Re: greenyes-d Digest V00 #5

From: Tanis Skislak (tskisl@yahoo.com)
Date: Thu Jan 06 2000 - 11:29:34 EST

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    Regarding the Washington Post article, over the
    years I have heard Mr. Porter make some strange
    comments but luckily, the audience has either
    been small enough or astute enough that the
    damage is controllable. Given his credentials,
    one would think that a person in Mr. Porter's
    position would know better. Living up to last
    year's resolution to be kinder, I could suppose
    that his comments were taken out of context by
    the reporter. Living up to this year's
    resolution that it is easier to accomplish my
    goal if the goal is to bring everyone else down
    to my level, I could suppose that this is just
    what Mr. Porter said. Alas, when I put these
    comments into the context of the others, I must
    conclude that he did indeed say that.His comments
    in this vast arena give me the shivers and I was
    wondering if anyone else had the same reaction.

    Maybe we just need a simple fact sheet on
    recycling that addresses the basic issues of 1.
    What does recycling cost? 2. What does trash
    cost? 3. What is included in "cost?" 4. Why is
    the easier and cheaper way the "better" way? 5.
    What is "better" anyway? Better for whom, better
    when, better than what? 6. Is the value of
    recycling absolute or is it on a continuum? Is
    the value measured discretely by each local
    government involved in collection programs or is
    it to be measured in the regional, statewide,
    national and global aggregate? 7. Is the benefit
    to be measured in the short term (as in "I must
    have money in the bank: I have still have
    checks!) or is it to be measured in the long
    terms (as in mutual funds when we have to stay in
    it for the long term if we want a return on our
    investment). 8. If the process of recycling
    produces pollution, isn't there a baseline
    against which the amount of pollution should be
    measured or are we again looking at an "absolute"
    versus "relative" impact.

    After I read Mr. Porter's comments about having
    already captured the "easy -to-get stuff" and his
    query of whether we really want to collect and
    recycle "hot dog wrappers and kitty litter" I
    then came across an article by Chaz Miller in
    which he is discussing the "value" of recycling
    and makes a comment about the "law of diminishing
    returns." I respect Mr. Miller and have for a
    long time so I am not trying to put him into an
    association with Mr. Porter. I mention Chaz
    because the concept of the law of diminishing
    returns is more appropriate when examining the
    dregs of a program or the dregs of a population
    base and you try to determine if the financial
    cost outweighs the environmental benefit. It
    seems to me that Mr. Porter has started in on the
    law of diminishing returns not in relation to the
    dregs of the program but way before the national
    apex has been reached.

    These little wars keep cropping up because we do
    not have a united vision on recycling. It's a
    large country and we are very fragmented. I see
    the division as analogous to democrats versus
    republicans. The republicans ask "what is the
    immediate financial cost?" and the democrats tend
    to reply "who cares,it's for kids and grandkids."
     Neither side validates the other's view and the
    dichotomy continues. When do we get to a party
    of "demolicans" or "republicrats" who agree that
    it is inherently wrong to waste our resources
    just because we can and because it is easier?
    When do we agree that "cost" is not simply a
    matter of dollars? When do we agree that the
    philosphy of recycling is good because it is a
    long-term strategy based on conservation of what
    we have? When do we agree that when dealing with
    the dregs, it does not make sense to go after the
    small amounts be they small amounts of materials
    in small communities or be they small amounts
    left over after the majority has been recycled.

    Maybe there is one party that will come out of
    this all: the Redems. Now there's an idea!
    Tanis Skislak
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