Each of us can promote sustainability and justice at multiple levels. But there is no single simple thing to do, because the set of problems we’re addressing just isn’t simple. Click around our site to get started on the individual level and contact groups listed on our site to get involved at the city, state and national level. These organizations are involved in diverse campaigns to address the problems and to promote solutions. It is by joining together that we can create the momentum for real change. So click around, reach out, get involved, have fun.
Ten Little and Big Things You Can Do
1. Power down!
A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money. And, if you can switch to alternative energy by supporting a company that sells green energy to the grid or by installing solar panels on your home, bravo!
2. Waste less.
Per capita waste production in the US just keeps growing. There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, school, workplace, church, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace … the list is endless! The more we visibly engage in re-use over wasting, the more we cultivate a new cultural norm, or actually, reclaim an old one!
3. Talk to everyone about these issues.
At school, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus … A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No”, said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” You get the point. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.
4. Make Your Voice Heard.
Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last two years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about Climate Change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members. Let’s get the issues we care about in the news.
5. DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the Economy.
Many of today’s consumer products – from children’s pajamas to lipstick – contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary. Research online – for example, http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ – before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. The European Union has adopted strong policies that require toxics to be removed from many products. So, while our electronic gadgets and cosmetics have toxics in them, people in Europe can buy the same things toxics-free. Let’s demand the same thing here. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.
6. Unplug (the TV and internet) and Plug In (the community).
The average person in the US watches television over four hours a day. Four hours per day filled with messages about stuff we should buy. That is four hours a day that could be spent with family, friends and in our community. On-line activism is a good start, but spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community and many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.
7. Park your car and walk … and when necessary MARCH!
Car-centric land use policies and life styles lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel extraction, conversion of agricultural and wildlands to roads and parking lots. Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet. But sometimes we don’t have an option to leave the car home because of inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options. Then, we may need to march, to join with others to demand sustainable transportation options. Throughout US history, peaceful non-violent marches have played a powerful role in raising awareness about issues, mobilizing people, and sending messages to decision makers.
8. Change your lightbulbs … and then, change your paradigm.
Changing lightbulbs is quick and easy. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last ten times longer than conventional ones. That’s a no-brainer. But changing lightbulbs is just tinkering at the margins of a fundamentally flawed system unless we also change our paradigm. A paradigm is a collection of assumptions, concepts, beliefs, and values that together make up a community’s way of viewing reality. Our current paradigm dictates that more stuff is better, that infinite economic growth is desirable and possible, and that pollution is the price of progress. To really turn things around, we need to nurture a different paradigm based on the values of sustainability, justice, health, and community.
9. Recycle your trash … and, recycle your elected officials.
Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff. Unfortunately, many cities still don’t have adequate recycling systems in place. In that case you can usually find some recycling options in the phone book to start recycling while you’re pressuring your local government to support recycling city-wide. Also, many products – for example, most electronics – are designed not to be recycled or contain toxics so recycling is hazardous. In these cases, we need to lobby government to prohibit toxics in consumer products and to enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws, as is happening in Europe. EPR is a policy which holds producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, so that electronics company who use toxics in their products, have to take them back. That is a great incentive for them to get the toxics out!
10. Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less.
Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our dollars support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? Is it free of super-toxic PVC plastic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff. Sometimes, less really is more.
Want to learn even more? Click here to see The Story of Stuff’s full list of recommended reading: http://www.storyofstuff.com/reading.php#anotherway
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html
>by Thomas C Mountain
Countercurrents.org (February 22 2010)
The “richest man in the world”, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, recently announced that he was making a $10 billion donation towards finding vaccines to prevent some of the worlds worst diseases.
Malaria is the number one killer in Africa. From what I’m hearing about $1 billion of Bill Gates’ donation/tax write-off is for research to find a vaccine to prevent malaria.
The African country of Eritrea, where I live, has reduced malaria mortality by 85% in the last seven years. How? By using basic public health methods. By distributing pesticide treated mosquito nets and organizing the pesticide retreatment every three months of mosquito nets. By habitat eradication. And by community medical clinics for immediate treatment.
Malaria is a parasite based disease noted for its variety and quick development of resistance to medication. Any “vaccine”, if even a billion dollars is able to produce such, would have a limited lifetime and new, patented medications would have to be bought by Africa’s poor every few years.
