Formerly a professional do-gooder working virtually 24/7, Byron Kennard is at present semi-retired. Today he does good only now and then, whenever the spirit moves him. Kennard lives in Washington, DC, a city where there is great need for his services but almost no demand.
Like Mohandas Gandhi, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa, Kennard is a former community organizer. Working for the Conservation Foundation in the late 1960s, he travelled the country forming local citizen groups to fight environmental pollution and helped lay the groundwork for Earth Day in 1970. For this work, Kennard was awarded the Leadership Medal of the United Nations Environment Program.
In the decades that followed, Kennard sparked a raft of environmental initiatives – organizing rallies and demonstrations, forming committees and coalitions, and founding several non-profit organizations. An inveterate scribbler, Kennard drafted countless screeds, published numerous jeremiads, sounded at least a dozen stirring calls to arms, and issued way too many manifestos.
A longtime “small is beautiful,” devotee, Kennard founded the Center for Small Business and the Environment in 1998 to promote the idea that small green entrepreneurial businesses are the key to environmental protection and thus, as well, the key to combating climate change. Kennard served as CSBE’s Executive Director until 2012 when he resigned to begin the spiritual quest that has brought him to his present eminence.
When he isn’t out in the world doing good, Kennard can usually be found at home with his nose stuck in a history book, striving to discover how good was achieved in the past. The results of this quest have been a mixed bag. Consequently, Kennard’s advice to others who aim to do good in the world is to “proceed with caution.”
Today Byron Kennard is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His blogs have appeared in Huff Post Green, Huff Post Comedy, and Huff Post Gay Voices. He is also a presence on YouTube where he’s posted a series of comedy videos on environmental topics (Don’t Sweat Global Warming).
An “out” gay man, Byron Kennard has been partnered for almost fifty-two years with Glenn Pinder, with whom he’s shared joint passions for interior design, musical theater, giving absolutely fabulous parties, and reading history, especially biographies of dead Queens.
In 2014, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their coming together, Byron Kennard and Glenn Pinder were married in the District of Columbia.
The newlyweds are now planning to move to Florida where they’re going to buy a condo in one of the high rise buildings located directly on the ocean’s shore. There they’ll spend their twilight years sitting on the balcony sipping gin-and-tonics while watching the sea level rise.
The Old Man and the CO2
Some people think climate change might be the god-awfullest thing humans have ever had to face. I’m one of them. Oh, yes, Dear Reader, I know other god-awful things are in the warm-up pen – like rogue nations using nuclear weapons. And, yes, there’s the distinct possibility that terrorist attacks and cyber wars will wreck civilization before climate change even gets the chance. But my vote for the god-awfullest thing still goes to climate change.
I operate on this premise: the rise of human civilization was entirely owing to the unusually favorable climate conditions that followed the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago. The retreating glaciers stirred up the earth’s surface creating deep, fertile valleys and rivers flowing with fresh water. Humans had the brains and gumption that it took to invent agriculture and the rest is history – literally. What chance does civilization have if these favorable conditions disappear and the climate turns on us?
It’s gruesome to contemplate the likelihood that we ourselves are responsible for this adversity. As New Yorker science writer Elizabeth Kolbert observes in her book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.”
The British astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, who is like the smartest guy alive, thinks the species’ only hope for survival is the colonization of space. He may be right but I can’t imagine how we’re going to cram three billion people onto spacecraft.
I’ll bet the only people who actually make it aboard will be celebrities, politicians, Fortune 500 CEOs, and billionaire climate deniers like the Koch brothers. I doubt there’ll be any room for an old guy like me whose only claim to fame is fifty years spent busting my ass to warn people about the dangers of screwing up the environment. I’ll be left here on the devastated and uninhabitable earth to take my chances, and they don’t look good.
