Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | Google Play | TuneIn
How we take care of water is a necessity. Water is a finite resource- we only have the amount that we have. Water is life. We are 70% water. Water is spiritual, it’s healing, it’s cooling. It’s beautiful. And in this interview, I speak with my friend and colleague, and water protector and sustainability expert Greg Koch, about the nexus between food, water energy, and our consumption habits and limits on our resources.
For example, how many greenhouse gases can we put in the atmosphere? How much debt can we tax our economy? How many limits can our planet take regarding tin, aluminum, Tesla batteries before it’s too much? We speak to our current environmental crisis of climate change. We bring attention to the topic of water stewardship and how we can all be more environmentally responsible as individuals and businesses. In this episode, you will learn that all water problems are knowable, solvable and affordable. We actually have enough technology and data to be able to solve for the water problems, but it requires that we set up a conscious and inclusive environment for water. Greg Koch is a globally recognized leader and technical director at Environmental resource management (ERM? with over 100 countries in water resource management, community and stakeholder engagement in conflict resolution. Greg also excels in sustainability strategy, sustainable development, adaptation and resilience and related policy and finance.
Leading from Wholeness Executive Coaching
Leading from Wholeness Learning and Development Resources
Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and in the World by Carley Hauck
Resources mentioned in this episode:
NY Times Article – “A Hotter future is certain: How hot is up to us”
NY Times Article – “How much hotter is your hometown than when you were born?”
Creating 21st Century Abundance through Public Policy Innovation: Moving Beyond Business as Usual by Greg Koch and William Sarni
The Imperfect Shownotes
Carley Hauck 00:01
Hi, this is Carley Hauck. Welcome to another episode of the SHINE podcast. This podcast is all about the intersection of three things, conscious, inclusive leadership, the recipe for high performing teams and awareness practices. I am offering three episodes a month. Before I tell you about our topic today, can you go over to Apple podcasts and hit the subscribe button. That way you don’t miss any of our incredible interviews. And if you love this episode, which I imagine you will, please write a positive review, or share it with friends and colleagues on your favorite social media channel. It really helps. Thank you.
Our topic for today is water stewardship: create necessary alliances with leaders and business with Greg Koch.
One of the reasons I began this podcast in May of 2019 was due to all the research I was conducting for my new book, Shine: Ignite Your Inner Game to Lead Consciously at Work and in the World. The podcast came about due to my desire to bring education, awareness, and then to inspire calls of action to be the change as individuals and business so that we together could solve some of our greatest challenges. The biggest challenge that has been a large motivator for me personally and the reason why I wrote my book was climate change.
I had been following the science for many years, and as a result began teaching on the intersection of leadership and spirituality, and consciousness so that we could be more mindful of our consumption. And I brought that into so many of the work that I’ve been doing with different leaders and businesses.
So this episode is about water stewardship. As our world becomes warmer, July was the hottest month in recorded history. Glaciers are melting, our oceans are becoming hotter. And all the marine life is struggling to flourish.
How we take care of water is a necessity. Water is a finite resource we have the amount that we have. Water is life. We are 70% water. Water, spiritual, it’s healing, it’s cooling. It’s beautiful. And in this interview, I speak with my friend and colleague, also water protector. I’ll call him Greg Koch, about the nexus between food, water energy, and our consumption habits and limits on our resources. For example, how many greenhouse gases can we put in the atmosphere?
How much debt can we tax our economy? How many limits can our planet take regarding tin, aluminum, Tesla batteries before it’s too much? We speak to our current environmental crisis of climate change. And the most recent IPCC climate report, which is the sixth report. We bring attention to the topic of water stewardship, and how we can all be more responsible and how we consume how to take responsibility as individuals and businesses. In this episode, you will learn that all water problems are knowable, solvable and affordable.
We actually have enough technology and data to be able to solve for the water problems, but it requires that we set up a conscious and inclusive environment for water. Greg Koch is a globally recognized leader with over 100 countries in water resource management, community and stakeholder engagement in conflict resolution. Greg also excels in sustainability strategy, sustainable development, adaptation and resilience and related policy and finance. He is a lead consultant at ERM. We all have the responsibility and opportunity to be the change. Listen to one of my favorite SHINE podcast episodes ever.
Carley Hauck 05:10
Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining the SHINE podcast. I feel delighted to be here today with my new friend and colleague, Greg Koch, thank you so much for joining.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Well, I know that we have a lot of really wonderful things to speak about. And one of the first questions I’d like to ask you is, how would you define conscious and inclusive leadership?
Greg Koch 05:39
I first say that it has become paramount to my work. And I feel a hallmark of the success that I’ve had, and that success has always been collective with communities and inclusivity. But first a bit of history. I’m originally from Germany, an educated and trained engineer. And so for the first 10 years of my professional life, things were very direct, very quantitative, very objective,
I had the opportunity to leverage those skills, and to begin to have a better understanding of water issues around the world, and water being so local, and so emotional, and I don’t mean emotional in a pejorative sense, emotional baggage, not that there’s anything wrong with even that. But what I mean is we people are tied across all cultures to water in ways that are fundamentally different from lots of other sustainability issues.
We’re tied to it spiritually, even religiously. Everyone needs it, everyone has a stake in it. And you could see where I’m leading is that when you step into a watershed, a community, for whatever reason, you’re motivated to work on water solutions. You realize, at some point, hopefully, early on, that all that water is being shared by everyone, and that everyone needs to be a part of understanding the challenges and being a part of the solution. And so inclusive, is a fundamental prerequisite, of trying to address serious water challenges. And so I have grown.
That was a beautiful answer.
Thank you. So where does consciousness come in? And I’d say obvious, well, not perhaps not obviously. But they go hand in hand, in that, when water is stressed, we could say this for a lot of stressful or challenging situations. In addition to including everyone, because you need to solve the problem, and this was the hardest thing for me to do. And that is to be conscious of their perspective. And their perspective, their demands, and have to be accepted. Because no one’s using water for the sake of using water, you use water because of how fundamental it is to your life. So whether you’re a mother, or a corporation, or the environment, you have to put your mind in, in a way that appreciates the perspective everyone has. And accepted at face, you don’t have to agree with it. But if you’re not consciously trying to understand those different perspectives, and help people understand yours, then you don’t have the first step towards inclusion.
Inclusion isn’t just bringing everyone together in the same room or the same field, particularly around a challenging topic, and then maybe more so for water. You have to understand the different perspectives and accept every one of them at face value before you can take that inclusive environment and try to work towards a solution.
Carley Hauck 09:40
Thank you. Well, and Greg, one of the reasons that I was so excited to have you on the podcast to share your experience and your passion and your expertise around water is because as you’re saying, you know we all need it, to survive. It’s fundamental. I mean, we’re 70% water, right. And it is a way that we are all gathering, so to speak, to use the same resource. And when we’re looking at the greater picture, which is people and planet, and that’s our motivation for how we’re leading for how businesses, hopefully solving for some of these larger problems that are impacting people and planet in a more negative way.
That’s, that’s really leading with more consciousness. And I know that you’re based in Atlanta. And just to kind of bring this to some of the things you were speaking to in 2019, I went through Al Gore’s Climate Reality leadership training, which happened to be in Atlanta. And what was so wonderful about that training, and the trainings that he does is that he really focuses on the region or the area of where that training is.
So at the time, I was living in the Bay Area of California, but I came to Atlanta, and there were 1200 of us from all over the world from all over, you know, different parts of the country. But the speakers, and the focus was on that area of Georgia, of Florida, a little bit of North Carolina, and what was going to be impacted in those areas by climate change, because it’s different all around the country. Like right now, I have relocated to North Carolina, where there’s a lot of water right now, you know, we’ve had different storms come through.
And I’m actually temporarily in Oregon, in Bend, Oregon. And it has been so incredibly dry. And it was in the high 90s to 100 degrees for the first few weeks that I was out here. And just recognizing how people are adapting and struggling with the difficulty of that.
And so that kind of brings us, you know, back to sustainability and your passion for this topic and why you’ve actually chosen to hone in on water. And so I feel curious, where did that start? How did that begin?
Greg Koch 12:27
Well, it started with my engineering background. And at the time, I had moved from engineering, consulting to work for the Coca Cola company. And initially, my work was, you know, inside the four walls of the business. So water efficiency, water use, storm water, wastewater management. But over time, myself and Coca Cola began to have a greater appreciation of the challenges that the business was facing, but also the communities that they were a part of were facing. And that led to 15 years of maturity on my part where I transformed myself into someone who not not just focused on water, but focused on solutions. And what drew me to that is two things.
