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Phys.Org featured environmental law Professor Karl Coplan's new book in "A guide to the good, low-carbon life"

01/15/2020

Phys.Org featured environmental law Professor Karl Coplan's new book in "A guide to the good, low-carbon life"

For about the last 10 years, environmental law professor Karl Coplan has been trying to winnow down his direct carbon-dioxide emissions with the goal of reaching four tons per year—about 40 percent of the average American's. He has been successful, and has just published a book, "Live Sustainably Now," chronicling his efforts. Half treatise, half diary, it offers an entertaining guide for others.

Living in a house in the suburbs north of New York City, Coplan faces challenges in an area where cars rule and individual homes can gobble large amounts of energy. Nevertheless, he consistently comes in under budget. Some of his methods are obvious: buying an electric car, eating less red meat, cutting down on air travel. Some could be viewed as extreme, or at least not for everyone; on some days he gets to his job across the Hudson River by biking to the riverbank, kayaking across a heavily trafficked stretch of water, and picking up a second bike on the other side. But he does seem to have lots of fun, and you don't hear him complain about things he misses.

Coplan teaches at Pace University. His book is published by Columbia University Press. We spoke with him recently.

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"Phys.org" features Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Amazon sellers seek more clout with new 'merchants guild"

03/20/2018

"Phys.org" features Law Professor Paul Rafelson in "Amazon sellers seek more clout with new 'merchants guild"

The millions of merchants who sell products on Amazon.com Inc. have long craved more leverage over their powerful benefactor. Now some are creating a trade association in the hopes that a unified voice will force Amazon to take them more seriously.

Organizers began pitching fellow merchants on the Online Merchants Guild last week at the Prosper Show, an annual Las Vegas conference that drew 1,900 Amazon sellers. The group is only just getting started but has big ambitions, which include negotiating better terms with Amazon, pushing the company to respond more effectively to sellers' complaints and lobbying government officials to make sure merchants' viewpoints are being heard.

Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee and owner of the consulting firm Ecommercechris.com is organizing the guild with Paul Rafelson, a Pace University law professor. They plan to promote the group at Amazon  events in New York and Seattle next month. It's early days, and only about 100 merchants have expressed interest in joining the association, which levies an annual fee of between $100 and $25,000, depending on the size of the business.

Merchants have mulled such a group for years but now have an issue to rally around. In recent months, states have been warning that they plan to levy back taxes on years worth of past sales. Merchants fear they'll be easier targets than Amazon and hope a guild will give them lobbying clout.

"There has not been one single issue to galvanize Amazon sellers like the sales tax issue," McCabe says.

Merchants' complaints about Amazon are numerous and long-standing. With 300 million customers around the globe, including its big-spending Prime subscribers, the world's biggest online retailer wields tremendous leverage over the people who keep its web store stocked with an abundance of goods.

Amazon can dictate terms and fees with minimal input from sellers, who have to accept the take-it-or-leave-it approach because there are millions of merchants and only one Amazon. Merchants love it when the orders are rolling in. They hate it when there's a problem and Amazon doesn't seem to care nearly as much as they do because it has plenty of other merchants selling the same things.

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