Saturday, March 25, 2006

What's Da Plan?

Cellulosic ethanol, extracting electricity out of trees, psychology of risk, and much more arrive almost every day. A lot of creative people, with so many creative ideas, want to make this planet environmentally worth living on.

A few years back we heard about a so-called split in the environmental movement, between those people that believed in "enhanced" democracy versus those that emphasized enhanced technology. Regardless, something has to be enhanced, the sooner the better.

Kimberly-Clark (an example), the largest manufacturer of tissue products in the world, claims on its website that some 1.3 billion people uses its products throughout the world. I have no reason to doubt their claim. We've all heard of Kleenex, Huggies, Kotex, Depends for example. But there is a concern.

It's about all that paper flushed down all those toilets or tossed in all those wastepaper baskets. It is about wood; it is about sustainable forests, biological diversity, endangered species, finite resources, and of course people--a lot of them. If you're a major stockholder in Kimberly-Clark do you salivate at the prospect that the growing yuppie class in Shanghai, China--millions of them--are discovering that along with the I-pod and the laptop they just must have a box of Kleenex? Workers of the world unite!

The corporation's detractors claim that KC is an irresponsible global corporation. They continue, as their opponents state, in spite of frequent, vociferous criticism, to rely on paper pulp made from clear-cut ancient forests, including Canada's Boreal forests. Less than 19% of its fibers come from recycled sources. The industry average, according to CorpWatch, is closer to 60%.

Obviously, as expected, KC denies it's a bad environmental corporation. Their web site has a fairly recent addition on how how well they're now treating forests. They seemingly have come to realize that negative opinion could affect their profits ... at least in the developed world. They're using a lot of recycled paper they say. They are responsible global citizens they announce.

Kimberly-Clark is cutting jobs in North America. Wall Street seems to be happy about the decision. KC is going into the developing markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China, Indonesia, and Turkey. Why shouldn't they? That's where fifty percent or the world's population is located. That's where the "growth" is. North America and Europe are to become mere replacement markets. So what's the plan?

Of course it's about politics. Of course it's about influencing decisions. But do you have some new technology that will help? Where do we put the carbon dioxide? How soon do we have fleets of cars that get 100 mpg? Who will "push" the technology? Who will inspire? No, it's not the Toyota engineer however. I don't know about democracy; it's a system that's hard for most of the people most of the time. But I still prefer it to all the rest.

And what about Kimberly-Clark? Where's the wood coming from to make all those Huggies? How much clear cutting will there be? Will it be nothing more than sterile tree plantations expanding throughout Indonesia and Siberia? You got some technology that will help? You got a plan?

In the meantime buy your toilet paper from companies like Ambiance, Best Value, Earth First, and Sofpac. There are others as well. Of course environmental well-being is too important to be left exclusively to global corporations and the shills that front for them, be they third-world strong men or members of the U.S. Congress. Get busy, get active, and get a plan.

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