Recycling Everything is Good For The Economy and The Environment.

¨Why is it everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction? We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy¨

 

Recycling is a noble and necessary cause for industrialized human societies. The problem is that people generally forget about the devastating effects of solids floating in our oceans, the exponential growth of landfills, and the excess of energy needed to produce more and more physical products from scratch. Since 1/2 of world´s 7 billion people now live in cities and urban areas, the garbage we produce is concentrated in landfills in which a mountain of material wealth is buried and forgotten. City dwellers see some of the garbage dispersed in the vast landscapes of concrete and steel, which looks a bit unattractive when not placed inside the trash containers, but when the trash is inside the containers, which are always filled to the brim, they are taken away and sent to who knows where – out of sight and out of mind, and we continue to throw potentially useful material away.

The idea of garbage, waste, rubbish, trash or whatever you want to call it, is useless to the Earth in that products made out of plastic, rubber, metal and glass will not disintegrate for it to use; that is why we as humans should recycle and continue using them.

The problems people face in advanced and industrialized countries with regard to recycling might not be their fault. The problem is that there is a general lack of innovation and lack of profit-driven advancements in the use of recycled materials. There are no universal methods for recycling in many places. Just look at any state, city or town in the United States: There is a different method and process for garbage and recycling collection in each municipality. This also occurs in some places in Europe in that there is no universal method or financial resources for collecting all that is recyclable. Some towns collect and recycle batteries, cooking oils, used cell phones, organic materials, some towns have public ashtrays (so cigarette butts don´t float among the streets), some towns don´t recycle at all, some have organized a weekly collection of large household furniture, etc. The lack of universal practices within individual states and countries make recycling an impossible task for most people.

There are a few ways to incentivize people to recycle:

1) Make it illegal to not recycle: Fining people for not recycling is not a new idea, but not recycling is much like throwing garbage in the street, which also carries a punishment of a fine.

2) Containers: If people have the resources, they just might use them. Organic material, plastic, glass, paper, metal, electronic equipment (including batteries), oils, and cloths (clothes, furniture cushions, etc) seem to be the majority of the things city dwellers throw out. It seems like a lot of different containers, but the initial sorting these materials could be profitable later on.

3) Innovation: Scarcity and abundance of materials is wealth – like having fresh water and good soil in the desert. The amount of food and organic material that is thrown out by people who live in areas with an abundance of sun (i.e. Southern California, southern coast of Spain, Arizona, and Egypt) can be used as compost for agriculture if treated properly. In the ¨sea of plastic¨ or ¨Europe´s salad bowl¨ in southeast Spain, there are cultivars of tomatoes and cucumbers who use the discarded husks or hairs of coconuts as a growing medium. It is an organic solution to recycle a material that normally would be buried in a landfill.

An unorthodox but innovative way of recycling comes from Sweden in that they incinerate some of their garbage to produce heat and electric energy for homes. Sweden recycles 96% of its rubbish while the remaining 4% is put in landfills, which eventually gets used. They recycle so well that they actually have to buy garbage from their neighbors to continue producing energy for heating by incineration.

Electronic material, which is probably the wealthiest item city dwellers constantly throw into the trash, is very easy to dispose of, but difficult to recycle. The amount of components that make up something as complex as a computer, mobile telephone or television: precious metals, glass, plastic, wiring, and rubber, make it so much more difficult to recycle. This is why there should be a separate container and resources to recycle electronic materials.

Much of the industrialized world´s electronic equipment goes to places like Nigeria and Thailand where toxic landfills are inhabited by local people who try to scavenge as much material wealth as they can. Places like Lagos, Nigeria, receives about 10,000 tons of trash, garbage, and potentially recyclable material each day. Although there is a community of people who live in a squalid shanty town within the landfill, they depend upon it, since they sell small quantities of useful materials, but it is simply too much garbage – and most of it is absolutely useless.

The paradox with electronic equipment is that although we use less material, we produce more garbage. One example of this paradox is how far we have come technologically with television and computer screens. In the 1980s-1990s, television and computer monitors were heavy, bulky, and expensive. Now in the 2000s, monitors are lightweight, use less materials, and are cheaper. People are buying more computers than ever, and more than ever they end up in landfills. Compare cellular phones in the 1990s to cellular phones in 2010: Large, bulky, and expensive mobile phones from the 1990s were few; small, lightweight, and relatively cheap (except for the iphone) mobile phones in the 2000s are cheap and more abundant than ever. There needs to be a revolution in how we recycle electronic equipment or risk a pandemic in which places like the Olusosun Landfill in Nigeria become commonplace elsewhere.