Is it any wonder I can’t sleep nights? I keep having nightmares about drowning polar bears, oil-slicked oceans, ravaged West Virginia mountaintops, drought and wildfires in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma, and “Biblical” floods in Colorado, North Dakota, the Northeast, and the Lower Mississippi. Variations on the Ten Plagues of Egypt disturb my slumber – lice, flies, locusts, and all that. Except in my version the frogs, instead of multiplying uncontrollably all over the place, go extinct.
Just last night I tossed and turned for hours, fretting about how pesticide use may be why whole flocks of birds are dropping dead from the sky, entire colonies of bees are mysteriously disappearing, and why – worldwide – use of synthetic chemicals is causing a 50% drop in human male sperm counts. (The birds, the bees, the sperm! This is hitting below the belt!)
I’ve got a right to sing the ecological blues. I’ve been promoting environmental for over fifty years, starting in the Sixties when I worked as a community organizer for the Conservation Foundation. Back then, I travelled all around the country organizing grassroots opposition to air and water pollution. In effect, I did much of the pre-organizing that led to Earth Day in 1970 and the emergence worldwide of environmentalism. In the last twenty years or so I’ve worked to get the federal government to compel actions that would reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Looking back, I can now see that these decades of toil did neither the environment nor me much good. Alas, the environment is far worse off than it was when I started my labors fifty years ago, especially in terms of planetary ecological systems, the forests, the oceans, and, of course, the climate.
Look at the facts. In 2014, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere reached 400 parts per million. (The upper safety limit for atmospheric CO2 is 350 parts per million.) This concentration is substantially higher than the 280 ppm concentration present in pre-industrial times and is higher than at any time during the last eight hundred thousand years, or in the past twenty million years, depending on how you count things. By my calculations (admittedly crude) this concentration is even higher than it was in the first ten minutes after the Big Bang.
I ask: can the collapse of civilization be far behind?
In this context, who can blame me for concluding that the federal government’s helplessness in the face of the climate challenge constitutes a national disgrace, a crying shame, and even a repudiation of the idea of democracy? I tremble with rage just to think of it – or, at least I used to. Lately, I’ve changed my tune. Why? Finally, I saw the light.
Get this: The federal government’s failure to combat climate change actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise. No kidding! I’ve wised up.
What wised me up was the ill-fated cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2009, but which never even came to a vote in the Senate. Basically cap-and-trade is a good idea, but what emerged from the House was a perversion of the good idea – a monstrous bill 1,468 pages long. James Madison must have been spinning in his grave. We should recall his admonition: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
What was in these 1,468 pages? Special interest exceptions and exemptions, that’s what, and so many of them that Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace both denounced the bill as worse than nothing.
These provisions – no surprise – were put in the bill by the lobbyists who swarm over Capitol Hill, dispensing campaign contributions like manna from heaven. (Members of Congress now spend three out of every five working days raising money.) Alas, money, not votes, is the greatest source of power in a democracy. So what used to be a nation governed by law is now a nation governed by lobbyists.
Many of these lobbyists represent Big Oil, Big Gas, and Big Utilities. Many represent agribusiness, the automobile/highway industrial complex, the housing construction/real estate industrial complex, and on and on. No doubt the bulk of them represent some aspect or other of the fossil fuel economy, which is to say the economy. Is it any wonder that fossil fuel lobbies have Congress by the balls?
Finally I caught on: so long as lobbyists call the shots in Washington, DC, advocates of climate action are completely screwed. Our legislative options have boiled down to two choices: (a) Congressional gridlock, meaning nothing passes; and (b) Congressional action, meaning something passes that’s worse than nothing. This is all our political system produces – or can produce – these days: two rotten outcomes, but one worse than the other.
This being the case I choose nothing. If you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding, then why keep trying, doing the same thing over again and again, and expecting different results? Isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity? And here’s the blessing in disguise. Advocating nothing is a piece of cake! It’s a breeze! And if advocating nothing keeps truly bad stuff from happening then it’s a tremendous achievement. Lucky me! Here I am putting a big dent in climate change and I’m not really trying! Why did it take me so long to catch on?
