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#73 January/February 2004
  Timeline In this Issue:

When the Oil Runs Out

Live Well with Less Oil

Precautionary Principle

Lawrence of Arabia Has a Lesson on Iraq for the U.S.

Some Good News on the Corporate Front

“It’s not that easy bein' green.”

Adventures on the Web

“Our Earth is but a small star in the great Universe

(To read past issues click here >>)


When the Oil Runs Out
A Report by Mac Lawrence

Can we get along without oil? We better learn fast, because oil-at least cheap oil-is running out.

Oil is the reason we have an abundant food supply. Oil allows us to live in comfort in cold climates and hot climates. We wear clothes made out of oil. Oil runs our businesses, our communications systems, our computers. Oil is the reason we can travel where and when we want. The lifestyle and culture of virtually every country on Earth is dependent on oil. A shortage of oil will impact everything we do, everything we have, even everything we eat.

A review in the magazine New Scientist notes: "If production rates fall while demand continues to rise, oil prices are likely to spike or fluctuate wildly, raising the prospect of economic chaos, problems with transporting food or other supplies, and even war, as countries fight over what little oil is available." Says James Mackenzie, an energy analyst at the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.: "That's when all hell breaks loose."

So the fact that the world is running out of easily available oil should be a major wake-up call. Yet we act as if this reality did not exist. In the U.S. we're still buying bigger cars and SUVs, still building monster homes which use oil to build and to run, still serving huge helpings of food in restaurants, still demanding out-of-season fruits and vegetables flown in from afar. Fortunately, these are things that ordinary people can do something about in their daily lives, but we have to start making those different decisions soon.

Ordinary people can also influence things on a larger scale beyond personal actions. We can become informed and active so that when we are told that it is imperative for our national security to drill for more oil, we can stand up and say that it makes no sense to do so.

When we tune into the PBS television program, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and hear Archer-Daniels-Midland ask, "Can we drive forever on corn?" we can answer, "No, we cannot," because we know that it takes more oil-based energy to produce the ethanol from corn than we get out of the ethanol, and it would take more land than we have to grow the extra corn.

When we hear people say that technology can wring enough oil out of existing fields to maintain production rates, we can repeat the words of energy analyst David Pursell: "I don't buy it. You've got to spend a ton of capital to get an extra 1 or 2 percent."

We can demand raising mileage standards on automobiles, reclassifying SUVs as cars instead of trucks (so that they fall under car mileage standards). Instead of continuing to give tax credits to companies so they can buy Hummers practically for free, we can subsidize the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

With less dependence on foreign oil, we can insist on a foreign policy which doesn't support repressive regimes in oil-rich countries. And whenever our government tries to build a case for invading a country which has lots of oil, we can openly question their reasons, knowing that asking such questions is the patriotic thing to do.

For an in-depth view of the oil situation, we list several new books on the subject. Meanwhile, here is some information that might be helpful, and which may not be easy to find in the media.

How Many Years Do We Have?

The crunch point will come, experts say, not when we run out of oil, but when demand outstrips production. How many years until this happens is the subject of a fierce debate between free-market economists and geologists. In their report, New Scientist notes that "The economists argue that as the oil supply falters, the price will go up and companies will find other means for meeting demand." Geologists, however, counter that "economic theory is knocking up against a physical limit: there is simply no more cheap, accessible oil out there."

Many analysts predict that oil production will peak in the next 5 to 15 years. Kenneth Deffeyes, a geophysicist at Princeton University, believes that we have already passed the oil peak, and that "the year 2000 may stand as a blip above the curve and be in the Guinness Book of World records."

How Much Oil is There?

Geologists know which kinds of rocks are likely to hold oil, where these reservoirs are all over the world, and how big they are. Geologists also know that there aren't any more such regions to be found anywhere. Though oil companies are secretive about their holdings, people who study these things believe the world started out with oil reserves of about 2 trillion barrels, of which we have used some 900 billion.

The remaining 1.1 trillion barrels sounds like a lot of oil still available for us to get, but the problem is that it becomes harder and harder to extract it. Production for any given well decreases as the pressure on the oil in the ground drops, and injecting water to boost the pressure doesn't work forever.

Even if you go along with the optimistic views taken by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and companies such as Shell and Exxon, we're still up a creek. According to the New Scientist article, the USGS includes in their estimates less accessible, "dirtier" sources of oil; thinks that new fields will be discovered; and comes up with an estimate that the world started with 3 trillion barrels of oil. The USGS also believes that new technology will allow more oil to be extracted. Even so, the USGS estimate of when oil production will peak only stretches out to the year 2037. So no matter what source one believes, there's not a whole lot of time.

Net Energy

As previously noted, economists tell us that when a resource becomes scarce, the price rises high enough so the market responds by producing more of it. In a paper titled Net Energy, Canadian research scientist Peter Salonius points out that this is true for raw materials like minerals. We just dig deeper, use ore of a lower grade that was formerly too expensive to refine, or, ultimately, use more dilute sources like sea water to concentrate the mineral.

