Aspens in A Changing Climate & IBM Environmental Leadership

“Imagine a world of idyll, where a chorus of wavering lime-green leaves creates an ethereal backdrop to columns of bright white trunks.” – Tyler Williams, American Forests

The aspen is a striking tree with it’s silver white bark and golden fall hues.  It’s also a really interesting tree.  Did you know that one of the largest living organisms on earth is actually a 108-acre stand of aspens in Utah called ‘Pando‘?  Groves of aspen trees commonly develop from a single root system, which means that large groups of aspen trees can essentially be a single living organism growing together as a clone.  The aspen tree is often called the ‘quaking aspen’ because aspen leaves will flutter (or ‘quake’) in the slightest breeze, so they can be a loud tree as well.  Legend has it that the Native Americans knew they were approaching aspen trees long before they saw them because they could hear the rustling leaves.  It’s one of the most adaptable tree species, capable of replenishing itself in as little as 50 years, and is the most widely distributed tree in North America with cousins around the world, into the Far East and Africa.  It belongs to a select group of trees dubbed “circumglobal super species,” which means it is capable of spanning continents in strikingly similar forms.

But what’s in store for this beautiful tree as our climate changes?

Aspens have been in decline for the past half century, in large part due to global warming.  Scientists agree that global warming is caused in large part by greenhouse gases that come from fossil fuels in cars, factories, electricity production, landfills, agriculture, etc. – in other words, the growing effect of human urbanization on the planet.

Did you know that, for more than 40 years, IBM has been ahead of the curve on environmental issues, and is a recognized environmental leader?

“Protecting the environment is in our DNA,” says Wayne Balta, IBM vice president of Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety. “Even before the issuance of our corporate policy commitment to environmental responsibility in 1971, our commitment to being a good corporate citizen was part of the company’s Basic Beliefs and Principles in the mid-1960s.  As stated in those Principles: we understood well that “we serve our own interests best when we serve the public interest” and “we want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place.”

Image credit: World Environment Center
Image credit: World Environment Center
  • Newsweek Votes IBM Greenest Company in America (Newsweek, Oct 2012)
  • The European Union recognized 27 IBM data centers in the EU for their energy efficiency in January 2012 – the largest group of data centers from a single company to receive this award.
  • IBM is the only company to have twice received the Gold Medal for International Corporate Achievement in Sustainable Development in the 28-year history of the World Environment Center’s annual award (in 1990 and 2012).

IBM’s approach to sustainability is twofold:  working to make existing products and processes more efficient, while also developing new innovations that can help the world lessen environmental impact.  As one example of a sustainability project that IBM worked on, check out this video on IBM’s partnership with the city of Dubuque, Iowa to create a replicable model of a sustainable city for communities of 200,000 or less.

Learn more:

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Related:

Originally published on The Greater IBM Connection blog in Jan 2014

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