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As a social entrepreneur, I am dedicated to finding innovative solutions for greening business. As a passionate supporter of National Parks and public lands, I work toward protecting these special places from the impacts of climate change and pollution.


Join me on this site as I report from Yellowstone on the threats climate change poses toward our beloved national parks, and how Yellowstone and other parks are making a difference in sustainability.

"If we continue to increase our emissions of heat-trapping gases, a disrupted climate will cause the greatest damage to our national parks ever."
Stephen Saunders

"A climate disrupted by human activities poses such sweeping threats to the
scenery, natural and cultural resources, and wildlife of the West’s national parks that it
dwarfs all previous risks to these American treasures."
From NRDC Losing Ground Report

"Business is the only mechanism on the planet today powerful enough to produce the changes necessary to reverse global environmental and social degradation."
Paul Hawken
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01/12/11: "The End of the Wild," Emma Marris, Nature

01/06/11: Climate change threatens Sierra, delta, group says," Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle

01/05/11"Environmentalists pick Snake Basin, Yellowstone among most threatened habitats by climate change," Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

12/31/10"Yellowstone Grizzlies and the Betrayal of the Public Trust," Louisa Wilcox, NRDC Switchboard

12/26/10: "How a Tiny Beetle Could Decimate Yellowstone," Elizabeth Shogren, NPR

12/21/10: "Once upon a time, whitebark pine . . ." Matt Skoglund, NRDC Switchboard

12/21/10: "Climate Change's threat to the wolverine," Rebecca Waters, High Country News

12/08/10: "Silence of the Pikas, Part II," Wendee Holtcamp, Adventures in Climate Change and Bioscience

12/08/10: "Climate Change Response Strategy Released by NPS Alaska," Alaska Business Monthly

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  • Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth (Speaker's Corner)
    by Larry J. Schweiger
  • Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
    Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming
    by Anthony D. Barnosky
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
    by Bill McKibben
  • Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
    Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
    by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
    by James Hansen
  • Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference (Chelsea Green Guides)
    Climate Change: Simple Things You Can Do to Make a Difference (Chelsea Green Guides)
    by Jon Clift, Amanda Cuthbert
  • Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
    Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis
    by Al Gore
  • The Rough Guide to Climate Change, 2nd Edition
    The Rough Guide to Climate Change, 2nd Edition
    by Robert Henson


Why Copenhagen matters to Yellowstone and all of our national parks

Success at Copenhagen is crucial to the survival of Yellowstone--and all of our national parks. (Photo by Beth Pratt)World leaders gathering in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference negotiated over a draft climate agreement and methods for transferring green technologies to developing countries. Connie Hedegaard, President of the conference, reported “we have made considerable progress over the course of the first week.” Protesters disagreed, with tens of thousands flooding the streets of the city yesterday, holding banners with messages like “There is no Planet B” and demanding immediate action from the delegates.

Although to most people the bureaucratic meetings in a distant city seem to have little relevance to their own lives, what happens in Copenhagen doesn’t stay in Copenhagen. The inability to come to a consensus on a treaty has dire repercussions for the entire world. And here in the United States, progress—indeed, a solution to the climate crisis—is imperative to the survival of our cherished national parks.

Climate change is already threatening our national parks—some of the best-protected places on the planet. Jon Jarvis, the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service (NPS), deemed climate change “potentially the most far-reaching and consequential challenge to our mission than any previously encountered in the entire history of the NPS.” If we don’t develop a global solution to reduce the ever-increasing production of greenhouse gas emissions, the future of “America’s Best Idea” is at stake.

In Yellowstone National Park, a tiny insect has become a serious threat to the mighty grizzly bear. As a result of warming temperatures at higher elevations, the mountain pine beetle has gained a foothold in whitebark pine forests and is destroying an important part of the bear’s diet. Scientists now predict glaciers will disappear from Glacier National Park by 2030, and Joshua Tree National Park may lose its namesake tree within the next century. Climate change and other environmental ills have pushed a third of amphibians on the verge of extinction, including the mountain yellow-legged frog in Yosemite. And rising temperatures have diminished habitat for the cold-loving pika—a high elevation dweller than can perish from overheating--in Yosemite and other parks.

