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Soapbox: We must face the real cost of things we buy

Nancy Leaper Tracy is a Metzger resident.

The retail giant Walmart is not just “back in the running” but is officially cleared to start construction in both Tigard and Sherwood. Many residents are deeply disturbed and not willing to accept this news as final. 

Walmart  has maximized its profits on the backs of China’s cheap labor force, and it has benefited from China’s lax pollution regulations, which have in turn allowed China to greatly expand its reliance on cheap coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Granted, other corporations have followed Walmart’s lead in disregarding all but the bottom line, but Walmart is a giant among retailers, able to outcompete all others.

Disturbing but timely news: CO2 emissions have reached 400 parts per billion, 50 parts over a safety level set by top level climate scientists. This means we’re moving closer to crossing the line where the damage we’ve done by polluting the atmosphere becomes irreversible. China is now on a non-stop building spree of coal-fired power plants. It sees itself leading an industrialization of Southeast Asia, but the reality is that to put tens of thousands of coal-fired power plants on line is sheer lunacy.  

As tons of CO2 from burning fossil fuels thickens the heat-trapping blanket above our heads, global weather conditions have worsened. Last year broke records for heat, forest fires, strong winds and drought. Most of the U.S. corn crop was killed by drought, raising consumer costs for beef, pork, poultry and dairy. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which flooded New York City’s subways, we have learned that the damage from powerful storms can erase a whole coastline, leaving land too risky for redevelopment.

We need to face the real cost of the things we buy. The impact on climate must become a legitimate part of every economic equation, where, in fact, it has always belonged.

We, the consumer, have to demand that businesses like Walmart respect the limitations of our planet’s resources and climate. We can’t keep buying cheap things with no thought of tomorrow. Make your dollars and your voice count by insisting that Walmart take the giant steps that only a business of its size can take in leading the way to a climate secure future for our children and our planet.  

Get on your soapbox

The Times offers a soapbox to stand on every week in our Opinion section. The soapbox is a guest column written by any reader on any local issue of public interest. They should be no longer than 800 words (about three double-spaced typewritten pages) and should include the signature, address and phone number of the writer. Soapboxes are due Mondays at noon and can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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