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Monday, May 6, 2013
OK, let’s grant that climate-change deniers are right: Human beings are not responsible for climate change. Let’s accept that changes in world climate are a natural phenomenon that occurs regularly as time goes by.
What about garbage? Garbage that is burying our planet. Fact is, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American generates 4.6 pounds of trash every day. That amounts to collaboratively 250 million tons per year. Now that is just from average Americans and does not include industrial or municipal waste.
Mountains of trash exist everywhere, and in many countries, including America, “children and adults rummage through enormous trash piles in pursuit of anything edible or recyclable” (“Mountains of trash,” Sierra Star, Feb. 21).
Indeed, in many places around the world people live in trash dumps because they offer easy access to food, clothing and shelter.
From environmentalgraffiti.com: Mae Sot is a Thai border town “where the air is thick with a noxious fog — a mixture of haze and the smoke from burning tires. The toxic fumes mix with the stench of rotting meat and decaying vegetables. Trash lies heaped all around, not as a result of carelessness but simply because this is a garbage dump. It is also the home and workplace for a group of Burmese ‘Karen’ refugees and their children.”
Here are some facts that may interest you: At a Guatemala city dump, you must pay to pick through trash; in Honduras, children, along with vultures, wait at the dump for the trash truck; more than 2,000 Honduran children work in dumps; garbage dumps emit methane, a gas that can cause nausea and vomiting.
It’s a fact of life for millions of people globally.
How about that great Pacific garbage patch, a gyre larger than Texas, spinning 1,000 miles off California, according to scientists at University of California, San Diego. Tons of plastic debris swirls around there, much of it fragmented to particles smaller than a grain of sand.
Fish, such as lanternfish and hatchetfish, eat that debris and digest it, scientists say. Tuna eat lanternfish and hatchetfish, and we eat tuna.
Guess what? We ingest dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, commonly called DDT. No, it is not banned all over the world and can be absorbed by some plastics.
We also get a yummy amount of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PBC. It’s that chemical used to make plastics and other products that seep into our oceans and provide murderous food for the fish we consume.
Sea birds eat it. Sea birds, especially albatross, eat all kinds of plastic debris from bottle caps to Tupperware discards that make their way to our oceans. And, the Pacific gyre is only one of several such ocean garbage dumps around the world.
So, breathes there an opinionated armchair scientist who dares to disagree that the avalanche of trash covering our planet is not made by human beings? Can this person deny that our trash is killing us? Can something be done to eliminate it? Yes, but it is a task requiring all of us throughout the world.
A couple of ideas among many: Seriously and regularly recycling is one important solution, called zero waste. I submit that we need a federal law, enforced diligently, to make people recycle.
Good stuff happens from recycling: Markets for recycled materials, and jobs sorting materials and creating goods to re-enter the economy; reduced number of landfills and incinerators, restricted expansions and strengthened environmental review, compliance and ongoing monitoring at these facilities.
Strict, well-funded enforcement is absolutely necessary to eliminate trash dumps as places to live, and the savings used to help the people who are forced to live, literally, in garbage.
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