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Carbon Rangers/Ecozoic Times
Vol. 12  No. 3
April 2019

 
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Dear Reader,

Plastic in the News. Plastic has been an issue for some time.  Everyone has seen the news dripping out and the local efforts to ban this or that plastic , usually the plastic bag or the plastic water bottle or plastic straws.   A weary and familiar catalog.  But still the persistence of plastic remains a deeply disturbing reality for how humans function, not only in wealthy countries but in a vast number of places with few advantages in money or resources.  There is always plastic in some form and it seems to be everywhere, even swirling around in permanent gyres in the largest oceans. 

Pervasive Pollution. We have been warned by the most recent UN report on the pervasiveness of our rubbish around the planet. We see the rate of plastic production continues to rise even while we have yet to make a serious dent in our recycling of the plastic already here.    This edition is a kind of overdose of plastic stories; I am hoping the range of plastic problems and wide distribution of impact may help make a dent in consciousness and shake us more awake to take action.  Apologies for the data dump!

Youth Arriving. I have a reference to how some young people have stepped up to lead on the plastics challenge.  Some of these young people live on island nations, particularly vulnerable to what the ocean carries to their shores from larger and more prosperous parts of the planet. There is a surprising surge of youthful activism on climate that we discussed in the last issue. 

"Let no one despise you for your youth."  Let us all encourage the young and let us also be encouraged by youth showing up so forcefully in these days.  These developments can be a grace for all of us- perhaps a way the universe is speaking a new word through this young generation. And although news cycles rapidly move on, the students keep fighting for earth justice.  Christian scripture in 1 Timothy 4:12 says, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Please see the samples of wisdom from Pope Francis and Thomas Berry offered at the end of this edition.  Both Francis and Thomas have something to tell us about raising consciousness for care of Earth.

Cordially,
Br. Kevin

Websites to visit:
Edmund Rice International  
http://edmundriceinternational.org/jpic/

Thomas Berry Forum for Ecological Dialog at Iona
http://www.iona.edu/About/Iona-in-Community/The-Thomas-Berry-Forum-for-Ecological-Dialogue.aspx

Plastics Lifespan Can Shorten Ours
Grist Report
It’s no secret that plastics are, well, not ideal. Do you know how long it takes for one of those pesky coffee pods to break down?  How bad are plastics for humans? A new report says we need to look at their entire lifecycle. That lengthy lifespan of plastic spells big problems for human health. Ubiquitous marine plastic, for instance, degrades and fragments into microplastics that can seep into the food chain and end up in our bodies. That’s bad news for your hormones, as Grist’s Eve Andrews reported, since compounds in plastics can have endocrine-disrupting effects. Read More. 
PILOTING A PLASTICS POLLUTION REVOLUTION 

By Robert Earle Howells

Anyone who traffics in the realm of depressing news can readily look to the world’s oceans and the trillions of bits of plastic and fishing debris floating therein. To wit, the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, aka the North Pacific Gyre, which popped up in the news again last month —1.8 trillion pieces of plastic swirling around in the ocean. It’s a mass three times the size of France — and growing.

Anna Cummins, co-founder and global strategy director of 5 Gyres, a Los Angeles–based nonprofit devoted to solving the crisis of plastics pollution, definitely traffics in a realm where the news is mostly bleak. As the name of her organization suggests, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not alone out there. It’s just one of five major subtropical gyres where ocean currents trap the plastic flotsam of a use-it-and-dump-it world. Cummins’ mission for the past 10 years has been to alert the world to what a god-awful and dangerous mess it has created, and to stop the flow of plastics from source to sea.  Read More.


Plastic Pollution: Can the Ocean Really Be Cleaned Up?
 

Somewhere in Hilo, on Hawaii’s Big Island, a team of scientists and engineers are tending to The Ocean Cleanup’s 600-metre-long rubbish-herding device, after its maiden voyage to the Great Pacific garbage patch was cut short in December 2018, because it fractured into two pieces. (see photo).

The project has had its fair share of problems since it was unveiled in May 2017 and has been criticised by marine scientists and environmental groupsfor its potential negative environmental impact. However, some still herald The Ocean Cleanup for having a positive effect on plastic pollution.  

While the ultimate goal is to stop plastics from entering the water in the first place, cleanup projects play an important role. Read More.  

Pathogens Hitchhiking on Plastics ‘Could Carry Cholera from India to US’?

theguardian.com | Mar. 14 
Research finds 'nurdles' washed up on Scottish beaches tainted with E coli, with potentially far-reaching health implications.  Read More.

Dead Whale with 40kg of Plastic in Stomach Found in Philippines
Cuvier’s beaked whale showed signs of starvation, dehydration and had been vomiting blood
 A dead whale with 40 kilograms of plastic in its stomach has been discovered off the coast of the Philippines. Marine biologist Darrell Blatchley was called to recover the 4.7m (15.4ft) Cuvier’s beaked whale, which was trapped in the shores of the Mabini Compostela Valley.  By the time Mr Blatchley arrived, the whale had died, showing signs of starvation and dehydration, and had been vomiting blood.
 
