Making Manufacturers Take It Back

  • Craig Lorch, co-owner of Total Reclaim in Seattle. His company is certified to recycle electronic waste under Washington's e-waste law. (Photo by Liam Moriarty)

It used to be that when a company
sold you a widget, they got your
money, you got the widget, and
that was the end of it. Now, that
way of doing business is changing.
Liam Moriarty reports that in Europe, and in the
US, businesses are being required
to take responsibility for their
products in new ways:

Transcript

It used to be that when a company
sold you a widget, they got your
money, you got the widget, and
that was the end of it. Now, that
way of doing business is changing.
Liam Moriarty reports that in Europe, and in the
US, businesses are being required
to take responsibility for their
products in new ways:

(sound of recycling machine)

In a huge industrial building in Seattle, forklift-loads of TVs and computer monitors are heaved onto conveyor belts. Workers go at them with screwguns and hammers.

“They’re pulling the plastic covers off of devices, they’re pulling the picture tubes out of them. They’re basically dismantling it to component parts.”

Craig Lorch is co-owner here at Total Reclaim. His company is certified to recycle electronic waste under Washington’s e-waste law.

The law requires that these old machines don’t end up being dumped, where their toxic chemicals can poison humans and the environment.

Recycling old electronics has been happening for years. John Friedrick explains what’s new about Washington’s e-waste law.

“It’s a producer responsibility law, which takes the burden of all of this off of the taxpayer.”

Friedrick runs the state-wide recycling program that’s fully paid for by electronics manufacturers. It started just a year ago, and already it’s collected more than 38 million pounds of e-junk, costing producers nearly 10 million dollars. Basically, it requires electronics companies to cover the end-of-life costs of the products they sell.

That concept – called extended producer responsibility – is new in the US. When Washington’s e-waste law was passed three years ago, it was the first to put full responsibility on manufacturers. But this isn’t a new idea in Europe.

Klaus Koegler is with the European Commission’s Directorate General for the Environment in Brussels. He tells me about a keystone of EU environmental policy – what’s called the “Polluter Pays” principle.

“That simply means whoever causes damage to the environment is responsible, also in financial terms, to repair it or to minimize it right from the beginning.”

Koegler says that gives regulators the muscle for a range of laws. One example: any car sold in the EU has to be 85% recyclable. Koegler says that creates an incentive.

“If you are responsible for the recycling, that means you will try to design a car to make your life as a recycler as easy as possible.”

And a product that’s easy and cheap to recycle is likely to be easier on the planet, too. Europeans also see making manufacturers take back and recycle their old products as a way to reclaim resources. For instance, nickel and other metals are becoming more scarce and expensive.

“So in keeping the waste here, recycling it here, and recovering these metals, we are protecting the environment. At the same time, we are helping to secure supply for our industries.”

So, the EU is moving toward setting even more ambitious goals for recycling. In the US, Wisconsin recently became the 20th state to pass a take-back law for electronics. States are also extending producer responsibility to other products – including batteries, fluorescent lamps and paint.

Now, the electronics industry is pushing back. Two major industry groups have filed a lawsuit against the e-waste law in New York City. They say it’s unconstitutional. Environmental activists see the suit as an attack on the whole concept of producer responsibility.

But Rick Goss with the Information Technology Industry Council insists it’s not.

“We support producer responsibility. We understand and recognize, that as manufacturers, we have a role to play in offering our consumers options and solutions for used products here. But we don’t have the only role to play.”

Still, the suit makes constitutional arguments that could be used to challenge the right of states to impose recycling requirements on manufacturers.

For The Environment Report, I’m Liam Moriarty.

