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Re: Some thoughts from the darker shadows of Earth Day, and a challenge to the P2 community
- Subject: Re: Some thoughts from the darker shadows of Earth Day, and a challenge to the P2 community
- From: Gary Miller <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 01 May 2008 16:40:47 -0500
- Delivered-to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Delivered-to: email@example.com
- List-name: p2tech
- Reply-to: Gary Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As usual, I enjoyed reading your stream of semiconsciousnes today. It
strikes me that:
#1 - We "old-timers' have had an effect on the greening of America
and can take some credit. These past 20+ years promoting P2 have been
worthwhile and productive. In 1990 we got the federal P2 Act passed. We
also got an office of P2 established in USEPA. etc. etc. But that is
the past. It is good to see where we have come from - it has been
incredibly fun and largely worthwhile - even if it took Al Gore and
Wal-Mart to get the P2 "religion."
#2 - You will be addressing many of the up and comers in P2. And that
should be your primary audience. We have a legacy to build on. But what
are the challenges? What is the vision? Last year we said a key point
is that P2 is a key strategy, perhaps the basic, underlying principle,
behind achieving sustainability. The problem is, few decisionmakers
understand that. We have failed to make that connection. There is much
work to be done in that regard.
Perhaps the key challenge is for the "up and comers" to craft a
P2/sustainability vision of their own - to take ownership. They can see
the situation from their point of view which is probably less about where
P2 has been and more about where P2 is headed. as the P2 act
The Congress hereby declares it to be the national policy of the
United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the
source whenever feasible
The P2 Act also provides for a biannual reporet to Congress on the
status and needs for P2 in this country. See
Do we need a new P2/Sustanability Act? Or in this new millenium,
would YouTube and other social networking tools be more
P2 people are change agents. we have made an impact by having a new
perspective on environmental and economic challenges (i.e., source
reduction), being sources of credible information, and having some
So at this point, here are a few key questions:
How can we be more effective in changing the world to be truly
What is our P2/sustainability message?
What positions in government, businesses and other organizations can we
take to lead this change?
What information and assistance can we provide that would be most helpful
for society to make the transition to a much more sustainable world?
By the way, thanks for sharing the nice pictures.
Illinois Waste Management and Research Center
At 02:59 AM 5/1/2008, Butner, R Scott wrote:
P2TECH-ies (and a few selected other
I've come, once again, to drink from the
well of your wisdom.
I even brought my own (non-disposable,
stainless steel, bisphenol A-free) cup.
The precipitating event for this e-mail is
an invitation I received the other day from our esteemed colleague Jeff
Burke, Executive Director
of the National P2 Roundtable.
He wanted to know if I was willing to spend a few minutes during the NPPR
break-out session at the National Environmental Summit on Wednesday May
21, to help kick off a
session among the NPPR
Rousing the rabble, as it were.
Well, I can rarely turn down a chance to
stand in front of an audience and hold forth, especially if not bound by
any strict accountability to things like "facts" or
Besides, I've spent a long time attending
NPPR meetings, sort of an intellectual lint ball hanging from the rich
tapestry that is the P2 community, so it was an excuse -- an opportunity!
-- to come to Baltimore and see some of my friends, old and new.
How could I refuse?
However, now I find myself facing the
consequences of accepting his invitation --
to select a discussion topic which will
provoke the audience to such
stimulating conversation that they
go home saying, "I am SO glad I went to
This is where the challenge comes in:
I got nuthin'. Nada. Zip. Less than zero.
Now, left to my own devices, I will come up
with something. I always do.
But I'd like to invite this group to suggest
topics for discussion that YOU would like to see NPPR
have, regarding the
future of the organization,
the P2 community.
Got ideas? Send them to me. By
now, you know where to find me.
Otherwise -- and consider this a warning,
not threat -- in two weeks the
audience at the Summit is likely to hear something along the lines of my
"Going Softly into
Night -- a P2
Yeah. You heard me.
In the words (word?) of the late, great Kurt
So, last Saturday -- as fine a day as has
yet to grace the 2008 calendar; a virtual poster child for springtime in
the northwest! -- I spent the morning, and well into the afternoon,
working in my garden, communing with the worms, soaking up the sun, and
contemplating what message I wanted to bring to the Summit.
