Confused and Contagious

Response to NY Times article: Pelosi's 'Green the Capitol' Initiative May Feel Blue Under House GOP

Response by David Hill, Principal, CycleLogic Environmental Marketing and Consultation

It is apparent the new House leadership is both confused and contagious. The green the capitol program is being dismembered based on inaccuracies and perpetuated popular misconceptions: These are being paraded around as if accurate.

According to your article, Pelosi's 'Green the Capitol' Initiative May Feel Blue Under House GOP, (December 10, 2010), Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who is leading the transition team was quoted as saying, "If it is working, we are for it. If it is symbolic and it's costing more money than we could save, then we're really not."
The reality is that the program is working. If the word “working” were synonymous with “fewer dollars from my pocket,” we would still be dumping our garbage and sewage at sea. The Cole/Walden team is not accounting for the total monetary expense and needs to understand that the lowest up-front cost is not necessarily the cheapest price. What Mr. Cole is clearly expressing is that the new way of the House is to pass along the hidden costs resulting from less responsible, higher impact waste disposal practices. There is nothing symbolic about making more efficient use of our resources and attempting to prolong the ability of our planet to support life.

"Composting I can tell you is not a very good idea," Cole said. "It just doesn't work well, and it costs more money than it is worth."

This statement is not simply inaccurate, it is aggressively ignorant of the facts. If we accept that composting “is not a very good idea,” should we believe that dismantling the existing process – one that diverts greater than 85% of its residual resources from the traditional waste stream - and then either entombing them in a hole in the ground or burning them and sending them into the atmosphere is a better idea?

Dirt, or soil, is crucial to our existence on earth. The thin layer of dirt in which we grow our crops for food, fiber and fuels is called topsoil. It is rich with organic matter. The US loses 78 billion tons per year, or 215 million tons per day of topsoil to erosion. Nature takes over 100 years to produce 1 inch of topsoil. It was this same ignorance, arrogance and hubris that created America’s Great Plains dust bowl not so many years ago.

By adding well-composted organic matter to mineral soil, we can produce topsoil in a matter of hours. If expanded to a national basis, the Green the Capitol organics reuse program would result in the diversion and beneficial re-utilization of more than 220,000,000 tons of composted organic matter every year. Instead of losing ground (literally) to our dependence on foreign imports of food and fuel, we should be building it.

I doubt that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recognized the foreboding prophecy of her words in 2007 when she said:

“Today we say that the Capitol will be not just a shining symbol of our democracy, but a symbol of our [lack of] commitment to the future. Not only by the power of our ideas on energy independence, but by the power of our example, we hope to send a message to the world and to the country.”

The message this new Congress is sending to the world should worry us all very deeply.