Mark Worthing – http://www.martlet.ca
The university of Arizona is currently conducting investigations of the funding of its professors by the controversial Heartland Institute. UVic has yet to begin investigations of similar funding to one of its own professors.
The Heartland Institute is an industry-lobbyist think tank focused on “free-market solutions to social and economic problems.” Amongst other things, the institute claims human actions are unlikely causes of global warming and climate change and suggests rising temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations may be beneficial to humans, plants and wildlife.
Three Canadian university professors were identified as being on the Chicago-based Heartland Institute payroll in documents released through Greenpeace U.S.A.’s PolluterWatch project. Two of the professors have confirmed receiving funding from the Heartland Institute — Madhav Khandekar, a retired Environment Canada Meteorologist, and Mitch Taylor, a Polar Bear researcher at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Tom Harris, previous Carleton University Professor associated with the University of Calgary and past Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project is listed as a non-paid advisor.
The third paid professor is UVic’s Susan Crockford, a sessional adjunct professor in Archaeozoology in the Pacific Rim with research focuses on the domestication and breed development, evolutionary theory and the evolution and history of the domestic dog.
“It is regrettable that anyone affiliated with the University of Victoria participated in the activities of an organization like the Heartland Institute,” says Dr. Thomas F. Pederson, Executive Director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) at UVic. “The University prides itself on being an institution of higher learning that deals with facts and that is nowhere more true than in the field of science. Those who deny that the planet is warming as a direct result of human activity are denying facts.”
Leaked documents stated that Crockford has been the recipient of $750 per month from the Heartland Institute. The Institute has a slew of contributing donors, such as ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, Altria, Reynolds American Inc, GlaxoSmitheKline Pfizer, and the Koch Industries family empire of for-profit and not-for-profit foundations (Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the U.S. with $98 billion in revenue annually, built on oil refinery investments).
“The Heartland Institute is one of a collection of so-called think tanks that have been extensively supported by elements within the American fossil fuel industry,” says Pederson. “Their mission is quite clearly not to think, but instead to sow confusion with respect to the global warming issue.”
Crockford would not respond to emails, and refused to speak with the Martlet. The university stated that she is not in contravention of the conflict of interest rules of the universities academic freedom regulations.
“The answer is no, as [Crockford] is not a member of regular faculty,” explains Patty Pitts from UVic Communications. “She is a member as a non-remunerated appointment as an adjunct, a professional zooarcheologist associate.”
Therefore, she does not need to provide the university with financial disclosure statements that would include funding from organizations like the Heartland Institute.
Views on the environment like those espoused by the Heartland Institute are not unheard of at UVic. Other UVic professors such as economics professor Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten, and English department professor Paul MacRae claim that there is, at best, a correlation, but not causation between CO₂ and global temperature increases.
“CO₂ has no relation to temperature rises,” van Kooten told the Martlet last year.
MacRae makes the case that researchers who have skeptical or climate change denying perspectives are afraid to speak out in their fields for fear of losing funding for their research.
MacRae previously wrote an occasional climate column in the Times Colonist and received an editorial submission from UVic’s Dr. Andrew Weaver — who is a UN International Panel on Climate Change contributing researcher — that stated that anyone who denied that the planet was warming was scientifically illiterate. MacRae took it upon himself to seek out a level of climate change literacy that ultimately led him to write and self publish a book on climate change skepticism called “False Alarm: Global Warming — Facts Versus Fears”, and has been delving in to some of the climate computer modelling data sets for a few years.
“What’s happened here is that we have a paradigm that has been extremely successful for climate scientists, because they’re getting the life blood of science: research grants. And they’re also like the rock-stars of the science world right now. And why would you want to mess with that?” says MacRae.
“In other words, if you follow the money, you’ll discover that 99 per cent of the money on climate research is going to people who support the paradigm. And people who don’t support the paradigm get nothing, or relatively small amounts. So if I were a young climate scientist, I sure as hell wouldn’t be questioning the system,” he adds.
MacRae claims that there are several scientists at UVic who are skeptics but are afraid to come out publicly for fear of their careers being jeopardized. He says he even knows someone at PICS who has skeptical inclinations.
“Today we have managed to develop an economy, at least in the developed world, where the average person lives reasonably well. That’s not going to be the case if we take the measures required to actually affect climate. It’s going to be a blood bath, economically. Don’t believe the stuff they tell you about — these are all sustainable green energies and they’re going to make profits,” he continues. “What’s at stake is that we could have an economic problem of major proportions — which is not a good thing because the stronger your economy, the easier and the more money you have to do environmental work. Environmentalism is really expensive. The reason that the environments in the developed world are improving is because we can afford to fix it. If we make ourselves poorer we will have less resources available to do environmental work.”