But, says Salonius, it takes oil to get oil. "In the 1950s, globally, we were able to produce 50 barrels of oil for every barrel consumed in its discovery and production. By the 1990s, globally, we were only able to produce 5 barrels of oil for every barrel consumed in its discovery and production.

"When we arrive at the point where it requires 1 barrel to discover and produce 1 barrel, even if the price reaches $500 a barrel, it will make no sense to look for new oil because there will be no Net Energy produced in the endeavor."

Salonius calls petroleum "that convenient, concentrated, finite, exhaustible, temporary" source of energy that runs the world's economies. Accordingly, he notes that "the coming all-important peak in global oil production signals the end of the consumer economy because we have nothing to replace conventional oil." We can't rely on coal "because petroleum provides more than half of the energy used in coal extraction, so when there will be no Net Energy gain in exploring for new deposits of petroleum, then there will be no Net Energy production from coal mining activity....Net Energy is required for the exploitation and production of all other resources."

Foiled by Exponentials

Not only are we-the world-using a lot of oil, our use of oil is growing. And that growth is what will do us in much quicker than we might think, explains Dr. Evar Nering, a professor emeritus of mathematics at Arizona State University. In a paper titled "The Mirage of a Growing Fuel Supply," Nering says the problem is "exponential function," something he notes that we're all familiar with in the form of compound interest.

"I have heard public statements," Nering says, "that use 'exponential' as though it describes a large or sudden increase. But exponential growth does not have to be large, and it is never sudden. Rather, it is inexorable.

"When I discussed the exponential function in the first-semester calculus classes that I taught, I invariably used consumption of a nonrenewable natural resource as an example. I described the following hypothetical situation. We have a 100-year supply of a resource, say oil-that is, the oil would last 100 years if it were consumed at its current rate. But the oil is consumed at a rate that grows by 5 percent each year. How long would it last under these circumstances? This is an easy calculation; the answer is about 36 years.

"Oh, but let's say we underestimated the supply, and we actually have a 1,000-year supply. At the same annual 5 percent growth rate in use, how long will this last? The answer is about 79 years.

"Then let us say we make a striking discovery of more oil yet-a bonanza-and we now have a 10,000-year supply. At our same rate of growing use, how long would it last? Answer: 125 years.

"The point of this analysis is that it really doesn't matter what the estimates are. There is no way that a supply-side attack on America's energy problem can work.

"Calculations also show that if consumption of an energy resource is allowed to grow at a steady 5 percent annual rate, a full doubling of the available supply will not be as effective as reducing that growth rate by half-to 2.5 percent. Doubling the size of the oil reserve will add at most 14 years to the life expectancy of the resource if we continue to use it at the currently increasing rate, no matter how large it is currently. On the other hand, halving the growth of consumption will almost double the life expectancy of the supply, no matter what it is."

What is the real growth rate of oil consumption, worldwide? One historical figure has been 2 percent. Today that figure may be way too low with the rapid industrialization of developing countries, led by the two giants, China and India. China's use of oil is increasing around 8 percent a year, for example. But whatever figure one uses, Dr. Nering's mathematics apply.

Observes Nering: "This mathematical reality seems to have escaped the politicians pushing to solve our energy problem by simply increasing supply. Building more power plants and drilling for more oil is exactly the wrong thing to do, because it will encourage more use. If we want to avoid dire consequences, we need to find the political will to reduce the growth in energy consumption to zero-or even begin to consume less.

"I must emphasize that reducing the growth rate is not what most people are talking about now when they advocate conservation; the steps they recommend are just Band-Aids. If we increase the gas mileage of our automobiles and then drive more miles, for example, that will not reduce the growth rate.

"Reducing the growth of consumption means living closer to where we work or play. It means telecommuting. It means controlling population growth. It means shifting to renewable energy sources.

"It is not, perhaps, necessary to cut our use of oil, but it is essential that we cut the rate of increase at which we consume it. To do otherwise is to leave our descendants in an impoverished world."

Eating Fossil Fuels

The Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s revolutionized agriculture. Before then, the energy to produce the food people ate around the world-whether in the form of plants or animals-came directly from the sun. Now, with the industrialization of agriculture, more and more of the energy to feed the world comes from petroleum-natural gas and oil to make the fertilizers and pesticides the new hybrid plants require, and for irrigation.

According to Dale Allen Pfeiffer, a geologist and science writer, "The Green Revolution increased the energy flow to agriculture by an average of 50 times the energy input of traditional agriculture. In extreme cases, energy consumption by agriculture has increased 100-fold or more.

"In a very real sense we are literally eating fossil fuels."

Using data from the year 1994, Pfeiffer notes that in the United States, 400 gallons of oil equivalents were expended annually to feed each American, not including additional energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail out- lets, and household cooking. Manufacturing inorganic fertilizer alone takes almost a third of that energy. To produce one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer, he says, requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. The Fertilizer Institute reports that in the year June 30, 2001 to June 30, 2002, the U.S. used 12 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which equates to some 96 million barrels of diesel fuel.

