Polluters Should Pay for Plastic Pandemic

I actually wrote this post a few months ago. I keep putting off its posting, because it feels strange to bring up yet another important issue when we all have so many other things on our minds. But it’s beginning to weigh me down, having it sit there in queue, gathering dust. So here it is. I hope you can see through all our other stressors long enough to take it seriously. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

I just read a very disturbing article, and it wasn’t even about COVID-19. It is in the Rolling Stone, and it’s entitled, “Planet Plastic: How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades.”

It’s a long read, and a disturbing one. Here are just a few of the statistics it mentions.

  • Each one of us ingests nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week, from tap water, food, and the air. That’s the equivalent of swallowing 1 credit card a week.

  • Worldwide, we use 1 million plastic bottles a minute and 500 billion plastic bags a year.

  • A dump truck load of plastic enters our oceans every minute.

  • Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste, 91% of which has never been recycled.

It goes on to say that the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to keep us consuming plastic, because as we start to break our dependency on oil, the only way they can continue to make a profit is by selling it to us in the form of plastic.

There is one bright note. A Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 has been introduced to Congress. This act would ban many single-use plastics, and force corporations to pay for programs to keep plastic out of the environment.

Making the front end polluter pay sounds like a really great first step, but this act faces forceful opposition from the oil and soda lobbies, and Trump is very much in favor of propping up the oil industry, so it will be interesting to see how far this gets. Ask your congressman to support this act.

We need to do something. We probably won’t. This has got to stop. It probably won’t. But at least there are people out there who are thinking about it, and they need our support.

Recently a dead whale was found with nearly 64 pounds of plastic waste inside his stomach. That’s real. The picture below is an artist’s representation of this. If this doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, nothing will.

Shocking Picture Of Whale With 29kg Of Plastic In Its Stomach Alarms The World About The Huge Plastic Pollution Problem

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An Environmental Reset

I just read an article that says that now that there are no tourists in Venice, the canals are so clear that you can see the fish in them, and that dolphins have been spotted for the first time in recent memory. How wonderful. I wish I could see that, but unfortunately, our trip to Italy has been cancelled.

And then this article on the NPR website shows that the air pollution in China has all but disappeared, because people aren’t driving, and factories aren’t running. China’s carbon footprint isn’t nearly as footy or printy as it was this time last year. Again, good news.

As someone said on a meme that is going around, it’s almost as if the planet has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done.

We are experiencing a rare opportunity to see a cleaner, less crowded world. I hope that really sinks in with people. I hope it makes us all tread more lightly upon the earth. I hope that we learn more from the horrible tragedy of COVID-19 than the need to wash our hands.

Dolphins venice

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What Does God Think of Climate Change?

Always supposing you believe climate change is real (and I do), I have a thought experiment for you. If you believe in God, then what do you think God thinks about what we are doing to our planet? I mean, we’re taking this amazing gift, and we’re basically pooping all over it. My guess is she or it or he would be mighty disappointed in us. If I were God, I’d be totally rethinking this whole “free will” thing. Because we are definitely screwing things up.

Or maybe the old testament got it right, and what we have is a vengeful, fear-inducing God. If that’s the case, then climate change is some form of punishment, and we better start paying attention. The time for basking in our blissful ignorance is long past.

Here’s an even bigger thought experiment for you: Even if you don’t believe in God and/or climate change, please explain to me why it doesn’t make sense to live a green and clean life? What are the disadvantages?

If our actions just boil down to laziness, selfishness, greed and a basic resistance to change, then God doesn’t even need to be in this equation. We should all be disappointed in ourselves.

climate change

What Price Patriotism?

As I write this, the Blue Angels are roaring past my bridge, making the windows rattle. I must admit that it’s a spectacular show. If you haven’t seen these Navy fighter jets perform, you may as well. You are paying for them. We all are, in one way or another.

According to this article, these jets cost US taxpayers 35,577,000 dollars a year. That’s quite a bit of cash just to promote the US Navy and make us all feel proud to be Americans. Imagine what an impact that would have on the homelessness or hunger or public education crises in this country.

And let’s not overlook the other, less visible impacts. The approximately 8000 gallons of jet fuel burned during a typical Blue Angels show is creating quite the carbon footprint. And there’s no easy way to calculate how much extra fuel each car in the area has to burn because it has to detour or idle due to traffic snarls caused by these shows. And then there’s the increase in boat traffic as vessels compete for the best view. The noise pollution alone is off the charts, and don’t forget the garbage produced by the crowds. And then there are the terrified pets, and the anxiety suffered by people with PTSD.