Let’s revisit cap-and-trade again, and I’ll show you what I mean. Remember that Congress took up cap-and-trade when political conditions were optimal for federal action on climate. In 2009, Democrats controlled the Presidency, 257 seats in the House, and 60 (filibuster-proof) seats in the Senate. What’s the chance of this happening again?
Practically nil, I’d say – not so long as gerrymandering hands control of the House to Republicans.
Republicans now occupy 245 seats in the House of Representatives, the largest Republican majority since the days of Herbert Hoover. And with gerrymandering on their side, they have it in their power to nix climate action for the foreseeable future. And – get this – the foreseeable future just happens to constitute the narrow window of opportunity that we’ve got to offset the worst of climate change. According to climate scientists, we’ve only got a few years to do it.
The situation in the Senate is just as bad. “Coal state” Senators – Democrats as well as Republicans – are gonna block any Congressional action on climate change. I’ll tell you what’s even worse. This hang-up in the Senate is damned near permanent. So long as there are massive coal deposits in the ground yet to be extracted, there will be “coal state” Senators. If these deposits are extracted and burned, they are worth trillions of dollars. Who’s going to pass up profit like that? It’s not in human nature to pass it up!
The alternative – leaving this coal where it is, undisturbed – is unthinkable under the present system. And, of course, the same thing is true of the vast oil and gas deposits still left in the ground. Many more trillions are at stake.
Now, the fossil fuel boys have done a whopping good job of convincing almost everyone that these reserves must be mined and burned to meet future energy needs or else millions of people will freeze and starve. But I am one of many environmentalists who disagree. I argue that we don’t need to exploit these reserves because we have other, better options.
One, we can make (and we are making) dramatic strides in energy efficiency, doing much, much more with much, much less energy. Two, we can aggressively deploy the many new renewable energy technologies that already exist. (Many current scientific studies back up this claim.) For example, our tremendous capacity for the distributed generation of energy – producing energy on-site for use on-site – has scarcely been tapped. Third, we can expect to see extraordinary breakthroughs in energy technology simply because (a) such things are possible, and (b) so many smart, able, ambitious and determined entrepreneurs are laboring to achieve such breakthroughs. For example, it’s likely that we’ll soon see game-changing advances in batteries that store solar energy for long periods. When this happens, it may equal the impact on society that James Watt’s steam engine had, laying the basis for a new age of human endeavor and accomplishment.
Of course, the fossil fuel boys don’t want anybody to know about these options and they’ve managed to brainwash a lot of people with their “Drill, baby, drill” mantra. I shudder to contemplate the outcome. The awful truth may be that these reserves will be extracted and burned not because they are needed to meet future energy needs, but because they are worth trillions of dollars if they are extracted and burned. Heaven help us!
What options have we got? We can’t rely on big energy companies to restrain themselves. They can’t even consider the option. Any energy CEO who dares to whisper about leaving these deposits where they are will be forcibly escorted out of the building within the hour. The next morning his body will probably be found floating in the Hudson.
Of what use is politics in combating this situation? I’ve sworn off. I ask, if environmentalists couldn’t get any climate legislation passed in 2009, what makes them think they can do it in the future? Congress is a graveyard for climate action and it’s going to remain so.
Here’s the silver lining on that cloud. Maybe we’ve seen the end of worse-than-nothing bills that actually worsen the problem. Chalk one up for me! From my new, enlightened point of view, I count this as a victory.
So here I am: an environmentalist who opposes federal action to combat climate change because it’s almost certain to worsen the problem. But for once in my life I’m ahead of the game. I may not be lifting a finger, but even so I’m making a signal contribution to the fight against climate change.
Now, Dear Reader, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this is way too much responsibility for a lone individual to take on, however dedicated he might be. “Wow,” you’re saying to yourself, “what a brave, noble character this fellow Kennard must be.”
