Rachel's Democracy & Health News #863
"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"
Thursday, July 13, 2006.................Printer-friendly version
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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. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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. ("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! ==============  Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism; Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. And see http://www.natcap.org/  John E. Young and Aaron Sachs, The Next Efficiency Revolution: Creating a Sustainable Materials Economy. Washington, D.C. Worldwatch Institute, 1994, pg. 13.  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 :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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 email@example.com. Copyright 2006 Clean Production Action Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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 Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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?" 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