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Posted on on September 18th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

From: Seth M. Siegel
Sent: Thu, Sep 17, 2015 3:30 pm
Subject: A Milestone in My Life

Earlier this week, my book Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World was released. Thanks to significant pre-sales and a smart sales executive at my publisher, Barnes & Noble agreed to put the book on the New Non-Fiction table found at the entrance to all of the bookseller’s stores. Walking in and seeing the stack of books was a remarkable experience, a milestone. (See photo.)
Let There Be Water is, I believe, an inspiring book, and I hope many more readers find their way to it. Not only does every concerned citizen need to learn about the coming water crisis. As Israel has shown, we also need to know that concerted action can lead to great outcomes. It is what binds society together. At a time of cynicism and distrust of government, the renewal of our water systems can be a vehicle for renewing trust and faith in our institutional ability to take on a major task and get something important done.
Aside from the already great joy this project has brought me, if Let There Be Water plays some role in getting people to think about water policy and, from that, changes in how we manage our water occurs, I could have no greater reward for my efforts.
Seth M. Siegel

PRAISE FOR LET THERE BE WATER: Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Prime Minister of Uganda Ruhakana Rugunda, Edito-in-Chieg Arianna Huffington, co-author of Start-UP Nation Dan Senior and former US Diplomat.


From Africa to China, How Israel Helps Quench the Developing World’s Thirst: The untold story of Israeli hydrodiplomacy, from the 1950s until now.

by: Seth M. Siegel, Sept. 9 2015

Seth M. Siegel is an entrepreneur, writer, and lawyer in New York.

In November 1898, Theodor Herzl arranged a meeting with the German emperor, Wilhelm II, to obtain help in creating a Jewish state in the land of Israel. In their conversation, the Kaiser praised the work of the Zionist pioneers, telling Herzl that, above all else, “water and shade trees” would restore the land to its ancient glory. Four years later, Herzl had a lead character in his political tract-cum-novel Altneuland (“Old-New Land”) say of Jewish settlement in Palestine: “This country needs nothing but water and shade to have a great future.” Another character predicts that the water engineers of the Jewish homeland will be its heroes.

Utopian novels set the bar high, and Altneuland is nothing if not a utopian novel. Yet even before statehood, Zionists made remarkable strides in putting the land’s limited water resources to good use. They drained swamps, drilled wells, and developed irrigation systems. By the 1960s, Israel had developed a nationwide system of underground pipes to transport water from the relatively water-rich north to the Negev desert in the south. Israeli engineers also developed the system known as drip irrigation, which simultaneously conserves water and increases crop yields. Later, Israel would pioneer desalination technology. Combining scientific advances with efficient management, the Jewish state is now in no danger of running out of water. In fact, it provides large amounts from its own supplies to the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan, while each year exporting billions of dollars’ worth of peppers, tomatoes, melons, and other water-intensive produce.

Herzl imagined something else, too, in Altneuland. Following the establishment of a Jewish national home, his protagonist announces, Jews will need to come to the aid of the suffering people of Africa, whose “problem, in all its horror, . . . only a Jew can fathom.” Israel’s founding generation took this admonition to heart. In 1958, Golda Meir, then Israel’s foreign minister, created a department whose mission was to help developing countries—particularly in Africa—overcome problems of water, irrigation, agriculture, education, and women’s status. The department, whose name translates loosely as loosely Center for International Cooperation, was known by the Hebrew acronym Mashav.

In its early years, the Mashav initiative was warmly embraced by African states as well as countries in Asia and South America. When she became Israel’s prime minister in 1969, Meir saw to it that the African program continued to get the support it needed. But then came the 1973 Yom Kippur war, in the aftermath of which, at the urging of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, every sub-Saharan nation broke diplomatic relations with Israel and expelled the Mashav specialists. Traumatic as it was for Meir—she “had been messianic about her African program,” writes Yehuda Avner in The Prime Ministers—it was a much greater misfortune for the many Africans who had benefited from the now abruptly terminated programs.

In the 1980s, some African countries expressed interest in renewing ties. Ethiopia restored relations in 1989, and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa followed suit in 1993 with the signing of the first Oslo agreement. Today, Israel provides training in water management, irrigation, and other areas for specialists from more than 100 countries, 29 of them in Africa.

Moreover, Israeli water innovation for the developing world is no longer only the province of government.
Consider, for example, Sivan Yaari: a diminutive thirty-something whose NGO utilizes solar power and Israeli technology to help bring clean water and electric power to people living in small and often remote African villages. Born in Israel, raised in France, and educated in the U.S., Yaari spent a summer working for the UN in isolated parts of Senegal, where water pumps were either broken or in disuse because villagers had no money for the fuel needed to run them. “They ended up digging bore holes a few kilometers away,” Yaari says, “to get filthy water they had to carry back to their villages.”