Recent reports by the Natural Resources Defense CouncilRocky Mountain Climate Organization, and the National Parks and Conservation Association warn of these threats and many others that climate change pose to our national parks.

Copenhagen must be successful at uniting the world to stop global warming. Using the strategies discussed this past week—many of them practical, feasible and workable—week two of the conference must yield comprehensive solutions. If our leaders fail to act, they not only fail the grizzly bears in Yellowstone and the yellow-legged frogs in Yosemite, they also fail to protect our country’s important heritage of national parks, what writer Wallace Stegner called “the best idea we ever had.”

View a photo slideshow of Ten National Parks in Peril.


Yellowstone grizzly bears to remain on endangered list

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone are threatened by climate change (photo by Beth Pratt)Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem remain protected as the result of this week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy. 

Two years ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wanted to remove the grizzly bear from theendangered species listThe Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group, filed suit to block the removal. 

The non-profit won the case and Judge Molloy placed the grizzly bears back under federal protection in September, stating, "Without the protections of the Endangered Species Act, the Yellowstone grizzly bear distinct population segment will be placed in jeopardy." The government appealed the ruling and sent the case back for review, which was resolved with the announcement this week of the grizzly bear’s protection being upheld.

In Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area, a tiny beetle may decide the fate of the kingly grizzly bear. A beetle that destroys the whitebark pine tree has gained a considerable foothold in Yellowstone because of the effects of climate change. High in nutritional value, whitebark pine nuts provide a valuable food source for the bears. The relationship between the bear’s survival and the whitebark pine was an important part of Judge Molloy’s decision. 

In some parts of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, beetles have destroyed up to 70 percent of the trees in whitebark pine forests. Removing this important component of the grizzly bears’ diet puts considerable stress on the species that could ultimately lead to extinction. Louisa Wilcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, has warned, “If these trees go, they could take Yellowstone’s grizzlies…with them. If we want to save not just the whitebark pine, but the animals and plants like the grizzly bear that depend on this tree for food, we need to move to protect and restore them now.”

Even the popular news host Stephen Colbert has raised attention about the plight of Yellowstone’s bears—albeit humorously—with a segment on his regular feature “Threatdown.” Yellowstone’s bears have also attacked Colbert for promoting anti-ursine propaganda and fear mongering.


Live from Greenbuild 2009: Josh Bernstein on learning from past cultures

International explorer Josh Bernstein addresses a full house at Greenbuild 2009 (photo by Beth Pratt)For the presentation at Greenbuild 2009 by international explorer and Discovery Channel host Josh Bernstein, it was standing room only. Bernstein, who has traveled to over 40 countries and owns the innovative outdoor survival school BOSS, shared with the audience his ideas for making the environmental movement more relevant and engaging.

His talk included a brief survey of past cultures and the reason for their demise, and he focused on two that may have disintegrated for environmental reasons: the people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the Maya civilization. Bernstein connects both cases to our current situation: the societies were “highly advanced but also unable to stop their own ruin through the over consumption of natural resources.” Despite the parallels to our present environmental crisis, he is hopeful we can learn from these historical mistakes and take action at this critical juncture. “We seem to love stories with a rough time before the end. Think of Rocky or Star Wars,” he joked.

To move forward, and to address the current problem of global warming, Bernstein believes the environmental movement must make a fundamental shift in its approach. “It’s unfortunate we’ve tied the movement to a color. This may be semantically petty, but the environmental movement is not visual, but visceral. It has to be about what people are feeling.” He urged participants to be strong leaders and commit to a course of affecting change, but change that connects to people on an emotional level. “We need to shift the way we relate to each other and to the planet from one of ignorance to one of openness.”

To help minimize his environmental footprint, Bernstein purchases offsets for his 500,000 miles of annual travel, and for the travel of the participants to his outdoor school. He recognizes offsets are a temporary patch to the overall problem, but thinks it’s an approach that at least helps foster investment of new energy sources. During his extensive wanderings across the globe, he is already seeing the impacts of climate change in the cultures he studies; he told the audience of the societal devastation an Eskimo tribe experienced that had to relocate from their ancestral home due to the widespread melting of ice.

