Friday, May 30, 2008

Burning Plastics

A lot of homo sapiens evolved to like fires. In countries with cold nights, fires kept people warm. Under open skies, fires frightened away wolves, tigers, or other predators. Inside dark caves and rooms, fires lit up the walls and created little worlds that could be seen with their eyes.

So to many people, burning wood seems natural. Indeed, a forest fire in any part of the world wastes more energy and carbon dioxide than a thousand (and usually millions and billions) home wood fires.

In a world overflowing with plastic waste from every angle, it is tempting to burn the plastics as well, is it not? What could be more self-sufficient? Especially if you can make heat or electricity from it, should it not be good for the planet?

So today's prize weblink is given to the simplest:
Separate plastics – separate plastic waste from other waste. Do not burn any plastics in your yard or house.
Avoid plastics – Avoid plastics, in particular do not purchase goods packed in PVC packaging, which generates dioxins when burned.
Reduce waste – Buy products that can be reused or refilled (glass and metal containers)
To which I add: Buy less, Use less, Waste less.

But if you have been puzzled by all the recycling codes on all the bits of plastic packaging of things beautifully manufactured in China and elsewhere, enlighten yourself with the Resin Identification Code.

Look out for Number 3
Vinyl and PVC
Are BAD x 3

Further websites of interest, all Googled, I confess:

A 2002 study from the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) states that "backyard barrel burning" is the largest source of dioxin and furan emissions in the US, and a 2003 Environment Canada report indicates that this practice is the largest remaining single source of environmentally occurring dioxins in Canada. The burn barrels of less than 40 households can release the same combined amount of dioxins as a modern incinerator designed for servicing up to 120,000.

Some types of plastic contain elements besides the standard carbon,hydrogen, and oxygen. Nylons contain nitrogen, and polyvinyl chloride contains, of course, chlorine. These constituents also find their way into the combustion products. Probably the particular component you have heard about most is TCDD, which is an abbreviation for the chemical name tetrachloro-dibenzo-dioxin. This compound contains four chlorine atoms, and is inevatibly formed when polyvinyl chloride plastics are burned. (Complete combustion of PVC would yield only water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen chloride; in practice, some incomplete combustion products such as TCDD are
always formed, if at low levels.) TCDD is also formed when wood burns, because wood also contains small amounts of chlorine. Because of the much higher proportion of chlorine in PVC, however, it is the material leading to the highest levels of TCDD.
The toxicity of TCDD to animals is well-established. It is often considered to be the man-made compound most toxic to animals. Its toxicity to humans,however, is not as well-established. The only absolutely confirmed human health effect from exposure to TCDD is a skin rash called chloracne. Other health effects are suspected. It is considered a carcinogen on the basis of animal studies.

TCDD is also an unwanted by-product of the manufacture of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. A manufacturing accident at a plant manufacturing these chemicals occurred near Sevesto, Italy in 1976 released an estimated 1-10 lb of TCDD into the surrounding countryside, killing many farm animals and causing chloracne. Since 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T were components of the defoliant "Agent Orange" used in Vietnam, many U.S. servicemen (and of course Vietnamese) were exposed to elevated levels of TCDD. TCDD is thus suspected as the cause of the symptoms attributed to "Agent Orange" exposure.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois

Some of the most dangerous chemicals created and released during burning some types of plastic are dioxins.... Dioxins, which are byproducts formed when chlorine-containing products are burned, tend to adhere to the waxy surface of leaves and then enter the food chain. Even if certain types of plastic (such as polyethylene or polypropylene) do not contain chlorine, other materials attached to or burned with the plastic may be a chlorine source.

Other chemicals released while burning plastics include benzo(a)pyrene (BAP) and other polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have both been shown to cause cancer. If film or containers are contaminated with pesticides or other harmful substances, those will also be released into the air. If plastics are burned with other materials, additional toxic chemicals may be created from the interaction of the different substances.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earth Calling Canada: Stop Killing Everything

Canadian Geographic magazine has two outstanding features in the June 2008 issue. One is a revealing look at the Albertan Oil Sands development. The other is about the selfish greedy proposals to Strip-mine British Columbia's Flathead Valley.