Related Links

Greenovation: Eco-Certified

  • When doing home improvement projects, WaterSense, EnergyStar, GREENGUARD, and FSC certifications are some to keep an eye out for. (Photo by Michelle Miller-Freeck, courtesy of FEMA)

When you’re planning a home
improvement project, you can
be overwhelmed with decisions
about the right materials, the
right quality, and the right
design. Trying to keep it eco-
friendly on top of everything
else just adds to the confusion.
Lester Graham reports it can be
as simple as finding a label:

Transcript

When you’re planning a home
improvement project, you can
be overwhelmed with decisions
about the right materials, the
right quality, and the right
design. Trying to keep it eco-
friendly on top of everything
else just adds to the confusion.
Lester Graham reports it can be
as simple as finding a label:

Julia Weinert and her boyfriend like the idea of making their place nice, but even something as simple as painting causes concerns.

JW: “We want to support environmentally friendly options and we just don’t want to be smelling it for three days out and have to be running the fans. We just want it to be convenient and we think it would be an easy thing to do.”

LG: “Well, you’re in luck. We’re at the local Home Depot and we just happen to have Greenovation.TV’s Matt Grocoff here. Matt, you’ve got some advice for her.”

MG: “And it’s really, really simple. When you’re trying to find a paint that’s healthy for you or another product, you shouldn’t have to be a chemist when you go to the store. There’s a really simple thing you can look for. Just look for the simple GREENGUARD label. GREENGUARD is an independent organization that lets you know with a simple label that that product is safe for you.”

So, none of the really strong paint smells that mean polluting chemicals are being released. GREENGUARD Environmental Institute sets indoor air standards for products and buildings. Julia and I sniffed a can of paint WITH the GREENGUARD label, and then one without.

LG: “I’ll let you sniff first.”

JW: Okay. Oh! Yeah! Oh my gosh! That is ridiculous. I mean, it smells so much stronger than this one. You can’t even smell that one compared to this one.”

A gallon of paint with the GREENGUARD label DOES cost a few dollars more, maybe as much as ten bucks.

Matt then herded us to another part of the store, the plumbing section, where Julia and I were confronted by all kinds of shiny chrome and brass faucets.

JW: “There’s a whole wall, a whole aisle of faucets here and I just don’t know which ones to look for.”

LG: “So, Matt. You got any fancy labels here?”

MG: “Absolutely. Again, if you’re looking for that eco-friendly option, a way to save yourself some money and some water, it’s simple. Just look for the WaterSense label. The EPA does EnergyStar labels for appliances. The EPA also does WaterSense label for plumbing fixtures.”

WaterSense means the fixture – whether a faucet, shower head or toilet – will use less water but still works well.

As we wandered over to the lumber section of the store, Matt told us the last label he wanted to show us is the most ignored label – and it might just be the most important one.

MG: “FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council. And what that means is they’ve made a commitment that they’re not going to be tearing down forest and clear-cutting them in order for you to build some bookshelves in your home. This is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gases is that we don’t have these forests capturing this carbon any more. Instead of having to have a PhD in forest management, you can just simply look for a piece of wood that has an FSC label on it.”

So, labels. Julia says, works for her.

JW: “It’s going to be great, taking my boyfriend around the store and showing him all these cool things I can get to make our home improvements a little more cheap and environmentally-friendly.”

LG: “Alright remind me, go over this again. What am I supposed to be looking for?”

MG: “It’s very simple. If you’re looking for paint, look for GREENGUARD. For plumbing, WaterSense. For lumber, FSC, Forest Stewardship Council certified.”

LG: “That’s Matt Grocoff, Greenovation.TV. Thanks again, Matt.

MG: “Lester, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you.”

For The Environemnt Report, I’m Lester Graham.

