June 21, 2010 | General

Editorial: Priorities And Permanence

BioCycle June 2010, Vol. 51, No. 6, p. 4
Nora Goldstein

From an environmental and sustainability perspective, so many emotions are evoked by the ongoing oil gush in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing is as heart-wrenching as seeing a pelican that looks like it has been dipped in chocolate, or listening to a marine biologist or local fisherman talk about the devastation to the ecosystems and the livelihoods of so many people.
But perhaps one of the strongest emotions is the feeling of helplessness brought on by watching CNN’s live cam shot of the oil just gushing out of the floor of the ocean. Or listening to news reports that no one is really sure how to fix this problem and that the environmental and economic devastation won’t just take years, but likely decades to repair. Impending damage from climate change isn’t in our face on a daily basis. The crisis in the Gulf is with us 24/7.
Sometimes feelings of helplessness can lead to a type of paralysis – a sense that there isn’t anything we can do to change the situation so why bother to try. At BioCycle, we are fortunate that Jerry Goldstein, our founder and mentor, had little patience for that mindset. Surrender was not in his vocabulary. Jerry recognized very early on that people can live in harmony with nature as long as we recycle and restore the natural resources needed to support humans and ecosystems. He spent his entire career writing and speaking (and training us) regarding solutions that have only recently begun to be recognized (and respected) as to how we have to “do business” in the 21st century if we are going to be around to thrive in the 22nd and beyond. Jerry oozed optimism that change is possible, that persistence pays.
While working on the cover for this issue – photos of the new Wilmington Organics Recycling Center (WORC) in Delaware, a composting facility with capacity to handle more than 550 tons/day of food waste and amendments – yet another strong emotion hit. Facilities like WORC are not just a feel-good alternative or a passing fancy as we tip our hat to sustainability. They are here to stay. They are a permanent shift in how we must manage our wastes to restore our resources.
The Peninsula Compost Group’s first step in developing WORC was to talk to the site’s neighbors, to listen and learn about what they could not just tolerate but actively support. A Community Benefits Agreement was worked out, a 24-hour hotline set up, and jobs to neighborhood residents were created. We hope that next steps expand on the community benefits that compost provides, including soil restoration and fertilization, storm water management and more (e.g., local energy generation if a digester could be added).
Key to combating helplessness is having “assurance of permanence” – of knowing that a change in elected officials or a lobbying maneuver won’t pull the rug out from under this type of investment in our future. This requires us – as individuals, communities and countries – to know our priorities, respect our limits of messing with Mother Nature and, most importantly, to assure permanence in sustainable solutions.

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