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    Saving the planet and all that stuff

    Like most self-respecting OTF member, Guardian reading, leftie liberals I'm generally in favour of saving the planet. (Please, hold you applause until the end.) But I have to admit to knowing little about recycling, energy conservation, etc. Perhaps this thread could be a starting point for educating the likes of me. So a couple of questions to start.

    In the grand scheme of things is my once a year return flight to Italy (say) going to make a difference? I'm being a little facetious, but what is a reasonable amount of air travel per person per year? Is there any justification for such frivolity? Does it matter a jot when China are producing a bazillion tons of carbon a second?

    Does a green bin / black bin system make any difference? Ok, here in Ireland (for me in Kildare anyway) there's a black bin for general waste and green bin for recyclable stuff- paper, card, plastic. Is somebody really going through the green bin waste, separating plastic into its various types, separating card and paper, discarding the inevitable huge amount of non-recyclable / contaminated material? Obviously I'm in favour of recycling, but it doesn't seem particularly financially viable, maybe I'm wrong.

    And a more esoteric query.... if I'm eating an apple when I'm out and about is it more environmentally friendly to put the core in a general waste bin or toss it into a river or hedge to biodegrade? There's a social issue here around perceived littering which would push me towards the litter bin, but it seems a bit insane to be sending a biodegradable piece of fruit to landfill.

    Right, there are doublessly many other random and/or stoopid question to come if any of the planet saving, whale-loving, vegan, carbon-neutral folks on here want to point me in the right direction!

    #2
    On the recycling question, I think a lot depends on your council and who they have contracted to process the materials they collect. The recycling industry, partly as a result of some fairly sophisticated plant and partly due to some manual hand-sorting, is able to re-use a lot of the waste it receives, but I'm sure that standards do vary. If your council has chosen well you can probably confidently assume that your efforts aren't, literally, going to waste.

    Comment


      #3
      I had this discussion on another thread, but living in Germany, there's obviously a recycling culture here. There are generally separate containers for plastic, biological waste, paper and general waste.

      So paper, fine. Reusing the refundable glass (and presumably plastic bottles) make sense. As does the garden and kitchen waste. Not quite sure where all the waste glass goes, but no big issues.

      It's the plastic I have issue with. Essentially Munich adds up all the plastic it receives and publishes this amount as 'recycled plastic'. Except only a small proportion is actually reused. The vast majority goes into landfill or, even worse, gets incinerated.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by seand View Post
        Like most self-respecting OTF member, Guardian reading, leftie liberals I'm generally in favour of saving the planet. (Please, hold you applause until the end.) But I have to admit to knowing little about recycling, energy conservation, etc. Perhaps this thread could be a starting point for educating the likes of me. So a couple of questions to start.

        In the grand scheme of things is my once a year return flight to Italy (say) going to make a difference? I'm being a little facetious, but what is a reasonable amount of air travel per person per year? Is there any justification for such frivolity? Does it matter a jot when China are producing a bazillion tons of carbon a second?

        Does a green bin / black bin system make any difference? Ok, here in Ireland (for me in Kildare anyway) there's a black bin for general waste and green bin for recyclable stuff- paper, card, plastic. Is somebody really going through the green bin waste, separating plastic into its various types, separating card and paper, discarding the inevitable huge amount of non-recyclable / contaminated material? Obviously I'm in favour of recycling, but it doesn't seem particularly financially viable, maybe I'm wrong.

        And a more esoteric query.... if I'm eating an apple when I'm out and about is it more environmentally friendly to put the core in a general waste bin or toss it into a river or hedge to biodegrade? There's a social issue here around perceived littering which would push me towards the litter bin, but it seems a bit insane to be sending a biodegradable piece of fruit to landfill.

        Right, there are doublessly many other random and/or stoopid question to come if any of the planet saving, whale-loving, vegan, carbon-neutral folks on here want to point me in the right direction!
        IMO most of the stuff re: recycling and plastic straws and whatever else is piety, but I think it's equally important to resist a fatalism/chauvanism that blames newly industrialising countries for the problem that has largely been caused by developed economies of the global north.

        While China does produce slightly more CO2 per-capita than the UK, it's still less than half the CO2 per-capita production of the US and given China exports around the world it seems a bit off to blame them for our consumption habits.

        Comment


          #5
          Eat the whole apple

          Comment


            #6
            Chucking an apple core back to nature is fine. Where do you think the tree drops them?

            Comment


              #7
              This might mark me out as terribly selfish, but I think it's always unhelpful to think in terms of personal action when it comes to climate change. Your decision on whether to fly to Italy or not makes no difference. What is needed are massive structural changes that reduce the overall amount of air travel, and the amount of carbon emissions created during air travel. You can't make those changes. The best you can do is vote for political parties that are committed to actual, serious policies.

              Your other questions depend on what you mean by "saving the planet". I find broad brush environmentalism to be an unhelpful way of asking these questions. Is recycling plastic "good" or "bad" for the environment? It depends very much on what the question is - some plastics consume more energy to recycle than they do to produce. So, on the question of climate change you might not want to recycle plastics. On the other hand, filling landfill with plastic is almost certainly crappy for your local environment. And extracting the oils and coals that are generally used to make plastic is damaging for the environment they're extracted from. Also, I don't necessarily know about the manufacturing processes for plastics, but I can imagine they result in high NOx emssions, for example - and then you ask whether you're more concerned about local air quality or about global climate change.

