Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day!

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day
About a month ago, when I went crazy and added all those bells and whistles to the side-bar of my blog, I found Blog Action Day. Blog Action Day (which is today) is one day when those of us in the blogosphere are supposed to write on one topic. This year that topic is the environment. Naturally, I have to participate.

But then the problem arises, what topic within the theme of environment do I choose. I mean, this is my field, I have millions of things I could talk about. But then I decided the easiest thing people can do (that is people world-wide and not just Americans or Sri Lankans) is reduce. Not our waist line (though for health reasons, that might not be a bad idea), but our material consumption.

Why does your over-consumption of material goods matter? I realize those of you in the U.S. have very little knowledge about what happens to your trash after you put it on the curb, but here in Sri Lanka we have intimate knowledge. This is what happens:
This is the fire from my back yard that burned all day yesterday. It was started to dispose of yard waste (even though we have a compost pile), but there was also a great deal of garbage in the fire, including plastic. When you burn plastic at too low a temperature you release dioxins into the environment and well, that is not the best thing to be breathing in. The fire was immediately outside my bedroom window and as Sri Lankan homes are built for good ventilation, there was a cloud of smoke in my room for most of the day.

Sri Lankans are not stupid, they know that burning their garbage is probably not the best idea, but this is an island of 65,610 sq. km with 20 million people living on it! Do the math, that doesn't leave a lot of open space for landfills. That is how the U.S. deals with waste (in most municipalities), but even in a large country with lots of open space, difficulties arise. Landfills occasionally leak, and due to their very nature, that generally means ground water contamination. The U.S. is running out of places where landfills can be "safely" placed; what happens then?

So the answer here people is pretty obvious to me. Reduce! Reuse! Recycle! But I want to stress the first aspect of this commonly used, but rarely practiced saying. Reduce! Why is it in a country where plastic bags are actually illegal, do I still see people taking them from the grocery store -- even for just one item!! Why would you do this even when you have a bag on your shoulder that can just as easily carry that item? For those of you in the U.S. where plastic bags are still legal: how hard is it to carry a few cloth grocery bags in your car. Just leave them there and when you go shopping take them inside. Not just for groceries, but also when you go clothes shopping or any other shopping where they will give you a little piece of plastic death that you will use once and then discard. Estimates range from 500 to 1,000 years for the life cycle of a plastic bag to end (meaning when it biodegrades). Of course, we are cutting that life cycle very short here in Sri Lanka to the immediate detriment of our own lives.

That is all I'm going to say. I could go on all day, about recycling, particularly electronics and especially stupid cell phones, or about the beauty of older reusable things, but I won't. Nope, I'm just going to use today to ask people to stop using plastic bags. That is it. It is really a small request that technically will not affect your lifestyle at all. I've said it before, plastic will be the end of this planet. Do your part -- reduce your reliance on unnecessary plastic. Please.

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