Air Date: Week of May 8, 1998
This is the time of year that, if you're fortunate enough to get one, that tax refund from the federal government should be arriving. And the average income tax refund check is about fourteen-hundred dollars. Commentator Alan Durning has been pondering ways to put his refund to work for the environment. Alan Durning files his 1040 from Seattle, where he directs Northwest Environment Watch. His latest book is called: Tax Shift - How to Help the Economy, Improve the Environment and Get the Tax Man Off Our Backs. His commentaries are produced by Living on Earth's Terry FitzPatrick.
CURWOOD: This is the time of year that if you're fortunate enough to get one, that tax refund from the Federal Government should be arriving in the mail. Now, it may surprise you to know that the average income tax refund check is about $1,400. And commentator Alan Durning has been pondering ways to put his refund to work for the environment.
DURNING: I haven't decided the best way to invest my tax refund this year, but I've got it down to five options.
(A shovel digging in the dirt)
DURNING: Number one: I might bury it. Sometimes I fear that cranking even one more dollar through the economy will be the straw that breaks the environment's back. You know, global warming, mass extinctions, plummeting sperm counts. I don't want all that on my conscience.
DURNING: Maybe I'll just bury my refund in the compost heap. It can't grow the GNP if it's feeding my worms.
(A factory whistle)
DURNING: Option 2: buy some pollution.
DURNING: Through a government program of trading pollution permits, I can keep one ton of smokestack emissions out of the atmosphere for about 100 bucks. I could call a broker at the Chicago Board of Trade, buy some permits, and feed those to my worms.
DURNING: Option 3: buy clean water instead. Farmers are sucking many rivers dry with wasteful and inefficient irrigation systems. It's pushing vulnerable species like salmon to the brink. Conservation groups are buying water rights from farmers and leaving the water where nature intended. For $100 I can buy a quarter million gallons, as much as my family uses in our home in 2 years, and give it to the fish.
DURNING: Option 4: a faster computer modem.
ELECTRONIC VOICE: Welcome.
DURNING: With a better modem I could cancel my daily newspaper.
ELECTRONIC VOICE: You've got mail.
DURNING: Reading the news online would eliminate more than 90% of the energy and toxic chemicals used to make and deliver a printed paper to my door. It would also slash 400 pounds from my annual paper consumption, reducing the need to clearcut Canada's native forests.
Finally, Option 5: use my refund to create a new political fund.
(Music up and under: the Beatles' song "The Tax Man": "Let me tell you how it will be...")
DURNING: We wouldn't give the money to politicians. Instead, we'd pay card-carrying environmentalists to move.
(Beatles continued: "'Cause I'm the tax man. Yeah, I'm the tax man...")
DURNING: For example, by relocating from California to sparsely-inhabited Wyoming, you increase your leverage in the US Senate 60-fold. A few thousand strategically-placed voters in key western states could create an environmental majority in the US Senate.
(Beatles continued: 'Cause I'm the tax man. Yeah, I'm the tax man...")
DURNING: Oh, our political fund would be nonprofit of course. That way, donations would be tax deductible.
(Beatles continued: "...I'll tax your seat. If you get too cold I'll tax the heat. If you take a walk I'll tax your feet. Tax Man!")
CURWOOD: Alan Durning files his 1040 from Seattle, where he directs Northwest Environment Watch. His latest book is called Tax Shift: How to Help the Economy, Improve the Environment, and Get the Tax Man Off Our Backs.
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