The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for March 12th, 2018

learned abroad

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Is it “Hell in a hand basket,” or are our hand baskets sending us to hell? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the very few places where my personal ideology aligns with that of the Dope from Park Slope – aka the current Mayor of the City of Greater New York – concerns discouraging the continued usage of those plastic shopping bags that every shop in NYC jams their goods into. I’m old enough to remember when the then ubiquitous brown paper bag was phased out in favor of these things. The excuse at the time was that “it saved trees” not using paper.

Of course, in the current era of ubiquitous municipal recyling programs, those paper bags would be worth a small fortune on the “pulp” market. The plastic ones, well, they ain’t exactly saving any trees here in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This unfortunate example of the urban arbor is found on 43rd street, just off Northern Blvd. It serves the community as a rake set high into the air column, gathering unto itself wind blown trash. Given that the common plastic grocery sack couldn’t be better designed, as far as parasailing, the air is sometimes thick around Western Queens with these things. Ask my colleague Will Elkins (at Newtown Creek Alliance) about how many of these things he scoops out of the water every year.

Plastic, ultimately, is a waste product of the oil refining process, just like asphalt. That means that the manufacture of new plastic items, in particular poly vinyl chloride based ones, uses a super cheap “feed stock” and are massively profitable to produce and sell accordingly. If some science fiction like limitless and clean energy source was discovered today, we’d still be using petroleum a century from now, so this is a problem that isn’t going away.

People from industrialized countries might say “oil? if we went all “sci fi power source,” it would disappear.” Remember that right now and today in 2018, at least 50% of all living humans use wood fires to heat their homes and cook their food. Coal is still used in massive quantities all over the world, and the underlying technology behind even a nuclear power plant is ultimately a steam driven engine. “Installed base” is the conversation, not fuel source. Just saying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which right wingers opine about environmentalists is that they often have no idea what they’re doing and have just jumped onto an issue because it’s fashionable. They will point out misreadings of climatological data which predicted a new ice age starting in the 1990’s, or mock the banning of CFC accelerants and the so called “Ozone Hole” during the late 1980’s. They will declare many, many things which paint a picture of vainglorious hippies tilting at imaginary windmills that just get in the way of National Business, and which put “hard working Americans” out of work. The more extreme amongst them will say that this all part of God’s plan for us, and not to worry about the natural environment. Faith sustains, not nature. 

I submit the photos in today’s post, and ask “did the trees in Eden look like this”? 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

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