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#848 -- Dangers of Being Poor and Nonwhite, 30-Mar-2006


In the U.S., the precautionary principle arose to control toxics in
the Great Lakes. Can it now be applied to sprawl, housing, coal,
forests and environmental justice? Join us at the Precaution
Academy May 19-21 near Chicago. Scholarships are still available.
More info here.


Rachel's Democracy & Health News #848

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

Thursday, March 30, 2006................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Featured stories in this issue...

The Dangers of Being Poor and Nonwhite
  The poor and communities of color are exposed to up to 10 times as
  much industrial pollution as their wealthier and whiter counterparts.
  In Massachusetts, if you live in a community of color, you are thirty
  times as likely to live in a highly polluted community, compared to a
  white community.
Time to Get Serious About Inequality and Sustainability
  Strategies that tackle elite income and wealth, and thereby
  consumption, serve both an economic and a larger cultural purpose:
  They begin to give content to the ecologically and morally important
  principle that at some point "Enough is Enough" (or should be).
Study Links IQ to Pesticide Use
  North Dakota farm children exposed to pesticides performed
  significantly lower than their peers on IQ tests, a new study has
The Secret to Being as Radical as We Want to Be
  The secret to being as radical as we want to be is to finance the
  revolution ourselves.
Bottled Antimony
  To their surprise, German researchers have found the toxic metal,
  antimony, in bottled water. They also report that levels of antimony
  in the natural environment have been rising since 1970 because humans
  use antimony in flame retardants.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #848, Mar. 30, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Environmental Injustice in Massachusetts

By Tim Montague

Our government agencies may not know the true full extent or impacts
of industrial pollution in the U.S. but they certainly recognize that
pollution disproportionately impacts the poor and communities of
color. As Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) openly admits when speaking about air
pollution, "Poor communities, frequently communities of color --
suffer disproportionately." She goes on, "If you look at where our
industrialized facilities tend to be located, they're not in the upper
middle class neighborhoods." To the contrary, the EPA's little known
risk screening environmental indicators project -- reveals very
clearly that the poor and minorities are living with far more than
their fair share of toxic pollution.[1]

Using similar data in Massachusetts, Daniel Faber and Eric Krieg
recently published a detailed study of how working poor and minority
communities are disproportionately affected by industrial pollution
from landfills, hazardous waste sites, incinerators and factories.[2]

People are forced to live in polluted communities by their economic
circunstamces. In Massachusetts, more than 25 percent of all workers
are "the working poor" -- they earn less $8.84/hr or $18,387/yr
($18,400 was the federal poverty line for a family of four in 2003).
And over three quarters of these families spend more than one-third of
their income on housing. According to Faber and Krieg a family of four
has to make at least $64,656 in Boston ($6,000 more than in New York)
to "pay for basic necessities," and many families are forced by
economic necessity to live in the least desirable, most industrialized

For purposes of their study, Faber and Krieg define low- income
communities as having a median income of less than $39,524/yr. for a
family of four; and communities of color as those with more than 15%

They documented big disparities between rich and poor and between
white and minority communities. And they trace the root causes of this
disparity stem to the lack of political power.

"In order to bolster profits and competitiveness, industry typically
adopts pollution strategies which... offer the path of least political
resistance. The less political power a community possesses, the fewer
resources a community has to defend itself; the lower the level of
community awareness and mobilization against potential ecological
threats, the more likely they are to experience arduous environmental
and human health problems at the hands of business and government. As
a result, poorer towns and communities of color suffer an unequal
exposure to ecological hazards."[2, pg.1]

"The poor and communities of color face exposure to: (1) greater
concentrations of polluting industrial facilities and power plants;
(2) greater concentrations of hazardous waste sites and
disposal/treatment facilities, including landfills, incinerators, and
trash transfer stations; and (3) higher rates of "on the job" exposure
to toxic pollutants inside the factory."[2, pg. 1]


According to Faber and Krieg, Massachusetts has over 30,570 known
hazardous waste sites. If all towns were of equal area, the average
community would have 117 hazardous waste sites in it. But poor
communities have an average of 203 hazardous waste sites per town --
double the state average. Medium and high income towns average just 66
and 71 hazardous waste sites per town. Even the wealthy few are
poisoning themselves with hazardous waste, but poor communities are
three times more likely to have a hazardous waste site in their
community than the wealthiest communities. Low-income communities
have four times the density of hazardous waste sites compared to high-
income communities (19.2 vs. 4.6 sites per square mile).[2, pg. 2]

White communities (95% white) have an average of 39 hazardous waste
sites per town. But communities of color have a whopping 297 sites per
town -- 7.6 times that of white communities. And on a per-square-mile
basis, communities of color average twenty-three times as many
hazardous waste sites per square mile compared to predominantly white
communities (48.3 vs. 2.1 sites per square mile).


