Behind the Haze of Gray

Gazing out the translucent glass of a mountain top sized apartment upon the haze of graying dew I discover the world we inhabit. A world of lust and riches abound that the very touch of a human hand can obliterate the delicate forces surrounding us. Each breathe we breathe is that of one which encompasses the bounty of our being. It is life sucked from us as we step into the world loud men shout out our supposed path to take. Our decisions are forcefully ripped from our consciousness and given to those with power and prestige. What once was has gone and what we are now we must be.

We are a society of copious consumption that engulfs our every being. From behind every eye lies a mind filled with desire and a heart longing for meaning. We stuff bags to the brim as we desperately cling to the material that holds us together. From behind those eyes is a life of defeat. A force so large that tells us every minute that we need these things to find contempt. But when I look out at the haze of gray all I see is a world once with beauty filled with the product of our greed.

Every face is silently telling a story of what their life is meant to be. A woman gallivants through the corridor with crimson heeled shoes as she delicately tosses her hair in the breeze. Her hair falls around her face enveloping the time and space that our time meets. But all I see is a façade covered in glamorous things that were produced in lands filled with dirt and debris. I see a family dependent upon the sullen face of the mistress to meet their every need. When all they want is a place to sleep that is not filled with the dark dismay of a life surrounded by misuse. Once more I succumb to the suffocation of the gray haze.

The neglected ideals that are thrown away as a human exists upon a once grassy land are but a fading memory as decades pass away. A once glorious landscape destroyed as we look through the fading eyes of the world. A farmer’s field laden with chemical laced dew yet the government says it’s nothing new. Food is food to feed the world through animals get more pristine patches than what lay upon my plate. The forces that drive the weather are soon dictated by the hand of man to meet our every need. When weather was once a delicate ebb and flow to sustain the life of all it held. No longer does it have control as it contests with the exploitation of man.

Darkness I worry has touched the hearts of many to envelope the way we see the world. A dotted line filled with empty promises drives society through and through. This mountain top I call my home holds no life but that of a hope for something new. With every check that is cashed comes contemplation of what defines me. I am torn by the world of gray that holds me down to frivolously consume. The haze outside is getting darker and I fear I am too.

But as I peer through the haze there becomes a story told of new; a story that views the mass depletion as a way to know me too. I see my things before me as if they all were true; that every bought and purchase has meaning in itself. That very material I was bore from does not have to define me. The world is wrapped in silk and linen but why must I too? Is it not for their benefit that I do as they do?

Consumption lies upon the insightful compromise of oneself to the acceptance of others. The very core of a being is engulfed by the melancholy approval of their defeat. That someone must suffer an ungrateful death to bear the material wrapped around us. The liquid that once brought life carries promise of extinction from the unending want of man. From behind the blindfolds and mounds of trash we see the burials we are holding when we chose a path of greed. We bury those that had no choice with our own disconnect to the earth. In with every purchase that we make creates an unending desire of self-worth.

Waste is but a word that man created to say, “I want more.” It is a proverbial decline in value of a resource we once knew. A resource we take for granted as we thoughtlessly consume. There was a time before the gray haze of our world that man loved what he knew. That the sacred ground on which he lay provided for his every need. The water fell upon his feet to quench his soul anew. That all he once needed was to know what to do. Somewhere on this path he faded and this is where we meet.

I say to you that man knows what he should do. But all along this path are enticing possessions abound. The way he should take has no direction nor does it hold promise of fame. What it holds is a life devoid of all the pain. When riches are before you and you strike them down, you will find the leverage to devoid this contaminated ground. Because as you stand and gape as far as you can see the only thing before you should be who you want to be. Then forth from this gray haze our society could be.

Global Waste

Global waste is projected to increase by 70% by 2025. With this rise come increased costs of disposal, less land space to dispose of it, and health risks. Our world is becoming more populated each day and the majority of the growth is in urban areas. Urban areas have high density populations with little storage space forcing people to toss things instead of keeping them to reuse.

