A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 JANUARY 1996


By Lois Gibbs and the Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste
Published in 1995 by South End Press (Boston, MA). ISBN 0-89608-526-0, Softback, U.S. $20, 361 pages, Index.

If you can only get one book on dioxin, this is the one to get. This is the one that makes it clear and tells it as it is. This is the one that not only gives us the science, but gives us the politics that tried to smother the science. It not only tells us that we have too much dioxin in our food, in our bodies and in our children, but tells us what we’ve got to do to get it out. This is the one that’s been there - been in Love Canal, been with the sick children and been with the politicians who tried to cover their sickness up. It reports on Columbus, Ohio, with a trash incinerator that put out more dioxin each year than the whole of Germany, while Ohio state officials said that their “scientific studies” showed that this incinerator did not pose a health threat.

This book makes the science clear and easy to understand without sacrificing scientific accuracy. Simple explanations based upon the science presented in the 2000 pages of the US EPA draft reassessment (Sept. 1994) are backed up with very clear tables summarizing the data. It tells us what dioxin is; where it comes from; how we are exposed to it; what health effects it causes and why it is such an insidious threat to our children. The book also clearly describes the long history of the effort to unscramble the truth about dioxin and the obfuscation of the chemical companies and some of their friends in government. Most importantly, this book gives citizens guidance on the kind of political strategies that are going to be necessary to remove the dioxin threat from our children’s future.

In the preface we learn that, “You don’t have to live next to Love Canal in New York or Mount Dioxin in Pensacola, Florida, to suffer the effects of dioxin. The average boy, girl, woman or man in the United States has enough in his or her body to damage his or her health...and the only way we can save our families from further exposure is to eliminate the source of dioxin in everyone’s backyard.” Up to this point, the people who have carried the burden of the dioxin battle have been the obvious victims: the Vietnam Vets exposed to Agent Orange; the workers exposed in industrial accidents; the citizens who have lived near incinerators and hazardous waste sites and the citizens who have campaigned to keep incinerators and landfills out of their communities. Now that it is clear that we are all victims of dioxin exposure, we all have to share the burden of getting dioxin out of our lives.

“We can’t shut down the sources of dioxin without finding the courage to change the way government works. To begin this process of change, we have to create a national debate, community by community, on the nature of our government and our society. We have to explore how people became powerless as the corporations became powerful. We have to discuss why our government protects the right to pollute more than it protects our heath. We have to figure out how to speak honestly and act collectively to rebuild our democracy.” - Lois Gibbs

“On April 28, 1995, forty people gathered in Arlington, Virginia, for the CCHW roundtable on dioxin...to design a national grass-roots campaign to stop dioxin exposure” which resulted in the Campaign to Stop Dioxin Exposure. The goal of our campaign is a sustainable society in which there is no dioxin in our food or breast milk because there is no dioxin formation, discharge, or exposure.” Note: We wish to make a correction to a reference to Waste Not on page 238. It should read “280 proposals for municipal solid waste incinerators (not medical waste incinerators) have been defeated since 1985.” (PC)


by David C. Korten
A copublication of Kumarian Press, Inc. and Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Published 1995. ISBN 1-887208-00-3. Hardback copy, U.S. $29.95, 374 pages, Index.

When, about a year ago, I was telling friends, colleagues and community groups that they had to read The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken (1993), because it was the best book written since Small is Beautiful (E.F. Schumacher, 1973), I had no idea that a few months later I would be saying the same thing about another book. When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten is a “must read” for any one who feels that most economists are a disaster for the future of the planet, but need chapter and verse to prove it. Actually, all three books are attractive to me because the authors write about economics “as if people mattered” (the subtitle of Schumacher’s book). In Korten’s book he makes abundantly clear that economic institutions like the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), and trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT, as well as most multinational corporations, represent a huge threat to the global environment and to the well-being of the vast majority of the human inhabitants of our planet.

What makes Korten’s book so persuasive is that it is understandable, despite the lofty economic principles discussed; and his academic credentials are impeccable. Once a true believer, Korten sums up his evolution this way: “As an MBA student, I believed that global corporations might offer an answer to the problems of poverty and human conflict. I have since concluded, however, that the systemic forces nurturing the growth and dominance of global corporations are at the heart of the current human dilemma” (pg 8). “Development as we understood it thirty years ago, and as it is to this day vigorously promoted by...most of the world’s powerful economic institutions, isn’t working for the majority of humanity. And the roots of the problem are not found among the poor of the ‘undeveloped’ world. They are found in the countries that set global standards for wasteful extravagance and dominate the global policies that are leading our world to social and ecological self-destruction” (pg 7).

