Torchlight Article Archives


Carpe Diem
Feb. 12, 2014

Tallying 2013
Nov. 30, 2013

Notes From A Green Building Transition Talk NYC 2013
Nov. 18, 2013

So Quiet You Can Hear A Plank Drop
Sep. 23, 2013

Energy Auditing In San Francisco: An Owner's POV
Jul. 8, 2013

Industrial Strength Sustainability
Apr. 24, 2013

Hedgehogs And Foxes
Feb. 21, 2013

Taking Stock of Benchmarking
Oct. 10, 2012

Irrigated With Sunlight
Sep. 24, 2012

The Data-Driven Built Environment
Jun. 27, 2012

Measuring Up
Apr. 2, 2012

Show Us The Application
Feb. 6, 2012

A Whole Lotta Learning Going On
Dec. 7, 2011

X Marks The Spot
Jun. 29, 2011

Reimagining The Middle Distance
May. 16, 2011

Dear Sustainability Officer
Mar. 22, 2011

Moral Hazard
Jan. 25, 2011

Edging Toward Energy Efficiency
Nov. 22, 2010

Energy Efficiency: Money Isn't Everything
Nov. 4, 2010

Hear A Pin Drop
Oct. 12, 2010

PACE Goes Poof!
Jul. 31, 2010

Till Human Voices Wake Us
May. 31, 2010

Home In The Dome
Mar. 22, 2010

Paving The Way
Jan. 29, 2010

It's Not A Wrap
Nov. 24, 2009

More Than Hope
Sep. 24, 2009

We The People
Jul. 2, 2009

Getting Down To Work
Apr. 22, 2009

A Glass Act
Mar. 5, 2009

Don't Get Lost In Translation
Jan. 1, 2009

The Deep Green Quartet
Oct. 30, 2008

Memories of Next Summer
Aug. 26, 2008

Can't Wait
Jun. 26, 2008

If Climate's The Question, Is Sticky the Answer?
Apr. 30, 2008

When Starting Over Is Not An Option
Feb. 28, 2008

Knocking At Our Door
Dec. 28, 2007

Possible But Not Probable
Oct. 31, 2007

Rolling Up Our Sleeves
Aug. 31, 2007

"If We Don't Act Now, When? And If We Don't Act, Who Will?"
Jun. 29, 2007

In Dreams Begin Accountability
May. 2, 2007

How To Get What We Pay For
Mar. 9, 2007

Giant Steps
Jan. 4, 2007

Waiting for Godot in NYC
Nov. 29, 2006

Countdown for NYC's Green Building Law
Oct. 18, 2006

Measuring Up to Lord Kelvin
Aug. 16, 2006

Greener With Envy
Jun. 30, 2006 — A Modest Proposal
Apr. 17, 2006

"Que Sera" is Not the Answer
Feb. 24, 2006

Lost in Translation
Jan. 3, 2006

A Green Pulse Beats in NY
Nov. 23, 2005

Torchlight Articles
Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The Spanish Requirement

March 17, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Omri Ben-Shahar concludes a scathing attack on contemporary disclosure laws with a barbed reference to a 400-word pronouncement, called the "Spanish Requirement". It was a prepared statement read in Spanish by 16th Century conquistadors to New World inhabitants, which warned them, having been put on notice, to "acknowledge the Church as the rule and superior of the whole world" or else!

More Than You Wanted To Know book jacket
Image: Book Jacket

While Professor Ben-Shahar concedes, "Happily, disclosures no longer excuse slaughter and slavery", he and his co-author Carl E. Schneider in More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosures, set out to make the case that today's disclosure laws, often called "sunshine" laws, are, at best, a waste of time because they fail to inform, warn or change anyone's behavior. At worst, disclosure laws shield bad actors from legal liability and let timid politicians hide behind the supposed virtues of enacting sunshine laws rather than passing bills to outlaw the behaviors that disclosure laws are supposed to help us see and thus avoid or amend. These are serious indictments, and as a long-standing supporter of New York City's very own sunshine statute, the Energy Benchmarking Law, enacted in 2009, I knew I needed to read this book with care. What if it's right?

