Or as the grist puts it, “imagine there’s no people”!
This graphic they posted caught my eye
It is thought provoking. I am no believer in an human-primary view of the earth, but if there’s no one around to watch this happen, does it even matter? No, I must not be this utilitarian!
(Washington, D.C. – April 12, 2006) The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment decreased four percent from 2003 to 2004 according to the Environmental Protections Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) released today.
“Today’s report demonstrates that economic growth and effective environmental protection can go hand-in-hand,” said Linda Travers, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information. “We are encouraged to see a continued reduction in the overall amount of toxic chemicals being released into the environment.”
Significant decreases were seen in some of the most toxic chemicals from 2003-2004.
· Dioxin and dioxin compounds, which decreased by 58 percent,
· mercury and mercury compounds, which were cut by 16 percent and
· polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) went down 92 percent.
Why, that is positively great news, especially on the dioxin and PCB front. Since pictures are nicer and data from the last 5 years provides a little more context, why don’t we use the Toxics Release Inventory Explorer to pull some information together…
No drastic decreases, dioxin releases during 2004 are close to those during 2000. Wow, seems like 2003 was an especially bad year, the PCB release is off the charts. One landfill facility was responsible for more than 80% of the release. Kinda useless to point to trends caused by single data points, but I guess that’s what press releases are for, pick on some fortuitous piece of data and hope that the media is lazy enough to not spend a little time looking into the story.
The grist picks (up) on this release as well.
Meanwhile, the EPA is considering a loosening of regulation in this regard, read this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article for more details.
The EPA inventory “keeps that pressure on to keep those emissions down,” Hansen said. That’s the purpose of this kind of public information or “right-to-know” program.
The EPA has not made a final decision on the changes it has proposed — namely, requiring emissions reports every two years instead of annually and raising the volume of chemicals that have to be released before a report is required.
“The jury is still out,” said Brook Madrone, TRI program manager for the regional EPA office.
Information is power (always end on a cliche!)
British Columbians with low incomes will benefit from the carbon tax in its first year, but will pay more by the scheme’s third year, a new study concludes.
The impact of the tax and its offsetting income tax cuts will become increasingly unequal unless the provincial government increases payments to low-income earners, the study says.
The study, by Marc Lee, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Toby Sanger, senior economist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, takes a detailed look at the fairness of the controversial tax.
The report makes some good points. Revenue neutrality (the offsetting of carbon taxes with income/corporate tax cuts) has nothing to do with reducing carbon emissions. If I were to redesign this tax, I would do as the report says, increase rebates to lower income people, reduce corporate tax cuts so that the resulting revenue can be used to fund more transit infrastructure, energy efficiency infrastructure and the building of a low carbon economy.
A carbon tax in itself is not sufficient to reduce emissions. It does its part, but building an energy efficient, low carbon infrastructure will do a lot more and the money’s there, just use it.
You can read the whole report here.
Horrible story coming out of California.
Pot farms ravaging park land / Big raid in Marin County only hints at the extent of erosive techniques by growers
The discovery of 22,740 marijuana plants growing in and around Point Reyes National Seashore last week wasn’t only the biggest pot seizure ever made in Marin County. It was an environmental mess that will take several months and tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. The crops seized on the steep hillsides overlooking Highway 1 were planted by sophisticated growers who cleared vegetation, terraced land, drew water from streams through miles of irrigation hoses and doused acres of land with hundreds of pounds of fertilizer and pesticides.
To avoid the obvious “Pot Legalization” questions and flip it, consider a world where cigarettes have been banned/regulated to the extent that black market growing became viable, would this happen with tobacco? Obviously, the nature of the growing (Tobacco – plains, easy plant to spot, Cannabis – Hill sides, easy to hide), make it an operation question in addition to an economics question. But as the above report states, the operation was obviously not hard to spot, nor was it low impact.
Something to consider as actions widely prevalent in populations are made illegal, how well does prohibition ever work?
This is a monumental and unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The TVA Tennessee Valley Authority disaster is now estimated at 5.3 million cubic yards of coal ash, or almost twice as large as the 2.8 million cubic yards generated by the World Trade Center collapse.
Excellent article, read in full, and let the next mass market pig you eat weigh on your conscience a little bit.
I have attended meetings organized by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network recently, and Smithfield foods is high on their agenda for the mind blowing pollution that overwhelmingly affects the poor and rural African-American communities, for their appalling safety record, and early American style treatment of its workers. See this PBS video for more. It is truly heartbreaking to hear testimony from people who live near hog farms, how the stench is overwhelming, omnipresent, and travels in your clothes and system wherever you go.
Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering. A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson.
To appreciate what this agglomeration of hog production does to the people who live near it, you have to appreciate the smell of industrial-strength pig shit. The ascending stench can nauseate pilots at 3,000 feet. On the day we fly over Smithfield’s operation there is little wind to stir up the lagoons or carry the stink, and the region’s current drought means that lagoon operators aren’t spraying very frequently. It is the best of times. We can smell the farms from the air, but while the smell is foul it is intermittent and not particularly strong.Unsurprisingly, prolonged exposure to hog-factory stench makes the smell extremely hard to get off. Hog factory workers stink up every store they walk into. I run into a few local guys who had made the mistake of accepting jobs in hog houses, and they tell me that you just have to wait the smell out: You’ll eventually grow new hair and skin. If you work in a Smithfield hog house for a year and then quit, you might stink for the next three months.
Epidemiological studies show that those who live near hog lagoons suffer from abnormally high levels of depression, tension, anger, fatigue and confusion. “We are used to farm odors,” says one local farmer. “These are not farm odors.” Sometimes the stink literally knocks people down: They walk out of the house to get something in the yard and become so nauseous they collapse. When they retain consciousness, they crawl back into the house.
Successful Farming magazine warned — six years ago. There simply is no regulatory solution to the millions of tons of searingly fetid, toxic effluvium that industrial hog farms discharge and aerosolize on a daily basis. Smithfield alone has sixteen operations in twelve states. Fixing the problem completely would bankrupt the company. According to Dr. Michael Mallin, a marine scientist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington who has researched the effects of corporate farming on water quality, the volumes of concentrated pig waste produced by industrial hog farms are plainly not containable in small areas. The land, he says, “just can’t absorb everything that comes out of the barns.” From the moment that Smithfield attained its current size, its waste-disposal problem became conventionally insoluble.
Nice, huh! Still eating factory pork?