Ecological Sustainability

Section 7

Ecological Sustainability 


The human community is an element of the Earth and all human endeavors are situated within the dynamics of the biosphere. If we wish to have sustainable institutions and enterprises, they must fit well with the processes of the Earth. Any loss of the ecosystems is merely an “externality” in conventional economic thought and any problems can be addressed later by a technological fix. We are now living through the painful consequences of that arrogant perspective. Many of our children suffer from accumulations of lead, mercury and other toxins in their neurological systems, environmentally related cancer is on the rise, and our air and water are increasingly polluted. Meanwhile, our ecosystems are being compromised by the spreading presence of genetically engineered organisms.

Our houses and buildings, manufacturing processes, and industrial agriculture were all designed with the assumption of an endless supply of cheap, readily available fossil fuels. Pollution and despoiling the land were not part of the thinking. The Green Party, however, is optimistic about the alternatives that now exist in such fields as clean energy, energy efficiency, organic agriculture, and green manufacturing.

We also challenge the grip of the oil, automotive, and automobile insurance industries that have managed to block or roll back progress in public mass transit and vehicles that use alternative power sources. The gutting of subsidies for the railroads has meant not only fewer passenger routes but also the addition of thousands of large freight trucks on our highways, decreasing public safety and increasing pollution. We are committed to extending the greening of waste management by encouraging the spread of practices consistent with the reduce, return, reuse, and recycle paradigm. We strongly oppose the recent attempts to roll back the federal environmental protection laws that safeguard our air, water, and soil.

The health of the life-support ecosystems on our continent is of paramount importance. Inherent in the efficient dynamics of those ecosystems is a vital profusion of biodiversity. Therefore, the Green Party calls for a halt to the destruction of habitats, which are being sacrificed to unqualified economic expansion. Humans have a moral responsibility to all of our animal relations, many of which are facing extinction because we carelessly and permanently halt their long evolutionary journey.

The Green Party also supports the spread of organic agriculture and the careful tending of our nation’s precious remaining topsoil. We support easy access to birth control and family planning to stabilize human population growth that is pressuring the ecosystems, and we especially support reducing the consumption of the world’s raw materials by the rich industrialized nations.

The Green Party honors and seeks to follow the teachings of the Haudenosaunee who implore us to consider the impact of our decisions on the well being of the next seven generations. We embrace the wisdom of this principle in our deliberations regarding policy and practices in all areas of life, but especially so with respect to the environment.


Section 7

Ecological Sustainability


7-1. Plan for a Sustainable Syracuse: The Green Party believes that if we wish to have sustainable institutions and enterprises we must create mechanisms for comprehensive long-term planning to develop means of production, distribution and lifestyles that fit within nature rather than exploit the natural processes of Earth.  The goals of comprehensive planning should be a sustainable regional economy based on renewable energy sources; renewable materials that are non-toxic biodegradables or recyclables, and zero toxic emissions. The planning process should include the development of a time table for replacing non-renewable fuels and materials of our present economy with viable renewable technologies that will provide a sustainable, self-reliant economic base for the region. At present, with a declining farming and manufacturing base, Onondaga County is increasingly dependent on wealth-draining imports, the decisions of distant investors, corporations and governments, and the movements of prices and interest rates in a world market over which we have no control. The Green Party believes that with incisive planning for a sustainable economy we can achieve a revitalized farming and manufacturing foundation, the service and retail sectors will have plenty of customers, and the public sector will have ample revenues. To achieve this we call for public policies and investments that promote ecological wisdom and local sustainable production with a future focus.

7-1a. Promote Ecological Farming: We call for developing and promoting a regionally self-reliant organic food and agriculture system that links urban consumer cooperatives to family farms and farm cooperatives.

7-1b. Promote Individual & Community Gardening, & Urban Agriculture: We recognize the well established benefits of individual and community gardening, and urban agriculture. We call for individual and community garden, and urban agriculture initiatives to be encouraged and supported on vacant lots within the city in order to promote access to healthy, fresh food as well as maintain green spaces, mitigate storm water runoff, and increase property values in our urban neighborhoods.