MacRae would love to be paid for his research, and feels that his integrity would not be compromised if he were to have an oil company fund his research because he believes in what he’s researching. However, Pederson of PICS contests this.
“Any scientist who developed a credible hypothesis that could explain global warming by recent natural processes would have no difficulty finding funding support for such research from existing granting agencies. Those who complain that no funding is available for contrary viewpoints are misguided because they are unable to produce a credible hypothesis.”
Executive Director of Greenpeace U.S.A. Phil Radford and the PolluterWatch campaign has sent UVic President David Turpin a letter inquiring about what types of financial disclosure are required for UVic researchers. He has not received a reply.
No one likes change but babies in diapers,” once said Barbara Johnson, American literary critic and poststructuralist professor at Harvard University who died in 2009.
But change is exactly what is coming down the pipe for babies with soiled diapers in the Capital Regional District (CRD) this year. The Solid Waste Advisory Committee (SWAC) and the Environmental Sustainability Committee will be addressing the issue of disposable diapers in landfills and the potential for a cloth diaper subsidy in the CRD.
“There is a natural parenting culture that is emerging — it’s big on the West Coast,” says Rachel Aube, a cloth diaper advocate who works in the industry. “So we’re lucky to be in Victoria because there already is a larger percentage of people that use cloth diapers. The second best place is Montreal. But they never really stopped cloth diapering there — they are a traditional culture, and they have subsidies there. They truly are a model for the rest of Canada.”
Local businesses, retailers, health and safety advocates and environmentalists are working together to set a new precedent in western Canada, starting with southern Vancouver Island. The push for a cloth diaper subsidy is seen as one way to reduce the waste flow of disposable diapers, which are extremely toxic and very slow to break down. Those calling for a cloth diaper subsidy are calling it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
“Generally these things start as a pilot project . . . If there is a clear line forward and it’s all green lights, it would be in the form of a pilot project for all sorts of stakeholders to engage,” says Jane Mendum, chair of SWAC, vice-chair of the Environmental Sustainability Committee, and mayor of the Victoria Highlands.
“We look forward to having this come forward to have a good dialogue on it. Staff have been arranged to investigate it and will be putting together a report,” says Mendum.
Cloth advocates armed with a petition and a Facebook page are gearing up against the three million diapers sitting in the Heartland landfill, at a sum of 3.28 per cent of total waste according to the 2011 Waste Composition Study. Advocates plan to present their case to the SWAC and the Environmental Committee this spring.
“I think there is probably three big reasons that people choose to go with cloth,” says Stephanie Baird, owner of Abbey Sprouts baby store on Gosworth Street. “One, of course is cost. To use disposable diapers on a child can cost more than $2 000 over two years. And that’s to say that they are potty trained at two, which kids aren’t nowadays.”
“And number two is health. There are all sorts of chemicals and perfumes in the child’s diapers that you don’t exactly want against a child’s skin. I mean there are dioxins, which was taken out of tampons for toxic shock syndrome. And the third is the waste and ecological impacts. Not necessarily in that order.”
Abbey Sprouts opened their doors in June of 2011, but was an online retailer of eco-friendly toys, and cloth diapers since 2009.
“The margin on [cloth] diapers is less than any other product in here,” says Biard. “I’m not sure why they don’t make it so they are more expensive, so that there is a larger profit margin because then more retailers would carry them. A lot of retailers will look at them and say, oh no I won’t sell that, there isn’t enough money in them, so you really have to believe in them to want to sell them,” she says sitting in front of a wall of monkey-, butterfly-, and heart-patterned cloth diapers. The store is littered with eco-chic products for toddlers and young kids.
“Many people have the misconception that cloth diapers are the old style of diapers, with the pin, that takes longer . . . It will just be about mis-education, and people not understanding. I had a mom in here the other day and she was telling me that at her prenatal class the nurse was telling her about cloth diapers with pins and rubber pants. How bad is that?”
Baird hands me a crowd favorite in the cloth diaper options and it’s so soft, I find myself wishing it were my pillow.
In Saguenay, Que., the municipality has $100 subsidies for the purchase of 25 cloth diapers. In Coaticook, Compton, Lac Megantic, Lambton, and Magog, Que., there is a 50 per cent off subsidy of cloth diapers up to a maximum of $200. In Essex, England you receive a £10 refund for every £10 or more on washable nappies, liners or wraps. And in Dundee, Scotland parents receive a £25 discount voucher towards a purchase of real nappies, or a laundry service. Similar programs are in place in Sweden, Finland and Ontario — where parents receive $200 towards cloth diapers.
