Plastic Straws and Sleeping Giants Show Consumers Still Have Some Power

New Orleans      The evidence is incontestable that plastic straws are a significant part of the pollution killing aquatic and plant life in the world’s oceans.  It is equally undoubtable that many major brands because of automated programming on social media are clueless where their ads are displayed, including on some websites that are knocking on the door of pure evil, like the Breitbart properties.  It’s good news that there is progress on both of these fronts thanks to environmental groups on one hand and a previously anonymous group of volunteers called Sleeping Giants on the other.

McDonald’s is now phasing out plastic straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Burger King’s corporate owner has taken a further step and committed to making all of its UK packaging recyclable over by 2025.  Starbucks and Hyatt Hotels have both indicated that they are phasing out plastic straws.  Many outlets are saying they are switching to paper straws, which as some have pointed out, were what was replaced by plastic straws.

Fair Grinds Coffeehouses, a primary supporter of ACORN and owned by ACORN Global Enterprises, several weeks ago discontinued plastic straws.  Rather than replace with paper straws, which were almost unavailable at this time, Fair Grinds posted a notice at its stores outlining the environmental problem and indicating that straws of any kind would only be available upon request.  People get it.  We have gotten no complaints, and virtually no one has asked for a straw excepted for young children.  I mean really, do any of us actually need a straw in order to successfully drink something?

Sleeping Giants was anonymous until recently, but it was wildly successful in putting a needle in the Brietbart money balloon.  Many advertisers claimed they had no idea where their ads were running, though it’s hard to believe some of the claims.  ACORN during our campaign against predatory loans had to dump Google Ads from our sites, because every story and blog about the campaign had ads running from the targets along the borders of the story.  Brietbart was finally punked by the Giants.  According to the New York Times,

The site had about 649 advertisers on its website last month, showing around 1,902 different display ads, according to data from Moat Pro, a digital ad intelligence product. That was down from 3,300 advertisers and 11,500 display ads in November 2016. (Sleeping Giants’ count of departed advertisers is closer to 4,000.)

As the Giants expanded they were also key in putting the pressure on Bill O’Reilly and other Fox fabulists that led to enough advertisers bailing that it forced the hand of the network and led to their separations.

The conservative news source, Daily Caller, managed to finally unmask the Giants themselves, who turned out to be …

Matt Rivitz, a freelance copywriter in San Francisco who has worked with a range of advertisers, was identified as the account’s creator against his wishes…. Rivitz, 45, confirmed the report on Twitter, where Sleeping Giants has more than 160,000 followers. He runs the account with Nandini Jammi, 29, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant, along with other still anonymous contributors.

Too bad they couldn’t stay on the down-low, but regardless, big heaping thanks to Matt and Nandini.  You did right.  Keep up the good work!

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The Frontal Assault on Environmental Laws

New Orleans    In Louisiana we’re losing coastal wetlands and acres of land every day.  A columnist in the Times-Picayune noted flatly, “…few states depend more on environmental regulations for survival than Louisiana.  We’ve only been able to slow the destruction of our remaining coastal wetlands thanks to regulations under the Clean Water Act.”  Talking to Rob Davidson, the Sheridan, Wyoming based executive director of Council for the Big Horn Range on Wade’s World, he repeatedly made the same point about NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.

Scot Pruitt may be gone as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, but that doesn’t mean all will be well in the world, and we are once again in safe hands.  His replacement was a former lobbyist.  The style may be different and the sleight of hand subtler, but the substance will be the same, and it’s a frontal assault.

The Interior Department in its efforts to open up more federal lands and forests is being duplicitous.  Their claim is that the law needs to be “modernized” because it was passed almost fifty years ago.  What they are really saying is that they want the law to be commercialized, not modernized.  They want to make it easier for road building to access areas now off the grid.  They want to turn the red-light green for any and all extraction industries.  As Davidson argued on the radio, extraction from coal companies and the oil and gas industry is the critical issue in Wyoming.  This is especially true not only about land, but utilization and protection of the scarcest commodity in the west:  water.

Davidson could count some coups in the early work of the Council for the Big Horn Range.  They had managed to block an effort by the Interior bean counters to close one of the US Forest Service offices looking after the four million acres of the Big Horn Mountains’ footprint.

When he talked about the dangers in road building and confronting the extraction industry, which is famously powerful in Cheyenne especially when the legislature is in session, the task seemed not simply difficult but daunting.  Their main tactical advantage was what I have always referred to as the “volunteer army,” and in this case when it involves retired Forest Service workers and oil pros like himself, who know the language and where some of the bodies are buried, that can be powerful.  Nonetheless, they are often a rearguard force at odds with a phalanx of lawyers and high-priced experts and consultants hired by industry to run them through endless hearings, and that’s just trying to get the matter up to the point that there might be a NEPA challenge and a potential environmental impact statement.

Add all of that to the fact that for endangered species and other land utilization schemes by commercial interests, the Interior Department in its “modernization” effort want to introduce economics as a factor to consider.  In plain language that means they want to say that if it cost too much to save the sage grouse for example, then let it go extinct or if they can argue sufficient economic benefit, then forests and wilderness benefits to all the public can then be scrapped.

Against these long odds, we need to not only keep any restraining law and its regulations in place, but we also need to do what we can to support groups like the Council of the Big Horn Range and people like Rob Davidson, whose bodies and organizations are in the road trying to block environmental devastation for the rest of us nearby or a world away.

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