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2nd Annual Women and the Environment Symposium at GVSU: Keynote lecture by Roxana Tynan

February 15, 2013

Earlier today, GVSU Women’s Center and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), hosted the 2nd Annual Women and the Environment Symposium at the downtown campus of GVSU.Picture 1

The symposium began with a talk from the keynote speaker Roxana Tynan, Executive Director of the LAANE, a Los Angeles group that promotes the need for communities to develop a “green economy” or “the new economy.”

Tynan began by showing a short video about a Latina woman in LA who works at a recycling center. The video talks about the low wage and dangerous realities for workers in this industry and what LAANE is doing to challenge the practices of the company. LAANE partnered with the Teamsters to force the company to adopt new policies and practices that improved the wages and working conditions for the workers at the Los Angeles recycling center.

Tynan then talked about LAANE’s vision, which was creating an economy where everyone has enough to live on and a descent place to live. The keynote speaker also talked about the need for creating green jobs, which she believes is necessary in order to create a new economy.

The speaker showed a graphic that laid out a threefold plan for creating this new economy, which included Good Jobs, a Greener Healthier Future and Effective Government. This framework presented the notion that we can achieve a sustainable future within the current free market system, by making adjustments to reform areas of concern. Tynan does believe that we can have a triple bottom line economy, where the planet, people and profit can all flourish.

In some ways it was encouraging to see the work being done, particularly with the recycling center workers and their partnerships with low-wage workers. However, much of the rhetoric and practice of LAANE continues to believe that it is possible to achieve sustainability within a capitalist framework of economic development, which ignores larger structural problems, both economic and environmental, that are inherently unsustainable and necessitates worker exploitation.

Tynan’s comments were brief, but took several questions from the audience that focused on specific projects her organization works on. She was asked about co-ops and the cooperative model as a way of achieving equity. Tynan supports the idea, but wasn’t sure that cooperatives could work on a large scale. This flies in the face of the massive worker run, cooperative ventures that have a long history and is best exemplified by the Sin Patron movement in Argentina.

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