It's well known that landfills and incinerators pose many serious
health risks and that the people living near them suffer abnormal
rates of cancer[3, 4, 5, 6] birth defects[7, 8, 9, 10, 11], and low
birth weight[12, 13]. Landfills contaminate the local environment with
volatile organic compounds and heavy metals (see Rachel's #617).
Incinerators release cancer-causing and toxic chemicals from their
smoke stacks, including heavy metals, herbicide residues, polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxins and furans (see Rachel's
#592). The leachate (garbage juice) produced by landfills is
extremely toxic. Brown and Donnelly at Texas A&M University studied
the leachate of 58 landfills and concluded that "...the leachate from
some municipal landfills may be similar to the carcinogenic potency of
the leachate from the Love Canal landfill."[14] Love Canal, of
course, was the notorious toxic waste dump that alerted the nation to
the dangers of toxic waste back in 1978.

Faber and Krieg found few differences in the number or density of
landfills across socioeconomic class but they found that communities
of color have nearly three times as many landfills per square mile as
white communities (.35 vs. .13 landfills/sq. mile). They say that
while "communities of color make up just 9.4 percent of all towns in
the study, they are home to 27.8 percent of all incinerator ash
landfills, 41 percent of all illegal sites [not defined], and 45.9
percent of all inactive municipal incinerators."[2, pg. 5]


According to data collected by the government of Massachusetts, from
1990-2002, industry in that state "released over 204.3 million pounds
of chemical waste directly into the environment... an amount
equivalent to over 2,550 tractor-trailer trucks each loaded with
80,000 pounds of toxic waste."[2, pg. 5]

Faber and Krieg explain that we're talking about nasty volatile
organic compounds like... "benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde and
acrolein -- chemicals which are known to cause numerous adverse health
effects, including neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive
disorders and respiratory diseases..."[2, pg. 5]

If you live a poor community you have an average of 9.9 industrial
polluters in your back yard, and your community absorbs an average of
1.6 million pounds of chemical wastes (107,034 pounds per square
mile). In contrast, if you live in a wealthy community you have just
2.2 major polluters in your community spewing an average of 246,428
pounds of chemicals (12,656 pounds per sq. mile). Clearly everyone in
the state of Massachusetts is getting dosed with toxic chemicals, but
the poor are getting 8.5 times the dose of their wealthy compatriots.
But Faber and Krieg don't stop there. They break down the exposure by

"Low income communities are also over-exposed to the most dangerous
families of chemical releases. Although they represent just 10.2
percent of all towns, low income communities received 23.7 percent of
all carcinogens; 30.8 percent of all organochlorines; 27.8 percent of
all persistent bioaccumulative toxins; and 45.8 percent of all
reproductive toxins."[2, pg. 6]

"Communities of color are also overburdened. High minority communities
(25% or more people of color) average 11.4 TURA [Toxic Use Reduction
Act] industrial facilities per town and 1.28 TURA facilities per
square mile, compared to an average of just 1.5 facilities and .08
facilities per square mile for low minority communities (less than 5%
people of color).[2, pg. 6] (TURA is a Massachusetts law.)

We see that poor and minority communities are exposed to greater
volumes of industrial chemicals, nastier chemicals and chemical
combinations. If you're poor, you receive twice the burden of
carcinogens, three times the burden of bioaccumulative toxins and four
times the burden of reproductive toxins. And if you live in a
community of color, you have "...ten times as many pounds of chemical
releases per square mile."[2, pg. 15]

The report details similar injustices around exposure to coal and oil-
burning power plants, "Although communities of color comprise just 9.4
percent of all communities in the state, they are home to 29.6 percent
of all active power plants."[2, pg. 8] and "...while low and medium-
low income communities comprise 47.9 percent of all towns, they are
home to 66.7 percent of all power plants and 73.6 percent of all
releases of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic
compounds. In contrast, the wealthiest populations (with median income
of at least $65,876) comprise 23.8 percent of all communities but are
home to only one power plant, and 0.2 percent of these emissions."[2,
pg. 16]


Faber and Krieg tallied up all the various toxic exposures for each of
the 250 cities and towns (and 12 neighborhoods of Boston) in the
entire state of Massachusetts and divided them by the land area of
each community. The resulting 'exposure index' is an estimate of how
contaminated each community is and takes into account different types
of exposure -- recycling centers are more hazardous than closed
landfills, which are more hazardous than small industry.

Not surprisingly, poor communities and communities of color scored
much higher (more toxic) than wealthy and white communities. These
communities averaged 35.3 points while the wealthiest communities
averaged just 8.5 points. Communities of color averaged 87.7 points
compared to just 4.3 points for white communities. So its four
times as dangerous to be poor and twenty times as dangerous to live in
a community of color.

Faber and Krieg sum it up this way, "...if you live in a white
community, then you have a 1.8 percent chance of living in the most
environmentally hazardous communities in the state... However, if you
live in a community of color, then there is a 70.6 percent chance that
you live in one of the most hazardous towns. In short, if you live
in a community of color, you are thirty-nine times more likely to live
in one of the most environmentally hazardous communities in
Massachusetts."[emphasis added; 2, pg. 10]

The authors continue, "The conclusion to be drawn from this analysis
is that the communities most heavily burdened with environmentally
hazardous industrial facilities and sites are overwhelmingly low
income towns and/or communities of color. Clearly, not all
Massachusetts residents are polluted equally -- working class families
and people of color are disproportionately impacted. Governmental
action is urgently required to address these disparities." [2, pg. 10]

[1] http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID=

[2] Daniel Faber and Eric Krieg, Unequal Exposure to Ecological
Hazards 2005: Environmental Injustices in the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. Northeastern University, October 2005. Available

[3] State of New York Department of Health INVESTIGATION OF CANCER
CONDITIONS, NEW YORK STATE, 1980-1989 (Atlanta, GA: Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, June, 1998).