What more proof do you need that Canadians are not angels when it comes to the love and protection of Nature? After all, these are the people who bludgeoned Seal-Pups to sell furs to Europeans; they are the people who raped the waters of all the fish in the Grand Banks of the North American East Coast until the cod disappeared, and even after 25 years, has not recovered; these are the people whose greed to grow grain in the Prairies created Dustbowls where once lived whole stable ecosystems.

Some of the maps and pictures of the oil sands extraction scarring Alberta are quite simply shocking. The eventual area to be damaged seems to be the size of the whole of England, if not more. Canadians have worshipped the car, and now they worship the money that comes from the oil that feeds the cars. I dare not even look on a Google Earth satellite photo... the rage it would bring up in me has to be managed.

As for the Flathead Valley, I suspect that now that British Columbia's economy is dominated by the mass economic migration from Hong Kong in the last 25 years, there is a complicity of ignorance and meekness at the prospective rape of the ecology in one of Earth's more bountiful climate systems (the Temperate, Rainy zones on the Eastern edges of the Great Oceans, namely places like Chile, Britain, and British Columbia).

Why should I assume ignorance and meekness when Greed will do? Why should you?

After all, they want the low-grade coal that is in the Flathead Valley. That's what they're doing in China. That's what they want to do in Canada.

Meanwhile the consumption habits of North Americans and Europeans are unabated as they endlessly buy gadgets, goods and machines that are Made in China. So whose fault is it ultimately? Is it the The Ignorant Consumer or is it the greedy Corporations and the Wealthy Private Elite that together rule their lives? It is probably all of them.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Letting Living Things Cross the Road


You think of vast open spaces. Unspoilt. Pure, even when not smothered by snow and ice.

Oh yes, Canada is the place for every (well, at least the ones that hate hot weather or their countrymen) American who dreams to get away . Once called "The Great White North" by Second City comedians. Bears strolling about in the street. Salmon leaping up rivers, begging to be caught. Royal Canadian Mounties. European-descended Protestants living in small homely towns as close to their farming roots as possible. Lumberjacks and Fishermen and Boatsmen. Canada, the land once known for "Hewers of Wood and Bearers of Water."

The reality? Roads, roads, more roads and sprawling cities that are endlessly spreading their drab suburbia, and cars filling up all these roads, killing everything in their path.

Roadkill has always been a major problem in Canada. Canada has in the past always assumed that it had so much land, so much wilderness, that what gets killed on the road does not matter. Canadians have always taken the side of the car. For example, any anecdotes about an encounter between a moose and a car will always blame the moose. This will be rejoined by the Canadian habit of over-earnest familiar solicitousness, firstly for the driver's safety but more importantly for the car's outcome. Was it a write-off? No, not the moose, of course they mean the car!

These days, you don't see dead animals by the sides of the big main roads. No, because all the animals along those roads have given up and been killed. But if you drive on the quieter, straight and boring county and rural roads of Southern Ontario, you will see freshly killed animals - deer, raccoons, and many ugh others that you don't really want to pause to identify.

The truth is that although Canada is large, the amount which is south of the 45th Parallel (45 degrees North latitude line) is very scarce. This bit of Canada, which lies entirely in the Province of Ontario with Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario and the St Lawrence River bounding it, is Southern Ontario.

Southern Ontario south of the 45th Parallel has a land area about the same as the Republic of Ireland. Cover this up with industrialized farmland, roads, cities, shopping malls, parking lots, endless suburbs, endless lakeside Cottage Development, and Earth Calling Canada: YOU have a Problem!.

Indeed, Toronto is so devoted to cars, parking lots, roads and sprawling suburbia, that David Cronenberg, its most famous native Film Director, was inspired to make the film "CRASH". Since he made that film, which satirizes the human sexual attraction to cars in a built landscape that worships the car, there are even more towering buildings that overlook the dreadful 401 that ploughs right across the city from east to west.

The 401 is a hideous example of Twentieth Century North American civilization. Even by the mid-1970s, most of the 20 mile length of the 401 in Metropolitan Toronto had TWELVE LANES. There never was any way any animal could cross that road and ever survive.

So it seems very obvious: roads, highways, and motorways, should only ever be built with tunnels and bridges for animals and land invertebrates so that they can safely cross the road.

It is obvious. Isn't it? Let living things Cross the Road, safe from Killing Cars. Why is something that has been obvious to me for 30 years only now getting into the Toronto Star?