Related Links

Interview: Economics and Environment

In the last few decades the economy of the
US has grown faster than ever before. Corporations
work hard to expand and to drive share prices higher.
The author of a new book ‘The Bridge at the Edge of
the World’ says in this process of growth, capitalism
is not paying for its consequences. Lester Graham
talked with Gus Speth, the dean of the School of
Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale. Speth
says since the environmental movement began in the
1970’s, we’ve dealt with many of the symptoms of
environmental damage, but not many of the causes:

Transcript

In the last few decades the economy of the US has grown faster than ever
before. Corporations work hard to expand and to drive share prices higher.
The author of a new book ‘The Bridge at the Edge of the World’ says in this
process of growth, capitalism is not paying for its consequences. Lester Graham
talked with Gus Speth, the dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental
Studies at Yale. Speth says since the environmental movement began in the
1970’s, we’ve dealt with many of the symptoms of environmental damage, but
not many of the causes:

Gus Speth: “We did do some cleaning up, and certainly rounded out a lot of the
rough edges, but despite that, we are in a very dire situation now, I believe. The
global warming issue, disruptive climate change coming at us, is the most potent
environmental threat that we’ve ever experienced. Meanwhile: we’ve been losing
an acre a second of tropical forest for decades now, we’re consuming vast
quantities of fresh water from our streams and rivers, a flock of rivers no longer
reach the ocean in the dry season around the world, we’re over-fishing 75% of
the marine fisheries, 90% of the large predator fish in the oceans are gone, half
of the wetlands are gone, we’re extinguishing species a thousand times the rate
of natural extinction. So, these are very serious problems.”

Lester Graham: “You suggest in your book that tackling environmental problems
will require us all to stop looking at things with such a narrow view. The
environment is connected and affected by business, and government, and
lifestyle – or, in other words: capitalism, democracy, and consumerism. Do you
want to change the world? Is that what it is going to take?”

Speth: “Well, I think, quite literally, we have all got to be out to save the world at
this point. And I think these issues are linked. We forget sometimes that the real
thing that is undermining the environment is economic activity. And this growth
carries with it enormous potential for increased environmental destruction. Now,
the problem is, companies have enormous incentive not to pay their
environmental costs, to push these costs off on to other people and on to future
generations. The result is that the prices for their products are environmentally
dishonest.”

Graham: “Can you give me an example of a case like that?”

Speth: “Well, I would say any oil or coal company, and us in using the oil and the
coal in our electricity and in our homes or whatever. We’re paying nothing
compared with the environmental cost that the use of the fossil fuels is imposing
on our environment and on our own human health. And that basic arrangement
is buttressed by enormous power, now, on the part of the corporate sector. Not
only are they the principle economic actors in our system, but they are the
principle political actors in our system, now. It is buttressed by our own
consumerism, our own pathetic capitulation to the advertising machine that we
face everyday. And it’s buttressed by government, which is really wholly
dependant now on growth for raising extra taxes without having to raise tax rates,
and for holding out the promise of better lives which don’t materialize.”

Related Links

Selling Earth Day

  • Earth at twilight. A digital photograph taken in June 2001 from the International Space Station orbiting at an altitude of 211 nautical miles. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

The first Earth Day in 1970 often gets credit
for jumpstarting the modern environmental movement.
Lately, Earth Day’s meaning might be changing a bit.
A lot of companies are running Earth Day ads and
offering special Earth Day shopping events. Rebecca
Williams reports the idea is that we can buy our way
to a better world:

Transcript

The first Earth Day in 1970 often gets credit
for jumpstarting the modern environmental movement.
Lately, Earth Day’s meaning might be changing a bit.
A lot of companies are running Earth Day ads and
offering special Earth Day shopping events. Rebecca
Williams reports the idea is that we can buy our way
to a better world:

You can’t watch TV lately without tripping over ads around Earth Day.

(Commercial montage featuring WalMart-SunChips-Home Depot)

And at the grocery store:

Campbell’s soup is wearing an Earth Day label. Campbell’s says condensing
soup means smaller, lighter cans. So, that means less waste. Of course,
they’ve been doing that since 1897. Long before Earth Day and the
environmental movement.

Even Barbie’s excited about Earth Day. She’s got a limited edition line of
accessories. They’re made from scraps of fabric that would otherwise have
been thrown away. She’s so crafty.

Of course, there’s a reason why it’s raining Earth Day ads.

“Companies advertise in ways they think people will respond.”

Tom Lyon directs the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at
the University of Michigan.