[4] M.S. Goldberg and others, "Incidence of cancer among persons
living near a municipal solid waste landfill site in Montreal,
Quebec," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 50, No. 6 (November
1995), pgs. 416-424.

[5] K. Mallin, "Investigation of a bladder cancer cluster in
northwestern Illinois," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 132 No.
1 Supplement (July 1990), pgs. S96-S106.

[6] J. Griffith and others, "Cancer mortality in U.S. counties with
hazardous waste sites and ground water pollution," ARCHIVES OF
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 44, No. 2 (March 1989), pgs. 69-74.

[7] H.M.P. Fielder and others, "Report on the health of residents
living near the Nant-Y Gwyddon landfill site using routinely available
data," (Cardiff, Wales: Welsh Combined Centres for Public Health:

[8] G.M. Shaw and others, "Maternal water consumption during pregnancy
and congenital cardiac anomalies," EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 1, No. 3 (May
1990), pgs. 206-211.

[9] S.A. Geschwind and others, "Risk of congenital malformations
associated with proximity to hazardous waste sites," AMERICAN JOURNAL
OF EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 135, No. 11 (June 1, 1992), pgs. 1197-1207.

[10] L.A. Croen and others, "Maternal residential proximity to
hazardous waste sites and risk of selected congenital malformations,"
EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 8, No. 4 (July 1997), pgs. 347-354.

[11] M. Vrijheid and H. Dolk [EUROHAZCON Collaborative Group],
"Residence near hazardous waste landfill sites and risk of non-
chromosomal congenital malformations [abstract]," TERATOLOGY Vol. 56,
No. 6 (1997), pg. 401.

[12] Nancy E. Reichman, Low Birth Weight and School Readiness, The
Future of Children, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 2005. pgs. 91-116.

[13] B. Paigen and others, "Growth of children living near the
hazardous waste site, Love Canal," HUMAN BIOLOGY Vol. 59, No. 3 (June
1987), pgs. 489-508.

[14] Kirk Brown and K.C. Donnelly, "An Estimation of the Risk
Associated with the Organic Constituents of Hazardous and Municipal
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pgs. 1-30.


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From: Synthesis/Regeneration (Fall 2005), Nov. 1, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]


By Gar Alperovitz

It's time for people who are serious about sustainability to open a
direct, clear, and explicit challenge to the extreme inequalities of
income and wealth which are among the most important drivers of
unsustainable growth. This requires far more than the usual laundry
list of (failing) progressive tax and other policies. There are also
signs that the beginning points of a tough-minded program may be
possible in many parts of the country.

Although we often talk in generalities about inequality, the fact is
the numbers are far more dramatic than most people understand. The top
1% now garners for itself more income each year than the bottom 100
million Americans taken together. The top 1% owns just under 50% of
all investment capital. An only slightly larger elite group, the top
5%, owns slightly under 70% of financial wealth and more than 80% of
unincorporated business assets. The most recent data (1999) showed a
mere 0.2% at the very top making more money on the sale of stocks and
bonds than all other taxpayers taken together. [1]

And of course this is only within the United States. Internationally,
things are far worse. The richest 1% of people in the world have as
much income each year as the poorest 57% taken together. The richest
5% have incomes 114 times that of the poorest 5%. [2]

Quite apart from the indecency of these statistics, what needs to be
confronted is their relationship to materialism in general and
unsustainable consumption and production in particular. Ever more
expansive materialism is driven in large measure by the pattern set by
those who can afford upper level purchases. After "the rich and super-
rich began a bout of conspicuous luxury consumption" in the early
1980s, Juliet Schor reports, members of "the upper middle class
followed suit with their own imitative luxury spending..." In turn,
the 80% below who lost ground also "engaged in a round of compensatory
keeping-up consumption." [3]

Even at times when there is no worsening in the relative distribution
of income, there is an expanding absolute gap between those at the top
and those at the bottom. Thus: If you have $50,000 this year and I
have $1,000 -- and next year you have $100,000 and I have $2,000 --
the relative distribution of income has not changed since the ratio
between our incomes remains constant at 50 to 1. However, the real
world distance between us has gone from $49,000 to $98,000.

Dynamic processes of the kind which systematically expand the gap
between those at the top and those at the bottom generates a powerful
"envy machine" -- a social and cultural dynamic in which even those
who climb the ladder, step by step, regularly experience the space
between the rungs getting greater and greater and the distance to the
top farther and farther away as they climb (if, in fact, they do

"Compensatory consumption" to keep up is also driven by factors which
are not directly related to envy or status. Essential to getting into
a top college is high quality primary and secondary education.
However, for those who can only send their children to public schools
this almost always requires purchasing a home in a neighborhood
supportive of good schools -- i.e. a location where prices are
inflated by high incomes at the top.