You led the Global Water stewardship program? Correct?
I did, while I was there, for a period of time until I left their great company and they still have a wonderful water stewardship program and many other things. I am really proud of what I did there, and happy to work with other clients now in my consulting role. But back to why water. two fundamental reasons.
The first is water, there’s a danger in thinking of water in the binary litany of sustainability topics. So you take major sustainability crises around the world, including the United States, you have safety issues, you have disease, you have poor education, you have social inequity, you have air pollution, you have excess carbon emissions, you have waste and litter. Right. And so you’re marching down this litany of big challenges. And what they all share in common is that the desired outcome is less or none of those things. Right. So they’re all bad disease, child labor, forced labor, pollution, and the desired place is well, we need to reduce or eliminate that.
And the danger when you get to water is to keep that binary thinking that’s not true with water, water. Yes, there are places it’s being wasted. And we can talk about that. But in a sense, you really can’t waste water, not at least at the global scale, water is a finite resource. It’s infinitely renewable, we have the amount we have.
And the other thing is that, beyond that non binary nature of it, it’s largely, most people look at water, and they have a positive opinion and a positive experience. You bathe your child, you, you bathe yourself, you go swimming, you go sailing, you know, most people have this daily visceral connection with water, that’s a positive one, most people’s first memory of water, learning how to swim, you know, at Grandma’s lake house, or whatever the case may be.
And so at its heart, water is a positive, right. And you could extend that thinking at a higher level to say, well, Water is life. Alright, we’re 70% water, you don’t want to reduce your water footprint, you’ll get thirsty, then you’ll dehydrate, and then bad things will happen. And when we look for life, there’s a lot of things that life can use. But we always look for water, whether we’re in Mars, around the moon, or wherever, because we know how fundamental it is. And that’s a positive thing. So that’s one reason that makes me so passionate about water.
The other is that while there are lots of different forms of water stress around the world,
all of those are solvable. First of all, they’re knowable, they’re solvable, and they’re affordable. And you cannot say that for any other sustainability challenge that you have enough data and enough technology today that is affordable, and can be implemented.
Carley Hauck 17:18
I love that. They’re knowable, they’re solvable, and they’re affordable, affordable. Well, I’m gonna ask you some more difficult questions. Yeah, sure. Yeah, go ahead.
Greg Koch 17:30
No, I mean, that, that that says at all, so when, so but so what’s the crux? What’s the crux that the Kruk is the crux is first, to set up that inclusive conscious environment that respects everyone’s need for water that’s inalienable and understands their perspective on why they need or want the water they want? And what condition and at what time to then be able to introduce solutions, whether they’re technological based or process and policy based.
If you have that enabling environment from the beginning, then you’re never going to lack for Well, let’s pull this technology and let’s make this regulatory change. Right. There’s still challenges around getting agreement and getting agreement on the timing. But one thing I like to say about water solutions is the soft stuff is the heart stuff. Right? So hard stuff, meaning infrastructure, pumps, pipes, technologies, hard stuff, meaning reservoirs and collection systems and even data, right?
That stuff’s easy. I mean, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, I mean, humankind has been capturing water, storing it, moving it and even treating it for 1000s of years. And yes, we have better ways of doing that today. And there’s still room for innovation. But there’s enough technology and data out there. So that’s not the hard stuff.
The soft stuff is the hard stuff, the soft stuff being How do you build an inclusive, conscious, enabling environment that respects everyone’s need for water, and seeks an equitable outcome, and then allocates the funding, which is completely affordable, compared to a lot of the other challenges that the world faces, whether you call them sustainability or not.
Carley Hauck 19:40
Great, great. Well, I’m gonna bring it back to water. But I want to bring it to another conversation that you and I had talked about a few weeks ago where we were talking about climate change. And I was naming it as probably one of the largest complexities that we as humanity face and you challenged me and said, You believed that climate, one of the biggest problems related to climate change was population growth, economic development. And we could even think of resource scarcity as part of that. And I’d love just to hear a little bit more from you on that topic.
Greg Koch 20:23
Yeah. Well, I’ll go a step further and say that while climate change is real, is serious and needs attention at a much accelerated pace than the world has done today. It is not the biggest issue facing the world. Let me explain.
First of all, in summary, there are many challenges that exist today that have existed throughout most of human history are getting worse, and will continue to get worse in the future, independent of a changing climate. Climate change is a force multiplier.
And you can say, yes, it’s the biggest issue facing us today because of the urgency in solving it. But it doesn’t make it the biggest issue short of existential, existentially meaning, if we all went extinct because of climate change. Well, then, of course, but when you look back, and really take climate change out of the equation and say, What is the challenge the world is facing? Yes, it’s being driven by population growth and economic development, more people with better lifestyles, less poverty, less infant mortality, those are actually all good things.
But what has happened today, and what I think the biggest challenge is, it’s called the Nexus, the nexus between food, water and energy. And it all is underpinned by this concept of limitations, right? So the world is bumping up against a lot of limits. One of those limits is how much greenhouse gases we can put into the environment and not cause global warming. Okay, so that’s climate change. That is certainly one of the limits that we’re facing. But we’re facing limits in terms of how much air pollution beyond greenhouse gases, how much water pollution, how much arable farmable land there is, how much government debt and personal debt, those are also limits. Right?
There’s limits on other resources, such as phosphate, tin, lithium for all of our cell phones and Tesla batteries and things like that. Those limits are being approached or even exceeded, and they have been getting there independent of climate change, they’re getting worse, even as climate change is happening. And solving for climate change isn’t going to solve those limitations. You can design it such but why is that such a big challenge?
You could say, well, I have solutions to water pollution or food security or what have you. But because we’re approaching those limits, the solution for one of those can cause problems for the other two. Right? I’ll give you an example.
If you’re in the United States, and you have a car that uses gasoline, you can see it right on the pump up to 10% ethanol. That’s a government mandated and government subsidized program. And it all centers around corn production to make industrial grade ethanol. 15 years ago, there was hardly any corn for ethanol in the fuel supply in the United States. Now it’s close to 60% of corn that’s grown, goes into ethanol production. Okay, that’s a renewable fuel, decreases our dependence on foreign oil is cleaner. So you say, Oh, that’s a good thing. Well, you’ve solved a single variant. you’ve provided as a single variant solution in a multivariate problem, meaning let’s grow more corn and make ethanol for all the good reasons that that that can be considered. But what has led to it’s led to a historic rise in the price of corn. You don’t see it and I don’t see it because I can’t if I ever bought a bushel of corn, you know, you buy a couple years of corn or things with corn.
Corn derivatives in it. But that price is really high. And, and then you’ve also created water stress in places that you would think are water abundant, like Canada, a lot more acreage now being put under the plow to grow corn to meet this ethanol demand. And now you partly solved an energy problem, while causing previously non existent food and water problems. And so that nexus of those three, in a world where we’re facing those limits, to me is the biggest challenge.
Carley Hauck 25:41
Thank you. I wanted to actually ask you about another problem as well, I was recently reading about how Lake Mead is drying up, and it’s over allocated. And Lake Mead and the Colorado River apparently, well, they’re created for melted snows that pour and flow from the Lipitor pass in the Rocky Mountains. And then seven western states really utilize that water for their,
you know, for their water needs. And so those states are California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada and Arizona. And then there’s also 29 tribes and Mexico that are also depending on that water. And apparently there have been some successive treaties that have been signed on how much they’re going to receive an S us from the river and the dams. But those agreements are expiring in 2025. And when we have such low water, like, how are they going to renegotiate that? Who’s going to get what, and then we know that California is in a huge drought as well. And so it’s just it’s such a complexity, how we’re going to solve for that.
Greg Koch 27:03
It is. And there’s two things to recognize, from a historical standpoint, and from a reality standpoint, that make a solution on how to allocate what little water there may be even more difficult. The first is the allocation scheme, both international treaties and individual and multi state agreements about how much water each person can get, or each state can get from the Colorado River were negotiated, let me check my dates 1930s 1940, somewhere around the time where the Hoover Dam was built that created Lake Mead. I’m not getting the dates exactly right. But that was based on historical snowpack measurements that assumed that that would be status quo going forward. Well, the droughts we’re seeing today, again, let’s Park climate change over here, but I will bring it back in.
