Home Depot Throws Green Image Out the Window with Environmentally Destructive Project
By Gary Hughes, AlterNet
Posted on May 27, 2009, Printed on May 27, 2009
Tomorrow shareholders attending The Home Depot’s Annual Meeting will be confronted with protesters declaring “Dam The Home Depot, Save Patagonia’s Rivers.” The action is the latest in a series of events that aim to highlight the connection between The Home Depot and proposals to build a series of dams on the wild rivers of Chile’s Patagonia.
Hidden away at the southern tail of South America, Chile’s Patagonia is a place where the mountains meet the sea, where forests give way to wind-swept steppe, and where the local people still remember the stories of their pioneering grandparents. Patagonia is one of the world’s few regions where big rivers can still rumble freely down rainforest-draped canyons, spilling glacier-fed waters over spectacular waterfalls that few humans have ever seen.
It in this spectacular wilderness that Chilean and European multinational corporations are planning a series of 5 big dams on two rivers, and more than 1500 miles worth of transmission lines to connect the dams to Chile’s industrial centers in the north. The transmission lines would require the world’s longest clearcut through globally rare forests and roadless wilderness. The dams would wreak havoc on the region’s ecosystems and destroy a delicate web of life. The project faces fierce opposition from local communities, and from national and international environmental organizations.
Patagonia may be a long way from Atlanta, the corporate headquarters of The Home Depot, but the two are intimately connected through The Home Depot’s supply chain. Every year, the Matte Group, considered the “de facto” owner of the Chilean energy company involved in the dam scheme, sells 50 million dollars of wood products to The Home Depot.
This economic relationship ties customers of The Home Depot to the proposal to destroy rivers and forests in Chile’s Patagonia, and is clearly contrary to The Home Depot’s stated commitment to help their customers be environmentally conscious shoppers.
A fundamental element to being an environmentally conscious shopper is to know where the consumer dollar is going — and in this case the money that Home Depot customers are spending on wood products from their Chilean suppliers is going to corporate coffers that are working to destroy rivers and flood forests found nowhere else on the planet.
The conflict first came home for The Home Depot in spring of 2008, when environmental groups began a letter writing campaign asking The Home Depot to take a stand on the issue. In the past year thousands of consumers have written to The Home Depot telling them that they will not shop there until The Home Depot takes steps to distance itself from the controversy.
Several major US environmental organizations have communicated to The Home Depot the need for the company to take action. In addition, leading Socially Responsible Investment firms have insisted that The Home Depot respond, citing the risk that the controversy presents to the company’s “green” reputation.
The demand for action is clear — The Home Depot should either sever its relationship with suppliers who are promoting the dam projects, or use their influence to get these interests to stop promoting dirty development.
It is not as though alternatives do not exist. For instance, Chile, due to its diverse geography, has massive solar, geothermal, and wind energy potential. A significant portion of the dirty energy from building dams on Patagonia’s rivers could be replaced by energy efficiency efforts alone, demonstrating that damming wild rivers in Patagonia is clearly not necessary.
The Home Depot has alternatives as well, as the wood products provided by the Chilean suppliers in question are available from other manufacturers.
The US consumer knows that it isn’t always easy being green, but we also know that we don’t want to spend hard earned dollars on river and forest destruction.
The Patagonia Dam controversy presents an opportunity for The Home Depot to demonstrate that its environmental commitments are more than just PR rhetoric, and to seal their reputation as an environmentally responsible company.
Yet, unless The Home Depot takes a responsible stand on this issue, a growing number of their customers will shop elsewhere for their building and home improvement materials. If The Home Depot is not pro-active, the Patagonia Dam controversy will turn their river of green promises into a flood of lost sales and lost reputation.
To find out more, visit International Rivers.
Gary Hughes is Patagonia Campaign Coordinator with International Rivers, an international environmental and human rights organization headquartered in Berkeley, California.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/140283/
Interested in living a Healthy Air life?
Join the Air District at one of our Healthy Air Living Chats this summer throughout the Valley! These informal, two-hour, evening get-togethers will give you the opportunity to meet Air District staff, hear about the goals of the Healthy Air Living initiative, and give you ideas for small changes you can make in your life that will reap big rewards in cleaner air for all of us. Plus, you can enter a drawing to win an electric lawnmower or a bicycle!
These Chats are free of charge and scheduled for community gathering places in your county. We look forward to meeting you! For more information, visit www.healthyairliving.com.
San Joaquin County
Thursday, May 28, 6-8 p.m.
Tracy Senior Center, lecture hall, 375 E. 9th St.
Tuesday, August 4, 6-8 p.m.
Arnold Rue Community Center, multipurpose room
5758 Lorraine Ave.
Join us on June 4th, Thursday evening (new day) from 7 to 8 pm for “The decline and current status of Central Valley salmon and steelhead” presented by J.D. Wikert, Habitat Restoration Coordinator, Anadromous Fish Restoration Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He will discuss life cycle, habitat reduction, population “collapse”, current status and how you can help.
Come to Oak Grove Regional Park at I-5 and Eight Mile Rd. The program is free; parking is $3.00 per vehicle.