Again, the "arms race" among car buyers is not simply a matter of
taste or status-striving. To the extent drivers of small, relatively
fuel-efficient cars face the possibility of collision with a 7,500 lb.
Ford Expedition, they may understandably feel compelled to buy a
larger car for the sake of safety of their families alone.

The capacity of top elites to keep raising the bar in connection with
consumption is almost unlimited. Income received by the 10 most highly
paid C.E.O.s in the US rose from an average of $3.5 million in 1981 to
$19.3 million in 1988. By the year 2000, however, it had skyrocketed
to an average of $154 million -- for an overall gain of 4,300%!
Meanwhile workers' wages did little more than slightly out-pace
inflation during the same decades. [4]

At the outset of the 20th century, Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase
"conspicuous consumption" to describe a form of materialism which has
far more to do with demonstrating one's place in society than it does
with meeting a physical or other need. Modern researchers have
documented related concepts -- including hunger for the kinds of
"positional goods" which only elites can afford, pressures to emulate
those ahead of one on career ladders, defensive strategies to keep
from falling behind, and many similar efforts.

Just how strong such pressures can be is suggested by studies of what
Americans feel they need in order to achieve their hoped-for goals. In
1986, when median family income was $29,458, survey researchers found
that on average Americans felt they really needed far, far more --
$50,000 -- if they hoped to fulfill their dreams. This benchmark, of
course, offers a snapshot at one moment in time. The ongoing moving
picture reveals a deeper dynamic: Less than a decade later, in 1994,
what people felt they needed had more than doubled to $102,000 while
actual median family income had risen to only $38,782 in current
dollars. [5]

Not surprisingly, even as incomes have grown over time Americans (and
others) have not experienced greater happiness. Quite the contrary;
given the expanding dimensions of their unsatisfied aspirations,
millions feel they are on a treadmill running faster and faster simply
to stay in place. Over the roughly four-decade period between 1957 and
1995 both the US economy and consumption expenditures just about
doubled. The proportion of Americans who described themselves as "very
happy," however, did not change in any significant way. [6]

Several recent proposals suggest an initial line of attack on the
expansive consumption and resource challenges created by such
pressures. Schor, for instance, urges ending the tax-deductibility of
advertising by corporations as a way to reduce some forms of
unnecessary consumption. (A limited version of this approach has also
been suggested by Senator John McCain.) Schor and others also suggest
new taxes on luxury items. One specific proposal would provide that
"the high-end, status versions of certain commodities would pay a high
tax, the mid-range models would pay mid-range taxes, and low-end
versions would be exempt." [7]

It helps to be specific about the meaning of the term "luxury items"
-- and the kinds of consumption norms top elites help establish. The
super-elite -- the people Paul Krugman, Kevin Phillips and others have
termed the new "plutocracy" -- increasingly live in a very, very
different world from most Americans, and in a radically different
culture. It is a world where homes cost $5-10 million and where $5,000
grills, $14,000 Hermes Kelly handbags, $17,500 Patek Philippe
wristwatches, and $100,000 luxury automobiles are commonplace. When
Mercedes-Benz introduced its new Maybach sedan in 2002, its beginning
base-line prices were $310,000-$360,000; Ferrari had a three and a
half year waiting list for its $170,000 360 Modena Spider.

An approach which moves beyond taxing specific luxury goods is
economist Robert Frank's proposal for a progressive consumption tax to
replace the federal income tax. This would exempt all savings from
taxation -- plus an additional $7,500 deductible amount per person
($30,000 for a family of four). It would then steadily increase the
progressivity of taxes on the remaining income -- i.e. all money
devoted to consumption -- with a top marginal tax rate of 70% on
income and consumption expenditures above $500,000. [8]

Important as such measures are, addressing the huge and growing income
disparities which drive wasteful materialism in general and
unsustainable consumption patterns in particular will ultimately
require more far-reaching strategies to deal with the underlying
social and economic pressures. One obvious element of a long-range
approach is greater elite taxation, including wealth taxes and a
return to income taxes ranging up to and including pre-Reagan-era
rates of 70-91% for the very top groups.

A proposal by former Chairman of the House Budget Committee Martin
Sabo points to a further issue which a serious long term approach must
also address -- namely, the ratio of income at the top to income at
the bottom (i.e., not simply the extraordinarily high levels of elite
income). Sabo has proposed legislation which would eliminate the
deductibility to corporations of compensation at the top which is more
than 25 times that at the bottom. [9]

Ecological economist Herman Daly goes further, and the logic he offers
is compelling: First, "there is a limit to the total material
production that the ecosystem can support." Second, "I conclude,
therefore, that there must implicitly be some maximum personal
income..." Daly adds that "bonds of community break" if there is not
some limit to inequality. [10]

Strategies which take on elite income and wealth, and thereby
consumption, serve both an economic and a larger cultural purpose:
They begin to give content to the ecologically and morally important
principle that at some point "Enough is Enough" (or should be!).