There’s a lot of scientific research. But early indications are that what we’re seeing today, what we saw in California, back in 2014, what we’re seeing today throughout the West, that that’s actually normal conditions. And what we based all of our planning on was a period of time that we had records for, that just happened to be abnormally wet, and snowy and colder. The reality is, if you take all that away, and you think northern Mexico, Arizona, Southern Utah, Southern California and Nevada, those are deserts. Those are extremely arid areas, yet we have millions of people living, we’ve got tons of agriculture, we have Las Vegas, right? We have all these things that only can be there, because we’ve captured and allocated over allocated and are diverting all that water. If it wasn’t for that manmade intervention, those places would remain scarcely populated, not being farmed, and they would be very dry.
So it’s artificially enabled because of what we did, in terms of moving water around and allocating it. And now we’re seeing that that allocation and those beliefs were probably based on a historically wet period, and what we’re seeing today might be the norm. And so where does that lead you?
Carley Hauck 29:51
I wanted to make just one extra comment because I think it’s interesting. I read this other article in the LA Times that was speaking to the drought of California and apparently because there’s been such little rainfall, normally Northern California would have I think enough water coming from the Sierras. But right now Southern California actually is doing better with the allocation of water, because it’s coming from a different source as you were talking about the storing of it. But historically, you know, Southern California has less water, because as you said, it’s more of a desert climate.
Greg Koch 30:31
And so it’s interesting that California, of all those states, you’ve mentioned, actually has priority rights, you know, when the government has to start, and they already have, and they will continue to limit the allocation for the other states. California’s agreement doesn’t expire, I think, until the late 2030s. So other places will not get enough water, maybe no water, and California will get water. So those communities will see that water flowing by knowing that it’s headed to California, only because of the way the contracts and agreements were repent years ago.
Carley Hauck 31:08
And I also just feel curious, not that you should be the end all know all of water, but I’m in Oregon right now. And what’s interesting is that it is incredibly dry here. I mean, I went to the Oregon coast, just for the weekend, because I just needed moisture. And the Deschutes river is this incredible river and there’s lakes all around, bend where I am, but it is so dry. It feels like such an interesting juxtaposition. And I know that it’s lower, the water is lower here than it has been in a very long time. But it feels so interesting that they can both be like the climate can be so dry. And yet there’s a lot of water here visibly, because it’s coming from glaciers. And I feel curious, you know, half the state is very wet, or again, and then where I am right now it’s a desert. And so I guess I feel curious, like what do you think about Oregon as far as how they’re going to fare with water?
Greg Koch 32:14
Well, I think Oregon and the states below it, and above it, that whole western United States corridor, the conditions you’re seeing today might be what over a long period of time are normal and everything that we’ve experienced in the couple 100 years that we’ve basically been the United States before native peoples was that was abnormal. Right? And so where does that lead you?
I started going down that line earlier. If you were in the middle of the Sahara Desert, you would never say, hey, there’s a drought. Now, it’s just always like that. So you could see, I could see a point where you have to stop calling the conditions that you’re facing in Oregon and California and all those a drought. Maybe that’s just the way it is. That’s the climate that you have, and you’re not in a drought. You just happen to live in a very arid part of the world that used to have this brief period of a few 100 years where it was wet.
How does climate change come in? in a major way, okay. You’re wet in Oregon and a lot of that to glacier melt. They can only melt to a point where they don’t exist. And that’s happened around the world. But when you look at the models, particularly for those Western Rockies, right the Cascades, the Uinta mountains down into Utah, this year, Nevada’s climate change models all call for there to be more precipitation.
Now I use the word precipitation, which you know means snow, ice or rain. But that precipitation because of warmer temperatures is going to come in the form of rain versus snow. Right? So glaciers, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, think of those as Lake Mead. Those are huge reservoirs that build up through the winter and then slowly melt and release that water over the spring and summer and into the fall. But if even more precipitation falls in the winter, but it comes in the form of rain, there’s no storage for it, it’s just going to run off and ultimately end up in the Pacific.
So that’s a big problem. That’s a big problem. You could have wetter winters, but still have greater water scarcity because you don’t have that natural reservoir of the snowpack, the snow and ice pack. slowly melting
Carley Hauck 35:00
So we’re talking a little bit about water scarcity on the West. But then what do you see happening on the East? With the, you know, with more hurricanes and tropical storms where there’s a lot more water, but then how do we store it? Right?
Greg Koch 35:17
Yeah, I’d say the biggest problem in the East and and it also exists out West. So it just compounds the problems that you have is infrastructure, water infrastructure. So think of water pipes, bringing your drinking water, sewage pipes, stormwater drains, 99% of that is out of sight, to underground and out of sight means out of mind. It’s not sexy, it’s not, you don’t want to see it. Right? You just assume 3am. I can walk into my bathroom, turn the tap and get clean drinking water. I’ll flush the toilet and it’s all taken care of?
Well, the average age of infrastructure in the US is about 75 years old. It’s underfunded, it’s under maintained. It’s underpriced in terms of the tariffs that are collected. And there’s a lot of reasons why it’s under priced that way. But that is leading to a problem. Can we maintain the level of service that we’ve experienced and been able to grow our economies and populations with this crumbling infrastructure?
Carley Hauck 36:34
And I’m wondering if you know, part of what you talk about in your your book that you authored, creating 21st century abundance through public policy innovation, moving beyond business as usual, does that pipe some of the responsibility on changing the system and structures so that we are able to actually innovate around how we’re storing water and how we’re implementing all of this?
Greg Koch 37:06
It does. And it provides some real examples of how you can even improve, not just maintain, but improve the level of water, infrastructure and service and be able to afford it. There’s several different approaches that me and my coauthor William Sarni detail in the book, but staying on the theme of infrastructure, let me give you an example that I think shows you the type of thinking. So you recall earlier I mentioned waters underpriced in most places in the United States, you pay a very small amount for water. And there’s a lot of pushback if water rates come into being or go up.
So why is that? Well, back to the beginning of this discussion, you know, water is emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s, it’s to human right? It’s inalienable. And when you bring that thinking into a municipal water system, and there’s parallels in water in nature, water and agriculture, but let’s stick in urban areas. You run into danger. It’s like if water is a human right, how can you charge me anything for it, let alone more for it, it falls from the sky. You can’t lease the rain, you can you know, it’s, Hey, come on. It’s water, human rights should be free?
Well, I’d say it’s up to governments to decide how much they want to charge customers, particularly the underprivileged, that, and I think they should solve for that. And there’s a great example of how that’s done in South Africa that we can talk about, but here’s the problem that they’re facing, they’re confusing. And therefore people are confused. Government is confusing water, the substance from water services.
So when you buy electricity, when you buy your gigabytes for your Wi Fi in your smartphone, when you buy gasoline for your car or diesel, right, you are buying a substance. You’re buying electrons, you’re buying radio waves, you’re buying gallons of gas. You can’t see them, you don’t think about them. You don’t want to see them in terms of gas might be a safety issue. You never think about, I’m buying a substance yet look at your bill, you are being paid for an amount of electrons called kilowatt hours, gigabytes of data, those are radio waves effectively electrons, you are paying for a substance. And of course you’re paying for however many gallons or liters of gas that you buy.
But you don’t think of them in that way. You think of those as services. I’m buying more lighting, security, convenience, I’m buying entertainment. I’m buying connectivity. I’m buying mobility, right? That’s how you think of those substances you buy, you think of the services that they enable.
And one of the things that we talk about in the book is that mind shift needs to happen for water. Water- the substance- at your tap is free. But who’s going to collect it, move it, treat it, pipe it chlorinated, chlorinated, and get it to your tap, and then do the opposite with your stormwater and wastewater. All that infrastructure, costs, money, takes labor, chemicals, energy, those are all services. And if you add up the true cost of all those services, your water bill should be about what your electricity bill is, yet it’s a 10th a 20th. of that. And that’s led to these infrastructure issues being underfunded, because of the confusion of the substance versus the service.
So the latest UN, IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report came out, and it’s dire. Some people are calling it the final warning to humans. It shows that a lot of the early predictions are being manifest. And that time is running out if it hasn’t already, on some drastic level of climate change, global warming and the implications that that has.
I experienced what they’re forecasting firsthand a few weeks ago at a family reunion. And most of us live in the southeast United States, I’m in Atlanta, it’s hot and humid. Others are in Sarasota, or Charlotte. And so we purposely chose a place in the mountains out west, east of Seattle, thinking we’ll be on a river, it’ll be nice and cool. Maybe sleep with the windows open at night. The lowest daytime temperature in the eight days we were there was 94. The highest was 105. And everyone says Oh, but it’s a dry heat, which it was. But that didn’t make 105 degrees any less comfortable.
