10 November 2006 — Issue #25 Editor: Michael J. Ross
For those of us in the United States, this is the time of year between Halloween and Thanksgiving, when candy-fueled sugar highs give way to credit-fueled shopping sprees, and when retailers and homeowners pack away the decorative Halloween pumpkins (a.k.a. jack-o'-lanterns), to be replaced by the Thanksgiving variety. It is also a time of year when we can all give greater thought to the societal ramifications of our shopping choices a topic that we explore in the lead article in this issue of the newsletter. We can also give greater thought to the environmental ramifications of our nuclear weapons systems a topic covered in the second article. Even though the Halloween decorations may be out of sight, that does not mean that the real world horrors will not come back to haunt us. More below.
To say that holiday shopping is a critical component of the American economy, would be an understatement. In the United States alone, countless retail businesses would be literally out of business, were it not for their revenues generated during the months of November and December, when Americans begin searching for gifts to give on Christmas and other holidays during the winter season. The bulk of these revenues are generated between late November and late December, particularly from the Christmas shopping that begins right after Thanksgiving a day known as "Black Friday" because the holiday spending that begins on that day, pulls many of those businesses out of the red.
The extent of the spending within the United States is unimaginably huge, especially when considered on an annual basis. Exact statistics are difficult to find, but according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce), by mid-2006, gross domestic purchases by Americans composed approximately 70% of the gross domestic product, which for 2006 will be over $13 trillion. Thus, annual American spending is likely more than $9 trillion. Those are a lot of purchases, and thus a lot of decisions. Admittedly, a major portion of those payments are made on nondiscretionary items, such as mortgages, rental costs, and medical insurance premiums. But that still leaves an inconceivably large number of dollars spent just within the United States, to say nothing of consumer decisions made worldwide.
The lone consumer might be tempted to consider each purchase to be insignificant when dwarfed by those trillions of dollars spent in aggregate especially for small purchases, such as stocking stuffers. Shopper might believe that their purchases, whether as gifts for others or treats for themselves, are but drops of water in an enormous bucket, and thus there is no point in worrying about their social and environmental consequences. They might decide that their contributions to the massive global marketplace, could have no effect upon the big picture. Yet they fail to realize that the large body of water is nothing but a collection of individual drops, each contributed singly or among others, by other individuals and organizations all of them responsible for their choices.
Too many people often assume that making a purchase is but the beginning and the end of the whole process (aside from settling up with their credit card company). The retailer has the consumer's money, and the consumer has the product. Actually, that is just a single link in a long chain of decisions, stretching back into the past as well as forward into the future. Prior to any purchase, decisions and investments were made in product design, manufacturing, and marketing including what wages to pay the workers, and whether the product's constituent materials are recycled, and whether the final product is itself recyclable.
On the other side of the event, your purchase, combined with those of all other consumers, has the strongest influence upon the decisions of the manufacturer, the vendor, and all the other organizations in the pipeline, as to what items they will create and offer in the future. In fact, when you decide where to direct your spending dollars, your financial drop of water spreads in waves throughout the economy, rippling beyond the confines of the vendor you chose, and even the country in which they do business, as they in turn make their decisions as to how to meet the increased demand for that product a demand that you made upon the world's economy.
So when you are choosing the gifts that you would like to give to others and throughout the year when you buy for yourself and your family do not underestimate the tremendous impact that your gift choices make upon the businesses you patronize, the community in which you live (both in and outside of cyberspace), and the world as a whole. When you drop some cash this coming holiday season, make sure that drop lands in the "green gift" part of the pond, and sends its ripples out in the right directions.
In the annals of monster movies, 1954 proved to be a pivotal year, for that was when Godzilla made his first appearance on the silver screen, in the film "Gojira", produced by Toho Film Company Ltd., of Tokyo. In the imaginative tale spun by the pioneering filmmakers at Toho, Godzilla is an enormous prehistoric creature an unholy amalgamation of what were probably some of the most lethal dinosaurs that ever shook the ground. Dormant for eons until disturbed by mankind's nuclear testing on remote islands in the South Pacific, Godzilla definitely wakes up on the wrong side of the bed standing 150 feet tall, exhaling enormous columns of fire, laying waste to acres of jungle, and killing any other monster foolish enough to stand up to his fury.
