GreenYes Digest V97 #57

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GreenYes Digest Mon, 17 Mar 97 Volume 97 : Issue 57

Today's Topics:
Alternatives to HHW
Rachel #537: Sustainable America
Recycling Educ. Project

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Problems you can't solve otherwise to

Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 14:42:38 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Alternatives to HHW

Has anyone heard about this? Any comments?

Gary Liss

>From EIC: Final Word
<inspiring or alarming items in the news>
In a proposed new limit on free speech, manufacturers of household
chemicals and pesticides have crafted and proposed legislation that
would prevent the state of Arizona from telling consumers about
alternatives to dangerous household chemical products unless there is
scientific evidence to back up their claims. The bill has passed in the
Senate and is awaiting House approval.

Source: "eicinfo" <>


Date: Sun, 16 Mar 97 16:37:26 PST
Subject: Rachel #537: Sustainable America

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What is a "sustainable" economy?[1] To maintain life, humans
require a steady flow of physical materials and energy. We
require coal, oil and natural gas for heat and transportation;
wood for buildings and for paper; food for sustenance. Only
nature can create all these resources. Nature's most basic
process uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide, water, and
minerals into plants, the basis of all food chains.

Our economy provides us with goods and services, all of which
derive from the materials and energy that nature produces. A
SUSTAINABLE economy uses the essential products and processes of
nature no more quickly than nature can renew them. Furthermore,
a SUSTAINABLE economy discharges wastes no more quickly than
nature can absorb them.[2,pg.7]

This definition of a sustainable economy can be translated
(roughly) into measurable quantities: how much land surface is
required to produce the flows of materials and energy that
sustain us? For example, our production of carbon dioxide (CO2),
which is warming the planet via the greenhouse effect (REHW #429,
#430), can be translated into an area of forest that would absorb
the carbon dioxide we are releasing. If we set aside enough
forest to absorb all the carbon dioxide we release, then we would
achieve a sustainable balance between CO2 creation and disposal.

This approach, which is called "ecological footprint analysis,"
was invented by William Rees at the University of British
Columbia in Canada. Ecological footprint analysis reveals some
important facts about our current life style: for example, on
average, each person in the U.S. requires 5.1 hectares (12.6
acres) to create the flows of materials and energy that sustain
our lifestyle.[2,pg.85] Unfortunately, if you take all the
available ecologically productive land on the planet and divide
it by the number of humans living today, you find that, on
average, there are only 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) available for
each person.[2,pgs.54,88] Therefore, this kind of analysis tells
us that the whole world cannot ever achieve the hedonistic
lifestyle of Americans. There just isn't enough land to sustain
it. In fact, to support the entire human population in the
lifestyle of Americans (or Europeans) would require roughly three
additional planets the size of planet Earth.[2,pgs.90-91]

We can learn something else from this kind of analysis. Each
U.S. citizen requires 5.1 hectares of land, but if you divide the
area of the U.S. by the population of the U.S., you find that
only 2.8 hectares of land are available for each citizen. This
means that the difference, 5.1 -2.8 = 2.3 hectares per person, is
land that belongs to someone else but is being used to sustain
the U.S. population. Land that is supporting a U.S. citizen
cannot simultaneously support another person somewhere else, so
we are borrowing (or buying or stealing) someone else's current
or future well being.

If we acknowledge these facts, we are faced with several
dilemmas. As William Rees points out,[2] more material growth,
at least in the poor countries, will be needed to bring people
out of poverty, yet any global increase in the flow of materials
and energy is ecologically unsustainable. This means that humans
cannot continue on their current path. In particular, the
wealthy members of the human family (in other words, the average
members of every industrialized society) face an uncomfortable
moral challenge: while we use up three times our fair share of
the planet's resources, at least a billion people don't get the
minimum number of food calories needed to sustain life.
Furthermore, just meeting current demands is undermining the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Conventional strategies for economic development seem
ecologically dangerous and morally bankrupt.

Likewise, within the U.S. itself, conventional strategies for
economic development seem to be working AGAINST the environment
and AGAINST people. Here is an optimistic assessment from the
U.S. Secretary of Labor in January, 1997: Jobs are being created
at a steady pace, but plant closings, insufficient work, and
elimination of positions have caused the loss of 8% of the
nation's permanent jobs every two years. Eight percent of
permanent jobs were lost in 1989-91; another 8% were lost during
1991-93 and another 8% disappeared during 1993-95.[3] What we
find in place of these good jobs is temporary part-time work at
reduced wages with few benefits.

Real wages have fallen more than 10% since 1985. Meanwhile the
gap between the well-to-do and everyone else has been growing
steadily for more than 15 years: the rich are growing richer
compared to the rest of us. If you divide American society into
5 groups, each representing 20% of the total, the incomes of the
wealthiest 20% rose 26% between 1979 and 1995, while the incomes
of the middle 20% rose only 1% and the incomes of the bottom 20%
actually DECREASED 9%. Benefits are disappearing as well:
between 1983 and 1993, the percentage of full-time employees
participating in employer-sponsored health plans fell from 95% to

Wealth is even more inequitably distributed than income. Between
1983 and 1992, an astonishing 99% of the increase in the nation's
wealth was scooped up by the richest 20% of the people.[3]

Amid this economic decline, we find that the nation's future is
jeopardized by spillover effects. Here is how the NEW YORK TIMES
described it in a 1994 editorial:

"America's youngest children are in serious trouble, according to
a panel of experts brought together by the Carnegie Corporation.
So many children are growing up without adequate medical and
nutritional care, intellectual stimulation or emotional security
that the nation's ability to produce healthy workers and citizens
is in jeopardy."[4] Since the 1970s, parents have worked longer
hours but earned less money, leaving them less time and fewer
resources to devote to their children's well being.