Add to that for about three days, during the middle of that vacation. There was smoke in the valley that we were in from wildfires that were nearby. And that made it almost impossible to go outside. You know, we had, we’d started saying, okay, when it’s really hot, we’ll just try to do everything before noon and then just relax or float in the river or what have you. But then when you add wildfires and the smoke around that, then the air quality is such that you really you’re just inside and it’s no big bummer. Right?
And so you know if that’s climate change, and that’s going to happen more often. And for longer durations in places you wouldn’t expect. And we did not expect that they’re certainly the 105 degree heat, then that’s a cause for alarm.
So what to do. And and it’s a segue into how I help clients in this regard. So when you look at the UN report, it’s based on a lot of complicated models, and it takes a global view. And yes, that view can be disaggregated at the local level. But that’s still just a zoom in on a global model. What’s more useful to people, to communities, to companies in the different places that they operate, is saying, Okay, alright, I get global warming, but I don’t live all over the globe. I live and work or manufacture in a certain place. What do the models say is going to happen in that place?
And that’s a level of analysis that you can start with the global models, but you have to do a lot of sophisticated calculations and modeling to try to determine what the boundary of the local area that you’re looking at is, how it’s being influenced by these global changes, to try to come up with a forecast of what is this valley? or What is this community? or What is this region, at a local level going to face? That’s much more useful to people, you know, if you were planning for water supplies, or droughts or increased heat, then knowing that, you know, the world might warm 1.5 to 4.5, or greater degrees centigrade, really doesn’t help you particularly if you think in Fahrenheit most Americans do.
But so that’s the global average, what does it mean for me, in Asheville, or Atlanta, or Seattle. And so that’s part of what we do that we find is very helpful to clients because it gives them that local view. And then they can share that information with others, which we encourage, to say, look, we’re all going to face this situation, what can we do collectively?
Carley Hauck 46:19
Now, I also appreciate you sharing that I don’t recall if I shared this with you. But it might have been one of our previous conversations in March of 2019. I went through Al Gore’s Climate Reality leadership training, and he does a few of them a year all over the world. And he picks regional, you know, in geographic areas, and my training happened to be in Atlanta. So he was very much focused on bringing in speakers that could speak to what was happening in this, you know, southeast area, and how flooding is going to happen here. And this is going to happen here based on all of the science and even though at the time, I lived in California, I was still part of that cohort of 1200 folks, and because I grew up in Florida and have family in Florida, it was helpful. And it was helpful regardless.
But I think, to your point, you know, how does this affect me, right? Because most people are very self motivated, versus some of us that are more altruistically motivated, but at the same time, you can hold both. And so I feel curious, in your work, how are you supporting clients? And what’s a typical client that you might serve? Because I know your area is water stewardship?
Greg Koch 47:47
Well, it’s water and climate. Yeah. And so one of the ways we help clients is translating those global models and projected impacts of climate change to the local level. My clients are typically larger, multinational companies, a lot of them are in the consumer goods, business, or industry. So Procter and Gamble, Unilever, companies like that, but I also have clients in the oil and gas sector in the renewable energy sector. You know, really wide pharmaceuticals, really a wide area.
And so when it comes to climate change, the first place we can help them is having a granular understanding of what’s going to happen, where they’re located. And that’s usually multiple locations in terms of their manufacturing plants. So okay, here’s global climate change what’s happening in these 20 or 30 places that leads to more meaningful responses on their part,
to prepare themselves for the coming change.
Now, you say, Well, what are they doing to prevent the change? And there are a lot of clients, a lot of companies in general around the world are setting targets to reduce their emissions. That fuel they directly burn on site or in their vehicles for their say distribution fleet. They’re trying to reduce emissions in the electricity and energy they purchase, trying to buy from renewable sources of energy versus fossil fuels-
Or to do carbon offsets or to really know how effective that is in the long term would be better if we weren’t emitting emissions anyway, right?
Yeah, my feeling on carbon offsets if they are, quote unquote, gold standard, then yeah, carbon. The carbon footprint of the world is being reduced but that reduction might happen on the other side of the planet.
And I heard a quote, an analogy that I like, it’s like buying a carbon offset credit is like, going for a run in Atlanta and having somebody in Iowa take a shower for you. Right? I think it can help, but it kind of excuses what you’re doing.and puts it on somewhere else. At some point there aren’t going to be any more carbon credits, and people are going to need to actually reduce their own emissions.
Carley Hauck 50:36
I love that. You just said that. Thank you.
Greg Koch 50:46
Yeah. Now, company setting goals is expected, is welcome. I help clients do that. But I first asked them, ‘What are they doing to advocate for government change?’ Because, you know, the UN report for climate change, rightly belongs there, this is global warming, global climate change, and the scale of the globe’s climate isn’t going to be solved by any number of corporations making reductions in their emissions. That’s good. That’s welcome. That’ll help. But you’re going to need government, governments, global governments, the UN and individual governments at the state, federal, local, you name it level, to make some tough decisions about changing the way we produce and use energy.
And they can incentivize that which they have with subsidies for solar and wind power, they could tax it in terms of a carbon tax and a trading scheme, which exists in many parts of the world. Fossil fuels, and that’s gonna be extinguished. But the point is, you know, be while you set, you know, I tell clients, while you set goals for your own business, how are you using your voice? Right, you know, that that’s your footprint? What about your blueprint? Right, what are you doing, to advocate for the right policies?
And I find a lot of clients actually welcome that right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty. You know, let’s take the United States, for instance, is the Biden administration going to come up with a carbon tax? Or are they not? And if they do, which industries would be subject to it? And how much would that tax be? Is it enough to mitigate climate change, so on and so on, that’s a lot of uncertainty, that you can sit around and wait to resolve itself.
You can advocate for that change, right? In fact, a lot of businesses say, look, I wish you just to remove the uncertainty and say we’re going to tax carbon at $25 a ton, starting in 2025. And it’ll be a level playing field, people can incorporate the change that’s necessary and embedded into their business model. And yes, costs get passed on. But it removes the uncertainty because what you’re left with now, is largely a altruistic fear, or investor driven push for companies to set these targets, you know, for a company to say, Look, I’m gonna get off the grid and produce all my energy by solar wind, some renewable form, fine, it can be done, and some have done it.
But it’s almost impossible to ever recover those costs.
So they’re doing it because of fear of climate change, of reputation of investor pressure, maybe other stakeholder pressure. That’s great. But that’s right off their bottom line. And so, you know, I always ask them to have my clients and we thought about advocating, you know, whether you do it yourself or you do it through a trade association for your industry, or at some level to say, this is a problem, climate change, we want a solution. And us setting our own little goals will only get the world so far. So that’s really how I advise clients on climate change.
Carley Hauck 54:42
Thank you. I don’t know if you can speak you know, to this specifically, because I’m sure there’s a confidentiality clause but you mentioned that one of your companies that you’ve supported as you knew every multinational company, and they’re known as a company that really is more aligned with ESGs, you know, environmental, social governance and and creating more of those commitments and I’m seeing, and I’m grateful to see this shift is that companies that are making, you know, millions, billions of dollars like Salesforce, Amazon, they’re giving a certain amount of their profits towards, for example, climate change I believe in.
I wrote this in my book, January 2020. Bezos at that time, this was right before the pandemic awarded $10 billion towards climate change now, how that is being distributed, how it’s being regulated? Who knows, where’s it going? You know, since then Amazon has done incredibly well, in the last year and a half. And so I haven’t seen the targets, but I know that there are more checks being written. And so you said to advocate for government, but if government, you know, isn’t cutting that money, or isn’t making those changes, I do think that there is a responsibility and an opportunity for business to be a force for good, and to utilize their voice, their influence, because a lot of government officials, you know, tend to be elected through money that might, you know, lobbying that might be coming from businesses. And so I think it’s kind of all combined. What do you think about that? Your perspective?
Greg Koch 56:38
You have to appreciate the scale of government versus the scale of business. Right? So
a lot of people might say, well, businesses should just bite the bullet and donate half of their profits or 100% of their profits to some cause. Let’s say that’s climate change, since that’s the most pressing crisis we’re facing.
