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3 April 2007

A Slashed Safety Net Turns Libraries into Homeless Shelters

America Gone Wrong: A Slashed Safety Net Turns Libraries into Homeless Shelters

http://www.alternet.org/story/50023/

ByChip Ward, Tomdispatch.com. Posted April 2, 2007.

A dirty little secret about America is that public libraries have become de facto daytime shelters for the nation's street people while librarians are increasingly our unofficial social workers for the homeless and mentally disturbed.

Ophelia sits by the fireplace and mumbles softly, smiling and gesturing at no one in particular. She gazes out the large window through the two pairs of glasses she wears, one windshield-sized pair over a smaller set perched precariously on her small nose. Perhaps four lenses help her see the invisible other she is addressing. When her "nobody there" conversation disturbs the reader seated beside her, Ophelia turns, chuckles at the woman's discomfort, and explains, "Don't mind me, I'm dead. It's okay. I've been dead for some time now." She pauses, then adds reassuringly, "It's not so bad. You get used to it." Not at all reassured, the woman gathers her belongings and moves quickly away.
Ophelia shrugs. Verbal communication is tricky. She prefers telepathy, but that's hard to do since the rest of us, she informs me, "don't know the rules." MORE



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Can Wal-Mart Ever Be 'Green'?

Can Wal-Mart Ever Be 'Green'?

http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/49965/


Acting with unusual transparency, Wal-Mart has even published a benchmark calculation of its carbon footprint. The company estimates that its U.S. operations were responsible for 15.3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2005. About three-quarters of this pollution came from the electricity generated to power its stores.


This cannot be dismissed as greenwashing. It's actually far more dangerous than that.
Wal-Mart's initiatives have just enough meat to have distracted much of the environmental movement, along with most journalists and many ordinary people, from the fundamental fact that, as a system of distributing goods to people, big-box retailing is as intrinsically unsustainable as clear-cut logging is as a method of harvesting trees.

Here's the key issue.
Wal-Mart's carbon estimate omits a massive source of CO2 that is inherent to its operations and amounts to more than all of its other greenhouse-gas emissions combined: the CO2 produced by customers driving to its stores.

The dramatic growth of big-box retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot, over the last 15 years has been mirrored by an equally dramatic rise in how many miles we travel running errands. Between 1990 and 2001 (the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Transportation has data), the number of miles that the average American household drove each year for shopping grew by more than 40 percent.


New Wal-Mart documentary may be a sign of upheavals to come It's not that we are going to the store more often, but rather that each trip is an average of about two miles longer. The general trend toward suburbanization is only partly to blame: shopping-related driving grew three times as fast as driving for all other purposes. The culprit is big-box retail. These companies have displaced tens of thousands of neighborhood and downtown businesses and consolidated the necessities of life into massive stores that aggregate car-borne shoppers from large areas.

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