Earth Day- Earth Week- Earth Month 2023
By Don Southerton
Reflecting on Earth Day, my ties to Green and Sustainability have reached back in time more than a few years. In fact, it parallels my work with Korea. In the mid-2000s, I was an advisor to developing and building the Incheon, South Korea Songdo International Business District. Under the leadership of Green visionary Stan Gale, the city is the global model for urban sustainability.
Envisioned as a Green, high-technology city of the future — at the time, it was one of the world and Korea’s most significant foreign real estate development projects.
Built on reclaimed land and with partners like Kohn Pederson Fox, Cisco, and United Technology, the forward-leaning project also showcased some of the first LEED-certified buildings in South Korea and Asia.
In conjunction with the Songdo IBD project and my work for Hyundai, around 2007 the Songdo team and I had the opportunity for a VIP visit to Hyundai Motor’s R&D. We even got to fuel their 1st Gen Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), and then test drive the vehicles. At this time, Songdo’s leadership was very interested in FCEV buses for the International Business District powered by hydrogen.
Songdo’s innovations were again the subject of my 2013 article for the Korean government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism, highlighting the city’s Green accomplishments.
I also hosted a 2013 BBC World Service visit to Songdo IBD, showing off its Green smart city capabilities, capped off by an interview with Cisco’s former Chief Global Strategist Wim Elfrink, an early adopter who popularized the term IoT — the Internet of Things. A day later, we visited Hyundai Motor’s Eco Lab and test-drove their 3rd Gen HCEV, a first-of-its-kind production SUV, which was soon launched in Korea and then California.
In the years that followed, as companies I supported moved to mobility and EVs, I, too, shifted my research and work to these new sectors. Electrification has been and continues to be a major part of my work, leading to an ongoing immersion in the sector supporting Korean startup Grinergy and Green lithium battery technology.
This year we’re seeing a heightened level of engagement fueled by the U.S. Biden administration’s funding more eco-friendly and secure sourcing of related Green technologies at the top of the list. See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/american-made-limits-sourcing-eliminating-dependence-new-southerton/?trackingId=DMW8HonHQV2b1SGG%2B43GmQ%3D%3D
In particular, the focus on Green, Sustainability, and Resilience is this year’s Earth Day, or as one presenter at a recent webinar shared—it’s more of an Earth Week and Earth Month.
Personally, this includes participating in workshops and presentations at the Federal, State, and local levels, including groups like Yale Blue Green (YBG), who are engaged in environmental and sustainability topics and issues, and the Colorado Electric Vehicle Coalition.
This coming week is no different with plans to attend a Live Earth Day event at NREL—the National Renewable Energy Lab headquarters in Golden, Colorado.
As a Colorado DOT electrification expert shared, the questions their office received just a year ago centered on “if” EVs and related mobility were a good idea—to now a heightened acceptance and questions on expanding infrastructure and issues like micro-mobility, battery recycling, and end-of-life—to expanding availability from urban centers to rural and less economically served areas.
More so, as noted above and in my previous article American-Made, Limits on Sourcing, Eliminating a Dependence on China there is a need for better sourcing and sustainability of the raw materials and components used in Green tech.
Finally, as we reflect on Earth Day, in both in my work and pursuits, I find a greater embrace of new Green technologies, fueled by government and private funding and with a growing public interest in sustainability.
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