Bernstein hosts the popular Discovery Channel show, Into the Unknown with Josh Bernstein, and also owns BOSS (The Boulder Outdoor Survival School), the oldest and largest such school in the world. Participants at BOSS “exfoliate the urban world” by embarking in a wilderness experience from the perspective of traditional cultures; primitive survival skills are taught such as fire making. The courses are powerful and transformative and as Bernstein states provide a “renewal of connection to the natural world that can be life changing.”



Live from Greenbuild 2009: Al Gore inspires and Sheryl Crow rocks

The Honorable Al Gore presenting the keynote address at Greenbuild 2009 (Photo by Beth Pratt)After an exhausting day spent browsing the expansive tradeshow or sitting in several educational sessions, Greenbuild participants headed to Chase Field for an opening celebration, which included a keynote address from Al Gore and a special concert from Sheryl Crow.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi opened the event and spoke to the crowd about the importance of leveraging green buildings to “improve lives, heal our planet, and ensure our future.” He introduced green building leaders from throughout the world—Australia, South Africa, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, India, Mexico, Taiwan, and Brazil—who all shared engaging stories of sustainable projects in their countries.

Former Vice President Al Gore arrived on stage to a standing ovation and delivered an engaging message focused on the imperative action needed to combat climate change. “This is a challenge to our system of democracy. We need to get active and engaged and do something about it.” He warned that the “alternative to failure in Copenhagen is unacceptable” and urged the crowd to ensure that our government takes action. “We need to change our light bulbs, but we also need to change our laws and policy.”

Sheryl Crow giving a special concert at Greenbuild (photo by Beth Pratt)Climate change transcends politics and party lines, he asserted: “We’re all in this together—we don’t need to be fighting about this.”  He quoted an African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Gore ended his address with a message of hope: “We can solve this crisis. We have the tools we need to solve three or four climate crises and we need to only solve one.” He urged the audience to take action so when future generations look back to this critical juncture, they’ll be able to consider us with admiration for finding the moral courage to solve the issue of climate change.

After his speech, Gore returned to the stage to welcome (and hug) singer and fellow environmentalist Sheryl Crow, who entertained the Greenbuild audience with an hour-long concert that included most of her popular songs. During “Are You Strong Enough to be My Man,” Crow ad-libbed to ask the crowd, “Are you strong enough to recycle? Are you strong enough to drive a Prius?” And to prove that even “tree huggers” can rock, she finished the show with an energetic cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and the audience shouted every “been a long time, been a long time” right along with her.

For a photo slideshow of the opening celebration, see below:


Live From Greenbuild 2009: Going Green in Phoenix

Live From Greenbuild 2009: Going Green in Phoenix (photo by Beth Pratt)The Greenbuild 2009 exhibit hall opened its doors today, and thousands of participants rushed inside to browse the latest innovations in sustainable products and services from over 2,000 businesses from across the globe. 

As an environmental professional, wandering through the booths was akin to entering a Disneyland with a multitude of  “rides” for sustainable and green building: I was surrounded by water conserving fixtures, bamboo wood flooring, high efficiency irrigation units, and solar power systems. And all of these wonderful sustainable products were showcased in one of the greenest convention centers in the world. The Phoenix Convention Center achieved LEED silver certification, and employs comprehensive recycling programs, utilizes solar energy, and employs a state-of-the-art energy management system.

Greenbuild 2009 also offers over 150 educational sessions; today’s focus was on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and USGBC  (US Green Building Council) workshops. These full and half-day classes taught LEED implementation for the updated rating system (revised in 2009) and included subjects such as energy modeling, construction and demolition training, and lighting and daylighting design. The World Green Building International Congress also was held today and international experts in sustainable development briefed participants on an array of green building issues around the world.

Tomorrow the educational tracks commence, and feature a special executive roundtable with CEOs from the USGBC, Marriott, Bank of America, and Interface Inc. Tomorrow evening former Vice President Al Gore and singer Sheryl Crow headline the opening keynote celebration.

For those unable to attend Greenbuild, you can view Al Gore’s opening address and other speakers through live streaming video at the Greenbuild 2009 Video Streams site.

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