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Lessons from an Embargo: Cuba’s Recycling Expertise January 30, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Environmental Policy.
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Ariel Rodriguez makes new keys from old ones. He shapes them on a 1953 key-copying machine that he bought broken and fixed with parts from a grain mill. He shines them on a key polisher he rebuilt with a washing-machine motor.

Source: archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com

This story from the Florida-Sun Sentinel tells of an expertise untapped. When the decades-long U.S. trade embargo of Cuba finally ends, there may be plenty to learn from the ordinary people of that country. Over the years, as the story indicates, they have become past masters at the art of recycling.

The Cuban government seeks to promote recycling as good for the planet, which is undoubtedly is, and not to draw attention to recycling as grim necessity- which it also is. The Party line, in this case, is like most party lines the world over- a grain of truth represented as a diamond. Nonetheless, the truth is that ordinary Cubans have a whole wealth of expertise that is extremely valuable and takes recycling far beyond the American vision of it as sorting glass from paper. One hopes that somewhere in Cuba historians, reporters, and cultural anthropologists are trying to capture what will certainly be a body of knowledge in future demand, all over the world. Wouldn’t it be a fine irony if at the end of the day, Cuba’s contribution to the family of nations was a Guerrilla recycling manual that helped the rest of the world cut down on its waste and reuse some of its overabundant trash?

Tags: washing-machine | shines | polisher | key-copying | shapes | rebuilt | parts | ones | mill | makes | Keys | grain | Rodriguez | Politics | CUBANS | Cuba

Closing the EPA libraries, or modernizing them? December 4, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Environmental Policy, Libraries.
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WASHINGTON — As the Environmental Protection Agency closes some scientific libraries around the country, EPA scientists and other environmental advocates worry that it might be harder for the public to find out about pollutants spilling into local rivers and streams.

The Boston Globe

With Democrats set to attempt revisions of major environmental policies, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided that now would be a good time to modernize some of its libraries- by closing them. The EPA has closed branches of its regional libraries in Dallas, Chicago, and Kansas City, Mo., but claims that the move will save the agency money, and that scientists and citizens will be able to access the information during the interim on the agency’s web site and through interlibrary loans. Francesca Gifo, director of scientific integrity at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says .. we don’t see the digitization. We just see the libraries closing.”

Other regional branches will remain open, although some will operate with reduced hours. It is especially difficult to understand the rationale of this latter move, since no modernization impetus explains it adequately. A cutback is a cutback, and EPA has either chosen a particularly inappropriate moment, or mild obstruction during a period of critical policy debate is on the agenda. Let us hope that this is just political clumsiness, rather than something more sinister.

Tags: irks | worry | Spilling | SCIENTISTS | SCIENTIFIC | Rivers | POLLUTANTS | libraries | harder | digitized | Closes | backers | advocates | Washington | protection | EPA | environmental | agency