Her answer was Innovation: Africa (in shorthand, i:A), an organization that installs not only water pumps but similarly solar-powered electricity for light bulbs and vaccine refrigerators in medical clinics. It now runs water projects in seven African countries, and Yaari has plans for expansion. “It turns out,” she explains, that

there is a lot of underground water in Africa. You just have to know where to look for it. The bigger problem facing African water-assistance programs is that as soon as the aid professionals leave the villages, the systems begin to break down and the people are no better off than before.

To overcome this, Innovation: Africa has created a system that seems impervious to breakdown, vandalism, or theft—and that can be run remotely from Israel. The concept is deceptively simple. Once a source of potable underground water is located, a rented diesel-powered drill is brought in to reach it, a water pump is inserted into the shaft, properly sized solar panels are installed and connected, and water is drawn out and deposited into an adjacent water tower, from where gravity propels it to destinations all around the village. In addition, the waterlines are connected to a drip-irrigation system installed alongside the solar panels, enabling the villagers to plant seeds and harvest the produce.

Thousands of miles away, in Tel Aviv, i:A’s technology chief Meir Yaacoby has created a device to monitor and manage each African water system from the office. By means of whatever wireless service is available locally (Yaari: “They may not have shoes, but the adults have cell phones”), frequent messages keep Yaacoby updated with key information on, among other things, the quantity of water in the tower and any problems with the equipment. He also receives a constant Internet feed on local weather conditions. If it the outlook is for hotter weather than usual, or if a cloudy spell threatens to block solar rays, he can pump more water into the tower as a precaution; if rain is in the offing, he can stop and restart drip irrigation as needed by a particular crop at any given stage in its growing cycle. If the system itself develops a mechanical problem, he is apprised within minutes and can send detailed information for repairing it to a local engineer. Every part of the system can also be automated, making it infinitely scalable.

These drip-irrigation systems are having another, unexpected effect. Yaari cites a village in Uganda as a representative case study. Beyond providing more food for the village and relief from hunger, the system has enabled the villagers to sell their surplus at the market. “With the extra money, they’ve bought chickens and developed a poultry farm,” she reports. In addition, “Once you begin providing water, the children aren’t filling jerry cans with muddy water and they can wash. They also stay healthy; a large number of the children had been getting sick from drinking unclean water.” And there are still other benefits: “The children, especially the girls, had been walking two to three hours a day fetching water,” she says. “They would come back exhausted and filthy. Now, with water being pumped, they can go to school.”

If the animating humanitarian spirit of Mashav is alive and flourishing in 2015, bringing sustenance to destitute and water-deprived people around the world, Israel has also used its water knowhow to improve its commercial prospects and ameliorate its diplomatic isolation. To date, more than 150 countries have welcomed Israeli assistance or technology in addressing their water problems. One notable one is China.

Despite the country’s enormous natural resources, the PRC has long been plagued with water problems. Many farming regions are inefficient and wasteful when it comes to water usage; infrastructure is overburdened and superannuated, losing enormous amounts in leaks; sewage treatment is often inadequate; and lax enforcement of environmental laws has led to the severe deterioration of many sources of freshwater.

In the early 1980s, having previously rebuffed decades of diplomatic overtures from Israel, the PRC permitted teams of Israeli water engineers to come—secretly—to survey collective farms in the southern province of Guangxi. The engineers recommended the use of drip irrigation, as well as Israeli seeds that would be better suited to the soil and climate. The Chinese agreed, but demanded that any markings suggestive of Israeli origin be removed from the equipment and seed packaging. Three years later, again in secret, a team of Israeli hydrologists and geologists was invited to help develop an irrigation plan for the semiarid Wuwei district south of the Gobi desert. In time, creeping closer to recognition, the Chinese proposed that Israel send an irrigation and water-utilization expert to Beijing and in return they would send a tourism specialist to Israel.

From these highly guarded beginnings, formal diplomatic ties were finally established in 1992. When, twenty years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Beijing to meet with his counterpart Li Keqiang, water management was still high on the Chinese agenda, but now openly so. To Netanyahu’s proposal that, as a pilot project, an Israeli consortium be engaged to redo the entire water infrastructure of a small Chinese city, Li replied by designating one of his ministers to assist in picking the city. A little over a year later, a joint Israeli-Chinese committee announced the selection of Shouguang, a city of slightly more than one million people—small, by Chinese standards—as the test site.

“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said one senior Israeli official, “but if we perform well here, we will have the opportunity to help rebuild the water systems of cities all over China.” Whatever one’s view of Communist China’s domestic behavior or global ambitions, the potential economic benefits to Israel of such an enterprise are undeniable—to say nothing of the independent moral value of significantly improving the living conditions of millions of ordinary Chinese citizens.

