The Third Great Transition


The Third Great Transition

Evolved from Clive Ponting's

A Green History of the World

by Ted Nellen

Clive Ponting has exhaustively outlined how Man has repeated the same ecological mistakes over and over again throughout history. Each generation inherits the sins of the former generation. Well, today a very concerted effort is being made to reverse many of the "ecologically ignorant" habits we have inherited. Today's generation is taking on the task of better resource management than any previous generation. In fact, there exists a Recycler's Bill of Rights. The Third Great Transition has to be recycling.

Now that "waste management" can be a potential money maker, solutions and methods for less pollution and recycling will be realized. Some may call it cynical, but the cold facts show that unless money can be made, man will not initiate nor sustain such a large project. Ponting points out the cost of such a project:

Today's city budgets barely cover current expenses let alone undertake such a chore as cleaning up and recycling. Money made from recycling does not cover the cost of employing it. The US Government has a program called AgSTAR Program Gold Star for voluntarily cutting down on pollution. Is the government offering this voluntary program instead of enforcing pollution laws?

Many people talk but too few act. The profit margin drives the engines that will eventually make a difference. Loss of money by existing practices keeps us from abandoning bad practices for good practices. This is most evident in the business of petroleum. Alternate sources of energy have never been really evaluated because of the lobbying efforts of the petroleum companies. They are a powerful lot. They effect many facets of our lives: automobiles; packaging; energy; 'artificial waste' and so much more.

The global community is becoming more aware of pollution because of the Internet. Early schoolroom projects sponsored by The National Geographic Society had elementary students measuring acid levels in local waters: rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes. By posting their results via the Internet, scientists were able to determine patterns of pollution across the country. Using schoolchildren to gather the data and then to see the results has made them more aware of the problem on a global level. As recycling laws have changed and been enacted, schools at all levels have initiated recycling programs within their schools and communities. Schools are educating their students to many facets of ecologically good practices. Students are becoming aware of pollution management from its beginnings. In fact, preschoolers are entertained by Barney to the importance of recycling in the Rock with Barney tape. Products should be made and manufactured with disposal considerations built in. Packaging, for instance, is a key area for consideration. The products we buy generate much garbage just in its packaging. Companies are becoming aware of and using packaging that is made from recycled material or maintains an inherent biodegradable aspect. Shopping with my daughter has become quite an experience. She determines the product based on the ecological awareness built into the packaging. Packing our groceries lets us choose paper or plastic as well as the option to bring our own bags to pack our groceries. This awareness is not knowledge to a select few as in the past but to a whole global generation. The Internet has and will make methods and practices more available to the entire population of Earth.

Recycling efforts include paper, glass, plastic, and metal. Recycling of metals is significant in some areas, particularly copper and aluminum, where cost pressures give industry an incentive to re-use materials, but in most cases metals are still extracted, used and thrown away. p 327 Computer paper and newspaper are becoming big business. Such big business that police in New York City have arrested people for driving by buildings which put out their recycled goods and stealing the garbage. Money can be made for this garbage. Plastic, heretofore, not biodegradable has become biodegradable. Glass has been recycled by municipalities which have used crushed glass in road asphalt. Two by-products have results: less asphalt is used and the streets sparkle for better illumination at night. Even artists are getting involved. Recently, 30 artists took 30 abandoned Yugos and recast them into works of art, which were displayed in New York's Grand Central Station. Awareness is coming from many sources including magazines devoted to the subject.

Becoming environmentally aware of the methods available, the programs in place, and the plans for the future of recycling can be obtained via the Internet and Search engines which seek out and point to recycling sites. The Internet is best suited for this task because it is current. Information can be disseminated quickly and updated constantly. Projects can be made more collaborative and cooperative because of the Internet. Coordination between and among participants is better facilitated on the Internet. An Internet home page can serve as a central clearing- house of ongoing projects, current information, and environmental links. Cities, states, counties, and countries can use the Internet to coordinate citizen efforts.

The following links point you towards successful community recyling projects and methods for employing better recycling efforts in your community.

BC Spaces for Nature
Join an environmental listserv by emailing to with subscribe in the message.

Recycle A to Z

Join an ECO List

© Ted Nellen 1996