So “donating” a billion dollars to develop a malaria “vaccine” could turn into tens of billions of dollars in drug sales in Africa alone, and Bill Gates, through his drug company investments, will quietly pocket more African blood money.
All the while a very successful malaria mortality reduction program is operating, effective, safe, and affordable, in Eritrea.
Why isn’t this being publicized internationally? Could it be that such a program is not going to put billions into the pockets of the drug lords of western finance?
Bill Gates and other assorted financial terrorists through their control of the western media and “aid” organizations are suppressing implementation of a successful malaria mortality program while investing in a malaria drug addiction for Africa’s people.
These financial terrorists are perfectly willing to see millions die in Africa while they search for their next highly profitable “wonder drug” to cure malaria, all the while deliberately ignoring, worse, engineering a white out/cover up of what could prevent millions of deaths, let alone uncounted suffering.
And HIV/AIDS, Africa’s Number Two killer? Bill Gates is said to be providing over a billion dollars for research into developing an AIDS vaccine. AIDS, a virus based disease, has already shown to have varieties and to have developed resistance to the medications developed to treat it. Like the flu vaccine, a new AIDS vaccine would most likely have to be developed every few years to combat the latest strain of the AIDS virus, another gold mine of new, patented medications for sale to Africa’s sick.
Eritrea has reduced HIV/AIDS infection rates by forty percent, according to Physicians for Peace, and is the only country in Africa to reduce HIV/AIDS. How? By using public health education promoting condom use everywhere in the country. Over a billion for a “vaccine” that may never work while an effective program that can reduce HIV/AIDS infection by forty percent, safely and affordably can be immediately implemented?
Remember, western billionaires didn’t get that way by being out to really help anyone. Millions die in Africa as the western drug lords and their financial terrorist stock holders reap their billions in blood money. All the while real heroes in the Eritrean public health service struggle to save peoples lives.
So don’t believe that Bill Gates is up to any good when he donates $10 billion to vaccine research, just the opposite. And don’t forget that as far at the USA is concerned in Africa, no good deed goes unpunished, and once again Eritrea is subject to UN Security Council Sanctions.
Thomas C Mountain lives in Asmara, Eritrea, is an independent journalist and in a previous life was the Publisher of the Ambedkar Journal and a founding member of the Phoolan Devi International Defense Committee.
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html
>by Saul Landau
ZCommunications.org (February 19 2010)
The decade ending in 2009 was the warmest on record, new surface temperature figures released Thursday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration show … 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.
Global temperatures varied because of changes in ocean heating and cooling cycles. ‘When we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability’, said Dr James E Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of the world’s leading climatologists, ‘we find global warming is continuing unabated’.
— John M Broder New York Times (January 21 2020)
In the documentary, The Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore – remember him? – warned that greenhouse gasses and other sources of hydro carbons would increase, and threaten future planetary life. After issuing this filmic challenge, Gore advised citizens to recycle and buy gas-efficient cars.
Inconvenient? How about shutting down most of the factories belching smoke around the world, which contribute little to global health? Or abandoning the high rise office buildings that require heating and cooling 24/7?
Traffic jams have become ever more inconvenient. How about doing away with them by closing auto and truck plants in China, Brazil, India as well as those in the West and Japan? How about thinking of exhaust pipes as shotguns loaded with deadly vapors and aimed at the common atmosphere?
Convenient American suburbia with individual family dwellings, involves daily commuting, two car or more garages and fireplaces! How comfy! What would Hollywood, TV and advertisers do without these “happy” people to use as models to sell entertainment products, all of which require pollution as part of their production process? Think how inconvenient life would become if we had no more McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Junior or any fast food chains! Instead, think of no more farting (methane) cows bunched together like four-legged sardines in open air pens. Oops, I’m getting nauseated.
The foundations and routines of modern industrial life – the context for the fabled American dream – assume perpetual consumption; more and technologically improved commodities as symbols of prosperity and even identity. The United States has exported this “dream” throughout much of the world in its films and TV programs. But these “entertainment” products don’t contain warning signs, similar to those on cigarette packages: this product will cause serious environmental damage; future generations will suffer from an unsustainable environment.
