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Lay of the Land

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Bold Strokes

By Marilyn Berlin Snell

Green With Admiration
When it comes to finding model green voters, we need only look to the Congressional Black Caucus. Paul Mohai of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment reviewed voting trends in the House of Representatives between 1981 and 1998 and found that by far the most consistently pro-environment votes came from African-American legislators. After President Bush declared the Kyoto Protocol on global warming dead, for example, California representative Barbara Lee (D) of the Black Caucus promptly introduced the Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Global Climate Change Act of 2001. Though the bill did not pass, it signaled serious opposition to the administration’s stand on the international accord.

The environmental-justice movement has played a part in this trend, says Mohai, but he adds that the Black Caucus was green even before "EJ" organizations began sprouting up to protest the disproportionate burden of pollution in low-income communities. The study also suggested that as caucus members gain seniority in Congress, their positive environmental influence will increase.

Waste Not
Discarded electrical goods will cease to pile up in the European Union, thanks to legislation requiring that all electronics be recycled at the manufacturer’s expense. Even though businesses aren’t happy about the tough new law and consumers understand that the costs will eventually be passed on to them, the European Parliament pushed ahead. As of December 2004, it will be illegal to send mobile phones, computers, televisions, and the like to landfills. Such products contain heavy metals such as lead, mercury, chromium, and cadmium, which leach into soil and groundwater. Manufacturers will have to take back and recycle what they can while safely disposing of the rest–a costly process that may even encourage some of them to stop building for obsolescence.

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