“Five years ago they didn’t think they were getting a whole lot of mileage
out of advertising green. Now you could say green is the new black – every
company is moving in this direction.”

Lyon says the reality of climate change has been more widely accepted in the
past couple years. People are wondering what they can do about it. And
companies are trying to tap into that.

Joel Makower has been studying green marketing for 20 years. He’s the
executive editor of Greenbiz.com. He says Earth Day marketing ebbs and
flows over the years. But he hopes Earth Day never turns into a marketing
event on the scale of Christmas.

“I think most people recognize the very clear reality that we’re never going
to shop our way to environmental health and so to the extent that Earth Day
becomes an excuse to consume, then we’ll have sent all the wrong messages.”

But Makower says a lot of companies actually are making big changes in their
practices and they should talk about that. He says Earth Day advertising
makes sense if the company’s doing something to improve all year long.
Otherwise he says it might just be a stunt.

Others think Earth Day as a marketing opportunity is probably here to stay.

Adam Werbach is the Global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S. It’s a major ad
agency. He says companies see Earth Day as another holiday.

“The reason that works so well this year – Easter came very early and there
was a large gap between Easter and Memorial Day so Earth Day fit in really
well so that stores could get through their Easter merchandise and start
putting green merchandise on the shelves and then move into Memorial Day.”

Werbach thinks that’s actually not a bad thing. He’s had feet in both
worlds – as a former president of the Sierra Club. More recently he’s been
a consultant for Wal-Mart. He thinks consumers should be the ones driving
companies to improve their practices.

“Our hope is of course that people who have tried these new products will
return and buy them in the next month so that in the end you’re creating a
cycle of demand for green products on shelves so that they don’t go away and
be a one time occurrence.”

But at the same time, Adam Werbach is a little conflicted. He wishes Earth
Day could be the one day of the year we could take a break.

No branding. No ads. No buying. Just Earth.

Hey… that might make a nice commercial.

For the Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

Debating Holiday Consumerism

  • Santa in a window display. Some families wrestle with the question of how much to give each holiday season. (Photo by Mark Brush)

A lot of people don’t want to get caught up
in the consumerism of the holidays. But often
family and friends expect to get gifts from loved
ones. Julie Grant spent time with one family where gift-giving is a real struggle:

Transcript

A lot of people don’t want to get caught up
in the consumerism of the holidays. But often
family and friends to get gifts from loved ones.
Julie Grant spent time with one family where gift-
giving is a real struggle:


Susan Testa is stuck in the middle between her sister and her husband. They see the
Christmas holidays very differently. Susan and her husband Matt try to teach their two
little girls to live in balance with the natural environment. That means at Christmastime,
Susan says her husband wants to put the brakes on buying gifts:


“I think if it was up to Matt, we would have nothing because it’s just too much
consumerism, too much waste, too much this, too much that. I want to balance that
with, well, let’s not go overboard. Let’s bring some green concepts, which we’re both
very interested in, into the tradition. However, let’s not be scrooges about the whole
thing either.”


But on Christmas Eve, Matt doesn’t have visions of sugar plums dancing in his head.
He’s got visions of wastefulness. He can’t stand to watch the wrapping paper pile up as
the relatives rip open gifts:


Matt: “It doesn’t sit well with me, this frenzy of ripping things open, where no one can
even be appreciated or it’s hard to link the gift to the giver because of the frenzy going
on.”


(Sound of child in background)


Susan: “Well, what do you want to do, say okay, everyone stop. Let’s take a moment to
realize the true meaning of Christmas. And just put your gifts down and open them slowly… what do you think needs to be done?”


Matt: “Less about the things, more about the act of getting together, of sharing and all that.”


Matt says at the very least, instead of mindless toys and gadgets, the family ought to
give smart gifts: educational gifts, savings bonds – or giving the holiday gift money to
charity:


“Oh, he’s such a killjoy. You know, he’s missing the whole point of it.”


That’s Susan’s sister, Pam Nervo.