Most political leaders face a challenge they refuse to acknowledge: To gain control of runaway climate change – alongside of melting ice sheets releasing more hydro carbon gasses. To accomplish this Herculean task, they must abandon convenience, the unchallenged assumptions that place the corporation as means and ends of policies.
When the now-retired Fidel Castro reflected on this situation or Bolivia’s President Evo Morales spoke about it, the New York Times and equivalents in the major capitals give scant or no coverage. Not convenient material? Castro said (author’s interview) last September that the greatest crime of the right wing exiles “was the theft of the 2000 election because it set back the environmental movement by ten years”. He referred to votes cast by non US citizens in Miami and to intimidation by goon squads who threatened vote counters in certain south Florida precincts.
After recovering from his failed presidential bid, Gore, using his access to mass media, delivered a first alarm message. Last December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel flayed doubters of global warming. She said: In our knowledge, however, there has never been so rapid an increase in temperatures as predicted by science today. Previously, she noted, “plants and animals had the opportunity to adapt to changes over thousands of years. Not anymore.” She expressed concern over people in coastal areas who “are most vulnerable to global warming with rapidly rising sea levels”. She pleaded for “a sensible use of valuable and limited resources such as natural gas and oil”. She reminded the public that “in 2050, nine billion people will live on the earth. It won’t work without conservative use of resources.” (December 16 2009 Bild am Sonntag)
President Obama’s State of the Union speech to Congress avoided truly inconvenient truths. Their voters (consumers not citizens) might not want to curtail production and consumption, the twin life bloods of the world’s economies. Instead, Obama boasted of how he and Congress bailed out the job – and pollution – producing auto industries. It’s convenient to piously refer to “green technology”, but the least gas guzzling vehicles still emit polluting compounds.
In 2009, the powerful convened in Copenhagen to demonstrate pathetic if not criminal timidity. Only the demonstrators showed they understood the stakes; few of their concerns reached front pages or lead TV stories. Rather, headlines emphasized violence and chaos – appeal to consumers’ base tastes. Who wants to face the “inconvenient” challenge humans face about their future on the planet? Hey, this Sunday it’s Super Bowl time and we can put aside those trivial concerns about resources and climate and root for our team!
Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His films on dvd are available from firstname.lastname@example.org. Counterpunch published his A Bush and Botox World (2007).
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html
>How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?
Science & Technology
The Onion (January 19 2010)
Washington – Wishing to dispose of the empty plastic container, and failing to spot a recycling bin nearby, an estimated thirty million Americans asked themselves Monday how bad throwing away a single bottle of water could really be.
“It’s fine, it’s fine”, thought Maine native Sheila Hodge, echoing the exact sentiments of Chicago-area resident Phillip Ragowski, recent Florida transplant Margaret Lowery, and Kansas City business owner Brian McMillan, as they tossed the polyethylene terephthalate object into an awaiting trash can. “It’s just one bottle. And I’m usually pretty good about this sort of thing.”
“Not a big deal”, continued roughly one-tenth of the nation’s population.
According to the inner monologue of millions upon millions of citizens, while not necessarily ideal, throwing away one empty bottle probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference, and could even be forgiven, considering how long they had been carrying it around with them, the time that could be saved by just tossing it out right here, and the fact that they had bicycled to work once last July.
In addition, pretty much the entire states of Missouri and New Mexico calmly reassured themselves Monday that they definitely knew better than to do something like this, but admitted that hey, nobody is perfect, and at least they weren’t still using those horrible aerosol cans, or just throwing garbage directly on the ground.
All agreed that disposing of what would eventually amount to fifty tons of thermoplastic polymer resin wasn’t the end of the world.
“It’s not like I don’t care, because I do, and most of the time I don’t even buy bottled water”, thought Missouri school teacher Heather Delamere, the 450,000th caring and progressive individual to have done so that morning, and the 850,000th to have purchased the environmentally damaging vessel due to being thirsty, in a huge rush, and away from home. “It’s really not worth beating myself up over”.
“What’s one little bottle in the grand scheme of things, you know?” added each and every single one of them.
Monday’s plastic-bottle-related dilemma wasn’t the only environmental quandary facing millions of citizens across the country. An estimated twenty million men and women wondered how wasteful leaving a single lightbulb on all night really was, while more than forty million Americans asked themselves if anyone would actually notice if they just turned up the heat a few degrees instead of walking all the way downstairs and getting another blanket.