Taxation of elites could also help generate resources which might in
turn be channeled back to support expanded programs to raise floor-
level incomes, thereby reducing the social distances which contribute
to compensatory consumption. Additional precedents for dealing with
inequality "from the bottom up" include increasing minimum wage levels
and enacting "living wage" requirements.

Over the course of the century a comprehensive strategy to undercut
excessive materialism might slowly reduce ceiling levels of elite
income at the same time low income floor levels were raised -- so that
ultimately not only would a ceiling be set, but the income
distribution would begin to compress towards ever greater degrees of

Often proposals which urge taxation at the top are viewed as utopian.
Given the pain which the Bush Administration's policies are creating
at all levels, however, there are signs -- particularly at the state
level -- of a new willingness of the American public to begin to get
serious about what is going on. In the November 2004 elections,
California voters overwhelmingly approved tax increases on those
making more than $1 million -- and earmarked the proceeds for mental
health programs. New Jersey enacted legislation in 2004 taxing those
making more than $500,000 -- and used the funds to offset regressive
property taxes.

Even the conservative Virginia State Senate approved legislation in
2003 that would have raised income taxes on those making more than
$150,000. In Connecticut -- which is currently considering a tax on
incomes over a million -- a recent poll found 77% of voters in favor
of the tax (including 63% of Republican voters!). [11]

The invidious comparison and envy machine mechanisms associated with
great inequality are clearly not the only sources of unsustainable
growth. "Faced with the loneliness and vulnerability that come with
deprivation of a securely encompassing community," NYU professor Paul
Wachtel writes, "we have sought to quell the vulnerability through our
possessions." What is often interpreted as materialism, Thomas Power
adds, is in reality a "demonstration of the pathologies of social
deprivation." What is really being sought "is participation in
authentic social and natural worlds." [12]

Among the underlying drivers behind such problems are the foundational
conditions of everyday work and community life -- including a dearth
of meaningful personal relationships and a sense of community, and
insufficient time and encouragement to pursue creative and fulfilling
activities which do not require materialist consumption.

Community-oriented strategies now being developed by many activists
can help open the door to dealing with foundational problems of this
kind -- especially efforts aimed at achieving greater local economic
stability and thereby individual job security, and strategies designed
to nurture community economic and social well-being. A comprehensive
program would bring together an all-out attack on extreme inequality
at the same time it worked to rebuild ecologically and humanly sound


** Gar Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy
at the University of Maryland. This article is adapted from his
recently published America Beyond Capitalism (John Wiley & Sons,


1. Congressional Budget Office, Effective Federal Tax Rates, 1997 to
2000, August 2003. Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s
in the U.S. in Edward N. Wolff, ed., International Perspectives on
Household Wealth (Elgar Publishing Ltd., forthcoming); 5% figure
provided by Ed Wolff. Data analysis of 1999 data provided by Jeff

2. United Nations, Human Development Report 2002, Deepening Democracy
in a Fragmented World, pp. 2, 13.

3. Juliet B. Schor, What's Wrong with Consumer Society? Competitive
Spending and the New Consumerism, in Consuming Desires, ed. Roger
Rosenblatt (Washington DC: Island Press, 1999) p. 46.

4. Paul Krugman, Plutocracy and Politics, New York Times, June 14,
2002, p. A37; Data drawn from Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy
(New York: Broadway Books, 2002), pp. 151-153.

5. Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting,
and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998), p. 15; U.S. Census
Bureau, Families by Median and Mean Income: 1947 to 2001, Table F-5.

6. Richard Easterlin, Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the
Happiness of All? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol.
27, No. 1 (1995), pp. 35-47; Alan Thein Durning, Are We Happy Yet?, in
Ecopsychology, ed. Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner
(San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995), pp. 70-76, 71, citing
National Opinion Research Center surveys.

7. Juliet B. Schor, What's Wrong with Consumer Society? Competitive
Spending and the New Consumerism, pp. 37-50, 46.

8. Robert Frank, Luxury Fever (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1999), pp. 214-215.

9. See Rep. Martin Sabo, The Income Equity Act of 2001 (H.R. 2691).

10. Herman Daly, Beyond Growth (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), pp.

11. Mark Pazniokas, Poll Finds Division on Deficit; but Millionaire's
Tax Favored by Majority, Hartford Courant, November 25, 2004, p. B1.

12. Paul L. Wachtel, The Poverty of Affluence: A Psychological
Portrait of the American Way of Life (New York: Free Press, 1983), p.
65. Thomas Michael Power, The Pursuit of Quality, Orion (Summer 1993),
pp. 30-35, p. 34.

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From: In-forum.com, Mar. 24, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Patrick Springer, The Forum

North Dakota farm children exposed to pesticides performed
significantly lower than their peers in IQ tests, according to
preliminary results of a study released Thursday.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota studied two groups of
children in the northern Red River Valley, one group living on or near
an active farm or field, another living at least a mile away from
those locations.