Gee, that’s nice of you. I appreciate the sentiments, I really do. But, frankly, I don’t deserve any special praise. Listen, I have a whole bunch of collaborators; and, to tell you the truth, they do all the work. That’s why I don’t have to lift a finger.
Naturally, the climate denial crowd deserves pride of place. Those guys have accomplished wonders. Without them federal action on climate might actually get somewhere. Advocates of doing nothing are in their debt.
Next up, I must acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the Tea Party.
Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. Efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government while destroying the economy.
According to a recent poll, 88% of the all Tea Party activists believe that global warming is a hoax. Another recent poll revealed that 92% of all Tea Party activists believe that if global warming turns out to be real, it is God’s punishment of society for allowing gays to marry. (Okay, so I made this up, but you get my point.)
I ask you, with supporters like this how can I lose? But lots of ordinary people help out too. Consider public disgust with the gridlocked Congress. Everybody knows that Congress is gridlocked by partisan and ideological hang-ups and that it seems incapable of dealing with crises of overriding immediate concern like immigration, the deteriorating infrastructure, and so on. How then can anyone expect Congress to grapple with long-term crises like climate change?
What a powerful ally public disgust is! For example, a recent Gallup Poll (December, 2014) shows that public approval of Congress now stands at just 7 percent. (Seven percent! Sacre bleu! The French approval rating of Louis XVI was three times that on the day they cut his head off.)
But Congress is just part of the problem. There’s also the public’s disdain for the federal government in general, largely as a result of its reliance on big bureaucracy to pursue its objectives. Today, thirty-seven percent of likely U.S. voters now fear the federal government, according to a recent Rasmussen survey. Fifty-four percent consider the federal government a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector.
With such attitudes prevalent, even citizens who are concerned about climate change and who want the crisis abated will think twice about handing the job to a federal government that is so feared and distrusted.
Sure, you can argue endlessly that federal bureaucracies do in fact accomplish much good (for example, food safety, airline safety, etc.), for all the good that will do you. And I won’t differ. But so what? Given the public’s hostility to federal bureaucracy, is it prudent to expect that the political support will be there for federal assumption of new and heavy responsibilities for climate action?
Doing nothing can’t be beat, so I can’t be beat either! It’s like I’m the Master of the Universe and I hardly have to turn my hand. This is the best gig I ever had. Listen, I used to work twelve-hour days seven days a week, but now all I do is call the office once in a while to see if by any chance the environmentalists have managed to wrest control of Congress from the lobbyists. If they haven’t, I go to the gym, have a leisurely lunch, and catch an early movie. My doc has taken me off the blood pressure meds, and I don’t mind telling you that I’m having more and better sex. That’s not bad for a guy who’s about to turn eighty.
Here I am – at long last – living the good life. Man, it feels good. And the icing on the cake is this: with any luck, I’ll be dead and safely buried before the worst of the climate shit hits the fan. Believe me, Dear Reader, I don’t mean to brag but, compared to the future that awaits most people alive today, I think I’ve got it made.
 If this happens, I recommend we colonize at least two separate planets, one for conservatives and one for liberals. As it is, they already inhabit different worlds so segmenting them shouldn’t be too difficult.
MY CLAIM TO FAME
How I Once Saved the World (Almost) – COMING SOON !!
My role in organizing the environmental movement in the 1960s — well before Earth Day 1970 was even a gleam in Senator Gaylord Nelson’s eye.
MY BRILLIANT CAREER
The Ups & Downs of Byron Kennard
I’ve made so many self-reverential references to my lengthy and zealous environmental advocacy that skeptical readers may demand some proof of it. This is all the more likely since – despite my fifty years in the green game – I am a relative nobody in the social movement I helped start. Alas, somehow fame eluded me with the same astonishing alacrity as wealth did. Not all community organizers wind up like this. Look at Barack Obama. His community organizing experience propelled him into high office. Mine only propelled me into high dudgeon.
