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#863 -- Incinerator Revival, 13-Jul-2006

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #863

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, July 13, 2006.................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

Incinerators Are Impeding the Transition to Sustainability
  In the U.S. and worldwide, waste incinerators are once again
  popping up like poisonous mushrooms. As each new incinerator is built,
  the hope for a sustainable economy fades further into the distance.
New Hampshire Town Bans Corporate Water Withdrawals
  Across the country, corporations are privatizing the commons --
  water -- so they can sell it. Now one town is fighting back in a
  powerful new way: Barnstead, New Hampshire, has become the first
  municipality in the U.S. to adopt a binding local law that bans
  certain corporations from withdrawing water within the town. To
  protect their local law, Barnstead residents have also voted to strip
  corporations of their claims to constitutional rights and powers. This
  is not your father's old "regulatory" approach.
White House, GOP Plan All-Out Assault on Federal Protections
  Republicans in Congress are preparing to ram through legislation
  creating a "Sunset Commission" with its membership stacked with anti-
  regulatory types, and with a mandate to get rid of any and all
  government agencies and programs. You can get involved here.
New Report: Healthy Business Strategies
  Clean Production Action has just released a new report showing
  how six companies are making the transition to least-toxic
  manufacturing.
The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
  David Korten says we face a defining choice between two contrasting
  ways of organizing human affairs: Empire vs. Earth Community. Empire
  organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among nations to
  relations among family members. Earth Community, by contrast,
  organizes by partnership, unleashes the human potential for creative
  co-operation, and shares resources and surpluses for the good of all.
  Which will it be?
U.S. Social Forum Comes to Atlanta in June 2007
  Every year or two the World Social Forum gathers the world's
  workers, organizers, thinkers, youth, teachers, and farmers in
  countries of the global South like Brazil and India to create a
  counter-vision to the plans of the economic and political elites of
  the World Economic Forum held each year in Davos, Switzerland. Now the
  Social Forum has come to the U.S. with three regional forums in 2006
  and a national U.S. Social Forum set for June 27-July 1, 2007 in
  Atlanta. You can get involved in a regional planning committee for
  the event.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #863, Jul. 13, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

INCINERATORS ARE IMPEDING THE TRANSITION TO SUSTAINABILITY

By Peter Montague

Across the U.S. -- and, indeed, across the world -- waste incinerators
are making a comeback. Why? Because there's a huge amount of money to
be made.

Globally, government officials are proposing to spend hundreds of
billions of tax dollars to build a new generation of incinerators. In
some cases, government officials are merely naive about the huge
problems incinerators create, but in other cases officials seem to
have been seduced by all that money.

During the 1980s, every state in the U.S. was targeted for several
waste incinerators -- "waste to energy" plants, as they were known at
that time. (The incinerator industry has always called its machines
something besides "incinerators.") These incinerators burned garbage
or medical waste and they were filthy, dangerous, expensive,
unreliable, materials-destroying, energy-wasting contraptions -- and
citizen groups all across the country got organized and managed to
stop more than 90% of the proposed incinerators. It was a huge victory
and a convincing demonstration that sensible change can occur when a
loose coalition of committed, organized citizens makes it happen.

Now a new generation of incinerators is being proposed, but the name
has been changed again. Instead of "waste to energy" plants we now
have proposals for gasification plants, pyrolysis machines, and plasma
arc facilities. These are nothing more than "incinerators in disguise"
-- which is the title of an important new report from Greenaction
and GAIA -- the two best-known and most effective incinerator-
fighters in the U.S. and arguably around the world. (Greenaction is
run by Bradley Angel with offices in California, Arizona and Utah.
GAIA is run by Manny Colonzo, with offices in Quezon City,
Philippines, and Berkeley, Calif.)

There are basically two problems with incinerators -- no matter what
name you may give them. First, they produce dangerous wastes in the
form of gases and ash, often creating entirely new hazards, like
dioxins and furans, that were not present in the raw waste.

Secondly -- and even more importantly -- incinerators destroy
materials that must then be replaced. If I burn a piece of paper
instead of recycling it, someone has to manufacture a new piece of
paper from raw materials. This is tremendously wasteful because
manufacturing one ton of paper creates 98 tons of waste
products.[1,pg.51] On average, for every ton of products destroyed in
an incinerator, 71 tons of waste must be created somewhere else to re-
create those products -- mine wastes, forest wastes, transportation
wastes, energy wastes, and so on.[2] ("Waste to energy" incinerators
don't even make sense from an energy perspective. For every unit of
energy recovered by one of these machines, three to 5 units of energy
could have been saved by recycling the products instead of destroying
them in an incinerator and then replacing them with new ones.[3, pg.
26])

By destroying useful resources that must then be replaced,
incinerators -- including plasma arc, pyrolysis, and gasification --
make our waste problems far worse then they would otherwise be.
Incinerators prevent us from adopting sensible modern ways of doing
business, namely "zero waste" and "clean production."

This is why fighting incinerators is so crucially important --
incinerators are dinosaurs that prevent us from making the transition
to a modern lifestyle based on resource conservation and clean
production. If we don't win the fight against incinerators -- in the
U.S. and worldwide -- we will never be able to make the transition to
a sustainable economy.

People who think we can make the transition to a sustainable economy
without stopping incinerators (in all their forms) are badly mistaken.

Once you build an incinerator, you must "feed the machine" for the
next 40 years to get your investment back. Once you build an
incinerator, resource conservation, recycling and waste reduction
become "the enemy" because the machine must have a new load of fresh
garbage every day. The machine needs waste, so its very existence
serves as a major deterrent to less wasteful life styles and ways of
doing business. In sum: incinerators promote waste. They thrive on
waste. They need waste. They demand waste, Incinerators are a major
deterrent to clean production, full recycling, resource conservation,
zero waste, and a sustainable economy.

So why would anyone in their right mind want to build an incinerator?
The answer is simple: money. Lots of money.

An incinerator costs anywhere from $100 million to $500 million to
build. For argument's sake, let's say an incinerator costs $200
million. That money comes from the public treasury. Local governments
do not often see such large bundles of money flowing their through
budgets -- so an incinerator offers a unique opportunity for local
politicians and their friends to take their cut, and it's perfectly
legal. Bankers, accountants, lawyers, engineers, consultants, realtors
and political "fixers" can all scoop off their small percentage. Even
one tenth of one percent of $200 million is $200,000 dollars. So an
incinerator project causes money to slosh around in the local economy
in ways that no other public works project is ever likely to do. At
election time, some of that money may kick back as campaign
contributions to the officials who made the decision to incinerate
local waste. All perfectly legal. But not good for democracy, human
health, the natural environment, or the future.

People who are engaged on the front lines of an incinerator fight will
want to get a copy of the new report from Greenaction and GAIA,
"Incinerators in Disguise." (And they will also want see the earlier
report from GAIA and the Institute for Local Self Reliance,
Resources Up in Flames.)

