“The Story of Change,” Climate Change, and PVC-Free Schools
Two great new pieces of activist reporting came out last week, and both dovetail perfectly with our work to get PVC, the poison plastic (a k a vinyl), out of NYC schools. Check them out!
“Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” a feature article in Rolling Stone by Bill McKibben, lays out three numbers that may well define the future of our planet: how much warmer we can “safely” allow the climate to get; how much carbon we can burn without going over; and how much carbon is currently planning to be burned by the oil and gas industry. (Hint: that last one is about five times larger than the second one.)
McKibben’s frightening conclusion is that unless the international community (i.e. we) demands that Exxon, Chesapeake, and the other oil, gas, and coal giants keep about 80% of their current reserves in the ground, unused, uncontrollable climate destabilization is inevitable. Problem is, that would mean about $20 trillion in losses for these companies, giving them roughly unlimited financial (if not human) incentive to block legislation forcing them to do it.
In short, we have our work cut out for us. Enter the latest installment from Story of Stuff Project:
The animated web-comic “The Story of Change” by Annie Leonard and her team takes viewers through a six-and-a-half minute tour of how citizens can bring about the environmentally sustainable, people-centered, non-toxic, socially equitable economy that we want.
Her prescription? [Big idea] + [people] + [action] = CHANGE. It’s a convincing argument, and one that we’ll need to take to heart if we’re going to keep the fossil fuel industry’s equation from stealing the future.
So what’s the connection to PVC-free schools for New York City?
First, it can save energy.
The vinyl 3-ring binders, floor tiles, and examination gloves found throughout the NYC school system don’t just release harmful toxins into the air. They also take enormous amounts of energy to produce. PVC plastic is made up of about 40% chlorine, and chlorine production is one of the most energy intensive (not to mention dangerous) industrial processes in the world. According to Joe Thornton, PhD, of the Healthy Building Network, “Chlorine production for PVC consumes an estimated 47 billion kilowatt hours per year — equivalent to the annual total output of eight medium-sized nuclear power plants.”
By spending its multi-million dollar purchasing budget on safer, cost-effective alternatives to PVC, the NYC school system can better protect its students, teachers, and staff, and help drive producers away from this costly, energy-intensive material.
Second, we’re using a big idea, building people power, and taking action!
We’re bringing together parents, teachers, students, doctors, environmental justice activists, labor unions, and more to stand behind a clear message: PVC is the wrong choice for NYC school supplies and construction materials. Click here to join the effort!