Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dinner with Darryl and The President

Last night I met up with my favorite New Orleans activist. He might be my favorite because I don't know many yet, but he also looks like Santa Clause, uses a cane with a giant gold alligator as its handle, and can drink copious amounts of Cider. We ate pizza and plotted change and he told stories. A good night.

Darryl helped start Green Corps, which I've written about in the past before I ever met him, and is a leading voice in the recovery efforts of the Holy Cross and Lower Ninth Ward neighborhoods. Did I mention he looks like Santa Clause? In his younger days before he knew his lifelong path would be pushing back on the chemical industry in Cancer Alley and the Louisiana government in post-Katrina New Orleans, he bummed around the south getting involved in anti-nukes work. Once working as a janitor on the second shift in order to borrow bits of paper with important information to help the community. He has been fired for starting a union at a chemical facility. And he arrived in New Orleans twenty years ago to paint a buddy's house, then a neighbor's house, then another, and another until he didn't have time to paint any longer as his time was being spent organizing with the Sierra Club and other groups to shut chemical facilities that were poisoning his friends and neighbors. He mentioned to me that one of his big regrets was not being a whistle blower during his years of odd jobs at chemical plants. But I think he did alright.

I stumbled across this post from CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law) by Daryl Ditz. I also had dinner with this other Daryl, but that was many years ago. And the only thing I remember is that I had a massive crush on one of the guys that was also at dinner and I was nervous. Then my crush walked away without saying goodnight as Daryl made sure I was safely in a cab.

In this post, Daryl asks the question "Could the new Congress find bipartisan agreement to ratify a global treaty to reduce the risks of the “worst of the worst” toxic chemicals?" The national discussion around the updating of TSCA, our nations chemical policy, is continuing in a climate that shows more people are aware of the chemicals in the products we bring into our homes.

This week I have been shopping a bunch for my new apartment. I'm still unfamiliar with the city and so don't know the little shops to support. So big box stores here I come. Even in, yes I'll admit it, Walmart many plastic household items have big signs that say BPA free. Though these things often sit next to items with big signs that say PVC. This is the PVC manufacturing area of the country after all. I can imagine that those three letters are sources of pride and that strong odor is just the smell of jobs. But if the families who shop at Walmart are aware of the dangers of BPA, then our national conversation is much closer to where it should be on eliminating toxic chemicals than it use to be. So why couldn't this congress find bipartisan support for a better chemical policy?

Well, there is the ACC after all. I hate them. Anyways, ACC is a trade association, which I've also mentioned to you before and everyday they release an email of the day's biggest industry trends. Mostly directly corresponding to some campaign someone I work with is coordinating against them. I've kept all their emails since 2008 in order to better understand where their priorities are moving. It's really interesting to look back and see how many emails they sent on plastic bags or BPA or state bills being introduced on PVC. They send people to attend city council meetings to beat back plastic bag bans. That must be a terrible job. Their biggest defense? Discrimination against poor people. Plastic bag bans discriminate against poor people who can't afford reusable bags. Amazing.

As I was having drinks with Darryl (with two R's), I didn't watch the State of the Union, but I did read it this morning. This part struck me:

"The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation. None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn't know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We're the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It is how we make our living.

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet. That's what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs -- from manufacturing to retail -- that have come from these breakthroughs."

Earlier this year, the state of Louisiana passed an incentive package for technology start ups to encourage this rapidly developing industry to live in New Orleans. One of the compliants of science based industries who think of coming to Louisiana and the Gulf coast is the lack of skilled people in their field. Just yesterday, an Oil industry trade group sent out their own daily trend email and discussed the barriers to safer drilling. Skilled workers. The older generation who have been working on the rigs their whole life are starting to retire and the younger generation hasn't stepped up because the who the fuck wants to risk their life everyday on an oil rig after watching their fathers do it their whole lives. Not many people it turns out.

The area needs a science and math booster shot. Some, many large projects that can help get our people trained and skilled in industries of the future. Sprouting new businesses and trends that will help with the long term recovery of this region and therefore the rest of the country. Businesses that move us away from fossil fuels and towards a greater level of innovation.

au revior,
Renee Claire

1 comment:

Emily said...

Hello-

I was wondering if you accept guest posts? I have an article/event that I would like to submit that is about dancing and how it relates to fitness. Primrose Schools is hosting a Dance Off competition (with proceeds going the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals) for families and I think it is something you and your readers would enjoy!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you,
Emily Patterson
epatterson@primroseschools.com