And the situation is worsening. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased four-fold while crop yields only increased three-fold. Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of pest management, and increasing energy costs for irrigation, modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields.

Pfeiffer gives some statistics to help sober us up.

• The U.S. food system consumes ten times more energy than it produces in food energy.

• Total U.S. energy consumption is more than three times the amount of solar energy harvested as crop and forest products.

• The U.S. consumes 40 percent more energy annually than the total amount of solar energy captured yearly by all U.S. plant biomass.

• Per capita use of fossil energy in North America is five times the world average.

Pfeiffer is left with one, harsh observation: "Our prosperity is built on the principle of exhausting the world's resources as quickly as possible, without any thought to our neighbors, all the other life on this planet, or our children."

For more information:

David Goodstein. Out of Gas: All You Need to Know About the End of the Age of Oil. W.W. Norton. $21.95. Feb. 2004. ISBN: 0393058573

Stephen Leeb. The Oil Factor: How Oil Controls the Economy and Your Financial Future. Warner Books. $24.95. Feb. 2004. ISBN: 0446533173

Larry Everest. Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda.
Common Courage Press. $29.95. Nov. 2003. ISBN: 156751247X

Lutz Kleveman. The New Great Game: Blood and Oil in Central Asia. Atlantic Monthly Press. $24.00. Sept. 2003. ISBN: 0871139065

Sharon Beder. Power Play: The Twentieth-Century Struggle Over Electricity.
New Press. $25.95. Aug. 2003. ISBN: 156584808X

Richard Heinberg. The Party's Over.
New Society Publishers. $25.00. 2003. ISBN: 0-86571-482-7

For a sunnier view, please see the following article.

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Live Well with Less Oil
The Rocky Mountain Institute, cofounded by Amory Lovins, devotes itself to researching and educating about how to solve the kinds of problems discussed in the preceding articles. The following excerpts from their website, www.rmi.org, show that there is a better and more hopeful path.
Transportation burns nearly two-thirds of U.S. oil and is the key to cutting oil dependence. The U.S. household fleet now averages 20 miles per gallon [mpg]. Improving that to an average of 23 mpg could displace all of the oil the U.S. imported from Iraq and Kuwait before the hostilities of July 1990. Increasing the vehicle fleet average by another 10 mpg would displace all of the oil we import from the Persian Gulf. (Did we put our kids in 0.5 miles-per-gallon tanks and 17 feet/gallon aircraft carriers because we failed to put them in 33-mpg cars?) America can do that and better. A dozen automakers worldwide have demonstrated comfortable, fast cars two to four times as efficient as today's new U.S. models, with improved safety and competitive manufacturing cost.

Much of the nontransportation uses of oil can also be saved. For example, the wasted energy leaking through U.S. windows totals twice the output of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. "Superwindows" can stop that loss while making most buildings cheaper to construct (because heating and cooling equipment becomes smaller or unnecessary). Overall, the United States could save most of its oil more cheaply than drilling for more. By increasing production of biofuels from farm and factory wastes and by creating more efficient land-use patterns (building communities around people, not cars), we can, if we wish, virtually eliminate oil use while making us all better off and improving our quality of life.

Renewable technologies have also done remarkably well. From 1979 to 1986 there was more net increase in U.S. energy supplies from sun, wind, water and wood than from oil, gas, coal, and uranium. Renewable sources now supply at least 7.6 percent of the nation's total energy, and are the fastest-growing part. Besides the main contributions, which come from biomass and older hydroelectric dams, between one and two million solar buildings are now operating; and there are more than 25,000 stand-alone solar-electric buildings in the country. Wind-power has recently beaten the cost of new coal plants, even ignoring coal's greater subsidies and pollution, and is officially recognized as the cheapest generating technology in good sites.

Because devices now on the market can save four times as much electricity as all U.S. nuclear plants make, at just five percent of the cost of building and running them, it's cheaper to write off any nuclear plant and provide customers with efficiency. The City of Sacramento, California has done just that. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) closed its Rancho Seco nuclear plant, and is recreating itself as a utility based on photovoltaics and energy efficiency. The result: more jobs, less pollution, stable electric prices, and a more sustainable and prosperous community.


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Precautionary Principal
By Sandra Mardigian

"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof."
The Precautionary Principle, 1998 Wingspread Statement

The Precautionary Principle was defined in a document developed at the Wingspread Conference in Racine, Wisconsin, in 1998. The conference was attended by an international group of scientists, government officials, lawyers, and labor and grassroots environmental activists. Its purpose was to formalize and make more explicit the precautionary concept adopted by the United Nations in 1992 in its "Agenda 21."

