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Home / Articles / Views / /  Enviromental Deceit 101
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Wednesday, November 21,2001

Enviromental Deceit 101

Breast feed kids, stay married, save the planet

By
Paranoiacs could believe and support the following conspiracy theory: Long ago, Boulder's cultural and civic leaders embarked upon a crusade to assault Mother Earth. In order to get away with this, the evildoers disguised themselves as "environmentalists." Much like the most successful of criminals-who wear suits and ties and masquerade as pillars of the community-these people were convincing. So convincing, in fact, that they and their community became known as a hub of constructive ecological lifestyles.

This tall tale, of course, requires that one believe in a smoke-filled room in which sinister people plotted deception. That didn't happen.

However, for the past two decades Boulder has quietly emerged as an environmental disgrace due mostly to bad planning and regulation. For example, Boulder's growth planning practices have backfired on the environment. The open space greenbelt is a wonderful tool for controlling sprawl, and therefore helping the planet. Yet, combined with anti-density measures and the lack of foresight to properly control commercial growth, the city caused unbridled sprawl outside the greenbelt and an environmentally disastrous in-commute of nearly 60,000 cars a day.

Likewise, the city's new recycling program may backfire. The program levies hefty costs on all who don't fuss away at sorting their trash.

Recycling is a wonderful hobby for some, and it sometimes results in a net environmental gain. Too often, however, the environment loses. Example: The time "recycled" plastics at EcoCycle took multiple truck trips for some 2,000 miles, ending up in a Florida landfill for lack of a buyer. Meanwhile, plastics that were simply thrown away took one short trip to a landfill in Weld County.

Market forces for the past century have resulted in a net reduction in the per-capita toll consumers take on the environment. Competition in the market results in the need for industry to reduce overhead to increase profits, and that results in what economists call "dematerialization"-a practice that brought us the aluminum can, thinner plastic bags and phone books on CD ROM.

Yet recycling hobbyists want to force everyone to play, and pay. Here's another of the seemingly countless examples of recycling zealotry stressing Mother Earth:

"In the United States, recycling champions want recycled-content mandates to create more markets for discards," writes Lynn Scarlett, in The New Environmentalist. "These mandates may end up compelling inefficient resource use. For example, in California the effect of mandating recycled content in plastic bags has been to stall, and even reverse, innovations that were resulting in thinner and thinner bags."

In another false effort to help the environment, Boulder uses its environmental police force-in green cop cars-to keep watch on those who heat with wood. They come knocking when someone heats on a high pollution day, and force those with emissions-approved fireplaces or stoves to apply for exemptions.

Yet educated environmentalists know that heating with wood helps, not harms, the environment. Australia is looking to firewood as a primary heat source precisely because it will help reduce CO2. Landcare Australia aims to plant some 20 million new trees-because trees consume CO2. The group envisions firewood plantations as a major way to pay for and sustain new vegetation.

Asian countries are also relying on wood for heat, to lower CO2.

"Wood fuel use is carbon neutral, i.e. there is no net emission of carbon into the environment," states a study by the Regional Wood Energy Development Programme in Asia. The study explains that wood fuel dependence results in economic viability for new vegetation, while reducing dependence on coal and other processed fossil fuels. Furthermore, the study explains, wood emits CO2 whether burned or not: Vegetation, "if not used as fuel (or for other purposes) would simply decompose by natural processes, and lead to the same amount of carbon emitted in the atmosphere if the woody material were to be combusted."

So if you burn, and the cops come knocking, know it has nothing to do with concern for the environment. More likely, it has everything to do with protecting public utilities.

Want to save the planet? Then talk some friend into saving his marriage.

"A divorce-and the subsequent household it creates-may cause more CO2 emissions than an additional birth," writes Prof. Wolfgang Lutz, project leader of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, an organization sponsored by 17 nations seeking environmental sustainability.

Another way to help Mother Earth: Encourage the Boulder City Council to pass a law protecting the rights of mothers to breast feed their children, openly, in all places of public accommodation. Occasionally, Boulder businesses make headlines for admonishing women for feeding their babies in public. Even a lifeguard at Spruce Pool once raised a fuss about a mother feeding her child.

Yet a recent study shows that feeding children with formula, rather than breasts, results in annual consumption nationally of 25 million pounds of steel, 6 million gallons of oil and 2.5 million pounds of paper-just for the formula packaging alone. Hmmm... mandatory breast feeding?

Helping the environment isn't hard. It involves leading a humble life of common sense. New fees, regulations, multiple trash tubs, and cops at the door should raise red flags of environmental deceit.

Send letters to the editor to: letters@boulderweekly.com. Fax: 303-494-2585. Snail mail: Boulder Weekly Letters, 690 S. Lashley Lane, Boulder, CO 80305. Contact Wayne Laugesen at Wayne@Laugesen.com.

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