This essay is adapted from Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth M. Siegel, to be published next week by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Copyright © 2015 by the author.


Posted on on August 11th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

Ai Weiwei New York photographs 1983-1993 at the Asia Society Museum, New York City.

To be seen – June 29 through August 14, 2011.

Irith Jawetz writes from New York – Yesterday I went to visit the Ai Weiwei New York photographs 1983-1993 exhibit at the Asia Society Museum in New York City.
It is an exhibit of 227 photographs(chosen by the artist from his 10,000 collection of photographs) taken by Ai Weiwei while he resided in New York City during those 10 years. It was shown in Beijing in 1979 and was the first avant-garde art exhibition after the Cultural Revolution. This is the first time Ai Weiwei’s New York photographs are being shown outside of China.
Before Ai Weiwei became internationally known as an activist, he lived in a tiny apartment in the East Village, New York City, and belonged to a community of expatriate Chinese artists and intellectuals. He uses his camera to document his life, his surroundings and the atmosphere in New York City during this time. His main photographs show such diverse topics as East village poetry readings, the riots in Tompkins Square Park, Aids protests, drag queens at Wigstock,and a very significant photograph of a young man opposed to the Gulf War in 1991 with a sign “Don’t fight for the oil bo$$es”. Among his more happy photographs one can find some street scenes, dinners at various restaurants, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day parade, Chinese New Year’s celebration on Mott Street, dress rehearsal for “Turandot” at the Met, various museums and park gatherings. Some well-known artists and intellectuals from China such as artist Xu Bing,  composer Tan Dun, film maker Chen Kaige, and American “celebrities” such as  Allen Ginzberg, Al Sharpton, Harry Smith and even Bill Clinton campaigning on the Lower East Side of Manhattan are also part of the exhibition.
Al Weiwei returned to Beijing to take care of his ailing father, and has influenced many young artists, mostly those who settled on the outskirts of Beijing and have created radical performance art. They called the area they lived and worked in “Beijing East Village”. He has become a central figure in the art scene by creating art works, publishing books and curating exhibitions.
Ai’s artwork has been exhibited in Australasia, Europe, North and South America. It was included in the 48th Venice Biennale in Italy (1999), 1st Guangzhou Triennale in China (2002), 1st Monpellier Biennial of Chinese Contemporary Art in France (2005), The 2nd Guangzhou Triennial (2005), Busan Biennial in Korea (2006), The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Australia (2006), Documenta 12 in Germany (2007), Liverpool Biennial International 08 in the United Kingdom (2008), 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and the 29th Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2010).

Young Ai Weiwei

One of his most famous works was Fairytale which was his contribution for Documenta 12 in 2007. For this project Ai Weiwei brought 1001 people from all over China to a small town in Germany called Kassel. They were chosen through an open invitation he posted on his blog. Ai even designed clothes, luggage and a temporary home in an old textile factory. He let them wander around the city during the exhibition time of three months. The participants were divided into five groups that each stayed in Kassel for eight days. According to Philip Tinari the primary design object here is not the clothing or suitcases but the participants’ experiences, even their spirits .During the exhibition his monumental outdoor sculpture titled Template, made of wooden doors and windows from destroyed Ming and Qing Dynasty houses (1368–1911), collapsed after a storm. In 2008 he curated the architecture projectOrdos 100 in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. He invited 100 architects from all over the world (29 countries) to participate in this project.

Ai also curated the exhibition The State of Things, together with Belgian artist Luc Tuymans. It was shown at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels from 18 October 2009 to 10 January 2010 and at the National Art Museum in Beijing from 1–30 May 2010. From October 2009 to January 2010 Ai Weiwei exhibited So Sorry at Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. This solo exhibition showed Ai Weiwei’s largest retrospective to date. The title refers to the thousands of apologies expressed recently by governments, industries, and financial corporations worldwide in an effort to make up for tragedies and wrongdoings – though often without shouldering the consequences or the desire to acknowledge let alone repair. Saying sorry – or not saying it – is in the headlines everywhere and thus also in China. For this show Ai Weiwei created the installation Remembering on Haus der Kunst’s façade. It was made out of 9000 children’s backpacks. They spell out the sentence ‘She lived happily for seven years in this world’ in Chinese characters. This is a quote from a mother whose child died in the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. Ai Weiwei said: “The idea to use backpacks came from my visit to Sichuan after the earthquake in May 2008. During the earthquake many schools collapsed. Thousands of young students lost their lives, and you could see bags and study material everywhere. Then you realize individual life, media, and the lives of the students are serving very different purposes. The lives of the students disappeared within the state propaganda, and very soon everybody will forget everything.”

