Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Libya Proves Need for Worldwide Prohibition of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Now that the Libyan rebels are in Tripoli the news stories have turned to worries about chemical weapons, and comparisons of Moammar Qaddafi to Saddam Hussein. CBS News reported today that:
The BBC reports that Qaddafi may have around 10 tons of mustard gas, though the storage site will likely have been monitored and perhaps already secured by Western special forces.

Although Qaddafi's nuclear program was shut down in 2006, a February 2011 Wall Street Journal article indicated that Qaddafi still possesses caches of mustard gas and other chemical weapons, as well as a stockpile of Scud B missiles and 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake.

That same month, Michael Luhan, spokesperson for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told the Associated Press that Libya had destroyed "nearly 13.5 metric tons" of its mustard gas in 2010, representing just over half of its stockpile.
So we can’t be excited by the Libyan people’s efforts to throw off a tyrant of 41 years; instead we need to be afraid of what might happen to those weapons?

"In particular, we must ensure that (Moammar) Gadhafi's stockpiles of advanced weapons, chemical weapons and explosives don't fall into the wrong hands," said Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in a press statement.
How many dictators did the US support over the years for fear of exactly this? We chose stability over democracy all over the globe. Today, as an example, we face the nightmare of Pakistan falling apart and Islamic terrorists taking possession of nuclear bombs.

This is a clear argument for the elimination worldwide of all weapons of mass destruction. Most countries of the world are signatories to three disarmament agreements, dealing with biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. All three conventions call for the complete destruction of weapons in the three categories.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention the U.S. and Russia are supposed to completely destroy all their chemical weapons stock by spring of next year. However, there has been some delays (due to the complexity of the task) and now Russia says it will take at least until 2015 and the U.S. says the job won’t be finished until 2021.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says on its website that 44,131, or 61.99%, of the world's declared stockpile of 71,194 metric tonnes of chemical agent have been destroyed so far.

Most people seem to think that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty only requires that non-nuclear nations, like Iran, refrain from developing nuclear technology. That is not accurate. The other main “pillar” of the treaty requires nuclear nations, like the U.S., completely eliminate their nuclear weapons. Nonproliferation means reducing the number of nuclear weapons to zero.

Libya has made me realize that only in a world free from weapons of mass destruction can we unreservedly cheer on a revolution to overthrow a tyrant.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ray Anderson, Pioneer in Sustainable Industrial Capitalism

Ray Anderson proved that industrial capitalism and environmentalism can be compatible. Mr. Anderson founded Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile. In 1994 he was asked to give his company’s salespeople some talking points about Interface’s approach to the environment. So he started reading about environmental issues, and thinking about them. While reading Paul Hawken’s “The Ecology of Commerce,” he had what he described as a “conversion experience.”

In a subsequent book (Mid-Course Correction) Mr. Anderson wrote, “My company’s technologies and those of every other company I know of anywhere, in their present forms, are plundering the earth…I stand convicted by me, myself, alone, and not by anyone else, as a plunderer of the earth. But no, not by our civilization’s definition; by our civilization’s definition I am a captain of industry. In the eyes of many people I’m a kind of modern-day hero, an entrepreneur who founded a company that provides over 7,000 people with jobs.”

Mr. Anderson made it his mission to turn Interface into the first truly sustainable enterprise; one that takes nothing out of the earth that cannot be recycled or quickly regenerated, and one that does no harm to the biosphere through pollution or waste. He envisioned the company becoming a “restorative enterprise” that would improve the Earth as it does business.

Mr. Anderson died last week at the age of 77. The New York Times obituary credited Mr. Anderson with being “one of the nation’s most effective corporate advocates for environmental sustainability.” One of the reasons he was so effective was he proved that being environmentally responsible can be profitable:
“What started out as the right thing to do quickly became the smart thing,” he told a business group in Toronto in 2005. “Cost savings from eliminating waste alone have been $262 million.”

Efforts he began have so far reduced the so-called carbon footprint of the company’s 26 factories by about half, said the current chief executive, Dan Hendrix.

“When he first came up with this idea, I have to admit I thought he’d gone around the bend,” Mr. Hendrix said Wednesday. “But he was right.”

Ralph Nader, who became friendly with Mr. Anderson after hearing one of his speeches several years ago, called him “the greatest educator of his peers in industry, and the most knowledgeable motivator, by example and vision, for the environmental movement.”
I discussed Mr. Anderson’s work in an earlier blog post, “Imagine No Possessions”, and wrote a couple of columns about his book “Mid-Course Correction” in 2008 in the Highlands’ Newspaper: “Mid-Course Correction” and “Loops are Better than Straight Lines.”

Thank you for your contributions, Mr. Anderson.