Children living on or near farms tested an average of five points
lower on standard IQ tests, said Patricia Moulton, an experimental
psychologist at UND.

"That's a significant difference," she said.

The average intelligence score for the farm children was 98, still
within the range considered normal, 85 to 115. But it was well below
the average IQ score of 103 for the group with lower chronic exposures
to pesticides, Moulton said.

Each group was comprised of 64 children, a number determined to be
statistically sound, ages 7 to 12.

Children living on farms also had lower scores in verbal
comprehension, visual perceptual reasoning, memory and mental
processing speed, the study found.

The study, funded by a branch of the National Institutes of Health,
will go on to determine whether there is a correlation between the
level of exposure to pesticides and performance on memory,
intelligence and other mental functions.

"That's just the raw IQ," Moulton said of findings presented to the
Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health. "We're going to look at
a dose-response relationship. We're going to be able to associate the
test scores with (pesticide) concentrations in the blood and urine."

Two earlier studies also found that children living in areas with
active pesticide use had lower scores in mental performance tests, but
those studies did not take into account level of exposure.

Moulton and her research partner, Thomas Petros, also an experimental
psychologist at UND, hope to expand their study on pesticide and
mental performance by testing farm children throughout North Dakota,
with testing year-round.

"We had a huge response to the study," she said. "The farm families
were massively interested in the study."

The study is an offshoot of a large epidemiological study that UND
researchers are conducting on chronic pesticide exposure and
degenerative brain diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and
multiple sclerosis.

"I'm not advocating that we get rid of pesticides, because they're
very important to farming," Moulton said. Instead, she advocates a
"happy medium," by using non-toxic pesticides whenever possible and
taking more steps to decrease exposure.

Copyright 2006 Forum Communications Co. Fargo, ND 58102

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From: www.adbusters.org, Mar. 15, 2006
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By Michael Shuman and Merrian Fuller**

If Mohandas Gandhi were a typical North American activist these days,
he would probably be wearing a three-piece suit and working in a plush
office with his law degree prominently displayed. He would have little
time to lead protests, since every other week would be spent meeting
with donors -- and those power lunches would hardly go well with
fasting. He would be careful to avoid salt marches or cotton boycotts,
so as not to offend key donors. To sharpen his annual pitch to
foundations, he would be constantly dreaming up new one-year projects
on narrowly focused topics, perhaps a one-time conference on English
human-rights abuses, or a documentary on anti-colonial activities in
New Delhi. To ensure that various allies didn't steal away core
funders, he would keep his distance and be inclined to trash talk
behind their backs. In short, there's little doubt that the British
would still be running India.

The problem with activism today is that it is largely funded by grants
and gifts from rich foundations and individuals. The long-standing
assumption that you can take the money with few strings attached, and
then run, needs to be fundamentally reexamined.

Building a philanthropic base of support can cripple an organization's
mission and wreck it altogether when the well runs dry. Most
nonprofits have engaged in a kind of fundraising arms race in which
our best leaders focus more time, energy and resources, not on
changing the world, but on improving their panhandling prowess to
capture just a little more of a philanthropic pie that actually
expands very little from year to year. Armies of "development" staff
spend as much as a third of an organization's resources, not to
advance the poor, but to cultivate wealthy donors. Significant numbers
of our colleagues create campaigns, direct-mail pitches, telemarketing
scripts, newsletters and other products exclusively to "care and feed"
prospects and to frame positions that will not offend the rich.

Nonprofit structures dictated by this mode of funding also burden
organizers with the heavy regulatory hand of the state. To qualify for
tax-deductible contributions, for example, US nonprofits must agree to
limit lobbying and not to campaign for political causes of candidates.

We believe it's time for North American progressives to break free
from the philanthropic plantation. Those of us serious about social
change increasingly must get down to business, figuratively and
literally. Every social change group may not be able to generate all
its funding through revenue-generation, but every nonprofit certainly
can generate a greater percentage than it is doing now. In other
words, we should become our own funders. Once we start generating our
own resources, we can invest them politically -- as corporations do
- largely without limitation, without wasting our time on fundraising
appeals, without worrying about that next grant, without apologies.

To get a sense of the possibilities, check out Cabbages & Condoms, a
popular restaurant in Bangkok. As your senses become intoxicated by
the aromas of garlic, ginger, basil, galangal and lemongrass, you
cannot avoid noticing the origins of the name. On top of each heavy
wooden table is a slab of glass, under which are neatly arranged rows
of colorful prophylactics. Posters and paintings adorn the half-dozen
large rooms, all communicating the restaurant's central message: the
AIDS epidemic afflicting Thailand can be checked only through the
unabashed promotion and use of male contraception. With balloon
animals made from carefully inflated and twisted condoms and the
after-dinner candies replaced with your own take-home "condom-mints,"
even teens cannot escape the message prominently framed on the wall:
"Sex is fun but don't be stupid -- use protection."

