In an extraordinary moment of candor last week, Alan Greenspan told a Congressional committee that he no longer believes that the financial system works by self-regulation and that at times the system fails by not purging itself of its own excesses. The testimony was remarkable because Greenspan has long been the living embodiment of so-called "free market capitalism." His pronouncement is nothing less than a complete 180-turn and shows what can happen when reality violently collides with ideology.
In the environmental movement we could use many more Greenspans--that is, leaders who choose to disavow their own long-held views in favor of ones that benefit the planet. Here's three Greenpeace would like to see.
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Homeland Security Department -- In 2006 Congress passed a temporary law to set minimum-security standards for U.S. chemical plants. Unfortunately it was ghost written by industry lobbyists and it actually prohibits the government from requiring the most ironclad security measures. It also expires on October 4, 2009 which will give Congress little time in 2009 to pass any law, let alone one that protects us.
Cities that surround chemical plants have long been recognized as one of the nation's most vulnerable populations to terrorism and catastrophic accidents. The Department of Homeland Security has identified 3,400 chemical plants that if attacked would each put neighboring communities of 1,000 or more at risk. Secretary Chertoff can correct the wrong by actively working to pass the "Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008" (H.R. 5577), a bill that addresses the wrongs of the temporary law. Thus far, he's not moved as fast as we'd like on a problem that puts us all at risk.
Thomas Falk, CEO of Kimberly-Clark Corporation -- Mr. Falk has resisted Greenpeace's principled demands that his flagship brand Kleenex must not be made virgin fiber sourced from old growth forest and that the tissues should have recycled content. That's right. Kleenex contains no recycled fabric at all.
Mr. Falk can follow Mr. Greenspan's example and disavow his irresponsible positions. Alternatives already exist. In fact, ancient forest friendly tissue products are already being sold in stores across North America. Kleenex can and should immediately stop purchasing virgin fiber from endangered forests; drastically increase the amount of recycled fiber that they use for all their tissue products including Kleenex brand toilet paper, facial tissue and napkins; and only buy virgin fiber from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) eco-certified forests. The FSC is the only guarantee that forests are managed sustainably.
Sen. James Inhofe -- This Oklahoma senator has called catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." To flip his position on climate change and cease to be a roadblock to solutions would make Inhofe's switch comparable to Greenspan's. Sen. Inhofe could demonstrate his new wisdom by championing the solutions scientists tell us we need to stop global warming, namely increasing our energy efficiency, capping and then reducing greenhouse gases, and investing in renewable resources like wind and solar. Sen. Inhofe can use the second edition of the Energy [R]evolution scenario, updated with the latest economic, technical, and population data, to make his case. In it, Greenpeace shows how the world can be free of fossil fuel use by 2090.