At the same time that he terrorized young viewers, the "King of Lizards" also reminded adults of the real world terrors first seen when the United States vaporized the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, just nine years prior to the movie's debut. In that light, Godzilla can be considered a symbol of the humongous destructive potential of nuclear weapons, mirroring the terror shared by citizens worldwide as the United States and the Soviet Union faced off during the nuclear arms buildup of the Cold War, which peaked in 1953 at the end of the Berlin blockade and airlift. Godzilla is an avenging angel, returning to destroy the cities and homes of the only species clever and crazy enough to create its own means of self-destruction.
Even though Godzilla is not the result of radiation-induced genetic mutation, the parallels are all too clear. A half century after Godzilla's introduction, humans continue to pollute the oceans from which he emerged. We clearcut far more acres of rain forest than he ever crashed through. We allow portable thermonuclear weapons to fall into the hands of the highest bidders. Perhaps most frightening of all, we dump varieties of radioactive waste that have half-lives greater than half a million years, stored in containers that will certainly not last that long.
Some apologists for nuclear weapons may dismiss these dangers as merely a technical problem to be solved by future generations (assuming there are any). They might assert that the problems will not be encountered until a much distant tomorrow.
Well, when it comes to environmental degradation caused by human pollution, tomorrow is today.
On 11 October 2006, Reuters reported that radioactive snails have been discovered at the sight of a nuclear weapons accident 40 years earlier. In 1966, in southeastern Spain, near the fishing village of Palomares, a US bomber collided with a refueling craft, killing seven of 11 crewmen, and dropping three hydrogen bombs near the village. The bombs did not detonate, naturally, because they had not been armed. (Will we be as lucky next time?) However, the high explosive igniters of two of the bombs, detonated upon impact, spreading plutonium-contaminated dust onto nearby fields. In response, hundreds of tons of radioactive soil had to be removed from the site, and were shipped to the United States.
That cleanup effort may turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, because Spanish officials admit to detecting elevated levels of radiation in snails and other animals at the accident site, indicating the possibility of dangerous amounts of plutonium and uranium below the surface. CIEMAT, Spain's energy research agency, is conducting an investigation with the US Department of Energy. Juan Antonio Rubio, director general of CIEMAT, noted that "We don't know what's down there." Spanish authorities state that there is currently no danger from surface radiation, but that children living in the area should not work in the fields at the accident site, nor eat any of the resident snails, which are considered a delicacy.
While it is doubtful that the nuclear contamination near Palomares will awaken an angry monster a modern-day "Rey de Lagartos" it would be sad and shameful for humanity if this incident were to prove to be a precursor of an unfolding nuclear nightmare as mankind's arrogant experimentations with the Earth's ecology, come back to haunt us. In their song "Godzilla", the rock group Blue Oyster Cult reminds us: "History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of men."
Garden of Eve is known for its handcrafted skin care products, which are made primarily with organically grown and wild-crafted ingredients. For the holiday season, they are pleased to announce some special green shopping offerings. Their Holiday Trio gives you a choice of Aromatic Hand and Body Cream, a Facial Cleansing Nectar, and a WOW! Face Crθme. The X-MAS Essence (Mountain Essence) cream is a blend of the essential oils of evergreen trees, with a hint of frankincense, for a genuine Christmas aroma. Santa's Stocking Stuffers are attractive gold organza bags containing four 0.3-ounce containers of organic handcrafted aromatherapy moisturizer creams. These offerings and others provide the green shopper with a chance to choose combinations of products in sizes smaller than are usually available -- ideal for gift giving. Visit Garden of Eve today!
As a new member of the PristinePlanet.com community, RichCatt "Green" Solutions also has a new Web site, where visitors can learn more about a wide range of biobased products designed for industrial and commercial business and consumer needs. The innovative green products offered there are not only safe to humans and to the environment, but they have also been chosen for their high performance and reliability in getting the job done. One example is SoyClean Graffiti Remover, which is designed to effectively eliminate graffiti and other unwanted wall markings, but without exposure to the toxic chemicals found in conventional paint removers. Business owners and prospective distributors are equally encouraged to explore the new RichCatt Web site and their environmentally friendly products.
Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.