Let's get this right

Texas continues to grow and prosper for many reasons and, as Texans, we should be forever thankful. We tend to possess an old-fashioned work ethic that marries friendilness, diligence, and a unique adaptibility. We have a favorable tax structure and a prudent, although sometimes lenient,... Read More >

Community Engagement Critical to Sustaining Energy Development in West Texas

The Trans Pecos region of West Texas is a state treasure. It is in the Chihuahuan Desert, the most biologically diverse desert ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and plants. Its vast, dramatic landscapes define Texas for Texas... Read More >

Texas’ Energy Boom and the Looming Water Challenge

Notwithstanding soft oil and gas prices, the Texas energy industry is booming. Nowhere is this more evident than in the West Texas Permian Basin. This dramatic growth has not only meant more oil wells but also an expansion of drilling closer to the ecologically sensitive Trans Pecos/Davis Mountains... Read More >

The landowner knows best: Conserving the greater Big Bend region

“We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it – for a little while.” O Pioneers! —Willa Cather Land. It’s what drew settlers to Texas—the promise of unlimited wide open spaces. Those vast... Read More >

Conserving the Last Frontier: The Case for the Trans-Pecos

If Texas were a sovereign country, it would rank as the tenth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of $1.7 trillion. Texas also ranks highest among states in the United States for business.  In fact, Texas has added 350,000 jobs in the past year (one in seven new jobs in the U.S. were in... Read More >

Texans' views of the Trans-Pecos

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series by the authors. To read the first post, click here.  In the focus groups we conducted earlier this year—detailed in first of this two-part blog post—we asked area residents if they knew what other Texans thought about the... Read More >

Voices from the Trans-Pecos: Exploring Public Opinion on Energy Development

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series by the authors.   The area of Texas west of the Pecos River is known as the Trans-Pecos. It is perhaps best known for the Big Bend and the Rio Grande River, which defines the region’s southern border. It is home to hundreds of... Read More >

This Land is Your Land: The U.S. Energy Landscape

A recent Bloomberg article (Here’s How America Uses Its Land) broke down how the United States is carving up the 1.9 billion-acre land mass of 48 contiguous states into a collage of cities, farms, forests, and pastures that we use to feed ourselves, and create value for business and... Read More >

Native plant restoration: a bridge to a sustainable future in the Trans-Pecos?

Restoration of native plants and habitat in tandem with energy sprawl could be a bridge to a better future for residents, communities, and the general landscape of the greater Big Bend region of the Trans-Pecos area of West Texas. As has been pointed out in previous posts, this area of West Texas... Read More >

Modernized Oilfield Lighting Protects Night Skies, Benefits the Industry

Since 1932, McDonald Observatory has enjoyed nighttime skies as dark as any major astronomical observatory in the world.  Its remote location, in the heart of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, seemed to ensure this for decades to come.  With the boom in oil and gas related activities in... Read More >

Private Property Rights Matter For Collective Conservation

The iconography of Texas centers in fierce independence and rugged individualism.  The Battle of the Alamo, early Texas Ranger companies patrolling the frontier, and cowboys wrangling vast cattle herds all come to mind.  Texas has a unique history in which many are familiar although... Read More >

Addressing the interconnected issues of energy sprawl

In a so-called post-truth era, we are actually collecting more data on a wider variety of factors than ever before. These data sources can—and should—help us to make better decisions on a range of comprehensive issues. Communicating this data and insight, and the resulting perspectives,... Read More >

Actionable solutions for a new West Texas

  The Nature Conservancy states that the largest loss of open space is now caused by energy sprawl—the amount of land resources developed for the production of energy from both fossil and renewable resources and all of the associated infrastructure. Nowhere is this phenomenon more... Read More >

A Missing Component in the One Water Conversation

To many Texans, the vast limestone savannah of the Edwards Plateau is an area that one must cross while traveling to Big Bend, Marfa, and other points west. Yet hidden beneath this sea of grasses and trees is the key to one of Texas’s most precious resources, the origin of the state’s... Read More >

One Water: The Future of Land and Water in Central Texas

For centuries, the Texas Hill Country has been a region defined by its water resources. Early European settlers traced the paths of the San Antonio, Nueces, Guadalupe, and Colorado Rivers, following their rocky beds, spring-fed tributaries, and shallow draws, no doubt noting every seep and... Read More >

One Water: Stewardship flows beyond the city limit sign

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author. To read part one, click here. The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority’s (GBRA) motto is “flowing solutions.” As a 10-county statutory district inclusive of most of the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers and... Read More >

Texas River Authorities embody One Water

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. To read part two, click here. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute”…. Some describe the Texas climate as periods of drought interrupted by floods. Living with these extremes has forced... Read More >

Does Texas really have a water problem?

