Really? What the Dill?

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I’m not really all that worked up about what anyone calls the herb “dill,” as in my last post on December 28. But there are things that I’ve been waiting to roar about until I got that off my chest because the other things are just so much more serious. For example, plastic. I think about plastic quite a lot. Maybe more than is healthy for me. Hopefully I’m not the only unabashed tree-hugger who thinks about plastic, how much there is of it, how carelessly we dispose of it, how we really don’t need it anymore. The first plastic in the United States was invented in 1907 by a Belgian immigrant named Leo Baekeland. In fact, it was originally called “Baekelite,” and it was developed as a safe insulator for copper wiring. Nothing evil going on there, right? But we do now know how much damage our dependence on plastic is doing, because of its ubiquitousness, its disruption of our endocrine systems, it’s permanence in landfills or the waterways in which it is so frequently strewn. It depresses me when I take walks along streams, and they are chock full of plastic grocery bags, cans lined with BPA (bisphenol A, which is a known endocrine disruptor, some say responsible for many of the health epidemics in the US, including reproductive troubles and Diabetes Type II,) and food wrappers, and reusable cups and on and on. And I’m not just talking about older neighborhoods; one park in which I used to walk regularly had a wonderful creek that was full of litter, and it is one of the better, “old money” neighborhoods of my hometown. Other than the evil of wasting all this poison into the environment, the real evil is when we learn how bad something is for us, and we refuse to find a better way. All that plastic will be in the environment between 450 and 1,000 years. So, that’s not to say it doesn’t degrade, but if all that plastic stays in the landfill for that long, and we keep putting more and more in it-just think how quickly the landfill space will go away. But I’m skipping ahead…we do not need to use petroleum based plastics anymore. There are biodegradable ways to make everything we use plastic for, such as corn and hemp. “But wait,” you say…”we are paying farmers to use their corn crops to make ethanol! Can we afford to have them switch to corn based plastics?” Well, we need to stop trying to make ethanol from corn. It is inefficient, and creates more pollution than it saves. So if we take that corporate welfare from the ethanol industry and switch it to plastic, we will create HUGE benefits for the country regarding pollution and excess waste in our landfills, oceans, rivers, creeks, air, etc. So, back to my original point, Leo Baekeland was not an evil man, out to do evil to America’s children and future; the evil comes from being unwilling to retool and stop doing things one way once we find that it is harmful. This is also true of the petroleum companies, though this is a conversation for another day.

We also need to be honest about what is happening in landfills. Some folks think that because the things they throw out; food waste, glass, aluminum, paper, are organic-made from trees and sand and other natural stuff, that it is okay to throw them in landfills. But it isn’t. Just glass can take a million years to decompose. And again, when we keep putting more and more glass on top of the many layers of glass that have been thrown away, we run out of arable, livable land. In 2008 only about 23.1% of glass purchased in this country was being recycled. Now that number may be slightly higher now, but it most certainly isn’t 100%. Too many apartment complexes don’t offer recycling, and too many municipalities offer, but don’t require it. Aluminum takes 500 years to break down. And it takes 95% less energy to create new stuff from recycled aluminum than it does from virgin aluminum. We love aluminum in this country, so we need to consider this when we don’t recycle. Not only will that aluminum be in the landfill, again, having more and more trashed stacked on top of it, but aluminum has a finite supply. We will one day run out. I realize in this wonderful day of cheap gas, lots of people will have their eyes glaze over when I say that because we’ve also been told that petroleum will eventually run out and it wouldn’t be so cheap if the supply wasn’t currently exceeding the demand. So I won’t go there…

So, since this has turned into an environmental roar, let me ask you about weather. Not global warming…exactly. But weather. And climate change deniers. Do you live in a city, or are you enjoying a more rural lifestyle? Suburbs, but near enough downtown that you can find things to do easily? If you are in the last group, have you ever noticed that when you drive from the country to the downtown it is about 20 degrees hotter in town? There is a phenomenon called “The Urban Heat Island Effect,” which says that it is truly hotter where there is more concrete. Who knew? So I’m roaring this question to climate change deniers, who claim that human caused climate change is a hoax, how do they explain that all that human laid concrete makes temperatures hotter? Did their Christian god drop that concrete into place during the creation, and intend for those geograqphic coordinates to be hotter? Well? Ahhhhh. No response. Somehow, I’m not surprised. And I must stop roaring here and have some green tea.