Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A South American Catch-22

After supposedly closing its pulp mill factory on the Mataquito River, a large watershed which drains into the ocean 50 km south of Pichilemu (Chile's Surf City), on June 18 the Chilean forestry company Celco protagonized another catastrophic spill of liquid waste ("black liquor") into the river. 50,000 liters of toxic liquids used in the bleaching process to produce paper pulp. Still enjoying that glossy magazine you read every day? What about that bright white office paper in your printer?

I've just come out of a two-hour meeting representing Save the Waves alongside Oceana, Greenpeace, FIMA (Fiscalia del Medioambiente) and Salvemos Cobquecura. Our mission is to accuse Celco and the government and have the courts find them responsible for their latest environmental crimes. But these crimes still happened, and we cannot take back the death of thousands of fish and the loss of local fishermens' livelihood. You see, Chile has its own patent brand of self-contradictory circular logic in which things happen v e r y s l o w l y . . .

In order to prove the existence of toxic dioxins and furans in a certain river and ocean, we must send the water samples outside of Chile (because there are no labs in Chile which test for dioxins). In order to send water containing possibly toxic chemicals outside of the country in an international shipment, the shipment must be certified by the Government of Chile. But the Government of Chile won't voluntarily collaborate on a study which it knows will ultimately will find it negligent in environmental crimes.

Why not just send the samples anyway, without official approval? For the scientific findings to be used as evidence in a court of law, they must be certified by the government. Hmmmm... This is what's known as a double bind, no-win situation. At least I have the dubious honor of sharing this blog posting with Jeb Bush AND Celco:

Want solutions? We must demand 100% bleach-free, post-consumer waste recycled paper for EVERYTHING: magazines, packaging, toilet paper, office paper, boxes, shoe lining, photography. And if it isn't, just don't buy it. If it means a less-glossy final product, it just might be better for the earth and for us. To paraphrase a quote from my sometimes-over-quoted friend Yvon Chouinard and his book, Let My People Go Surfing:

"if you want to change government, change corporations; and if you want to change corporations, you must change the consumer. Wait a minute, did you say consumer? That's me! Are you saying that it's me who has to change?"