Now, when you look at the scale of business versus government, it is not apples and oranges. It’s apples and hammers, the scale of government is in the trillions and 10s of trillions of dollars, the scale of business is in the billions of dollars. And there’s a big difference between a billion and those three more zeros to get to a trillion. In the book I co authored, I took the top 1000 corporations in the world and their annual profits for the year that I analyzed, and said, Okay, how much is that profits? That was about $800 billion. So almost a trillion dollars. And so if the top 1000 corporations gave away all of their profits, 100% for 10 years, what do you have, and I equated it to the problem in the world around safe drinking water access.
And that amount of money. You know, there’s a lot of people in the world who don’t have affordable, reliable access to safe drinking water in their homes, all over the world, including in Georgia, and North Carolina, and, of course, many parts of the developing world. So that’s a goal within the Sustainable Development Goals. There’s a goal number six, which is all things related to water, and a sub goal within SDG. Six is safe drinking water, that amount of money over 10 years is enough to solve just that sub goal. Right. So that calls for the top 1000 corporations in the world to take 100% of their profits for 10 years, which is kind of unrealistic. But even if they did that, that only solves part of one of 17 SDG goals. So to say that companies ought to donate more.
You can say that, but if they donated everything, it wouldn’t be nearly enough because the scale of government is so much bigger.
I mean, just take the United States, for instance, Congress now is debating and probably will soon pass a five and a half trillion dollar budget, excess budget, to do all the things they want to do, including parts of the New Clean deal and things like that. That would be all of corporations for five years and all their profits just to come up with that but governments have that scale. And so it doesn’t excuse philanthropy and direct corporate action. But it’s sort of a red herring to say, well, business should do more.
There’s only so much they can do. And if they gave away all their profits, and they all became charities, it’s nowhere near enough money to solve the problem. So that’s why I say, do what you can give what you can as a corporation, but also use your voice to advocate government to make the tough decisions that are needed.
Carley Hauck 1:00:30
That’s really wonderful. It’s a three fold action sequence, just to summarize what you said. So it’s advising businesses to bring climate change into their operations? How can they lower their carbon emissions? How can they really reduce them, not just have offsets? How then do we also take some of our profits, and really align with social and environmental responsibility in giving to maybe help with some of the sub goals of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, because I think, again, more is better than none. But then to really advocate for the government, and to, you know, put some pressure on some to hold some accountability for the government to do the wise and good thing for all.
And not to get into politics very much at all. But you know, our last president denied climate change. So we are behind the mark on a bigger level. And, you know, we we have some, I think, very important shifts and changes that we need to make right now, you know, in the next couple years, there is urgency, because if we are to reduce our emissions by 50%, in 10 years, which is what they’re forecasting, so that we have a chance for humanity to not have this horrible suffering, like you were experiencing just a small bit on the west coast.
When we had our first conversation, several weeks ago, I was in Bend, Oregon, I was there for six weeks. And the entire time that I was there, it was 93 to 108. And I have, I felt like I was baking from the inside out. Bend is a beautiful place. But I really couldn’t enjoy it because I was so tired. And so exhausted every day. So it’s, yeah, it’s real.
And, and then I’m back here and, you know, and outside of Asheville, which is kind of a temperate rainforest, and it feels like a jungle. And they’re just such different climates. And this is a bubble. Like I’m very aware most of our country does not look like where I am. But that’s why I landed here. From the fires of the Bay Area 10 months ago. Yeah. So anyway, long, longer tangent there.
But let’s talk a little bit more about water, if you’re open to that. And also thank you for the book that you wrote. It sounds like a really wonderful contribution. I have not read it yet. But we will be sure to leave a link in the show notes for people that want to learn more about that. It sounds like such a huge undertaking to be able to analyze and understand what’s really happening.
Greg Koch 1:03:38
Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, so water. As we’ve chatted already, water is under a lot of stress, and that stress is growing independent of climate change. Right? So you can argue about climate change all you want. Flint, Michigan, and those problems with lead and drinking water had nothing to do with climate change. Right? The lack of safe drinking water to almost 4 billion people around the world has nothing to do with climate change, right?
So there are water quality problems, lack of infrastructure, water scarcity, droughts, floods, storms, all of these things exist today. And climate change is making them more unpredictable, more intense, and and have greater duration. And so water, right you know, climate change is a shark has been often said than water is its teeth. So there’s a lot of reasons for business. And therefore my work with my clients to look at water, in conjunction with or even independent of climate change, which is more of a sort of a future type planning but even today, there are problems.
Now, what I find is that most businesses in the clients I work with, but even in general, they do a really good job of managing water in the four walls of, say the factory, right. So they bring it in, they pay for that. They use it efficiently, they look for ways to reuse it. They treat their wastewater before they discharge it, and they manage stormwater that falls on their property, right? And that’s table stakes, they should do that. And they need to always do that. independent of regulations. And by and large business does a good job with that.
Where I come in, is where we see that clients are exposed to more water stress in the watershed, and communities that they’re a part of, we help them analyze that water stress and determine what impacts that could have on them. And that’s a big aha, for a lot of clients, because it puts them in two mindsets, and that’s always my goal. And when I achieve it with a client, I feel really good because I know some really good things are gonna happen in that community and watershed.
One, you have to get them to truly appreciate that water is a shared resource. They are sharing that water, with their neighbors, with nature, with other industries, even their competitors, of course, with people all around them wherever they’re located. Right, it’s not their water. It’s not someone else’s water independent habit, our government may or may not sort of manage it, but water is shared. And so when you recognize that water is shared, that means if it’s under stress, you’re going to have to work with those with whom you share that water, in partnership to address issues, right. So one leads to the other.
The other big aha, I aim for clients to achieve is to understand that water is transient, right? It’s you know, get some water and put it in a bucket and put it in your room and say I own that five gallons of water. Well, good luck. If you do nothing, and you never tip it over and a dog doesn’t come in and drink it, it’ll eventually all evaporate, right?
Water is heavy, water likes to move, water is in a continuous cycle. And you know, that’s a, that’s a very easy but illustrative example to say, you don’t really own water, it’s transient, right? It’s going to come into your home, your body, your factory, your ecosystem and move on somewhere else. And so what that leads to, along with this shared concept is the concept of stewardship.
Alright, so stewardship is defined as taking care of something for a period of time. So a shepherd stewards the flock of sheep, for instance, right? Shepherd may own the sheep or not, but they’ll move on eventually into something wool or die of old age or, you know, other things. So it’s a good analogy, because it says, Okay, I have to take care of this water. And it’s water that I share. So you get these two concepts. I’m sharing this, and I have to steward it while it’s in my control at some level.
And when you achieve those two mindset changes, I find that it’s very powerful for companies to then say, Okay, well, I know what water stress issues I’m facing. And I know how to solve them at the end of the pipe and my four walls, but that’s not going to solve the problem. I’ll have to continue throwing money at it. The problem is still getting worse. It’s impacting my employees and where they live in that community. It’s impacting maybe my customers, maybe my suppliers. It’s impacting my neighbors, people that share this water with me. So, yes, I ought to do things in my own control. But since I’m a steward who shares that water, I seek partnerships, the local government and local community, NGOs, peers, even competitors And that’s the big aha. And it leads to some really exciting types of projects and partnerships.
Carley Hauck 1:10:09
Great. Let’s bring it to the consumer and the individual. Because a lot of folks, you know, might be really looking at water like what’s happening with the water in my community, how is it being treated? Are the rivers or the lakes if I have those nearby? Are they even safe to swim in? I don’t know if you do any advising around that, but I’ll just give a personal example.
So when I was living in Bend, there is a river called the Deschutes that goes through the river, or sorry, goes through the town. And everybody’s in it. They’re kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. It’s a huge part of the culture there, even though it’s very hot and dry people are in the water, especially in the summer, and the waters are clean. You know, it’s coming from glaciers, it’s cold. But then where I live now, outside of Asheville, the French Broad River is another river that goes through the town of Asheville, and everybody tells me don’t swim in that river. You can fall in it, but then get out, don’t swim in it, I think. Why is this river so polluted? Why is there not a responsibility to clean it up? And so me being a person that wants to be a good steward of the water for however long I’m here, I’ve been thinking, Okay, so how can I use my voice? How can I speak up about things that matter to me that will benefit the whole? And why is this not being cared for? I am wondering if you could just support me as an individual, and how that might translate to others because this is my, you know, geographic area, right, going back to the beginning of our conversation.
Greg Koch 1:12:00
So you’ve touched on one of the biggest problems not with water, not just in the United States, but around the world. But the United States is a great example. Because when you look at water quality, right, there’s three things that are impacting it. And two of them have been largely solved. And the big challenge is that third one. Okay.