This appendix describes my long and selfless service to the environmental cause. It’s on this basis that I pass so many unkind and sarcastic judgments on so many old friends and old foes. Hey, I’m entitled! And it’s this record that entitles me to shoot my mouth off on topics such as agriculture, economics, energy, housing, public health, transportation, science, technology and most everything else under the sun. (This is my position and I’m sticking to it.)
In my own defense, I ask readers taking a look at this appendix to note that at least I did not keep doing the same thing over and over. (Isn’t that Einstein’s definition of insanity?) I’d try something and if it didn’t work, then I’d try something else, and on and on until one day I woke up to realize fifty years had passed and I was – in some ways – back at Square One. Still, there are compensations. Metaphorically, I’d gone around the world three or four times exploring options for constructive social change and found them all wanting – until I discovered that the most direct route to such change was down hidden paths.
If anyone’s interested what follows below is a kind of biography. It proves, if nothing else, my stubborn persistence. Hurrah for me! But, oh, dear, here is also proof of my many setbacks, defeats, and rejections.
For me personally, making this account is like a tour of ruins, interesting but cautionary. None of the projects I founded or co-founded down through the years are still around, with the exception of the last (CSBE). Under these conditions who but a fool would continue on? My only defense is a rueful one: I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t know how to stop what I was doing. Not too smart! I should have gone to a business school; that seems clear. Anyway, here’s the story.
After graduating from Ohio State University in 1959, my first job was with the Information Office of the Division of Water Supply and Pollution Control of the US Public Health Service (PHS). Public awareness of water pollution was scant in those days, so PHS launched the Clean Water campaign, the first mass media “environmental” public service program undertaken by the Advertising Council. I helped design and run this campaign.
My next assignment (1966-1968) was with the President’s Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty, the predecessor agency to the present Council on Environmental Quality. There I was a principal author of From Sea to Shining Sea, A Report to the Nation on Recreation and Natural Beauty, the first government-wide survey and analysis of federal environmental goals and programs.
In 1966, I served as assistant manager of the White House Conference on Natural Beauty, an initiative spearheaded by First Lady Ladybird Johnson. This conference brought together an unprecedented collection of diverse interests — traditional conservationists mingled with inner city advocates and experts on energy, agriculture, transportation and so on. The broader, more comprehensive view that resulted was increasingly described as environmental, a word then gaining currency.
In 1968, Russell Train, then-President of The Conservation Foundation, hired me to organize a grassroots citizen’s movement for clean air. For the next three years, I traveled the country, serving as a kind of environmental Johnny Appleseed, spreading the ecological gospel and organizing regional civic coalitions. For this work, I was later awarded the Leadership Medal of the United Nations Environment Program for “distinguished contribution to the cause of the environment.”
A man ought to practice what he preaches, so in the late 1960s I became a local activist in order to protect my own neighborhood in Washington, DC. I helped organize opposition to the proposed construction of the Three Sisters Bridge over the Potomac River north of Georgetown. (The bridge would have connected I-66 in Arlington, Virginia with K Street in the District of Columbia and brought the super-highway through downtown Washington.) After a long struggle, the bridge was finally abandoned.
The fight over the Three Sisters Bridge was just one of many anti-freeway struggles. The Federal Highway Administration then had construction plans for hundreds of new freeways on its agenda, and most of these roads were slated to invade some neighborhood or some park or wilderness area. Not surprisingly, wherever a freeway was scheduled, local opposition sprang up. I “networked” this massive localized ferment, helping to forge it into a unified political force.
In 1969, I tried to expand the anti-freeway movement into a pro-public transportation movement by organizing the first national citizen’s conference on public transportation, a project co-sponsored by the Urban Coalition and the Conservation Foundation.
In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson called for a national environmental “teach-in,” a proposal that soon evolved into Earth Day, an event later to be described as “the largest single political demonstration in history.” For my part, I led the many civic activists I was networking into Earth Day, helping to ensure that the event consisted of far more than student protests on campuses.
