Town Without Pity
Excessive packaging. I hate it.
Last month, I asked my wife to buy me some 81 mg, low-dose aspirin. She bought me a Triple Pack, with 36 little tablets in each of the plastic containers. It occurred to me that all 108 of those pills could have fit in one of those containers. This immediately bugged me so much that I called the company and left a message. Whether anything will come of that, I don’t know.
Excessive packaging is an issue that has invigorated me for years. Another thing is that the lids/caps to many plastic containers are almost never marked with one of those numbers within a triangle. This leads me to the conclusion – probably correctly – that they are not recyclable.
Our household tries very diligently to adhere to the 3Rs of waste management. The first tenet is to reduce. LONG before the pandemic, we were eschewing paper/plastic bags. We’d utilize reusable bags or my backpack. (Carrying no bag at all is behavior a little bit more risky than I wish to engage in.)
My very artistic daughter has embraced the second tenet, to reuse. She’s often discovering unusual canvasses such as 3.5″ floppy discs and ancient CD-ROM discs, mostly software updates. Hey, we no longer have a working computer that will read them! She’s also made use of panels from cardboard boxes.
Back in the day when I would move frequently, I was aware when grocery stores and especially liquor stores would break down their boxes for trash collection. Boxes that were designed to carry a case of booze are very strong, though not too large, ideal for packing books or LPs.
Recycling and composting create, in our own minds, a bit of competition in our minds. We almost always get our trash in a single garbage can. Some weeks we don’t bring out our recycling bin, we’ve put so little. I’m sure we can always do better, but we’re rather zealous.
Of course, there are much larger issues in terms of climate change. We have a hybrid vehicle, for instance. Still, I’m sure we can always do more. And then there’s this…
This Is Insane
The National Geographic had a “flip” magazine issue for Earth Day. Where will we be in 2070? Will we have saved the world? Or will we destroy the planet?
Based on the past three years, I am pessimistic. The current regime has rolled back vehicle emission standards and the Clean Power Plan. It has appointed a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA, who replaced a guy equally unqualified. Scientifically inaccurate information about climate change is regularly inserted into scientific reports.
Regularly, court cases break down protections. For instance, in March, toxic copper sulfide mining in the watershed of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was permitted.
The effects of climate change appears everywhere we look. Fires are pervasive in Australia, California, Siberia and elsewhere. In fact, “wildfires in California today burn 500 percent more land per year than they did in 1972.” We’re also seeing devastating hurricanes such as Harvey, Dorian, and Maria.
Yet, and ‘Holy Crap This Is Insane’: Citing Coronavirus Pandemic, EPA Indefinitely Suspends Environmental Rules. “The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment.” The regime indeed has “issued a total suspension of enforcement of environmental laws, announcing that companies will no longer need to meet environmental standards during the outbreak. The EPA has set no end date to the policy.”
That was the absolute wrong takeaway. What would happen if the world reacted to climate change like it’s reacting to the coronavirus? In spite of some failures in addressing the pandemic, we’d be going in the right direction.
COVID and the environment
Some semi-good news: Could COVID-19 Spell the End of the Fracking Industry as We Know It? “Seven of the most active companies involved in fracking in Texas have already cut $7.6 billion from their budgets as a response to the oil price collapse.”
And some actual good news from the Boston Globe: Amid coronavirus pandemic, air pollution declines in Boston and elsewhere. It’s an antidote to the cooped up, post-COVID-19 world: a walk or run to get some sun and breathe the spring air. And yes, it’s no illusion born of captivity, the air is actually fresher.
“Pollution — in a remarkably short time — has abated. In the past few weeks, satellite measurements have found that emissions from cars, trucks, and airplanes have declined in metropolitan Boston by about 30 percent, while overall carbon emissions have fallen by an estimated 15 percent.
“Such a sudden drop has few precedents in the modern era, a testament to the scale of societal disruption caused by the virus.”
Do we really need a pandemic to make our planet less polluted by Earth Day 2070? If so, what does that say about us?
It’s easy to think planting a tree, bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, or forgoing a plastic straw is meaningless.
When a new study shows “the Arctic has entered an ‘unprecedented state’ that threatens the entire planet” and it’s “a massive conglomeration of nearly 50 years of research,” it’s difficult to feel optimistic.