A necropsy revealed 40kg of plastic waste in the whale’s stomach, made up of shopping bags, banana plantation bags and 16 rice sacks. It had died of starvation and dehydration, tests confirmed. Images posted on Facebook show the whale’s corpse being towed to shore, then sheets of plastic being lifted out of its stomach. Mr Blatchley and other marine biologists at the the D’Bone Museum in Davao City have recovered 61 whales and dolphins in the last 10 years, but said that their latest discovery was “the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale”.  The museum called on the Philippines government to take action against people dumping plastic into the sea. Read More.


 

Plastic Pollution: One Town Smothered by 17,000 Tons of Rubbish 

Malaysia has become one of the world's biggest plastic importers, taking in rubbish the rest of the world doesn't want. But one small town is paying the price for this - and it is now smothered in 17,000 tons of waste.
It began last summer. Every night, after the clock struck midnight, Daniel Tay knew exactly what was coming. He would shut his doors, seal his windows and wait for the inevitable. Soon his room would be filled with an acrid smell, like rubber being burned. Coughing, his lungs would tighten. Over the next few months, the strange smell would return every night, like clockwork. It was only later that he found the source of the smell - illegal recycling factories that were secretly burning plastic. 
Link: Plastic pollution: One town smothered by 17,000 tons of rubbish 


 

Why Southeast Asia is Flooded with Trash from America and Other Wealthy Nations
huffpost.com


Capitalism, greed and inequality have created a crisis in the global recycling system.  (Photo: Singapore) By Dominique Mosbergen in Huffington Post
 
IPOH, Malaysia ― Bales of plastic garbage, stacked 15 feet high, shimmered in the 100-degree heat. They gave off a faint chemical smell as they warped and softened under the equatorial sun.  
 
A canary-yellow Walmart clearance tag poked out from one of the dirty heaps. Wrappers and packages from American products were visible nearby. These items had likely traveled 10,000 miles to this unmarked and apparently unauthorized dumpsite in a quiet industrial neighborhood in northwestern Malaysia. 
 
Ad hoc dumps like this one, teeming with foreign waste, have popped up across Southeast Asia in recent months ― each an ugly symbol of a global recycling system that regional activists and politicians have described as unjust, inequitable and broken. In January and February, HuffPost visited several of these sites in Malaysia to see what really happens to much of the plastic trash that originates in the U.S. and other wealthy nations.


Awash With Plastic Bottles and Lacking a Law, Kenya Struggles to Recycle
Reuters.com
 
As global concern over plastic pollution rises, corporate giants such as Coca-Cola and Unilever are pumping cash into a recycling initiative in Kenya.  Many multinationals are scrambling to support recycling, stung by criticism from environmentalists over pollution and keen to be able to re-use valuable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.

Single-use plastic was a key topic at recent global United Nations Environmental Program summit. But developing nations such as Kenya don’t have organized waste collection. Discarded plastic bottles lie along the tree-lined velvet lawns of Nairobi’s diplomatic district, and choke the stinking river that uncoils through the smog of the high-rises downtown. They float through open drains of sun-baked slums and shards pierce the bellies of flamingos and turtles.  Read More.

Economic Injustice of Plastic (Video)

SPEAKER BIO Van Jones is a Yale-educated lawyer, author, and social activist especially concerned with issues of criminal justice reform, job creation, and environmental justice. SYNOPSIS In this TED Talk, Van Jones discusses the life cycle of plastic and how mindless consumption of disposable products disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations in society. He uplifts the voices of people society has deemed “disposable” and asks viewers how we can uphold the dignity of the human person in our work to care for creation. Video Link: https://www.ted.com/talks/van_jones_the_economic_injustice_of_plastic?language=en . 


 The plastics issue we seem to ignore: Increased Production
from Deutsche Welle Europe, a news and information TV Station based in Germany. 
 

 
Giant petrochemical companies have announced a wealthy alliance to tackle plastic pollution. But there's little talk of scaling back production to help the environment.  Read More. 


Where Kids Fought Plastic Pollution—and Won

 It only took a few months for a young environmental scientist from the Bahamas to create a youth movement to ban single-use plastics in her country.  At age 22, on an expedition in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Kristal Ambrose (Photo: Kristal Ambrose, founder of Bahamas Plastic Movement. Photo by Elyse Butler.) witnessed a horror she couldn’t unsee: a vast patch of garbage, made up mostly of plastics. She was onboard the ship of the 5 Gyres Institute, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that studies gyres, ocean currents that trap marine debris. What she saw inspired her to take
on the problem of plastic pollution back in her home country of the Bahamas.  Now 29, Ambrose is an environmental educator and founder of the Bahamas Plastic Movement, a youth-led initiative that last year convinced the Bahamian government to commit to banning all single-use plastics countrywide. Read More 

