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Re: let's build a unified movement, not fight each other
At 03:18 PM 7/24/97 -0400, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
>Re: Greenpeace's work:
>I tend to agree with Charlie, and I think this needs to
>be a public discussion. If there is something wrong
>technically with a report, we need to discuss it and
>fix it, not accuse organizations of bending the truth.
>Greenpeace's work, to date, has been pretty exemplary,
>and they are in the trenches against the most powerful
>companies in the world.
>put their lives on the lines to collect the samples and
>get them analyzed from the "dioxin factories
>talks too much about that. If there is something really
>wrong with the report, we need to fix it, because anything
>we say that can be discredited hurts all of us. (I frankly
>think that their report will stand up to criticism...)
How about wrong ethically???
Note the following passage from the "dioxin factories" report:
obtained these samples by entering vinyl factories under the
cover of darkness and in full protective gear, and by following
accepted occupational safety and health guidelines and
sampling procedures. "
They are actually proud of this, with photos on their web site.
Now this is NOT your traditional civil disobedience tactic....something
that is a tradition in social change movements..... where you
publicly defy an institution and get arrested in order to make
a political point and attract public attention to your cause......
...notwithstanding condemnation by the authorities,
non-violent civil disobedience still has significant public support
when carried out to influence public opinion and protest
public and private injustice.
What Greenpeace did is fundamentally and distinctly different
from non-violent civil disobedience.
The environmental/public interest community has rightly protested
corporate intelligence gathering and security company invasions
of privacy of environmental activists and organizations. When
corporate interests engage in "ends justify the means" approaches to
violating the integrity and privacy of citizens involved environmental
activism through phone taps, intelligence gathering reports, agents
provocateur, violent attacks on activists, having your kids
discriminated against in the local school, etc. etc. all of us in the public
interest/environmental community rightly raise holy hell.
However, when environmental organizations start covert operations
-- breaking into facilities, engaging
in criminal trespass and taking
samples of waste --- we, as a movement, risk losing enormous
public credibility. We would never tolerate our corporate
opponents breaking into our offices and homes and stealing
records and private information from environmental groups. Why should
anyone support such tactics carried out by "environmentalists?"
When all is said and done, breaking into someone's industrial
plant under cover of darkness in order to collect samples isn't really
any different ethically than what the folks who did in the Watergate
break-in or the
break-in into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist ....
.....it is still just a "black bag job" to conduct a fishing expedition....
>As for government work to help the community: while
>there are a large number of well-meaning people in
>the government who really want their agencies to
>do the right thing (example: William Sanjour), it should
>be obvious to most people that the EPA's role is
>to instutionalize the status quo and guarantee the
>viability of the chemical and industrial giants.
Like many generalizations, this one can be immediately shown
to be false. You only have to look at EPA's recent
efforts to make the ozone and particulate matter air
quality standards more strict because of demonstrable
health effects evidence to blow the above generalization
out of the water. EPA is fighting a massive $20 million
industry campaign to get these standards in place. They've
been fighting all of the president's advisors from other
federal government departments.....I don't
call than "institutionalizing the status quo."
Many folks on the list seem really intent on bashing
state and federal regulators and complaining about
these agencies. I see this kind of broadscale
bashing as really counterproductive and marginalizing.
Now I have my list of agency people who would give me
indigestion at lunch (such as one of the
people in Region 7 EPA who regulate hazardous
waste burning cement kilns there, and that prickly TNRCC
lawyer down in Texas, and John Engler's chief
environmental regulator in Michigan ...Russell Harding)
But I have had many more experiences and successes
by finding specific public servants who work hard, have a real
consciousness and are very susceptible to technical arguments
and public pleas for stronger environmental regs and permits.
I'd suggest that the ability of citizen groups to form these
kind of partnerships and to carry on these discussions
will directly affect their ability to be effective in solving or
Much of the time, you will find the agency people that you
need to work with are in middle-management or at the field
A concrete example.... A number of years ago, I became
involved in an issue associated with terrible air pollution
from a brand new $500 million Champion International plant
in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Those cowboys from
Champion were sure tough, arrogant SOBs in extreme
denial about their problems.... such as pooring out
large amounts of reduced sulfur compounds into the air in the middle
of the night, among many problems...
