Environmental Library Fund
Environmental Media Library Project for Fairfield County, CT

"Public libraries are now competing with bookstore chains. There's not enough money to go around. What suffers in the end is the quality of what you get both at bookstores and at public libraries. Suddenly both the luxury and the alternative press are finding fewer and fewer places to sell their books or magazines. The remedy is to combine the two businesses into one "creative" outlet for print and other alternative media that will service the needs of communities. It means alternative books get a chance to "stay" on the shelves. They will not simply vanish into private collections never to be seen or heard from again because they are never catalogued by the public library system which, let's face it, can do little more than buy 10 copies of the same latest best sellers and has little money left over for non-fiction materials, the resources communities need most to green themselves."

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A Library Is The Arsenal Of Liberty

"ELF chronicles the environmental movement as pop culture phenomena."

Martha Stewart came to epitomize Westport, Connecticut. So has pro-nuclear Paul Newman. What most people are not aware of is that Westport is more of a marketing corporation than a small town. It all started back in the 50's when cartoonists for magazines like the New Yorker chose to live here because it was pretty and affordable. Westport became an artist community. Then the advertising executives followed, loved it, and started buying homes here as well, driving up real estate prices. 

Remember those old Jack Lemmon movies inspired by Vance Packard's Hidden Persuaders, the first really sharp commentary on consumer culture? Well instead of making people think twice about the road ahead, it became the manual for Madison Avenue. Next thing you know, IBM and the Marketing Corporation of America moved to Westport. In the late 70's they tried to build the international headquarters for the Universal Product Code on Gorham island downtown, a property owned by Newman's lawyer. Residents freaked out. It fell through. IBM left town. 

Then the Internet happened. 

Today, instead of commuting to Manhattan on the morning express, Westporters stay home. Every other colonial house has become camouflage for a marketing firm. Every living soul in Westport has something to sell. There isn't a single product made in the world which doesn't, at some point in its marketing strategy, go through an office in Westport, either military or civilian. 

Bob Guccione, of all people, saw it coming. In the mid 80's he tried to launch a magazine called Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense & Technology with editorial offices in Westport. The idea, I guess, was to infiltrate military marketing logistics by sending Penthouse Pets to procurement officers in guise of sales representatives. It lasted six issues before the brass got hip to the subterfuge. But the seed of dissent had been sown. 

I drew up a business plan for something called M&M's. It would have been an environmental center downtown Westport. For years I had been active at the World Affairs Center, a UNICEF affiliated little store on Main Street. But after supporting the Barry Commoner Citizen's Party presidential campaign in 1980, it lost its tax exempt status.

Why M&M's? Well because it was designed as a big room with a large video screen and different colored bean bags to sit in, making it look like the inside of a giant M&M candy pack. It never materialized, but Larry Bloch read my plan and hired me to create the Eco-Saloon at Wetlands, the night club he was building in Tribeca in 1989.

After failing to carry the idea over to a coffeeshop on the ground floor of Aubudon House at 700 Broadway two years later, I returned to Fairfield County in 1991. Wetlands closed its doors on September 15th 2001 after a 12 years successful run. 

Dozens of environmental professionals, including the office of E magazine in Norwalk, have agreed to consolidate their collections in the event a space can be secured to house an environmental reference library in the Westport area. Public libraries only want to include materials in their stacks, they do no want to create a dedicated Green Room for a green marketing collection. Already the Westport Public library is the most used library in Connecticut, with a very efficient reference department local executives call even while traveling. Westport now also has a great youth center which drew a lot from my original M&M business plan, although the town's people would not dare to admit it. It's called Toquet Hall and it took over an old theater which had been abandoned for 30 years over a printing shop. We used to sneak in and play the old dusty broken down honky-tonk piano left on the stage before it was re-discovered.

Martha announced in the April 9th 2000 issue of the New York Times magazine section that she was leaving Westport. In the article she wrote for this special issue on suburbia, she laments about how the town has changed. Today, Martha's gone green, owning Body+Soul magazine and Green Emeril on the Planet Green channel.

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