Monday, June 16, 2008

Burying Nuclear Waste in Your Yard...
and Other Less Overt Consumer Bribes


GRIST just ran a post about the British governments attempt to hoodwink a community to allow for burial of nuclear waste. They cited a surreal blurb from none other than Britains green chief, Environmental secretary Hilary Benn,

"Any community that hosts a site would provide essential services to the nation and would expect government to ensure that the project contributes to its wellbeing. To this end there may be other benefits identified and developed through discussions between the community and the government."

Greenpeace of course did not waste a minute to slam the effort characterizing it as "bribing a community with £1 billion of taxpayers' money to bury waste in their back garden." What is perhaps more surprising than the bribe, is the fact that this whole thing is happening so politely. More stunning than trying to endanger a community through the burial of hazardous waste (let's get real - nothing new here), is the fact that the government is asking nicely for a "patriotic volunteer/martyr."

No one ever actually ever asked me if it would be O.K to put pesticides in my food or the cotton in my clothes, to put lead in my kids toys, or toxic chemicals in their baby bottles or their mattresses. My neighbor never asked me if I minded the Vinyl siding on their house that can destroy my families health if their dining room catches fire, or how I feel about their heady lust for the perfect green lawn that comes with artificial pesticides that washes into my lawn when it rains. So I find the British governments polite corruption to be utterly stunning in how forthright it comes across. The event does raise an important question - if we were asked for our approval to compromise our health and safety in trade for money or convenience...would we bite?

If every child's toy that was bright and colorful and cheap came with a label.."Buyer Beware: Might Contain Dangerous Levels of Lead." Would we buy it ? Would we buy it if it was say 50% cheaper than the safe toy ? What about steak at your local supermarket coming with a label "Buyer Beware: Contains Hormones, Antibiotics, Tranquilizers, Pesticides and Other Potentially Harmful Additives That Have Been Shown to Be Carcinogenic and Interfere With Hormone Function." Would we buy it ? Would we buy it if were 50% cheaper then the organic steak with no additives ? I could continue ad infinitum with this question - but it points to the same thing...we already have these choices to make, even if we don't have the clearly marked warning labels. Governments ask for our self destructive submission and we in large numbers still comply because it puts more more money in our pocket, or time in our schedule.

Perhaps industries have relied on our ignorance in the past. Maybe in 1968 we didn't know what was put into our food, our household items, our lifestyle as whole. We claimed innocence through ignorance. We might truly have been suckers of big industry. But in 2008 we are increasingly left with no excuses - we really are in many cases, victims by our choosing.

Information is becoming more readily available for the majority of consumers. We make mindless choices as an alternative to readily available mindful ones. Not only is information out there, but products that protect the public and the earth are becoming available. The only thing stopping many from making choices that matter, is the "bribe of complacency." That is perhaps the big fall back plan of big industry today - we might be smarter, but we might just be too set in our ways, and too lazy to choose safer alternatives. Are they right ? Are they wrong? Every dollar spent is answering that question.

In some regard millions of us have already been bribed to burying nuclear waste in our yards one way or another. Have you ?

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