So starting with the Clean Water Act in 1972, created by the EPA. Before that, businesses weren’t required to treat their wastewater and municipalities weren’t required to treat their wastewater and you had things like Love Canal, your listeners can Google that. You had rivers catching on? Love Canal, yeah, Google Love Canal, okay. Google, Pittsburg Rivers on fire. I mean, basically, you had raw industrial effluent being discharged into the environment and raw sewage being discharged by cities.
The Clean Water Act came along, and over a period of a few decades. Now, there are strict regulations in place with very strict enforcement. Nothing’s perfect. But businesses have to have an industrial wastewater discharge permit that is heavily regulated, they have to treat their water to a certain level before they discharge it to the sewer. And if they go directly into the environment, it’s a whole different ball of wax with a lot more control.
So by and large, industrial, chemical, wastewater, is being treated. Similarly. Communities, from Chicago to Asheville to tiny communities around the world, now all have to fully treat their wastewater before it’s discharged into the environment. So why do we still have polluted rivers? One is, neither of those are perfect. But it should still be swimmable if that’s all that was going in there.
So it comes to the third. And the concept is called non Point Source runoff. A good example of non Point Source meaning a point would be here’s the municipal sewage treatment, that’s a point or here’s a factory and there’s their discharge. pipe. That’s a point, a non point. A good example is a parking lot. Right, you got a parking lot in front of a grocery store and a lot of people’s cars drip a little bit of oil or whatever it is, and then the rain comes and that rain picks up those contaminants and contaminates the water. So that is a source of contamination.
But the biggest one, which is also non-point, is farming. Farms do not need to treat water that leaves their site, whether it leaves a storm water, or it infiltrates into groundwater. Now, farming, agriculture uses 70-75% of the world’s water. And they’re applying fertilizers, they’re applying pesticides and fungicides. And to the extent those aren’t fully incorporated into the biomass of the plant, which most cases they’re not, then you’re going to have run off with those agro chemicals. And that causes a lot of problems in water quality.
Carley Hauck 1:15:58
And so that’s one of the horrible parts of the animal agriculture system, which you and I were talking about before we hit record, but you know, that’s a huge, Oh, what’s the word I want to use? I mean, it’s definitely adding to the warming of the planet just based on all of the practices and the carbon that’s coming from the animals. And that would be a whole nother conversation.
Greg Koch 1:16:28
It would, but it’s not just animals. I mean, it’s it’s row crops. It’s corn, its wheat, its peas, its carrots, it’s Yeah, you exacerbate that? Particularly when it gets concentrated? You know, you’re part of mono cropping? Yeah, mono cropping. But in North Carolina, you know, there’s a lot of concentrated livestock. So chicken farms, hog farms, right, that are, you know, I could argue their point sources right here, the 10 acre plot of land that has 5000 pigs on it, and it discharges its wastewater I mean, if that’s not a point source, then then what is? The same with, you know, chicken, you know, chicken farms in the long rows of chicken houses, and, you know, they have waste coming out of those. And so, so yeah, you, you, you exacerbate the water pollution. And you have climate issues when you talk about livestock and meat in general. But agriculture at large is a huge source of water quality problems, and it’s almost completely unregulated.
Carley Hauck 1:17:45
Wow. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. So I want to pull it back to the climate report, and I’m tracking all of our conversations. So I’m gonna summarize it kind of in as skillful of a bundle as I can, so that listeners can actually really understand how they might want to take action with all this wonderful information you’re giving.
When we look at this massive climate report, the sixth one, you know, as you said, it’s really talking about what’s happening globally. But there are maps that are being shown of how it’s going to impact you know, the West Coast versus the East Coast. And most of my listeners of the podcast are in the United States, but they’re also in other countries. But just for the purposes of the dominant listeners, what could you forecast regarding drought and water from the west coast to the east coast. In our last conversation, we were talking about how California is actually getting their water from other states. But we know that California is really running out of water, but they have such a massive population. So based on the geography of the climate maps right now. What do you think is going to be happening in the next few years from the west coast to the east coast? I mean, the East Coast is getting more water from these hurricanes and storms and the West Coast, at least from what I can tell, is having more drought and fires but I would love if you can break it down even more and where is a safe place? You know? Or maybe maybe not safe, climate resilient, right? Where is more climate resilient? And how do we support more climate resiliency, in the places that we are?
Greg Koch 1:19:52
Well, let me say that, that second part, how do we support climate resilience, where we are is what we should all be focused on. I don’t think the time now is. Where’s that place in northern Canada? We can all go running because you’re right that that’s a bit alarmist and I’m not going to advocate for that.
But so yeah, call your congressperson, call your senator and say, I want action on climate change, I want it for myself, I want it for my grandchildren, etc, etc. Reduce your own carbon footprint in in ways that are meaningful. Encourage your friends and families to do that. But use your voice and use your vote. Some of the more powerful dollars, no shop with your products, right? Yep. right about that a lot on the podcast. So let’s look, West Coast, East Coast, and what is forecasted? I’ll just give one example from each coast, right?
Yes, you see droughts, you see wildfires, which have always happened and will continue to happen but are anticipated to to be more frequent and last longer and be more intense. But the big, forecasted change in the West Coast. That doesn’t get a lot of press but it is. To me, one of the biggest problems is precipitation. Much of the west coast from the Rockies West, regardless of what state you’re in, get their water from snow and ice that falls on the Sierra Nevada or the Cascades or the Rockies. It’s all part of the Rockies, the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. What have you.
And so snow and ice fall and you’ve got a nice snowpack that’s actually measured, and then it melts slowly over spring and summer. And feeds downstream communities from San Diego to Seattle. Okay. Large generalization but pretty accurate. So that snow and ice pack is a reservoir. Think of it as a lake, right? And the temperature is the dam. Right? Because it’s still frozen. And then it slowly melts and on it comes like Deschutes river and bend oregon. That’s snow and ice melt.
Right? It’s snow melt.
So what if and this is what’s forecasted? You actually get more precipitation in the winter. But because it’s warmer, that precipitation comes as rain and not snow. Right?
Right. So what’s gonna happen to the rain, it’s not going to wait till summer, it’s going to go downhill. And there’s nowhere to store it. There’s not enough places to store it. So it just ultimately will run off eventually, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. And that’s a huge problem. And in fact, if you read the UN Climate report that we talked about earlier, and this got picked up in the press, it rained for the first time in recorded history at the highest glacier in Greenland. Right? So Greenland’s got this huge snow ice pack. Right. And so more and more snow. It rained up there.
Right versus snow. And so think about that in the Sierra Nevada. I mean, forget about skiing and stuff. We’re talking about as you’re losing that reservoir, and all that water goes off. Now, even if you don’t have a drought, there’s just no water coming from the mountainside. And so even if the temperatures were cooler, it does, where’s the water? It was supposed to be fed to us over the spring and summer. Right.
On the east coast. I think one of the biggest near term sort of 10 year problems is storms and storm surges. And probably the best place to see that in action today, as we speak, is Miami Beach. Right. But you could extend that to Galveston, Texas to New Orleans to Biloxi you know, really the whole Gulf Coast and up the eastern seaboard. So there’s been a small sort of millimeter year sea level rise, but that coupled with increased intensity of storms, and yes, their frequency. And, you know, coastlines that have been denuded of, of natural defenses, dunes, mangroves, things like that. So there’s nothing to buffer that storm surge. So what you’re seeing, particularly when there’s a high tide is that you get all this flooding coming in. And Miami Beach has invested billions and pipes and pumps to try to manage storms and high tide so that the whole place doesn’t get flooded. But there’s only so much they can do. Well, not a place I would be investing to go live.
Carley Hauck 1:25:25
Yeah, I appreciate you sharing that. You know, one of the things that I was paying attention to when I was out West was just how climate and the environment is being impacted by all the changes. I was just really watching because it’s something that I’m always paying attention to and care about. And I was in San Diego for about two weeks really to escape the heat of Bend. I just needed a place to rejuvenate. And I was noticing how close the water line was to the cliffs and we’re all these million dollar homes and Encinitas and Solana beach, and they’re Cardiff beach, which is just below Encinitas is a beautiful area, I’d never spend any time there.
