Monthly Archives: January 2012

Walmart: Green or Greed? Part I

Walmart. What does the name of the world’s largest retailer evoke for you? Do you think of its reputation as a poor employer and its anti-union tactics? Do you lump it in your mind with other large corporations who worship profit at the expense of environmental and social justice? Or perhaps you’re among those who respect Walmart’s more recent initiatives to improve its environmental impact, cut back on energy use, and reduce packaging. Today on Sea Change Radio, we begin a two-part series in which we speak with two writers for whom the name Walmart evokes very different things.

This week, host Alex Wise talks with author, researcher and advocate, Stacy Mitchell who recently published a 6-part series for Grist on Walmart’s sustainability efforts. Mitchell believes that the company’s purported efforts to improve its sustainability profile are mostly window dressing, a ploy to change the media narrative of Walmart’s poor track record without actually changing its overall negative global impact. Next week we will hear a contrasting opinion from reporter Marc Gunther who’s written extensively on Walmart, as well. Gunther is more impressed by the company’s sustainability efforts, believing that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, and that when a giant like Walmart makes moves toward environmental responsibility it is worth taking notice. But first, our discussion with Stacy Mitchell.

Electric Vehicle Pioneer Dave Cloud

Battery operated cars. No longer the exclusive domain of little kids huddled around a remote control, electric vehicles are beginning to emerge as a real alternative to petroleum-powered vehicles. Most of us have heard of the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, and even the more exclusive Tesla models. But most listeners probably have not heard of the Dolphin. The Dolphin is the most recent creation from electric vehicle enthusiast Dave Cloud, who has converted over 45 combustion-engine boats and cars to run on electricity. He assembled the Dolphin from a 1997 Geo Metro, a set of used lead batteries, $3,000 and a vision. Dave Cloud has wowed the electric vehicle community with this aerodynamic design; now listen as he sits with Sea Change Radio host Alex Wise to talk about the Dolphin and give us all a primer on electric vehicles.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: the nation’s highest-regarded pollution advocacy group

What is the United States Chamber of Commerce? Many Americans hold the misconception that it’s a government agency. It is not. It is the most significant lobbying group in the United States. And, as our guests today on Sea Change Radio explain, it’s a formidable foe of environmental protections and could easily be called an organized group for pollution-advocacy.  This week, host Alex Wise talks with environmental ethicist Philip Cafaro, who explains the role that the US Chamber of Commerce plays in promoting constant growth, and how that premise inherently contradicts environmental sustainability. Next, Shaun Goho, lawyer and lecturer at Harvard Law School, dissects the US Chamber of Commerce’s own statement on environmental issues and demonstrates how its current policies diverge drastically from the Chamber’s 19th Century roots.

Ecologist Eric Berlow: Simplicity On The Other Side Of Complexity

Trained as an ecologist, our guest this week on Sea Change Radio uses complexity theory to map spheres of influence and find solutions to any number of problems. Eric Berlow has applied this systems perspective to solve a diverse array of riddles, from stopping the disappearance of the yellow-legged frog in the Sierra Nevada to distilling the core issues in the US Counter-Insurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

Listen now as this tireless optimist explains to host Alex Wise how embracing the true complexity of a problem reveals its simplest solution, and why a starfish, or a fly, or a toad can be the keystone to our ecology’s health.

-Here’s a link to a video of Eric’s 2010 TED conference talk

Kitt Doucette: From the Frontlines of the Plastic Bag Wars

In just a couple of decades the plastic bag has become ubiquitous on this planet – these “disposable” items don’t biodegrade, however, so they’ve been collecting in our oceans, killing wildlife, and eventually inspiring a movement to push back against their environmental blight. Some cities, counties and even countries have instituted bans and others have put in place policies that charge consumers a few cents per bag in order to dissuade use. But eventually the producers of plastic caught on that there was a growing trend to limit the consumption of an item that’s usually only used for a few minutes, but stays on earth indefinitely. They’ve launched their own offensive, and the fight is starting to look like an all-out war.

In this Sea Change Radio encore presentation, host Alex Wise speaks with Kitt Doucette, a journalist for Rolling Stone who recently wrote about this war over plastic bags. Doucette talks about the history of the conflict, some of the fronts on which this battle is being waged, and what we can all do to fight back against the corporate bullies gaining ground everyday in this struggle for the earth’s well-being.