Most Texans “know” that Texas has a water “problem.” In fact, the Texas Water Plan lists $63 billion in projects in order to “solve” this problem.  In truth, however, Texas’s water problem is not what everyone thinks it is.  It’s not as... Read More >

One Water: A powerful 21st-century solution

What does the jazz-loving swamp country of New Orleans have in common with the wild high desert of Tucson? The answer: more than you may think. Like countless communities across the globe, both of these ionic U.S. cities have water concerns—New Orleans faces the challenge of taming powerful... Read More >

One Water: The Austin way forward

People come to Austin for lots of reasons—music, barbecue, jobs—but the reason they can stay is the water. Barton Springs, Lake Austin, and Decker Lake are just a few of the places where you’ll find Austinites staying cool on a warm summer day. We are not Austin without water.... Read More >

Texas saddles up for the “Water Utility of the Future"

In order to meet the water needs of urban and suburban populations across the United States, utilities are undertaking long-term planning that accounts for the risk and uncertainty of droughts and flooding, while ensuring that adequate reserves are maintained to refresh groundwater supplies and... Read More >

Integrated Urban Water Management: Making bigger cities less thirsty

Many cities across the United States are growing and changing rapidly, becoming home not just to more residents but also to more businesses.  Rapid growth has a host of implications in ensuring that the city’s basic infrastructure can be adapted to supply core services to the populace,... Read More >

One Water, One Texas

"The answer is in nature." Solutions don’t get any clearer than that.  This year’s UN World Water Day explored “how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.” And that’s the heart of The Nature Conservancy’s philosophy: people... Read More >

The Water Supply of the Future?

There is a lot of discussion in the water world about One Water.  This integrated water management approach asks us to think expansively about how water is used in our communities and to acknowledge the co-benefits of different approaches by collectively examining costs, water supply benefit,... Read More >

Into the blue again: Leadership at all stages of the urban water cycle, including your home

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down Letting the days go by, water flowing underground Into the blue again, into silent water Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? Same as it ever was, same as it ever was  ... Read More >

The need for One Water

Only six months ago, the state of Texas experienced the most significant rain event in its recordable history (Hurricane Harvey). So, many may find it hard to believe that today a majority of Texas is in a state of drought.  For Texans, a boom-and-bust water cycle is no stranger; however,... Read More >

Texas’s swimming holes need One Water

The redbuds are blooming, a sure sign that spring is here with summer heat soon to follow. Summer heat means summer days filled with the gasps and laughter of children as they cannonball into cold, refreshing spring-fed swimming holes like Jacob’s Well, San Solomon Springs, or Barton Springs. ... Read More >

Continuing on a path focused on actionable solutions

Many are still reeling from the sweeping changes the Trump administration has proposed or introduced since January 20, 2017. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, the tremendous forces at work (in terms of their rapidity and depth) are breathtaking—alarming for some and exciting for... Read More >

With three beasts down, what does it mean for ERCOT’s energy-only market?

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author. To read part one, click here. Luminant Energy (a subsidiary of Vistra Energy, which also owns retail giant TXU) will retire three large coal plants—Big Brown, Monticello and Sandow—in early 2018, eliminating more than... Read More >

Was it beauty or the beast that killed three large dirty coal plants in Texas?

Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. To read part two, click here. Vistra Energy, the new owners of Luminant Energy, Texas’s largest electric generation company, announced recently that they intend to retire three large coal-fired power plants, including... Read More >

One family's venture in private land conservation: Investing in Partnerships

Editor's Note: This is the third of a three-part series by the author. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. Landowning families committed to the sound stewardship of their farms and ranches face a growing list of threats and challenges, such as: reduced spring... Read More >

One family’s venture in private land conservation: Public Interest in Private Land

Editor's Note: This is the second of a three-part series by the author. To read part one, click here. To read part three, click here. Private landowners in Texas who desire to retain ownership of their land into the future face daunting challenges. Not the least of these is the challenge of... Read More >

One family's venture in private land conservation: Generation to Generation

Editor's Note: This is the first of a three-part series by the author. To read part two, click here. To read part three, click here. Ninety-seven percent of the land in Texas is privately owned. It is regularly acknowledged that increasing fragmentation of private lands is one of the greatest... Read More >

Living on borrowed water: the cycle of water and its reuse

Water rotates all around us. In some instances, it rotates by winds and weather, in others, by energy pumping it through systems, and yet, it also rotates through the water cycle. Ultimately, we need to acknowledge that all water is "borrowed water," used and reused in many ways, carrying valuable... Read More >

The fifth wheel? Is electric storage poised to be the next big energy resource in Texas?

Most everyone has heard about the rise of wind energy in the state of Texas, recently surpassing nuclear power as our third most abundant electric energy resource, though still behind gas and coal. With the advent of small-scale and rooftop solar in addition to utility-scale solar farms, long-range... Read More >

Texas is a surprising national leader in water conservation

In her 2013 book, Big, Hot Cheap and Right, journalist Erica Greider observes that Texas is an idiosyncratic place that regularly surprises. The state is famous as the capital of the U.S. oil industry and for a pugnacious hostility to regulation and environmental protection. However, Texas is also... Read More >

I was an Exxon-funded climate scientist

  Exxon funded climate scientists while the bulk of its public-facing advertorials argued the science and cause of climate change was uncertain. ExxonMobil’s deliberate attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change and their donations to front groups to... Read More >

