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On March 14, 1990, in Washington, Greenpeace held a press conference to announce and introduce its report called ``Breaking Down the Degradable Plastics Scam.'' The room was filled with over 60 news reporters and nine videographers from general, environmental and business news organizations. Also attending were five representatives of the Degradable Plastics (now Polymers) Council, part of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

Barry Commoner - a tedious monotony of socialist faithSocialist erstwhile ``educator'' and Greenpeace hack Barry Commoner led the plastics-bashing. It halted when one audience member asked him, ``Mr. Commoner, isn't this really just a simple dispute between the paper bag industry and the plastic bag industry, and isn't what really bothers you the fact that consumers have shown an increasing preference for plastic bags because they're stronger, waterproof, less expensive and more convenient to --''

At that point, Greenpeace moderator Michael Rappoport circled his arm high in the air and brought it down with a flourish. ``Sir,'' he derisively shouted. ``If you're here as a representative of the plastics industry, we'd appreciate your paying for one-half the rental of this room. Next question!''

A quiet hush filled the room. The next question was asked. As Commoner was answering, a Greenpeace staffer slid to the stage and slipped a note to Rappoport at the podium. Tension filled Rappoport's visage.

Steve Handlesman - NBC journalist in WashingtonAt the close of Commoner's answer, Rappoport looked back at his rudely squelched prior questioner and said, ``Mr. Handlesman, it's been brought to my attention that you are not a member of the plastics industry but, in fact, a member of the news media. What I said before was inappropriate, and I apologize. Would you like to ask your question again?''

Ladies and gentlemen: Meet Steve Handlesman, then pool reporter for NBC-TV affiliated stations. Oops. A noisy hush filled the room, as he asked his question again.

Flustered, Commoner fumbled his way through a reply that concluded with an assertion that his solution to the environmental problem of plastic bags was to put handles onto paper bags.

Shortly thereafter, the conference crumbled to an end. The facts about Greenpeace's motives and intentions, well-known to some, had become obvious to all. For the next 11/2 hours, DPC representatives answered questions from eight of the nine video news crews, and only CNN Headline News ran any story at all about the Greenpeace report. No news outlet reported on the event, the press conference, the embarrassment to Greenpeace and its self-discreditation. In short, all the media missed the obvious story.

Giving some of the media representatives a bit more credit for cognizance but not for integrity, those who got the story ignored the news. The ``scam'' then was the Greenpeace report. The scam today is the Greenpeace ``biodegradable credit card.''

The plastics industry still has no one to report the facts but itself. Plastics News' May 18 editorial about the news media ``succumbing to sloppy reporting'' is right on target. It's also a fact that the plastics industry remains at the center of the bull's-eye.

George A. Makrauer

ComAd Management Group Inc.
Treasure Island, Fla.

Entire contents copyright 2000 by Crain Communications Inc.
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The involvement of Barry Commoner in such a debacle caused by his own poor preparation is a curiosity to some people. Why, as one questioned me, would Barry Commoner put himself in such a position (and do some of the other things not written about here, but are part of this failed Machiavellian hustle by him)?

Simple answer: faith, not facts, drove his actions and ego.

What "faith"? This "faith," as he published in his novel, "Making Peace With the Planet" (Pantheon Books), about environmental mysteries. Science played little, if any, role in his mutterings about ecological issues over his decades of spewing CO2.

"Making Peace With the Planet" clearly reveals what he and so many of his colleagues and sycophants were driven to believe.

Page 80 - "There is a popular myth that in America ‘the consumer is king,’ issuing commands for new products that are obediently met by producers. Clearly, that does not explain the universal appearance, about ten years ago, of unsized socks; surely this was not a response to customers whose feet grew from size 10 to size 13 during the sock’s lifetime. Rather, it is the producer’s interests that instigate such changes, based on the expectation that users will at least tolerate them (as in the case of unsized socks, or the plastic egg cartons that have replaced paper ones); …"


Page 101 -"If brewers were forbidden to put plastic nooses on six-packs of beer; if supermarkets were not allowed to wrap polyvinyl chloride film around everything in sight and then stuff it into a plastic carrying bag; if McDonald’s could rediscover the paper plate; if the use of plastics was limited to those products for which they are really needed, say, artificial hearts or videotape -- then we could push back the petrochemical industry’s toxic invasion of the biosphere and reduce the escalating cost of waste disposal."