The "Incinerators in Disguise" report offers case studies of modern
incinerator technologies and how they are "sold" to communities. As
you read through this report, a pattern emerges: the people selling
gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma arc incinerators all seem to use
similar techniques:

1. They are likely to claim that their machines produce no pollution
whatsoever. Obviously this is physically impossible, but this does not
stop them from making the bogus claim. Often local officials accept
these impossible claims without question.

2. Government officials often exempt these machines from laws
requiring environmental assessments. The machines may be given
licenses to operate without an examination of any performance data
whatsoever. (Could this be the money effect at work? It's a fair
question.)

3. Some companies are selling machines with which they have absolutely
no experience. They are selling something that is entirely unknown and
experimental, though they may claim (or imply) that they have years of
experience with similar machines. Deep skepticism is justified.

4. Companies may describe their machines as "commercial successes"
even after their machines have failed to operate properly during
multi-year tests and have been permanently shut down and abandoned,
incurring major financial losses for the companies.

In sum, every industry has some "bad apples" who cut corners,
misrepresent the truth, and falsify information. But the incinerator
industry seems to have far more than its fair share of "bad apples."
This was as true 25 years ago as it is today. For some reason --
perhaps it's just the easy money -- bad apples seem to dominate this
industry.

This is especially regrettable because this is an industry whose
money-making schemes can prevent us all from reaching the world we are
all working to achieve -- the world of resource conservation, zero
waste, and sustainability.

Hats off to Greenaction and GAIA for once again blowing the whistle on
these nefarious junkyard dogs!

==============

[1] Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural
Capitalism; Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. And see 
http://www.natcap.org/

[2] John E. Young and Aaron Sachs, The Next Efficiency Revolution:
Creating a Sustainable Materials Economy. Washington, D.C. Worldwatch
Institute, 1994, pg. 13.

[3] Brenda Platt, Resources Up in Flames; The Economic Pitfalls of
Incineration versus a Zero Waste Approach in the Global South. Quezon
City, Philippines, 2004), pg. 26.

Return to Table of Contents

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From: Susquehanna, Jun. 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

NEW HAMPSHIRE TOWN BANS CORPORATE WATER WITHDRAWALS

By Kat Bundy

As raw Northern winters melt into spring, people in some New England
towns still gather to set their local budgets, pass laws, and instruct
their local elected officials. In March of this year, Barnstead, New
Hampshire, (population 4,800) passed a law banning corporations from
mining and selling town water. The law also stripped corporations of
constitutional power and authority.

What happened in this small, rural community about 20 miles Northeast
of the state capital of Concord? Why didn't Barnstead citizens turn to
the state's regulatory agencies and elected state officials to save
them from global water corporations, like most towns across New
England have been doing? States Long Ago Empowered Corporations

Over the past several years, directors of global water corporations
have been invading New England towns -- including Barnstead neighbors
Nottingham, Barrington, and Alton. The story is always the same: A
water corporation buys or leases land, then announces plans to pump,
bottle, and sell millions of gallons of "blue gold." Citizens who are
less than thrilled by these developments turn to their elected state
officials and state regulatory agencies for help.

At first the state appears supportive. But when pinned down -- which
can require several years of citizen self-education and organizing --
legislators and regulators reveal that corporate directors have the
"right" to vacuum up a town's water. Because of this so-called
"right," all that corporations need to do to get state permits to pump
and sell water is to file thorough and complete applications with the
state.

What happens next? Townspeople get angry. They form community groups
to intervene in the permit application process, hoping to stop their
state from issuing permits. They become experts in regulatory law and
administrative procedure, on water, and on multinational water
corporations. They learn that corporations own five percent of water
"services" around the world, and are rapidly buying up publicly owned
water systems. They discover that the largest water-bottler in the
United States -- Nestle Corporation -- makes $1.7 billion per year
peddling the water it sucks out from under communities.

Community groups hire lawyers, sometimes paying hundreds of thousands
of dollars to fight a corporation's permit applications over years and
years. But because the application process assumes that corporations
have the constitutional right to take a town's water, the only
contested issues are: How much corporate harm to the water supply and
individual well can groups predict? And, how much harm will the
regulatory agency -- in New Hampshire, the Department of Environmental
Services (DES) -- declare acceptable?

Now and again, a regulatory agency rejects a corporation's permit
application. The citizens group celebrates, only to see the
corporation return with a new and improved application. Or, they watch
helplessly as the corporation goes to a neighboring town, targeting
the same aquifer -- this time with a slanted pipe to access the water.

Sounding the Alarm

Barnstead residents Gail Darrell and Diane St. Germaine had joined
with neighbors to prevent corporate-hauled sewage sludge from being
spread on farmland in their town. They worked hard to educate their
neighbors about this life-threatening practice. Their struggle came to
an end when the person on whose land the sludge was to be applied
changed his mind. In the process, they learned that the State of New
Hampshire regarded corporate sludge spreading as perfectly legal.

They also learned that, like all municipalities in the state, Bamstead
was vulnerable to corporate directors from anywhere. No matter what a
corporation wanted to impose -- hazardous waste incinerators,
quarries, toxic dumps, super-duper retail complexes, microwave towers
-- a handful of corporate directors were empowered to use law to
overrule community majorities.

That didn't seem fair to Darrell. In fact, it seemed entirely anti-
democratic... and certainly incompatible with the ideals and
traditions of "Live Free or Die" New Hampshire.

Alerted that Barnstead's rich aquifer was on a water corporation's hit
list, Darrell and St. Germaine, with help from Bruce Shearer, Sharon
Hodgdon, Carolyn Namaste, Stuart Liederman, and others, began to look
at Barnstead's water situation and examine the operations of global
waterbottling corporations. Then they started sharing their findings
with neighbors, many of whom began to voice their own concerns.

As a way of engaging the entire town and spurring Barnstead elected
officials into action, they wrote a bill for consideration at their
March 2005 Town Meeting. Warrant Article 22 was a general call to
arms, instructing the Town of Barnstead to protect the community's
ground water. The Article also directed their town government to seek
assistance from state and federal agencies, conservation groups and
neighboring communities to protect their water.

The Selectboard supported this Article, and Barnstead citizens voted
it into law. The town and its elected officials were committed to
doing something. But what? Neighboring municipalities had pressured
and begged state legislators and other elected officials to intervene
against water corporate invasions. They had invested years and dollars
in permit application battles with regulatory agencies, but the water
corporations kept emerging triumphant. So the next step was to look at
what communities around the country were doing to resist invading
corporations -- and to see what worked.

