Iowa Environmental Council Conference
I joined a gathering of Iowa’s premier environmentalists, an impressive group of people who definitely get it.
The keynote speaker, William Rees, began with an insight about the Cartesian duality that defines Western Civilization, with a new twist. Usually the Cartesian duality is explained as the separation of mind and soul. It originated with Rene DesCartes, who arrived at a compromise with the Catholic church, separating science from religion. In Dr. Rees’ understanding, environmentalists are the scientists, doing research; and economists take the place of the church, explaining human behavior in terms of somewhat mystical market forces. To prove his point, he quoted leading economists who don’t believe that global warming is serious.
Dr Rees and his team have developed the concept of the ecological footprint, which for each person is the area needed to support their lifestyle, which he presented as the reciprocal of the concept of carrying capacity – the number of people the planet can support. The actual amount of land in Iowa per Iowan is about 12 acres. A typical ecological footprint for an Iowan is 22 acres.
The theme of the conference was "Reducing Iowa’s Ecological Footprint."
Some quotes that stuck with me:
"What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last tree say? … Our technology will save us?"
"Green is the new Red, White and Blue."
"Cities are the human equivalents of confined animal feedlots."
" What will our grandchildren say to us –
How could you not know?
If you knew, how could you not care?
If you knew and you cared, why didn’t you do something about it?"
One question – how can we get corporations to change? – the answer: Many corporate executives get it, but feel that they cannot do anything about it – the shareholders and the corporate structure conspire to trap corporate executives, keeping them from doing the right thing.
I came out of the meeting energized, with lots of ideas:
Pity the corporate executive who understands what his corporation is doing, but feels trapped, powerless to change the corporation’s practices. Pity us all, victims of the corporation that refuses be changed. Well, if the corporate executives cannot change their companies, we’ll have to change them from the outside. This is too important to let it slide. What can we do to change them?
- Shareholder activism.
- Buy local.
- Reclaim our sovereignty.
- Apply our religious zeal.
- Make pop idols of the greenest amongst us.
How about we pass legislation that every automobile advertisement has to include the MPG of the vehicle – kinda like the surgeon general’s warning on tobacco?
Pop quiz: Paper or Plastic?
Answer: Canvas. duh! Bring your own bags to the store.