On 25 July 2009 Ai Weiwei opened his solo show According to What? at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, Japan. This exhibition presented 26 works, most made over the past decade.
In October 2010, Sunflower Seeds was installed at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall, London. The work consists of one hundred million porcelain “seeds,” each individually hand-painted in the town of Jingdezhen by 1,600 Chinese artisans, and scattered over a large area of the exhibition hall.The artist was keen for visitors to walk across and roll in the work to experience and contemplate the essence of his comment on mass consumption, Chinese industry, famine and collective work. However, on 16 October, Tate Modern stopped people from walking on the exhibit due to health liability concerns over the porcelain dust. In February 2011, a 220-pound (100 kg) pile from Sunflower Seeds sold for $559,394 (well above its high estimate of $195,000) at Sotheby’s in London.
Despite the artist’s absence, Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads opened on 4 May 2011, at the Pulitzer Fountain outside the Plaza Hotel in New York City.The heads were also on display at Somerset House in London from 12 May – 26 June 2011. The heads copy 18th century heads in the gardens of the Old Summer Palace, or Yuanmingyuan, near Beijing. They were ransacked by British and French troops during the Second Opium War of 1860, some of them resurfacing in 2000. A Guggenheimcurator read Ai’s words, “Without freedom of speech there is no modern world, just a barbaric one.”
Ai’s work is included in numerous public collections, among others the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. On 20 April 2011, Ai was appointed Visiting Professor of the Berlin University of the Arts.
In March 2010 Ai Weiwei received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the Faculty of Politics and Social Science, University of Gent, Belgium
In September 2010 he received Das Glas der Vernunft (The Prism of Reason), Kassel Citizen Award, Kassel, Germany.

However, his most recent and controversial art work was when he was commissioned as the artistic consultant for design, collaborating with the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, for the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics, also known as the “Bird’s Nest.” Although ignored by the Chinese media, he had voiced his anti-Olympics views. He later distanced himself from the project, saying, “I’ve already forgotten about it. I turn down all the demands to have photographs with it,” saying it is part of a “pretend smile” of bad taste. In August 2007 he also accused those choreographing the Olympic opening ceremony, including Steven Spielberg and Zhang Yimou, of failing to live up to their responsibility as artists. Ai said “It’s disgusting. I don’t like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment.” In February 2008, Spielberg withdrew from his role as advisor to the 2008 Summer Olympics. When asked why he participated in the designing of the Bird’s Nest in the first place, Ai replied “I did it because I love design”.

Ai Weiwei was ranked 13 in ArtReview‘s guide to the 100 most powerful figures in contemporary art: Power 100, 2010.

In the past four years Ai Weiwei has become known for criticizing the Chinese Government.

In April he was arrested and detained for three months.

On June 22, 2011, the Chinese authorities released Ai Weiwei on bail after close to three months’ detention on charges of tax evasion

To quote Asia Society Museum Director Melissa Chiu:
“Ai Weiwei is one of the most provocative and influential conceptual artists from China today, and in recent years he has become an increasingly iconic figure. As an artist, his work has stood for individual expression and we hope his recent release, following nearly three months in detention in China, has delivered a new promise of creative potential for him and other artists there. These photographs are a poignant and powerful chronicle of Ai’s artistic vision and emerging political consciousness during his time in New York.”


The 2008 Summer Olympics BIRD NEST Stadium.


and from today’s paper:

The blogger, Ran Yunfei, 43, returned after six months in prison to his home in Sichuan Province with the condition not resume advocating political reform.

BEIJING — One of China’s more prolific bloggers, whose introspectivemusings on democracy, human rights and fatherhood earned him tens ofthousands of followers but also charges of inciting subversion, wasunexpectedly released after nearly six months in police custody, hiswife said Wednesday.
The blogger, Ran Yunfei, 43, returned to his home in Sichuan Provincelate Tuesday from a detention center in the city of Dujiangyan, hiswife, Wang Wei, said by telephone. She declined to describe theconditions of his release, but a friend and human rights defenselawyer who spoke with him, Pu Zhiqiang, said Mr. Ran would be subjectto six months of “residential restriction” during which his movementsand his ability to speak or write publicly would be curtailed.
Rights advocates said the authorities were likely to drop the chargesif Mr. Ran did not resume advocating political reform.
The charges against Mr. Ran could have led to 15 years in prison. Hisarrest in February was widely seen as the opening shot of a governmentcampaign to head off any contagion from the protests that have toppledauthoritarian Arab governments.
Until his arrest, in the city of Chengdu, Mr. Ran’s daily blogwritings and microblog postings provided readers with his thoughts ona range of topics, including the value of an uncensored media, theimportance of charitable giving and his struggle with chronic backpain. Although he wrote about the so-called Arab Spring and hisyearnings for a more open political system, he did not urge hisfollowers to take to the streets against the ruling Communist Party.
Mr. Ran was a reluctant critic, saying he would rather be traveling,drinking wine and reading. “In a free country I would happily spend mylife in the library doing research,” he said in one post. “But I livein a country where I cannot in good conscience merely live such alife. I feel that I have no alternative. I have to voice my criticismsof our messed up social reality. Otherwise I would be uneasy. I wouldnot be able to sleep well.”