Korten describes the thesis of his book as follows, “...we are experiencing accelerating social and environmental disintegration in nearly every country in the world...these problems stem in part from a five fold increase in economic output since 1950 that has pushed human demands on the ecosystem beyond what the planet is capable of sustaining. The continued quest for economic growth as the organizing principle of public policy...is intensifying the competition for resources between rich and poor - a competition that the poor invariably lose...An active propaganda machinery controlled by the world’s largest corporations constantly reassures us that consumerism is the path to happiness, governmental constraint of market excess is the cause of our distress, and economic globalization is both a historical inevitability and a boon to the human species...These forces have transformed once beneficial corporations and financial institutions into instruments of a market tyranny that is extending its reach across the planet like a cancer, colonizing ever more of the planet’s living spaces, destroying livelihoods, displacing people, rendering democratic institutions impotent, and feeding on life in an insatiable quest for money...”

But in addition to analyzing this cancer, Korten offers a cure. He outlines a citizens’ agenda, which will help to get “corporations out of politics” and create “localized economies that empower communities within a system of global cooperation” (pg 13). In short, a “globalized economic system has an inherent bias in favor of the large, the global, the competitive, the resource-extractive, and the short-term. Our challenge is to create a global system that is biased toward the small, the local, the cooperative, the resource conserving, and the long-term - one that empowers people to create a good living in balance with nature” (pg. 270). (PC)


by Wayne Roberts & Susan Brandum
Published 1995 by Get A Life Publishing House (Toronto, Canada). Tel: 416-669-6070.
ISBN 0-9697755-1-2. Softback, $19.95 Canadian. 344 pages.

Get a Life! by Wayne Roberts and Susan Brandum begins where David Korten leaves off. In a very witty and up-beat style they identify the many practical ways that individuals and communities in both Canada and the U.S. are putting the principles of Korten's “citizens’ agenda” into action. They have pulled together “more than 101 ready-to-go-projects” from their trip “along the underground railway of the North American Free Trade Agreement” (p 3). They have written about “local heroes, self-starters, bootstrap entrepreneurs, inventors, community organizers, greens, champions...” and many others, and called it “prophet-sharing” (pg 3)! They make no bones about their “prophets” wanting to make money (a living?), but quote Jim Lang (author of Make Your Own Breaks), as noting that “ideas without entrepreneurship are like sound of one hand clapping” (pg 4). And indeed, they share with us many ideas which get both hands clapping, such as: community supported agriculture; finding uses for the alder (a “weed tree”) from Oregon’s forests and thus eliminating the need to kill it off with herbicides; communities providing bikes (collected from police pounds or reuse centers) for free use; energy companies that provide the capital necessary for office buildings to put in energy and water conserving equipment in exchange for a cut in the monies saved from conservation; the “breathing wall” installed by a large Toronto-based insurance agency which uses the power of tropical plants and other creatures to clean and cool indoor air. The authors recommend that pollution “should be called by its right name, which is Managerial and Professional Incompetence” because those who go about reducing it at the front-end (supply management) end up saving their companies a fortune, as well as creating many new jobs in the process. For example, they note that “the installation of reflectors on office ceiling lights cost 1.07 cents per kilowatt hour saved, one-seventh of electricity charges, but generates 23.1 jobs per $1 million spent.”

I believe that is important for all grass roots activists to read this book. It is important to realize that there are positive alternatives to the gloomy projects (and people) we spend so much of our lives fighting. They quote David Orr as saying, “The Environmental movement has made its reputation in the public mind by stopping things...[but now] we have to show how the environmental discussion and ecological intelligence can be woven into communities that work better than industrial-technological communities” (p 12). Summing up, the authors tell us that ”Get a Life! gets personal with economics. It’s about aligning human needs for fulfillment with productive social and natural systems...Get a Life! takes inner resources. Your boss won’t get you a life. Neither will the government...Get a Life! means losing fear. That’s what the debate about jobs and environment boils down to. We don’t need jobs that are a death sentence. Good jobs work with life’s cycles...Effective builders work with natural materials. The new medicine works with the body’s instincts and immune system. Most of the chemicals and drugs we need can be grown...Get a Life! means the more the merrier. We’re not in this alone. Micro-enterprises bespeak a new economic individualism. Helping them bespeaks a new economic support system. If we stick together, we can combine economic prosperity with social justice” (pp 315-316).

WASTE NOT # 356. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US50; Overseas $70.

Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, New York 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.