The Precautionary Principle document provides a platform for making choices that begins with scrutinizing any possibilities for harmful consequences. It asserts that before using a new technology, process, or chemical, or starting a new activity, there is a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm. It also declares that the responsibility for proof of harmlessness is on the proponent, rather than the public.

When Timeline reported on the development of the Precautionary Principle document in 1998, the ink was barely dry and its application untried. Today, a Web search on google.com turns up over 1,000 applications in everything from health and medicine to lawmaking, wildlife conservation, corporate disclosure, genetically modified foods, and global warming-in locations from Australia to Zambia. Two notable current examples are:

The European Union (EU) and the Chemical Industry

The EU is getting ready to implement an initiative based on the Precautionary Principle to regulate chemicals. Under development for five years, the initiative will address workplace exposures and environmental pollution.

Known as REACH (for Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), the EU initiative will require chemical manufacturers and importers to report the quantity, uses, and potential health risks of approximately 30,000 chemicals.

About 1,400 of these are known or suspected carcinogens or reproductive toxicants, persist in the environment, or accumulate in body tissues. The initiative will subject these 1,400 chemicals to an authorization review similar to that used in the regulation of pharmaceuticals. Approval of any use that could result in human exposures will be predicated on a thorough assessment of safety, and alternative products.

Interest in the EU initiative has spread to the scientific community in the United States. In October, EU officials from the REACH project visited the University of California at Berkeley to share their experience and research. Two men who participated in the conference, Michael P. Wilson, a researcher for the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, and James E. Cone, former chief of the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Health Services, said that more than 60,000 people die every year in the U.S. from preventable diseases caused by exposure to chemicals and other agents in the workplace. Spiraling workers' compensation costs for businesses are another consequence of this substantial public health problem.

Wilson and Cone said there is no health or environmental data on 43 percent of the 2,800 chemicals that are produced or imported in the United States at the rate of one million tons each year. Reasonably complete data exists on only seven percent. So, in total, more than 90 percent of chemicals in commerce today have been introduced without the assurance that they are safe.

Participants at the UC Berkeley meetings hope to advance a Precautionary Principle- based initiative for the U.S. similar to the European Union's REACH initiative. However, this has provoked alarm in the chemical industry. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in November that a leaked memo from a chemical industry lobbyist recommended fighting increased regulation by hiring an "attack dog" public relations firm to spy on "industry opponents," arrange protests, and recruit conservative talk show hosts. The article states, "At issue is the precautionary principle, a policy that maintains chemicals should not be approved for the market unless they are proved safe....The chemical industry sees the principle as a threat, and is marshalling resources to fight its increased implementation."

San Francisco and City Government

In 2003, San Francisco became the first city in the nation formally to adopt the Precautionary Principle for decision-making.

Officials say the city's new ordinance challenges traditional assumptions about risk management. In the past, the question, if asked at all, has amounted to: "How much risk of harm is allowable?" In San Francisco, decision-makers will now be asking, "How little harm is possible?"-and looking much more broadly at alternatives.
"We acknowledge that our world will never be free from risk," said Jared Blumenfeld, director of the San Francisco Department of Environment. "However, a risk that is unnecessary, or not thoughtfully chosen, is never acceptable....Besides human suffering, billions of dollars have been spent to deal with the consequences of these problems, including health care and health insurance, lost economic productivity, absenteeism, lost wages, and cleanup.

"The Precautionary Principle ordinance presents a historic opportunity to refocus environmental and other decision-making on reducing harm. In doing so, we are sending a message to Washington that the days of letting polluters and industries set our health and environmental agenda may be over sooner than you think."

San Francisco's Precautionary Principle Ordinance states:

1. ANTICIPATORY ACTION: There is a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm. Government, business, and community groups, as well as the general public, share this responsibility.

2. RIGHT TO KNOW: The community has a right to know complete and accurate information on potential human health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations, or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with the proponent, not with the general public.

3. ALTERNATIVES ASSESSMENT: An obligation exists to examine a full range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least potentially harmful impact on human health and the environment, including the alternative of doing nothing.

4. FULL COST ACCOUNTING: When evaluating potential alternatives, there is a duty to consider all the reasonably foreseeable costs, including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, cleanup, eventual disposal, and health, even if such costs are not reflected in the initial price. Short- and long-term benefits and time thresholds should be considered when making decisions.

5. PARTICIPATORY DECISION PROCESS: Decisions applying the Precautionary Principle must be transparent, participatory, and informed by the best available information.

Almost invariably, there are competing interests involved in the process of decision-making in any city. Since San Francisco is the first city to adopt the Precautionary Principle, it will be interesting to observe how this pioneering effort unfolds.

White Paper: The Precautionary Principle and the City and County of San Francisco (21 pages) describes the history of the Precautionary Principle and the development of San Francisco's policy, with discussion of the scientific, ethical, and economic implications, including examples from existing precautionary policies. It is available from SF Environment, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA. 94102. (415) 355-3700; e-mail environment@sfgov.org; or free download at: http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/sfenvironment/aboutus/policy/legislation.htm.