Enter Catalysts

Ruth Caplan is national coordinator of the Alliance for Democracy's
Defending Water for Life Campaign. Having been involved in many
community struggles against a variety of corporate invasions, Caplan
had been reflecting on her labors. Participating in a Daniel Pennock
Democracy School weekend, Caplan was excited to find other organizers
and community activists also rethinking past campaigns. Some, she
found, had actually begun to refashion their groups' civic work.

Democracy Schools were launched in 2003 in Pennsylvania by attorney
Thomas Linzey and historian Richard Grossman of the Community
Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CLEDF). The Schools are safe places
where people study today's government-by-corporations while exploring
United States histories -- especially people's struggles for rights
and self- governance.

The Schools also tell the stories of Pennsylvania townships that
turned their backs on their state's regulatory agencies. Instead of
participating in stacked-deck permit application processes, growing
numbers of townships have enacted laws to stop corporate assaults.
These laws also undid constitutional precedents and state rulings
enabling corporate directors to use law against people and
communities.

"What impressed me most that weekend," said Caplan, "was learning how
Thomas and Richard were working with rural, conservative, Pennsylvania
communities that wanted to stop corporate hog farms from coming in. It
was a 'Just say NO' approach to the corporate directors pushing those
hog factories. I was already organizing in New England around
corporate privatization and commodification of water, so I began
looking for ways to apply what I had learned at the School."

Two New Hampshire residents -- former state lawmaker Bill McCann and
Olivia Zink -- had been sounding the alarm about water corporations
stealthily slipping into the state. In 2005, Caplan encouraged Zink
and McCann to attend a Democracy School at Wilson College in
Pennsylvania.

Zink, a graduate student in the Community Economic Development program
at the University of New Hampshire, serves on the board of the New
Hampshire group Save Our Water. Having followed community struggles
against giant global water corporations, she noted, "Our state
agencies did not protect the people of the town of Alton. On the
contrary, the Department of Environmental Services (DES) permitted a
water corporation to siphon 250,000 gallons of water per day. So why
would people in Barnstead or any other town believe that DES would
protect them?

Reframing the Work

Returning home from the Democracy School, and eager to find towns
wanting to go on the offensive against water corporations, Zink and
McCann joined Caplan in exploring local control options in New
Hampshire. In Barnstead, the trio ran into a receptive Darrell and her
neighbors. Over many conversations, they shared communities'
experiences with regulatory agencies. For example, they observed that
citizen groups start off assuming that regulatory agencies like DES
are stewards of the environment. Only after months and sometimes years
of effort do they learn that, when those public officials ride in on
white horses, it's to save a handful of corporate directors from local
majorities shouting "No." The Democracy School grads also passed along
some of the little- known histories that resulted in corporate
directors gaining constitutional power to deny people's fundamental
rights.

Gail Darrell and crew concluded that communities cannot stop water
corporations by intervening in corporate permit application processes.
Experience made clear that even should a permit be denied (as had
occurred in Barrington), there was nothing to stop a corporation from
filing a "corrected" application (as had also occurred in Barrington),
or from setting their sights on the next to.

Zink and McCann confirmed that "well-settled law" empowered
corporations to engage in any lawful business. And it was clear that
New Hampshire had made it lawful for corporations to extract and sell
communities' water.

At a Selectboard meeting to consider how to carry out Warrant Article
22, Darrell and St. Germaine described some of what they had been
talking about with McCann, Zink, and Caplan. Impressed, the
Selectboard invited McCann and Zink to make a presentation at its next
meeting. Intense interest in this presentation prompted the Planning
Board to call a special meeting to talk about what Barnstead could do
to prote t its groundwater. At tF, went, several speakers referred
enthusiastically to the work of the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund. They suggested that the Town invite staff attorney
Thomas Linzey to Barnstead. Shortly thereafter, the Seleetboard sent
for Linzey. Breaking Bread

Linzey appeared before the Barnstead Selectboard and a packed Town
Hall on October 23, 2005. He told the crowd that the regulatory system
worked just fine -- for corporations. He described majorities in
Pennsylvania townships, facing unwanted corporate invasions, asserting
local municipal control by passing their own laws. Almost 100
townships Linzey said, had banned corporate hog and chicken factory
"farms," along with the spreading of sewage sludge on farmland and
reclaimed coal mines.

To illustrate why Pennsylvania townships had also passed laws
declaring an end to corporate constitutional authority within their
jurisdictions, he offered a little history. Starting with the United
States Supreme Court decision in the 1819 Dartmouth College case,
courts had been wrapping corporations and their directors in the
Constitution. In that famous case, the Court nullified a New Hampshire
law asserting public control over education, and "found" corporations
in the U.S. Constitution. This caused great outrage and opposition in
New Hampshire and around the nation. But after the Civil War Linzey
explained, courts and state legislatures have steadily given even more
constitutional privileges to corporations.

There was a different history Linzey wanted people to know. Pulling
out the New Hampshire Constitution, he read: "All government of right
originates from the people, is founded on consent, and instituted for
the general good. ...and that government [is] instituted for the
common benefit, protection, and security of the whole community, and
not for the private interest of or emolument of any one man, family,
or class of men." [Article 1, 10]. How democratic is it, he asked,
when state and federal governments enable a small class of men to
usurp the people's governing authority? To deny the consent of the
governed?

Following a spirited discussion, the meeting recessed, and people
turned to the hearty food townspeople had prepared. Many felt a
special buzz in the air. As the town broke bread together, Zink felt
"a real participatory aspect to it all." Compared with other public
meetings she had attended, "you really felt part of a community," she
said. "Something had clicked. From then on, new strong relationships
would be built, as people started doing the hard work of democracy."

When the Selectboard called the meeting back to order, Linzey put it
to the elected officials: What do you want to do? They replied: Draft
us an ordinance. Selectman and Vietnam Veteran Jack O'Neil told
Linzey, "We are walking point with you" -- an army term meaning that
elected officials would take the lead and face the consequences.

The Legal Defense Fund's' draft ordinance stimulated many
conversations, along with suggestions for revision. When the local
editing had been completed, the organizers came to the Last phase of
the work -- making law. They realized that to pass a Warrant Article
directed at corporations and at constitutional precedent, they would
need to involve large numbers of Barnstead citizens in discussions
about the process. So they undertook the labor- intensive process of
talking one-on-one and to small groups. And they worked with Caplan,
Zink, and McCann to organize a second town forum featuring Linzey and
Richard Grossman.

On Friday, February 23, 2006, another packed Town Hall was the site of
a spirited discussion about the right of communities to pass laws
reflecting their wants and needs. During the rest of the weekend,
Linzey and Grossman led a Democracy School in downtown Barnstead for
about twenty residents and neighbors. Democracy School, said Darrell,
revealed "so much history that people need to know to judge where they
are today. Without that missing history, you can't see how the
corporations wield their power." After the School, graduates fanned
out across Bamstead to talk with friends and neighbors about why a
Warrant Article asserting local authority over corporations was the
only way the townspeople could protect their groundwater and their
rights.