Imagine if each municipality, town or city had a massive recycling facility in which employees delicately sorted materials into different types of metals, plastics, glass, ceramic, organic material, wood, and electronic equipment. A facility of this type would create an almost endless source of full-time employment, much like the people to retrieve the rubbish in the first place. A better understanding of the materials that people discard will permit the exploitation of these materials again.

Plastic bottles, although recyclable, are one of the most abundant items that end up in landfills. Architects recently demonstrated how many plastic bottles New Yorkers contribute to landfills by building a massive structure with them. Each hour, the residents of New York City throw out more than 50,000 plastic bottles instead of recycling them. The structure is large enough to shelter about 50 people. This project demonstrates not only how much recyclable material is wasted, but also what else can be done with these materials instead of simply throwing them out.

Although Americans in the United States would like to think that it still leads the world in innovation, technology, and socioeconomics, it is evident now more than ever that it is beginning to lag behind its allies in Japan, China, Northern Europe, specifically Germany, and the countries of Scandinavia. Americans waste more than any other people on Earth. Culturally, things in the United States are bigger than in other countries (cars, houses, product packaging, etc)  Predetermined obsolescence of cheap products is also a concept that keeps Americans buying, which also drives the economy. Marketing has a lot to do with the amount of garbage Americans produce in that packaging for small items is large so that it catches the customer´s eyes from a distance.

The packaging for our blenders, x-box, mobile phones, televisions, baby toys, sunglasses, picture frames, tweezers, cans of tuna, boxes of cereals, and everything else people by from places like Wal Mart will be thrown in the trash. They must all be recycled along with styrofoam! What a retched material. Styrofoam is trademarked, whereas the non-brand name for this material is expanded polystyrene foam or EPS foam, whose name makes it sound like what it truly is: an almost impossible to recycle material. EPS foam for take-out foods should be regulated since it is almost impossible to recycle or biodegrade. Places like Oakland, Albany, New York, and San Francisco, have banned EPS foam for take-out foods.  The alternative is to use paper containers which are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Environmentalism involving clean energy and recycling in the United States is facing a lot of backlash in that people who have a stake in the most profitable industries like coal, petroleum, and petrochemical think that it will interrupt their profits, but once people realize that there is money to be made in recycling and innovation, it should catch on. The problem is that many of the policies made by lawmakers outweigh the small ecological movements that haven´t had a chance to grow. The countries of  Japan, Scandinavia, Northern and Central Europe have culturally recognized that recycling is a basic human activity that is part of living in a civilized society. These places have realized that they can be both rich countries that provide healthcare, clean energy, non-GMO food, free education, paid vacation and maternity leave, and great recycling programs without compromising their economy. American culture needs to change from: everything for the economy regardless of the Earth´s destruction. We are in the 21st Century. We could do better. Environmentalism is good for the economy

 

By: Opton A. Martin

 

Anuncios

El Cambio Cultural Contra Los Cultivos Transgénicos Puede Ser Un Mal Negocio Para España

¨El Cultivo Orgánico Triunfa Sobre Lo Extranjero y Transgénico¨

Los cultivos transgénicos y organismos genéticamente modificados (OGM) al final pueden ser mal negocios para España debido a un cambio cultural contra los peligros de la agronomía al ¨estilo americano¨ en países miembros de la Unión Europea.

El primer producto modificado genéticamente para ser vendido en los supermercados fue el tomate. En 1994, el tomate FlavrSavr  estaba disponible para el consumidor estadounidense después de ser aprobado por la FDA (Food and Drug Administration: Agencia de Drogas y Alimentos) en 1992. El tomate tenía un gen desactivado para que el tomate madure mientras aún está en la rama y un gen añadido para prevenir la putrefacción. Genetistas y agricultores en California han creado un tomate que tarda más tiempo sin madurar. Los científicos y diputados del gobierno americano dicen repetidamente que los productos transgénicos son ¨seguros para el consumo humano ¨ y son tan seguros como los productos agrícolas tradicionales.  El debate entre científicos a favor y en contra de los alimentos con organismos genéticamente modificados continúa hoy en día mientras el statu quo sigue igual.  Desafortunadamente el planeta tierra sufre las consecuencias cuando los humanos sacrifiquen el medio ambiente por la economía.