I’m not saying that Americans need to live lives of extreme austerity. I just happen to think there are other ways we could celebrate that don’t come with such a high price tag.

http _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_8_81_Blue_Angels_on_Delta_Formation

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Nature Doesn’t Clash

I have a friend who is an artist, and when choosing his color palette for any given creation, he looks to nature for inspiration. He’ll take a leaf or a flower petal, for example, and put it under a microscope, and then use the colors he sees there. I think that’s a brilliant idea.

If you want the ultimate arbiter of good taste, nature is it. First of all, it’s been around a heck of a lot longer than we have. It knows how to play the game. It doesn’t like short-term trends. I can’t think of even one example of a natural thing that irritates my sensibilities. I definitely can’t say that about humans on an average day. (Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in sandals with knee socks.)

Nature also doesn’t wage war, shut down the government for selfish reasons, or pollute itself in the name of greed. It sees no need for firearms. If anyone were to support health care for all, it would be nature.

While nature can seem arbitrarily cruel, it definitely looks at the big picture and the long term. These are qualities that modern man seems to lack, to our everlasting peril. The more we ignore nature’s warnings, the more we will suffer. Nature is patient. Nature will win. The question is, will we be around to see it?

Painted Hills Oregon
Painted Hills, Oregon

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Water Clarity

The other day I wrote Epiphanies of the Obvious, and today I had one. I was looking at an artist’s rendering of some sort of ocean-based dinosaur, and I noticed that the water was crystal clear. And then I thought, “Yes, I bet the water was crystal clear for the dinosaurs. We weren’t around to eff it up yet.”

Yeah, I know. That’s obvious. But I swear to you that it was the first time I had really thought of this on a grand, all encompassing scale. Pollution is us. It’s all because of us. Those islands of floating plastic in the middle of the Pacific weren’t caused by the lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.

The PCBs and the Mercury and all the other nastiness in the food chain, that’s us. The deformed fish? Us. Oil spills? Us, us, us. No other creature on the planet is even 1/10th as destructive. And yet we think we’re superior.

And in that superiority, we’ve given ourselves a free pass to avoid taking any sort of responsibility for our actions. Many of us even try to push legislation to sidestep cleaning up after ourselves. Many others refuse to even see that there’s a problem.

That meteor that wiped out all the dinosaurs may have been the worst thing that could have happened to this planet. But I say that only because it paved the way for us and the selfish choices that we make. Shame on us.

mosasaur__from_armasaurios_collection__2011__by_augustopatino-d8uc6p6

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The Septic Tank Guy

Once every two weeks, a guy comes to the bridge to pump out our septic tank. I hope he’s paid well. That’s one disgusting job.

No matter how evolved we would like to think we are, there’s no getting around the fact that we are biological beings, and somewhere, every minute of the day, some poor schmuck is dealing with our feces. Think about it. Every time you flush the toilet, you are propping up a huge sector of the economy. Plumbers, treatment plant operators, septic tank guys, the entire port-a-potty industry, toilet paper, cleaning supply and bathroom fixture companies, those charged with monitoring and cleaning up our polluted rivers and streams, medical personnel who treat all the various diseases brought on by bad sanitation, even the bad comedians who thrive on poop jokes.

Everybody’s got to make a living. But I think I’d have a hard time finding job satisfaction as a septic tank guy. Granted, you’re providing a very valuable and important service, but come on. Imagine having to spend your every working moment dealing with other people’s sh**.

Well, come to think of it, a lot of us do that anyway, don’t we?

Calvin

Inclusion

Yet another reason to love Seattle. I just read in this article that they’ve unveiled several rainbow crosswalks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, and they will last long after this year’s Pride festivities are over and done with. And then the Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriage is legal nationwide. That’s the best thing to come out of the Supreme Court in many years.

Whether you approve of homosexuality or not (And frankly, you approval isn’t asked for or required. It would be like asking if you approve of someone’s eye color.), these developments are good for everyone. Here’s why:

Anyone who has survived past 6th grade knows what it’s like to be excluded, isolated, treated like you are an outsider. Everyone has experienced that pain. Because of this, I will never understand people whose moral or political policy is one of exclusion.