Making Law

Endorsed by a unanimous Selectboard, Warrant Article 31 -- The
Barnstead Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance -- was
presented to the Town Meeting on March 18, 2006. The Article drew on
the Declaration of Independence, declaring that governments are
instituted to secure people's rights, and that government derives its
just powers from the consent of the governed. Asserting that water is
a common resource essential for the functioning of the ecosystem and
for the residents of Bamstead, the Article also asserted that
corporatization of the town's water against the majority's will would
usurp the people's governing authority.

The Article's "Statement of Law" was short and sweet: It simply
prohibited corporate water withdrawals for resale. It also banned
corporations from using U.S. or New Hampshire constitutional
provisions to interfere in community governance or deny people's
rights.

Darrell told the Town Meeting that the Article was "totally citizen-
driven and citizen-produced." Another speaker declared that "No one
has the right to steal our water." As questions came up, Darrell,
Shearer, and the Selectboard offered clear and reassuring answers.
Finally, to cries of "Call the question!," the Town Moderator put
Warrant Article 31 to a vote-136 residents vigorously shouted "yea,"
to a single "nay."

With this vote, Bamstead became the first municipal government in the
United States to ban corporations from pumping out a drop of water for
sale elsewhere. And it became the third municipal government, after
Porter and Licking Townships in Pennsylvania, to decree that, within
their jurisdictions, corporations may wield neither state nor federal
constitutional powers.

"This Ordinance," said Selectman Gordon Preston, "is not a typical
ordinance. This is not about land use, but about something much more
fundamental." After watching the townspeople deliberate and vote,
Preston declared "Success will be gauged by how far we can spread this
to other communities. If this incredible example of democracy remains
just in Bamstead, then that's fine for our community. But without
similar efforts and laws in neighboring towns, we'll all still be
vulnerable to the corporate water bottlers who so easily claim our
water for their own."

For more information, contact the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund (CELDF) at info@celdforg or by calling 717-709-0457.

Susquehanna is the newsletter of CELDF.

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From: BushGreenwatch, Jun. 23, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

WHITE HOUSE, GOP PLAN ALL-OUT ASSAULT ON FEDERAL PROTECTIONS

Apparently rushing to lock in a long-sought goal before the fall
elections, GOP congressional leaders may bring to a vote within weeks
a proposal that could literally wipe out any federal program that
protects public health or the environment--or for that matter civil
rights, poverty programs, auto safety, education, affordable housing,
Head Start, workplace safety or any other activity targeted by anti-
regulatory forces.

With strong support from the Bush White House and the Republican Study
Committee, the proposal would create a "sunset commission"--an
unelected body with the power to recommend whether a program lives or
dies, and then move its recommendations through Congress on a fast-
track basis with limited debate and no amendments.

Three leading proposals have been introduced and are being winnowed
into a final version. They would give the White House some -- or total
-- authority to nominate members to the commission. House Majority
Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has confirmed that his office is
coordinating development of a final version for prompt floor action.

Sunset commissions have been proposed, and defeated, before. But
public interest veterans say the current situation is unlike any in
the past, because the House Republican Study Committee, which includes
some of the most anti-regulatory members of Congress, has secured
guaranteed floor consideration of a sunset bill.

If such a bill should become law, the sunset commission could be
packed with industry lobbyists and representatives from industry-
funded think tanks, and could conduct its business in secrecy. Two of
the sunset proposals under consideration would mandate that programs
die after they are reviewed, unless Congress takes action to save
them.

Several environmental programs have been targeted during past sunset
attempts. Experts predict those would be among the first a sunset
commission would review. Among them: the Energy Star Program; federal
support for mass transit; the State Energy Program, which supports
numerous state and local energy renewable efficiency programs; the
Clean School Bus Program; the Land and Water Conservation Fund;
federal grants for Wastewater infrastructure; a national children's
health study that examines factors leading to such problems as
premature birth, autism, obesity, asthma, and exposures to pesticides,
mercury and other toxic chemicals.

A coalition of public interest groups is fighting to block enactment
of a sunset commission. Information is available through the Sunset
Commission Action Center at OMB Watch.

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From: Clean Production Action, Jun. 27, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

NEW REPORT: HEALTHY BUSINESS STRATEGIES

New report highlights six companies, including Dell, H&M and Kaiser
Permanente, and their journey to safer chemicals use

New York -- Each of us carries as many as 200 industrial chemicals in
our bodies -- chemicals that were invented over the past 75 years.
These chemicals aren't only found in 55-gallon factory drums or
bottles under your kitchen sink. They may be in the shirt on your
back, the computer you are staring at, or the chair in which you are
sitting.

Yet we know almost nothing about what chemicals are in everyday
products and therefore little about the hazards they may pose. Where
do these products come from and who's producing them? If we raise
awareness about them, will companies change their practices?

That's why Clean Production Action (CPA) has filed the report "Healthy
Business Strategies for Transforming the Toxic Chemical Economy,"
which highlights six case studies: Avalon Natural Products, Dell Inc.,
H&M, Herman Miller, Interface and Kaiser Permanente. The studies
illuminate how these companies embraced the use of comprehensive,
environmentally friendly strategies for eliminating toxic chemicals
and materials in their products and building materials.

CPA's research director, Mark Rossi states, "Our report draws
attention to how each of these companies has embarked on the journey
to green chemistry and healthy materials. Each shows us in their own
distinctive way that it's important to work towards a cleaner future
by taking action today."

The report highlights a cross-section of products including famous
Herman Miller ergonomic, yet sleek office chairs, H&M's affordable
fashion-forward clothing, and the non-toxic carpet specially
commissioned by Kaiser Permanente for its hospitals. CPA hopes that by
showing a broad range of company products and innovative approaches to
using safer chemicals other companies will adopt similar practices
such as conducting internal hazard assessments, investing in plant-
based materials, applying green chemistry and green engineering
principles and making safe chemicals research and production a
priority within their supply chains.

Each company in the report shows leadership initiative in its efforts
to ban hazards from its products, and investment in protecting and
enhancing its brand.

According to Mark Newton, Dell Senior Consultant for Environmental
Policy and Global Requirements, the company's chemicals management
system is the first step in a long journey towards responsible
chemical management: "We and the others in our industry realize we are
at the beginning of a long journey. As a relatively young industry
we're learning quickly how to meet both business and environmental
goals and how to effectively manage these issues with our supply
chain."

All of the companies' investments are paying off in different ways:
from cost savings and the creation of new sub-markets to product
differentiation, reduced reputation risk and improved quality. For
companies seeking similar results, their efforts show a clear path for
corporations to better manage chemicals in their supply chains and
products.