With the world hitting its peak in population, we should start to see waste decline due to necessity. The rate at which this declines is mainly determined by the amount of reduction cities are willing to embrace. Some cities already have goals in place like San Francisco’s zero waste by 2020 campaign and Kawasaki, Japan diverting 550,000 tons per year into reusable or recycled materials. Some policies that promote these things are fees on disposal, limitations to what you can dispose of, and markets offering more sustainable products.

Waste levels are the highest today at around 1.75 million tons per day but populations aren’t growing as quickly and waste reduction efforts are underway, are likely to see their trash levels peak by 2050 and then start to decline. Asia-Pacific countries won’t peak until 2075. How soon Sub-Saharan Africa’s waste increase peaks will determine how soon the world’s trash problem begins to decline.

A few countries are leading the waste management movement: India, France, China, Brazil, and Lebanon. India has implemented more laws and criminalizing people who dump or burn waste in undesignated areas. France has mandated that supermarkets cannot create food waste; rather, they have to donate food that is left over or unwanted. This system is encouraged by having a large bulk food selection so people can choose the amount of food they want/need. In Shenzhen, China is the home of the largest waste to energy facility that is able to incinerate 5,000 metric tons of waste per day. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, trash was not previously collected in buns but just tossed across the landscape. Boats have been hired to collect trash 8 hours per day and investments have been put into creating waste management facilities and treatment plants. Lebanon faced a disaster as the only accessible landfill was closed. This sparked debate and 3 landfills were opened to temporarily divert the trash until a better solution is found.

As you can see, the waste management goals are very different from country to country and even city to city. You find places that are attempting to go zero waste while others are looking to have a contained area for trash. All in all, the trash needs to go somewhere whether this means creating a better system to deal with it or by consuming less is what the future will have in store for us. To create a sustainable world, not piled with trash, action must be done whether people want it to or not. We will see in the coming years who steps up to the challenge and who is left picking up the pieces when it comes to waste.

http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/10/30/global-waste-on-pace-to-triple

http://www.wastedive.com/news/global-garbage-how-5-influential-countries-are-combating-issues-with-waste/417895/

Agricultural Waste

Agriculture is one of the leading culprits of waste in the world. Waste is coming from manure, poultry houses and slaughter houses, harvest waste, fertilizer run-off, pesticides that go into the air, soil, and water, and topsoil erosion from fields. As with many issues that arise with global warming, our food system has proven to be one of the largest challenges.

Modern agriculture is far from what farming used to be. Today monoculture farming seems like the only technique used along with CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). Monoculture is planting one crop on a large field year after year. This diminishes the nutrients in the soil and causes more soil erosion when there is a lack of cover crop.Soil erosion results in less viable land to cultivate and increase sediment going down river, disrupting the ecosystems within them.  A CAFO, as shown in the photo above, comprises of the majority of meat production in industrialized countries. Animals can be kept in confined spaces, force-fed, given growth hormones and antibiotics, and live a horrendous life just for people to get meat from them.

As with industry (a post soon to come), there is an enormous amount of waste generated from a system that is treated as less than natural. Here are some of the effects of waste in agriculture that will paint a better picture. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is an area with low to know oxygen spanning nearly 7,000 square miles. The lack of oxygen is due to agricultural runoff from fertilizers and pesticides coming from the Mississippi River. The results of the dead zone has resulted in a loss of thousand of jobs for people in the fishing industry and a near irreversible event to strike the Gulf of Mexico aside from the BP oil spill.