Here’s a better vision for the U.S.-Mexico border

  In Big Bend National Park’s Santa Elena Canyon, the Rio Grande separates the United States (left) from Mexico (right). The United States and Mexico have shared their current international border for nearly 170 years. Today they cooperate at multiple levels on issues that affect the... Read More >

The Texas Coastal Exchange: An innovative ecological services marketplace

Editor's note: The following three posts are part of a three-part series that introduces The Texas Coastal Exchange (TCX), a trading clearinghouse involving the sale of ecological services.  TCX is a project of Rice University's SSPEED Center (Severe Storm Prediction, Education and... Read More >

The Texas Coastal Exchange: Trading Rules & Standards

Editor's note: This is the third of a three-part series that introduces The Texas Coastal Exchange (TCX), a trading clearinghouse involving the sale of ecological services. Click here to read part one of this series. The SSPEED Center research team has determined that some of the more... Read More >

The Texas Coastal Exchange: Setting a Carbon Baseline and Trading Standards

Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series that introduces The Texas Coastal Exchange (TCX), a trading clearinghouse involving the sale of ecological services. Click here to read part three of the series. One of the key markets the Rice University's SSPEED Center team has... Read More >

The Texas Coastal Exchange: Implementing an innovative marketplace

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series that introduces The Texas Coastal Exchange (TCX), a trading clearinghouse involving the sale of ecological services. Click here to read part two of this series.  The SSPEED Center (The Center for Severe Storm Prediction,... Read More >

Energy wonks have a meltdown over the U.S. going 100 percent renewable. Why?

Science is messy, but it doesn’t have to be dirty. On June 19, a group of respected energy researchers released a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that critiqued a widely cited study on how to power the U.S. using only renewable... Read More >

What makes Texas (and America) great

For ten years I have served the Big Bend Conservancy in support of Big Bend National Park, a United States national park located in Western Texas (ordering Mexico).  During this time, I have had the immense privilege of experiencing the best parts of America: its... Read More >

Learning from Texas’ Shale Energy Experience

Thanks to techniques and technologies pioneered and perfected here in Texas, our state leads the nation in oil and gas production. This development has resulted in thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of revenue in the state, but it’s also had other significant impacts on the... Read More >

Innovations in interdisciplinary sustainability institutes at major research universities

The significant sustainability issues of our day present some of the greatest challenges for the next generation. Indeed, the world that our next generation will inherit and live in will be far different from the one we live in today. Ecosystem changes resulting from climate change, water scarcity,... Read More >

The U.S. electric grid would cost $5 trillion to replace. Where should infrastructure spending go?

The electric grid is an amazing integrated system of machines spanning an entire continent. The National Academy of Engineering has called it one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century. But it is also expensive. By my analysis, the current (depreciated) value of the... Read More >

Are solar and wind really killing coal, nuclear, and grid reliability?

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in April requested a study to assess the effect of renewable energy policies on nuclear and coal-fired power plants. Some energy analysts responded with confusion, as the subject has been extensively studied by grid operators and the Department... Read More >

Texas: advancing storage in aquifers for managing droughts and floods

Although it goes without saying, water is critical for the environmental and economic health of the state of Texas or any other state for that matter. Variable surface water supplies and generally depleting groundwater supplies in many regions are increasing challenges for water management both in... Read More >

What Texas can teach America about green energy

The current tenor of the national argument about America's energy future distracts us from a clear realization: Americans, regardless of political affiliation, overwhelmingly value the environment and clean energy. Don't take our word for it. Polling data show both conservative and more... Read More >

Texas is doing water right. Can the state inform a sustainable path forward for the U.S.? -Part 2

As I discussed in my first post of this series, the 2017 State Water Plan provides a 50-year outlook on the water supplies and demands of our state and outlines strategies to meet potential needs during drought of record conditions. If all strategies and projects in the 2017 plan are implemented,... Read More >

Can Texas inform a sustainable path forward for U.S. water management?

To most Texans (and most Americans), water is a natural resource that is taken for granted. Because it’s available at our fingertips, most of us find it nearly impossible to imagine not having enough water. Despite popular belief, however, water is limited. In Texas, we are especially aware... Read More >

Clean energy boom will continue, with or without Mr. Trump

The advanced energy industry—everything from wind turbines and solar panels, to home energy storage and energy efficiency—is booming. And despite President Trump’s reckless energy and environmental policies, he can’t stop it. A $200-billion market, and growing ... Read More >

Protecting people’s health while growing the Texas economy

A thriving economy now or a thriving planet for my grandchildren? Why not both? With Texas’s plentiful natural resources and cutting-edge research and development capabilities, we don’t have to choose. If planned strategically, protecting our health and growing the economy go together.... Read More >

Texas is known for a lot of things. Environmental leadership should be one of them

The state of Texas has a tradition of fierce independence that has often put the state at odds with federal environmental policies and regulations. According to a recent report by The Texas Tribune, Texas sued the federal government 27 times since 2009 over federal rules and regulations relating to... Read More >

Energy-water nexus lessons learned from the state of Texas

As persistent rain dampened this year's first weekend of South By Southwest in Austin, I couldn’t help but think of the terrible drought that plagued Texas for years. Just a few short years ago, my dad had to sell his motorboat because there was no water in nearby Lake Travis. Then floods... Read More >

