Thursday, March 12, 2009

Misplaced Waste, Misplaced Ideals

This has become a highly publicized issue in recent years given the shift in public perception on the issue of climate change and pollution, and this publicity has gone on to spark a huge amount of discussion in a multitude of media. When people start talking about waste, and the human population’s incredibly honed skill of creating it, there are probably a great number of things that come to mind. Maybe you think about Al Gore and his 2006 film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, or maybe you think about your green bin and how you’re doing everything you can to reduce your waste and clutter.

Well in this post, I was moved to write about a couple news items that have caught my eye recently for two different reasons. Yesterday, the astronauts floating aloft 360km above our planet’s surface were given what traditional seafaring folk might call an ‘abandon ship’ order. Retreating to their Russian escape pod “Soyuz”, the astronauts aboard the international space station (ISS) were forced to wait out what NASA considered to be a near miss with a piece of rogue debris… or as I like to call it, space junk. Even though the piece of junk was only about an inch wide, and it only came within 4Km of the ISS, apparently things moving at 28,164 kilometers an hour can deal a hefty blow to the metal skin of a spaceship, and this was risky enough for mission control. So here we have one option for dealing with waste; the old cold war philosophy re-surfaces, and the wisest men and women in science choose to ‘duck and cover’.

Moving closer to home for a minute, Toronto officials are trying to come up with a way of reducing the amount of waste caused by those finicky plastic tops Timmy’s puts on top of their fabled paper cups (you know, the ones that hide the even more lauded “rim under-which you never win”?). The issue was raised by recycling officials saying that the plastic cups were contaminating their paper recyclables because people weren’t separating the two before disposal. After a failed attempt at legislating against the use of such lids, (thank you very much lobbyists) the city has taken it upon its self to spend over $50,000 on a task force to come up with a viable, compostable alternative to the plastic lids. To quote a famous SNL skit, “Really… I mean… Really. Fifty thousand dollars?” For that amount of cash you could pretty much guarantee that you’d win at least ten of the one hundred $10,000 cash prizes in the Roll up the rim contest. Now, doesn’t that seem like a much better investment than tossing a mindless crew of 40 task forcers $50,000 for a bonehead idea that these guys --> are already retailing a hundred of for only $7.59???

So we’ve got killer junk in space (movie idea?!), coffee cup lids contaminating our best efforts to do well by mother earth, and a couple exceptional uses of taxpayers money. Call me nuts, but I’d say there’s something crazy wrong with our ideals if we’re not only sullying our streets and landfills, but our own planet’s orbit? And we think only our finances are in crisis? Really…