By Kevin Tuerff, EnviroMedia president & co-founder
Did you know climate change may cause increased urinary tract and water-related infections? How about increased diarrheal disease, pneumonia, malnutrition and skin cancer? Did you know it may also cause increased human trafficking and prostitution? I’ll admit when I first read this, it seemed like a stretch. However, in poor countries, these predictions demonstrate the real-world connection between environment and public health.
South Africa’s climate adaptation plan works closely with not only the government’s environmental ministry, but also its ministry of health. At the UN climate talks (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, the government proudly displays the details of their plans for dealing with future impacts from climate change like ongoing droughts and more intense natural disasters.
Ah, now I get it. If a drought-stricken third-world country with an already inadequate water supply and treatment systems has even more problems, it will trigger an even greater number of waterborne diseases. And if crops don’t grow, farmers become more desperate. Food prices rise so much that people can’t afford to eat enough healthy foods.
Inability to provide for one’s family’s most basic needs undoubtedly creates anxiety and depression. These health problems create social problems, creating even more health problems. South Africa predicts it may face increased violence against women and children as well as increased human trafficking and recruitment into sex trade. Prostitution directly impacts rates of sexually transmitted disease like HIV and AIDS.
The facts from South Africa seem to bear this out: the South African Department of Health Study estimates that 29.4 percent of pregnant women (aged 15-49) were living with HIV in 2009.
South Africa’s plans to overcome these climate-related health impacts include: improved primary health care; promotion of disease prevention including breastfeeding, food safety and use of sunscreen; and increased access to contraception. By being prepared, and educating the public, governments will certainly help save lives.
Texas is facing one of the worst droughts in recorded history. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, virtually all of Texas is experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.
EnviroMedia is strengthening our resolve to save water through award-winning conservation campaigns.
Here is the newest ad we produced for the North Texas Municipal Water District.
Here are print ads EnviroMedia designed to nudge Cedar Park residents to follow the even-odd watering schedule used by many Texas communities.
Water IQ is an official water conservation campaign of the Texas Water Development Board, and EnviroMedia has created customized Water IQ campaigns for water providers across the state since 2006.
Those water providers are responding to the drought by licensing their successful, research-based water conservation public education campaigns to other water providers, enabling them to launch a robust campaign quickly and affordably. To see more of the campaigns, click here: http://www.northtexaswateriq.org/campaigns/
Tivoli Gardens is one of the world's oldest amusement parks in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark. Agency princpals Kevin Tuerff and Valerie Davis attended the UN Climate Change Conference there this month.
On behalf of all the staff of EnviroMedia Social Marketing and Green Canary Sustainability Consulting, our wish for you is a happy, healthy and safe holiday.
Thanks to our wonderful clients, 2008 has been a record year for us. Despite the recession, we had a tremendous increase in business, which led to a significant increase in staffing. Our full-service integrated marketing and consulting company is led by passionate, savvy and creative people who know how to use smart communications to deliver tangible resuls that improve public health and the environment.
We seem to be good at tackling difficult global challenges, including H1N1 flu prevention, water conservation for exceptional drought areas, and climate change solutions through energy efficiency.
We are very proud of our progress with opening a West coast office in Portland, Oregon We have exceeded our own goals by already employing four full-time professional staff there.
Valerie Davis and I were honored to be part of environmental history this year, serving as delegates for the US Business Council for Sustainable Development to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was our third such even to participate in, and it was a remarkable experience. Read more on our new Green Detectives blog.
We are just as excted about 2010. Together, let’s make it a great year to empower healthier communities and healthier environments. Happy New Year!
This summer, you may be able to walk on water, right on Lake Travis. No, it’s no miracle. Due to extreme drought, Lake Travis is so low, and getting lower. It’s not impossible to think you can walk across the dried-up lakebed for hundreds of yards. It’s not just “sometimes islands.”
There are already two “sometimes peninsulas” on the main basin that people are unfortunately driving their cars on.
Last night, I attended the 50th anniversary reception for the Travis County Water Control & Improvement District no. 17. As a board member, it was great for me to meet many of the folks who were around in the early days. Travis County created the utility back in 1959 to provide water service to some 400 homes on Hudson Bend at Lake Travis. Today, due to explosive growth, WCID 17 now serves more than 8,000 homes with a population of almost 25,000.