Ensuring a more resilient and sustainable future

The outcome of the presidential election and recent confirmation of an EPA Administrator who has pledged to scale back environmental regulations have many of us wondering how best to continue our efforts toward a more resilient and sustainable future. We at Houston Endowment believe that lessons can... Read More >

The market-driven transition to Texas-produced clean energy—Part 2

In part one of of this blog series, I discussed how market forces are transitioning Texas to a cleaner electric grid that relies on Texas-produced clean energy from wind, solar power, and natural gas. Due to Texas's abundant low-cost natural gas and the increasing amount of wind and solar power in... Read More >

The market-driven transition to Texas-produced clean energy—Part 1

Here in the Lone Star State, most of us have heard the phrase, "Texas. It's like a whole other country." Cooked up as a marketing slogan for tourism back in the early 1990s when Ann Richards was governor, the folksy sound bite has lasted through twenty-five years of growth and change. Today, nearly... Read More >

The Texas story: An imperfect model to help sustain an imperfect union

Many are still reeling from the sweeping changes the Trump administration has proposed or introduced since January 20. Regardless of the candidate one may have supported during the presidential campaign, the tremendous forces at work (in terms of their rapidity and depth) are... Read More >

CGMF's Top Blog Posts of 2016

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s 2016 blog initiative addressed the question: “Is there an economic argument for environmental protection?”—a particularly relevant question as we move into 2017 and the Trump administration. The following are some of the... Read More >

Businesses are making the economic case for climate action

Businesses leaders “get” climate change. When they look at the balance sheet, it’s clear that the costs of acting are going down, while the costs of inaction—of coping with rising sea level and more frequent and extreme heat waves, downpours and drought—are going up.... Read More >

Working smarter: companies get strategic about clean energy goals, return on investment

It’s no secret that companies use goals to push their businesses in a positive direction. Whether it’s about creating more value or reducing impacts, goals provide focus, direction, and a sense of urgency. Recently, a wave corporate, climate-related goals, such as renewable energy and... Read More >

A Peak Behind the Curtain

When is it worth protecting a wetland or enacting a new safety regulation?  Writ large, what is the role of government in promoting and protecting public welfare?  Regardless of our political orientation in this dizzying presidential election season, few would oppose basic government... Read More >

Trends align to save buildings millions in energy costs

By 2050, 70 percent of the world population will live in cities, a change that will add 40 percent to the current world building stock. Because buildings can be big polluters, urbanization is also a stark reminder that economies everywhere benefit from investments in energy-efficient... Read More >

The most important and misleading assumption in the world

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author. Part one: "Macro and climate economics: It's time to talk about the 'elephant in the room'." Part one of this blog post explained how macroeconomic models are flawed in a fundamental way.  These models are coupled... Read More >

Macro and climate economics: It's time to talk about the "Elephant in the room"

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. Up next: "The most important and misleading assumption in the world." If we want to maximize our ability to achieve future energy, climate, and economic goals, we must start to use improved economic modeling... Read More >

Energy, Growth, and Altruism: The View from 2016

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author. The first post: Energy, Growth, and Altruism: Forty Years On. One could easily spend months chronicling the vast differences between the world of today and the world of some forty years ago.  In 1975, our primary... Read More >

Energy, Growth, and Altruism: Forty Years On

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. Up next: "Energy, Growth, and Altruism: The View from 2016."  Forty-one years ago, George P. Mitchell, the philanthropist, scientist and businessman announced the creation of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Prize to... Read More >

Measuring the “impact” of environmental investment

Traditional measures of success for investment dollars fall short of measuring the true impact of environmental improvement. Even the language used in the private sector—as well as government and NGOs—is not appropriate. We’re thinking of a “return on investment” or... Read More >

Summertime Reading: The Economic Argument for Environmental Protection

We've curated a number of posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "The Economic Argument for Environmental Protection," a collection of opinions from the foundation and leading economists and business and environmental experts. George Mitchell, who was... Read More >

Chemical footprinting: A business practice that's more than just eliminating hazardous chemicals

Chemical footprinting is about much more than just identifying and eliminating hazardous chemicals. Chemical Footprint Project’s assessment tool focuses on four key elements: 1.  Management strategy: scope of chemical policies, incentives, integration of policies into business strategy... Read More >

Why the chemical footprint movement is good for public health, business, and the environment

Walmart announced recently that it has removed 95 percent of the 10 highest priority chemicals targeted by its pioneering Sustainable Chemistry Policy. This is striking progress, as Walmart announced its goal to eliminate these chemicals just two years ago. It is a reminder of the power of major... Read More >

The best solution for "wicked" environmental problems?

