Alchemy Legislation: Last Man Standing

Fresh on my feet after the tremblement de terre for mining subsidies (USA House of Representatives is moving on the first reform of the General Mining Act of 1872), I am on my way to a meeting in Waterbury, Vermont, about "e-waste" legislation. A group of gung-ho recyclers wants to meet to solve the "problem of e-waste".

These are all people I like. I want to be their friend, like really, socially. These are the peoople I like to hang out with. I like my kids to be best friends with their kids. The activist environmentalists represent my own roots. But sometimes it's like a visit to the Old Country for me, like a trip to the Ozarks (for me) or a trip to Italy or Senegal might be for someone with Italian or African roots in NYC.

The problem we (if I can put myself back among them without too many scowls) face is when we eliminate dialectic (argument) in order to taste momentum and progress. The problems of the world, and especially the environmental threats, are so large, that without a feeling of momentum, the alternative is despair.

So the new thing in government is to set up these mega-focus-groups, you bring in all kinds of advocates and experts to form a big "task force". NEPSI was a big one. There is another about "EPA Certification" of electronics recyclers which I was on, and now seem to have fallen off the email list and don't get invited to meetings anymore.

The groups are great. Getting 45-60 people concerned about e-scrap in a room is a real high. There are networking opportunities, and fresh voices and a lot of argument and energy. Some try to raise themselves as pack leaders, but generally the facilitator and milktoast spokespeople are rewarded for being least fractious.

This makes difficult ideas hard to pitch. The first "NEPSI" meeting really (in my view) should have quickly focused on the General Mining Act of 1872, or on a recent $900M Grupo Mexico environmental trust fund (created as a compromise on cleanup costs at old Asarco copper mines), or even the Microsoft Settlement (twas' Windows 98 killed the 486, twas Windows XP killed the Pentium I).

Retailers blink. Manufacturers smirk (knowing the truth of #3, but scared to death of #1). Lobbyists are already thinking ahead to the next play. Ecologists are planning what they are going to say next.

You see, it's impossible to get a major idea about nutrition past a bunch of people gathered for a meeting about bowel movements. They can only look so far up the intestine. They think purchasing a computer is the "cradle" in cradle-to-grave. Mining silver from a Malaysian coral reef is shopping at the supermarket, so far from the colon it's hard to discuss.

Feeding mercury to King George improved his bowel movements. So the group starts to focus on "collection" programs, and "financing collection".

Now money is introduced, and there is an incentive for about 25% of the attendees to attend up to 24 more months of meetings.

The group winds up allowing a sub-committee to meet to discuss details of one of the more interesting, generic statements which could involve money. Say Legislation should be introduced to provide money for mercury to improve bowel movements.

I don't have time or money to fly around the country for 23 more months. SO I spit out everything. People look at me cockheaded. I get labelled "difficult".

I call it "Last Man Standing". The small group writes the final text.

The greater hope of Alchemy medecine was that the people involved really, really did care about King George. They really cared about the health cures that more mercury for more bowels could provide. Caring is the first thing, because it is caring about outcomes that causes the next generation of med school students to question holistic consequences of the cure.

This turned into a whole academia of approaches to science and health science. This is what the younger generation needs to do with great ideas and near miss legislative solutions.

135 Years - The General Mining Act 1872

Finally, thanks to continued hard work by Stephen D'Esposito, Payal Sampat, and the staff at Earthworks ( , the House of Representatives has put forward a bill to charge federal royalties on minerals mined from federal land. The taxpayers would, under the new law, receive 8% of the royalties on gold, copper, silver etc. Perhaps it will be enough to fund Superfund to clean up these mining sites.

It's a boon for recycling. Recycling competes against virgin material.

It's a boon for greenhouse gas reductions. When metals are artificially cheap, big gas-hungry SUVs don't cost as much more as small cars.

It may be a boon to the environment. But only if other countries follow suit. If 3rd worlds states like DR Congo don't ALSO charge more royalties, the effect could be perverse... less mining in the relatively more regulated USA (that point is arguable) and more mining in the rain forests and coral reefs.