Nearly 50 years. The first Earth Day will be a half century ago come next year. I expected that things would be better, way better, on the planet, certainly not appreciably worse. “Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions.”
It’s easy to think planting a tree, bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, or forgoing a plastic straw is meaningless. Yet my family does it anyway. Maybe (probably) it’s a certain arrogance but we are trying for the destruction of the planet to be less “on us.” So we have our hybrid car. We compost. We reuse.
But even as the Midwest US braced for a major, long-lasting blizzard called a “bomb cyclone” AGAIN this month, the regime was signing executive orders designed to further roll back energy and environmental regulations and promote the fossil fuel industry, apparently to meet his goal of making global warming worse.
Andrew Wheeler, the the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has said that human-caused climate change is not his top priority.
This despite a new study by EPA scientists “published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The paper urges action on climate change, declaring the urgency of the issue and pushing for strategies to address the potential effects.”
Earlier this year, EPA scientists priced out the cost of climate change. “By the end of the century, the manifold consequences… will cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
“Those costs will come in multiple forms, including water shortages [Wheeler’s purported top priority], crippled infrastructure and polluted air that shortens lives, according to the study… No part of the country will be untouched, the EPA researchers warned.”
Happy Earth Day. This is probably NOT the only mention of the topic this week.
…an increasing sense that their overseers are deeply partisan and ignorant of the issues
The fight to save the EPA – “With environmental regulations under attack and EPA budgets being slashed, can the destruction of the agency be prevented?” As a practical matter, no.
Last year, Fortune did a story about the US before EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency was created under Republican President Richard Nixon in December 1970, months after the first Earth Day.
Under this regime, however, data has been buried, altered, silenced. “Across agency websites [not just EPA’s], documents have disappeared, web pages have vanished and language has shifted in ways that appear to reflect the policies of the new administration.” I am told that staff have been directed to change the titles of some reports so nobody could find them or ask for the correct document, an underhanded ploy to render them un-FOIA-able.
The agency is poised to scrap fuel economy targets that are key to curbing global warming. “The EPA is [stupidly] expected to announce… that it will scrap mileage targets the Obama administration drafted in tandem with California that aim to boost average fuel economy for passenger cars and SUVs… undermining one of the world’s most aggressive programs to confront climate change.”
Most sinister, and somewhat complicated to explain, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is using ‘weaponized transparency’ to destroy public health and block the use of science.
“How could ‘more transparency’ actually mean less information and worse decisions? Many of the studies that the EPA and other agencies [conduct] that address the health and safety of Americans depend on [and] require access to health records. Those health records can be used only if the information is kept carefully anonymous and if some parts of the information are shielded from public scrutiny. Many of these studies include agreements that portions of the data will not be released to the public. Otherwise, these studies risk revealing private information about the health and activities of individuals.
“Under the new proposed guidelines, many of these studies would be either forced to violate privacy rules, or their data could not be used. By filtering this information out, Pruitt hopes to make EPA decisions without being confronted with information that would counter his desire to allow companies to release unlimited toxins.”
So why are Scott Pruitt and other Cabinet-level heads creating a work environment in which employees at agencies say they have seen their core missions changed or even demolished overnight? Some “described living in constant fear that… budget proposals would end in them being laid off en masse. And given the constantly mercurial state of … policies changing at the drop of a hat, leadership hired and fired on a whim, political appointees undermining existing management, and an increasing sense that their overseers are deeply partisan and ignorant of the issues—their workplace environment has reportedly grown worse than toxic.”
It’s because Scott Pruitt says he’s doing God’s work by ignoring climate change and repealing Clean Power Act. Or just maybe it’s that Pruitt has been living in an energy lobbyist’s condo since he moved to D.C. The current challenges to his tenure brings me little comfort, considering the damage already done.
In any case, the United States pulling out of the Paris Accord while the Arctic is melting down and the Antarctic food chain is breaking seems counter-intuitive. Stop blaming ‘both sides’ for America’s climate failures.
We’re going to have to rely on other countries, the states, business, non-governmental organizations, and ourselves to carry on the fight because the current EPA appears to be fighting for environmental perfidy.
Note: similar topic, more optimism in a couple days.