Some environmentalists claim that more environmental protection always or almost always is a means to a stronger economy. That’s silly. Digging coal out of the ground, burning natural gas to power cities, and cutting down trees to build houses all have environmental tradeoffs and yet, from a... Read More >

Sustainability: How to get from here to there (part two)

Hope is different than optimism. Optimism springs from confidence based on a technical assessment that you’re doing things that have worked in the past and thus you can rationally say, “This is going to work.” Hope is a belief in the rightness of what you’re doing,... Read More >

Sustainability: How do we get from here to there

When we go into a company and try to change its sustainability strategy, we are working from a personal theory of change that reflects how we see the world and how we engage with it. It defines who we are and how we accomplish our life’s work. And in many ways it defines what we will become.... Read More >

An issue that's good for the environment, your pocketbook, and the economy

We live in a polarized political and economic age—particularly in the state of Texas—where renewables are either a godsend or a pipedream, or fossil fuels are our economic bedrock or a climate change disaster. So, it’s refreshing when an issue is good for both the environment and... Read More >

Reducing barriers to, and financial costs of, renewable energy by protecting local ecosystems

There is no question that the environment or, in more precise terms, ecosystem services, hold great financial value. Clean air, clean water, the bats and bees that pollinate agricultural crops, the trees that absorb carbon dioxide—they all deliver benefits to the global economy. One estimate... Read More >

The idea of a public good

One of the key concepts needed to better understand the economic argument for environmental protection is the idea of a public good. When economists talk about public goods, they don’t mean just anything that’s good for the public, such as a school or hospital. Rather, to qualify as a... Read More >

The economics of the 'economic argument for environmental protection'

Doubtlessly few of this blog’s readers have taken a course in environmental economics, but as the commentaries on this blog indicate, grounding in the principles of environmental economics would be very helpful in wading through proposals for or against environmental protection. And given how... Read More >

How expensive is bad science?

In 2000, when Houston surpassed Los Angeles in the number of “high ozone days” for the first time, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) submitted their State Implementation Plan (SIP) for reducing ozone to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plan included a ban... Read More >

Finally, clean energy opportunities meet the risk-return requirements of investors. Now what?

The global climate agreement adopted in Paris in December is far more than just a roadmap for tackling climate change. It’s also a blueprint for rethinking how we bring energy to 1.3 billion people who live without electricity—a significant barrier to eradicating global poverty. On both... Read More >

The basis for a sustainable power supply solution?

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the City of Georgetown's Chris Foster and consultants Larry Lawrence and Neil McAndrews examining how Georgetown, Texas became a 100 percent renewable city while pursuing least-cost economic goals. Click to read part one... Read More >

Finally, a utility's bottom line driven by 100% renewables -- in Texas, of all places

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the City of Georgetown's Chris Foster and consultants Larry Lawrence and Neil McAndrews examining how Georgetown, Texas became a 100 percent renewable city while pursuing least-cost economic goals. Up next: a look at how Georgetown Utility... Read More >

Solutions to climate change must come from the market and, more specifically, from business

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author focused on the debate over capitalism’s role in our present climate change problem. Click to read part one of the series, “Capitalism must evolve to solve the climate crisis.” __________ Going beyond our... Read More >

Capitalism must evolve to solve the climate crisis

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author focused on the debate over capitalism’s role in our present climate change problem. Up next: "Solutions to climate change must come from the market and, more specifically, from business" __________ There are two extremes in... Read More >

SCOTUS can't stop states from growing clean energy markets

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author focused on the use of limited public dollars to leverage large private investments that accelerate growth of clean energy markets. Click to read part one of the series, "Cleaner and Cheaper Energy with Green Banks." __________ ... Read More >

Cleaner AND Cheaper Energy with Green Banks

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author focused on the use of limited public dollars to leverage large private investments that accelerate growth of clean energy markets. Up next: "SCOTUS can't stop states from growing clean energy markets." __________ For decades the... Read More >

The environment as an asset to economic prosperity and development

The idea of environmental preservation as an asset, as opposed to an impediment, to economic prosperity and development is both very old and very new. For the greater part of human history, certainly up until the start of the Industrial Revolution, the benefits humans derived from nature were well... Read More >

Is there an economic argument for environmental protection?

George Mitchell was fond of posing the question, “If you can’t make the world work with six billion people, how are you going to make it work with ten billion?”He knew that true sustainability ensures human well-being through social and economic systems while also maintaining the... Read More >

CGMF's Top Blog Posts of 2015

What does ‘getting gas right,’ water infrastructure, improving the conservation narrative, and outlawing legal loopholes have in common? They are subjects addressed in the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s top blog posts of 2015—opinions penned by influencers from a... Read More >

Let’s ‘get gas right’ and exploit synergies of natural gas and renewables

The energy landscape in the United States is changing. Renewable technologies like wind and solar power are on the rise, and so is natural gas. Together, these transformative trends have led to recent reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) outputs. In Texas, where wind power and natural gas are... Read More >

Pride, passion, and vision in the Texas Hill Country

There’s a lot of love and pride in the Texas Hill Country. It’s a place of rugged beauty, cool, clear swimming holes, and passionate people. Putting that love, pride, and passion into action toward a common vision is what the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is all about. For past... Read More >

Solar energy shines bright in Texas

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the electric grid operator for about 80 percent of Texas’s land mass, and 90 percent of the state’s power use.  Over the last fifty years, most of the power in ERCOT has come from natural gas and coal, with some from two large... Read More >

Understanding the synergies of the Texas water-energy-land nexus

The state of Texas has an independent streak. Its possession of water and energy to a large extent are homegrown (and, obviously, so is its land). In regard to water resources, with the exception of the Rio Grande River to the southwest and the Red River on the northern border, nearly all the water... Read More >

Hey Texas, what about climate change?