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Lawrence of Arabia Has a Lesson on Iraq for the U.S.
An Article by Michael Keane

That Iraq would become a troublesome source of guerrilla tactics should come as no surprise to any student of T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence is considered by many strategists to be the father of guerrilla warfare. He articulated a powerful treatise on the topic in his classic book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

During World War I, Lawrence's guerrilla victories against the Turkish forces occupying the Arabian peninsula provided a stunning contrast to the simultaneous slaughter occurring in the trenches of Europe. Although Lawrence claimed that his vision of warfare came to him as he lay dazed in a feverish state, he was actually formalizing a form of war practiced by Arab tribes for centuries.

Lawrence's thesis was that a successful rebellion required three elements. First the rebels must have an unassailable base, not merely a physical base of operations but also a psychological fortress in the mind of every soldier willing to die for his convictions.

Second, in what he called the "doctrine of acreage" (what strategists now call the force-to-space ratio), Lawrence stated that an insurgent victory required that the size of the occupying force must be insufficient to pacify the contested area.

Finally, the guerrillas must have a friendly population. Although the population need not be actively friendly, it must not be hostile to the point of betraying the insurgents. This support can be generated either from fear of retaliation or sympathy for the guerrilla cause or both.

The application of Lawrence's theory to the current military situation in Iraq is not comforting. First, the rebels seem to possess an unassailable base in both physical and psychological terms.

Within Iraq, hostile forces have demonstrated an ongoing ability to launch numerous daily attacks....Externally, there is a base of bordering states such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran that are failing to stop volunteers from infiltrating Iraq. American troops have found foreign passports on the bodies of enemy forces killed. Perhaps more troubling, however, is the psychological "base"-the mind of the enemy. When religious extremism is mixed with nationalistic fervor, it cements to form the bricks of unshakable conviction. As Lawrence himself noted, "An opinion can be argued with; a conviction is best shot."

Then there is the force-to-space ratio of coalition forces, which is clearly inadequate. The Americans have only about 130,000 soldiers in Iraq. To match the number of soldiers per inhabitant as the United States has in Kosovo would require 526,000 troops in Iraq.

Finally, guerrilla victories can work to slowly undermine U.S. credibility, while simultaneously building support and gaining recruits for the insurgents. Over time, guerrilla tactics tend to frustrate conventional troops, which are increasingly likely to overreact by humiliating men and offending women and thereby alienating the local population.

Though Iraqi guerrillas lack the necessary firepower and manpower to forcibly remove the Americans, Lawrence would argue that should not be their proper objective. Even while suffering tactical defeats, the guerrillas could erode the will of the Americans and thereby achieve a strategic victory. As Henry Kissinger succinctly stated: "The guerrilla wins by not losing. The army loses by not winning."

After liberating the region from the Turks in World War I, Britain ruled the newly formed country of Iraq under a mandate from the League of Nations. The population's gratitude for having been freed from 400 years of Ottoman oppression was short-lived. There were uprisings and assassinations of British soldiers and civilian administrators.

Lawrence was sent back to Baghdad to report on conditions there. He wrote these haunting words: "The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady with-holding of information....Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows....We are today not far from a disaster."

Michael Keane is a lecturer at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and a fellow of the U.S. Department of Defense's National Security Education Program. This article first appeared in the Los Angles Times, and is reprinted with permission.

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Some Good News on the Corporate Front
By Joe Kresse

With all the news about corporate corruption-accounting scandals, outright theft by senior officers, political contributions made to get relaxation of environmental and other restrictions-one might wonder whether there's any good news on the business front.

Thirty participants in a recent Silicon Valley Sustainability Tour found that there is indeed some good news. Sponsored by the Foundation for Global Community, the two-day tour visited a number of different locations. Companies visited included Hewlett-Packard, Roche, Hitachi, and IDEO (probably the largest industrial design firm in the world). At each stop, officials from the host organization showed us how they create business value through sustainability.

At IDEO, designers have developed information about the energy required (and the CO2 emitted) to produce various materials they use in designing products. They also determine what is involved when materials are recycled and reused. Such information allows them to implement more and more of the Natural Step principles (Timeline, March 1995) in their designs. Several members of the Foundation had visited IDEO two years ago, and the progress they have made in integrating sustainability into their efforts is impressive.

Hewlett-Packard has an in-house sustainability network with 550 members, and publishes a sustainability newsletter that reaches 1,500 employees. Each product line has a steward whose job is to minimize that product's ecological footprint by reducing packaging, increasing recycled content and ease of recycling, and reducing toxic materials in the product. When even such a simple thing as the plastic emblem attached to HP printers was redesigned, the steward made sure that it could be recycled. A team is currently working on a "compostable" printer, where the plastic is made from corn and is biodegradable.

