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A Better World is Possible-- Precautionary Action to Take Back America from the Dinosaurs. Yes, a better world really is possible. And the people who are making it happen are here in this room today. What's it going to take to win? 5 Steps to success
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Precautionary Action to
Take Back America from the Dinosaurs
And the people who are making it happen are here in this room today.
5 Steps to success
1. Know why we're doing what we're doing
and undermine their
base of support
3. Rebuild the economy on a sustainable basis, creating millions of "green collar" jobs
4. To accomplish this, we can continue to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-ethnic, movement for change
will need to make decisions
in a new way:
Let's be clear
why we are doing this work
We should all have a little rap explaining to our brother-in-law, our pastor, our co-worker...
** what's wrong
** why it matters
** what needs to be done about it.
Cancers are increasing
Among adults, one out of every 2 men and 4 out every 10 women will get cancer some time during their lives
among our children
of diabetes in the U.S,
especially among young people
hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and floods
The gap between the super-rich and everyone else has grown enormously in the last 30 years, and this has damaged our democracy.
Money talks and money votes.
Two percent of Americans own 50% of everything.
These are the "corporate elite."
In 2004, Congress and the President spent a total of $3.9 billion getting elected.
You don't raise that kind of money from bake sales.
The corporate elite provides the bulk of those funds.
There are 535 legislators in Washington, but there are 35,000 lobbyists
That’s 65 lobbyists for every member of Congress
Lobbyists use every trick in the book, including legal bribery (campaign contributions) to buy votes.
And they succeed.
The corporate elite and their lobbyists decide the Big Questions, such as
** What kind of public education system will we have?
** What topics are suitable for public debate?
** Will we have war or peace?
** Will we move to renewable energy?
** Who can run for office?
We need to undermine their base of support
Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with being wealthy. Most of us would love to be wealthy.
But in a democracy, wealth is not supposed to translate directly into political power.
one person, one vote
NOT one dollar, one vote
private money from
and it would ELIMINATE the money power of the lobbyists in Washington
would make all other
Rebuild the economy
The world is awash in good new ideas
** green building
** new urban designs and re-designs
** new forms of transportation
** renewable energy
** new kinds of sustainable production
** zero waste manufacturing
Many of these advances promise to create large numbers of jobs, rebuilding the decaying infrastructure of the nation (bridges, water supply systems, air traffic control, electrical grids, power plants, production systems and so on).
Making our cities energy-efficient and developing new, green technologies could make America
a world industrial leader
But we can't get to those good new ideas without major investment by the public sector
Public investment has always been the basis of innovation and progress in the U.S.
** the petroleum-based economy
** the interstate highway system (and state roads)
** the internet
** pharmaceutical products
** most medical advances
All results of public investment
Dinosaur corporations, profiting handsomely from old, wasteful and destructive ways of doing business
** nuclear power
** automobile companies
** corporate agriculture
** the garbage industry
These industries are committed to an old formula for succeeding in business, which worked for a long time:
haste + waste = profit
It is the commitment to wasteful ways that gives us long-lived radioactive residues, sewage sludge dumped onto farmland, and incinerators that, once built, must be fed waste for 50 years.
preventing the world from entering the new age of sustainable production.
And this is why local work against waste is crucially important – these dinosaurs must be exposed and opposed so that the new world of sustainable production can be born
So long as cheap, dirty waste disposal is available, the new technologies will remain on the shelf
Cheap waste disposal is a taxpayer subsidy that allows dirty, harmful, dinosaur industries to survive.
Landfills, incinerators, sewage sludge put on the land, radioactive waste
put into landfills or put into the recycling stream -- these are all part of the same problem
Point #4: We need to continue to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-issue movement for change
Some of our friends seem to have forgotten the basic truth about social change:
Social change always requires a FIGHT for JUSTICE.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to
favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning."
** The movement to abolish slavery
** The movement to gain the right to vote for women
** The movement for the eight-hour work day, the 5-day work week, the right to form and join a union
** The movement to end child labor
** The movement to end the war in Vietnam
All required a fight for justice
** The movement to protect people against chemical trespass
** …is a movement to understand and eliminate white privilege, and class privilege, to assure environmental justice for all
** … is a movement to rebuild the U.S. economy on the basis of
sustainable production, green jobs, independent family farms, using renewable sources of energy
** … is a movement to make sure people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, restoring democracy
None of this will work if we don’t begin to make decisions in a new way:
differ from the present system?
