“I’m in your dispos-all.”

landfill

Some time ago I posted some information about “The Electric Pig,” an article which came out in the early days of the garbage disposer.

I was interested to see an article at The Atlantic entitled “The New Alchemy of Waste,” in which the ecological benefits of disposers was flogged in terms glowing enough to make you feel like a traitor if you didn’t use one. I thought that was significant, until I noticed that the article was sponsored content written by Emerson, the makers of the InSinkErator.

Apparently the debate continues. Many cities have banned disposers altogether – New York, for one, although it rescinded the ban for private residences in 1997. Much of the support, of course, comes from disposer manufacturers, including shilled “science” articles, and it’s not easy to cut through the marketing noise. That said, it’s important to remember that funding source does not automatically invalidate research.

I was able to find a 2008 article over at Slate that seems to discuss the competing factors in a balanced way. Their consensus? Compost if at all possible, but otherwise a disposer seems to put less net ecological strain on the environment than landfilling, with the caveat that you should check first to make sure your community isn’t running out of water.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

In the moving and beautiful video below, Julia Roberts voices Mother Nature and reminds us that from the point of view of the earth, we as humans are not needed.

Humon, the pen-name of the artist who draws Scandinavia and the World did a beautiful comic on the same theme:

Gaia

Lastly, I repeat a comic I have posted or referred to a few times in this blog, by the inimitable Stan Lynde:

RickOShay2

Whether one are a person of science or a person of faith, it behooves us all to take care of this one and only spaceship earth that we have to live on. There is no getting off it in the foreseeable future. and we’re soiling our nest so rapidly that there will be unavoidable consequences down the road; the concept is underscored in Carl Sagan’s thoughts on The Pale Blue Dot, which I mentioned earlier.

Let’s please not forget:

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Climate change can’t be real, the earth is so *big*!

Well, it’s not as big as all that when you look at how it’s constituted.

global-water-volume-fresh-large

This image shows all the earth’s water, all the fresh water, and all the water in lakes and rivers represented as spheres compared with the earth.

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This image shows the earth’s water and atmosphere in the same spherical form.

Now, those spheres are still huge – but one must also realize that there are seven billion people on the surface of the earth who are busily crapping into the nest. It’s not hard to visualize our industry and our agriculture making a difference in the composition of those little globes over a couple of centuries.
Progress is being made. Carbon emissions are coming down, many nations are rapidly making the switch to renewable energy (sadly, ours is not one of them – at least not the “rapidly” part), and governments are doing what they can in their inefficient, ossified way to reduce surface pollution.
I just found these images fascinating and thought-provoking, and thought they were worth sharing.
The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Overview Effect: Seeing Earth from the Outside

Writer Frank White coined the term “The Overview Effect” to describe the deep changes that astronauts experience once they see Earth from space. He said, “In 1968, Apollo 8 went to the Moon. They didn’t land, but they did circle the Moon; I was watching it on television and at a certain point one of the astronauts casually said: we are going to turn the camera around and show you the Earth. And he did. And that was the first time I had ever seen the planet hanging in space like that. And it was profound.”

nasa-apollo8-dec24-earthrise

Apollo 8: Earthrise. ©Nasa

Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said,

“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.”

But you don’t need to have gone into space to have obtained that awareness; some forward-thinking individuals divined the importance of our island earth from their armchairs. In 1948, British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle predicted the change of viewpoint when he said,

“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, we shall, in an emotional sense, acquire an additional dimension… Once let the sheer isolation of the Earth become plain to every man, whatever his nationality or creed, and a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”

Subsequent to Apollo 11, Hoyle spoke at a NASA scientific banquet and said,

“You have noticed how, quite suddenly, everybody has become seriously concerned to protect the natural environment. It happened almost overnight, and one can understand how one can ask the question, ‘Where did this idea come from?’ You could say, of course, from biologists, from conservationists, from ecologists, but after all, they’ve really been saying these things for many years past, and previously they’ve never even got on base. Something new has happened to create a worldwide awareness of our planet as a unique and precious place. It seems to me more than a coincidence that this awareness should have happened at exactly the moment man took his first step into space.”

A recent short documentary, Overview, collects statements from many astronauts who have had this unique experience.

With his famous essay on “The Pale Blue Dot,” Carl Sagan captured the essence of this effect, without himself ever having been in space physically, although he probably plumbed the universe more deeply in his mind than the vast body of humanity.

Pale_Blue_Dot

“… Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known…”.
– Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

Recently published at YouTube was a video of the final message of Wubbo Johannes Ockels (March 28, 1946 – May 18, 2014), who was a Dutch physicist and an astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA), riding on Space Shuttle STS-61-A, and becoming the first Dutch citizen in space. After his astronaut career, Ockels was professor of Aerospace for Sustainable Engineering and Technology at the Delft University of Technology. On May 29, 2013 it was announced that Ockels had an aggressive form of kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) with a metastasis in his pleural cavity, and a life expectancy of one to two years. He died from complications of cancer on May 18, 2014, one day after making this video.