I was working for the American Lung Association of Michigan
at the time and we formed a close partnership with a local
citizen group, the Dickinson County Citizens for Clean Air, to
work the problem for three years. Ultimately, it took the
combined pressure from the Association, the citizen group,
the U.S. EPA, the Michigan DNR and the Air Pollution Control
Commission to finally get Champion to address and resolve
their problems. Ultimately, Champion was forced to accept
some of the toughest TRS air pollution controls ever imposed
on a kraft pulp mill in the United States.
But none of this would have happened without the Association and
the local citizens developing strong communication links with
key permit engineers and enforcement staff at Michigan DNR and
EPA Region V in Chicago. The citizens were able to correlate
strong obnoxious odors to plant operating and malfunction records.
The Michigan permit engineers and I had several meetings to
go over blueprints from the plant, get a handle on emission points and
to figure out likely chemical emissions from the plant under
certain operating modes. We traded technical papers on
kraft mill operation. We figured out specific questions that
needed to be answered by the company.
Citizens in Alpena Michigan have been fighting hazardous
waste burning by Lafarge Corporation since early 1992.
Prior to this, no one in that town and no one in the Michigan
Department of Natural Resources really understood the
practices by the company.
But citizen pressure, inquiry and questioning really changed
the enforcement and inspection effort that the local DNR
office exerted on that plant. Two field guys...an air inspector
and waste management inspector... for the DNR started
putting the company under intense surveillance. They did
so at the risk of their careers as the company used the
local state senator to try to call off the scrutiny through
top management levels of the Engler Administration..
A local activist started videotaping environmental violations
and waste transportation hazards, all shared with the
local DNR office and with U.S. EPA. Other officers of the
citizen group conducted monthly examinations of the
records in the DNR office to keep closely informed.
The result has been that Lafarge has been under almost
continual notices of violations for the last couple of years.
Their credibility in the community is in tatters. The amount
of waste being burned at the plant has significantly
declined. Dust emissions from the plant and waste disposal
has been reduced.
>Please, please, please, folks, lets work together to
>fight our real adversaries, not each other...
>We need a mass movement against toxic exposure,
>not people criticizing each other for mistakes...
Most movements need to go through periods of self-evaluation
and questioning of tactics, methods and priorities.
I'd suggest again three specific transitions that need to be
1. The transition from "complainer/victim" to
"worker" Complainers expect others to solve the problem. Complainers
don't take responsibility for their communities. Victims who focus
on victimhood will frequently consume their entire energy on this
introspection and on their own anger without every becoming externally
Workers do research, engage on their own turf, plan strategy, raise
questions and expect answers, probe at the frontiers of the
issue, build the case, organize and, most importantly, set the
priorities for the issue. Workers know which of their arguments
are strong, not as strong and the weak ones that need to be dropped.
Workers put their opponents and the regulators under intense questioning
to determine all facets of an issue; in doing so, workers get off
the defensive and stay on the offensive.
2. Numbers make a difference and focus on the quantitative aspects
of toxic exposure issues is absolutely essential..... Not all toxic
risks and emissions are the same. It is really important to know
the differences. The worst problems deserve the most attention
and priority on an emissions, exposure and population at risk basis
when setting issue priorities.
3. Stay away from dogma and indeological approaches..... Understanding
toxic emissions and exposures is a matter of scientific investigation
and engineering. Yes it is complex, but ordinary citizens can learn
enough to be effective with advocacy efforts, particularly with
public agencies. As noted in the paper mill example above, those
housewives and small town folks learned a lot about environmental data and
kraft mill emission controls....enough to talk the language with both
regulators and the company. But if you're filled with the inflexibility
of dogma and ideology, it is going to get in the way of communicating,
learning, priority setting and advocating.
Alex J. Sagady & Associates Email: email@example.com
Environmental Consulting and Database Systems
PO Box 39 East Lansing, MI 48826-0039
(517) 332-6971 (voice); (517) 332-8987 (fax)