I thought it appropriate to end the year with a holiday message, one that demonstrates the complexities of eco-economy. It begins with a conversation between God and St. Francis of Assisi.
God: "You know all about gardens and nature. What's going on down there in the civilized world? What happened to the dandelions, violets and thistles I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any kind of soil, withstand drought, attract butterflies, bees and songbirds. Now all I see are green rectangles."
Francis: "Lord, it's the tribes that settled there. Suburbanites. They started calling flowers weeds and replaced them with grass."
God answers: "Grass? It's so boring. Do they really want it growing there?" "Apparently so," says Francis. "They go to great pains to keep it green. They fertilize and poison other plants that crop up in the lawn."
God says: "So by summer they have acres of tall grass." Francis replies: "Not exactly. As soon as it grows they cut it, sometimes twice a week."
"Do they then bale it, like hay?" God asks. "Well, no," says Francis. "Most of them rake it up and put it in bags."
"In bags? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?" "No, Lord, they throw it away."
"Let me get this straight," God says. "They fertilize the grass so it will grow. When it does, they cut it and pay to throw it away."
"Right," says Francis.
"Well, they must be glad when summer comes and we turn up the heat. It must save them work." Francis says, "Not really. They drag out hoses and pay money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it."
The Lord shakes his head. "At least they kept some of the trees. The trees grow leaves in the spring for beauty, shade in the summer, and then in the autumn they fall to the ground for a blanket to keep moisture in the soil. As the leaves fall, they form compost. A natural circle of life."
"Have a seat, Lord," says Francis. "The suburbanites have made a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them and pay to have them hauled away."
The Lord asks: "Then how do they protect the soil?"
"Well," says Francis, "after throwing away the leaves, they buy mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of leaves."
"And where does the mulch come from?"
"They cut down trees to make the mulch."
To which God replies: "Did I really start all this?"
Most of you appreciate the irony and humor. To me, this conversation demonstrates that we, mere mortals, have our priorities mixed up. We are not focused on developing this eco-economy. Our industry works with a technology that is anti eco-economy and does not embrace the kind of environment that we all want and need. Can we change it? You bet. But, we must, along with efficiency, practicality and cost, develop and use pressure sensitive adhesives that are more friendly and support easily managed environmental practices.
A recent issue of The New York Times had a daunting story about the causes and effects of global warming and the shrinking arctic ice cap. This is serious stuff. Forget about why, just imagine what will occur in 2050 and beyond: displacement of people, increased water table, extreme weather changes, and more.
The message for all of us, whether global warming, the use of PSAs in labeling, or mulching and fertilizing, is that we are responsible for creating the dynamics that change our environment. Remember: poison, cut, water, rake, throw. We can, and must, make changes in our industry and habits.
Have a wonderful holiday season, and make a commitment in 2006 to do your part to create an eco-economy.
Calvin Frost is chairman of Channeled Resources Group (CRG), headquartered in Chicago. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.