Hewlett-Packard's sustainability efforts are reported on the website hp.com/go/report. On it, HP reports that it now recycles 3 million pounds of old computers a month, including those made by other companies. Its global corporate citizenship initiative also helps bring communities in the developing world into the electronic age in ways that are appropriate to the particular culture.

Roche Palo Alto has its offices in a building 30 years old, constructed in an era of cheap energy. A Swiss company, Roche carries the consciousness of environmental limits that is more prevalent in Europe than in the U.S. so there is significant management support for reducing energy use. But even given all this, what the facilities people have achieved is astounding. With the same level of operations, their electrical and gas usage has dropped by about 50 percent over the last ten years. Now, since half their water use is for irrigation, they are looking at native and drought-tolerant plantings to further reduce the amount of water they use. Hearing the Roche people talk was inspiring. They referred to their efforts as being all about the human spirit and about the world their children and grandchildren will inherit.

At Hitachi Global Storage Solutions, we were shown their "wildlife at work" program at their 300-acre site in San Jose. On the site are a large plum orchard, a variety of bird species, and a lake frequented by ducks and geese, its water used for backup fire-suppression. The wildlife program consists of seven different efforts, each "owned" by an employee who is responsible for recruiting volunteers needed to make the effort a success. The employees we talked with said that this aspect of their jobs had reduced burnout and made their work much more enjoyable.

One recent activity this past fall was a plum harvest organized by Hitachi in which 100 volunteers picked the fruit for a local food bank. Just 50 trees provided 8,000 pounds of plums, which was all the food bank could handle. Next year the company will try to make arrangements with a food processor to dry some of the fruit so that all of the crop can be used. On our visit, we even had a chance to taste some "Hitachi plum jam."

What impressed all of us, and what we talked about most at our debriefing session at the tour's end, was the approach these people have taken. Rather than being over-whelmed by all the things that must be done to achieve a sustainable economy, they decided to do what they can, with what they have, where they are, expressing the innate desire that humans have to connect with the Earth and with each other.

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"It's not easy being green . . . ...but that's what I wanna be."
-Kermit the Frog

by Walt Hays

We thought we had already achieved "greenness." After all, the Foundation for Global Community (FGC), in addition to doing the usual recycling, had installed an 18 kilowatt photovoltaic system on our roof that reduced our electricity consumption by 56 percent, and had officially qualified as a participant in The Natural Step. Then we learned, paraphrasing Kermit the Frog of Sesame Street, that being green wasn't as easy as we thought. As everyone who commits to sustainability comes to recognize, there is always more that can be done-to use less, waste less, and pollute less.

Kim Faulkner of the FGC Accounting Department wondered if we couldn't do a better job of walking our talk. Having read in Timeline about how a local hardware store had achieved certification as a "Green Business," Kim called the director of the program to ask if FGC, as a nonprofit foundation, could qualify for certification, and if so, how. The director answered "yes" and sent her a 12-page checklist of requirements.

The requirements included an extensive list of suggested actions, with mandatory minimums, in the categories of Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling, Energy and Water Conservation, and Pollution Prevention. It was immediately apparent that while we were doing well, more could be done. Responding to the challenge, Kim began meeting in the spring of 2003 with three FGC volunteers who had worked on similar issues in the past-Tom Moutoux, Jack Kroll, and Diji Christian. The four of them formulated recommendations to the Foundation Trustees on how to comply, and Kim gathered and submitted the necessary information.

Some of the actions taken were particularly illustrative and enlightening. The City of Palo did a "solid waste audit," which included a one-time detailed inventory of the contents of both recycling bins and garbage. Based on volume, FGC's recycling rate was estimated at a respectable 69 percent. However, negative findings included the facts that (1) the recycling cart for bottles and cans contained contamination in the form of plastic food trays and plastic with numbers not accepted; and (2) the garbage contained several items that could have been avoided (e.g., paper cups and plastic bags), and others that could have been recycled or otherwise diverted (unused paper and folders, used paper, computer diskettes, plant trimmings, compostable food, and a household battery).

Recommendations naturally included first educating volunteers at FGC to be more conscious in usage and disposal. However, the audit also suggested specific changes that turned out to save money. Instead of renting a large dumpster for garbage and paying for twice-weekly pickup, the audit advised trying a smaller dumpster and once/week pickup, which when implemented resulted in annual savings of $2,890. Another recommendation resulted in a switch from using rolling cloth towels in the bathrooms to 75 percent post-consumer, compostable, paper towels with no bleach, saving another $3,000/year.

The following are a sample of other steps taken:

• The FGC letterhead is "tree-free," consisting of 20 percent bamboo, 20 percent agricultural waste, and the balance post-consumer waste paper.

• Cleaning is done by Emma's Eco-Clean, a worker-owned women's cooperative that uses only nontoxic products.

• In the summer, air conditioning use is reduced by using floor fans.

• Kitchen items are constantly analyzed to make them more sustainable. Included are organic food and tea, ceramic cups and plates, Splenda instead of Equal (because the latter is made by Monsanto, which is pushing genetically modified food), and even biodegradable spoons and forks made of non-GMO wheat.

