That’s good news that Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. is taking his company down a greener path. But if he really wants to reduce his company’s production of greenhouse gases, he’s going to have to get his customers out of their cars.
Retooling the big box is just part of the equation; rethinking the big-parking-lot formula has to happen too. When Wal-Mart starts building smaller stores on infill lots within cities instead of on cheap land at their outskirts; looking for attachment to transit lines instead of adjacencies to major auto strips; adapting to pockets of existing local markets instead of drawing on larger regional ones; and encouraging shorter drives, fewer drives, and greater pedestrian activity, then greenhouse-gas production per customer — not just per store building — will be radically reduced. That’s democratizing sustainability.
Los Angeles, Calif.
It’s not just emissions Wal-Mart should worry about. They must contribute trillions of pounds of junk to landfills. What about the toasters and the rest of the junk they sell that only lasts two years? Think of how much less junk would be in the landfills if they were required to sell products that would last for seven years.
The way in which Wal-Mart would introduce lower prices in the organic sector is not by using economies of scale, but rather by using its size to make demands of producers. In other words, when such a large customer says it will only pay so much a pound, then that’s what you get. Organic farming is generally more labor-intensive than non-organic farming, and thus costs more. Paying organic farmers less means they get less profit, and their workers get less.
Before we get too excited by the idea of Wal-Mart turning the world green, we should look at their labor policies, which force their workers to get health care paid for by the state (since they can’t afford anything else). This is hardly the act of an “enlightened” corporation. Their green activities are likely to be similar. Beware the hand behind the back!
Applause for your brief interview on Wal-Mart, and for its green-energy, CO2-reduction, organic-produce, and packaging-reduction plans.
So what kept your interviewer from asking the big questions: how can a “free market” company depend so much on public subsidies — health care, food stamps, cheap fuel, social security, tax, and land “incentives” — and call itself “successful” (in the classical economic sense)?
Editor’s note: You can find lots more discussion on Wal-Mart in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
Re: Chafee Klatch
I am a liberal, progressive, longtime Sierra Club member and I totally agree with the group’s support of Sen. Lincoln Chafee. These are the kind of Republicans we need in Congress. Support good candidates no matter what the party! Remember: Most Dems have been weak in their stands on the war and various Bush atrocities.
Re: Chafee Klatch
When the Bush bill to get rid of the inheritance tax was coming up for consideration in Congress, I went with a group from United for a Fair Economy to call on senators to discuss this awful proposal. I visited Lincoln Chafee, who said, “Don’t worry, the Senate will never vote for anything so stupid.” He voted against it, but unfortunately his estimate of his colleagues was a little too high, and the inheritance tax is still under attack.
After this positive introduction, I’ve been following Chafee’s record, and am generally impressed. He does not support the Republican majority on important things where he doesn’t go along with the right-wing policy. That’s why he’s vulnerable. But that’s a shame: a senator who votes his conscience, and has a good one, should be supported and encouraged, maybe even all the more when he belongs to a party that has been discouraging such independent thinking and action.
Re: Chafee Klatch
I agree absolutely with Carl Pope that the environment should not be a partisan issue. We need Republicans to tell their representatives that the environment is an important issue to them.
I’ve always had a problem with gatherings of environmentalists that assume everyone in the room is a Democrat. All this does is alienate the non-Dems.
There is nothing inherently partisan about the desire for clean air and clean water, or about any other of our environmental goals. The conflict is between responsibility and greed, both of which tend to be distributed pretty evenly across both parties.
Re: Chafee Klatch
Endorsing Chafee is also endorsing Republican control of the Senate. And he votes with the party in power on many, many issues. That makes him a bad’un. The Sierra Club is still living in the 1950s. This ain’t Eisenhower and Lincoln’s Republican Party. Not even Nixon’s! (He would probably be too liberal for them.)
Re: Cap of Good Hope
Hmmm, carbon emissions caps being championed by the likes of General Electric and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Can you say nuclear?
In your Earth Day list you say the “least impressive way to demonstrate your eco-consciousness” is by “buying stuff.”
