In the U.S., step one might be creating recycling plants that actually reuse the materials we recycle. As it stands now, most of the material we recycle utlimately gets trashed because we don’t have the plants to turn all that stuff into other things. Other countries do have real recycling. Switzerland is one of them and I’m sure if I did a wider check, there would be other European countries that actually use recycled material to produce materials.
But we don’t. Uxbridge, for example, doesn’t even have a dump where you can scrounge for reusable materials. We sold our dump to a company that promptly went bankrupt. So we don’t have a new business AND we don’t have a dump. There’s no place in town to even recycle bottles — for which we pay by the bottle — except for ONE machine in the front of Hannaford. Kind of pathetic, isn’t it?
We have mandatory recycling but never came up with a solution to actually do anything with all that stuff. Our rivers as well as our oceans are full of garbage. It would be a great start to stop pretending to recycle and actually do it. We need jobs. I’m sure building recycling plants would provide a few.
Hybrid cars are another issue. While in theory a hybrid uses less electricity and produces less carbon emission, the process of digging for the nickel to make those giant batteries is highly disruptive to the earth and those giant batteries are incredibly toxic. We don’t need giant batteries. As it is, even little AAA Lithium batteries are considered hazardous, so what are we doing about the giant batteries we’re putting in big SUVs?
At one point in my long and checkered career, I wrote a manual for a company that tracked hazardous waste trucks. The application was called ‘Womb to Tomb” — which is how they refer to this process. It turns out that there IS nowhere for hazardous waste to go. No state has been willing to accept it, above or underground. So eventually, it get pushed into a truck, then another truck, then another. There is no destination. It just moves from truck to truck until someone casually pours it into a canyon or a river or the ocean. We have many old and tired nuclear power facilities that need to be removed — but we have no place on earth to store used up nuclear rods. No place. Anywhere. We built these monsters, but no one looked past their 25-year lifespans and considered what would become of them in the future. Those “worn out” nuclear rods have thousands of years of half-life in them. Will humans even live on this planet when these rods are finally deceased for good and all? We’re talking at least 25,000 years or more.
We need to replace oil with something else that doesn’t emit carbon into the air. The oil industry has done a hell of a job preventing research on alternative energy sources for automobiles. We’ve run out of time. We haven’t run out of oil (yet), but the process of getting more oil is part of what is destroying our most beautiful places on earth. Do we REALLY want to live in a huge and filthy world where every inch has an oil well or they are digging for nickel or delving into the heart of the earth for gas?
Fracking. Now there’s a terrific idea. Let’s plumb through the earth, right into the core and see what happens. Since fracking became mainstream for natural gas exploration, we’ve had twice as many earthquakes in places where there were previously no earthquakes. But that must be a coincidence. Surely we aren’t that stupid. Or are we?
We have shown shockingly little intelligence about caring for the earth. We slaughter the animals, poison the birds, hunt down anything bigger than a rabbit. When in doubt, we take the most beautiful places remaining on the planet and dig for oil and build subdivisions. Condos are us. The power of developers to buy anything they want by promising temporary cash for low-paying jobs has to stop. Climate deniers are not really climate deniers. They simply don’t want to deal with anything that will cut into their profits. They only thing they are denying is a willingness to potentially lower their profit yield.
Twenty years ago, Garry and I took a road trip up through the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. I remembered making this identical drive when I was in college and it was breathtaking. It was still breathtaking, in a nightmarish way. The beauty was gone. The road wandered through piles of trash. Mountains of old tires. Heaps of wrecked cars. This was the direct result of Ronal Reagan’s “let’s sell America to anyone who wants a piece.” These places had been designated as “forever wild,” and he destroyed them. Completely and absolutely turned them into trash city. The people who bought or leased the land did what they wanted and left the mess behind. No one was cleaning it up.
We need to close down any remaining coal plants. There are not many of them left and turning them off will have little effect on our ability to deliver power to citizens. Let’s throw our genius into building new types of green power — solar, wind, and whatever else our genius can devise. We’re going to have no choice about closing down old nuclear plants. We will remove them voluntarily — or they will remove themselves. No one wants to even think about that. What we’ll do with the leftover fuel rods? Good question. Any ideas out there?
What are we doing here? We’ve lowered the heat, switched every bulb in every light to whatever is the latest, greatest inexpensive bulbs made. I turn off any light in any room we aren’t currently in. We (pointlessly) recycle on the theory that this is supposed to help, but we know it really isn’t doing anything but lowering our trash bill. We clean up the garbage along the rivers and roads when we can. This year, we’ve proved just how little we really need to drive. I think we’d like to go out more, but we don’t need to spend as much time on the road as we did. Organizing trips into town to optimize how much and for how long the car gets used does save gasoline and emissions.
But the big stuff? I’ll support anything I can that will get this world cleaned up. Most of the things that need to be done are bigger than individuals can manage. If we have a government who cares, we can cooperate, work with them, pay a few more pennies to help get things moving in the right direction. We need to NOT elect people who are climate-change deniers or those with heavy investments in oil and other fossil fuels. Mining companies need to get the old heave-ho. Get them out of our parks and out of our previously pristine mountains and valleys.
Mostly, what we can do is put the force of all of us together in a giant push to fix the mess we and our forefathers made. Our ancestors didn’t know how much damage they were doing. We don’t have that excuse. We know exactly what we are doing — and are doing it anyway. If we aren’t ashamed of ourselves, we should be.