He was released just hours after Ai Weiwei, the artist and governmentcritic, sent out a Twitter posting urging his followers to speak outabout the prosecution of Mr. Ran and five other men. Rights advocatessaid the timing of his release was coincidental.
Renee Xia, the international director of Chinese Human RightsDefenders, said that either the authorities lacked the evidence toprosecute him or they came to realize he played no role in the callsfor a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” that originated overseas. “Theyalso might have decided the bad publicity from prosecuting one of thecountry’s most prominent bloggers was not worth the trouble,” Ms. Xiasaid.

In recent months, more than two dozen dissidents and rights advocateshave been detained in the crackdown. Some, like Liu Xianbin, anotherSichuan activist prosecuted on charges of inciting state subversion,were given 10-year sentences. Others, like Mr. Ai and Tang Jingling, alawyer from Guangzhou, have been granted conditional releases.
Mr. Pu, the rights lawyer, said he was hopeful that the release of Mr.Ran suggested that the government was easing up. “Whoever made thisdecision is courageous and wise,” he said.
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Posted in Archives, Art Performance reviews, Beijing, Book reviews, China, New York, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Reporting from Washington DC, The Others


Posted on on August 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Originally posted August 1, 2010 and updated August 17, 2010.

As we intend to be next week in New Hampshire to visit with some Green efforts there, we are now more attentive to that State and I just found the following:


Aired April 23, 2010 – 14:00   ET

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Here’s what I’ve got “On the Rundown.”…

VELSHI: Hey, do this for a second. Take a look down and look at your shoes. You probably remember where you bought them. Where did the leather come from, or the rubber in the sole? What about the fiber in the laces or the – the cardboard of the box that they came in?

Your carbon footprint could end up being a lot bigger than your shoe size, and that has become a major concern for Timberland, the company that makes all kinds of shoes and clothes and outdoor gear.

Jeff Swartz is the President and CEO of Timberland. He’s joining me live from Boston.

A few years ago, we spent a few days together, learning how to understand his business and what they do.

Jeff, thanks for joining me.


VELSHI: You – you spent your Earth Day, yesterday, in a very interesting way. Tell us about that.

SWARTZ: I was in Beijing yesterday, Ali. I spent the morning at the Great Wall. I planted with a Chinese actress named Li Bingbing. I planted the millionth tree in a project that we committed to 10 years ago to try and address the environmental damage being done in a place called the Horqin Desert.

It used to be a – it didn’t used to be a desert. It is now, because economic progress leads to the destruction of forest and the result of that is sandstorms that went through Beijing and get as far as Tokyo.

So, 10 years ago, we committed to plant a million trees. We planted the millionth tree yesterday –


SWARTZ: — in the rain. And then we committed to planting 2 million more trees. We’re going to create the Great Green Wall between Horqin and – and Beijing.

And so it was a – it’s a long way. I’m kind of jetlagged, but it was a pretty cool day.

VELSHI: Yes, I know. And we thank you for coming out and talking to us.

Listen, you are the third generation of your family in this business. Your grandfather – I think you told me he lost a piece of a – a finger, actually, making shoes back in the day, and you have melded your belief in the Earth and the environment with your business.

I want to ask you, a few years ago you told me you wanted to have a carbon-neutral business. You wanted Timberland to – to be taking less from the environment than it – that it was putting back in. Where are you on that?

SWARTZ: Well, we’re making big progress, and – and we have big progress yet to make, to be clear.

We set a goal of being carbon neutral, and we said by the year 2010, which is now. We just — we just announced that we – last year’s result, 36 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 2006 baseline. We’re on – we’re on good target to be at the 50 percent reduction place we said we’d be.

It’s all very interesting, but the more time we spend on the issue, Ali, of the environmental footprint at Timberland, the more we learn about our responsibility.

And so, I continue to hear our government say it can’t be done. I continue to hear critics say it can’t be done, that it’s going to destroy business if we put carbon cost into the way we run business.

The fact is, we’re lowering our costs. We’re creating more innovative products. We’re doing it in a way that is environmentally thoughtful. It’s – it’s not the way of the future, it’s a reality that we’re living right now.

VELSHI: I want you to tell me, there are probably three approaches for a company, right? One is that you can buy carbon offsets. In other words, you can keep polluting the way you do and buy carbon offsets.

One is you can change the behavior of your company, your manufacturing processes, things like that, and the third one is you can involve your consumers in the process.

You’ve done that – that last one as part of what you’re doing by putting an ingredients label on your – on your shoeboxes. Tell me about this.

