Connecting the Dots: Junk Mail, GOP Policies and Our Dwindling Supplies of Fresh Water

For every action there is a reaction and there are unseen consequences that can negatively affect the general welfare of the public when decisions are too narrowly focused on things that have short-term benefits.  Short term benefits that too often only really benefit a small, financially sound group. 

Oh the irony of drowning in junk mail and its effect on diminishing water supplies

Inherent in the U.S. Postal Service’s struggle to stay solvent and viable is an action that will have negative consequences for a diminishing resource that the human race depends on for its existence.  The problems USPS faces stems primarily from the enactment of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the USPS to pre-fund the pensions of its workers 75 years in advance.    They say that the devil is in the details so when we look closely at this we do see the efforts of those loyal to Grover Norquist’s dream at play here to shrink government small enough to drown in a bath tub.

This act was one of the “poison pill” pieces of legislation that a GOP-controlled congress enacted to sabotage public services, much like the Medicare Part D legislation they also passed which, among other things, increases prescription costs for beneficiaries.  By creating this debt burden for the postal service, USPS is now forced to close over 250 mail processing centers by the end of  2014, eliminating tens of thousands of postal worker jobs to the unemployment rolls.  But not only did this legislation become a “job killer”, it also had the indirect consequence of contributing to reducing perhaps the single most important resource necessary to sustain life on this planet – WATER!

Sadly, one of the choices now facing the USPS to aid them in overcoming their debit issue is to seek revenue through other sources like direct mail advertisers.  One of the biggest enterprises in direct mail services is Valassis Communications Inc. and the postal service is offering them huge discount rates to increase their mailings.

The post office expects to generate $15 million in profits over three years by cutting what it charges Valassis Communications Inc. for new mass mailings. Livonia, Mich.-based Valassis sent more than 3 billion pieces of so-called junk mail through the post office last year. Under the proposal, Valassis has promised to send even more bulk mail. On those additional mailings, the Postal Service will give the company a discount of up to 34 percent. Valassis has agreed to pay a penalty if it does not boost its use of the mail service.  SOURCE 

That means you and I get more garbage to toss and burden the already overloaded landfills in this country.   Nearly 40% of all paper tossed wounds up in those landfills.   If you’re lucky enough to have recycling services in your community there is some sense that this waste can still be beneficial.  “According to the American Forest and Paper Association, nearly 80 percent of America’s paper mills are designed to use paper collected in recycling programs, and they depend on paper recycling to supply the raw materials they need to make new paper.”

And though the remaining 20% comes from new trees that are sustained with more than 1.7 million new trees being planted each day, there is still the issue of the amount of water used to produce the paper that this junk mail comes from.  It takes approximately 85 gallons of water to produce a little less than two pounds of paper.  That’s a little less than what the Sunday NY Times weighs with its advertising flier inserts.  Average worldwide annual paper consumption is 48 KG per person with North America accounting for over 1/3 of that total.

There is another popular Republican issue we are currently facing that threatens to reduce fresh water in even larger quantities than paper manufacturing.  That’s their support for increasing oil and natural gas exploration over cleaner energy sources through the use of “fracking” to extract the more difficult to reach fossil fuel resources.

In order to fracture shale formations that often exist thousands of feet below the surface, drillers use anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons of water per frack. A well may be fracked up to 18 times. The water, usually drawn from natural resources such as lakes and rivers, is unrecoverable once it’s blasted into the earth, and out of the water cycle for good.    SOURCE 

Of the total Earth’s water supply, only 2.5% of it is freshwater.  Over two-thirds of that is locked up in the polar caps and glaciers around the globe.  Of the remaining potable water for human consumption nearly 70% of that is polluted from industry, agriculture, human and animal waste, leaving only about 0.5% of the world’s freshwater supply available for human and animal consumption around the globe.

And of that 70% of fresh water that becomes polluted from industry, agriculture, human and animal waste, how many of you automatically think of Republicans in a positive light when you think of efforts to reduce air and water pollution?

All people make mistakes with decisions that had the best intentions.  The sign of good leadership however is observed in people who, upon realizing their poor choices, show the ability to recognize that fact and take the speedy action necessary to reverse or diminish the negative impacts they effected.   But have we created a form of gridlock in this country that will in effect prevent such leadership from being put into effect?

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.   – Harry Truman

In an age where ideology trumps compromise and reasoned alternatives, and corporations and their money are seen as equals to real people and free speech, are we creating the seeds of our destruction?  Have too many gone too far in being captivated by the allure of Randian “objectivism”?  Have the extremists on the right demonized all government so bad that trust in those institutions no longer exists sufficiently to coordinate and unite us as a people?  Is e pluribus unum dead and with it the strength to face the global challenges, not only from nature’s wrath but from our own short-sightedness?

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9 responses to “Connecting the Dots: Junk Mail, GOP Policies and Our Dwindling Supplies of Fresh Water

    • Agreed. The action the Republican-controlled congress took on this legislation back in 2006 is having the desired effect most of them wanted. Less public sector service.

  1. I’ve been vitally interested in this topic for many years, intending to write about it on my blog, but haven’t invested the time and energy into conducting the thorough research needed. Looks like you have it here, much more thoroughly than I likely would have had time to devote to the effort, or have the skills to write about it. I’m hardly an isolated soul who has long believed water resources were the next “oil” — which really hit home as fact when I saw a PBS water special years ago.

    Our city of Claremont, CA is combating a water company; seriously considering buying the one serving our city that has been ripping us off financially for years. We should have purchased the company years ago. Lots of issues. FWIW we have a bi-weekly local newspaper with an excellent young editor previously in the press who took over the paper from his father who died a few years ago — Claremont Courier. They cover the issues well should you have any reason to want to explore our local water matters as an example of what occurs.

    • Joared,

      thanks for visiting my blog and for sharing that information about water issues in your hometown of Claremont, Ca. I did find this one story on-line from the Claremont Carrier about the problems facing the citizens and the Golden State Water Co. there. The $300 monthly bill that local Jan Rainbolt was having to pay seems excessively high, and with no relief from Golden State to help her with her invalid father.

      Makes you wonder where the humanity comes into play now that the SC and Mitt Romney have declared corporations as humans.

      Keep me posted please on this if you don’t mind and feel free to discuss this issue and others as you visit Woodgate’s View.

  2. It is common knowledge that water will be the next issue before the world. It already is some places of course. The fracking method is from everything I’ve seen dangerous and deleterious to existing water supplies. I have no doubt that the planet will aright itself, but am increasingly unsure whether humans will be here to see it.

  3. Scandalous that they’d use legislation like that to undercut the postal service! As for water…I’m definitely glad to be leaving in Maine where we have abundant water (we heat and cool our home with a geothermal well, in fact). Seriously though, the literature on water wars and future shortages is getting more specific and scary. I never connected these dots though, thanks – I’ll use this post in a class to demonstrate how actions have unintended consequences!

    • “I never connected these dots though …”

      Nor I Scott until now as I am sure many of those Republican leaders at the time didn’t. But once this becomes a reality, where is the leadership to make the necessary correction?

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