Our district, and many water utilities are nervous about the drought, and meteorlogical predictions that we may drop below 600 feet on Lake Travis this summer. On Feb. 26, Travis is twenty-seven feet below full, and flowing South. (full is 681 feet at Mansfiled Dam).
What can you do? As Spring approaches, be very cautious about the types of new plants and grass you install this season. If you don’t want your landscaping to die, you’ll be forced to spend a lot of time and money drawing even more water out of the Colorado River (our primary source of drinking water in the Austin area). Responsible nursery businesses would do us all a favor and only stock plants that are drought tolerant or native to the area. Find more tips from our Water IQ education campaign here.
In 2008, environment protection and sustainability continue to become a growing social movement, and there were environmental-related stories almost daily in the Austin American-Statesman. In my opinion, these were the top 10 ‘green” stories for 2008. Links to Statesman stories are provided for stories not already archived. Five of the 10 are about water.
2. Region Implements Strict Lawn Irrigation Rules for Businesses & Homeowners (May 1)
Austin’s water conservation efforts move forward; Less-thirsty lawns one tool among new rules aimed at saving resource, money. (May 4)
State Drought Indicator Map, Dec. 28, 2008. Hint: red=bad/
1. 50% of Normal Rainfall for Central Texas=Drought of 2008, after ’07 floods and ’06 drought.
Central Texas is parched, and little relief is in sight, (Oct. 29)
Agree or disagree? Let me know your thoughts on what I may have missed that merits Top 10 status?
At EnviroMedia, we’re fortunate to meet a lot of people with great stories as we work to improve public health and the environment. With the help of our staff, I’ve compiled a top 10 list for 2008 of our best ‘make-a-difference’ moments.
10. Helping E. Texas school kids post-hurricane Ike
Four of the elementary schools in Beaumont ravaged by the hurricane received a fun, interactive tobacco prevention outreach program from the cartoon DUCK mascot, courtesy of the Texas Education Agency. One of the school counselors tearfully expressed her thanks and said “No-one does anything for these kids. Thank you for coming.”
9. Climate Change Diplomacy with Brazil while lost on a train in Poland
A few weeks ago, four EnviroMedians (author included) thought they were starting their journey from Poznan, Poland back to Austin. They were leaving a successful UN Climate Change Conference, boarding a direct train for Berlin, Germany. Or so we thought. Turns out we boarded was headed 200 miles in the wrong direction, northwest to the Polish-Germany border.
Another UN delegate named Milton Noguiera, from Brazil, made the same mistake we did. He saved us by helping us figure out how to catch a 1.5 hour shuttle from the Polish border to our intended destination.
While riding the train through Poland, Milton shared his opinions on what Brazilians thought about America and our reluctance to fight climate change. We spoke about Brazil’s success of using sugarcane ethanol to fuel 90 percent of their vehicles, and also their country’s terrible problem of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. He asked us about American politics and the strength of environmental groups here.
8. Tackling Dipping and Racism in West Texas
We saw lots of young men throwing their cans of Skoal into the trash, in order to receive a free “Spit-It-Out” hat at the Future Farmers of America convention in Lubbock. This is the newest tobacco prevention campaign for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Everyone loves the new hard-hitting jackelope TV ad we produced.
A young, white teen from San Angelo had his horizons broadened by interacting with our staff/talent emcee, Terrell, who is African-American, “Mr. Terrell, I always heard black people were cool, but I never knew it was true until I met you!”
7. Empowering Gulf Coast Families post-Katrina and pre-Ike
The State’s “Ready or Not?” campaign seemed to give people an outlet to talk about their emergency preparedness experiences. Our ad campaign and helpful Web site drew lots of people to our outreach events at dozens of Wal-Mart and H-E-B stores across the state. Many people shared stories of 2005 Hurricane Katrina evacuations, house fires, heart attacks, etc. This campaign empowered thousands of people to be prepared when Hurricane Ike crisis hit the Galveston area earlier this year.
6. Fewer Deaths Among Lake Travis Partiers
Our crew of trained lifeguards heard lots of, “Throw me a t-shirt!” when they visited Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis this summer. Not until they answered some trivia questions about water safety. This year, we added outreach to Spanish-speaking visitors. LCRA’s “Nobody’s Waterproof” campaign continues to help reduce the number of drowning deaths on the state’s most deadliest lake.