What makes the five "C&C" restaurants unique, along with an affiliated
beach-front resort and numerous gift shops, is that they are all owned
by the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a rural
development organization that has been a leader in promoting family
planning and fighting aids in Thailand. Seven out of every ten dollars
spent by the PDA on such activities as free vasectomies and mobile
health clinics are covered by the net revenues from its 16 subsidiary
for-profits. Were the PDA dependent on funding from the Thai
government, the World Bank or even the Rockefeller Foundation, it no
doubt would be told to tone down the message. Jokes on its website -
like "the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurants in Thailand don't only
present excellent Thai food, the food is guaranteed not to get you
pregnant" -- would certainly be discouraged.

The cash flow gives the PDA a measure of confidence and boldness. The
founder, Mechai Viravaidya, has no qualms about his decision to employ
for-profits: "Unlimited demand is chasing limited supply [of
charitable donations]. No longer are gifts, grants or begging enough.
From day one, thirty years ago, we have been acutely aware of
sustainability and cost-recovery."

Consider some US examples of social entrepreneurship:

* Housing Works in New York uses its Used Book Cafe to generate more
than $2 million annually for its work, which prioritizes advocacy for
homeless people with HIV. The organization runs clinics, conducts
public policy research, lobbies federal and state officials, even
leads sit-ins. It is fearless, aggressive and stunningly effective -
and its $30 million of annual work would be impossible were it not for
its vast range of real estate, food service, retail and rental
companies that help pay the bills.

* Pioneer Human Services is a community development corporation based
in Seattle that assists a wide range of at-risk populations, including
the unemployed, the homeless, ex-convicts, alcoholics and addicts. The
organization serves 6,500 people a year and generates nearly all its
$55 million budget through a web of ambitious subsidiary nonprofit
businesses: cafes and a central kitchen facility for institutional
customers, aerospace and sheet-metal industries, a construction
company, food warehouses, a real-estate management group and
consulting services for other nonprofits. Most of the jobs in these
businesses are awarded to its at-risk clients, allowing it to further
its mission to integrate clients back into society.

* The Rocky Mountain Institute, a leading promoter of alternative
energy technology in Snowmass, Colorado, created E-Source in 1986 to
provide in-depth analysis of services, markets, and technologies
relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy production. In 1992
RMI secured a program-related investment from the MacArthur Foundation
to move the work into a for-profit subsidiary. By 1998 it was
generating about $400,000 for the parent nonprofit, but rmi decided it
could do even better under new management, so it sold the company to
Pearson plc in Britain for $8 million. Today, RMI assists and benefits
from other for-profit spinoffs, such as Hypercar, Inc., which aims to
create a lightweight body architecture to improve the efficiency of
the entire US automobile fleet.

* Judy Wicks' White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia is as much a community
organizing center as a restaurant. Radical speakers from around the
country provide a steady stream of public lectures. An adjacent store
sells fair trade products and will soon be introducing a line of
locally made clothing. The White Dog itself embodies principles of
social justice and environmental stewardship by paying all employees a
living wage, insisting on humanely raised meats and eggs, using
locally grown ingredients and running on wind electricity. Twenty
percent of profits from the restaurant go to the White Dog Cafe
Foundation, carrying on the cafe's mission through nonprofit

These examples embody many possible models. A for-profit subsidiary
can generate money for a parent nonprofit. Or, better still, a for-
profit can become the change it seeks, by producing and selling
socially important goods and services.

While we reject the libertarian argument that every human problem has
an economic solution, many social-change issues clearly have economic
dimensions that are susceptible to creative business plans. Hate
nuclear power? Launch energy-service companies to spread conservation
measures, or build local wind farms to take control of your own
electricity future. Concerned about the poor, minorities and women
having equal access to credit? Create more community banks, credit
unions and micro-enterprise funds. Troubled by pharmaceutical prices
that make life-saving drugs unattainable for impoverished people
across the globe? Start, as several companies based in the developing
world did, companies that mass-produce affordable generic versions of
high-priced American drugs.

Socially responsible business should be not just a boutique sector of
the private economy, but its mainstream. We have been impressed in
recent years by the growing number of local businesspeople who not
only "walk the walk" of social justice in the small details of their
operations and products but also tout the virtues of local ownership.
This third generation of entrepreneur-organizers is being led by
groups like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)
and by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). Each
promotes local ownership of business, champions social justice and
neighborhood revitalization, and pushes for new public policies that
remove the tilts in a playing field that favors badly behaved big

Sooner or later, the concepts of social-change organization and of
social-responsibility business should become indistinguishable. Truly
responsible businesses would be owned by all members of a community
(rich and poor), hire locally, expand local skills, comport with local
labor and environmental standards, produce goods and services that
meet urgent local needs and become allies of social justice movements.
What better way to help the poor than to transform them into the
captains, worker-bees, shareholders and customers of community-
friendly business?

If foundations and donors had never existed and professional
panhandling had been outlawed, social-change groups would have been
forced to turn to creating and running new enterprises or new networks
of local businesses, and our movement would be considerably healthier
than it is today. Progressives have become the classic 20-something
kid still living at home, expecting an allowance from deep-pocket
parents for a few basic chores, while agreeing, as a condition for the
chump change, to obey someone else's rules on social change. It's time
to grow up and strike out on our own.

