Friday, August 27, 2010

Throwing garbage on people's porches -- perfectly OK if you're a corporation

Doesn't that brick of dead tree and petroleum-derived plastic junk add to the beauty of the lavender?

Here at LOVESalem HQ, we're pretty conscious of using less stuff and less energy. We work hard at reducing waste, conserving energy, and reducing intake of new stuff that would become waste and require energy to make, move, and remove.

So we're pretty aggressive about signing up for every stop-the-junk-mail service there is, including the services that promise to stop the yellow pages dead-tree-phone-books.

But, once again, as if to prove Ambrose Bierce's observation that a corporation is just a device for capturing private profit while avoiding private responsibility, Verizon has just graced LOVESalem with a totally unwanted piece of garbage, a phone book that will never be used, made from heavy paper. Making that piece of crap and ferrying it to my door in a plastic bag made of petroleum has consumed a huge amount of energy and caused a huge amount of pollution.

WHY IS THIS LEGAL? If I go to a Verizon store and dump my trash in the store, I risk a civil penalty, if not arrest for disorderly conduct.

Why does Salem not have an ordinance that requires anyone putting unsolicited materials on my porch to come pick those materials up if they haven't been accepted (i.e., taken inside) in two days? What is it going to take? I'm looking at you, City Council. For those who are afraid of the First Amendment boogieman, let's review:

There is no First Amendment right to litter.

Any neutral city ordinance -- one that does not make content-based distinctions but simply regulates the time, place, and manner of delivery and requires that anyone distributing unsolicited materials collect them if they are not accepted --- will survive a corporate challenge.

In fact, an ordinance that prohibited distribution of junk like that without a positive "opt-in" request from residents would likely be upheld too. It would be pretty straightforward to require that anyone who plans to distribute anything more extensive than a single-sheet or card would first have to mail or deliver a request form to the targeted addresses (on paper or online), and only deliver the ultimate object to those residences that complete and return the request form or request the object online.

But hey, it's just the health of the environment -- who give a rip about that compared to Verizon's profits?