Advancing Alternatives

What alternatives are available for economic prosperity and job creation in the community?

In some areas, petrochemicals and plastic production appear to be the economic and employment backbone of the community. When challenging projects, it can feel like the communities' very survival is at stake. Therefore, it is important to address the viable alternatives to petrochemical and plastics production. Without alternatives, petrochemical proponents can continue to push the narrative that petrochemicals and their associated harms are the only option to offer jobs and economic development. However, this is far from the truth.

The fossil fuel industry, of which petrochemicals are a part, is subject to market volatility and boom and bust cycles that do little to enrich communities in the long term. A recent analysis from Food & Water Watch argues that even during record-breaking periods of fossil fuel production, there is job loss. They further argue that industry claims of job creation are based on misleading figures that include arithmetic errors and inclusion of unrelated jobs. Given the harmful environmental and health impacts of the fossil fuel industry and questions regarding its contributions to employment, relying on the petrochemical sector to support a community through job creation and economic opportunities is a dangerous gamble.

A future with fewer petrochemicals and plastics offers better quality of life for humans and a healthier planet for all creatures. Reducing and even eliminating some petrochemical and plastics production can enable communities to enjoy clean air and water, free from toxic pollutants and plastic waste. Communities that face fewer threats from petrochemical and plastic pollution will be more socially resilient, can benefit from ample alternative opportunities for gainful employment, economic growth, and a sustainable future free from non-essential plastics and dangerous petrochemical production. And future generations will have a livable world in which to grow and thrive.

There are a variety of alternatives that can advance this better world. When considering which to propose, it's important to look beyond specific replacements for plastics and consider broader alternative economic development opportunities.

What can the community’s future look like without petrochemicals and plastics?

There are organizations across the country that have laid out visions for a future without petrochemicals and plastics. Here are some notable examples:

  • The Red, Black, and Green New Deal has a Climate Agenda calling for solutions such as ecologically sustainable farming; the protection of forests, wetlands, and natural systems that balance the human output of greenhouse gases; and policies that ensure a just and equitable transition for workers and communities toward a non-extractive economy.

  • The Indigenous Environment Network calls for the elimination of hazardous radioactive, heavy metal, and toxic chemical contamination and emissions on and near Indigenous lands and territories, and the broader planet, by using their sovereign voices to demand that the Canadian and US governments reduce and eliminate toxic releases and alter production processes. The network advocates for substituting safer chemicals adopting the Precautionary Principles (7th Generation Principles) and No Harm Principles, respecting the rights of future generations, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, creating nuclear-free zones, and enacting policies on zero waste.