According to Interface director of environmental management, Wendy
Porter, who helped design a plant-based office fabric using safe dyes
"Our unique knowledge gives our salesperson an edge over the
competition. We even get inquiries from our competitors, who want to
know if certain chemicals are okay to use."

Cleaner products make for healthier homes and families. Avalon Vice
President Morris Shriftman explains, "We want our customers to be
conscious of what they put on their skin. We want them to understand
that it's not just about the small amount of a chemical in a single
cosmetic. It's about the cumulative risk for a woman applying and re-
applying cosmetics 15, 20, even 25 times in a single day -- shower
gels,
cleansers, toners, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, mascara,
lipstick, deodorants, creams with penetration enhancers, and so on."

The report also highlights the importance of partnering with companies
that share the same commitment. When Kaiser Permanente decided it
needed to use carpets that were both PVC-free and met its criteria for
hospital use it discovered that no such carpet met its demanding
specifications. Not willing to compromise, Kaiser Permanente decided
to develop a new product that not only met its needs, but was also
manufactured by a company that would fulfill the environmental
commitments that Kaiser Permanente had made. Tom Cooper of Kaiser
Permanente's Standards, Planning, and Design team emphasized,
"Partnering is about dialogue, finding shared interests, and moving
forward with better products."

"Rather than continuing to take an approach that is problem-focused
(for example, eliminating mercury or PVC), we want our work to be
solution-focused," emphasized Lynn Garske, Kaiser Permanente's
environmental stewardship manager. "Our aspiration is to provide
health care services in a manner that enhances the environment and
communities now and for future generations."

If you tell the world your product does not contain a chemical, you
cannot compromise. H&M stayed true to its progressive chemical policy
when they had to pull a highly marketed item during the company's 2002
Christmas underwear campaign. With a marketing campaign using famous
models posing in H&M underwear already underway, the company found
that the sequins used to decorate some underwear products contained
PVC. Chemists and quality control had missed the 100 percent PVC
sequins because, up until that point, all PVC uses were in soft
plastics. H&M's Corporate Responsibility department convinced the
company to drop the product.

Herman Miller's products remind us that the real opportunities for
safe products begin at the design stage. "Only by incorporating
environment into design," explains Don Goeman, executive vice
president for Research, Design and Development at Herman Miller, "can
we create value rather than cost." This company has made Design for
Environment a priority since 1953 and has continued to push the
boundaries of corporate responsibility by demanding full and
transparent chemicals data from their suppliers to developing their
own rigorous scoring and grading system for materials used in their
many furnishings. The company intends to maintain its trajectory by
setting itself a goal that 50 percent of all sales in 2010 must be
from products that meet their Design for Environment and green
chemicals protocol.

These six well-known companies are proof that safer chemicals use in
products is a goal whose time has come. As our case studies show
different tools and approaches can be used but as with all journeys
fraught with difficulties and set backs there must be commitment that
the effort will be worth the price. The effort is indeed worth the
price. Companies can no longer neglect the great opportunity they have
to stop the ongoing assault of hazardous chemicals into our common
environment. Consumers are waking up to corporate responsibility and
the prize will increasingly go to those companies who show leadership
and commitment to safe chemicals use in their products. In 10 years
time, we hope to look back on the many companies that saw and met the
challenges of chemical hazards, and celebrate the successful
transition to a healthy materials economy.

To request an interview or comments from Clean Production Action, the
report authors or any of the case study companies please contact Jene
O'Keefe at 212-245-0510 or jokeefe@pro-mediacommunications.com.

Copyright 2006 Clean Production Action

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From: Yes! Magazine, Jul. 15, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

THE GREAT TURNING: FROM EMPIRE TO EARTH COMMUNITY

By David Korten

By what name will future generations know our time?

Will they speak in anger and frustration of the time of the Great
Unraveling, when profligate consumption exceeded Earth's capacity to
sustain and led to an accelerating wave of collapsing environmental
systems, violent competition for what remained of the planet's
resources, and a dramatic dieback of the human population? Or will
they look back in joyful celebration on the time of the Great Turning,
when their forebears embraced the higher-order potential of their
human nature, turned crisis into opportunity, and learned to live in
creative partnership with one another and Earth?

A defining choice

We face a defining choice between two contrasting models for
organizing human affairs. Give them the generic names Empire and Earth
Community. Absent an understanding of the history and implications of
this choice, we may squander valuable time and resources on efforts to
preserve or mend cultures and institutions that cannot be fixed and
must be replaced.

Empire organizes by domination at all levels, from relations among
nations to relations among family members. Empire brings fortune to
the few, condemns the majority to misery and servitude, suppresses the
creative potential of all, and appropriates much of the wealth of
human societies to maintain the institutions of domination.

Earth Community, by contrast, organizes by partnership, unleashes the
human potential for creative co-operation, and shares resources and
surpluses for the good of all. Supporting evidence for the
possibilities of Earth Community comes from the findings of quantum
physics, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology,
archaeology, and religious mysticism. It was the human way before
Empire; we must make a choice to re-learn how to live by its
principles.

Developments distinctive to our time are telling us that Empire has
reached the limits of the exploitation that people and Earth will
sustain. A mounting perfect economic storm born of a convergence of
peak oil, climate change, and an imbalanced U.S. economy dependent on
debts it can never repay is poised to bring a dramatic restructuring
of every aspect of modern life. We have the power to choose, however,
whether the consequences play out as a terminal crisis or an epic
opportunity. The Great Turning is not a prophecy. It is a possibility.

A turn from life

According to cultural historian Riane Eisler, early humans evolved
within a cultural and institutional frame of Earth Community. They
organized to meet their needs by cooperating with life rather than by
dominating it. Then some 5,000 years ago, beginning in Mesopotamia,
our ancestors made a tragic turn from Earth Community to Empire. They
turned away from a reverence for the generative power of life --
represented by female gods or nature spirits -- to a reverence for
hierarchy and the power of the sword -- represented by distant,
usually male, gods. The wisdom of the elder and the priestess gave way
to the arbitrary rule of the powerful, often ruthless, king.

Paying the price

The peoples of the dominant human societies lost their sense of
attachment to the living earth, and societies became divided between
the rulers and the ruled, exploiters and exploited. The brutal
competition for power created a relentless play-or-die, rule-or-be-
ruled dynamic of violence and oppression and served to elevate the
most ruthless to the highest positions of power. Since the fateful
turn, the major portion of the resources available to human societies
has been diverted from meeting the needs of life to supporting the
military forces, prisons, palaces, temples, and patronage for
retainers and propagandists on which the system of domination in turn
depends. Great civilizations built by ambitious rulers fell to
successive waves of corruption and conquest.

The primary institutional form of Empire has morphed from the city-
state to the nation-state to the global corporation, but the
underlying pattern of domination remains. It is axiomatic: for a few
to be on top, many must be on the bottom. The powerful control and
institutionalize the processes by which it will be decided who enjoys
the privilege and who pays the price, a choice that commonly results
in arbitrarily excluding from power whole groups of persons based on
race and gender.