Runoff is one problem in the cycle of agricultural waste. If we take a step back we can see a full-fledged cycle occurring from agricultural waste. Step 1: A large company comes into a small town and plants a single crop on much of the viable land. The seeds being planted are likely genetically modified and contain their own pesticides. Step 2: The fields are tilled by large machinery emitting excess carbon. The tilling of the soil makes it more prone to erosion and they will likely see all their topsoil disappear before they are done farming this land in 10 years. Step 3: The seeds are planted in rows by the machinery (more carbon) and irrigated by a less than efficient system which can waste up to 40% of water due to evaporation before it gets to the plants. Step 4: Larger weeds that mutate overtake a field and more pesticides are needed to irradiate the issue (more carbon, and more runoff). Step 5: The plants mature and are harvested (again by machinery) and sent to mills to be sorted by, take a guess….more machines. Step 6: The products go into production, are shipped to buyers, and arrive on shelves. This can be thousands of miles of traveling, tons of energy to convert potatoes into potato chips, or wasted before they even get to the shelves due to improper storage or imperfections.

Now this all sounds like a lot to get an apple, right? But this is what happens to the majority of our food as it is industrialized. A whopping 60% of the world is farmers, but less than 2% in the US and Canada are farmers. The difference? Industry. So what about the other 60%? They too are contributing to agriculture waste but at a lesser degree than industrialized farms. The UN stated that 45% of all food produced was for human consumption. This means the rest was for animal use, energy, or wasted. The 60% that farms the world involves diverse methods of farming that are good and bad in and of themselves.

In poor countries, subsistence farming is the main way people get their food. Many times people disregard environmental issues when the goal is to feed their family. This results in deforestation, slash and burn agriculture, and overusing the land. All of these are large contributors to global warming and environmental wasting as a whole. The main reason for deforestation in South America is for cattle ranching. Cows produce the most methane of any greenhouse gas emitter. Methane is a powerful green house which is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A single pound of beef takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce, roughly 10 times as much as wheat. Western diets are a big contributor to  the increase in animal farming worldwide and result in an increase in environmental waste.

As this has been a broad overview of agricultural waste, I encourage you to look at what can be done to reduce global agriculture waste. Education is needed for farmers and consumers. The cost of industrialized food does not reflect the true environmental costs of food production. Some ways to combat this is to support local agriculture, begin urban farming, expose industrial agriculture and advocate for polyculture forms of farming, and to shut down CAFOs and industrial agriculture. Farming has been around for thousands of years and there once was a respect for the land that was unquestioned. We need to question it now, advocate for ethical products, and fair pay to farmers.

To learn more, visit the following links:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/other/agricultural/contamination.html

http://www.globalagriculture.org/

https://www.good.is/articles/the-hidden-cost-of-burgers-your-quarter-pounder-needs-450-gallons-of-water

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1477-8947.2000.tb00935.x/abstract

The Omnivore’s Dilemma-Michael Pollan

 

Wrapped in Plastic

Plastic. The convenience product used to protect, ship, and mold our lives is made from petroleum and natural gas. From the 1950s to 2010 there has been a 100 million ton increase in plastic production. It is the leading source of ocean pollutants killing 1 million sea birds per year and 100,000 mammals. As part of my waste journey I have vowed to reduce my plastic purchases by 90%. Why 90%, you may say? Living in the US, it is hard and sometimes impossible to find necessity products that are not wrapped in plastic. My exceptions to buying plastic have been emergency items (ie. car parts), medicine, and plastic caps on glass milk bottles. To my surprise, it has not been that hard to stick to this as long as I plan ahead. What makes it so hard for everyone to reduce their plastic then?

Let’s look at plastic bags. In the US, 380,000 billion plastic bags are used per year compared to 1 trillion used globally.The people benefiting from plastic bags are petroleum companies, the bag producers, and consumers. The convenience of a plastic bags outweighs the environmental impact to most consumers. The same goes for items individually wrapped in plastic for quick on-the-go people. 26 of the 50 states in the US have plastic bag bans, proposals, or taxes. This is not to say the entire state has these proposals in effects, rather it is larger cities within in these states that are going to a lower plastic community. San Francisco was the first city to ban plastic bags in 2006, nearly all of western Europe has bans or taxes in place to fight against plastic bags. China has saved 1 million tons of oil by banning plastic bag use and Australia has refused it’s 7 million bag per year average by banning bags. Overall, this does not mean single use bags, including paper have been phased out completely worldwide but there is an evident push away from them.

