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In-Depth Interview: Prof. Ken Geiser Envisions Transition to Green Chemicals

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Ken Geiser is Professor Emeritus of Work Environment at U-Mass Lowell, former director of Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute, and author of Chemicals Without Harm: Policies for a Sustainable World.We open with a shout-out to Del Leonard and a song from his acapella group, Vocal Solution.  Leonard is a former student of Prof. Geiser and the volunteer VP of Marketing for the PBC Show in New England, who suggested this interview.

The interview starts with Geiser's description of his vision for greener, safer chemicals and a lament that American corporations no longer engage in pure research.  We discuss the need for regulation by state and federal authorities, and how regulation has been sharply reduced since the Reagan era, to the point where GOP candidates like Carly Fiorina deride virtually all regulations as "job killers" and promote industry self-regulation.  Geiser argues that consumer power has had the most positive impact on corporate behavior.

Geiser explains how the shift to "risk-benefit" and "cost-benefit" standards for toxics and pollutants has undermined meaningful regulation.  We talk about the impact of heavy industry facilities on communities of color and poverty like Norco, Louisiana and Richmond, California, which Chris Hedges refers to as "capitalist sacrifice zones".  Geiser comments on Monsanto and its dominance over the pesticide and seed sectors.  And we talk about the need to accurately estimate the cost of chemical products over the full life cycle, not just the immediate benefit stage.

Geiser is rightly proud of his work as an author of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reductions Act, and his 13 years directing the Institute the law created.