(Posted April 18, 2017)

  Where do our consumer products come from, and when we are done with them, where do they go? David Radcliff explores the social and environmental impact of consumer waste and finds solutions to the problems they present. Through the New Community Project, Radcliff exposes the true cost of capitalism and finds alternative ways for people who have been taken advantage of by industry to thrive.

            The New Community Project aims to create a global community where the economic success in one region does not depend upon the exploitation of another. To accomplish this, NCP takes young adults on learning tours to expose them to the challenges faced by exploited people, offers volunteer and internship positions, and places special focus on supporting the education and business ventures of young women in impoverished areas.

            Radcliff confronted Juniata students with the harsh reality of the impact our lifestyles have on the environment. “There are half as many animals on the Earth today as when I was sitting where you are,” said Radcliff. Species depletion is not the only environmental problem we face. Air pollution kills one out of 1,000 people globally on a daily basis, and the Ogallala aquifer – where we get water to grow most of our food – is being depleted at an astonishing rate. Capitalism encourages consumers to act only in the short term, as Radcliff said, “We’re not looking at the big picture, we’re just doing what we (have to) do in the moment.”

            The effects of our actions are far-reaching. As military regimes and industry geared toward U.S. markets increase in South Sudan and Myanmar, trash and pollution increase and the living conditions decrease. In the Amazon Rainforest, oil wells, palm oil plantations, cattle, and unlined toxic waste ponds have drastically decreased the amount of healthy forest and species diversity.

            Radcliff pointed out that when we discard trash, “there is no ‘away’ from this planet. We are going to deal with our outflow and excess.” To put a stop to the constant outflow, we can take action on individual and societal levels. Think ahead about the waste you produce; take your own bags to the grocery store, recycle, buy secondhand, and ask for no plastic when possible. Work with groups like NCP who remediate environmental discrimination, organize boycotts against companies with harmful practices, and become a supporter of a cause you care deeply about.

            The destruction of the environment is happening rapidly, and its effects are destructive to communities all over the world. Learning about pollution and other issues is saddening, but Radcliff offers hope, and said, “these cataclysmic events raise up leaders.” He could not be more right. It takes dedicated people to fight for a cause, and there is no better way to become invested in the environment than by watching its destruction firsthand.

Laura Snyder ’18, Juniata Online Journalist



Contact Gabe Welsch at welschg@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.