La realidad de los productos transgénicos como el tomate es que algunas personas mayores se dan cuenta que la mayoría de los tomates hoy en día no tienen el mismo sabor y nutrientes como hace treinta años. Un ejemplo de nutrientes perdidos en el tomate es la reducción genética del polisacárido (azúcar) pectina, para que la piel del tomate sea más dura, y así prevenir heridas en la fruita durante la cosecha. La pectina, cuando es absorbida por el cuerpo humano, contribuye a aumentar la fibra soluble alimentaria y a reducir el colesterol en la sangre. Además de esto, muchos alimentos transgénicos se cultivan en la arena, la cual, tiene muy poco nutrientes, así que tienen que ser añadidos. Entonces, ¿cuáles son los beneficios de cultivar alimentos transgénicos?

Durante el advenimiento de la biotecnología agrícola, los científicos elogiaron a los organismos genéticamente modificados en plantas basándose en la creencia de que los granjeros podrían producir más comida con menos recursos, por lo tanto, la humanidad puede acabar con la hambruna global y reducir el precio de los productos alimenticios. Históricamente, la economía de la alimentación nos enseña que antes de los alimentos transgénicos había suficiente comida en el mundo para todos. El problema es que la gente se mueren de hambre debido al clima en el que viven, la distribución de las poblaciones y la falta de recursos económicos (la sequía, la comida está muy lejos o demasiado caro). Según el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, sobre un tercio de toda la comida en el mundo se pierde o se desperdicia.

¨Cada año, consumidores en países ricos se desperdicia 222 millones de toneladas de comida, el total de la producción de la comida en África subsahariana (230 millones de toneladas).¨

Podríamos deducir que producir más comida no necesariamente reduzca la malnutrición ni el hambre, pero las implicaciones económicas muestra que tener más dinero, agua y tierra son los más importantes en combatir el hambre.

Cuando la gente del mundo occidental se eduquen sobre los efectos de los cultivos con OGM (organismos genéticamente modificados) empezarán a rechazarlos. Cultivos sin OGM tienen más nutrientes y además la agricultura local puede para crear más empleo. Las granjas factorías y super-plantaciones transgénicos requieren muy poca gente, se sitúan muy lejos de los núcleos urbanos y exigen muchas químicas y maquinaria. ¿Por qué la mayoría de los productos alimenticios que compran en Nueva York viene de California? Es una distancia de aproximadamente 4.828km (3,000 millas).

Los alimentos transgénicos han entrado en la Unión Europea, el mercado que anteriormente intentaba mantener su soberanía agrícola ( contra el¨estilo americano¨ moderno.) El país miembro de la UE que produce más alimentos transgénicos u OGM, es España. El maíz y la patata son los únicos cultivos con OMG aprobados en la UE. En España, se está considerando la idea de aprobar el cultivo de la producción de soja, tabaco y olivos modificados genéticamente y resistentes a las plagas.

Sobre 90% de los cultivos transgénicos en la Unión Europea – encabezada por la empresa multinacional Monsanto con su MON810 maíz – es cultivado en España. La mayoría del maíz está usado como pienso para criar el ganado que pertenece al mercado de carnes (porcicultura, avicultura, ganado bovino, etc). Un problema que tiene los granjeros es que no hay mucha transparencia y los reglamentos son ambiguos sobre lo que se les está dando de comer a los animales. Se ha informado de que los granjeros dan a los animales una mezcla de maíz transgénico y no transgénico y no pueden elegir entre los dos. La falta de transparencia no permite que muchos ciudadanos en España sepan exactamente donde se cultivan el maíz transgénico. Muchos Españoles y otros Europeos están en contra de cultivos transgénicos y les gustaría que llevaran etiqueta de OGM, pero la ley actual de la Unión Europea se declara que no tiene que poner una etiqueta especial si productos alimenticios tiene menos de 1,0% de ingredientes transgénicos.

La filosofía tecnológica de cultivos transgénicos (especialmente el maíz o soja ) trata sobre cómo se utilizan estos productos. Subjetivamente, estoy en contra del uso general de productos transgénicos para el consumo humanos y para el ganado, pero no tengo problema al uso de los cultivos transgénicos para la producción del etanol, metanol, u otras químicas. En los Estados Unidos y en el Brasil, el etanol del maíz (EE.UU.) y la caña de azúcar (Brasil) representa una gran cantidad del combustible que se mezcla con el gasóleo y el diesel lo cual, reduce el uso del petróleo, ¨el precio¨ y la contaminación.

Las consecuencias negativas de la alimentación con OGM no sean inmediatas en España ni en otros países miembros de la UE que permiten el cultivo del maíz transgénico como Portugal, La República Checa, Polonia y Romania. Lo peor sería permitir el cultivo de otros cultivos transgénicos además del maíz y patatas. Puede que haya un rechazo total de la alimentación con OGM por parte de los otros miembros. Un ejemplo de esto viene del país con la economía más grande de la Unión Europea, Alemania, que quisiera prohibir todos productos con OGM en sus fronteras.

