#1 - Locally Grown Organic Food
Making affordable, locally and regionally-grown organic food available to all, rich, middle-income and poor, must become a top priority for city and county governments across the nation. Making the transition to organic food and farming stimulates the local economy, improves public health, sequesters enormous amount of climate destabilizing greenhouse gases, and protects the environment. As global warming intensifies, scientists warn that a continuation of current "business as usual" practices will lead to a catastrophic 8.6 degree Fahrenheit temperature rise by 2100. Our only hope is to make energy-efficient and climate-stabilizing organic food and farming the norm rather than just the green alternative.
Learn more and take action at OCA's Breaking the Chains page.
#2 - Local Currencies and Community Banks
Unregulated Wall Street gambling crashed the economy, prompting Bush and Obama to hand over $14 trillion to our so-called "Too Big to Fail" banksters! Meanwhile, almost nothing has been done to stop the avalanche of foreclosures and job losses. The US economic system seems diabolically designed to suck money out of local economies and ordinary working people. We can reverse this trend by pulling our money out of Wall Street and the big banks, and instead investing in local currencies, credit unions, and community banks.
Learn more and take action at OCA's Buy Local, Organic & Fair Made campaign page.
#3 - Health Care Access, Including Natural and Integrative Medicine
The health care debate has occurred mainly at the federal level, and, with 6,000 corporate lobbyists and nearly a billion dollars being spent by the insurance industry to influence the outcome, public support for universal, single-payer health care is likely to lose out to a plan that would force each of us to buy expensive, inadequate health insurance. OCA is calling on the public to boycott the "profit-at any-cost" medical insurance industry and support local alternatives like state-level single payer health care coverage, local universal health care, and health care providers who have opted out of the insurance industry. States and localities need to be pressed to protect the right to practice - and access - midwifery, naturopathy, and alternative integrative medicine.
Learn more and take action at OCA's Health Resource and Action Center.
#4 - Organic, Fair Trade & Union Made Procurement
Many government contracts for goods and services go to sweatshops rather than the organic, fair trade and union businesses we should be supporting. We can turn this around by adopting "sweatfree" purchasing policies to stop our local tax dollars from subsidizing sweatshops and abusive child labor. There are many national campaigns to increase local support for organic, fair trade and union business. These include Fair Trade Towns, Farm to School programs, hospital contracts for organic food, food stamp access at organic food stores and farmers markets, and school district and university procurement policies.
Learn more and take action at OCA's Clothes for a Change campaign page.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost
The problem of waste in this country is in part a federal issue - it was the EPA, after all, that decided it was okay to spread toxic sewage sludge on farmland. More false solutions that encourage waste production instead of reduction are coming at us from the federal government all the time. Any positive action to encourage waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting is likely to come at the local level. Several cities have taken positive actions in the direction of zero waste, but the devil is in the details.
Take sewage sludge as an example. First it was dumped in the oceans, now it is spread on farmland, and current plans include turning it into an energy source, but the real problem isn't what to do with toxic sewage sludge, it's the fact that we're accumulating so much of it. Household sewage, contaminated as it is with chemical cosmetics, toxic household cleaners and any number of pharmaceutical drugs, isn't pristine, but, to paraphrase Bob Hope, it's not the shit, it's what we've done to it. After the toilet is flushed, household waste is combined with all manner of industrial waste - including factory farms' fertilizer and animal waste runoff. One problem with this is the water usage. At a certain point, localities must come to the realization that using clean water to flush away dirty things just doesn't make sense. Another problem is that it's wasteful to waste our waste. Human waste could be safely composted and used to enhance the carbon sequestration of land that's not being used for food production (organic standards for compost don't allow human waste).
Here are some local initiatives that would help your hometown reduce, reuse, recycle and compost:
1. MN, WA & OR: "Pay as you throw" trash taxes.
Reduce Energy Use & Build a Renewable Energy Infrastructure
The technology and resources are currently available to make massive cuts in energy consumption by increasing energy efficiency and building the renewable energy infrastructure we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. This isn't likely to happen as long as the federal government continues to give $21 billion each year in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
Nevertheless, much can be done at the local level. The energy consumption of buildings can be cut up to 80 percent through super-insulation, which includes using insulating materials made from low-put crops like industrial hemp, the installation of geothermal heating and cooling. Diesel cars can be retrofitted to run on waste vegetable oil. Public transportation can be expanded until every city is connected via high-speed rail. Every road can have a trolley car and a bike lane. Every city can provide bike parking and easily accessible rental bikes. Once the energy efficiencies are achieved we could replace coal with wind and solar power. Then technologies like the electric car could be exploited while still reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The technology is there, the resources are there, but the loans to make these investments aren't being made available. That's where governments, especially state and local governments that regulate public utilities, come in. They need to help structure long-term loans that allow investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructures to be paid back with the value of the energy conserved.
Tell the Toxic Industrial Food Producers to Take a Hike
The perspective of people who say, "Not in my back yard," gets a bad rap. The NIMBY crowd should be proud. For one thing, NIMBY is what's kept new nuclear power plants from being built in this country for a generation. NIMBY is also what's kept dangerous liquefied natural gas ports from being built in coastal waters.
In a better light, NIMBY is more accurately described as NIABY - not in anyone's back yard! Let's think globally and act locally to tell the toxic industrial food producers to take a hike. No more factory farms, genetically modified crops, toxins or pollution - whether pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or sludge - in anyone's back yard!
Implement the Precautionary Principle
Organic standards are a great example at the federal level of the precautionary principle in action. If this country valued human health and environmental protection, all US food would be organic, and industrial food production, with its pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, cloning and factory farms, would never be allowed because it has never been proven safe - and it never could be proven safe.
While the precautionary principle has begun to be applied in Europe through the REACH legislation, it has never been put to use in the US at the federal level. (The epidemic of diet-related diseases in this country is proof that the precautionary principle hasn't been applied.)
At the local level, the precautionary principle could be used in decisions on zoning and land-use to make sure that risks to human health and the environment are fully explored.
Eliminate Corporate Personhood and Protect Democracy
Perhaps the greatest flaw in US legal reasoning is the idea that corporations have the rights of persons under the law. It just doesn't make sense to give what is essentially a legal fiction the rights of a human being, when, unlike a real person, a corporation won't die of natural causes and can't be put in jail. Unfortunately for democracy, the Supreme Court has, again and again, upheld the ruse that corporations are people, too. This has been essential to preventing true campaign finance reform from ever being discussed, and, on a daily basis, it's the way the individuals who have become rich selling things that kill other people avoid justice.
However, a few localities have successfully changed their laws to eliminate corporate personhood and protect democracy. This has empowered them to go after polluters like the sludge industry and factory farms.
1. Shapleigh, ME: Rights-Based Ordinance helps town fight Nestle's water mining.
2. Packer Township, PA: Law extinguishes corporate rights and bans corporations from using toxic sewage sludge as "fertilizer" or for "mining reclamation."
Make Peace At Home
The war against Iraq (and Afghanistan and people suspected of terrorism anywhere in the world), an ever-more-expensive war estimated to cost more than three trillion dollars, isn't going to end until Congress stops appropriating funds for it (and drastically cuts the defense budget to defense size), but there are actions for peace that state and local governments can take. One is to bring home the National Guard (it's controlled by the states). Another is to join the Cities for Peace by passing a local resolution.