We don’t have to agree with people to accept them for who they are. They should not need some sort of inspection stamp to allow them to be included in the human race, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Forcing anyone into the realm of pain and isolation lacerates the very fabric of society.

As long as someone isn’t doing you any physical harm, why would you want to perpetuate negative energy? Why not allow everyone to feel welcome, included, and even embraced by the communities of which they are a vital part? How hard is that? There can never be too much love in the world.

If you hate certain groups, or feel they should be treated less decently than others, you may want to take a long, hard look at yourself and consider what pollution you are putting out in the world. Because the funny thing about pollution is that it doesn’t discriminate. Sooner or later it affects us all.

[Image credit: capitolhillseattle.com]
[Image credit: capitolhillseattle.com]

Have we Overstayed our Welcome?

Aw, jeez, I need to stop surfing the internet. I just came across a website called Recent Natural Disasters, and it gives you all the reported disasters all over the world, 24 hours a day. I have a hard enough time avoiding my tendency to anthropomorphize nature, especially when it seems as though the planet is becoming more and more pissed off.

Typhoon Haiyan has certainly displaced thousands of people, but it’s only the latest in what seems to be an increasing number of natural disasters, from the expected to the downright bizarre. I mean, who expects flooding in Saudi Arabia? But that’s been happening, too.

And I’m stunned by how many of these events have escaped my notice up to this point. Here are but a few of the headlines from the past few months:

Massive landslide in Denali National Park, Alaska – Could take 10 days to clear

Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano eruption prompts evacuation of 3,300

Mudslide traps 20 in Cross Rivers, Nigeria

Very severe cyclonic storm Phailin: India’s biggest evacuation operation in 23 years, 43 killed

Eurasia’s highest volcano Klyuchevskoi spews ash up to 3.7 miles

40,000 evacuated amid Gujarat flooding

7.7 magnitude earthquake in Pakistan kills 400, Awaran declares emergency

Flooding in Bunkpurugu, Ghana kills 1, displaces 6,000

Shanghai heat wave 2013: Hottest temperature in 140 years!

Spanish Mallorca forest fire: Worst fire in 15 years evacuates 700

Namibia African Drought: Worst in 30 years

Yarnell, Arizona Wildfire 2013: 19 firefighters killed

Central African Republic gold mine collapse kills 37, national mourning declared

Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand flood 2013: At least 5,500 killed

Colorado wildfires destroy 360 plus homes, 38,000 evacuated

Whether you believe in Global Climate Change or not, don’t you sometimes get the feeling that we as a species are no longer wanted on this planet? And if so, who could blame Mother Nature? I mean, we take and take and take, and what we give in return is pollution, destruction, and devastation. If a guest in my home were behaving this badly, I’d kick him out, too.

eruption

Climate Change: Points to Ponder

I think the worst thing that could have happened to those of us who hope to educate others about the dangers of climate change is one word. Warming. If it weren’t for the term “Global Warming”, people would be more able to focus on the facts rather than the terminology. Climate change deniers cling to the word warming as if it were a life ring in storm-tossed seas.

“Look! We had a snow storm in May!!! See? Global WARMING doesn’t exist!”

Poor short-sighted, deluded people. Because of increasing temperatures there is more moisture in the air. Ever notice that it’s more humid in the summer than in the winter? When increased moisture hits a cold front, what happens? Snow. And a crap load of it. Yup, snow is cold. But that doesn’t mean the earth isn’t getting warmer. It’s a complex system, people, and one which we learn more about with each passing year. But before I get into some facts that can’t be ignored, I have two sets of questions for those who so desperately want to cling to the status quo:

1)      What do you think scientists would gain by making all of this up? Do they WANT the end of the world as we know it? Why? Do you really think there aren’t plenty of other areas of scientific pursuit that they could, well, pursue? Do you really think that thousands of scientists, from various countries, races, religions and creeds are in a global conspiracy to terrify the populous so that they can keep their jobs or alter the economy in some diabolical way? You give them a great deal of power.

2)      Even if you are right and global warming doesn’t exist, why would you NOT want to do things in an environmentally friendly way? Are you in love with garbage, pollution, undrinkable water, the death of one species after another, and air that is increasingly dangerous to breathe? Do you want that for your children? Is it just laziness, or do you really prefer that sort of planet?