SWARTZ: You’re at the heart of the question. Whatever you can do by yourself unilaterally as a company, change the lighting at headquarters to LED lights, good idea, saves money. Ban bottled water at headquarters, good idea, saves plastic, but it’s a small part of the – a carbon footprint.

The question’s all at the product level, and so by putting a – a nutrition label on the shoebox, we’re saying to consumers the power’s in your hands to consume. You don’t have to go hug a tree. You don’t have to do anything radical. You can get the greatest outdoor gear on earth from a company just like ours.

But if you stop for a second at the point of sale and you ask the question, what goes into this? What’s the process involved? All of a sudden –

VELSHI: So the things – some of the things you’ve got on – some of things you got on the label are use of renewable energy. Is it PVC- free, eco-conscious materials, recycled content of the box, the number of trees planted.

Is this working? Do you hear from – from consumers that that helps them to make the decision to buy your shoe versus a competitor’s or your jacket versus a competitor’s?

SWARTZ: Theirs is a very steady drumroll building just off camera, and it’s the sound of the consumer saying, hey, I expect more from the brands that I do business with.

I hear it from government, I hear it from consumers. It is – it’s coming.

It came in the food industry with organic food. It is coming in the fashion industry, and when it does, Timberland’s – not only – we want it to come, because we believe the more consumer asks about this issue, the – the better our chances of making our case to the consumer.

VELSHI: Jeff, I’ve always been impressed by you, and – and we really look to you for that kind of leadership. Thank you for – for coming on the show. Thanks for what you’re doing for the environment.

Jeff Swartz is the president and CEO of Timberland, joining me from Boston.

All right, straight ahead, I – I want to have an honest chat with you, each and every one of you who keep me company every weekday on this show. Don’t miss my “XYZ”. Today, it’s about you.


Cara Vanderbeck



STRATHAM, N.H., USA, April 20, 2010 – Forty years ago, the first nationwide environmental protest signaled the start of the modern environmental movement. Twenty million people came together to fight the rising tide of pollution and environmental degradation and have an effect on the future of our planet. Today, Timberland stands with those, now over 1 billion strong, who share the belief that our environment is still in need of preservation, and that through the power of civic leadership, we can make a difference by participating in service events around the world on Earth Day.

Timberland has recognized Earth Day with community service events for 12 consecutive years and this year, Timberland-hosted Earth Day projects will unite more than 7,600 volunteers at more than 140 service sites around the world. Timberland is sponsoring events around the globe, from New York to China and from the Dominican Republic to Madrid – generating nearly 52,000 service hours.

“While we’re committed to protecting the planet and reducing our impact on the environment 365 days a year, Earth Day serves as a reminder of just how important that commitment is and how far we’ve come,” said Timberland President and CEO Jeff Swartz. “Being a part of the global Earth Day movement reinforces our efforts to combat climate change in a passionate, purposeful, more dedicated way than ever before.”

Earth Day 2010 has additional significance as later this year, Timberland will fulfill its pledge to plant 1 million trees in China’s Horqin Desert as part of the company’s ongoing reforestation efforts. In 2001, Timberland committed to help restore the Inner Mongolia region of northern China from desertification through a partnership with Green Net. Desertification of large areas of land from population growth and overuse is a significant problem in parts of Asia, but can be reversed through the planting and sustaining of trees and shrubs, while also instructing the local population on more sustainable farming practices. This project is emblematic of the mission of today’s Earth Day: to make a difference in our environment through hard work and education.

In the New Hampshire area, Timberland employees are increasing environmental awareness and revitalizing communities in the following locations:

• Seacoast Science Center – 570 Ocean Blvd Rye, NH
• Blue Ocean Beach Cleanup (April 21) – 169 Ocean Boulevard Hampton, NH
• Exeter Trails Commission – Newfields Rd. at the Oakland Town Forest (Exit 10 off Route 101) Exeter, NH
• Dearborn Park– Exeter Rd/NH-111W North Hampton, NH
• Seacoast Gardens for all – Wagon Hill Farm, Durham, NH
• YMCA Camp Tricklin’ Falls – 140 Haverhill Road, East Kingston, NH
• The Kingston Conservation Commission – Exeter Rd/NH-111W, Kingston, NH
• Organic Turf Management & Education – Sawyer Park, Trundlebed Lane Kensington, NH
• National FFA Garden Project – Newfields Public Library – 76 Main St., New Fields, NH
• The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire – 112 Bay Road, Newmarket, NH
• Salisbury Rail Trail Coalition (April 27) – 5 Beach Road, Salisbury, MA
• Great Bay Estuary Sharing and Caring Project – 200 Domain Drive, Stratham, NH

F ollowing Timberland’s Earth Day events, photos, highlights and additional coverage will be available on

