by industries using styrene. The US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration unsuccessfully (a federal court overturned the ruling in 1992) tried to limit the amount of worker exposure to styrene to 50 parts per million (ppm). According to the Styrene Information and Research Center (SIRC), they still encourage their member companies to comply with the 50 ppm exposure limit. This program would reduce styrene exposures to a 50 ppm TWA with a 100 ppm (15 minute) ceiling.
    -OSHA (US Dept of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration)
  • A 1986 EPA report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste.· The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. The process of making polystyrene pollutes the air and creates large amounts of liquid and solid waste.
  • Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.
  • These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource.
  • The use of hydrocarbons in polystyrene foam manufacture releases the hydrocarbons into the air at ground level; there, combined with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight, they form tropospheric ozone — a serious air pollutant at ground level. According to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) more than 100 million Americans currently live in areas that fail to meet air quality standards for ozone. California, the Texas Gulf Coast, the Chicago-Milwaukee area, and the Northeastern U.S. all have “serious ozone air quality problems,” according to EPA. Ozone is definitely a dangerous pollutant. The EPA says: “Healthy individuals who are exercising while ozone levels are at or only slightly above the standard can experience reduced functioning of the lungs, leading to chest pain, coughing, wheezing, and pulmonary congestion. In animal studies, long-term exposure to high levels of ozone has produced permanent structural damage to animal lungs while both short and long term exposure has been found to decrease the animal’s capability to fight infection.” In other words, prolonged exposure to atmospheric ozone above legal limits might be expected to damage the immune system.
  • By volume, the amount of space used up in landfills by all plastics is between 25 and 30 percent. -“Polystyrene Fact Sheet,” Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, Los Angeles, California.
  • Polystyrene foam is often dumped into the environment as litter. This material is notorious for breaking up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.
  • Many cities and counties have outlawed polystyrene foam (i.e. Taiwan, Portland, OR, and Orange County, CA).

And that last point takes us back to “Banned in Boston”.  Our fair city is going to be voting in December – well, at least the City Council will be holding a hearing on the topic – to join the 110 municipalities that have banned Styrof0am in their jurisdictions.

Large vendors who count on Styrofoam (in our area, that would be Dunkin’ Donuts) are opposed to this because it would make them go to paper.

Like Boston Magazine, we hope Boston will be the 111th municipality to ban Styrofoam and live up to its “Banned in Boston” Heritage.


Aside from the employment of project managers who would oversee the project to switch over (and obvious plus, at least to our way of thinking), using renewable paper would have these benefits:

  • Every ton of 100% Post-consumer waste recycled paper products you buy saves:
    • 12 trees
    • 1,087 pounds of solid waste
    • 1,560 kilowatts of energy (2 months of electric power required by the average US home)
    • 1,196 gallons of water
    • 1,976 lbs. of greenhouse gases (1,600 miles traveled in the average US car)
    • 3 cubic yards of landfill space
    • 9 pounds of HAPs, VOCs, and AOXs combined
    • 390 gallons of oil

So go ahead Boston, do what you do best!




Boston's Big Dig

It’s the project that keeps on giving.

Or, if you are a taxpayer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – or, for that matter anywhere in the USA (since it received Federal funding) – you could say that it’s the project that keeps on taking.

We’re talking, of course, about Boston’s “Big Dig” project.  You know – the one that was supposed to cost $1B and actually cost $15B.  The one which has had ocean water leaking into it, and has had chunks of cement falling from the ceiling?  Yes, that one.  This latest aspect was covered in a revealing front-page story from today’s Boston Globe.
First of all, let us say that this posting exemplifies (but expands rather broadly) the type of long-term, or sustainability, thinking that we’ve been promoting.  Sustainability in this case refers to the long-term positive benefit of the project’s product (the tunnels and roads which make up the Big Dig), and in this case is not only the environmental impact of the project, it’s the environmental impact ON the product of the project.  It seems, according to this article, to come down to one chemical compound.

A very common one, found on most every dinner table.  Right there, next to the pepper.

Guessed it yet?


Chemical formula: NaCl.


It appears that the design of the lighting fixtures, 8-foot-long, 110-pounds each, and numbering about 25,000, did not take into account the corrosive effects of salt on the clips which hold up the lights.

That’s why one of them fell down recently – luckily didn’t kill anyone – and that’s why they have busily been installing plastic straps in the most affected areas to keep the lights up.

If you don’t think this is scary, here is one scary extract:

“On Feb. 16 one crew found a hot spot where all the fastening clips were corroded on nine lights, nearly 1,000 pounds of precariously balanced fixtures hanging over motorists’ heads.”

Holy salt, Batman!  That’s half a ton of Damacles Swords!

The article goes on to say that the real fix to the problem would be a full replacement at a cost of $200M.

When we read the article we thought to ourselves: why didn’t the design include LED lighting?  The cars that are driving underneath the lights are using them.  The mobile phones and televisions that the design engineers use every day – they use them, too.  LED lighting is not as weighty, uses less energy, and wouldn’t be prone to  falling – at least not as prone as these heavy fluorescent fixtures.

A quick internet search yielded several manufacturers who are already making LED-based tunnel lighting.  So this is not just fantasy.

Failing that (we’re no experts on lighting), – or rather, in addition to that, sustainability thinking should have had the engineers taking into account the entry of salt into the equation from two sources: (1) the ocean, and (2) vehicles bringing in salt and other corrosives which are used in the winter to melt snow.

The Big Dig is not even that old.  These failed clip arrangements are not decades in age, only years.  How “long term” was the thinking that went into the design of the project?  Did it make sense to skimp on the design, perhaps saving $5M, only to jeopardize the lives of drivers and end up costing $200M and countless construction delays anyway?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this detour* from a traditional triple-bottom-line view of sustainability, which here includes a safety twist.  But really it’s not that far off track.  Sustainability thinking, when embedded in design, has benefits well beyond making improvements to the financial, ecological, and social aspect of a project’s product.  It also may save lives.


*not that detours would be anything new for the Big Dig.  Even on-line map makers couldn’t keep up with all the twisty turns we had to go through as this project was underway…see this article.