Water is a critical resource for many sectors of the economy. Besides being used to provide basic residential services, it is widely used for industrial processes, agricultural irrigation, power generation, and livestock production. Irrigation has consistently been the largest user of water in the... Read More >

When it rains, it pours: Why Texas needs to invest in better water infrastructure

Recently, more than 125,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed in downtown Houston, the result of Hurricane Patricia-related rain swamping the sewage system.  The sheer volume of stormwater transmitted by roads and parking lots into sewers overwhelmed the capacity of the system and sewage was... Read More >

Autumn Reading: Achieving a Sustainable Texas

We've curated a number of posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "Achieving a Sustainable Texas," a collection of opinions from the foundation and foundation grantees. George Mitchell, who was credited with pioneering the economic extraction of shale... Read More >

How Texas escaped the crippling effects of the 2030-2032 drought

Austin (October 21, 2032)—Despite three years of record-breaking drought, and a number of areas throughout the United States being severely impacted, the state of Texas is poised to move forward relatively unscathed. So, how did a state hard hit by drought and not known for its environmental... Read More >

A better solution: (Intentional) Integrated Systems for Energy Water Nexus

For managing challenges at the energy-water nexus, we need to move from an interconnected world to an integrated world.   For an interconnected world, energy depends on water and water depends on energy. There are some advantages from this approach.  For example, water can be used to... Read More >

Beyond Technological Optimism: Redefining Science and Engineering in Environmental Sustainability

Much of the early academic dialogue in regard to advancing environmental sustainability centered on the role of technology. Many cast technology as central to improving the environment. Others were skeptical, noting the unintended consequences that accompany technological development and their... Read More >

A plan that doesn't account for all environmental needs doesn't hold water

With only limited exceptions, surface water law in Texas, like other western states, is based on a first-in-time, first-in-right principle. Basically, the first user of water from a stream or river has the senior priority to get water and, if there isn’t enough to go around, the users with the... Read More >

Confidence in Conservation: The Way Forward for Texas

In an unprecedented move, California Governor Jerry Brown recently issued a sweeping executive order to reduce municipal water consumption by 25 percent throughout the state. The “drought of the century” forced the administration to mandate that California water districts follow more... Read More >

Bridging the energy and environmental disconnect

The energy and environmental decisions facing society and its leaders are no longer decided by titanic, lopsided, high stakes political lobbying contests alone. Science, opinion, and dollars now flow both ways on nearly every energy and environmental issue we face. And, the frontlines of energy and... Read More >

Grand challenges for Water, Texas

In 1928, an oil company laid a pipeline from New Mexico to the Houston Ship Channel to carry crude from the field to the refineries along the coast. The route of the line brought it across Gillespie County, Texas where the Pedernales River begins about an hour and a half from Austin.  At that... Read More >

Making the "invisible" nature of the water-energy relationship "visible"

The severity of the current drought in California compels an aggressive statewide effort to conserve water. In fact, the California Governor’s recently declared an unprecedented executive order (B-29-15) mandating a 25 percent statewide reduction in urban water use. 

 Meanwhile,... Read More >

Summertime reading: Achieving a Sustainable Texas

We've curated posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "Achieving a Sustainable Texas," a collection of opinions from the foundation and a number of the foundation's grantees. George Mitchell, who was credited with pioneering the economic extraction of... Read More >

Why big data is key to maximizing water conservation's impact

In places like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Texas, water supplies are declining even while cities continue to grow. For the first time, parts of the United States face a real risk of running out of water. What if it were possible to head off catastrophic water shortages... Read More >

A Day in the Life: What it Means to Advocate for the Environment

Being an environmental advocate in Texas may seem like an uphill battle, and I make no bones about the fact it most certainly is. The current political climate nationwide makes it a challenge wherever you are, but Texas is a special case. Texans pride ourselves on our uniqueness; we do everything... Read More >

Addressing the "unconventional" through science & technology

The global demand for efficient and reliable energy continues to increase as many nations try to identify an appropriate mix of energy sources to meet the daily needs of their populations and to contribute toward long-term security and economic growth.  A number of interdependent factors... Read More >

What is a conservative after all but one who conserves

"What is a conservative after all but one who conserves..." -Ronald Reagan The conservation of natural resources is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, want a strong economy, and an economy with excess waste is not as strong as it... Read More >

Water for shale oil and gas production: Can it be managed more sustainably?

The United States is becoming energy independent largely due to a technology that combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing.  At a recent public meeting I posed a question to the audience, “How much water is used in hydraulic fracturing?” I received a quickly delivered,... Read More >

What should Texas do about integrated water-energy policy decisions?