At the off chance you are able to recycle #2-7 labeled/unlabeled plastics, there are few who know where they end up. We toss our plastic in a nice green container thinking we did good by it. I think it is time to take off the blindfold of where these plastics are going besides the landfill. China has taken it upon themselves to import the plastic other industries in more developed countries are willing to use. They are breaking it down to use in China’s industries for cheap cosmetics and parts for technology. You may think “hey, this sounds great,” but let’s look a bit deeper.

Countries like the US, Canada, Australia, and vast majority of Europe are selling their cheap plastics to China. These plastics come by the shiploads to small facilities to be processed by hand. When I say processed I mean picked up piece by piece by workers, sorted into different bins, and burned to identify the type of plastic. As we know, the burning of plastic is toxic and these workers are breathing it in every day. A growing pile of trash forms from the discarded plastic which does not reside in contained landfills, rather they pile up wherever there is space. This means plastics are free to flow in the wind, are floated down rivers, and are contaminating the waters supply in the areas where plastic processing is occurring. For the few dollars people in developed countries would have to pay for a reusable bag or make the extra effort to bring a reusable cup, the workers in these facilities make as little as $0.02 a day. They feed their families from the streams polluted with plastics, they farm the land which is fed by the contaminated ground water, and they grow livestock who die after their stomachs fill with plastic. They are too poor to afford a health check up let alone deal with the health issues they will face and they have no voice in the matter.

When you think of some of your favorite foods, are they wrapped in plastic? Most food are, processed or fresh. The convenience of buying a bag of apples is cheaper than buying an individual apple. For some reason, we have decided more is better, and when more is better we package it up to sell. Countries across the world have laws and regulations on food products to have plastic for safety purposes. Our food is processed on plastic equipment, packaged in plastic, and often shipped in plastic containers. Questions swirl around how safe it is to have that much plastic swirling around our food supply. BPA, leaching, and phthlates are products brought into question for human health. Though these have not been deemed unsafe, they have not been called safe either. About 6 million pounds of BPA (Bisphenol A, hard lightweight plastic) are produced per year. The CDC has shown that more than 90% of us have BPA traces in our bodies from food consumption. This can cause problems in our bodies, especially in estrogen. Though levels may be low now, as more food eaten is packaged, the higher the risk of reproductive issues, an potential heart problems.

If there is a push away from plastic, why do people still use the product? Well, plastic is versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong, and less expensive than alternatives. The downfall is the amount of energy used to make most single use products. Plastic is unlike other materials we can recycle and on average only 6% of what is produced is recycled. Many items are single use only whereas glass containers can be used indefinitely. When plastics are recycled, they are sorted and shredded into pellets. These pellets can be melted and made into new products. PET, the plastic used in products like single use water bottles is the easiest to reuse. It is estimates 100 million pounds of PET are produced per year. If the products it is used for like carpet, clothing, and packaging, are recycled, PET can be used over and over again. But, like I stated earlier, 6% of all plastic is recycled so more plastic is constantly being made one other plastics in the system are lost.

Recycling is an expensive venture and many countries cannot afford to recycle their plastic. Their plastic use is diverted to landfills where it may not decompose for 400-1000 years while leaching harmful chemicals into the ground. In places recycling is not abundant, shipping across seas takes place to get rid of plastic pollution. This adds more fossil fuel use to the equation, worsening the effects plastic has on the environment.

What can be done or what should be done? The logical response would be to eliminate plastic completely to save ocean environments and land contamination. A global problem is not an easy problem to fix. Some suggestions to reduce plastic pollution are to shop locally, buy products in bulk bins, bring reusable bags when shopping, buy less products, refuse products with plastic on them, research, and advocate for plastic bans or taxes. Below I have listen some resources to help reduce plastic use and organizations that are making a difference.