Alas, pulling weeds, planting gladiolas, and
deciding where in the garden I should relocate the family totem pole
("Fred") took provided more
distractions than you'd think they could. So while I accomplished
much in the garden, by 4 p.m. I had made little headway towards
my Summit message.
late April and days are getting
longer up here at 47 degrees north latitude; even at 4 p.m. we had hours
of daylight left. So I decided to take a long-contemplated,
oft-postponed trip across the desert to visit the Juniper Dunes
Wilderness, a 7,000 acre "island" of juniper and 100-foot sand
dunes surrounded by the soft green contours of dryland wheat, the giant
irrigated bullseyes of potato farms, and the sage-filled shrub-steppe
that fills all the spaces in between. Though it is only 45 miles
from my home, I'd never visited it. I figured the drive would do me
some good. At the very least, I might find some good light for
taking photographs of the wild rhubarb that was reputed to grow
there. I could sink my toes deep into the sand.
If I was lucky, I'd find some deeper inspiration to sink my teeth into as
I packed up my camera and tripod, climbed
into my Mazda -- which like me, has more miles on it than I'd like
and is overdue for some preventative
maintenance -- and backed out of the driveway onto Stevens Drive. I
pointed the car in a generally eastern direction.
Figuratively speaking, of course, since our
street runs north/south.
As I pulled away from the curb,
I turned on my iPod, and
heard the opening refrains of an old Pointer
Sister's song from the 70's:
"Now's the time for all good
men to get together with one
another. We got to iron out
our problems and iron out our
quarrels and try to live as
brothers. And try to find a
piece of land without stepping
on one another. And do respect
the women of the world.
Remember you all have
I turned the volume up a few notches --
turns out that my dad was right -- I DID wreck my hearing, listening to
that music so loud! Now I have little
choice but to turn it up.
For what it's worth, I've long thought that
this song -- "Yes We Can Can," from their self-titled first
album released in 1973 -- is, to my mind, perhaps the last viable
candidate for an anthem for my generation. As far as I can tell,
it remains untouched and unspoiled,
not yet co-opted into selling SUV's or laundry detergent or acting as a
each time that Hollywood
wants to pay lipservice to that period of
simultaneous political unrest and (for a brief while) enormous optimism
that was the late 60's. As such songs go, it's too long, and takes
too much time to get to the point, and can't be easily fitted into a 30
suspect that even now, some cynical Madison Avenue types are
working on it. They're sitting around
a big table, probably made of endangered tropical hardwoods,
making plans to strip away the
innocence from yet one more song in
hopes of convincing middle aged
consumers that they can replace their own lost innocence
with a bit of cheap nostalgia and
a Prius in the driveway.
I know. Cynical. Though, some
would respond that cynicism is the only logical response to the world we
Those would be the cynical ones, by the
way. At least we're consistent.
On this fine Saturday, however, I didn't
entertain such thoughts for even a moment. My mood buoyed by good music,
and admittedly feeling a little TOO self-satisfied about spending the
last hour meticulously pulling dandelions by hand so that I didn't have
to resort to herbicides, I drove off towards the dunes and started to
contemplate discussion topics for my
This may seem, on the surface, to be much
ado about nothing. After all, I'd been asked to give a ten minute
talk -- the primary purpose of which is to get OTHER people to enter into
the discussion. No one was asking me to be the authority about
anything. * (I feel compelled to add here -- as a pre-emptive
measure against those who know me well -- to say in my defense
that there ARE things I
am an authority on. Really. It's
just that few people are very
interested in them, which is precisely what allows me to be the authority
-- niche specialization being an important adaptitve strategy in any
ecosystem). All I had to do was relate a few ideas about current
issues facing P2, and get the ball rolling.
Plenty of people smarter than me would be in
the audience, and they could take it from there.
Simple, really. Right?
The problem I faced was this:
I'm a P2 has-been. Tasked with talking to a
bunch of P2 up-and-comers.
See, even by my own admission, most of
interesting work in my 20+ year career in
pollution prevention -- real fun stuff dealing with
mass transfer in supercritical CO2 parts
cleaning, multi-objective process optimization, project prioritization
methodologies, environmental lifecycle analysis, debunking ISO 14001,
design for environment, "green" accounting software?.is more
dated than a high school prom queen. Like a lot of us, though, I
continue to chug along, making contributions where I can, trying to stay
reasonably current with the latest and greatest.
But still painfully aware that I am
increasingly out of touch.
