- Hal Levin
At 05:26 PM 2/20/97 PST, Mike O'Brien wrote:
>Your point about values and LCA is very well taken--but I am skeptical that
>environmental impacts can be fairly valued. In fact, I believe companies
>are excluding environmental costs that they classify as "externalities".
>For example, I'm looking at a brochure from Western Wood Products that says
>"What's the most environmentally compatible building product in the world?"
>on the cover, and inside contains a simplified LCA. What is the key
>assumption about wood products? Quote, "...only wood products come from a
>renewable resource--America's Forests. Annual growth in these forests
>safely exceeds removal volumes by 30% or more."
>That claim is an assertion, not a fact: no one knows if forests are renewable.
>But also, wood products companies have not yet started to pay the costs of
>sustainable forest management and harvesting--they're still cutting the
>national forests and leaving the "external" costs of environmental damage
>for the public to pay. Today, the Forest Service goes along with the
>charade--for example, the costs to taxpayers of building roads for loggers
>to access the forests is excluded from the calculated cost of a sale. When
>wood products companies have to build access roads that don't cause
>landslides, or buffer streams against erosion, wood products are going to
>become much more expensive. Until then an LCA could rate wood favorably
>because real costs are excluded.
>Mining companies are similarly disinclined to accept the costs of cleanup
>for past environmental damage.For example, no mining company accepts any
>responsibility for the billions of dollars it will cost to clean up the
>Berkeley pit in Butte. When they prepare the LCA for a product, they will
>exclude that cost. Yet, someone's going to pay it!
>How can LCAs ever become objective when companies have so much at stake--to
>skew the results to make their products look good?
>>It is the WEIGHTING of different environmental effects or impacts that
>>requires subjective judgment. But, even that can be made systematic (not
>>objective, but potentially consistent) by using consistent criteria and
>>applying them consistently. Values will still enter in. That is unavoidable.
>>That is exactly why I insist that we talk about them - if we don't, then we
>>are likely just using those of the people who are currently empowered by
>>default. We should not refuse to talk about values that we don't share,
>>whether we think we can change them or not. We cannot change them if we do
>>not talk about them.
>>The value choices are always present. They cannot be avoided. Not discussing
>>them or pretending they are not there, or not making them explicit does not
>>make them go away. It simply hides them from view and precludes discussion.
>>Why are we so afraid to discuss values? Just because we may disagree? All
>>the important decisions are made with tremendous dependence on embedded
>>values. Sustainability is about values - valuing other species, and valuing
>>other humans, living now and in the future.
>O'Brien & Associates
>Environmental Building Consultants
>Portland General Electric Earth Smart program
>This greenbuilding dialogue is sponsored by Oikos (www.oikos.com)
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Hal Levin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This greenbuilding dialogue is sponsored by Oikos (www.oikos.com)
and Environmental Building News (www.ebuild.com). For instructions
send e-mail to email@example.com.