On Christmas Eve, Susan and Matt take their family over to Pam’s upper middle class
suburban home for a gift-giving session. Unlike Uncle Matt, the nieces love watching all
the wrapping paper pile up on Christmas Eve, and they don’t want educational gifts, and
Aunt Pam doesn’t plan on buying them for Sue and Matt’s girls either:


“I’m not gonna be the aunt that gives the educational toys. Not gonna happen Matt, not
going to happen.”


Pam and Sue are sisters, but their families have different philosophies. While Susan is
concerned about celebrating the love of the season and the earth we live on, Pam thinks
Susan and Matt should worry less about the consumerism of Christmas and spend more
time celebrating the birth of Jesus:


“I think when you don’t have the religious aspect to it, you are stuck with the
commercialism of it. That’s what happens. When you don’t have religion as part of your
life, that’s all this is, it’s a show.”


Julie: “Unless what you see as sort of, I mean, I’m just playing devil’s advocate for Matt a
little bit… unless what you see as your moral center is kind of…”


Pam: “Are you saying, I don’t know. Do you really want
your moral center to be based on the ecology system here. Is that what we’re saying?
That this is your moral center? That’s kind of crazy. I can’t imagine that being your
belief system.”


As we said, Susan is stuck between very different philosophies between her husband
Matt and her sister Pam.


But the holiday with the extended family is just that one day. The important thing for
Matt and Sue is that they teach their children the holiday season is more than just the
holiday shopping season. They turn to their 5-year-old daughter Geanna, smiling, Matt
asks her about her favorite part of Christmas:


Matt: “What’s your favorite part of Christmas?”


Geanna: “Um, getting presents.”


Matt: “Really?”


Geanna: “It’s just fun opening up presents.”


Well, nice try Matt. So, for this year Susan says she’ll be buying gifts she thinks the kids
in her life will enjoy. Environmental or educational qualities are secondary.


For the Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

State to Ban Phosphorus in Dishwasher Soap?

Every summer, lakes become inundated with algae. As the slimy, green muck dies, it chokes out oxygen, which can kill fish and other aquatic life. One cause of all that algae – phosphorus in the water. The phosphorus comes from natural sources such as decaying leaves, and it comes in farm and lawn fertilizer, which runs off into the water. But there’s also phosphorus in a product many of us use every day – dishwasher soap – which goes directly into the water and down the drain. One state might be the first in the nation to ban phosphorus in dishwasher soap, and as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Stucky reports, other states might follow:

Transcript

Every summer, lakes become inundated with algae. As the slimy, green muck dies, it chokes out
oxygen, which can kill fish and other aquatic life. One cause of all that algae – phosphorus in the
water. The phosphorus comes from natural sources such as decaying leaves, and it comes in farm
and lawn fertilizer, which runs off into the water. But there’s also phosphorus in a product many
of us use every day – dishwasher soap – which goes directly into the water and down the drain.
One state might be the first in the nation to ban phosphorus in dishwasher soap, and as the Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mary Stucky reports, other states might follow:


(ambient sound of lapping water)


Lakes are a source of natural beauty, recreation, tourist dollars, even food. And in Minnesota
people take their lakes seriously. But when the algae takes over, no one wants to swim in the
scum, fish die for a lack of oxygen and the lake’s ecosystem is endangered.


(natural sound break)


Phosphorus occurs naturally. Some of it comes from decaying vegetation, grass clippings and
dead leaves. But because too much phosphorus is harmful, lawmakers have banned it from
certain commercial products. Last year Minnesota banned it from lawn fertilizer. And decades
ago, many states outlawed laundry detergent containing phosphorus. But they didn’t ban it in
dishwasher soap.


“There were not near the number in 1970 of automatic dishwashers in the households. It’s an
everyday thing now. ”


Ray Cox Is a Republican representative in the Minnesota legislature. He is sponsoring the bill,
banning phosphorus in dishwasher soap. There are phosphorus free dishwasher soaps, but they’re
a tiny fraction of the market. Still, Cox says phosphorus free soaps work better than they used to
because of the improvements that have been made in dishwashers.


