Monthly Archives: October 2009

executive (over)compensation

Each year it seems executive compensation gets more inflated. Advocates argue that high compensation promotes competition for executive responsibilities and therefore encourages execs to perform at higher standards. Still though, a recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll stated that 80% of individuals in the study felt that CEOs are paid too much.

There are thousands of publicly traded corporations in America, and by no means does every CEO enjoy such high compensation, but many of those working for the top 500 companies do. Although the United States pays its CEOs more on average than any other country worldwide, some argue this correlates directly to our GDP, which according to the World Bank was $13,751,400 million, $6,654,729 million more than China at 2nd the highest ranking.

Money is a strong incentive, but history shows us that it’s potential to corrupt is infinite, and I would argue that to promote ethical business practice, the leaders in charge need to be motivated by social responsibility as well.

One push for accountability in compensation came in January 2007 when institutional investors nationwide proposed a resolution informally known as “Say on Pay”, which asked “more than 50 US companies to give stockholders an annual advisory vote on executive compensation packages” (Billitteri).

“Say on Pay” has been widely debated but has yet to achieve prominent presence in US business. Employees often make up a very large chunk of the shareholder body, and arguably know more about the management and future of their company than a board of directors who are not necessarily experienced with the specific company at hand. Employees are probably also more prone to increase   their own productivity if they have more of a say in the company’s strategic goals then if they feel they are only there to follow orders. Because of these two reasons, I feel that a “Say on Pay” approach is the most effective way of determining executive compensation for the modern corporation.

shark finning and our oceans’ futures

Mr. Cousteau’s talk on Tuesday gave an inspiring testimony that even smaller advocacy groups can achieve impressive and timely reform.

In April 2006, Mr. Cousteau and the Ocean Futures Society met with President George W. Bush to discuss marine endangerment in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. No formal arrangement was made at that meeting, but on June 15, 2006, President Bush declared the islands a protected Marine National Monument; the largest one to date.

Following this move, the Department of Interior added the monument to a list of proposed UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The nomination was officially accepted in 2008, and will be decided upon in summer 2010.

It’s encouraging to know that what started as a film screening by Mr. Cousteau has since snowballed the cause to achieving UNESCO status and promoting marine awareness worldwide.

However, as Cousteau mentioned, despite conservation and preservation efforts in the western world, one of the biggest obstacles lies to the East, where aggressive whaling and shark fishing is the norm. Retooling heavy industry is a complicated task, and it’s clear that more simple sacrifices about what we as individuals choose to consume can still be a major push toward marine and wildlife sustainability.

It seems selfish not to do without envionmentally costly luxuries. In the United States shark finning was outlawed this year, and in New Zealand the Great White Shark has been granted full protection in national waters. Still, no international agreement has been seriously considered.


If individuals control the majority of carbon emissions at Penn State through leaving lights and appliances on when not being used, then practicing
sustainable living does not need to be inconvenient.

Housing and Food Services have done a good job placing
recycling containers in dorms and dining commons, but still much of our
packaging and containers go to waste. Furthermore, recycling efforts on campus
considerably outweigh those made by individuals downtown and across State
College. In Germany, citizens are required by law to sort and dispose of their
recyclables, and are subject to heavy fines for failure to comply. Although it
seems a little Orwellian to think that government employees may be sifting
through your garbage, it is certainly effective.

As a University we can still do more to encourage recycling.
Incentives like giveaways for recycling “x” number of plastic bottles, and
increasing HFS’s line of recyclable materials in the commons will go a long way
for boosting our already stellar eco-record

To confront the issue of lights being left on, many institutions
are now using light and motion sensing technologies that gauge the level of
light already in the room (useful for frequented areas such as the commons), or
that detect how long it’s been since the last movement in the room (good for
dorm rooms), and regulate the light accordingly.

Neither of these measures should be an inconvenience to
students, and they both have the potential to increase our sustainability
beyond our already progressive levels.

carbon capture?

In my follow up research, I came across a method of emission
reduction which I hadn’t yet heard of: carbon capture and storage.

China has already begun 2-major carbon capture projects in Beijing
and Shanghai. Germany and Australia are among other examples of successful capture

Carbon capture traps the CO2 at its source, and either
isolates it in underground storage, or reintroduces it into industrial process. A full overview can be found here.

It’s an expensive process, and requires significant power,
but it can be applied to both power generation and heavy industry.

What I’m more curious about though is why I’ve never read
about this in mainstream media. When I performed a search of carbon capture in
news publications, only a handful of stories came from US publications, the overwhelming
majority originating from Canada, China, India and Great Britain.

Nuclear fusion, solar, wind, carbon taxes and offsets are
not the only options to choose from worldwide, so why do we restrict our public
policy to the same solutions as 20 years ago?


cultural change

A student died last week. How much more will it take before
PSU students realize they need to be responsible for themselves and their

No Partys Thursday“; sure -but realistically, pledging has
started, and kids will be out raising glasses to Joe Dado, the freshman who
dies on campus while intoxicated.

I see a lack of respect and unity within our student body
when individuals fail to appreciate the truth that a member of our community
died, and each weekend 25 more undergrads risk the same. The ER can testify to
this. On a given Saturday night, the ER is packed with students who have been
dragged in to have their stomachs pumped. Football weekends are even worse.



College Drinking Prevention, a
government campaign outlines that the responsibility to prevent further tradgedy is 3 fold: individual
students, the student body as a whole, and the college and surrounding
community. In our case, we (the students) need to take care of our friends if
they do choose to drink. UPUA and student entities like the Collegian and ARHS
need to do a better job promoting alternative social events so that students
will actually want to do more than hit up frat parties on their weekends. PSU
admin and State College need to be stricter at events like football tailgates where
there are already dozens of underage drinking citations given out every weekend
before games.

Community members are too quick to think that the only
feasible policies on alcohol are either what we already have or outlaw it
completely. But we don’t need to revert to revert to prohibition to solve this
problem. Target the irresponsible ones. If people know that there are strict
consequences for alcohol abuse and irresponsibility, then they will think twice
before drinking to the point of blacking out. Parties are great. I don’t drink,
and I don’t condone underage drinking, but right now this is college, and this
is what we have to work with. We all want to have fun and get loose on our
weekends and that shouldn’t stop. But as a fun loving community we need to play
it safe.