Likewise, had they not been so tired, and busy, and stressed, citizens making up the equivalent of three major metropolitan areas told reporters that they probably wouldn’t have driven their minivans down to the corner store.
“Relax”, thousands upon thousands of Americans quietly whispered to themselves as they tossed two articles of clothing into an empty washing machine and turned it on. “What are you so worried about?”
(c) Copyright 2010 Onion Inc. All rights reserved
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html
>by Lester R Brown
earth-policy.org (August 12 2009)
In recent years there has been a growing concern over thresholds or tipping points in nature. For example, scientists worry about when the shrinking population of an endangered species will fall to a point from which it cannot recover. Marine biologists are concerned about the point where overfishing will trigger the collapse of a fishery.
We know there were social tipping points in earlier civilizations, points at which they were overwhelmed by the forces threatening them. For instance, at some point the irrigation-related salt buildup in their soil overwhelmed the capacity of the Sumerians to deal with it. With the Mayans, there came a time when the effects of cutting too many trees and the associated loss of topsoil were simply more than they could manage.
The social tipping points that lead to decline and collapse when societies are overwhelmed by a single threat or by simultaneous multiple threats are not always easily anticipated. As a general matter, more economically advanced countries can deal with new threats more effectively than developing countries can. For example, while governments of industrial countries have been able to hold HIV infection rates among adults under one percent, many developing-country governments have failed to do so and are now struggling with much higher infection rates. This is most evident in some southern African countries, where up to twenty percent or more of adults are infected.
A similar situation exists with population growth. While populations in nearly all industrial countries except the United States have stopped growing, rapid growth continues in nearly all the countries of Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Nearly all of the eighty million people being added to world population each year are born in countries where natural support systems are already deteriorating in the face of excessive population pressure, in the countries least able to support them. In these countries, the risk of state failure is growing.
Some issues seem to exceed even the management skills of the more advanced countries, however. When countries first detected falling underground water tables, it was logical to expect that governments in affected countries would quickly raise water use efficiency and stabilize population in order to stabilize aquifers. Unfortunately, not one country – industrial or developing – has done so. Two failing states where overpumping water and security-threatening water shortages loom large are Pakistan and Yemen.
Although the need to cut carbon emissions has been evident for some time, not one country has succeeded in becoming carbon-neutral. Thus far this has proved too difficult politically for even the most technologically advanced societies. Could rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere prove to be as unmanageable for our early twenty-first century civilization as rising salt levels in the soil were for the Sumerians in 4000 BC?
Another potentially severe stress on governments is the coming decline in oil production. Although world oil production has exceeded new oil discoveries by a wide margin for more than twenty years, only Sweden and Iceland actually have anything that remotely resembles a plan to effectively cope with a shrinking supply of oil.
This is not an exhaustive inventory of unresolved problems, but it does give a sense of how their number is growing as we fail to solve existing problems even as new ones are being added to the list. Analytically, the challenge is to assess the effects of mounting stresses on the global system. These stresses are perhaps most evident in their effect on food security, which was the weak point of many earlier civilizations that collapsed.
Several converging trends are making it difficult for the world’s farmers to keep up with the growth in food demand. Prominent among these are falling water tables, the growing conversion of cropland to nonfarm uses, and more extreme climate events, including crop-withering heat waves, droughts, and floods. As the stresses from these unresolved problems accumulate, weaker governments are beginning to break down.
Compounding these problems, the United States, the world’s breadbasket, has dramatically increased the share of its grain harvest going to fuel ethanol—from fifteen percent of the 2005 crop to more than 25 percent of the 2008 crop. This ill-conceived US effort to reduce its oil insecurity helped drive world grain prices to all-time highs by mid-2008, creating unprecedented world food insecurity.
The risk is that these accumulating problems and their consequences will overwhelm more and more governments, leading to widespread state failure and eventually the failure of civilization. The countries that top the list of failing states are not particularly surprising. They include, for example, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. And the list grows longer each year, raising a disturbing question: How many failing states will it take before civilization itself fails? No one knows the answer, but it is a question we must ask.
We are in a race between tipping points in nature and our political systems. Can we phase out coal-fired power plants before the melting of the Greenland ice sheet becomes irreversible? Can we gather the political will to halt deforestation in the Amazon before its growing vulnerability to fire takes it to the point of no return? Can we help countries stabilize population before they become failing states?