About Timberland:
Timberland (NYSE: TBL) is a global leader in the design, engineering and marketing of premium-quality footwear, apparel and accessories for consumers who value the outdoors and their time in it. Timberland markets products under the Timberland®, Timberland PRO®, Mountain Athletics®, SmartWool®, Timberland Boot Company®, howies® and IPATH® brands, all of which offer quality workmanship and detailing and are built to withstand the elements of nature. The company’s products can be found in leading department and specialty stores as well as Timberland® retail stores throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East. Timberland’s dedication to making quality products is matched by the company’s commitment to “doing well and doing good” — forging powerful partnerships among employees, consumers and service partners to transform the communities in which they live and work. To learn more about Timberland, please visit To learn more about becoming an Earthkeeper, visit


THE UPDATE: We have been at the Timberland headquarters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on August 11, 2010.

The location is the old Air Force base at Pease that was turn over in major part to civilian development; more on this in future postings.

I got enriched by buying a great pair of tall shoes for $90 at a 40% discount, got a free cap, and learned some more about the company.

The shoes are rated for green content – a very interesting new twist introduced by the shoes manufacturer.

Regarding our topic of main interest the tree plantings operation – I learned that it came about because of Timberland trying to offset emissions. They picked the Horqin grasslands and desert because of their involvement in China as the source of shoes they sell.

Our host was Margaret Morey-Reuner from the Department of Robin Giampa, Director, Corporate Communications.

At first the company established a Committee on Grazing and Climate Change – I assume as part of the recognition that the leather production obviously means cows grazing – and eventually work started in 2001. There are 35 people from Timberland involved in this activity in the desert of Horqin. The sticker on my shoe is thus part of the offset program.

Since our writing of a 3 million tree horizon for Timberland, there was further development in the program, and the company decided to work also with Haiti.

Now the company horizon is 5 million trees divided between China and Haiti. I asked if the added 2 million program is all in Haiti, but our hostess did not know how the figures will divide between the two locations.

Today Timberland talks of SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE as the underlying goal.

They have a competition requiring people to describe what trees do to us in 140 characters or less. Their effort is via “Yele Haiti,” and offer you for sale a certificate of planting 15 trees in Haiti. handles this.

They also work with an NGO from Japan – Greenland. Green Net of Japan – trees for the future. This as farming cooperative in China’s Harqin desert and Goneives, Haiti.



Further, I also received the following, and would like to pursue this some more:…

by HOLLY RAMER,Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, August 11, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire-based Timberland Company is expanding its “green index” to give customers more information about the environmental impact of its footwear.

The index rates the greenhouse gas emissions created during a shoe’s production, the hazardous chemicals used and the percentage of recycled, organic and renewable materials in each shoe. For now, the company rates 14 percent of its shoes but plans to expand that to 100 percent by 2012.

Timberland also is working with more than 200 other businesses on an industry-wide Eco Index. Along those same lines, Nike has its own internal software tool to evaluate the environmental footprint of its products that it plans to make it available to the rest of the apparel industry.


Posted on on July 13th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

China seeks to reduce Internet users’ anonymity.



The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 13, 2010.
BEIJING — A leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for new rules to require people to use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online, according to a human rights group.


In an address to the national legislature in April, Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the extensive system of censorship the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet, according to a text of the speech obtained by New York-based Human Rights in China.


China’s regime has a complicated relationship with the freewheeling Internet, reflected in its recent standoff with Google over censorship of search results. China this week confirmed it had renewed Google’s license to operate, after it agreed to stop automatically rerouting users to its Hong Kong site, which is not subject to China’s online censorship.

The Internet is China’s most open and lively forum for discussion, despite already pervasive censorship, but stricter controls could constrain users. The country’s online population has surged past 400 million, making it the world’s largest.

Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s website. But the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its push for tighter information control might prove unpopular. 

Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in the group’s magazine China Rights Forum.

“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cell phone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.

As part of that Internet “real name system,” forum moderators would have to use their real names as would users of online bulletin boards, and anonymous comments on news stories would be removed, Wang is quoted as saying.

The State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to a faxed request asking whether certain sections of Wang’s address to the legislature were altered in the official transcript.

Wang’s comments are in line with recent government statements that indicate a growing uneasiness toward the multitude of opinions found online. A Beijing-backed think tank this month accused the U.S. and other Western governments of using social-networking sites such as Facebook to spur political unrest and called for stepped-up scrutiny.

China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. Websites about human rights and dissidents are also routinely banned.


Posted on on May 15th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Maria Zheng profile picture

Maria Zheng

Research Assistant

William Davidson Institute, Ann Arbor, MI

Social entrepreneurship opportunities in China

May 14, 2010 —

BoP (Below the line of Poverty) Opportunities in China

What are some BoP ventures and issues in the world’s most populous nation?