Do countries like China and India want to make these same mistakes as the United States and Canada did so many years ago? China and India can build their roads with tunnel and bridge crossings for living things. Or they could just concern themselves with feeding their burdensome populations and satisfying the materialistic indulgences of their wealthy elite classes.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

London 2008/2004 comparison

There is no two-party system in Britain, thank intellectuals. But here in London for the Mayoral Election we have transferrable votes: every voter makes a first choice and a second choice. If nobody wins with an outright 50%+ majority, the two leaders are taken, and then all the second choice votes from the losers are added to the votes of the two leaders.

I must admit it works superbly. It tells you so much more. The Liberal Democrats are failing miserably in London. Obvious, if you are aware and intelligent enough to know that we don't need unbridled liberalism any more: what we still need are people who can contain and correct all the mistakes from the Sixties Onwards liberal era. But when I think that, I am guilty of intellectual snobbery, because notice that the BNP's % votes went down a bit, and the Green Party's votes went up by even less. There is no radical change in London democracy, despite the continuing transfer of London culture into the Globalized Economic Matrix. Democracy depends on demographics, in addition to depending on political free will. Those whom have babies, create voters. The Green Party and the BNP will never get anywhere, because they haven't even got a population growth scheme such as is encouraged by religions. The Liberal Democrats are dying out, simply because they tend to be secular, and reckless, so they are neither good at reproducing, nor are they any good at keeping their existing populations alive.

Evolution and Natural Selection in London human beings, all on one page of democratic voting statistics.

UK Local Elections 2008 : Part 2

At last, the London Results are in. It took an extra day, because of all the high technology electricity consumption methods they were using to count the votes.

Is this worth blogging? So Ken Livingstone lost. Well, to his credit, at least he stepped down. To the Electoral System's credit, democracy in the UK is sufficiently intact that Ken Livingstone HAD to step down, because he lost. There is the difference between Britain and Zimbabwe.

And the next biggest news will have nothing to do with the Green Party, which achieved nothing by sporting a young bright Nice North London Luvvie. Yes, it is that Richard Barnbrook of the BNP, has through the system of Proportional Representation, gotten the first seat ever for the BNP in the London Assembly.

Well, the only problem with this is the amount of police security that will have to be paid for to protect him and the whole London Assembly process. Very Expensive for the taxpayer. For it is a fact that he will endure more ill will than Salmon Rushdie, as the mini-tornadoes of Anti-Fascism will be whipped up to stir the paranoia of the many sheep who have been indoctrinated with fear.

And how will any of this help the planet? None at all. Because it will distract everyone from Humanity's Duty of Care towards its Mother Earth. This is 2008, not 1938. There are twice as many people on the planet today, and the majority of them live in nations that can build the atom bomb. The danger to the world today has nothing to do with dangerous human ideas being taken up by the masses. The danger to the world today is that the masses are sleep walking into the future. A future of a Market Matrix in which notions of Democracy, Freedom, Consumer Choice, Humanism and Resource Appropriation are the hyphae that will smother the rest of the diversity of life species on this planet.

Friday, May 02, 2008

UK Local Elections 2008; Part 1

Here are the UK Local election results, except for the London Mayoral and Assembly Election (which will not be published for a few hours, but there is no need to compare Robert Mugabe with Ken Livingstone for they are so obviously similar).

Labour has died. Conservatives have risen. Liberal Democrats have sat on the fence.

Other rates of Change? Notice that the BNP is growing at twice the rate of the Green Party, and is the fastest growing party. Somebody will try to use this meaningless and misleading statistic at the next election to sell Labour Votes to the Guardian Readers Who Can't Do Maths.

Absolute numbers? Notice that the rates of Change are absolutely inconsequential. The combined size of the BNP and the Green Party make up less than 1% of the total number of councillors. Britain is not Zimbabwe. There is no such thing as radical change at an election, whether or not it is democratically legitimate.

Other useful notes:

1. The BNP was only ever useful for drumming up support for the Labour Party, but they barely serve that purpose any more.

2. The Green Party is still a joke in the UK, despite the enormous middle-class concern for Global Warming over the last few years.

3. Both parties are nothing but foils and distractions who have no effect, and will have no effect in my lifetime, on the real power or government in the United Kingdom.

And none of this is either good or bad. It is just a statement of calculation.