Troubling truths

Herein lies a crucial insight. If we look for the source of the social
pathologies increasingly evident in our culture, we find they have a
common origin in the dominator relations of Empire that have survived
largely intact in spite of the democratic reforms of the past two
centuries. The sexism, racism, economic injustice, violence, and
environmental destruction that have plagued human societies for 5,000
years, and have now brought us to the brink of a potential terminal
crisis, all flow from this common source. Freeing ourselves from these
pathologies depends on a common solution -- replacing the underlying
dominator cultures and institutions of Empire with the partnership
cultures and institutions of Earth Community. Unfortunately, we cannot
look to imperial powerholders to lead the way.

Beyond denial

History shows that as empires crumble the ruling elites become ever
more corrupt and ruthless in their drive to secure their own power --
a dynamic now playing out in the United States. We Americans base our
identity in large measure on the myth that our nation has always
embodied the highest principles of democracy, and is devoted to
spreading peace and justice to the world.

But there has always been tension between America's high ideals and
its reality as a modern version of Empire. The freedom promised by the
Bill of Rights contrasts starkly with the enshrinement of slavery
elsewhere in the original articles of the Constitution. The protection
of property, an idea central to the American dream, stands in
contradiction to the fact that our nation was built on land taken by
force from Native Americans. Although we consider the vote to be the
hallmark of our democracy, it took nearly 200 years before that right
was extended to all citizens.

Americans acculturated to the ideals of America find it difficult to
comprehend what our rulers are doing, most of which is at odds with
notions of egalitarianism, justice, and democracy. Within the frame of
historical reality, it is perfectly clear: they are playing out the
endgame of Empire, seeking to consolidate power through increasingly
authoritarian and anti-democratic policies.

Wise choices necessarily rest on a foundation of truth. The Great
Turning depends on awakening to deep truths long denied.

Cultural Turning

The Great Turning begins with a cultural and spiritual awakening -- a
turning in cultural values from money and material excess to life and
spiritual fulfillment, from a belief in our limitations to a belief in
our possibilities, and from fearing our differences to rejoicing in
our diversity. It requires reframing the cultural stories by which we
define our human nature, purpose, and possibilities.

Economic Turning

The values shift of the cultural turning leads us to redefine wealth
-- to measure it by the health of our families, communities, and
natural environment. It leads us from policies that raise those at the
top to policies that raise those at the bottom, from hoarding to
sharing, from concentrated to distributed ownership, and from the
rights of ownership to the responsibilities of stewardship.

Political Turning

The economic turning creates the necessary conditions for a turn from
a one-dollar, one-vote democracy to a one-person, one-vote democracy,
from passive to active citizenship, from competition for individual
advantage to cooperation for mutual advantage, from retributive
justice to restorative justice, and from social order by coercion to
social order by mutual responsibility and accountability.

Global awakening

Empire's true believers maintain that the inherent flaws in our human
nature lead to a natural propensity to greed, violence, and lust for
power. Social order and material progress depend, therefore, on
imposing elite rule and market discipline to channel these dark
tendencies to positive ends. Psychologists who study the developmental
pathways of the individual consciousness observe a more complex
reality. Just as we grow up in our physical capacities and potential
given proper physical nourishment and exercise, we also grow up in the
capacities and potential of our consciousness, given proper social and
emotional nourishment and exercise.

Over a lifetime, those who enjoy the requisite emotional support
traverse a pathway from the narcissistic, undifferentiated magical
consciousness of the newborn to the fully mature, inclusive, and
multidimensional spiritual consciousness of the wise elder. The lower,
more narcissistic, orders of consciousness are perfectly normal for
young children, but become sociopathic in adults and are easily
encouraged and manipulated by advertisers and demagogues. The higher
orders of consciousness are a necessary foundation of mature
democracy. Perhaps Empire's greatest tragedy is that its cultures and
institutions systematically suppress our progress to the higher orders
of consciousness.

Given that Empire has prevailed for 5,000 years, a turn from Empire to
Earth Community might seem a hopeless fantasy if not for the evidence
from values surveys that a global awakening to the higher levels of
human consciousness is already underway. This awakening is driven in
part by a communications revolution that defies elite censorship and
is breaking down the geographical barriers to intercultural exchange.
The consequences of the awakening are manifest in the civil rights,
women's, environmental, peace, and other social movements. These
movements in turn gain energy from the growing leadership of women,
communities of color, and indigenous peoples, and from a shift in the
demographic balance in favor of older age groups more likely to have
achieved the higher-order consciousness of the wise elder.

It is fortuitous that we humans have achieved the means to make a
collective choice as a species to free ourselves from Empire's
seemingly inexorable compete-or-die logic at the precise moment we
face the imperative to do so. The speed at which institutional and
technological advances have created possibilities wholly new to the
human experience is stunning.

JUST OVER 60 YEARS AGO, we created the United Nations, which, for all
its imperfections, made it possible for the first time for
representatives of all the world's nations and people to meet in a
neutral space to resolve differences through dialogue rather than
force of arms.

LESS THAN 50 YEARS AGO, our species ventured into space to look back
and see ourselves as one people sharing a common destiny on a living
space ship.

IN LITTLE MORE THAN 10 YEARS our communications technologies have
given us the ability, should we choose to use it, to link every human
on the planet into a seamless web of nearly costless communication and
cooperation.

Already our new technological capability has made possible the
interconnection of the millions of people who are learning to work as
a dynamic, self--directing social organism that transcends boundaries
of race, class, religion, and nationality and functions as a shared
conscience of the species. We call this social or-ganism global civil
society. On February 15, 2003, it brought more than 10 million people
to the streets of the world's cities, towns, and villages to call for
peace in the face of the buildup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They
accomplished this monumental collective action without a central
organization, budget, or charismatic leader through social processes
never before possible on such a scale. This was but a foretaste of the
possibilities for radically new forms of partnership organization now
within our reach.

Break the silence, end the isolation, change the story We humans live
by stories. The key to making a choice for Earth Community is
recognizing that the foundation of Empire's power does not lie in its
instruments of physical violence. It lies in Empire's ability to
control the stories by which we define ourselves and our possibilities
in order to perpetuate the myths on which the legitimacy of the
dominator relations of Empire depend. To change the human future, we
must change our defining stories.

Story power

For 5,000 years, the ruling class has cultivated, rewarded, and
amplified the voices of those storytellers whose stories affirm the
righteousness of Empire and deny the higher-order potentials of our
nature that would allow us to live with one another in peace and
cooperation. There have always been those among us who sense the
possibilities of Earth Community, but their stories have been
marginalized or silenced by Empire's instruments of intimidation. The
stories endlessly repeated by the scribes of Empire become the stories
most believed. Stories of more hopeful possibilities go unheard or
unheeded and those who discern the truth are unable to identify and
support one another in the common cause of truth telling. Fortunately,
the new communications technologies are breaking this pattern. As
truth-tellers reach a wider audience, the myths of Empire become
harder to maintain.