7-1c. Promote Ecological Manufacturing: We support policies and investment strategies that promote worker or community-owned manufacturing cooperatives using eco-technologies based on nontoxic biodegradables and recyclables and renewable energy sources. This should include maximizing the use of local agricultural raw materials for nontoxic biodegradable and recyclable products that are manufactured locally.

7-1d. Promote Ecological Transportation: We believe that it is essential for a sustainable ecology to bring work and shopping back within walking distance in neighborhoods. We call for construction of a convenient network of paths for bikes and electric carts, and the redevelopment of a light rails transportation system like the trolley car system we once had, and municipally maintained sidewalks and crosswalks. CENTRO buses and mini-vans powered by diesel and natural gas should be replaced by vehicles powered by electric or non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells. Rideshare and community car use programs such as Cusecar, and the development of other means for shared transportation, such as bike sharing, should be promoted.

7-1e. Promote Ecological Construction: We support providing tax breaks, targeted loans and other inducements to promote building new structures and retrofitting old structures with nontoxic materials that maximize energy and water efficiency and are powered by on-site renewable energy sources. We also support the prioritization of rehabilitation over new construction and promoting deconstruction when possible rather than demolition with earmarked funding for deconstruction and a strong partnership with Habitat for Humanity to expand the scope of ReStore and improve its retail capabilities (see also sec. 3-10).

7-1f. Employ Social and Ecological Accounting: We call for the development of a system of social and ecological accounting that includes all costs and benefits, and all assets and liabilities that impact the ecology and affect our quality of life, not only those monetized in the market. A system of social and ecological accounting would use a variety of indicators (not just government fund balances or gross product measures) to give a more complete picture of the state of our community, thereby challenging profiteers and the underpayment of workers, and  documenting best practices in energy efficiency. Ecological accounts would enable audited governmental units to track their eco-efficiency, give planners a more complete view of Onondaga County's economy and environment by accounting for natural as well as human-made capital, and assist municipal governments in making ecologically intelligent polices and adopt practices that protect and restore the ecological foundations of our local economy and environment.

7-1g. Conduct Environmental Audits: We call for the City of Syracuse Auditor, the Onondaga County Comptroller, and comparable officials in other municipalities to institute a program of periodic environmental audits that run parallel to their fiscal audits. The environmental audits will document the unnecessary use of toxics, waste of energy and resources, and identify opportunities for “eco-efficiency”—the greater utilization of non-polluting materials and the more efficient use of energy, paper, and other materials, which saves taxpayers money and reduces adverse impacts on the environment.

7-1h. Develop a Greenway Network: We support development of a countywide Greenway Network linking parks, wildlife preserves, and other green space to all neighborhoods, schools, and shopping districts through a comprehensive and usable system of walkways and bikeways. Urban community gardens, the reforestation of urban areas, and establishment of permanent natural habitat preserves to foster biodiversity should be part of the Greenway Network.

7-1i. Replace the I-81 Viaduct with a Mixed Use Green Commons. The Green Party calls for deconstructing the I-81 viaduct and replacing it with a car free, mixed use neighborhood commons with sidewalks, bike paths, gardens, trees, recreational space and retail shops with upper-level housing. Through traffic should be rerouted around Syracuse using I-481 and “park-and-ride” facilities should be provided with improved public transportation to bring people into commons, its surrounding businesses, neighborhoods and cultural amenities.

 7-2. Prevent Pollution: Pollution is a universal problem that must be addressed globally and locally. The Green Party believes there are actions we can take in the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County now to reduce our exposure to disease-causing pollution and toxins.

7-2a. Require Public Notification of Pesticide Applications: Pesticides are potent neurotoxins that have been associated with birth defects, cancer, immunological disorders, and hormonal disruption. We believe that, at the very least, the public should know when pesticides are being applied.