A transcript in English of Dr. Ockels’ remarks follows.

“We need some luck. Some other spacecraft. Something, because with what we have now, it’s going to be finished. As an astronaut, you feel excluded to a particular group of people. And those are the people in the majority. They are you, not being aware of the danger in which you live.

But now suppose I’m going to change all of you. Suppose I can transfer the experience which I have to you. Then you would go out and see the earth, and you would see the blue sky, not the blue sky which you see when you go outside; in space you see that you are the only one. The only planet. You have no spare. And so you have to take care of this one only planet.

Our earth has cancer. I have cancer too. And most people with cancer, they die. When in fact, everybody will die. If we make enough people to continuously survive mankind on the earth, we need to conserve our own planet, and you when you have the spirit and the insight and the attitude of an astronaut, you start to love the earth in a way that other people can’t. And if you really love something, you don’t want to lose it.

You know, my wife, she doesn’t want to lose me. She wants to do everything to let me stay alive. That’s the love and attitude which human kind should have to the earth. We do not have 50% of our roofs covered with solar. We do not have more than half of our cars electric. We certainly do not have a production in which there is a reasonable amount of material recycled. We don’t have all these things.

And then the question comes, ” OK, well what’s wrong?” Well, what’s wrong is the mindset. I’m sure, but I can’t claim it, but when I heard 18 April 2013 that I had a very bad cancer, damn kidney cancer, and also changed into a sarcomatoid, which means that, you know, which to slip through all kinds of things [by this he meant metastasis], and this, the doctor, beautiful doctor, and he said you have a fair amount of time. And of course each time I asked him, “what does ‘fair’ mean?” and then he was not very accurate, but he said, “Well, months, maybe a year.”

I got over a year, a good year, because I believed that the good future, and I believed, you know, you can do things with the power, with the mind power. We, we people coming from the same molecules out of one bloody strong star which bursted out, we who have developed over billions of years, life, life, is made by we, we humanity are so strong that we can save the earth – but we also can destroy it. Even a small thing does something.

The overwhelming burden of experience from those who have been outside the Earth’s atmosphere is that this little planet we live on is the only home we have, and we need to take care of it. Even if you happen to be a person of faith, taking the chiliastic view that we don’t need to worry about the Earth because God is going to come down and take care of everything strikes me as irresponsible, and unfair to future generations. Western Artist Stan Lynde captured my own sentiments decades ago:

RickOShay2

While efforts are being made by forward-thinking individuals to reduce the damage we’re doing to our planet, there is still much to be done. We owe it to future generations to make a difference now. “Drill, baby, drill” just doesn’t do it for me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Fracking: Commentary from on-site.

A recent article from The Guardian reports that Mark Walport, a leading UK government scientist, has likened risks from fracking to thalidomide and asbestos – in other words, technologies that had good intentions but hideous, unforeseen results. The article itself is worth a read.

Fracking In California Under Spotlight As Some Local Municipalities Issue Bans

More interesting to me was a report from a former shale worker that appeared on reddit, /u/Raleon. I found his commentary more unsettling than the original Guardian text:

Hey there, I drove oversize load escort trucks (flashing light trucks around huge transport loads) around the Marcellus shale region, specifically helping guide the trucks transporting the set-up and tear-down of wells, and guiding fracking injection fluid trucks in and waste trucks out. I talked to the drivers in particular quite a bit, especially during downtime in between trips, and the site workers a fair bit as well. My best friend is a geologist who worked for the drilling companies during the time the well is set up and functioning, specifically analyzing the soil samples to determine how deep they were and how far to drill so they didn’t miss the pockets they’re looking for.

Regulation is a mess, and corrupt as hell. I saw a lot of the violations myself, personally, because I was “one of them” as a driver. The sites operate under the radar most of the time, and when inspectors show up, they know well in advance just from the truckers on the way. Hide this, cover this up, release this water here to wash away that… it’s all of the companies, too, and could well be considered business standard practices for the Marcellus shale area across all of which I transported loads from site to site in. We worked with numerous companies, so this was not an isolated thing by any means.

The roads get destroyed, especially in rural areas. The water sheds get destroyed from the dumping, and in some places, the companies make so much money (and save so much from not properly disposing) that they’re fine with the operating cost of paying the fine the few times they get caught. There’s no process by which they can be shut down for doing it literally hundreds of times, so at a certain point, they completely give up on anything but the most basic pretense of following responsible procedures for disposal; before we start discussing the inevitability of their slurry slipping out into surrounding material even occasionally. It only really has to happen once for it to be shown to be unsafe, and we’ve got multiple cases in which it’s affected the surrounding earth, not to mention earthquakes, and, no less than two of which are contaminated water supplies.