But the tide and the, you know, the sand beach was just such a small piece of land, there were restaurants, that I mean, honestly, Greg, were maybe only 50 feet away from the tide coming in. And I thought, these restaurants aren’t going to be able to be here for maybe even another year. I think they’re just gonna, I mean, they literally had rocks right in front of the restaurant windows. And, you know, years ago, that was a beautiful location. But now, the ocean is right where people are eating, and there’s no, you know, there’s no high rise to. So it’s just interesting to watch how it’s going to impact all those properties and those homes. Yeah, we can’t stop the oceans, especially as you’re sharing, you know, the water continues to rise because glaciers are melting. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that.
So you had said at the beginning, it’s knowable, it’s solvable, and it’s Did you say approachable, Was that it? Affordable? Yeah. So when we think about, we have all these dire needs, right? Like, what, like we’re seeing the drought, we’re seeing that we can’t really keep putting our head in the sand. And when we look at the bigger context of, you know, climate change, why is getting agreement on climate change, in your perspective, so challenging? Or we can even take a fraction of that? Why is getting agreement on how we’re going to allocate water? I mean, not being a water, you know, specialist in the sense that you are, I mean, it makes sense to me that if we’re getting an overabundance of water from storms, how do we store it? How do we allocate it and then send it to the states that don’t have enough water? Right, where, and I know that if Carley had a magic wand, poof, you know, I know that that’s easier said than done. But why is it hard to get that agreement to do the right thing?
Carley Hauck 1:28:22
Yeah, well, probably the best lesson for that, because water gets complicated, because it’s so local. And it’s there’s so many different factors. But let’s look at climate change, it shows an example of why it’s so hard. And then recognize that if that’s that hard, water being spiritual, emotional, all these things visceral positive, make it even harder.
So why hasn’t the world with all the treaties and promises and pledges actually, even slowed climate change? Even with COVID carbon emissions went up, greenhouse gas emissions went up? You think, Well, everyone was staying home and quarantined it still might not. And with all the pledges and things the great things have been done, we’re nowhere near reining in greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change. So why is that?
Well, ultimately, it’s because we haven’t invested enough. Right, we’re being humankind. So governments haven’t enacted policies and or made investments anywhere near the scale and the speed at what’s needed. So why not?
Well, well, politically hard to do, it’s going to cost a lot of money, it could change how we how society functions, in some ways in terms of mobility, you know, so, okay, well, well, why? I mean, the models are telling us, climate change is dire. You know, you’re you Got heat and fires, you got floods and Katrina is and and all that’s supposed to get worse. So yeah, it’s gonna be hard. And now it’s going to cost a lot of money. But why haven’t we done that then if you believe all that science And to me, that’s exactly it.
I think that the climate change community left a lot of things on the table, and we could talk about what they left on the table, but what is presented to you as climate change is, here is all this very complex data and modeling. Okay. And you got consensus, you’ve got reviews, you’ve got governments, but at the end of the day, this is data, and models. And if you believe it, then you ought to act and do all these things. Otherwise, all these dire consequences are going to happen. If you doubt it, even in the slightest. And what I mean is not to doubt it fundamentally, the climate is still changing. But if you doubt, how fast I need to act, who needs to go first, what part of what industry sector needs to go first? If you doubt any of that, then it’s human nature to say, I’m going to wait. Right? So think about it. This data, which nobody understands, except, you know, a few 1000 people can really understand it.
Carley Hauck 1:31:35
And I might also add that for the last four years before we currently had who we have, you know, in, in the White House, there was a lot of denial around what was happening. So that just created a lot of stickiness around how are we going to move forward to solve this.
Greg Koch 1:31:53
But you know, politics aside, doubt, doubt is a much milder form of denial. Right? It’s like, I’m agnostic, versus I’m atheist, right? It’s like, I don’t believe in God verses I’m not quite sure I’ve got a lot of questions, right? So let’s take the doubters versus the deniers and try to unpack why that doubt may exist. Because if there is no doubt, then everyone’s ready to change their lifestyle, pay the money, pay the carbon tax, and we could solve this.
Yeah. Well, the world humankind, we don’t have a history with carbon, or greenhouse gases, and climate change and IPCC models, right? All of this has come into being really since the mid 80s, late 80s, forward, right, we’ve got a long history and understanding of disease, of water challenges of capitalism versus communism of religion, you know, all the other topics that stress us education, healthcare systems, have been around and been debated, and are understood throughout society, at varying levels. And I’m not saying we’ve solved all those problems. But there’s a long human history of those.
So now, all of a sudden, all of a sudden, in terms of human civilization, in the last 40 years, this very complex data field comes out with all these very complex models that, by their own admission, have a large margin of error, and there’s uncertainty in them. But we don’t have a history of that. Now, that’ll look different for our children and grandchildren and beyond. But right now we don’t. And so you either accept all of that at face value, and you’re running out the door, and you’re making changes. Today, you’re calling your senator, you’re calling your Congresswoman every day because I believe this wholeheartedly, and I want the planet to survive. Well, that’s not happening.
So why don’t we say we want humanity to survive? Because I think the plan is going to keep going, No, the planet, it’s going to keep going.
Yeah, the planet as we use it, right? Because if there’s any doubt, and to me, it is not surprising, because what do you have to believe you have to believe something you cannot understand? It’s so complex, those models would, you know, take terabytes of information to run they’re super super complex, they have uncertainty in them, and you’re told to look at it, there’s nothing to look at, except to report and then completely change your lifestyle. Right. And, and or,
And there is discomfort in the change. No one likes that.
Right. So. So what did they leave on the table? I was gonna ask you. Yeah, and I think there’s still room to bring some of these topics into the discussion that can support the positive change that’s needed around climate change. And maybe even for some people, a much stronger motivator to act than the doom and gloom of climate change, right. And they’re not hard to think of but no one’s ever brought them to the table in a cohesive way, and built a political slash human slash business case around them. And I think if you looked at all of those, you would find believers, non deniers, non doubters on all of those.
So one is air pollution. Fossil fuels create air pollution, which causes or contributes to land pollution causes, health issues, aesthetic issues, right? So smog, and air pollution, which can also contribute to water pollution. I want cleaner air to breathe, it’s gonna be hard to find someone say, I don’t believe in clean air. I don’t want clean air, you can argue about how much but clean air is one for some you could put in the dependence on foreign oil and all the conflict that that that causes and foreign means different things depending on where you are in the world. But I think we can all agree that there’s been a lot of wars, there’s been a lot of strife in the battle for the paying in the moving in the defence of fossil fuel reserves around the world. Right? So Well, I can reduce that. Because if I’m going to create something renewable, it’s going to have to be local job creation. Right.
And I know people have talked about these things like green jobs, but no one’s ever put them together in a package to say, Here is why you should look at all these actions and the reasons for doing them. One of them just happened to be climate change.
Carley Hauck 1:37:12
clean air, fossil fuels, and clean jobs. And when we look at, when we look at you know, Biden’s plan for the American jobs bill, he doesn’t necessarily use the words climate change. But there’s a mass focus on electrification, electric charging stations, you know, solar wind, a massive effort trying to put the infrastructure in for that more clean energy, and that will ultimately create more jobs.
Greg Koch 1:37:48
Yeah, you would hope it all comes together like that, but But what I’m saying is you have to give people more than very complex science and modeling, to get them to change,
right to create right now. That that’s all you’ve got. It’s, it’s almost akin to, I’m not trying to be controversial here, but almost akin to, say, a religion, it’s like, you know, here’s my Bible, my Torah, my Quran, my what have you, and it’s all just words, right? And you need to read this and believe it, and then you will do all these things. Right?
That’s hard to do. It’s hard to create and maintain and grow a religion. Okay, we’ve got four or five that are really big, and they’ve been around a long time. Well, here comes climate change, you know, really 30-40 years ago, and it’s very complicated information, lots of data, lots of science, and it’s like, believe it, you’re not gonna be able to read it. Even if you could read it, you can’t understand it, talking about Joe public including me. And so just trust me, this computer is telling me, you need to do all these different things that are going to cost money, change the way that you live your life, what you eat, how you move around, what have you. It’s a big ask. It’s a really big ask.
And I think it proves my observation which is that we’ve really done hardly anything to combat climate change. A lot of people give China a lot of credit, they just opened the world’s largest carbon trading market. It’s been a lot of news, right? Like, wow, that they’re leading the way they’re going to trade carbon credits all over China and open the world up to that. Well, everyone sort of forgets the fact that over the last 25 years, they built 5000 coal fired power plants. Right. So now that they’ve got all this coal fired infrastructure in place now they can start talking about carbon trading, well, they’re gonna have plenty of carbon to trade because they were building effectively one carbon or coal fired power plant a day for decades.