Based on actions like the foregoing, together with previous improvements like the photo- voltaic system, the Foundation was officially certified as a Green Business in June, 2003. The key volunteers continue to meet monthly to consider other steps. But it all started with Kim Faulker, an accountant who truly understands the triple bottom line of "planet, people and profits"-with "savings" replacing "profits" in our case as a nonprofit.

The Bay Area Green Business Program (www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/enviro/gbus/gb.html) states that such businesses, "practicing resource efficiency, are assuming stewardship for the Earth and its resources, with the goals of achieving a successful business operation, a healthy bottom line, and sustenance of the environment and its inhabitants. A Green Business not only conserves resources but educates employees and customers about resource conservation."

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Adventures on the Web
A Report by Mac Lawrence

With the help of some young friends, whose genes have seemingly made them computer literate from birth, even an octogenarian can access the Internet. And what a treasure trove it is. There's every view you can think of out there, on any subject, from right to left, progressive to conservative, reasoned to radical.

With the click of a mouse, one can read newspapers from Saudi Arabia, Seattle, Japan, Madison, Wisconsin, India. There is news often not covered in the local newspaper or TIME magazine, and issues seen from different and enlightening viewpoints. To be sure, NPR has great programs such as Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing a nonembedded reporter in Iraq who tells what is really going on there. But on even such outstanding programs as the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, there are often too many pro-administration people, and politicians who argue with each other but seldom say what they really think.

Here are typical items found on the Internet that I would otherwise have missed.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

In an article, "In Asia, the Web is Routing Power to the People," appearing on the International Herald Tribune website, Clay Wescott notes that an investigation by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism into President Joseph Estrada's extravagance was posted on the Web when traditional media refused to run the story. Less than a year later, "Estrada was forced from office, in part by large demonstrations in Manila whose organizers used cell phone text messaging, websites, and e-mail lists." A follow-up study by the Center targeted the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue, and has forced the investigation of 127 of its employees for various offenses.

Wescott writes: "The new [online] players come in many forms, from business forums and kinship circles to diaspora associations, relief organizations, and women's networks. And their impact is being felt on the national, regional, and global stage....Internet efforts in Asia against corruption, which can cost up to one-sixth of a country's gross domestic product, help in the fight against poverty."

Wescott reports that in India there are significant developments underway to assure that as many people as possible have computer access. These include lowering the costs of computers and Internet connections, and developing software for accurate translation of different Indian languages.

Hegemony and War

To those who believe that the human race needs to come up with more creative solutions than war and violence, there are websites like Common Dreams. Defining itself as having a "progressive" bent, the site lists current articles they consider worth reading from newspapers around the world. They also include articles from a number of conservative and libertarian sources who don't think the U.S. should try to be the world's hegemonic power.

In one such article, Richard Gwyn, writing in the Toronto Star, explains the price he thinks Americans are paying for "being a hyper-power, a global hegemony, a reborn Rome." John Cooley, writing in the International Herald Tribune, asks whether Syria will be next. Robert Scheer, on the website Workingforchange, is one of an increasing number of people who wonders if Iraq is another Vietnam. Jeremy Lovell, in an article on the Reuters website, writes about the trend toward privatizing the military, noting that mercenaries may well be the wave of the future.

Residual Ordinance

It's not only land mines that kill people after the fighting is over. The use of depleted uranium (DU) on the tips of anti-tank shells, barely mentioned in the popular media, is covered in depth on the Internet. DU has been linked to everything from Gulf War syndrome to birth defects; the military believes there is no merit to those claims.

Recently, the Internet had good news about another nasty residual weapon. Agence France Press, in an article titled "Global Campaign Launched to Ban Cluster Bombs," noted that 80 NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) from around the world are heading this new effort.

Cluster bombs leave unexploded bomblets lying around for civilians to pick up. According to Thomas Frank in an earlier Internet article published by the Associated Press, titled "Officials: Hundreds of Iraqis Killed by Faulty Grenades," the bomblets are as small as medicine bottles and are often draped with ribbons which make them look like toys to children.

Cluster weapons-in the form of bombs, rockets, and artillery shells-were also used extensively in Kuwait, Kosovo, Afghanistan. In a 1,000-pound bomb, there are 200 to 300 bomblets that scatter over several blocks. U.S. cluster weapons have only a single fuse, which the Pentagon admits have a fail rate of from 5 to 20 percent, though battlefield commanders are said to have reported failure rates as high as 40 percent.

Steve Goose, executive director of Human Rights Watch's arms division notes, "The situation [in Iraq] is particularly grave. We estimate...tens of thousands of unexploded munitions have been left behind." The AP article says, "Hundreds and possibly thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed or maimed by outdated, defective U.S. cluster weapons." No reports I've seen tell of any U.S. troops killed in Iraq by grenade duds, but a U.S. congressional report found that in the first Gulf War, they were responsible for 22 U.S. troops killed and 58 injured.