When considering linkages and tradeoffs of water and energy objectives, the usual discussion among colleagues, industry, and government agencies is that we should search for holistic “win-win” situations—a simultaneous beneficial outcome for both energy and water goals.   ... Read More >

One way to reduce dangerous pollution from Texas coal plants? Outlaw legal loopholes

Coal combustion is dirty business. This is neither new nor surprising information. Combustion of fossil fuels for electric generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and coal is the worst offender. In Texas, lax regulatory oversight and continued use of... Read More >

Note to Industry: Regulation and business success are not mutually exclusive

Today’s public is demanding more from corporate America than ever before: They expect transparency, accountability, and a commitment to operating responsibly. Across industries, securing the public license to operate is essential to ensuring a strong corporate reputation and long-term... Read More >

Integrating sustainability science into grantmaking

In the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s (CMGF) inaugural blog post on January 14, 2014, we described George P. Mitchell’s role in launching the field of sustainability science. Inspired by George’s leadership in this endeavor and to honor his legacy, concepts of... Read More >

Delaware River Watershed: A Watershed in Transition

It was the kind of announcement that would have been unheard of even a couple of years ago. Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary, stood before 100 beaming watershed practitioners in January in Pennsylvania’s Poconos to say the Delaware River Watershed had been awarded three grants totaling... Read More >

Courage, Climate Change, and Large Landscape Conservation

George P. Mitchell, the son of Greek immigrants who was born in Galveston, Texas in 1919, was a man of remarkable courage and persistence. He bootstrapped his way through Texas A&M University, graduating first in his class in petroleum engineering. He then joined the firm that became Mitchell... Read More >

An opportunity: Private sector investments in abandoned mine land restoration

Working Lands Investment Partners, LLC completed a U.S. Forest Service grant entitled "Private Sector Investments in Abandoned Mine Land Restoration: Identifying Barriers and Opportunities." The results of this comprehensive analysis identified the potential for significant positive returns by... Read More >

Improving the conservation narrative: What we say vs. what the public hears

“Where does all the weight in this log come from?” I ask, struggling to lift the biggest tree log I can wrestle in front of a crowd at a local civic club in rural Florida. “Water! Rain! Nutrients! Soil! Fertilizer! Roots!” they shout, fully engaging. I wait for the... Read More >

CGMF's top blog posts of 2014

What do ecosystems, big data, sustainability science, and the "triple bottom line" have in common? They were all subjects covered in the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's top blog posts of 2014—topics that explored the limits of human capacity to create a sustainable... Read More >

Rethinking business as usual

The way we produce food is getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. If current projections hold, we’ll have nine billion mouths to feed by 2050—two billion more than we have today.  Throughout history, when we’ve needed to expand food production,... Read More >

Exploring the connections between nature and our health

More than one-third of Houston-area children are overweight or obese, a startling statistic that is common to many communities across the U.S. Moreover, more than three-quarters of our children are not getting the level of physical activity recommended to maintain a healthy weight.  What does... Read More >

Deep in the heart of the Land of Bears and Honey

In 1984, Joe Truett and Daniel Lay, authors of “Land of Bears and Honey: A Natural History of East Texas,” put to paper what many old-timers in East Texas had quietly observed for decades—the ebbing of a Garden of Eden at the hands of humans:  “When white people... Read More >

One thing Americans can agree on

Politicians, pundits and ordinary people are scanning the horizon for clues about the deeper meaning of the November 4 election. Are voters shifting to the right, or did the Republican gains in the House and Senate primarily reflect dissatisfaction with an unpopular Democratic president?  With... Read More >

Will Texans ever see land as a community to which we belong?

Last February, I took Jack Ward Thomas, former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service and my graduate school advisor, on a road trip through the Texas Hill Country. It was his first time to visit that area since working for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Llano, Texas in the 1960s. As expected,... Read More >

A fish story without exaggeration!

Does locavore salmon raised in the American Midwest sound counterintuitive?  If so, does the potential for farm-raised fish contributing to the heartland's economy and agriculture sound equally far-fetched? Both possibilities are not just fanciful, but are beginning to happen, especially as... Read More >

Providing 'conservation' to the consumer

Next time you open a bar of chocolate, think about how it smells, how it tastes, and then think about where it comes from, particularly about the farmer that grew the cocoa beans. Whether it was in Ecuador, West Africa or Indonesia, your chocolate bar was once a cocoa pod, grown by a small farmer... Read More >

Keeping open space open

While it is easy to imagine that rural Texans and urban Texans are separated by insurmountable barriers of concrete and experience, it's simply not true. We stand on common ground. As humans, we all need the same things: healthy food, serviceable clothing, protective shelter, clean water, and... Read More >

Working lands stewardship

Working lands. Stewardship. These are words that we in the conservation field use frequently, but to those who live in the cities, the terminology can be confusing.   So, first, a primer.  “Working lands” means pretty much like it sounds: farms and ranches where the... Read More >

Together, we can advance conservation

The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation is a leader in conservation. Their programs for water, sustainability science, clean energy, and natural gas show their commitment to improving our land. And the personal and touching story of how Cynthia and George developed the Cook’s Branch... Read More >