Earth Day put environmental protection on the world’s agenda and created a new and powerful worldwide social movement, but it also gave rise to an equally powerful opposition that accused environmentalists of harming the economy, especially by destroying jobs and small businesses. How were these accusations to be answered?
To find answers, I worked with various collaborators to launch several initiatives. The first of these was the Public Interest Economics Center (1971-1975), a project that worked to create a model for pro bono service by professional economists analogous to public interest law. A great idea but doomed to flop. Lawyers are hired guns who protect their client’s interests whatever they are. Economists, by contrast, view themselves as High Priests in service of the Truth.
The second of these initiatives was Environmentalists for Full Employment, an effort to build bridges between environmental groups and labor unions which I co-founded in1971.
The third was the National Council for the Public Assessment of Technology (1973-1976) which I chaired. This project encourage and facilitate participation by environmental and consumer groups in science and technology policy by to mirror the then new Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a useful institution that was later to fall victim to the Reagan Revolution.
All these projects embodied great ideas; all were launched with high hopes; all were invested with plentiful supplies of blood, sweat and tears by their founders; all were to wither on the vine. Little or nothing remains of them today. What did I get out of this? I learned many bitter but valuable lessons, and I acquired a certain facility at drafting manifestos imploring others to hurl themselves into civic battles. (There’s not much call for manifesto drafting these days, at least not in the political backwaters that I inhabit.)
The beat goes on. In 1978, I served as National Vice-Chair of Sun Day, a project intended to do for solar energy what Earth Day did for the environment.
In 1973, I began collaborating with the late E. F. Schumacher, author of Small Is Beautiful, then an international bestseller that had made it author famous.
In his book, Schumacher described how large centralized organizations, despite their vaunted economies of scale, tend to become mired in complexity and, hence, slow, cumbersome, and wasteful. By contrast, decentralized small-scale enterprises — thrifty, versatile and agile — tend to conserve material and energy.
In league with Schumacher, I organized a grassroots network to promote the thesis that small-scale enterprise is environmentally benign. Although this effort flared briefly, it did not, alas, long survive Schumacher himself (who died in 1977). Then came the go-go Eighties, a decade hooked on the notion that “big is better.” By contrast, small-scale enterprise appeared dinky, prosaic, and unfashionable. And by then the counter-revolution to Earth Day was in full swing.
I was to experience this shift and be hit hard by it when I served as National Chair of Earth Day ’80, the tenth anniversary celebration. The press, no longer siding with us, had but one overriding inquiry: how many jobs have you environmentalists destroyed today?
In 1980 I published Nothing Can Be Done, Everything Is Possible, (1980) a book of essays on social and political change that the Christian Science Monitor called “a primer for the modern-day activist.”
The 1980s were quite a decade for me. Looking back at it now, I must say I’m quite impressed with the fellow I was then. I tried my hand at producing theater, somehow finding within myself the massive gall and daring that it took to write the books and the scores for two musical plays, Out of Style, presented at d.c. space, and Sweet Talk, produced at the Source Theatre Company’s Eleventh Annual Washington Theatre Festival in conjunction with Vest Pocket Theatre.
I was co-founder and Artistic Director of The Public Interest Follies, a community theater whose satirical revues poked fun at the Reagan administration but also at the mentality and psychology of the liberal/left. The Follies lasted almost a decade.
Alas, none of these literary and theatrical projects earned enough money to pay even for the costs of Xeroxing manuscripts so by the 1990s I was compelled to go back to what I do best which is promoting constructive social change for little or no pay.
In 1990, I began a long collaboration with Elizabeth Lisboa-Farrow, President and CEO of LISBOA Inc, a communications firm in Washington, DC. I served as the firm’s Senior Environmental Advisor. Working with Lisboa-Farrow, then Chair of the U. S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a partnership aimed at integrating environmental concerns with economic development for women and minorities. The principal medium for this work was been the promotion of energy efficiency for small businesses. The work has been performed under contract to EPA’s Energy Star Small Business program.