“There are many, many products around here available right now and they work great. We’ve
used it for many years at home and there’s no problem. I mean, our dishes are clean.”


(ambient sound of dishwasher running)


Unlike other products containing phosphorus, detergent is flushed directly down the drain. For
each box of dishwasher detergent, it costs your local sewer treatment plant at least two dollars
and fifty cents to remove the phosphorus. But most cities don’t have state of the art water
treatment, so a lot of phosphorus makes its way into lakes, rivers and streams. Just how much, no
one knows exactly. One study estimates that 6 percent of the phosphorus in water comes from
dishwasher detergent, according to Don Arnosti of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a
coalition of 80 environmental groups.


“Removing this phosphorus will improve our waterways. How much, that’s what’s in debate. Is
it 6 percent as we suggest? Is it 8 percent? Is it 4 percent? And we say that’s not important.
Nobody is saying it’s not gonna be an improvement.”


But will the improvement be worth the cost? Tony Kwilas is a lobbyist for the Minnesota
Chamber of Commerce, which has taken the lead in attacking the ban. He says consumers won’t
stand for it because it doesn’t help that much and the replacement products are inferior.


“Why ban a product that we’re not quite sure the cost benefit of it. In Europe they went
phosphorus-free and they turned around and went back due to consumer complaints. Mainly it
sounds like there’s spotting and scratching on some of the glasses, and it doesn’t get all the food
off.”


Tony Kwilas says a ban on phosphorus in dishwasher detergent won’t really help much since
there are so many sources of phosphorus in the water.


“I’m not going to dispute that phosphorus is a problem, but if you look at what phosphorus is
contained in, it’s contained in antifreeze, it’s contained in chicken tenders, it’s contained in
bath beads, frozen fish, fire extinguishers, instant pudding, pet food, toothpaste, cake mixes. I
mean, so phosphorus is everywhere.”


To ban phosphorus in dishwasher soap would raise the cost about 70 cents a box. But most
consumers seem unaware of the issue, even those shopping at this food co-op in St Paul.


“I was not made aware that this was really harming our environment badly.” “I thought
phosphorus was already gone.” “You know, I just became aware of it, so I will start paying
attention to it right now.” “We don’t pay attention regularly.” “I had no idea that was in there
either.”


There doesn’t seem to be a consumer demand for phosphorus-free dishwasher detergent, just yet.
Don Arnosti of the Environmental Partnership says just as they did with dolphin-safe tuna and
phosphorus-free laundry soap, consumers need to make their voices heard.


“It’s time for the people of Minnesota to speak up and say clean water is more important than the
soap industry’s contribution to certain politicians.”


But if Minnesota passes the ban, what would happen? Would major detergent manufacturers
make special dishwasher soap just to sell in one state? Minnesota lawmaker Ray Cox says look
at what happened as states started to ban phosphorus in laundry detergent.


“As soon as the scale tipped to where we had about 20 states that were banning it all the
manufacturers gave up the fight and they reformulated and nobody makes anything that has that
significant content anymore. So while you can say a state by state basis doesn’t make any sense,
on many things I think that’s the way we have to go.”


Cox says if Minnesota starts the ball rolling, it’ll just be a matter of time before phosphorus is
removed from dishwasher soap everywhere, which is why both sides are paying so much
attention to what happens in Minnesota.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mary Stucky in St Paul.

Economy Maintains Cycle of Sprawl

As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:

Transcript

As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes
Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the
marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:


Not long ago, The New York Times reported that car sales had fallen off 30 percent. The
paper commented that quote “strong auto sales this year have been a key contributor in
propping up consumer spending, which in turn has been the main impetus of economic
growth.”


Is that all our economy is about? Buying and selling cars? In a way, the answer is yes.
The U.S. economy is now based on the creation and maintenance of suburban sprawl and
all its furnishings and accessories.