The many voices of conservation

Fifty years ago, Cynthia and George Mitchell fell in love with a piece of the Texas Piney Woods that would eventually evolve into Cook’s Branch Conservancy.  They were captivated by the diversity and beauty of the landscape, and spent the rest of their lives protecting this forest and... Read More >

Leveraging social innovation for sustainable change

A new era in sustainability innovation is emerging. Our fascination with technology has by no means come to an end, but there is a rapidly expanding realization that social innovation and human behavior are keys to achieving a more sustainable future. Technology alone just isn’t going to cut... Read More >

The ebb and flow of a sustainable water plan

Texas has been engaged in planning for future water needs for over 50 years. Beginning in 1961, the plans were developed at the state level, through various predecessor agencies to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the TWDB itself.   In 1997, the year of the last state-developed... Read More >

Quiet collaboration; big impact

I have written about collaboration in a number of blogs, focusing on its criticality to helping society achieve sustainability. I remain convinced of this and always want to shine the light on glowing examples of collaboration in action. One such example is the National Academies’ Roundtable... Read More >

Delivering products we need, instead of products we have

An amazing revolution in automotive technology is underway—with important lessons for policymakers. The many technology advancements taking place today in the automobile industry are concrete evidence that strong government leadership and ambitious public policy can drive innovation. It is a... Read More >

Plan B: Let's be honest for a change

Moving the global economy off its current decline-and-collapse path depends on reaching four goals: (1) stabilizing climate, (2) stabilizing population, (3) eradicating poverty, and (4) restoring the economy’s natural support systems. These goals—comprising what the Earth Policy... Read More >

The Sustainability Trajectory

In 2012, a little bakery just north of New York City became the first business licensed in New York State as a Benefit Corporation.  Thus Greyston Bakery joined companies like Patagonia, Etsy, and Ben & Jerry’s in advancing a fundamentally new model for business that focuses as much... Read More >

Banks: A market-driven path to a Clean Trillion?

Do banks care about the environment? At Citi, we believe that working to promote sustainability— both for our firm and our client base—is good business practice. We also care about the environment because our stakeholders in both the public and private sectors care about it—our... Read More >

The dawning of Big Data in a sustainable world

This is the age of Big Data. Vast, complex sets of information can be gathered, sorted and (most importantly) used, by a public eager to swap verbiage for science.  And yet, in the energy-environment world, crucial data are often unavailable. Americans should be able to access far more... Read More >

The value of water: Making the market work in Texas

One of the most fascinating challenges of sustainability is the integration of market system thinking with an ecologist’s understanding of natural processes.  No subject highlights this challenge more than supplying water for Texas’s future. According to most economists, the market... Read More >

Moving past yesterday's solutions for tomorrow's problems

The state of Texas is trying to solve future water supply problems with yesterday’s solutions. Innovative approaches to Texas’s future water security represent only a small portion of strategies presented in the current State Water Plan. Over 50% of future water supply projects intended... Read More >

Our Common Journey: The birth of sustainability science

Fifteen years ago the National Academy of Sciences joined with George Mitchell and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to jointly produce a study entitled Our Common Journey.  Our world as we saw it in 1999 was already in transition, becoming more crowded and more consuming, warmer and... Read More >

High tech bringing fundamental changes to energy systems

If ever there was a sign that the oil industry is headed for a period of transformational change, that sign is the news that ExxonMobil is giving in to activist shareholders and will start to publish more information for investors on the risks that stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions would... Read More >

When capitalists call for market revolutions

The world must be in trouble if capitalists are beginning to call for “market revolutions.” Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, calls for a “revolution of capitalism.” Markets, he argues, must learn how to value and manage... Read More >

Sustainability: A means to a resilient U.S. Army

A sustainable world means that our resources are in balance.  The Army strives to balance our use of resources. When our resources are in balance, when we have assured access to reliable supplies of energy and water, we are a more resilient Army.  The Army prioritizes incorporating... Read More >

The paradox of limits to growth

Editor’s Note: This opinion was originally published on August 13, 2013, and is being republished for this initiative with the author’s permission.  George and Cynthia Mitchell convened the first The Woodlands Conference, a symposium addressing the issues of sustainable... Read More >

The power of environmental DNA

Information about the living world—and about our effects on that world—is essential to responsible management of our natural resources. While technological advances of past decades have revolutionized our understanding of physical processes (think of satellite storm-tracking, for... Read More >

Climate change: Look past rhetoric and act now

When you know a dangerous storm is coming, you prepare, right? You seal your doors and windows and make sure your loved ones are out of harm’s way. If you’re building a home on the coast, you think about those storms in advance and pay attention to sea level changes and the risk of storm... Read More >

Six steps closer to a sustainable world

Many organizations like the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation have long recognized the urgency of and need to achieve more sustainable management of global society, and have been valuable in advancing the science of sustainability both within and outside government.   History provides an... Read More >

A sustainable planet: Seeking our true north

"I have people ask me all the time: George, why in the world are you so interested in sustainability? And I quote Buckminster Fuller: 'If you can’t make the world work with six billion people, then how will you make it work with ten billion people? And, what are you going to do about it?' And... Read More >

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