True, purchasing one cute little hemp hat won’t have much impact on the state of the earth. However, putting collective marketplace pressure on polluting corporations will. At a time when virtually no new environmental laws or regulations are being passed on Capitol Hill or in many statehouses around the country, the only pressures forcing manufacturers to reduce emissions and waste and protect habitat are coming from green consumers. Here’s just one example: For years enviros tried without success to pass legislation that would raise fuel-efficiency standards on cars and light trucks. It wasn’t until consumer demand for Japanese hybrid vehicles kicked in that Ford Motor Co. and other U.S. automakers finally began manufacturing more efficient vehicles themselves. Without marketplace demand, we’d never have seen those fuel-efficiency improvements.
It’s a mistake to underestimate the potential of the marketplace to catalyze environmental protection. “Buying stuff” isn’t the point, nor should it be. Using one’s money to move manufacturers in greener directions, now that makes sense.
Editor’s note: Find more discussion of our Earth Day list in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
If you haven’t been to New Orleans, you can’t comment on [post-Katrina waste being landfilled instead of recycled]. Where would you find the personnel to sort through the tons upon tons of debris? Who would pay them? Where would they live? Who would insure them against the health hazards of digging through this trash, looking for cypress and cedar? You will only have the right to comment on the lack of recycling in N.O. when you are ready to propose a viable solution. The truth is, here in Louisiana, we really don’t have the time.
No kidding! Who’s the National Park boob biologist who’s surprised to find contaminants in high-peak snows?
Robert H. Boyle
Re: Talk This Way
I read the piece about sunbathing and global warming, and I find it necessary to point out a distinction between weather and climate. Global warming does not mean that our days will be warmer. Realistically, nobody notices if it’s 72 degrees or 74 degrees or even 76 degrees. Global warming does not mean you will be sunbathing more often, or at least not noticeably so. What it does mean is that with slightly higher global temperatures, unnoticeable to the average person, weather will have more energy and be less predictable.
I enjoyed your article on where to move [when climate change gets more serious]; good to see some frankness. There is, however, one other bit of research possible. The Hadley Climate Centre in England has developed Regional Climate Modeling. You can get the software on a DVD and run your own area on your computer.
I love your website, but can’t believe you’re letting the Pacific Research Institute advertise in your space. I clicked over and now I’m having trouble choosing between their books on Jimmy Carter (“our worst ex-president”), various EPA blunders and waste, and how drug companies really won’t benefit from prescription drug coverage.
Sure PRI is just an advertiser, but I’m sure most like me see an implied endorsement when they advertise with you. Please give them the boot.
Editor’s note: Grist has an open-door policy when it comes to accepting ads. As our advertising policy states, “We believe our readers are discerning enough to evaluate the claims made by ads. If they’re capable of ignoring our bad puns, certainly they can ignore ads they don’t like.”
Re: Pussy Galore
I am a loyal reader and financial supporter of your work. I appreciate the humor you bring to these issues. I was, however, offended by your “Pussy Galore” headline. No one who’s ever spent time in a boys’ high-school locker room would not understand what this is referring to — it’s not just crude but sexist too.
Michael B. Smith
I love Grist, but have to say that I’m a bit put off by the line “With an Italian hottie riding bitch” in the Grist List feature about hybrid Vespas. Please forgive me if I’m taking a tongue-in-cheek comment too seriously, but this comment (1) doesn’t speak to me as a female reader, and (2) only goes to perpetuate the objectification of women. OK, yeah, so maybe the Italian hottie could be a man, but is that the image that’s going to pop into anyone’s mind?
I love the environmental news you offer, but I could do with less male perspective. Like much of your copy, your anti-“banana hammock” Grist List entry reeks of your by-men, for-men bias. I, like many women, know that a well-sculpted man in tights is a beautiful thing.
Re: Solar Eclipsed
Don’t you dummies know the difference between silicone and silicon? Have you become more enthusiastic about silly puns than basic science?
No name provided
Editor’s note: Well, we are pretty enthusiastic about our puns …