The British Defense Ministry reports that Britain fired some 2,000 artillery cluster weapons in Iraq, all of which were equipped with Israeli-made grenades with secondary fuses. These are claimed to have a dud rate of 2 percent. A 2000 Pentagon report noted that it would take $11 to $12 billion to reduce the dud rate in the billion or so cluster weapons the U.S. has stockpiled; according to the AP, the project was given a low priority and little funding.

Brzezinski on Paranoia

More and more articles on the Internet disagree with U.S. policy, including a recent piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski. It appeared on the website of the International Herald Tribune, and was titled, "To Lead, U.S. Must Give Up Paranoid Policies." The author, who was National Security Advisor under President Carter, begins with the question: "Paradoxically, American power worldwide is at its historic zenith while its global political standing is at its nadir. Why?"

Brzezinkski talks about the problems with several U.S. approaches, including: the central preoccupation of the U.S. with the war on terrorism; the attitude that "he who is not with us is against us," which Brzezinkski calls "paranoiac;" and the failure of U.S. intelligence, which he says is the most significant such failure in our history, one "which contributed to extremist demagoguery that emphasizes worst-case scenarios, stimulates fear, and induces a very simple, dichotomous view of world reality." Brzezinkski then uses the bulk of his article to outline the healing actions he feels the U.S. should take.

Pre-Attack Quotes

The Internet is also a useful tool to recall who said what in the days leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and to see how the statements changed during and after the war. On May 29, 2003, the website Counterpunch published a typical list, starting with this by Senator Joseph Lieberman on Sept 4, 2002: "Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States." There are similar statements by Senators Joseph Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as by President Bush and other members of the administration.

Some of the statements are classics, such as press secretary Ari Fleischer's comment on December 2, 2002: "If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world," and Donald Rumsfeld's comment on March 30, 2003: "We know where they are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." Little more than a month later, on May 4, Rumsfeld is quoted as saying: "I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country."

Even more interesting are some of the statements key players made before the administration made public their plan to attack Iraq. John Pilger, on the Mirror.co.uk website, quotes Secretary of State Colin Powell as having said in Cairo on February 24, 2001: "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." Pilger notes that three months later Powell added that Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years." America, Powell said, has been successful in keeping him "in a box." Pilger includes similar quotes from Condoleezza Rice, including this: "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

Shoot the Messenger

The media probably doesn't like to criticize itself in print, but it has taken a beating on the Internet for what various observers feel is a multitude of shortcomings. Some attack the media for unquestioningly regurgitating the stories put out by the administration. Others blame the media when it reports the disasters resulting from the war. For example, in the Christian Science Monitor (which also appears on the Internet), Ann Scott Tyson authored an article, "Media Caught in Iraq's War of Preconceptions." In it, the author notes: "The stream of bad news is heightening tensions between an American media that feels duty-bound to report U.S. losses in the headlines, and a Bush administration and Pentagon prone to castigating the negative coverage as one-sided."

In the Washington Post, Diane Abu-Jaber, in an article titled, "The War, As Told to Us," notes how our news programming has been instrumental in the marketing of this war. Her particular slant is how Arabs are systematically portrayed as an essentially hate-filled people.

Words of Wisdom

It's great to be able to buttress one's position by quoting famous people who can make the same point, often with greater eloquence. Here are two such quotes gleaned from the Internet on the undesirability of going to war. This from General Douglas MacArthur: "The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear, keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real."

And this from James Madison: "Of all the enemies of liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies. From these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

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Our Earth is But a Small Star
by Stephen Vincent Benet

Our Earth is but a small star
in the great Universe,
yet of it we can make,
if we choose,
a planet unvexed by war,
untroubled by hunger or fear,
undivided by senseless distinctions
of race, color or theory.

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TIMELINE (ISSN 1061-2734) is published bimonthly by the Foundation for Global Community 222 High Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301-1097

email: timeline@globalcommunity.org

Managing Editors: Kay Hays, Mac Lawrence
Editorial Board: : Jim Burch, Don Burns, Diane Gordon, Walter Hays,Sandra Mardigian, Jackie Mathes, Susan Stansbury.
Art Director (print edition): Sue Lyttle
Desktop Publishing: Diane Gordon
Electronic Edition: Timeline Team

A print edition of Timeline with photographs and artwork is available for a subscription price of $15 per year (six issues). This is pretty much what it costs us to produce and mail Timeline since our writers are all volunteers and we have no editorial expenses. But we do have overhead costs for our building, computers, etc. So if you feel Timeline and the other work our Foundation does are valuable and you want to help keep us going, please consider making a tax-free donation to Foundation for Global Community. Be sure to indicate that it is for Timeline E-mail Edition -- otherwise our subscription people will automatically send you the printed edition, and the whole idea of saving natural resources is down the tubes. Thanks!

Palo Alto, California
November 2003

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