The struggle to define the prevailing cultural stories largely defines
contemporary cultural politics in the United States. A far-right
alliance of elitist corporate plutocrats and religious theocrats has
gained control of the political discourse in the United States not by
force of their numbers, which are relatively small, but by controlling
the stories by which the prevailing culture defines the pathway to
prosperity, security, and meaning. In each instance, the far right's
favored versions of these stories affirm the dominator relations of
Empire.

THE IMPERIAL PROSPERITY STORY says that an eternally growing economy
benefits everyone. To grow the economy, we need wealthy people who can
invest in enterprises that create jobs. Thus, we must support the
wealthy by cutting their taxes and eliminating regulations that create
barriers to accumulating wealth. We must also eliminate welfare
programs in order to teach the poor the value of working hard at
whatever wages the market offers.

THE IMPERIAL SECURITY STORY tells of a dangerous world, filled with
criminals, terrorists, and enemies. The only way to insure our safety
is through major expenditures on the military and the police to
maintain order by physical force.

THE IMPERIAL MEANING STORY reinforces the other two, featuring a God
who rewards righteousness with wealth and power and mandates that they
rule over the poor who justly suffer divine punishment for their sins.

These stories all serve to alienate us from the community of life and
deny the positive potentials of our nature, while affirming the
legitimacy of economic inequality, the use of physical force to
maintain imperial order, and the special righteousness of those in
power.

It is not enough, as many in the United States are doing, to debate
the details of tax and education policies, budgets, war, and trade
agreements in search of a positive political agenda. Nor is it enough
to craft slogans with broad mass appeal aimed at winning the next
election or policy debate. We must infuse the mainstream culture with
stories of Earth Community. As the stories of Empire nurture a culture
of domination, the stories of Earth Community nurture a culture of
partnership. They affirm the positive potentials of our human nature
and show that realizing true prosperity, security, and meaning depends
on creating vibrant, caring, interlinked communities that support all
persons in realizing their full humanity. Sharing the joyful news of
our human possibilities through word and action is perhaps the most
important aspect of the Great Work of our time.

For More Charts Click Here

Changing the prevailing stories in the United States may be easier to
accomplish than we might think. The apparent political divisions
notwithstanding, U.S. polling data reveal a startling degree of
consensus on key issues. Eighty-three percent of Americans believe
that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong
priorities. Supermajorities want to see greater priority given to
children, family, community, and a healthy environment. Americans also
want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead
of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of
international domination. These Earth Community values are in fact
widely shared by both conservatives and liberals.

Our nation is on the wrong course not because Americans have the wrong
values. It is on the wrong course because of remnant imperial
institutions that give unaccountable power to a small alliance of
right-wing extremists who call themselves conservative and claim to
support family and community values, but whose preferred economic and
social policies constitute a ruthless war against children, families,
communities, and the environment.

The distinctive human capacity for reflection and intentional choice
carries a corresponding moral responsibility to care for one another
and the planet. Indeed, our deepest desire is to live in loving
relationships with one another. The hunger for loving families and
communities is a powerful, but latent, unifying force and the
potential foundation of a winning political coalition dedicated to
creating societies that support every person in actualizing his or her
highest potential.

In these turbulent and often frightening times, it is important to
remind ourselves that we are privileged to live at the most exciting
moment in the whole of the human experience. We have the opportunity
to turn away from Empire and to embrace Earth Community as a conscious
collective choice. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

David Korten is co-founder and board chair of the Positive Futures
Network.

This article draws from his newly released book, The Great Turning:
From Empire to Earth Community. Go to www.yesmagazine.org/greatturning
for book excerpts, related articles, David's talks, and resources for
action.

Copyright 2004-06 Yes!
Yes! is published by the Positive Futures Network, PO Box 10818,
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0818, USA Phone: 206/842-0216

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From: U.S. Social Forum, Jul. 13, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

U.S. SOCIAL FORUM COMES TO ATLANTA IN JUNE 2007

The Burgeoning Global Democracy Movement

Why a US Social Forum?

Progressive forces in the United States have not been able to mount an
effective national response to issues such as the Gulf Coast
tragedies, corporate scandals, government corruption, war, attacks
against migrants, deregulation, corporate welfare, a widening gap
between the rich and poor, a deteriorating education system,
monopolization of the media, privatization of public resources, a
ballooning federal deficit and attacks on our civil liberties. In the
face of these enormous challenges the progressive movement remains
fractured along geography, race, class and issues. The nation's
largest labor federation split, and union membership is at its lowest
point in decades. Churches, once a backbone of the civil rights, peace
and environmental justice movements, have lost strength due to scandal
within the Catholic church, declining membership and the rise of the
religious right. Grassroots community-based organizations represent a
growing sector, but are severely under-resourced. This lack of
political strength demonstrates the clear need for greater convergence
among progressives and for spaces in which progressives can begin to
come together and articulate our vision for "another world."

The US Social Forum will provide this space. It will be the largest
gathering of progressives in over a decade, drawing participants from
different regions, ethnicities, sectors and ages. Community-based
organizations, Indigenous nations, unions, academics, policy and
advocacy organizations will be able to come together for dialogues,
reflection and to define future strategies. Perhaps as many as 20,000
people will attend.

The purpose of the USSF is to effectively and affirmatively articulate
the values and strategies of progressive civil society in the United
States. Those who build towards and participate in the USSF are no
longer interested in simply stating what social justice movements
"stand-against," rather we see ourselves as part of new movements that
reach beyond national borders, that practice democracy at all levels,
and that can articulate the world we want. The USSF provides a first
major step towards such articulation by bringing together the new
movements.

Why the South?

The US Social Forum is more than a conference, more than a networking
bonanza, more than a reaction to war and repression -- The USSF is the
next most important step in our struggle. This moment demands that we
build a powerful movement that disrupts and transforms this country.
We must declare what we want our world to look like and begin planning
the path to get there. The USSF will provide spaces to build
relationships, learn from each other's experiences, share our analysis
of the problems our communities face, and begin to vision and
strategize how to reclaim our world.

To win nationally, we must win the US South. The Southern site of the
USSF marks a new moment in the US movement for social and economic
justice. Project South believes "as the South goes, so goes the
nation." These words, spoken by DuBois, ring true in every moment of
American history. The roots of oppression, injustice, exploitation and
social control run deep in Southern soil. The US South has also
cultivated determined and consistent fights for indigenous self-
determination, black freedom, working class emancipation, and human
liberation. Hosting the US Social Forum in the US South builds
political potency for a powerful movement to challenge white
supremacy, imperial domination, worldwide genocide, ecocide, and all
other manifestations of global capitalism. Join us in Atlanta to build
a strong and effective movement for liberation!