Europe Decides to Ban Single-Use Plastics by 2021

Last year the European Union started the process of banning single-use plastics like cutlery, Q-tips, straws, and those little stirrers for coffee and tea. On Wednesday, March 27, The European Parliament cleared the way for the ban to take effect, which means some kinds of plastics will be eliminated in European countries starting in 2021. The ban will be finalized in the coming weeks, but yesterday’s vote, 560 against 35, practically seals the deal.
The newly passed measure is aimed at reducing the kind of plastics commonly found on beaches, as well as single-use polystyrene cups and oxo-degradable plastics that tend to break down into sneaky microplastics.  European nations will also have to come up with their own measures to cut down on the amount of new plastic in plastic bottles: 25 percent of bottles will have to be composed of recycled material by 2025, and 90 percent by 2029.
 
And in more good news, the E.U. is starting to crack down on wet wipes. Don’t worry, Jacques, you haven’t been wiping your bum with plastic. Europe wants to tackle its rampant fatbergs — the colossal and disgusting masses of refuse that clog sewers — by reducing the number of wet wipes people flush. Read More. 


9 Ways To Stop Using So Much Plastic
 outsideonline.com
Going zero waste is hard, but these easy changes to how you eat, drink, and store food will make a big difference.  Going zero waste is hard, but these easy changes to how you eat, drink, and store food will make a big difference Let's get the bad news out of the way. You know when people casually joke about our country being a burning dumpster fire? They are not totally wrong. America has a huge waste problem, and municipalities are now burning recyclables. Why? Because in 2017, China, which used to buy most of America discarded recycling, decided it was tired of being the world's garbage bin. Unfortunately, the U.S. was not totally equipped to do its own recycling.
 
A lot of places are just stockpiling it now says Silpa Kaza, an urban-development specialist with the World Bank. Kaza is coauthor of What a Waste, a massive research project detailing refuse across the globe. Her report predicts that by 2050, we will create 3.4 billion tons of overall waste annually compared to today's 2.01 billion tons.
 
Even more astonishing is that 91 percent of U.S. plastic doesn't even go into the recycling pool. Americans just throw it away.  
Click Here to see the list. 


Plastic Bags, or Paper? Here’s What to Consider When You Hit the Grocery Store

By Brad Plumer . NYT
Unfortunately, there’s not a simple answer on whether paper or plastic bags are better for the environment. They both have downsides, but there are a few broad lessons to keep in mind when you’re hitting the grocery store.
Plastic bags, which often take centuries to decompose, can create a dreadful waste problem even though they’re far from the largest source of plastic waste in America — about 12 percent of the total.
On the other hand, paper bags typically require more energy and greenhouse gas emissions to produce, which isn’t great from a global warming standpoint. Read More.


Nestle One of the Top Plastic Polluters
 
Pictured: Several of 51 Nestle Brands
 

Recent cleanups and audits of plastic waste have revealed that Nestlé is one of the worst plastic polluters. Nestlé sells a billion products a day, with a staggering 98% of them wrapped in single-use packaging.


Plastic production is directly connected to climate change as 99% of plastics are derived from fossil fuels. Further, 91% of the plastic we use is not recycled and instead ends up in landfills or the ocean, killing millions of marine animals each year.

The solution is clear -- we must cut down our production and usage of single-use plastics.  Want to do something about this?  Here is the link:
Sign the petition and demand Nestlé phase out single-use plastics.


 

Interfaith Vatican Gathering Listens to “Cries of The Earth, Cries of the Poor”
 


An international group of faith leaders from Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Protestant faith communities joined Pope Francis at the Vatican in March 2019, to “listen to the cries of the earth and to the cries of the poor.”

The group’s main focus was the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which promote authentic human development in a sustainable and earth-conscious manner for those in poverty around the globe.  Pope Francis urged the interfaith group to join him in calling for “ecological conversion” so all people of faith can cultivate an inner awareness to their connection to Creation and thus be motivated to advocacy and action in order to heal the earth, so wounded by short-term economic decisions that have long-term ecological consequences, especially for the vulnerable poor. Pursuing  material growth too often has meant “irrationally exploiting the environment and our fellow human beings.”

Thomas Berry
1914-2009 
“Perhaps the most valuable heritage we can provide for future generations is some sense of the Great Work that is before them of moving the human project from its devastating exploitation to a benign presence. We need to give them some indication of how the next generation can fulfill this work in an effective manner.”
- The Great Work


Drawdown
Update

Drawdown remains a terrific guide to prioritizing a response to the climate crisis.  

NBC News interviewed Vice President of Operations and Engagement Crystal Chissell on the “6 Ways Ordinary People Can Prevent Climate Change, According to Researchers and Advocates.” The article is one of our most viewed and shared posts on Facebook.

 
Copyright © 2019 Edmund Rice International, All rights reserved.


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