By Donnie Ratcliff, Stockton FWO
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined other members of the Friends of the Lower Calaveras River (FLCR) at the 21st annual Stockton Earth Day Festival on April 19, 2009. FLCR is a diverse group of stakeholders united in the common goal of public awareness and education involving the Lower Calaveras River. This group effort was accomplished by combining many of FLCR’s members in one booth under the FLCR banner. The group was able to draw on the expertise and various educational materials provided by members to inform the public about the current state of the Calaveras River and opportunities to aid in its restoration.
Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Beth Campbell and Donnie Ratcliff focused on the current state of fish populations, aquatic habitat, and water quality in the system. Kari Burr, biologist with the Fishery Foundation of California, was able to discuss the foundation’s involvement with fish monitoring on the Calaveras and efforts to acclimate outmigrating salmon smolts before they enter the Pacific Ocean. Other members of FLCR were able to convey the values of the river as a place for recreation, a source of residential and agricultural water, and a unique local opportunity for restoration and community education.
A wide variety of contacts were made, ranging from long-time Stockton residents who knew very little about their local river to school children who were fascinated to learn about the long journey that Calaveras River salmon and steelhead must make to complete their life cycle. In addition, FLCR was able to garner new friends for the river, recruit volunteers for group activities and river clean-up efforts, and inform the public about future plans to facilitate youth education events on the river.
Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, firstname.lastname@example.org
I found this one on Alternet… pretty interesting.
By Matthew Stein, Huffington Post
Posted on April 28, 2009, Printed on May 11, 2009
Bernie Madoff sure made a name for himself, didn’t he? First he made a name for himself as a “Wall Street Genius” whose coveted firm not only promised, but consistently delivered, extraordinarily high annual returns on investment, even when the economy was down. More recently he made a name for himself as the architect of the largest and most notorious “Ponzi Scheme” in history, bilking investors out of as much as 50 billion dollars!
So what is a Ponzi scheme, anyways? A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that promises, and delivers (at least for a while) exceptionally high and consistent financial returns to investors. These returns are paid to its investors from their own money, and the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned by bona fide income generating investments (such as manufacturing, mining, or rental income). In ways similar to “pyramid schemes” or “chain letters”, in order for a Ponzi scheme to work, it must continuously attract an ever increasing pool of investment from unsuspecting customers, in order to provide an ever increasing supply of money to draw upon to maintain payments to its ever increasing pool of investors. The trick is to promise such glorious results that the greed factor overcomes its victim’s common sense as they turn a blind eye to the fact that the scheme lacks a solid foundation and can’t go on forever. It is absolutely critical to the success of all Ponzi schemes that an aura of respectability and impeccability be maintained for as long as possible, for as soon as suspicions spread concerning the fraudulent nature of the business, new investments dry up and the Ponzi scheme collapses, since it has no source of true earned income with which to maintain payments to investors.
So, is it true that we are running our planet like a Ponzi scheme? And if this is true, does it mean that we must inevitably face collapse, as all Ponzi schemes must eventually end in catastrophe?
The illusion that the “Free Market” is the logical savior of our world has been maintained by the promise of riches and an ever increasing standard of living and lifespan that has been demonstrated by the industrialized world for the past several hundred years. On the surface, who can look at the apparent success of America, and not come to that quick conclusion? However, when you look deeper, you will find that this success is built on a business model based upon exponential growth, and that this growth must be fed by a similar exponential growth in consumption of energy, natural resources, raw materials, and in the continuous expansion to new markets. All of this is well and good when the world has an abundant supply of undeveloped lands and unused resources, but it starts coming apart as that same world approaches its natural limits to growth and consumption.
Our world-wide Ponzi scheme got its start with the industrial revolution in Western Europe, and it was colonialism that provided ever increasing sources for the raw materials and markets that kept this giant Ponzi scheme rolling. It spread to America with the colonial takeover of vast untapped resources and huge tracts of lands previously occupied by Native American hunter-gatherers. As America industrialized, its population grew and its resources were drawn down, the giant Ponzi scheme continued to grow through globalization and it continued to feed its ever growing appetite by drawing down the natural resources in the world’s oceans, forests, and more remote areas, and by expanding it markets into the farthest reaches of the globe. We are witness to a five hundred year run on this giant ever-expanding global Ponzi scheme, and unless we change the way we are playing this game, that run is now drawing dangerously close to a natural and catastrophic conclusion.
Here is a brief summary of a few current trends that illustrate my point:
1. Trees: About 1/2 of the world’s forests are already gone (most were cut in the last 50 years), and a significant percentage of the rest are in trouble. At the current rate of destruction, it has been estimated that the world’s rainforests will be completely eliminated within forty years. Trees play a necessary role in stabilizing our planet’s weather, atmosphere and soils. A single large mature tree has the evaporative surface area on its needles or leaves equivalent to a 40 acre lake. A process called “desertification” occurs near areas that have been deforested once the trees stop recycling moisture back into the atmosphere to fall as rain somewhere down wind. A recent study shows that deforestation contributes roughly 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions every year.
