Thursday, October 25, 2007

One Bear's Thoughts on Sustainable Economics

You dont' know me from Adam, but - if you don't mind - I'm going to give you an assignment.

If you've taken the time to stop and read this blog, I'm certain that you realize the importance of shifting the manufacturing industry in Michigan toward a more sustainable future. We cannot survive - neither as a community, a state, or a species - if we continue business as usual.

Working in a manufacturing environment, I've become painfully aware of the jobs losses that are occurring around me. It hurts to watch them go. This cannot continue, families are in trouble throughout this state. I am convinced that the "green" economy is the solution to this problem, we have every indication that it will lead to innovation and job creation.

I am also strongly convinced that as business people we must fight not only for environmental protection and justice for individuals, but also merge these two values to create a viable, sustainable economic future for Michigan families. The right to clean water, clean air and a good paying job must be had by all.

For decades, Michigan has been a manufacturing powerhouse. It is time to cast off the negativity that surrounds our economic forecasts and boldly forge ahead into the green economy. To reach this end, we need elected officials to pursue this line of thinking as well. As business folk, we must drive legislation that will benefit green business.

First, we must immediately strengthen net-metering laws in Michigan. Net metering allows individuals and companies to generate their own electricity and sell it to their utility company through the existing grid. Stronger net-metering legislation will encourage economic growth through manufacturing, construction and installation of solar and wind generators. This is no longer in dispute. Anyone who tells you that coal or nuclear is cheaper than solar and wind is an outright liar or is working in public relations for a coal company. Michigan can lead the nation in wind generation because of the enormous amount of wind energy generated by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. We can create jobs immediately by forming business coalitions to invest in wind power development. Guess what, there is currently legislation pending in committee to strengthen net metering laws.

Second, stronger toxics legislation is immediately necessary. No company or individual has the right to threaten the health of the Great Lakes by being allowed to dump toxins directly into them. BP and US Steel are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic dumping in these parts. Fortunately we have philanthropists in West Michigan that have provided a new children's cancer hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Isn't that wonderful!? Yes it is, but it also makes me want to puke to know that so many kids in my community are dying of cancer that we need a major medical facility to deal with the enormous numbers. Cancer is big business in Grand Rapids. The health of our children is a direct reflection of past business practices in West Michigan. We have only ourselves to blame for this.

Third, taxes. There simply must be greater incentives for businesses to pursue green goals. But hear me out, I'm not considering tax breaks for business, I'm postulating a Pollution Tax. For every gram of mercury released, for every cubic meter of carbon dioxide emitted, for every liter of water poisoned, business should pay. We could stop deadly cancers in a generation if we tax the crap out of the guys who are releasing the poisons into the air and water. We can protect the fresh water supply of this entire continent by levying a tax on those who threaten it, right here in Michgan.

There's your assignment. Get it on it. I want to see results by the end of next week.

Thank you for your time.


The Bear

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