In several of those states, the citizens quite simply do not have mineral rights on their property. That’s all well and good, rules and rules and fair’s fair, right? I mean, it’s no big deal if these people’s families were essentially swindled by a process they didn’t understand… but, such as it is, the only valid complaint they have is the complete destruction of local infrastructure for short-term benefits, benefits usually seen by the local governing crony’s beneficiaries and not the populace – but again, it’s not the fracking company’s fault that they specifically choose and bribe the easiest localities to get tax breaks or exemptions first, right?

It’s all legal, it’s just ethically circumspect; it remains legal because there’s been no specific regulation on the industry at all. The simple fact is that new things often are bad, and this industry has in no way shape or form set itself a good precedent for being trustworthy. There’s no time at which we should allow any industry to self-regulate, much like we don’t allow individuals who have a conflict of interest to continue to assert their power in that situation. Seriously, since when did we start taking people’s word for it? Reading Rainbow? Anyone?

It’s not that it’s new that’s specifically the issue, however; it’s that they’re actively trying to hinder independent research about the process, they spend an inordinate sum of money ‘selling’ the concept to us, and then refuse to allow the public information about something they openly share within the industry itself, as if it’s some patented secret only the good old boys club should know about; though they certainly don’t treat it like a secret within the industry.

We’ve already seen real issues with fracking – it’s time to take it seriously, and put it under the microscope, instead of hub-bubbing about back and forth about what it even is, when the real issue is that we’re not being allowed to tell them even something so simple as they’re responsible if they mess things up.

Right now, we’re not even capable of holding them responsible for their failures on the most basic level, and there’s no criminality for colossal mistakes either. If fracking caused an epic earthquake and killed millions of people / wildlife / made a large swath of land unlivable, there’s no one who would ever go to prison over their mistakes, because they can just shrug and say “we didn’t know, we didn’t do it on purpose, and there’s no way we could have known”, only because they won’t let us know what they know and that they know in the first place that it’s got serious drawbacks and real, actual, terrible possible consequences that aren’t fear-mongering. It’sidentical to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

There’s no accountability for a profit-seeking venture with public risks, and that’s a real issue.

The issue is difficult for the average lay person to sort through. There’s a lot of money at stake, and it’s hard to know whose information to trust, given that it’s so easy for paid shills to write convincing-sounding articles on the internet and elsewhere. I’m doing my best to read, sort, and filter it all, but at this point my gut tells me that this is an unproven strategy that will have severe ecological repercussions down the line.

I may be one small voice in the desert, but I think the industry is compromising the health of future generations in exchange for profit today, and it’s not right.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Think of this the next time you gas up.

I was led to this sad video by AmazonWatch via one of my friends, found on his blog “Chevron Shills.”

Because Marina Aguinda Lucitante was singing about Texaco, I had to ask him what the relationship between Chevron and Texaco was, and he kindly explained that Chevron purchased Texaco in 2000. He wrote to me,

“When they purchased Texaco’s assets, they also took on its liabilities. They were warned from the get-go that this would make them responsible for the catastrophe in Ecuador, but they didn’t care. So, although it was technically Texaco that destroyed the rain forest, Chevron still has plenty of blood on its hands, because its army of lawyers and its PR team have fought tooth and nail to prevent Chevron having to perform the kind of cleanup or make the type of reparations that could/would have prevented the many cancer deaths which have occurred over the last few decades.”

When we stick that nozzle in our car, we don’t think about the human carnage left in the wake of oil companies. It’s difficult, too, because our entire  world runs on fossil fuels, despite small advances being made in various places. One can’t curl up in a cave and not be part of society. But spreading awareness and promoting alternate energy sources wherever possible can be done.

I now live in a small community whose power is provided by natural gas – still a non-renewable resource, but less polluting than coal. But when I lived in Salt Lake, I took full advantage of their Blue Skies program which allowed consumers to pay a small surcharge, guaranteeing that their energy would be purchased from wind power.

I purchased a Prius to keep my gasoline usage down, and although there are numerous analyses that show the net carbon footprint is not significantly less because of the costs and impact from manufacture and disposal of the battery technology, I still feel that over the 7 years that I’ve owned it, my gas consumption has been significantly less than it otherwise might have been.

While an eGallon is significantly cheaper than gasoline, even in the most expensive states, fully-electric vehicles still have issues, since that electricity has to come from largely fossil sources at the moment, but we can’t let that stop us from continuing to push for renewable and non-polluting energy sources.

Windmills, then and now Somewhere in the Great Uni
Image ©2009-2014 Old Wolf Enterprises

 

Wind power? I’m a big fan.

The Old Wolf has spoken.