Sacrifice and survival.

Author:Frost, Calvin
Position:LETTERS FROM the Earth

Can "sacrifice zones" create positive change? I think so. First, what is a sacrifice zone? It is "a geographic area that has been impaired by environmental damage or economic disenchantment." Think of the southern part of Lake Michigan, where for years the steel industry dumped effluent into the lake, hence a sacrifice zone, justified because of jobs. Think of the Port Arthur Texas region on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, where for years the oil and chemical industries generated noxious emissions causing untold health issues for thousands. Think of Willowbrook, IL, home of Sterigenics, manufacturer of ETO, ethylene oxide. Finally, after years of debate and countless cases of cancer in the communities surrounding Sterigenics, ETO has been classified as a carcinogen. What about the Deepwater Horizon explosion that destroyed the beaches and coastline of the Gulf Coast for miles and miles? Another sacrifice zone. And the grounding of the oil tanker in Alaska, the Exxon Valdez!

But all is not doom and gloom, if we do something, if we make changes. Almost all of the above examples of sacrifice zones have brought change. We can restore the Gulf Coast. We can clean up Lake Michigan. We can force Sterigenics to shut down. We can, and have, cleaned up the oil spill in Alaska, and we have prosecuted the drunk skipper of the tanker. British Petroleum (BP) did accept responsibility for the explosion of Deepwater Horizon and has spent billions in restoration work. In that case, one of the subcontractors, Halliburton, was found guilty of gross negligence and agreed to donate $55 million to the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Sadly, does it take a catastrophe to bring change? Maybe there's a silver lining! Which leads me to the change advocated by Heather Tallis.

Heather is Nature Conservancy's lead scientist for strategic innovation. She thinks we have a "last chance" for a more sustainable future. She has a plan to get us to 2050 in which both nature and 10 billion people can thrive. And, I have to tell you, UPM, the third largest paper company in the world, and also known as the "biofuels" company, is on the same page as Heather. They have created a breakthrough technology using Naphtha, the byproduct generated in the pulping process, to make cellulose based polypropylene and a non-fossil based "renewable" adhesive. This is really a heady scientific development. Back to Heather's strategic innovation.

Heather believes there are two scenarios for us...

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