We have the technologies to restore the earth’s natural support systems, to eradicate poverty, to stabilize population, and to restructure the world energy economy and stabilize climate. The challenge now is to build the political will to do so. Saving civilization is not a spectator sport. Each of us has a leading role to play.
Adapted from Chapter One, “Entering a New World”, in Lester R Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W W Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www.earthpolicy.org/index.php?/books/pb3.
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html
>by Robert Scheer
Truthdig (February 23 2010)
They do have a license to steal. There is no other way to read Tuesday’s report from the New York state comptroller that bonuses for Wall Street financiers rose seventeen percent to $20.3 billion in 2009. Of course that is less than the $32.9 billion for bonus rewards back in 2007, when those hotshots could still pretend that they were running sound businesses.
The economy is anything but sound, but you would hardly know that from looking at the balance sheets of the big investment banks. The broker-dealer firms on Wall Street made a record profit, estimated at greater than $55 billion by the comptroller, and the only thing holding back even more grotesque bonuses was concern over criticism from a public that was hardly doing as well.
The enormous rewards last year come not from their having righted the ship of finance by lowering the rate of mortgage foreclosures for ordinary folks, one of four who are now “underwater” on their loans. Consumer confidence this month is the lowest in 27 years, and unemployment is expected to hover near ten percent for the next two years. No, they get bonuses because the Federal Reserve, backed by the Treasury, bought the toxic mortgage securitization packages that Wall Street banks were left holding. They, and they alone, were made whole.
The way the scam worked is that the Treasury deposited taxpayer dollars with the Federal Reserve, which in turn purchased a whopping $1.25 trillion in toxic mortgages. That’s the figure after the Treasury on Tuesday committed to depositing $200 billion more with the Fed to increase spending on this program – one that was ostensibly designed to increase credit availability to small businesses and others but has hardly accomplished that goal. Credit is still very tight because the big financiers have used the low-cost cash they received from those charitable government programs to solidify their own positions through acquisitions and the like.
Call it the “no banker left behind” program. While this plan didn’t keep people in their homes, it did wonders for Wall Street profits. To be accurate, it’s mostly the big bankers who reaped the rewards, for, as the FDIC reported Tuesday, the list of smaller banks throughout the country faced with default is growing longer. The big financial conglomerates, which have come to be covered by the FDIC under questionable circumstances, benefit from that arrangement, but they are hardly the ones hurting. The victims are primarily the smaller traditional banks that played by the rules but were overwhelmed after the housing market became dreadfully corrupted.
The number of banks on the FDIC’s “problem list” soared from 252 at the end of 2008 to 702 last month, and the government’s fund to insure depositors fell to minus $20.9 billion. The source of the problems for those banks is the sorry state of the housing market, with the number of loans that are more than three months overdue at the highest level in the 26 years that such records have been collected. Those hurting are mostly smaller banks, which are paying for the havoc in the housing market that the Wall Street giants created with their collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps (CDSs). Those mysterious financial innovations meant turning the housing market into a grand casino using people’s homes as chips, with the Wall Street crowd holding all the high cards.
Yet when the crash occurred, it was not those who designed and sold the toxic packages that suffered but rather the individual homeowners whose mortgages had been put into play. They and the smaller banks were still playing by the old rules, which meant that houses were presumed to be worth the money loaned on them. But there was no such disadvantage for the brokers, who would convert those mortgages into stock bundles. They had succeeded in getting the US Congress, at the end of 2000, to exempt those CDOs and CDSs from any regulation.
This debacle was the accomplishment of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, pushed through Congress during the last years of the Clinton administration by former Goldman Sachs honcho and onetime Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and his protege and successor, Lawrence Summers, now the top economic adviser in the Obama White House. The intent was, in Summers’ words, to provide “legal certainty” for those CDO investment gimmicks, meaning no regulator could look to see what was inside the packages. We still don’t know, although we taxpayers now are on the hook for 1.25 trillion dollars’ worth of them.
Can’t say it didn’t work out for the folks at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, where total average compensation was up last year by 31 percent. How did you make out?
A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright (c) 2010 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.
Bill Totten http://www.ashisuto.co.jp/english/index.html