Pages 192 and 193 - "We must recognize that the assault on the environment cannot be effectively controlled, but must be prevented; that prevention requires the transformation of the present structure of the technosphere, bringing it into harmony with the ecosphere; that this means massively redesigning the major industrial, agricultural, energy, and transportation systems; that such a transformation of the systems of production conflicts with the short-term profit-maximizing goals that now govern investment decisions; and that, accordingly, politically suitable means must be developed that bring the public interest in long-term environmental quality to bear on these decisions.


Finally, because the problem is global and deeply linked to the disparity between the development of the planet’s northern and southern hemispheres, what we propose to do in the United States and other industrial nations must be compatible with the global task of closing the economic gap between the rich north and the poor south -- and must indeed facilitate it."


Page 196 - "However, it is important to remember that nearly every petrochemical product is a substitute for some preexisting product made of natural materials such as wood, cotton, or paper or of common materials such as metal and glass. Hence, many current petrochemical products could readily be replaced by one of these older and more ecologically sound materials."


Page 215 - “This is, after all, the meaning of ‘free enterprise’: the owner of capital is at liberty to invest it in whatever enterprise offers the most promising rate of return, market share, or some other private advantage, whether it produces steel, chemicals, oil, or plastic swizzle sticks. And, as we have seen, this right has been exercised regardless of its environmental consequences.”


Page 217 - “One can, of course, embellish these observations and arguments with a doctrinal term -- socialism (classically defined as social ownership and control of the means of production) -- and embrace or dismiss them by reacting to that term. While this may satisfy one’s ideological convictions, neither approval nor disapproval can alter the reality which, as we have seen, is that substantial environmental improvement can occur only when the choice of production technology is open to social intervention. If the national commitment to environmental improvement is to be honored, we must respect this reality and find suitable ways to implement the social governance of production.”

The original edition of this Commoner socialist manifesto was published prior to the fall of The Berlin Wall in November 1989. Only after The Wall fell was the previously inconceivable environmental blight of Communism visible through its hazy, choking light.

Those facts did not at all square with Commoner’s fictitious assertion that only socialism can deliver the benefits of a “national commitment to environmental improvement.” It was a well-demonstrated fact prior to publishing his contribution to the solid waste stream that the developed countries with greater wealth and a higher standard of living generated far fewer air and water pollutants and solid wastes, industrial, municipal and household.

Commoner was forced to concoct an explanation -- opinion-based, not science-based -- which he offered in his 1990 subsequent edition, after The Wall fell:

Page 220:

"If private governance of production -- the characteristic feature of capitalism -- is at fault, why do the environmental problems that it generates also occur in socialist countries where production decisions are presumably under social or governmental control?"


"One reason is that -- as the Soviet Government now admits -- until recently, advocates of social interests such as environmentalism have not been free to comment on, let alone influence, government decisions. A less obvious -- but decisive -- reason is that most of the systems of production that the socialist countries have adopted were in fact developed in the capitalist countries after World War II: for example, chemical agriculture, nuclear power plants, and the petrochemical industry."


"Having been developed with no concern for their environmental impact, these production systems wreak their havoc on the environment equally in capitalist countries and the socialist ones. … It is an unassailable if ironic fact that the economic development of the Soviet Union and its socialist neighbors after World War II has been based on the major new production technologies developed in the United States and other capitalist countries, where their design was guided by a capitalist motive: short-term profit maximization -- to the exclusion of environmental and other social concerns.”

During his embarrassing press-conference, he tried to explain his gratuitous attitude and treatment of Steve Handlesman -- and retain the interest and video focus of all the news crews that showed up to document "Commoner's big deal and exposé."

After exposing himself for what he is ("was;" died 9/30/12), the video crews began to take each videocam off its tripod, and with each reporter, began heading my direction at the very back of the room. Commoner tried to more loudly appeal to the press to stay and listen to his mouthing what then became ad-hoc comments, and he reminisced about his youth to explain his "faith." He implored over the PA system, “Look, I grew up in the days when there were no plastics. I remember how pleasant those days were when there weren’t these synthetic materials around...” and so forth and so on about how wonderful this world would be without plastics of any kind, outside of a few "appropriate medical and engineering products and applications." He demeaned and attacked the entire, world-wide plastics industry -- and consumers who would not abide with his faith -- not stating any facts in his comments; without any science behind his comments; without anyone, by that point in the press conference, willing to listen to or further believe him.

For me, it was a surprise, but gratifying.

For anyone with the interest to better understand Commoner’s mindset and societal objectives, here is a revealing "obituary." His falsely intellectual, irascible arrogance, pounded into the warm-mush gray cells of his sycophant students and readers belies his otherwise simply stated view of society: "a Socialist government should rule the country, run commerce and redistribute wealth."

Each of his books concludes with the same objective; why should it take him several hundred pages in each book to state his 12-word goal?