Si los granjeros tanto como el publico en algunos países en Europa se ¨americanicen¨ en aprobar los OGM en la comida, puede crear un cisma entre países de la UE  y cambiar a donde importa y exporta productos agrícolas. Países que no forma parte de la Unión Europea como Noruega, Suiza, Islandia y Serbia ya han hecho una moratoria sobre el tema de los OGM. Estos países, junto con Alemania, culturalmente están alejándose de los cultivos transgénicos (ellos siendo países con climas más fríos, están en contra de los OGM. España puede perder compradores que depende de verduras durante el invierno).

Aunque es difícil probar si los alimentos transgénicos hagan daño a la salud humana, se puede examinar la dieta norteamericana y ver que los estadounidenses lideran el mundo en la obesidad, enfermedades cardiovasculares, cáncer y otras enfermedades que se atribuyen a la comida que consume. Los Estados Unidos es el potente mundial del cultivo de los alimentos transgénicos.  Para decir que los alimentos transgénicos no tienen nada que ver con la mayoría de las enfermedades preventivas en los Estados Unidos es parte de una narrativa incompleta.

Si España sigue aumentando el cultivo de los OGM para la alimentación, puede que haya una rechaza de sus productos en países miembros de la UE que legalmente rechazan la importación de ellos. La idea del cultivo local triunfa sobre lo extranjero y transgénico. Es evidente que algunas localidades y provincias por Europa ya han prohibido el cultivo de alimentos con OGM, como el Estado Libre de Baviera, Alemania, donde el negocio agrícola local intenta resistir a las multinacionales no populares como Monsanto, para que transgénicos no entren en su cadena trófica.

España tiene ventaja como el país más soleado de todo Europa, especialmente en la provincia de Almería, que tiene una media de 320 días de sol cada año. Durante décadas, la provincia y su sol, han sido explotados por empresas locales y extranjeros (incluso Monsanto) en una zona conocida como ¨el mar de plástico). Los invernaderos en este desierto es donde se cultivan alimentos para Europa durante el invierno porque el clima permite el cultivo todo el año.

Si los que dirigen la industria agrícola en España se adhiriese a modelos Americanos para la producción de alimentos transgénicos, habría una reducción en la calidad de productos alimenticios y una pérdida en confianza en la UE de productos etiquetados ¨producto de España¨. Ya que España es uno de los 10 grandes exportadores de productos agrícolas del mundo, el país necesita un cambio económico y cultural para protegerse de los OGM. No es bueno para el negocio en la UE o la salud general de la población. Mejor para seguir invirtiendo en los cultivos ecológicos y convencionales para asegurar que los ciudadanos de la Unión Europea siguen comprándolo.

 

Por Opton A. Martin

The Cultural Shift Away From Transgenic and Genetically Modified Crops in Europe Could Be Bad Business for Spain.

¨The Practice of Local Organic Triumphs Over Foreign and Transgenic.¨

Transgenic and genetically modified crops can be bad for business in the long run due to a cultural shift and social awareness of the dangers of  ¨American style¨ agronomic business practices in European Union member states.

 The first genetically modified food in the world to be sold in supermarkets was the tomato. In 1994, the FlavrSavr tomato hit the shelves in the United States after previously being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1992. The tomato has a deactivated gene that allows it to ripen from green to red on the vine, and an added gene that prevents rotting – essentially creating a tomato that is as hard as an apple that lasts a lot longer. Scientists and government agencies in the USA have repeatedly said that transgenic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in foods are ¨safe for human consumption¨ stating that it is just as safe as conventional (non-transgenic foods). This debate is still being held between scientist on both sides of the aisle presenting evidence for and against its production and consumption, while the environmental impact is stuck in the middle, once again sacrificing the environment for the economy

The reality of transgenic foods like the tomato is that some people, who are old enough to remember, notice that nowadays, tomatoes don´t taste the way they used to, nor have the same amount of nutrients they had say thirty years ago. One example of lost nutrients is how the polysaccharide (sugar) pectin, which is naturally produced and broken down by the tomato for ripening, is reduced in genetically modified versions so that a tougher skin can resist bruising during harvesting. Pectin in humans has been shown to add to our soluble dietary fiber and reduce blood cholesterol levels. In addition, some transgenic crops are grown in sand, which has very little nutrients, henceforth, they need to be added. So what are the real benefits of producing transgenic foods?