Carley Hauck 1:40:00
Well, and even if we look at offshore wind, we hardly have any, you know, in the United States, but there’s a lot in Europe because they were creating that infrastructure for a long period of time, and there’s gonna be more banned offshore than onshore. So, but we have to start creating, you know, those systems.
And one thing that I focus on, as in my book is, you know, my book, I was really motivated to write it because of climate change, and really highlighting leaders and businesses that we’re trying to solve for a portion of some of these larger social and environmental problems. And I highlighted three different leaders and businesses that have been part of changing the food supply, and creating more plant-based, more clean, neat technologies. Because we know if we’re eating a more plant based diet, then we’re not depleting forests, we’re not adding to more livestock farms, which are adding more carbon in the atmosphere. And it’s mitigating climate change. And so I think what’s exciting to see just, this is another portion that we are seeing major shifts in the food, you know, system and supply industry. And that’s just creating a whole new product line of, you know, fake beef and seafood and you know, things that taste really good that people, I hope we’re gonna start using and buying and eating more and more and more so that we can have these old systems of eating animals for food. Yeah, where it’s hospice out.
Greg Koch 1:41:50
Yeah. I love that phrase hospice out. My daughter is a vegan, and I fell into the same trap. A lot of people do when they learn someone’s a vegetarian, or, in her case, a vegan. And I said, Well, how are you going to get enough protein? Right? That’s what you hear all the time? It’s like, oh, you’re a vegetarian? How do you get enough protein? And, boy, my eyes are open, all protein starts in plants, right? The only way a cow has any protein is because it ate plants that have protein in it. Right, so all protein is plant based. And it happens to be in meat, because that meat, fish, whatever cow chicken ate a plant with protein. And so it’s this false narrative around, well, I can’t get enough protein. And it’s like, well, that’s the only place you can get it as plants, you just happen to be using a hamburger from a cow that ate some protein did didn’t make any protein. So education is a big part of that.
But you hit the nail on the head and that agriculture. And I use it with a capital A to mean agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, fisheries, and of course, livestock. There are more people in the world employed by agriculture, most of the land by far in the world that’s developed is developed for agriculture, which requires a lot of water. 70% of the freshwater used in the world by humans is used by agriculture.
And I don’t have the numbers in front of me. But when you look at the cumulative carbon footprint of the food supply, some of which is unavoidable, you’re gonna have a carbon footprint of a head of lettuce. But when you look at the fertilizer production, and then you look at how much of that fertilizer is used to grow animal feed. And then of course, the animals that we eat, I mean, agriculture has the biggest impact on the planet. You know, in a holistic sense, right? More people, more land, more water, and a bunch of carbon, I’d say the majority of the water pollution in the world is from agricultural runoff.
So getting agriculture right is a great step forward in addressing climate change, but also water quality, water quantity and personal health issues. And it’s a great circle back to my point, which I know is controversial, that climate change isn’t the biggest problem. But let’s say we solve climate change and a climate change solution could come in this innovative technology that captures carbon from the air and stores it in some way, right? It’s called carbon secrets.
Carley Hauck 1:44:52
It’s also multifaceted, right? There’s, I think there’s so many solutions that are all integrated to solving that as you’ve already spoken about the Nexus so to speak.
Greg Koch 1:45:03
Yeah, but let’s say you solve climate change with this fancy technology that you can put in space, and it just sucks the carbon out or whatever, you’re still gonna have all these problems with water quality and agriculture and human health and resource scarcity. It doesn’t solve any of those problems, which existed before we crashed, that we live in a changing climate that we’re causing, are getting worse, even independent of climate change. And we’ll continue to do so even if we solve climate change.
And so, you know, a climate change discussion sucks the air out of the room, right? And everyone’s like, how do we solve climate change? And I welcome that, and that’s needed. But we better be thinking about solutions that address some of these other issues at the same time.
Carley Hauck 1:45:53
Well, I feel like I could do, like 10 different conversations with you. I have learned so much, I really care about this topic. And in our last few minutes together, I feel really curious about what would be a call to action that you could share with listeners on what they might be able to do locally around water scarcity, if that’s something that they are concerned about and care about.
Greg Koch 1:46:24
Right. So at the household level, you should try to be as efficient with your water use as possible. Even if you’re not facing water scarcity, you might have abundant water supplies, such as you have in North Carolina, and it may be cheap. But water delivered to your house takes energy. And so when you use water, you’re using energy. And therefore, you’re having carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. Right. So in addition to helping protect the supplies you have, you’re saving money on your water bill, you’re also lowering your carbon footprint.
So the EPA, and there’s plenty of websites that talk about the simple things that you can do at home to become more water efficient. I mean, it’s the obvious things of don’t run the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, you know, run only a full dishwasher load and a full clothes washer load instead of partial loads. There’s more advanced things that you could do, like capturing rainwater in a bucket and using that to water your outdoor plants or a small garden that you might have. There’s a lot of things that you can do in your home.
I’d say the next thing to do is think about how you’re polluting water. And I’m not talking about the bathroom. I’m talking about the chemicals that you put in your yard, the things you do in your driveway.
Carley Hauck 1:48:03
Or even the products you’re choosing to buy that are not actually environmentally friendly. Like from your shampoo to your dishwashing liquid, like really look at the labels.
Greg Koch 1:48:12
Yeah, look at the labels. And that’s, all of those are easy things you can do to start small. To save some money, to feel better about yourself. And then I guarantee you, if you just Google, watershed conservation, or waterkeepers, river keepers, you’ll find an NGO community based organization, somewhere near your home that you can engage in support, and maybe it’s a voice of support, maybe it’s some of your time. Maybe it’s maybe it’s a small donation that you can make, but I haven’t found a place where there isn’t some community based organization that’s active.
And then of course, on any topic, but particularly water. You know, call your representative, at whatever level you feel comfortable. And shout out for water. Hmm.
Carley Hauck 1:49:07
Greg, thank you so much. Thank you for doing the work that you’re doing in the world. And I imagine I’m gonna want to have you back. Okay. Yeah. Lots of knowledge. Thank you for your service. And if there’s anything that you’d like to leave our listeners with, or a way that they can contact you or get in touch, what would you like to leave them with?
Greg Koch 1:49:28
Oh, yeah, I’d be happy to connect with anyone. I am very open to meeting new people. Probably the easiest way to connect with me is through LinkedIn. And under contact information, you’ll see my email address, I don’t hide it and shoot me an email and I’m happy to connect. Thank you.
Carley Hauck 1:49:56
Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, Greg, for your leadership and your passion for water. stewardship. For those of you that want to learn more and be connected with Greg, his LinkedIn handle is in the show notes.
And as a way to take individual and business responsibility around being a water steward. These are some things that you can do. Get to know the issues affecting water in your area, utilities, quality flooding, endangered species, invasive species. Understand what your government is doing locally and let them know your thoughts. Personally, I am going to see how I can be a water steward in my local community by volunteering or even joining the board. As I shared earlier, one of the rivers that runs through the town of Asheville, which is close to where I live, is quite polluted. And I’m sure that there are river keepers. But there are probably other ways to move the needle towards more clean water for all.
Additionally, while there is maybe more water on the east coast and less water on the west coast, Greg was advising that we need to solve water supply issues where they are and with the water that is present in those demographic areas. He was mentioning to me and a side conversation that Israel is a great example, it’s a desert, yet they have made smart decisions on what to use with the little water they have, for example, they aren’t afraid to reuse water. And they also invented drip irrigation. And interestingly, there’s also no golf courses or green lawns in front of every house in Israel. So there’s a way of being mindful with our consumption.
If we all make huge, concerted efforts now, I believe, and the science shows that we can start to shift the trajectory of the suffering we will experience in our lifetimes due to the warming of climate and more importantly, what we’re leaving behind for future generations. We have a choice, but we have to act now.
And one of the ways that leaders in business can really align with social and environmental responsibility is to commit to learning and growth and restructuring the way that they do business so that it’s aligning with ESG environmental social governance. If you are interested in learning more about how to upskill your workforce and leaders for this remote hybrid model of work, while embedding conscious inclusive ways of being that support business to be a force for good. This is what I feel most passionate about. I would love to support you. I have successfully served mission driven leaders and companies in the last decade including LinkedIn, Pixar into it, Intel high growth startups like Asana, and I would be happy to set up a free consultation with you and the link is in the show notes.
If you have any questions, comments, or even topics you would like me to address on the podcast please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, thank you for tuning in and being part of this community. And like always until we meet again, be the light and shine the light.