What keeps the cycle going? The easiest credit the world has ever seen. Often to people
with poor records of repaying loans. What happens when the music stops, and the zero
percent “miracle loans” stop with it? What other economic activity is there in the United
States? We don’t make anything here anymore except movies, TV shows, and pop music,
and only a tiny percent of Americans can be in show biz.


We’ve outsourced the actual making of most mundane products to distant nations where
people work for peanuts. Everyday retail trade is conducted through so-called “efficient”
national chain stores. Behind this mask of efficiency, though, lies the wreckage of
America’s communities, and the complex, fine-grained networks of economic relations
that once supported them. In rural America, ruin and depression are rampant among
small farmers. Today, we subsist on Caesar salads which travel an average of 2,500
miles from field to table.


This a system primed for unwinding. We are fast becoming a nation reliant on everyone
but ourselves. More tragically, as it unwinds, we will be stuck with all the unsustainable
furnishings: the far-flung subdivisions of commodity housing; the redundant chain stores;
the countless miles of blacktop in need of continual repair; the gazillion cars that we can
no longer afford to replace. We’ll be stuck living in places that are not worth living in,
and not worth caring about, far from any food supplies, and with no networks of local
economic interdependency.


These are our prospects, and they can only be worsened by looming international military
mischief, Jihad, de-stabilized oil markets, and terrorism.


There’s really only one reasonable way out of this predicament: the re-scaling of
America. We face the enormous task of reconstructing local economic networks that add
up to real communities, which in turn add up to places worth caring about. It’s time to
re-size and downscale everything we do from farming to schooling to shopping. The
future is telling us very clearly that we have to start living locally, but we are not
listening, and we are not prepared.


James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere and other books. He
comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

Commentary – Image Is Everything

For years, advertisers have used the great outdoors as a marketing
tool. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston
thinks it’s time we starting selling something else.

Transcript

For years, advertisers have used the great outdoors as a marketing
tool. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston
thinks it’s time we starting selling something else:


I saw the most amazing commercial on television last week. The whole
thing was a series of video clips of wild animals and their offspring
playing in their natural habitats. There was a really cute shot of a
baby hippo playing with its mom in the water. And then it showed a
baby elephant struggling to climb over a tree lying on the ground.
All of a sudden this big maternal trunk swings down and wraps itself
around the baby elephant’s backside and gentle lifts it over the
tree. It was adorable.


Then there were baby seals frolicking on the
ice and fox cubs playing in a field. There was no voice over on the
commercial – just the sound of Bryan Adams voice singing “Forever
Young”. It was beautiful. The final scene was a mother lion sitting
proudly, looking straight at the camera, while a lion cub nestled in
her front paws. It really took your breath away.


The image of the lion and her cub faded and was replaced with a
package of Pampers disposable diapers. An announcer voice simply
said, “Forever Young”.


I couldn’t t believe what I was seeing. Disposable diapers are
arguably one of the most environmentally damaging products we’ve come
up, and here we are using wild animals to sell them.


But it doesn’t matter because it looks good. It’s like this other
commercial for a sports utility vehicle I’ve seen lately. The truck
meanders in slow motion through a pristine forest, while a giant
grizzly bear stands on its haunches and sings opera. The entire scene
is bliss. And then you realize that that wildest thing SUVs drivers
are likely to see is the mall parking lot on a Saturday morning.


But it doesn’t matter because image is everything. That’s why SUVs
are the hottest selling item right now. As long as looks good and
projects the right image well then let’s buy it.


Forget about the fact that all these hot convenience items are
ripping up the planet. They make life easier and they make you feel
great. Who cares if we destroy the environment in the process? We can
always create a new world with the magic of computer animation and
some marketing wizardry.


Or – maybe we actually use all this marketing know-how to clean up
the mess we’ve made. I think it’s time we started selling that idea.


Host Tag: Suzanne Elston is a syndicated columnist living in Courtice, Ontario.