I was wrapping my mind around this bitter
reality when I turned off of Highway 12 onto the Pasco-Kalhoutous
Highway, a sun-baked two lane that winds its way along the Snake River,
where salmon once thrived, and through some of the richest farm land in
the US, which in many ways sealed the salmon's fate. And as the miles
ticked by, though the sun was still hanging bright in the sky, my
to darken a bit. So perhaps there was
some psychic resonance at work
that allowed the plaintative voice of Neil
Young to push its way into my consciousness. I rolled up the window (in
an earlier, ill-considered concession
to my P2 roots, I had bought a car without air conditioning -- not a good
choice when you live in a climate where summer temperatures occasionally
top 110 F) and turned up the volume just in time to hear him singing the
punchline from "My My, Hey Hey":
"It's better to burn out/Than it is
And with that lyric, juxtaposed as it was
against the ongoing contemplation of my own rustiness, my mood shifted
out of the blue, and into the black.
Bear in mind: with 5,438 different
songs on my iPod, the odds of this
particular song playing at this particular moment in time were relatively
small. It's a simple matter of statistics.
Lots of songs means a small chance of any
given song being played.
For instance, I once calculated that I could
drive from Seattle to Fresno, California -- and BACK again -- listening
ONLY to my collection of Elvis Costello songs, and never hear the same
I should note that I've never actually tried
to verify this experimentally. For one -- who wants to go to
Fresno? But mostly, I fear that
if I ever tried it, my wife would
probably get out of the car somewhere around Portland, and hitchike back
home. It would be a long, lonely ride home for Elvis and I.
At any rate, I'd recently finished reading
"This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human
Obsession," a great book by record-producer turned congitive
psychologist Daniel Levitin, which discusses how the human brain
processes music (and which, incidentally, closes with an air-tight
scientific explanation, based on sound evolutionary principles, of why
the bass players always get all the girls).
Perhaps because I'd been reading this book,
I started paying more attention than usual to the lyrics of the songs
that were playing. Egged on by the coincidence of Neil Young's
great tribute to Johnny Rotten, his
warning against musical obsolesence,
and the contemplation of my own technical obsolesence, I started noting
(or was it, constructing?) a certain
theme in the songs that played.
The pattern was set, I think,
when the next song in the queue was Pink
Floyd's "Time" from the "Dark Side of the Moon"
"Every year is getting shorter,
never seem to find the time Plans that either come to naught or half a
page of scribbled lines Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English
way The time has gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to
Or this -- from "Thousand Year
Prayer" by the Cowboy Junkies:
"Here we all are at the end of
"the century of beauty lost". We greedily ate what you gave us,
the rest we tossed. We've trapped all your rivers, paved every pass,
Pulled at your sky till we caused it to rip. But you've got Jimi Hendrix
so lets call it an even split. "
Eddie Vedder's voice rang true on Pearl
Jam's "All Those Yesterdays"
"Don't you think you've done
enough? Oh, don't you think
you've got enough, well maybe..
You don't think there's time to
stop There's time enough for
you to lay your head down, tonight, tonight"
Followed back to back by an oldie from
"I got bones beneath my skin,
mister... There's a skeleton in every man's house Beneath the dust and
love and sweat that hangs on everybody There's a dead man trying to get
and by a recent favorite of mine from Death
Cab for Cutie:
"Love of mine some day you will
die But I'll be close behind
I'll follow you into the dark No blinding light or tunnels to gates of
white Just our hands clasped so tight Waiting for the hint of a
If Heaven and Hell decide that they both
are satisfied Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs If there's no one
there beside you when your soul embarks Then I will follow you into the
Now, lest you think that my musical
collection consists entirely of dark, self-possessed songs by Emo kids in
black sweatshirts, I'll have you know that I have my fair share of upbeat
songs as well.
But in any string of random events, there
exists a finite possibility that a sequence will emerge which gives the
appearance of being by design. And if I were a spiritual person, I
might even have been tempted to think that the heavens were sending me a
On such matters, though, I tend to subscribe
to the world according to Iris Dement:
"Everybody's wonderin' what and
where they all came from. Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna
go when the whole thing's done. But no one knows for certain and so it's
all the same to me. I think I'll just let the mystery
In any event, whether by design or by
chance, the great epiphany came as I turned left off the Snake River
Road, skidding across the crushed gravel of East Blackman Ridge Road in a
cloud of dust. From a distance, my dust cloud would have been the
only moving thing visible for miles in any direction. As I crested
a ridgeline, the road bent to the west, pointing me into the setting sun
and momentarily blinding me to the presence of spring calves
standing idly in the road. I veered around them, leaving tire
tracks at the edge of a wheat field, and regained my purchase on the
In that moment of brilliant light, I was
illuminated -- and I swear I am not making this up -- by the opening
verse of Poi Dog Pondering's "Bury Me Deep"
"A lifetime of accomplishments of
which the dirt knows none, only in death can one truly return Return the
carrots, the apples and potatoes, The chickens, the cows, the fish and
tomatoes. In one glorious swoop, let the deed be done and bury me deep so
that I can be one... And all around my muscle and all around my bone,
don't incinerate me or seal me from the dirt which bore me, the bed that
which from the rain falls upon and the fruit comes from"
And there it was in front of me, as plain
and as bright as the setting sun: "Going quietly" as the
final frontier in pollution prevention.