7-2b. Phase-Out Synthetic Pesticide Use by Local Governments: We call for reducing synthetic pesticide exposure to municipal workers and local citizens by phasing out all uses of synthetic pesticides by local government, including in parks, with exceptions only for public health emergencies. Reliance on pesticides usually means the underlying causes of pest infestation are not being addressed. Non-toxic pest control measures result in long-term solutions that save lives and money over the long term.

7-2c. Promote Clean Air & Water: Clean air and water are essential for all forms of life. We support strong regulation to prevent the release of industrial pollutants into the air and water. Any industrial process that cannot be certified as safe to the air or water should be banned. We support the current city and county ban on hydrofracking and call for a permanent ban throughout the state. We also support continuing and expanding existing efforts where feasible to mitigate storm water pollution though education of our citizens, enforcement of our laws, and holistic watershed management by advancing storm water technologies that detain, treat, filtrate, and use storm waters near where it is collected.

7-2d. Require Notification of All Food Additives & Genetically-Modified Food: We support regulations that require consumer notification of all food additives and genetically modified food sold in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

7-2e. Ban Commercial & Public Vehicle Idling: We believe that all fossil fueled commercial and public vehicles should be banned from idling when not being driven. We also support strong regulation and restricted use of fossil fueled generators.

 7-3. Adopt a Zero Waste Strategy: The Green Party believes that the vision of zero waste is an attainable goal, not an impossible dream. A waste-free society is essential to public health and the integrity and sustainability of the biosphere. Natural ecosystems are self-sustaining and generate no waste. We humans are a part of these ecosystems, and while we obtain resources from them, we have a responsibility to return only those things that can be re-absorbed without detriment. Waste is not an inevitable part of production and consumption, as it is viewed in the current economic model. A zero waste strategy leads us to look for inefficiencies in the use of materials, energy and human resources. To achieve a sustainable future, extreme efficiency in the use of all resources will be required in order to meet the needs of all of the earth’s inhabitants. A zero waste strategy directly supports this requirement. The Green Party calls for the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County to adopt a Zero Waste Strategic Plan for dealing with the waste problem.

7-4. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle: The zero waste strategy the Green Party supports places the highest priority on waste reduction and reuse followed by recycling. The reduce, reuse, and recycle chain places an emphasis on phasing out materials that cannot be reused or recycled in tandem with a move toward total reuse and recycling through reducing the amount of waste and disposable products produced, reusing items and materials whenever possible, and recycling as much as possible that which we cannot reuse.

7-4a. Impose a Real Green Fee on Solid Waste: We support a “pay as you throw” fee schedule, scaled to the amount of waste generated, in order to encourage waste reduction and reuse.

7-4b. Choose to Reuse: Reuse has numerous advantages over recycling. Reuse means taking products that would otherwise be discarded and using them again in their current form, or with few repairs or changes. We call for a robust reuse program for businesses, institutions, governments and households as part of the Zero Waste Strategic Plan referred to above.

7-4c. Require OCRRA to Collect All Plastics & Styrofoam for Recycling:  We call for OCRRA to accept all single use numbered plastics and Styrofoam for recycling. 

7-4d. Pass a Syracuse Plastic Bag Ordinance: We support passage of a City of Syracuse ordinance similar to those passed in several New York municipalities that encourage the use of reusable checkout bags and ban the use of plastic bags for retail checkout of purchased goods. The Green Party also supports enacting additional ordinances that aim to protect the environment and reduce the waste stream like:

    • Banning single use water bottles;
    • Implementing a “receipt by request” regulation for retail businesses;
    • Requiring take-out food containers & utensils to be recyclable or compostable.

 7-4e. Promote Composting by Residents & Retail Establishments:  We call for educating residents and retailers about the values of composting and we advocate passing a mandatory ordinance like the “San Francisco Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance” (2009), which requires universal source separation of all organic material, including food residuals. Neighborhood composting facilities should be created to accept compostable materials and soil from composting should be easily available for residential use.