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Promising Promises

January 20, 2015

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is a much-admired short story by Delmore Schwartz where the character becomes increasingly agitated in a dream as he watches a film depicting his parents' courtship. Readers are apt to reflect on their own family dramas, hopes and regrets. While, for most of us, the drama of climate change, sustainability and its fierce political struggles is not the same as the family variety, the implicit questions about the choices we make and the responsibilities we incur run deep for both.

As Sallan begins its second decade, it's a good moment to reflect on what promises were made and my sense of what was at stake back in 2005 when Torchlight #1 was posted. Much has happened in the arena of urban sustainability and climate change since then, some of it very good, some of it not, and our responsibilities should press us onward. But, exactly how?

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The Difficulty Of Simplicity

November 10, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Use more four-letter words. No, not those kinds, but short, everyday four letter words that mean more to most people than "sustainability" or "resiliency" or even "benchmarking building energy efficiency". Climate activists, energy system innovators, and campaigners for grassroots eco-engagement need to do a better job when trying to tell fellow citizens what they should think is important, which in turn will influence their everyday choices, like the stuff they spend money on and who they vote for. We can't expect most people to take up zero-carbon lifestyles as a rallying cry because people have a lot of other things on their minds and much to do every day. But becoming climate aware and climate smart and energy-educated is well within everyone's reach. This is the reason we've got to do better at making our messages and our prescriptions easy to grasp.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

The De Blasio Benchmarking Blessing

September 29, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Mayor de Blasio has given a special vote of confidence to Local Law 84, the building energy benchmarking mandate, in his climate policy vision report "One City, Built to Last: Transforming New York City's Buildings for a Low-Carbon Future". At the very same time, the US Environmental Protection Agency has released an expanded version of Energy Star, a software program that for the first time allows multi-family property owners and managers to score and rate their properties' energy performance and make comparisons with comparable properties. Talk about great timing, now that New York has become the biggest city in the world to set a goal of cutting its carbon emissions 80% by the year 2050.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

May The Force Be With Us

July 08, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… make that December 2013 in New York, a targeted expansion to the plan for shrinking New York City's carbon footprint, was born. This Carbon Challenge was originally devised to get government building managers — "leading by example" — along with voluntary commitments by large institutions like universities, hospitals and large office buildings, to cut their CO2 emissions by 30% in half the time outlined in PlaNYC 2030. The expansion, which came out less than a month before Mayor de Blasio took office, called for some of New York's largest multi-family property managers to encourage their co-op, condo and rental clients to embrace this same fast-track emissions reduction goal and cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15% over the next decade. Here's how it's designed to work.

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Use The Future As A Reference

May 08, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

While a New York Times Editorial calls Mayor de Blasio's ambitious and sweeping affordable housing vision Housing New York: A Five-Borough, Ten-Year Plan, his "moon shot", I'd like to focus in on his plan's energy efficiency and resiliency ideas. Coincidentally, the day after the Mayor issued his housing report President Obama released the US National Climate Assessment and for a coastal city like New York, here's a finding that stands out:

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Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Meet Donovan Richards: NYC's New Environmental Protection Chairperson

March 13, 2014

By: Nancy Anderson, Ph.D.

Council Member RichardsShortly after Superstorm Sandy wreaked its havoc on New York, Donovan Richards won a special City Council election to represent the super-soaked residents of southeast Queens. In January 2014, his Council colleagues tapped him to become Chair of the Environmental Protection Committee. Talk about being fast-forwarded into the center of urban climate change and resilience politics!

I caught up with Council Member Richards in March to find out about his vision, the mission and a legislative agenda for his committee. With his new citywide responsibilities, our discussion started at his plans for representing his southeast Queens constituents, with their Sandy recovery and resilient infrastructure needs along with their concerns about the health impacts of air pollution. He spoke at length about how these concerns interface with the environmental and climate needs of the entire City now that he will be leading environmental legislative and oversight initiatives.

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