A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to prepare
and meet it! The World Social Forum (WSF) has become an important
symbol of this rising global movement. Over the past 5 years the WSF
has gathered the world's worker, peasant, youth, women, and oppressed
peoples to construct a counter-vision to the economic and political
elites of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. After
gathering 150,000 people in Porte Alegre, Brazil earlier this year, it
was decided that in 2006 there would be regional social forums to
culminate for a WSF in 2007. The WSF committee delegated Grassroots
Global Justice (GGJ) to coordinate a US Social Forum that represents
those most adversely affected by the ravages of globalization and
neoliberal policies. GGJ is an alliance that grew out of people-of-
color-led grassroots groups who participated in the first WSF. These
grassroots leaders initiated a process to create a US Social Forum
Planning Committee, and Atlanta was selected as the USSF host city.

We call those who fight for justice from within the US borders to
converge and act. We call you to reflect on the potential of our
position and the power of our connections. Though movement leaders
have built organizations that push forward an integrated, multi-issue,
multiracial strategy, we have yet to build our movement on a scale
relative to our brothers and sisters in the global South. The first
USSF offers a historic opportunity to gather and unify these growing
forces. We must seize this moment and advance our collective work to
build grassroots leadership, develop collective vision, and formulate
strategies to grow a strong movement.

=============

From: Yes! Magazine, Spring 2006

Global Justice: Another U.S. Is Possible

by Tanya Dawkins

Prepare for the first U.S. Social Justice Forum in the summer of 2007
in Atlanta

In 2001, the World Social Forum burst on to theworld stage with its
ambitious rallying call, "AnotherWorld is Possible." This now-familiar
mantra has come to symbolize the dynamism of movements for social and
economic justice around the world. If attendance is any measure of
success, it is worth noting that the World Social Forum has grown from
20,000 participants at its first gathering (5,000 were expected) to
150,000-plus at the 2005 gathering in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The Forum responded to a hunger for a different kind of possibilities-
oriented dialogue that embraces principles of pluralism, deep debate,
respect, justice, and an internationalist perspective.

A broad-based network of U.S.-based activists, grassroots
organizations, and their allies are betting that a similar hunger
exists in the U.S. and that this is a time when a U.S. Social Forum
could be a vehicle for moving a social, environmental and economic
justice agenda to center stage.

Recent census figures confirm what most know intuitively or by lived
experience. Poverty and inequality are on the increase in the United
States. Since 2003 an additional 1.1 million people have slipped below
the poverty line. The May 15, 2005, Business Week cover story,
entitled, "I Want My Safety Net!" sums up a growing backlash that
transcends party,race, class, and geography.

"Hurricane Katrina has put the historic racism, white supremacy, and
poverty that has always been a part of this country on center stage,"
says Walda Katz-Fishman, a Howard University scholar activist and
member of the U.S. Social Forum planning committee. "It has come at a
moment when people are building a common analysis and are conscious
about dealing with basic and structural problems."

The U.S. Social Forum planning effort grew out of a series of
consultations held in 2003 between activists in the United States and
members of the World Social Forum International Council. Grassroots
Global Justice (GGJ), a national alliance of U.S.-based grassroots
organizations, facilitated the process, including a 2004 meeting of 50
grassroots organizations in Washington, D.C.

The 22 organizations spearheading the planning came of age in response
to varying forms of community displacement resulting from the last 20-
plus years of neoliberal economic policies. Most are led by people of
color. All are rooted in a commitment to building power for social
justice through building low-income community leadership, strategic
alliances,and learning from and with movements inthe global South.

U.S. Social Forum: Atlanta, 2007

Last year, the World Social Forum International Council decided that
the time had come to focus on pushing the debate and organizing closer
to home.

Atlanta will host the gathering. According to JeromeScott, director of
Project South and member ofthe planning committee, "It is important
for this first U.S. Social Forum to be in this historic area of the
country. The South continues to have great strategic importance'lots
of oppression and lots of resistance."

The Forum will take place from June 27-July 1, 2007, with 2006 devoted
to strengthening the outreach and organizing efforts of its 10
regional organizing committees. The timing was moved back following
Hurricane Katrina, after planners consulted with groups in the
hurricane-affected communities, including about 50 internally
displaced organizers from New Orleans and the Gulf States who
participated in a recent meeting called by the People's Hurricane and
Relief Fund in Penn Center, South Carolina.

The U.S. Social Forum effort builds on what has become a widespread
practice since the social forums began: local, regional and national
social forum "spinoffs" that seek to expand the World Social Forum
model of movement-building around the world.

Last year, the World Social Forum International Council decided that
the time had come tofocus on pushing the debate and organizing closer
to home. In addition to a diverse array of social forums around the
world, 2006 will be the year of the "polycentric" social forum.
Simultaneous regional gatherings are being held in Bamako, Mali
(Africa) and Caracas, Venezuela (Americas). The Venezuela forum
organizers made U.S. participationa priority. The Asia region
polycentric forum slated for Karachi, Pakistan, was postponed due
tolast year's earthquake.

"A U.S. Social Forum has tremendous potentialas both a process and an
event. It connects us to the rest of the world and the global South,"
says Michael Guerrero, director of Grassroots Global Justice."That is
essential right now. Corporate power exists at the global level. We
have to find ways to organize at that level without losing the local
work."

Now that a location has been selected, U.S.Social Forum planners are
turning to organizing and fund-raising. The group has hired Alice
Lovelace as the lead national staff organizer and is working to raise
the $100,000 needed to scale up, secure sites,and develop the website
and communications infrastructure that can serve as a movement-
building tool leading up to and after the actual event.

The forum will take place at a key moment betweenHurricane Katrina and
the 2008 U.S. election and has the potential to serve as a rare and
powerful moment in the history of organizing and movement-building in
the United States. Organizers hope it will be the largest and
mostsignificant gathering of progressive U.S. civil societyin decades,
with up to 20,000 participants from across the geographic, racial,
cultural, economic, and issue spectrum. There is much more social
justice work taking place in the United States than mostrealize, the
organizers point out. The forum process will be a critical point for
creating connections, developing strategy and breaking the isolation
people often feel as they work at the local level.

More information is available at www.ussocialforum.org

Tanya Dawkins (dawkinst@mindspring.com) is the founder/director of
the Global-Local Links Project and a member of the board of the
Positive Futures Network, publisher of YES!.

Return to Table of Contents

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at dhn@rachel.org.
  
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
  necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the
  subject.

  Editors:
  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org
  
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  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Democracy
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  In response, you will receive an Email asking you to confirm that
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Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903
dhn@rachel.org
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