7-4f. Require Zero Waste Strategies at Festivals & Parks: We urge city and county governments to require all festivals and users of public parks and green spaces to practice zero waste strategies.

7-4g. Provide Public Receptacles for Waste & Recyclables: We support the strategic placement of receptacles in business districts and neighborhoods for placement of trash, recyclables, compostables and deposit containers to eliminate the excessive trash on city streets and properties and to assure proper disposal of these products. 

7-4h. Provide Incentives for Materials Recovery Industries: We support targeting economic incentives to businesses that reuse, repair, recondition, recycle, or resell waste materials. OCRRA and the county Economic Development department should work closely to help develop these industries.

7-4i. Impose Green Fees on Non-Recyclables: We support passage of a county trash reduction law with a schedule of Green Fees on non-recyclable packaging and products sold in the county.

7-4j. Promote Buying Recycled & Recyclable: We call for local and county governments to increase purchases of recycled and recyclable products, especially from local sources.

7-4k. Invest in Recycling Industries & Infrastructure: We support the creation of locally owned businesses offering secure, living wage jobs to handle waste materials. This ecological approach is also an economic development approach: for the same volume of trash, recycling creates more than six times more permanent jobs than incineration. These industries should receive the highest priority to receive county economic development incentives and assistance, particularly for the formation of worker-owned cooperatives. We call for public investment in expansion of the infrastructure for composting, reuse of deconstructed building materials, and recycling of construction waste.

7-4l. Provide Public Education & Training on the 3 R’s: The Green Party calls for improving public education and outreach to increase recycling and minimize solid waste, including a long-term program of public service announcements on buses, in media, in schools, and in workplaces. The budget for public education programs by Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) needs to be increased and its programs should emphasize the need to reduce of the waste stream, especially for hazardous household wastes, and for education on how to buy recycled and recyclable products.

 7-5. Make Land Filling & Incineration Options of Last Resort: The Green Party recognizes that until we reach the point of zero waste, land filling will remain a necessity. Any use of landfills should be environmentally safe, and Onondaga County trash should not be dumped in unlined landfills where pollution leaches into the soil and water and vents into the air.

7-5a. Phase-out Incineration: We call for phasing out trash incineration at the earliest feasible opportunity. The OCRRA Rock Cut Road trash incinerator which began operation in November of 1994 has an original lifespan of 20 years that was increased to 40 years with upgrades. Therefore, we call for the development and implementation of a plan to phase out incineration by 2034 at the absolute latest date.

7-5b. Maintain Public Control of Trash Incineration: The current OCRRA contract for operation of the Rock Cut Road incinerator by Covanta Energy Corp. expires in 2015 and includes an option for Covanta to purchase the facility for $1.00. Covanta is a corporation that answers to its stockholders and not the public. We call for OCRRA to maintain control over trash incineration until the Rock Cut Road incinerator is closed.

7-5c. Take Public Title to County Trash: We support state legislation to allow municipal governments to take title to all trash placed at the curb for disposal in order to control its solid waste system. We see this as a way for the county to maintain control of its solid waste system. With the title to trash, the county can emphasize waste reduction, reuse, and recycling instead of using trash flow to feed the incinerator or to be dumped in landfills. Without title, there are few options for public regulation of the waste stream and its uses.

7-5d. Elect the OCRRA Board: There Green Party believes that the public interest in management of its waste stream would be best served if the OCRRA Board was elected rather than filled by political appointment as is currently the case.

 7-6. Heal Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake: The Green Party fully supports the Onondaga Nation's Land Rights Action and its “Vision for a Clean Onondaga Lake.” Within the context of the Onondaga Nation’s vision and its land rights action the Green party supports:

  • Returning ownership of Murphy’s Island to the Onondaga Nation;
  • Removal of the western shore “White Cliff” waste beds;
  • Reclaiming the Onondaga Creek and lake waterfront for public use;
  • Completing the “Loop-the-Lake trail;
  • Transforming the existing “Sainte Marie” historical site into a Haudenosaunee Museum.