One root cause of all these problems is our view of the economy.
The economy was once seen as a means to an end; it was to enable
people to enjoy a good life. Today the economy has become
something different. Both people and the environment are
sacrificed to maintain the economy --or, more specifically, to
maintain existing relationships of wealth and power.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We are not helpless in the
face of "the market." People --even people at the local level
--can control investments that either create or destroy good
jobs. By establishing "early warning" networks, we can identify
firms in trouble and take steps to help them recover. Tax policy
can help us or hurt us. If we come to see the environment as an
essential asset, local and national policies can preserve natural
resources as part of economic renewal.[5]

Now a new organization called Sustainable America (SA) has
appeared on the scene, aiming to tackle both the economy AND
sustainability head-on. SA held its founding convention in
Atlanta two weeks ago; 85 people from 25 states and 3 Indian
nations gathered to affirm their commitment to local economic
development and to a coordinated national movement for building
an economy that serves people AND maintains a healthy environment.

As Executive Director Elaine Gross explained in Atlanta, SA is a
national membership organization concerned about the direction of
our local and national economies. SA's member groups are
responding to decline by organizing locally and coming together
nationally to promote policy alternatives that offer a greater
degree of citizen control, economic stability, prudent use of
ecological resources, and a greater degree of economic equity.

The membership includes both national and local organizations
(and individuals) representing labor, economic development,
environmental, religious, educational, policy and community

SA's national office will strengthen the infrastructure that
nurtures the local and joint work of its members. The
infrastructure includes:

** a Technical Assistance Bank that will allow members to share
best practices and various skills amongst each other;

** a clearinghouse that makes available to its members
publications, research results, and other information;

** work/study groups that facilitate high-quality networking
through collective learning, problem solving and resource sharing;

** conferences, forums and workshops for the membership to
promote cross-fertilization and to increase the knowledge base of
the membership;

** policy campaigns that alter institutional or structural
barriers to SA's work.

SA has three strategic approaches:

Be pragmatic:

** focus on high-quality networking and technical assistance
among local groups doing the work;

** build an infrastructure that promotes (a) technical
competence, (b) ongoing collaboration and (c) joint action; **
seek insights into the challenges of organizing and
movement-building to further this work.

Be bold:

** Pick projects that influence the mainstream economy, encourage
experiments but seek to avoid marginalization by "scaling up"
activities whenever possible.

Be broad-based and politically strong:

** Reach out across the country and into diverse communities,
across disciplines and issue areas, building a movement for
sustainable economic development.

SA has four programs:

1. Community Capacity Building -Providing tools to understand our
local economies and environments better and to create a new
economic vision; strengthening our local organizations; educating
local citizens; and building broad-based coalitions.

2. Democratic Control (institutional accountability and worker
organizing) --Creating the framework, structures and enforcement
mechanisms to ensure that communities and workers control the
economic institutions that affect them --from business to

3. Business/Economic Development --Getting community/labor
coalitions more directly involved in job creation and
retention--from the service sector to manufacturing.

4. Capital Use and Control -Capturing our money and directing
public funds toward the creation of real jobs; and using our
capital resources (for example, natural resources) more wisely.

The economy doesn't have to work against people or against the
environment. But up until now, local environmental and economic
development work have gone on in a kind of vacuum --the economic
development folks and the environmentalists ignoring each other.
Now at last they are coming together.

If everyone piles on, this could be really big.

Contact: Elaine Gross, Sustainable America, 350 Fifth Avenue,
Room 3112, New York, NY 10018-3199. Phone: (212) 239-4221. Fax:
(212) 239-3670. E-mail: Web:
--Peter Montague
(National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)

[1] The issue of sustainability was first raised by Gro Harlem
Brundtland and others, OUR COMMON FUTURE (N.Y. and London: Oxford
University Press, 1987). The "Brundtland Commission" defined
sustainability as meeting "the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own

[2] Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, OUR ECOLOGICAL
British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers, 1996). See
their discussions of "natural capital" and "weak" and "strong"
sustainability in chapter 2. $14.95 plus $3.00 shipping from: New
Society Publishers, P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada
V0R 1X0; telephone (604) 247-9737; fax: (604) 247-7471. Well
worth the price.

[3] Robert B. Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor, speech entitled
"The Unfinished Agenda," delivered to the Council on Excellence
in Government, Washington, D.C., January 9, 1997; the data appear
in the "Technical Appendix" to Secretary Reich's speech.

[4] "Endangered Children," NEW YORK TIMES April 15, 1994, pg. A30.

[5] For discussion of local economies and environmental quality,
see Thomas Michael Power, ECONOMIC PURSUIT OF QUALITY (Armonk,
New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1988).

Descriptor terms: economic development; economy; jobs;
ecological footprint; william rees; mathis wackernagel;
sustainable america; elaine gross; technical assistance; thomas
michael power; income; wealth;

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--Peter Montague, Editor


Date: Sun, 16 Mar 1997 07:05:43 -0800 (PST)
From: Karin A Grobe <>
Subject: Recycling Educ. Project

I am gathering materials to create a display on recycling for school
children. This will be a permanent display at a MRF.

I need the phone numbers for the US glass and paper recycling
association. Any other help or advice you can offer is appreciated.

What I hope to gather are photo negatives of the recycling process, and
some of the intermediate materials (for example, for plastics this is the
little pellets) that the commodities go through on their way to
becoming recycled products.



End of GreenYes Digest V97 #57