5. Litter Force K-900 Mascot Dog-napped in Houston
On April 5, our Don’t Mess with Texas road tour crew went out to their van parked in a Houston hotel parking lot, only to find it was vandalized. Even worse: K-900, the kids’ favorite mascot of the Litter Force, was stolen! Our media relations team quickly turned lemons into lemonade, getting the full story about the new elementary school litter prevention program on almost every TV station in Houston (which is a huge coup). The culprit was never caught (had to be the “Evil Trash”) but that publicity led to greater awareness of the problem and the new Texas Department of Transportation program.
4. Drought Reinforces Importance of Water Conservation
“I saw your ads, and now I know my water comes from Lake Lavon,” one man told our outreach team at a Lowe’s store in Plano. Our team convinced him to buy drought-tolerant plants, and to check his sprinler system for leaks. Thanks to some trendy new Water IQ give-a-ways, we’ve helped make conserving water the cool thing to do in many parts of Texas.
Central Texas faced a year-long extreme drought. Through years of bridge-building between local governments, we convinced the Lower Colorado River Authority, city of Austin and city of Cedar Park to collaborate on the Water IQ campaign. This year, they promoted new, consistent lawn watering rules for the region.
3. West Coast Expansion: New Office in Portland, Oregon
After meeting with dozens of business, government and environmental leaders, we determined there was a great need for our social marketing services out West. We chose Portland, Oregon to mine for new business opportunities. We were so impressed with the work of the Oregon Environmental Council, we made a sizable donation to the non-profit group. After just seven weeks, our initial prospecting paid off, winning two competitive contracts, one promoting alternative fuels for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and another promoting healthy food choices to food stamp recipients through the Oregon State University’s Extension Service.
2. Reducing Greenhouse Gases, One Home at a Time
Thanks to a huge wave of awareness about climate change, and some unique advertising strategies, our clients at Green Mountain Energy announced they had a 70 percent increase in sales of renewable power in 2007. We also helped them expand to South Texas by producing their first-ever ads targeted to Spanish-speaking Texans.
In 2007 these facilities generated more than 319,000 MWh of new renewable energy. All of these facilities together have been responsible for avoiding the use of more than 530,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Green Mountain Energy should also be commended for top honors for its customer satisfaction rating in a survey of electricity competitors by J.D. Power & Associates.
1. Fighting HIV with Family Portraits
A mother of 7 was able to get a family portrait for the first time ever. She’s never been able to afford it before. Thanks to “Fight HIV”, a DSHS outreach event at Kwaanza Fest in Dallas, it was free.
2008 Was our Best Year at EnviroMedia
Working with the University of Oregon, giving birth to the Greenwashing Index (www.greenwashingindex.com) was risky last January, but it was well worth it: Together we catapulted our national reputation through news stories in TIME and Newsweek magazines, on NBC’s TODAY Show and dozens of other media outlets.
We also gave birth this year to a new subsidiary company, Green Canary Sustainability Consulting. We have great hopes for consulting with new corporate clients to help them get their green house in order and improve their own sustainability efforts before they could even greenwash.
We once again saw the excitement that makes EnviroMedia special. We headed off to Poznań, Poland as delegates at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, establishing new business contacts, blogging for multiple media outlets and enhancing our credibility as one of a handful of U.S. business leaders in attendance. We represented the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development.
WALKING THE TALK
Our staff did all of this amazing work, while picking up hundreds of pounds of litter on three roadside locations in Travis and Hays counties, six times throughout the year, organizing a building-wide e-waste recycling collection on America Recycles Day, distributing thousands of dollars in cash to strangers for the seventh annual Pay It Forward 9/11, and delivering 750 warm lunches to seniors through Meals on Wheels.
Yes, all of this, doing good for the world, while having the best financial year in our 12-year company history. We are all truly blessed with great clients and great staff.
Ornithologist Dr. Kevin Burns at Torrey Pines Reserve, near San Diego.
(SAN DIEGO) In seventh grade, most kids have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. Not my best friend, Kevin Burns–now an internationally recognized professor of ornithology at San Diego State University. Growing up together in suburban Houston in the late 1970s and 80s, he knew without any uncertainly he wanted to be an ornithologist (biology scientist specializing in birds).