Here's a challenge to activists (one we take seriously ourselves):
let's try to wean ourselves from the charity habit, say by three
percent per year. Think about just one piece of your agenda that could
be framed as a revenue generator, dream about it a little, develop a
business plan and give it a try. If you lack the skills, skip your
next fundraising class and instead attend one of thousands upon
thousands of entrepreneurship programs around the world. Or hire
someone who might start the entrepreneurial subsidiary of your

Gandhi understood that the key to freeing India was to transform his
fellow citizens into economically productive agents by spinning their
own cloth and taking their own salt from the sea. Martin Luther King
Jr. implored African Americans to form their own credit unions and
community development corporations. The secret to being as radical as
we want to be -- and as radical as we need to be -- is to finance the
revolution ourselves.

** Michael Shuman is the vice president for enterprise development for
the Training and Development Corporation in Bucksport, Maine.
Merrian Fuller is a managing director of the Business Alliance for
Local Living Economies. This article was adapted from "Profits for
Justice," which first appeared in The Nation.

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From: Environmental Science & Technology, Mar. 22, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Kris Christen

Once drinking water is encased in plastic bottles, its levels of
antimony tend to rise; researchers suspect that the toxic element is
leaching out of the bottles.

Consumers who drink bottled water could be getting more than they
bargained for in the form of a surprising amount of antimony, a
potentially toxic trace element with chemical properties similar to
those of arsenic. Fortunately, concentrations reported to date are too
low to trigger health alerts.

Acting on a hunch, researchers at the University of Heidelberg
(Germany) Institute of Environmental Geochemistry measured the
abundance of this heavy metal in 15 brands of Canadian bottled water
and 48 European brands. In findings published in February (J. Environ.
Monit. 2006, 8, 288-292), they reported concentrations of more than
100 times the average level of antimony in uncontaminated groundwater,
which is 2 parts per trillion (ppt).

The researchers weren't initially looking for antimony in bottled
waters. "We were just interested in characterizing a pristine
groundwater and got to wondering why a number of analyses in the
literature were reporting much higher values of antimony in bottled
waters than what we were finding," says William Shotyk, the study's
lead author.

Most commercially available bottled water is now sold in polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) containers, according to Mike Neal, chairman of
the PET Health, Safety, and Environment Committee of Plastics Europe,
an association of European plastics manufacturers. Antimony trioxide
is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of PET, which typically
contains several hundred milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of antimony.
By comparison, the natural abundance of antimony in rocks and soils is
less than 1 mg/kg.

Global consumption of bottled water more than doubled over the past 5
years, to 41 billion gallons (gal), according to the latest statistics
from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), a trade
group. People throughout the globe consumed an average of 6.4 gal of
bottled water per person in 2004, according to IBWA. In 2005, revenues
for the U.S. market alone, which is the largest consumer of bottled
water, topped $9.8 billion.

Shotyk and his colleagues found that waters bottled in PET containers
contained as much as 550 ppt of antimony. Even highly purified
deionized waters contained in PET bottles had antimony concentrations
up to 160 ppt. Moreover, "the longer the water's in the bottle, the
more antimony it's going to have," Shotyk notes.

Just to be sure that the antimony was leaching from the PET bottles,
Shotyk and his colleagues collected source water from a German
bottling company and measured 4 ppt of antimony. However, in the same
brand of water purchased from a local supermarket, "I got 360 ppt,"
Shotyk says, "and that same brand of water, but purchased 3 months
earlier and sitting in my office, contains 630 ppt."

Neal points out that these concentrations are far lower than drinking-
water standards, which range from 2 parts per billion (ppb) in Japan
to 5 ppb in Europe and 6 ppb in the U.S. and Canada. Under World
Health Organization guidelines, up to 20 ppb is considered safe.
Additionally, he notes that "all packaging materials migrate different
amounts of materials into foodstuffs, and PET is one of the polymers
that migrates the least of its contents."

But Shotyk wonders about the wider environmental implications. "That's
a lot of antimony in the plastic," Shotyk notes, and "the question is,
where does it end up?" Unlike other heavy metals, such as lead,
mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, very little research has been done to
date on the environmental fate of antimony. The U.S. EPA lists the
metal as a possible carcinogen and priority pollutant. Previous
studies by Shotyk and his colleagues on ice cores from the Canadian
Arctic show that antimony enrichment from aerosols migrating there is
50% higher today than it was 30 years ago.

Although antimony has been used since ancient times, consumption has
risen dramatically since the early 1970s with the advent of flame
retardants, says James Carlin, a commodity specialist with the U.S.
Geological Survey (USGS). China now produces 85% of the world total.
The mining and processing of antimony ores is a primary source of
antimony to the environment, according to a toxicological profile by
the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Smaller
amounts are also released by waste incinerators and coal-burning power

More than half of the antimony goes into flame retardants. The rest is
used mainly in glass for television picture tubes and computer
monitors, pigments, stabilizers and catalysts for plastics,
ammunition, friction bearings, lead-acid batteries, and solders, USGS
statistics show.

Copyright 2006 American Chemical Society

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