Also in the 1990s, I observed that the revolution in communications technology vastly strengthened and expanded the capacity of small-scale enterprises to achieve efficiencies and to produce environmentally benign innovations. In the Information Age, small is more beautiful than ever.
To exploit this new and huge potential for environmental good, I founded the Center for Small Business and the Environment (CSBE) in 1998. CSBE is a project of the Tides Center, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501c(3) organization.
Perhaps “the biggest hit” ever scored by CSBE was our work promoting On-Bill Financing (OBF), a tool that makes energy efficiency as easy as falling off a log by alleviating the burden of high upfront costs of upgrades by a utility’s commercial and residential customers. Ten years ago or more, I ran across the OBF model then being used by a couple of small utilities in New England and began promoting it everyway I could. In 2007 this work led to the adoption of OBF in California by the state PUC, thanks to a hugely fruitful collaboration between CSBE and Small Business California, brilliantly led by Scott Hauge, President, and Hank Ryan, Executive Director. We can claim credit for this because there’s proof. In 2004, CSBE and Small Business California became official interveners before the California Public Utilities Commission in order to promote OBF. Twice we won monetary awards from the Commission for this advocacy. Based on this, I’d like to claim at least some credit for the fact that since 2009 when California’s OBF program was actually inaugurated, the model has spread through out the nation. According to a report by ACEEE released in December 2011, at least 20 states have implemented or are about to implement OBF programs and even more states are exploring their OBF options.
When CSBE started in 2000, hardly anyone saw a powerful and constructive connection between small business and environmental protection. We worked hard to make that connection clear to all, often instigating first-time-ever events such as these: October, 2004 we took a delegation of Green Gazelle (define) business owners to the White House to brief senior Bush Administration staff on the role of green entrepreneurs in protecting the environment while creating economic growth and new jobs. On April 22, 2004 – Earth Day – at our instigation, the Republican-led House Committee on Small Business held its first hearing ever on green entrepreneurship. Various green small business owners testified.
The California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) CSBE, in partnership with Small Business California, was instrumental in mobilizing small business support for the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) passed in 2006. AB 32 is the toughest legislation in the United States to tackle global warming and it also represented the first time that environmentalists and small business had teamed up to find solutions to global warming. On November 1, 2006 – four weeks after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the California Global Warming Solutions Act into law – CSBE and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) provided a Congressional briefing on AB 32’s passage. This, in turn, led to another first: the first Senate hearing ever on small business and climate change. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing entitled “Small Business Solutions for Combating Climate Change” on March 8, 2007.
In 2009, CSBE released Small Wonders, a report that documents the role of green entrepreneurs in generating countless innovations in agriculture, energy, housing, and transportation and so on – and in the process fomenting a quiet technological and economic revolution. The report was the first effort ever made to assess the phenomenon of green entrepreneurship as a whole and it remains the only such assessment. Small Wonders argues that green entrepreneurs are especially credible advocates for the interests of the rising post-industrial economy. They’re not utopian visionaries but real business people running real risks to obtain real profits and create real jobs. This is political dynamite. Small Wonders was presented to the Obama Administration on June 10, 2009 in a meeting at the White House Conference Center. Later the same day, we presented the report to Congress in a briefing held under the auspices of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The report did not find an audience which frustrated me immensely but set me on a new path, the hidden path of stealth, terrain that’s been described here.
Today, I’m a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, appearing in the Tech section (Bouncing Back From the Disaster in the Gulf), the Comedy section (Occupy Nursing Homes: A Cause to Die For) and in Gay Voices (Name Your Poison: Gay Marriage or Global Warming?).
Byron Kennard was born on December 12, 1937 in Dayton, Ohio and was raised in the small town of Lebanon, Ohio, a few miles south of Dayton. Kennard is a graduate of the Ohio State University (BA, 1959) where he was Sophomore Class President, Junior Class President and President of the Student Senate. He was chosen Outstanding Senior Man in 1959.