China’s extreme income inequality, rich heritage and diverse geographies make for intriguing social venture opportunities during its time of neck-breaking economic growth.

While China has become the world’s third-largest economy, 627 million Chinese still lived on less than $2.50 per day in 2005.

Poverty is almost exclusive to the countryside – just 70 percent of rural Chinese are below the poverty line versus 18 percent of urban residents.

The following are several hot poverty alleviation topics and situations unique to China to get you thinking.


1. “Facebook for Farmers”

In 2006, the China Banking Regulatory Commission estimated that 2/3 of rural villagers, or 480 million people, had no access to formal credit. Only 10 NGOs in China could independently cover the cost of their loans, while in comparison, India had 1,000 microcredit institutions at the time.

Wokai, a non-profit named after the Chinese words “I open”, is a young, online microfinance program looking to change that imbalance, matching donors with entrepreneurs in China online. Like, lenders contribute capital online to generate funds for small businesses. Similarly to Facebook, Wokai provides a community and network for donors and borrowers. helps potential borrowers such as Sichuan’s Xu Guiqiong, in need of RMB 10,000 (approximately US$1,600) to grow a small breeding business and connect with the outside world. It is dedicated to showing donors the impacts of their micro-loans by linking them with their borrowers. Potential donors can browse for borrowers by industry, read their profiles, and give to a specific borrower. Loan recipients are screened by Wokai’s representatives and local field partner agencies. Since it’s launch in November, 2008, has raised US$140,000 in contributed capital and helped over 270 farmers drive their enterprises.

2. China’s poorest are most affected by disasters intensified by climate change.

Longer periods of drought caused by global warming exacerbate farmer’s economic difficulties in China, where 95% of those living in absolute poverty live in at-risk areas and are already the worst affected by climate change. China’s most urgent priority should be reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Accumulation of greenhouse gases has caused natural disasters across all of China, from intensified drought in northwest Gansu Province to more frequent torrential rain in Sichuan and floods and droughts in Guangong. Rising sea levels, landslides, more devastating typhoons, desertification, and permafrost thawing are all results of global warming, destroying lands from China’s east coast to Tibet. These intensified disasters create water shortages and destroy homes, farmland and cash crops, eventually leading to increased migration and displaced populations.

3. The hukou system: yesterday’s rural poor become today’s underserved urbanites

China’s household registration system and residency permits, known as “hukou“, ties people to their original place of residence, essentially rendering migrant workers from the countryside illegal immigrants when they move to cities. Hukou distinguishes urban from rural residents and is inherited. Hence, city children will have rural hukous if their parents had them. Depending on the city’s policies, changing from a rural to urban hukou often requires owning landing, prooving stable income sources, or paying a certain amount of taxes- all virtually out of reach for migrant workers. Without urban hukous, China’s rural poor who have moved to cities have restricted or no access to healthcare, public education, social welfare and other services, as cities limit such public programs to local residents. In certain cities, those with rural hukou cannot buy real estate. Until China reforms its hukou system, people originating from the countryside will always be second-class citizens in cities. The number of displaced peoples will only grow with climate change, as people leave drought-stricken villages for work in cities. Migrant workers must continue returning to their villages for adequate healthcare services and sending 58 million children back to villages where they may receive public educations.

4. Lack of social security leads to high savings rates and restrained consumers

China’s famously high savings rates mean that even its low-income households above the BoP often consume below the World Bank poverty line. Nearly half of rural households below the poverty line still save. In comparison, only 1/3 of households in the United States’ bottom fifth save. Research on the reason behind Chinese’ high savings rates cites government’s lack of a strong social security system, education costs and gender imbalance towards males. Economic vulnerability exacerbates poverty in rural China, as farmers are exposed to price shocks and workers’ pay is often delayed.  Until China creates a more secure economic insurance system and encourage more balance between saving and consumption, BoP markets may be difficult to reach.

5. Newly discovered tourist sties are driving growth in poor regions.

While migration to mega-cities continues apace, building tourism industries in smaller cities has become an increasingly viable alternative. Poor regions are opening facilities to accommodate tourists to well-preserved ancient landmarks and support their economies. Gansu, one of China’s poorest provinces, is undergoing a $38.4 million sustainable tourism project with loans from the World Bank.To welcome tourists to its section of the Silk Road, Great Wall and ancient monastaries and geological parks, Gansu has instituted reconstruction projects and infrastructure overhauls. Likewise, tourism has brought fresh inflows to central China’s city of Pingyao, which has a poor, agricultural-based economy and is water-scarce. Since its Ming dynasty wall, preserved Ming and Qing residences and ancient city streets helped it become a World Heritage Site in 1997, shops and hotels have emerged while new construction jobs have been created. These influx of tourists and building poor cities’ tourism industries has led to employment and social and economic development.