Pollution Solutions - Turning Toxic Stuff into Reusable & Marketable By-products

Convener:

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Notes

Please include a summary of the discussion, any recommendations or requests that the group had, and any resources the group noted regarding the topic.

Opening ?: "What type of water would you be? What do you want to contribute/take away?"
  -Phil: steam, biomimicry/emulating nature's cycles
  -Ben: waterfall, industrial ecology
  -Betsy (Dvortygirl): wet/room temp, upcycling, is an engineer and composter/gardener
  -Charles: greywater, learn our visions for clean water rights
    -Works for Digen, whose mission is to create the tech solutions to the worst pollution
    -Lives in Trillium Hollow cohousing community
  -Jacob: raindrop, setting up an eco-wiki & bike co-op for Corvallis area
  -Howard: water taken by that Japanese photographer while "listening" to Mozart

Background:
  -Charles spoke at World Toilet Organization, Delhi, India
    -41% of people have no toilets of any kind
    -UN declared 2008 "year of sanitation"
  -Consider where is the nearest public restroom
    -Restaurants: "restrooms for customers only"
    -Portland group Flush has installed a new public one recently
  -Clean drinking water is sexier, but sanitation is the flipside (how to avoid polluting the water source)

Obama: Oil independence, enforce Clean Water Act
  -If we do shale oil & tar sands, the former initiative will increase water pollution massively unless the waste water is treated

Changing water consumption patterns
  -Betsy: nature doesn't use water on the same scale/at the same rate as we do
    -In her community (San Jose), big issues are drought (past two years) and public awareness
    -Rewarding only people who just started conserving is misguided, those whose usage rate was low last year too can't afford to get the benefit
  -Phil: higher prices are what would motivate saving water
    -Graduated rate: currently, more = lower price per unit volume, should be the reverse
    -In his community (Portland area), drought of two months during this winter (predicted consequence of global warming) could be enough to cause big issues
  -Charles: 7-8 middle-east countries don't control their water source
    -Wars of the future will be fought more over water than oil
  -Betsy: In 3rd-world countries, people have been making simple cheap devices like a $25 treadle-pump, drip irrigation
    -Charles: In India, a typical woman spends hours a day carrying water from dirty wells with dead animals in them, are frequently assaulted while doing this
      -Mesh over the well mouth is one thing that helps
    -Need to bring water and sanitation aid projects together with childhood immunization, job training, affordable housing, malaria nets and microlending into single project
      -Partial example: building toilets in poor areas that reinforce tourism, eventually owned by local people

Obama should:
  -Phil: Avoid creeping privatization of water
  -Charles:
    -Choose to enforce certain laws (like Clean Water Act) more strictly, others more loosely?
    -Create a pollution-added tax and pollution-prevention incentives
  -Jacob: Have a "commons policy"
    -Charles: CA and CO are almost at war over all the water LA is taking from CO river
  -Betsy: Deal with the energy crisis (delivery and treatment of water is the biggest use of water in the Bay Area)
    -But can't make policy to change the weather
  -Ben: Ideally, establish rights to water (mandate public drinking fountains and restrooms proportionate to pop. density)
  -How far can we go in restricting private behavior?
    -Currently gov't is trying to keep consumption high
    -Subsidize ex. organic food, high-calorie but healthier-than-McDonald's food?

Top 2 uses of water:
  -Agriculture (70-85%?)
    -also causes lots of pollution from runoff
    -Howard: in this area, dead zones are NOT caused by runoff, more related to upwellings due to winds changing due to climate change
    -Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: being vegetarian 4 days a week to reduce needed farm area is way more effective than any consumption change (CFLs, electric cars, etc.)
  -Industrial uses
    -Charles: Dilution is not (any longer) the solution to pollution--many places have reached the max on that

Usable byproducts from waste
  -Ex. toxic river water
    -fertilizer
    -greywater for drip irrigation
    -salts (worth $20/ton)
  -Need econ model where cost of not cleaning up water is higher than cost of cleanup
  -Some European countries have dual sewer system (blackwater and greywater)
    -Not allowed by code in the U.S.
    -Greywater use is illegal in Portland
    -Quayside cohousing in Vancouver B.C. is applying for right to build a greywater processing plant
      -We need these types of demo projects
  -Charles: Water reuse is going to become very big business
  -Full-cycle responsibility:
    -How would this work for water?
      -Could you require industry or even a home to do its own water treatment?
      -Better in most cases to pay the sewage treatment plant to take care of it?
    -Oregon requires the cost of recycling ex. electronics to be part of the product cost so you don't have to pay when you drop it off
      -Ben: What if you could subtract the price the recyclers GET from selling the recycled materials?
      -Betsy: Preventing poor buying decisions avoids the cost of recycling something you didn't really need

Worthy Resources
  -"Flow" DVD: science and spirituality of water
  -"The Upward Spiral" DVD/Google Video
  -EcoTrust newsletter (ecotrust.org)
  -Maude Barlow has done a lot of thinking about water as a right vs. water as a resource
  -Hot, Flat, & Crowded book: looks at economic drivers of our problems and possible solutions
  -Any wiki sites?  How to find them?
    -Betsy: Need to wikify ex. 3D models of how to build simple pumps locally in different regions (though people with this know-how may not have internet access)
  -The Geography of Bliss: discusses how countries with lower consumption are often happier overall
  -Cradle to Cradle: about making products 100% good so we don't have to focus on only using less of what is bad

Closing questions
  -Ben:
    -How do we get to a society that really cares about turning pollutants into resources?
    -How does one create an integrated aid program?
  -Betsy: Do we need that, or do we prevent the pollutants from being produced in the first place?
  -Phil: How do we create a culture of contentment instead of dissatisfaction/consumerism?
    -How to be a citizen/steward (with responsibilities in the community) instead of a consumer?
  -Charles: What is the spark for change?  What change models deserve our attention?

Outlandish ideas in action
  -Betsy:
    -Has a friend in Seattle who wants to bring wiki into a more physical space (ex. replacing bulletin board at laundromat with a screen)
    -Localization of resources in general, ex. collecting rainwater from your own roof for your garden
  -Ben: Nat'l protest for water rights
  -Matthew: A way to more quickly empathize with each other
  -Debbie: Open Space world (More spontaneity rather than always being concerned with schedules, self-censoring, etc.)
  -Charles: mobilize the political will and long sighted savvy to enact Pollution Added Tax and Pollution Prevention Incentives

Most value from today's session
  -Betsy: Any solution has to be integrated
  -Howard: Matthew's empathizing idea
  -Matthew: Finding other practitioners, exposure to new ideas (general comment about RCC)
  -Charles: Being a listener to our concerns and ideas--helps deal w/ challenges that seem too big to face

 

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