Green Dot: Companies pay for environmental impact

http://www.gruener-punkt.de/en.html

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/

http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/nationalgreenweeksub/waste-reduction-tips/tips-to-use-less-plastic.html

http://plasticwastesolutions.com/reduce-our-plastic-usage/

Resources:

https://www.reusethisbag.com/reusable-bag-infographics/plastic-bag-bans-world.php

http://plastic-pollution.org/

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cookware-plastics-shoppers-guide-to-food-safety#2

visit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUmuOmEqXZQ&feature=share

Food Waste

A monumental problem we face is a growing population. With a growing population comes questions of how will everyone be fed? At the root of the problem, it is not merely a production problem, rather, it is a distribution problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, one third of the food produced is wasted per year. That equates to 1.3 billion tonnes of waste! It costs industrialized countries $680 billion and developing countries $310 billion annually.

Knowing the excessive cost food waste provides, where does it come from? When we look at poorer countries we see a common theme…storage. In warm, humid climates it is hard to preserve food and with it comes rodents, parasites, and fungus. With a lack of refrigeration, means of transportation, and unsanitary markets, poorer countries lose food before it reaches the mouths who need it. Packaging practices are unlike those in countries like the US. There is no vacuum seal, flash freezing, or perfectly stacked crates. People make due with what they have like wicker baskets and nets. Though not all of this food is thrown away, it is wasted before it gets to the consumer.

In industrialized countries there are problems late in the supply chain. The first problem is the aesthetic appearance of the food. Do you ever wonder what happens to the rest of a ‘baby carrot?’ If carrots are blemished, bent at the incorrect angle or are not bright enough they are thrown away or turned into our ‘baby carrots.’ It is estimated that 30% of all carrots produced are discarded due to their physical appearance. Industrialized countries consume processed food in a much higher amount that developing nations. This creates waste from cutting food like potatoes for french fries, trimming scraps for perfectly proportioned meals, and byproducts of cooking or extracting foods.

A major cause of retail waste comes from poor dating, too hot or cold holding temperatures, and lack of staff to rotate foods. There is a common misconception that the best before date is the date to toss an item. It is actually indicating the peak quality the manufactures feels the food is at. After that date they cannot insure the quality is at their standards but by no means states that the food is trash. High income countries see food as a commodity rather than an energy source. Massive amounts of money are spent on bulk products, specialty food, and excess food for a home. Household waste becomes a huge factor as families over buy food, fail to prepare the food to store it longer, and toss food they do not like or find pleasing.

If one fourth of the food wasted was saved, it could feed 870 million hungry people in the world! With 40% of the world’s people working in agriculture and employing the highest percentage of jobs worldwide, you would think that there would be immediate changes made so these people benefit from their trade. Though many workers in developing countries see their food rot before them, the 1% of farmers in the US rarely see the food they make go to market. so what can be done?

In low income countries, there needs to be education and technologies made available to preserve food. Improvements and investments in marketing facilities can boost outcomes and benefit a growing population. In high income countries, awareness is key. With buying options in the hands of the consumer, it is crucial the consumer knows what is happening to their food supply if they are not growing it themselves. Improvements in purchase and consumption planning can reduce waste in homes and at stores.

Waste is not only seen in the food produced. It spans across the use of resources to grow, ship, and store the food, energy used to grow the food and the capital put forth to invest in the food. Between all these modern issues we are creating global warming and climate change through our food system.

To me it seems like an oxymoron. Food is a staple, organic, basic need that we all have but yet we throw so much of it away. If there was care and appreciation for each hand that touched the food, the energy from the sun, and the nutrients used to put forth a life giving product, there would be no waste. Going forward, make it a priority to know where your food comes from and how much energy it took for it to get to you. The next time you see an ‘ugly’ potato in the grocery store, keep in mind you may be the only person willing to buy it before it is thrown away.

http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
http://www.madr.ro/docs/ind-alimentara/risipa_alimentara/presentation_food_waste.pdf
http://www.momagri.org/UK/agriculture-s-key-figures/With-close-to-40-%25-of-the-global-workforce-agriculture-is-the-world-s-largest-provider-of-jobs-_1066.html

 

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