See, like many of a certain age, I've begun
to come to terms with my own eventual mortality. I'm not quite 50
yet, but my parents both died fairly young so I figure I'd best get an
early start on thinking about such things.
Like many of my cohorts, I have made certain
wishes known to my loved ones -- how heroic I expect them to be in
extending my life, what to do with any "stuff" I have left over
when the game ends. What to do with ME when the game is over.
The usual details.
But it occurred to me that perhaps in death
there was an opportunity I'd been overlooking -- a way to take make
sure that I truly reduced my footprint on this earth. What if, I
thought, I simply decided not to fight the inevitable? What if I
allowed myself to go quietly into the dark when my body finally decided
it was time to let go?
No heroic measures. Not even any
mildly strenuous measures. My med-alert bracelet would read
"No, really -- don't bother on
No life support, no blood pressure
medications, no defibrillators or emergency heart surgery should I one
day find myself clutching my chest. None of it. Roll the dice
and accept the consequences without regret. Walk into and beyond
the white light, and don't look back.
Not willing myself to an early death --
certainly not! -- but instead, making a decision in relative health, to
spare myself those last years when medical science can only preserve
life, but not the quality of it.
Think about it: what better way to
reduce your footprint on this earth, than simply ceasing to be?
No more worrying about the environmental
impact of that beef you had for dinner. No fussing over the awful
taste of soy milk and longing for the stuff that comes from cows.
No more being haunted by the faint hum of the air conditioner on a
sleepless summer night. No "paper or plastic?"
conundrums, or wondering if that ethanol-spiked 89 octane you put in the
Prius was REALLY taking food off the table of a family in China.
No more hauling around your stainless steel
coffee cup, or sidestepping the issue of whether the coffee beans you put
in your grinder couldn't really be replaced with something grown closer
Organically grown? Doesn't mean a
thing to a corpse.
Ashes to ashes, and all that.
As I trudged up the side of a 100 foot sand
dune, sinking back one step for every two I took, I began to get excited
by all this. I mean, this was a breakthrough! One
person, by himself, wasn't going to change the world this way -- but
thousands -- no, millions! -- well, we could ALL take the pledge to go
away without a whimper when our times came. Each of us might shave
5, maybe 10 years off of our time on the planet, and with it, effect a
proportional reduction in our environmental impact.
This was frickin' brilliant, I panted, as I
crested the tallest dune and stared into the sun.
I sat down in the sand and watched five
different varieties of beetle trace tracks across the sand -- anyone who
expired here would certainly release his inner skeleton! While the
beetles kept careful notes in the sand, I began to ponder out loud
all the things that needed to be done. We'd need to
have plastic wrist bands -- black, of course. Public service
announcements -- I'm thinking Christopher Walken or Anthony Hopkins as
our spokesperson. Hire a writer -- a ghost writer, if you will --
to create a best-selling self-improvement book: "How to save
the Earth by not even trying!" Guest appearances on
Oprah AND the Daily Show. Product placement in Starbucks. And
viral marketing over Facebook.
Bumper stickers, of course. But we'd
be very selective about who could buy them, and we wouldn't sell them to
ANYONE whose car didn?t get at least 30 mpg, or carry at least two
I mean, you wouldn't want to risk selling
Oh, there would be detractors. The
pharmaceutical companies would be the loudest. They'd lobby for
publicly subsidized medications for all those who hadn't joined our
crusade, in a vain attempt to make up for lost revenues. Network
news shows would run negative stories about the cult-like nature of the
movement -- after all, us old people are the only ones that still watch
their drivel, and they know it. They can't afford to lose a single
one of us!
The religious right wouldn't know what to do
about us -- I mean, they don't like assisted suicide, but leaving it in
God's hands? What could be wrong about that, other than the fact it
was a bunch of tree huggers who were embracing the idea?
There would be some who tried to stop
us. They'd lobby and cajole and preach against this noble gesture
But we would prevail -- or die trying.
Yes, this would be my crowning
accomplishment as a P2 professional -- the final frontier.
The sun perched on the horizon.