“One of the things I am receptive to is getting ideas from people that want to provide solutions for a problem,” says Victoria City Councillor Lisa Helps. “Awesome. Show me the economics. It’s a reorganization of resources to benefit people and the environment. The best place to do it is with the CRD, and I’m in favour of that. I think it’s a really important regional issue.”
“I was lucky. Most of my cloth diapers were gifted to me from my mother,” says Janaya Honka, a mother of two who is balancing family, children, and a small business, as well as cloth diaper activism. She is a daycare provider who offers cloth diaper services. “That’s what she used, and knew. But many families have to rely on disposable diaper donations,” she says.
“When it comes to low-income families, it’s mainly that they are less educated. And they don’t realize that using cloth diapers would be a lot less expensive for them,” says Baird. “But then I think the other major hurdle is that cloth diapers are expensive up front. $20 a diaper, and you need 15 diapers, bare minimum up front, I would think. And that’s exactly where a subsidy would come in.”
After the Second Word War the increased desire for freedom from washing cloth diapers and drying them gave birth to a heightened demand for disposable diapers. And the industry that is famous for the rivalry between Kimberly Clark’s Huggies and Proctor and Gamble’s Pampers was born. This industry, that emerged in the ’50s and boomed in the ’60s and ’70s, has led to an average of 27.4 billion disposable diapers used in the U.S. annually, producing 3.4 million tons of used diapers in landfills every year.
The push for alternatives to disposable diapers has flared since environmental consciousness has become common sense again. But the recent lawsuits filed against Proctor & Gamble’s Pampers for chemical burns or “severe rashes” caused by their “Dry-Max” technology has brought the debate home for a lot of parents and public health safety officials. In June of 2011, according to settlement papers in a Cincinnati court, Proctor & Gamble will have to pay $1 000 to each of the 59 parents who filed in the case, cover their $2.73 million in shared legal fees, and spend $400 000 to fund pediatric training programs designed to educate on how to treat diaper rash.
“If we can get 10 per cent more people or 20 per cent more people to cloth diaper because there is a subsidy in place, that means there is going to be less in the waste stream,” says Aube. “It means there is going to be more people patronizing our local business — our female, for the most part, owned business — so it’s good for small business, minority businesses, the Victoria community, and the biggest part is that it’s all within the CRD. We’re not going online and buying diapers from China and shipping it here.”
“We’re mompreneurs, and we’re lucky that [cloth diaper companies] are great female-led businesses,” says Mary Lucas, co-owner and operator of HipBaby on Johnson Street. “People need to come to cloth diapers on their own. I’m here to provide people with information. But I always ask, would you rather wear plastic underwear, or organic cotton underwear?”
Lucas offers information and training programs for parents new to cloth diapering, and is also in favour of a cloth diaper subsidy in the CRD.
“It’s exciting because it makes sense,” she says. “Parents would be doing such good in diverting waste from the heartland landfill. I think some flexibility with the subsidy would be best. Either a voucher, or something they could bring in and I could get reimbursed from the CRD. It’s important for parents to come in and see and touch things.”
Lucas points out that parents are realizing the impacts of how they parent, and that in the choices parents make, diapers are the most wasteful. Traditionally newspapers are the number-one waste product in landfills and diapers are a close second.
Michael Ziff, a.k.a. Cloth Diaper Dad, who guides information sessions and cloth diaper workshops in Vancouver, says “I think we’re going to have to turn up the crank a little bit this year for a subsidy. There is plenty of interest, but you really need to push it . . . for parents, it’s a little more up front, but with a huge payoff in the end. Especially if your kids are potty trained earlier because of cloth diapers.”
Ziff expressed concern with the fact that human waste is a banned substance in landfills in light of the 7 220 tons of disposable diapers in Vancouver Metropolitan landfills each year — about one per cent of the landfill.
“For myself, there was a few times when I used disposable diapers. But knowing that human waste is a banned substance in landfills, I would always put the waste in the toilet. And I think people need to do that even if they are using disposables,” says Ziff.
“It’s hard. We all have families, and kids, and run business, and trying to be activists as well,” says Rachel Aube.
In 2011 a Guinness World Record was set for the most cloth diapers changed with 5 026 participants in 127 locations in five countries. The cloth diaper advocates are closing in on this spring for the Great Cloth Diaper Change on April 21, where various cities will gather their poopiest poopers and set their crosshairs on the previous record. With some luck, not only will they change the most diapers, but the diapers themselves will change.