2. Atmosphere: Global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by a factor of four since 1950. We have been burning fossil fuels for over 500 years, but half of all of those burned fuels have been consumed in the past thirty years! There is a scientific consensus to 90% certainty that these atmospheric changes will result in catastrophic, potentially civilization busting, climate changes within the next 50 years. Even if you do not believe in global warming, data indicates that the increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere (the primary greenhouse gas) caused by our rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuels, is increasing the acidity of the oceans, and that if this trend continues much longer, it has the potential to kill most of the planktons, diatoms, and coral reefs of the ocean, knocking out the bottom of the food chain, killing most of the life in the oceans of the world, and destroying one of the legs of our world’s oxygen cycle.
3. Oceans: 11 out of 15 of the world’s major ocean fisheries are either already in collapse, or are in serious decline and danger of collapse. All large open ocean predatory fish, such as marlin and tuna, are already 90% depleted. By 2004, an estimated 20% of the world’s coral reefs had been destroyed (up from just 11% in 2000), an additional 24% were close to collapsing, and another 26% were under long-term threat of collapse. A recent British government report showed a drop in the world’s oceanic zooplankton of an astounding 73% since 1960. Zooplankton are a critical element in the bottom of the world’s food chain as well as its oxygen cycle.
4. Oil and other fossil fuels: Our modern industrial global machine essentially eats, sleeps, and sh_ts oil. Nearly all of the world’s giant oil fields (they produce over half the world’s oil) are mature and exhibit declining rates of oil production. In 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) shocked the world when it released an authoritative public study revealing that the world’s oil fields are declining at an average rate of 9.1%, which is much faster than previously thought. Even with huge capital investments to implement Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) methods, this rate of decline would only improve to 6.4%. What does this mean? It means that if our world is to maintain its current rate of oil consumption (our world’s recent globalization has been fueled by an annual oil production growth rate of something like 10%), then we would need to find and develop a Saudi Arabia’s worth of oil every year for the next year or two from now to eternity–an impossible fantasy!
5. Soil: A third of the original top soil in the United States is now gone. It has been estimated that the world has from 50 to 100 years of farmable soil, using current farming practices. The US has cut soil losses to 18 times the rate of nature’s replacement, the developing world averages a soil depletion rate of 36 times natural replacement, and China averages 54 times the rate of replacement.
6. Fresh water: Irrigated land comprises only 16% of the world’s croplands, but produces 40% of the world’s crop production. Many of the world’s major rivers (China’s Yellow River, America’s Colorado River, the Nile, the Rio Grande, the Ganges, the Indus, the Amu Darya, the Syr Darya, and Africa’s Chao Phraya) now run dry, or nearly dry, for significant parts of the year due to expanding irrigation and population demands. Unsustainable over pumping from aquifers is causing increasing salinity, lowering aquifer levels, and failed wells in many of the world’s irrigated bread baskets, such as California’s Central Valley, the US’ giant south central Ogallala aquifer, China’s grainbelt middle plains, India’s principle breadbasket, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
If the previous list is not enough to convince yourself that we are operating a giant Ponzi scheme, and that we are running out of new sources of energy, untapped markets, and raw materials to keep it running, then the following two figures should open your eyes.
Figure 2. Ecological footprint by region.
(Illustration courtesy of Global Footprint Network)
Figure 2 depicts a scientifically calculated global footprint by region. What this show us is that if our current planetary population of nearly 7 billion people were to live like we do here in North America, we would need an Earth with 9 1/2 hectares worth of productive land per person to sustainably supply us with the necessary raw materials, and to absorb our wastes. Yet we now have only roughly 1.7 global hectares of usable land per person. This means that we would need roughly 5 1/2 earths to support our planet if everyone in the world averaged the consumption levels of North America!
Figure 2. Ecological footprint of humankind from 1961 to 2003.
(Illustration courtesy of Global Footprint Network)
Figure 3 shows us that back in the mid 1980’s, when our world had just over half its current population, we first exceeded the capacity of our planet to continuously supply us with the food and raw materials that we consume, and to process our wastes. What this means, is that we have been consuming our planet’s resources faster than they regenerate, and polluting its natural systems faster than they can recover. This “drawing down” of our resources, is essentially spending the money from investors (all of us) in this Ponzi scheme, and when the remaining “money” (the natural resources and ecosystems of our world) can’t support the payments anymore, it will most certainly collapse!
Unfortunately, it’s going to take more than minor changes in the way we do business to get off this giant Ponzi scheme. It will not be easy, but I do believe it is doable. For a good idea of what it is going to take to make the shift to sustainability and get off this Ponzi scheme, see my prior Huff Post blog, 12 Tips for the Sustainability Shift.
The question to ask ourselves, is do we wish to adopt the attitude of Mr. Madoff, saying essentially, “F__k it! The world will do what the world will do, so I might as well enjoy one hell of a ride while it lasts!” Or do we decide to transform the way we do business, halt and reverse population growth and over-consumption, and collectively work together to nurture and rebuild the natural systems and biodiversity of our planet that are absolutely critical for supporting and maintaining a viable world for generation upon generation?
Matthew Stein is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, from Chelsea Green.