The dunes shifted imperceptibly with the wind. Lone blades of grass
etched compass circles in the sand, marking the direction of the
wind. Though the warmth of the spring day began to drain from the
sky, I felt good. The gloom that had followed me into
the wilderness had wandered away, leaving not even a trace of footprints
in the sand. So I lifted myself up, bid adieu to the beetles,
who nodded quietly in acknowledgement, and returned to their note
taking. I began walking back to the car through the sage. I
watched for rattlesnakes and listened for coyotes, who, in these parts,
typically greet the coming night in a raucous fashion -- but aside from
the wind, all was quiet.
A mile or two later, I reached the car,
happy in the knowledge that I still had a good idea or two left in
me. After all, I might very well be over the hill, but there are
still more hills ahead to climb, and new views waiting at the top of each
Fast forward a couple of days. Far
from the sand dunes, immersed in a different sort of inner wilderness,
and viewing things in a different sort of light -- I'm starting to
realize that maybe the whole "early death as the ultimate P2
strategy" idea still has a few obstacles to overcome.
Like, living, for one. It's sort of
become a habit of mine, and we all know how hard habits are to
And my wife wasn't nearly as enthusiastic
about this idea as I was. Go figure.
The Oprah people told me they weren't
interested, either. I wonder if Ozzie Osbourne has a book
These are not insurmountable obstacles to be
sure. Nothing that a few really good graphics and a celebrity
endorsement or two couldn't help.
I mean, it worked for Al Gore,
Maybe I could talk Michael Moore into making
a documentary about the topic -- after all, we met once, 30 years ago,
and I'm only one connection away from him in my LinkedIn network.
The idea -- that was the main thing. I
mean, everything made by man starts in the same place -- as an
idea. Peter Gabriel even tells us so:
"Looking down on empty streets, all
she can see Are the dreams all
made solid Are the dreams all
All of the buildings, all of those
cars Were once just a
dream In somebody's
As ideas go, maybe this one still needs some
work. But it's a start.
Looking back 15 years or so to the
Engineering Foundation conferences on P2, I can recall walking and
talking with dear friends along the beach in Santa Barbara (and later,
San Diego) or sitting in a hotel lobby, engrossed in late-night
conversations about how technology alone was not going to do the
trick. This seemed a great revelation to a technologist like
myself; it was self-evident, I am sure, to those who considered
technology as a foreign language.
We talked of the need to change consumer
behavior. To get manufacturers interested in pursuing
"green" markets. To get celebrities "on the
bandwagon" for our cause. To think beyond the confines of the
plant gate to how our communities were built.
We talked about the need to make
"green" the world's favorite color.
And looking around me today, I feel like a
modern Rip Van Winkle -- awaking after a long sleep in a world that is
somehow both strange and familiar at the same time. So much of what we
hoped for has come to pass -- I've seen more ads touting the
"green" attributes of various companies and products in the
past year, than in all the years leading up to this time. Gas
prices are high, people are conserving fuel -- for now.
It's like we've rubbed the lantern, set free
the genie, and have been granted our first wish.
We've got two left. What shall we do
And yet, all the while, the glaciers vanish,
the ice caps crumble. The precautionary principle asserts itself in
a world that repeatedly throws caution to the wind.
The second law is enforced vigorously and
without mercy. Things are running down. Time is running
Still, I am an optimist at heart, evidence
to the contrary notwithstanding.
Remember the Pointer Sisters?
"I know we can make it. I know darn
well we can work it out. Oh yes we can, I know we can can Yes we can can,
why can't we? If we wanna get together we can work it out.
Thirty five years later, I actually still
believe that sh*t. It touches a still-clean part of me that hides
deep down, and when it does, I know that they were telling the truth
then. And it's still the truth now.
So. Tell me something good.
Shine a ray of light through this dark cloud and tell me where P2 is
going. Where YOU want it to go. Venture a guess about where
our new frontiers are. What do you see from your sand dune, when
you look towards the horizon?
As Elvis once sang: "Let's
talk about the future, now we've put the past away"
You've seen one of my ideas. I've set
the bar low -- certainly you can do better than THAT!
I mean, old and worn out though I may be,
I've got some fight left in me. Cynical as I've become, I'd still
love to change the world. Wouldn't you?
great gosh a-mighty!
P.s. -- for those patient souls who have
made it all the way to the end, I've chosen some photographs to go along
with the text?
Pictures may be worth a thousand words --
but they're a lot faster.
c/o Pacific NW National Laboratory
3350 Q Ave
Richland, WA 99354
Voice: (509)-372-4946/Fax: (509)