I almost didn’t pick up this book because from the title, I assumed it was going to be eco-bashing, saying green was destroying the economy or something. Instead, author Heather Rogers is saying that green efforts in the US are being hampered or derailed by our current economic system.
For instance, she details how difficult it is for small and medium farms to stay viable. Taxes and worker’s compensation fees are burdensome for these small farms. Property taxes on farms are often charged a commercial rate. While consumer awareness about organic farming is growing, the bureaucracy for small farmers to meet organic standards is tedious and expensive.
Some farmers go way above and beyond organic standards. Small and medium farms can’t usually meet demands of grocery chains, who prefer to buy in bulk. Therefore, chains buy much organic food from developing nations. There, inspections are visual-only, if at all, and farmers are allowed to clear-cut land for farms and still be labeled organic. If farms are being clear-cut, the crops may be organic, but it would be better for the ecosystem if the land was still forested. Rogers says what people picture in their heads when they are buying organic–the small farmer doing the right thing–may not be what they are actually supporting with their purchases.
Rogers also investigates biofuels and finds that countries such as Indonesia, who are creating biofuel out of palm oil, continue to clearcut forests. And the biofuel isn’t that “clean”–one ton of palm oil can generate thirty-three tons of carbon dioxide emissions–ten times more than petroleum.
The chapter on eco-architecture is encouraging, though most of the success stories are in Europe. Perhaps some lessons can be drawn here. As an owner of a yurt, I wish communities would start allowing them as semi-permanent housing. In our experience, they are just as durable as trailers, and more affordable.