1. Requires definite proof of harm for each hazard before taking preventive action
2. Places the burden on the public (or government agencies) to show
that each chemical, material, or technology is harmful
designing new materials and technologies
4. Discourages public participation in decision-making about control
of hazards and introduction of new technologies
Under the present way of doing business:
2. Governments must wait until an overwhelming body of evidence is
accumulated before they can or will intervene
3. Each new regulatory action is challenged by the dinosaur polluters, for the purpose of slowing down or stopping public oversight of production and
distribution of technologies and chemicals and wastes
4. We have witnessed delays in regulating a long list of hazards whose risks were clear long before effective action was taken to control them: many pesticides, toxic lead, asbestos, benzene, dioxins, PCBs, the chemicals that make plastic soft (phthalates), many flame retarding chemicals, the list goes on...
1. Taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty
2. Shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity
3. Exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions
4. Increasing public participation in decision-making.
You may hear that the precautionary principle is vague, that there are many ways to define it. This not true.
In EVERY definition of the precautionary principle, there are three common elements:
2. and we have scientific uncertainty
3. then we all have a duty to act to prevent harm.
does not tell us what action
But advocates for the principle have suggested the following...
1. Set goals (dream, then plan)
2. Monitor (pay attention -- no sleep-walking)
3. Heed early warnings (be prepared to act on results of monitoring)
5. Engage the affected people in decisions; reallyengage them
6. Evaluate all reasonable alternatives and choose the best alternative for achieving the goal
7. Give the benefit of the doubt to nature and to public health (reverse the burden of proof). It is not up to the public to prove harm.
Put simply, the precautionary principle seeks to avoid unintended consequences of particular actions.
Precaution is not anti-science.
Rather than "overriding" science and data, this principle explicitly
acknowledges the central role of scientific data in decision-making.
For instance, we may grow our own food, or buy organically grown food, because of the risk from pesticides.
Even though we don't know everything there is to know about pesticides and our health, we take precautionary action (grow or buy organically grown food) to avoid unintended consequences (getting cancer or other diseases).
chemical dumps and Superfund sites, polluted wells, polluted rivers,
fish too toxic to eat, leaking landfills, radioactive waste, pesticide poisonings, sludge dumped on land, toxic dumps placed in poor communities and communities of color
Risk assessment asks, How much harm is acceptable?
Precautionary action asks, How much harm is avoidable?
Precaution developed in response to big mistakes of the past -- lead in gasoline and in paint; pesticides; destruction of the ozone layer, global warming...
We are wrecking the planet as a plane suitable for humans and we must make decisions in a new way
Precaution comes directly from the central principle of public health: primary prevention
Precaution derives from the guiding principle of clinical medicine: first do no harm
foresight or forecaring
The European Union adopted the precautionary principle in its founding document (The Maastricht Treaty of 1990)
** look before you leap
** better safe than sorry
** a stitch in time saves nine
Many cities and a few states now take a precautionary approach to pest management in schools, playgrounds, parks, and public buildings. They have passed laws and regulations specifying that chemicals will be used only as a last resort, after all other alternatives have been tried.
the use of pesticides on lawns for cosmetic purposes.
Hawaii's water resources using the precautionary principle, aiming to
avoid harm to the resource, which the state holds in trust for present
and future generations of Hawaiians.
precautionary approach to the management of fisheries, to avoid harm from overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution.
The City and County of San Francisco have adopted precaution as overarching governmental policy, guiding all their decisions
Several towns in rural Pennsylvania have taken a precautionary
approach to local public health and corporate power: they have passed local laws prohibiting corporations
from farming, mining, and putting sewage sludge on land, among other things.
The precautionary principle is a new way of making decisions for a new time
People are sick, especially children, and dinosaur technologies are wrecking the planet as a place suitable for humans
Precaution tells us to take action to prevent environmental injustices before they develop, because fixing these problems after they develop is painful and can take several lifetimes
These days, when it sometimes seems as if the future itself is endangered, precaution offers us a way forward.