In the past, some scientist praised genetically modified organisms in foods claiming that with the capacity  to produce more food, with fewer resources, humanity could solve world hunger and reduce food prices. Economic history shows that there was plenty of food in the world before the advent of  transgenic crops, the problem is that people die from hunger from the climate, spatial and economic reasons (drought, food is far away, or food is too expensive). According to the United Nations Environment Programme, about one-third of all food produced in the world is ¨lost or wasted¨.

¨Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).¨

One can deduce that producing more food doesn´t necessarily reduce malnutrition or hunger, but the economic implications show that having capital, water and land are most important in combating hunger.

As people in the Western world inform themselves better about the economic and environmental implications of GMO and transgenic crops, they will begin to shun them in favor of non-GMO crops that are not only more nutritious, but practicing ecological agronomics could potentially create more local jobs. Factory farms and transgenic super-plantations require very few people, are far removed from the general population, and require a lot of chemicals and machines. Why is it that the majority of the food people in New York eat come from California? – a distance of about 3,000 miles (4,828,km).

Transgenic food has taken hold of the European Union in a market that culturally has been trying to maintain their alimentary sovereignty free from ¨American style¨ crop production. The member state that produces the most transgenic or GM crops is Spain. Genetically-modified maize (corn) and potatoes are currently the only two GM crops approved in the EU. Soya, tobacco, and even trial versions for GM pest-resistant olive trees are being considered for production in Spain. About 90% of Europe´s transgenic crops – led by U.S. multinational Monsanto´s MON810 corn – is cultivated in Spain. The majority of this corn is used as animal feed for the country´s famous meat markets (hogs, chickens, cow, etc). One problem farmers and consumers face is the lack of transparency and regulation in terms of what the farmers are feeding their animals, and what people are actually eating. It has been reported that farmers feed their animals a mixture of transgenic and conventional corn, which essentially disallows farmers to chose between the two. The lack of transparency also denies its citizens to know exactly where this transgenic crop is being grown. Most Spanish citizens are against transgenic crops and would like for them to be labeled, but the European Union law states that if less than about 1.0% of the ingredients are transgenic, it does not have to be labeled.

As far as the philosophical implications of transgenic foods – namely corn or soya – is not so much as if it is used in society, but how it is used. Subjectively, I oppose the use of transgenic foods for human or animal consumption, but I have no problem if companies use transgenic crops for the production of ethanol, methanol, and other chemical compositions from transgenic crops. In the United States and Brazil, ethanol from corn (US) and sugarcane (Brazil) accounts for a large portion of combustible fuel production, replacing a significant amount of petroleum use, which contaminating slightly less than pure petroleum.

The economic implications transgenic foods might have for Spain and other member states that allow transgenic corn like Portugal, Czech Republic,Poland, and Romania might not come immediately, but permitting cultivation of more crops besides corn and potatoes to be produced might have a backlash effect. Germany is planning on prohibiting all GMO crops within its boarders.

As agro-business farmers in Europe are becoming ¨Americanized¨ in their acceptance of GMO foods, it could produce a schism in the way food is imported and exported in within Europe. Countries that are not part of the European Union, but form part of its economic region like Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Serbia have delayed their acceptance of genetically modified organisms. These countries along with Germany, see prohibiting genetically modified and transgenic crops as a scientific, economic and cultural an issue that has many people thinking that it is a bad idea.

Though the evidence is hard to filter and difficult to prove that GMO foods are harmful to human health, one can take a look the North American diet and see how much obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases are attributed to the foods that Americans consume. The United States is the largest producer and consumer of transgenic foods in the world – and to say that transgenic food has nothing to do with the increase in deadly disease in the USA is an understatement.

If Spain continues to increment the amount of  transgenic crops and feed to hogs, chickens and other farm animals, there might be a backlash in member states whose people culturally reject the importation of animals fed with GMO in foods. The idea of local organic triumphs over foreign and transgenic.

As local regions in Europe begin to prohibit the cultivation, sale and distribution of transgenic crops, like The Free State of Bavaria in Germany,  it can be seen as a way to strengthen local business and keep unpopular enterprises like Monsanto out of their food chain.

Spain has the advantage of being the sunniest place in all of Europe, especially in the province of Almería, Spain, which boasts an average of 320 days of sun each year. It has been exploited for decades by local and foreign businesses (including Monsanto) in an area known as ¨The Sea of Plastic¨ (el mar de plástico). This desert area basically feeds europe during the winter as its climate permits crop growth all year round.

If those in the Spanish agricultural business adhere to American models in food production there will be a decrease not only in the quality of food products, but confidence and trust in food products marked ¨Product of Spain¨.  Since it is currently one of the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world there needs to be a cultural and economic shift to protect itself from transgenic foods.

By Opton A. Martin