Okay, here are some points to ponder and some facts to feast upon:

  • I often hear people say that a few degrees temperature difference won’t matter much, surely. But if your baby’s average temperature is a few degrees higher, especially on a regular basis, you’d panic. You’d take that child to the hospital, as you know that such things are fatal. So too with our life on this planet.
  • Hurricanes are decreasing, but becoming stronger, and now they’re coming as much as 100 miles inland.
  • Islands are disappearing. The sea has risen 8 inches since 1870. It is expected to rise anywhere from 16 to 56 inches by 2100. The following island groups are already threatened: Kiribati, Maldives, Seychelles, Torres Strait Islands, Tegua, Solomon Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Carteret Islands, and Tuvalu, as well as the country of Bangladesh, where they’re learning how to grow their crops on floating rafts. They never had to do that in the past. Don’t believe me? Talk to the people who are on the brink of being displaced.
  • Most scientists agree that temperature stability relies on 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere or less. Anything more than that spells disaster. This carbon comes, for the most part, from the burning of fossil fuels. Coal is carbon. Oil is carbon. When we burn it, it doesn’t just disappear. That carbon still exists, and it’s now in our atmosphere. Humans are responsible for this. There’s no getting around that. Sadly, in 2012, we were already at a steady 390 parts per million. On May 9th, for the first time, NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory recorded daily concentrations of 400 parts per million. This doesn’t fluctuate downward. It’s a steady and ever increasing rise.
  • Deserts are burning. Other areas are flooding. You’ve seen it.
  • Arctic summer sea ice has shrunk roughly 34% since 1979. The arctic summer could be ice free by mid-century. In the past 50 years glaciers have lost more than 2,000 cubic miles of water. That can be observed by the human eye, and all that water has to go somewhere.
  • Ice reflects the heat of the sun back into space. When it’s gone, what you have is dark land and water, both of which hold heat. This is a downward spiral that any person with a modicum of logic can follow.
  • For the past 3 decades the oceans’ surface temperatures have been higher than any other time in recorded history.
  • Coral reefs are dying.
  • A lot of Australia is in permanent drought. Farms have been abandoned forever because of firestorms. Just ask the people of Victoria about the walls of fire that killed hundreds. This has never happened before.

I know what you’re thinking. This is just a cycle. The planet has gone through cycles before. That’s true. It can’t be denied. In the Pleistocene we had ice and arctic deserts. At other times the ice caps melted and the planet was mostly ocean. The earth is a subtle system with subtle cycles that are millions of years apart. The creatures living during the Pleistocene wouldn’t have noticed a change, however, because it wasn’t occurring within decades like it is now.  It wasn’t even occurring within centuries. We’re talking millions of years. The change we’re seeing now is not a cyclical planetary change.

And another argument is that scientists make mistakes. True enough. People once believed the earth was flat. They also believed the sun rotated around the earth. Does that mean that all science should be discounted? We learn more and more over time. We stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us, mistakes and all. The more data we accumulate, the more accurate our knowledge becomes.

Argument number three: Al Gore is an idiot who doesn’t practice what he preaches. Okay, let’s stipulate that that’s true if it gives you some sort of perverse comfort. How does that negate the findings of thousands of scientists? I personally think Carrie Nation was an extremist crackpot, but that doesn’t mean I discount the fact that alcohol ruins many people’s lives. Go to any AA meeting throughout the world and you can hear it firsthand.

Stop listening to the lunatic fringe. Stop desperately clinging to beliefs that are not based on evidence simply because you would rather not alter your current lifestyle. Think for yourself. Look around. Apply some common sense before it’s too late for you, because here’s the thing: the earth will survive, even if it’s just a barren, lifeless rock floating through space. It’s humanity that’s in danger. And you can see that with your own eyes, once you let go of the word “warming” and actually pay attention. And yet half the people I know don’t even bother to recycle, which is the world’s simplest of first steps. How hard is it to recycle? Come on.

Here’s another thought: if I’m right about global warming, then we all need to make changes. If we don’t, it will be fatal. On the other hand, if I’m wrong about global warming, then we don’t need to make changes, but if we do make them, how’s it going to hurt? Is there something wrong with the concept of conserving our resources, for example? I say it’s better to err on the side of caution, especially if it’s something that has to do with life on earth. To do otherwise would be the height of stupidity and selfishness.

If you want to get some amazing ideas about things you can do in your community on a grass roots level, things that can only be good for the planet whether you believe scientists or not, then visit the website 350.org.

environment

(Image credit: debonofoods.com)