- In my 40 years traveling around this planet, I discovered
human beings respect nothing anywhere in the world. No matter how beautiful,
no matter how pristine the location and no matter what country-human beings
toss their trash everywhere. They inject their chemicals into the land,
air and water. They throw their rubbish into rivers, lakes and streams.
- In my forty years of Scuba diving around the world, I've
seen our pristine lakes and oceans turn into trash cans for humans.
- Millions of tires, nets, plastic, glass and metal containers
roll around the ocean floor like 'creatures' out of place.
- As recently exposed on Oprah, "The Great Pacific
Garbage Patch" twice the size of Texas, features three million tons
of plastic debris floating around the Pacific. In some places, it reaches
60 feet thick. It kills millions of marine creatures annually. It's not
just the Pacific, 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of
all our oceans and seas! That figure is correct!
- While riding my bicycle around the world or climbing
mountains, I have seen humans toss soiled baby diapers into pristine pools,
fjords and rivers. On Mt. Everest, known as the "Earth Mother",
climbers have left tons of trash and garbage on her flanks in their efforts
to reach the top. At the base, climbers have turned the area into a sewage
- Most large rivers running out of industrial nations feature
raw sewage that creates 'dead zones' like the 10,000 square mile one at
the mouth of the Mississippi River to 27,000 square mile dead zones in
the North Sea. How big is that? That's the size of North Carolina.
- Instead of changing their ways, humans continue adding
more trash upon the trash with no end in sight.
- In a sobering expose' Mother Jones featured a brilliant
piece by world famous author Bill McKibben. He also wrote a ground-breaking
book: The End of Nature. I highly recommend reading his books.
- "Waste not, want not" by Bill McKibben, Mother
Jones/May-June 2009 http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/05/waste-not-want-not
- "Once a year or so, it's my turn to run recycling
day for our tiny town," McKibben said. "But it's also kind of
disturbing, this waste stream. For one, a town of 550 sure generates a
lot-a trailer load every couple of weeks.
- "More than that, though, so much of it seems utterly
unnecessary. Not just waste, but wasteful. Plastic water bottles, one after
another-80 million of them get tossed every day. The ones I'm stomping
down are being "recycled," but so what? In a country where almost
everyone has access to clean drinking water, they define waste to begin
with. In fact, once you start thinking about it, the category of "waste"
begins to expand, until it includes an alarming percentage of our economy.
Let's do some intellectual sorting:
- "There's old-fashioned waste, the dangerous, sooty
kind. You're making something useful, but you're not using the latest technology,
and so you're spewing: particulates into the air, or maybe sewage into
the water. You wish to keep doing it, because it's cheap, and you block
any regulation that might interfere with your right to spew. This is the
kind of waste that's easy to attack; it's obvious and obnoxious and a lot
of it falls under theClean Air Act and Clean Water Act and so on. There's
actually less of this kind of waste than there used to be-that's why we
can swim in most of our rivers again." Or to correct McKibben, at
least 53 percent of them!
- "There's waste that comes from doing something that
manifestly doesn't need doing," said McKibben. "A hundred million
trees are cut every year just to satisfy the junk-mail industry. Or think
about what we've done with cars. From 1975 to 1985, fuel efficiency for
the average new car improved from 14 to 28 miles per gallon. Then we stopped
worrying about oil and put all that engineering talent to work on torque."
- While we Americans run through our busy days, mountains
of trash accumulate worldwide by our singular activities.
- McKibben said, "Chris Jordan is the photographer
laureate of waste-his most recent project, "Running the Numbers,"
uses exquisite images to show the 106,000 aluminum cans Americans toss
every 30 seconds, or the 1 million plastic cups distributed on US airline
flights every 6 hours, or the 2 million plastic beverage bottles we run
through every 5 minutes, or the 426,000 cell phones we discard every day,
or the 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags we use each hour, or the
60,000 plastic bags we use every 5 seconds, or the 15 million sheets of
office paper we use every 5 minutes, or the 170,000 Energizer batteries
produced every 15 minutes. The simple amount of stuff it takes-energy especially-to
manage this kind of throughput makes it daunting to even think about our
waste problem. (Meanwhile, the next time someone tells you that population
is at the root of our troubles, remind them that the average American uses
more energy between the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and dinner
on January 2 than the average, say, Tanzanian consumes in a year. Population
matters, but it really matters when you multiply it by proximity to Costco."
- I have read where Americans use 90 billion plastic and
paper bags annually. (Source: Sierra Club) But I've also read that the
total number of plastic bags for humanity exceeds 386 billion annually.
- All go to the landfill, or, as you can verify daily-all
over the landscape.
- "Americans discard enough aluminum to rebuild our
entire commercial air fleet every three months-and aluminum represents
less than 1 percent of our solid waste stream," We toss 14 percent
of the food we buy at the store. More than 46,000 pieces of plastic debris
float on each square mile of ocean. And-oh, forget it."
- McKibben covers waste from many corners, but then, he
covers the waste of our two wars and military waste.
- "Want to talk about government waste?" said
McKibben. "We're going to end up spending north of a trillion dollars
on the war in Iraq, which will go down as one of the larger wastes of money-and
lives-in our history. But we spend more than half a trillion a year on
the military anyway, more than the next 10 nations combined. That almost
- "We landed on a continent with topsoil more than
a foot thick across its vast interior, so the fact that we immediately
started to waste it with inefficient plowing hardly mattered. We inherited
an atmosphere that could buffer our emissions for the first 150 years of
the Industrial Revolution.
- "But our margin is gone. We're out of cash, we're
out of atmosphere, we're out of luck. The current economic carnage is what
happens when you waste-when the CEO of Merrill Lynch thinks he needs a
$35,000 commode, when the CEO of Tyco thinks it would be fun to spend a
million dollars on his wife's birthday party, complete with an ice sculpture
of Michelangelo's David peeing vodka. The melted Arctic ice cap is what
you get when everyone in America thinks he requires the kind of vehicle
that might make sense for a forest ranger."
- McKibben makes sense! He's brilliant! So why am I pulling
my hair out by the roots? Why do I ride my bicycle along highways with
an endless stream of trash? Why do I see fast food, beer and pop bottles
littering America's rivers and lakes? Why do humans create and inject
ever more deadly chemicals into the environment annually? How can Americans
remain mind-numbingly apathetic to mountains of debris covering North America?
- How about the ones of us that care? Let's create incentive
laws to encourage the ones that don't care-to pick up after themselves.
How about a 10 cent national deposit/return law like Michigan's. I have
bicycled the entire 'mitt' of Michigan and never picked up one plastic,
can or bottle container. Why?
- Because no matter who tosses their container litter,
an armada of kids picks up everything for the financial reward. It's time
for America to take responsibility for cleaning up America. Let's stop
the waste stream by engaging a "National Recycling Policy".
- The original people of this continent, living here thousands
of years, maintained a pristine environment. New arrivals from Europe
trashed North America inside of 150 years. That's unreasonable and immoral.
It's unconscionable! Let's change ourselves toward a more responsible
- To take action: First and foremost, join www.numbersusa.com
and become one of nearly a million Americans making impact with pre-written
faxes and phone calls to change immigration policies toward a stable future.
Bi-partisan and highly effective!
- Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents
from the Arctic to the South Pole as well as six times across
the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from
the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. He presents "The Coming
Population Crisis in America: and what you can do about it" to civic
clubs, church groups, high schools and colleges. He works to bring about
sensible world population balance at www.frostywooldridge.com