Today, Dr. Burns is studying important work using DNA technology to understand how birds evolved over millions of years and adapted to their surroundings over time. “We are living in a time of profound global climate change, so understanding how birds responded to change in the past can help us understand how birds may or may not be able to cope in the future,” said Burns. Kevin Tuerff (l) and Kevin Burns at Torrey Pines State Park, San Diego
I was in San Diego recently, attending the Western Climate Initiative meeting. While there, Dr. Burns took me on a hike of the Torrey Pines Forest State Park (near San Diego) and it was a great way to think about climate change outside the hotel ballroom (where I experienced an earthquake). He said, “You see, the Torrey Pine is an endangered tree in California and the rarest pine in the United States. With any more erosion, they may all fall into the sea. With just one drought-induced fire, they may be gone forever.”
Endangered Torrey Pine tree, San Diego
While we were on the hike, I had a magic moment: I was first to spot another endangered species: the California Gnatcatcher (bird). Okay, I just said, “hey look at that bird!”
According to the park’s Wildlife Management Plan, a California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) federally registered as threatened:
The California Gnatcatcher has been a consistent resident over the past two decades in the Reserve, albeit at very low numbers (5-10 breeding pairs). This represents an approximate 3 percent of the estimated total population in San Diego County (Gibson and Price 1996). Found in sub-shrub dominated Southern Maritime Chaparral habitat, P. californica nests primarily on east facing slopes lacking lemonade berry within the Reserve. The Guy Fleming trail, Extension, southwest Lagoon, and areas along the park road in the upland reserve have recently hosted nesting sights. Nest predation by feral cats is a very real threat, especially in the Extension as it is surrounded on all sides by homes with over 70 percent owning cats.Coyotes are believed to help control this problem by decreasing cat numbers (Crooks 1997).
Another find: Western Fence Lizard at Torrey Pines Forest, San Diego
The global climate crisis has impacts on humans, animals and plants. Should we blow off endangered species? We don’t think so, and two Kevins can’t be wrong.
The fourth in a series of EnviroTV segments “5 Things You Should Know About Climate Change” features an interview with Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, former Texas Commissioner of Health. Dr. Sanchez is an advisor to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The video runs 2 minutes 13 seconds.
No. 5: More Than a Change in the Weather: Public health catastrophes.
Tens of thousands are at risk of dying from a lack of clean drinking water resulting from the devastating cyclone in Myanmar (Burma).
At the December 2007 U.N. Climate Change Conference, thousands of participants from 190 countries were pointing their collective fingers at the United States. The reason? The U.S. generates more greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) than any other country; we consume far more energy per person than anywhere else in the world; and we never ratified the Kyoto Protocol calling for a collective 5 percent reduction in GHG emissions over 1990 levels. That treaty expires in 2012, and new scientific research reveals it didn’t go far enough.
No. 5: More Than a Change in the Weather: Public health catastrophes.
Hurricane Katrina and the drought in Georgia may have opened more Americans’ eyes about the impact or rising global temperatures, but are you aware of the public health consequences?
If you’ve seen any news lately, you’ve seen the tragedy in Myanmar (Burma) from the cyclone. Beyond the deaths from flooding, there are tens of thousands more who may die from a lack of clean drinking water.
As we heard in Bali in a panel discussion among doctors from the “Least Developed Countries” both “too much wet” and “not enough wet” conditions are propagating disease. Floods bring mosquito-borne diseases, and droughts bring disease and death for those without enough drinkable water.
Changing climates open up populations to new diseases – we’ve already seen malaria spread to higher altitudes in places like the Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level. Food security is another growing issue, especially as weather becomes more unpredictable and both floods and droughts become more severe. Finally, the massive movement of “climate refugees” could cripple host areas’ ability to deal with health concerns.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Find a map of your neighborhood. Draw a one-mile “Car-Free Zone” around your home. Try to walk or ride a bike in this area. You’ll rude carbon emissions, plus you’ll improve your heart, and you may lose weight.
2. Try to reduce your beef consumption. Believe it or not, cow farts (methane gas) at combined cattle operations are a huge source of greenhouse gases. Add to that, the carbon from transporting cattle to your grocery store, and now might wonder, “Is it worth it every day?” Medical experts tell us reducing beef consumption will also improve your heart.
3. Write a letter to your congressman and US Senators to urge them to vote for climate change legislation like the Lieberman-Warner bill (scheduled for vote in June 2008). Ask them to include funding for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the links between climate change and public health on an international level.