              From my perspective, the thing we should always be worrying about is climate change - fucking up the local air is bad, but really not that bad in comparison to the potential consequences of rapid warming. Other people have different opinions.

              Either way "good for the environment" is an unhelpful shorthand - you end up with people not wanting massive solar plants to get built because they're concerned about the health of a particular habitat of desert tortoise, and the tortoise-defenders claim to be the ones defending the "environment" because it's so vaguely ill-defined.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
                This might mark me out as terribly selfish, but I think it's always unhelpful to think in terms of personal action when it comes to climate change. Your decision on whether to fly to Italy or not makes no difference. What is needed are massive structural changes that reduce the overall amount of air travel, and the amount of carbon emissions created during air travel. You can't make those changes. The best you can do is vote for political parties that are committed to actual, serious policies.
                Surely the best you can do is vote for political parties that are committed to actual, serious policies AND fly less/consume less/recycle/stop eating meat/not have children etc in the meantime. Unless I'm misunderstanding you, it sounds like you're saying that your strategy is to not change your lifestyle at all but vote for politicians that will eventually force those changes on you, which sounds a bit peculiar to me.

                Comment


                  #9
                  To an extent. The actions of individuals aren't going to make a material difference, so we shouldn't feel guilty about our choices as individuals. What'll make a difference is completely reconfiguring the power grid and power generation, making public transport sufficiently widespread and convenient that people choose to abandon their cars, taxing fuel at such a level that alternatives become viable, and so on and so forth. These will change our behaviour, of course, but if only small numbers change their behaviour nothing improves.

                  There's also an element to this of the argument that the idiot-right often use - "why are you asking for/campaigning for/voting for environmental policies when you're not living a hairshirt lifestyle?" as a way of trying to shame the campaigners, and of trying to get the public to not vote for environmentalism.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
                    This might mark me out as terribly selfish, but I think it's always unhelpful to think in terms of personal action when it comes to climate change. Your decision on whether to fly to Italy or not makes no difference. What is needed are massive structural changes that reduce the overall amount of air travel, and the amount of carbon emissions created during air travel. You can't make those changes. The best you can do is vote for political parties that are committed to actual, serious policies.
                    I'm with SB on this.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
                      The actions of individuals aren't going to make a material difference
                      Is this actually true though? Sure, millions of people reducing their individual footprint is not enough on its own, but is it fair to say that it doesn't make a difference at all? Climate change is not a big on/off switch where things are either ok or not, there's a gradation of outcomes with every extra degree (or even fraction of degree) of warming having potentially disastrous consequences, so surely any way we can mitigate it has to be worth a try. I just don't understand the rationale for talking up political action instead of individual action, rather than as well as individual action.

                      I don't want to sound preachy about this (too late I guess), I don't apply all of this myself but I know very well I should and I'm not trying to kid myself that there's any good reason not to other than convenience and selfishness. It also seems a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy to me, because if you convince people that their individual actions have no impact, then of course they're not going to make any effort, so only a small number of people will try and change their behaviour which will therefore have almost no impact.

                      The other thing is that while this sounds great:
                      What'll make a difference is completely reconfiguring the power grid and power generation, making public transport sufficiently widespread and convenient that people choose to abandon their cars, taxing fuel at such a level that alternatives become viable, and so on and so forth. These will change our behaviour, of course, but if only small numbers change their behaviour nothing improves.
                      ...what kind of timescale are we looking at for this? Because it's starting to look like we're running out of time, and I think political action will probably need to be a lot more drastic than that to avoid complete catastrophe.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I'm with Fussbudget here. Clearly there needs to be massive global change, but trying to make changes in your own life is worth doing. If one person starts recycling sure that makes no difference, but if million do it does. (To be honest however, I think the better approach with plastics to recycling is to do everything you can to stop buying anything sold in plastic packaging).
                        Originally posted by San Bernardhinault View Post
                        There's also an element to this of the argument that the idiot-right often use - "why are you asking for/campaigning for/voting for environmental policies when you're not living a hairshirt lifestyle?" as a way of trying to shame the campaigners, and of trying to get the public to not vote for environmentalism.
                        I don;t really understand what point you're trying to make here. Obviously that "idiot-right" argument exists (though to be honest it's not just the idiot right who use it, it's pretty widespread in my experience), but I don't see where it fits into the point you're trying to make. Are you saying that being conscious about your choices (but not perfect) is just feeding those people? If so I disagree. Vehemently.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          On the one hand, I agree with Fussbudget and ad hoc. On the other, before I came to fully comprehend how urgent the situation was, I moved 7,000 miles away from my family.

                          I try to make up for it by being really, really anal about not throwing away anything that can be recycled. It's about all I can do, I think.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Fussbudget View Post
                            Is this actually true though? Sure, millions of people reducing their individual footprint is not enough on its own, but is it fair to say that it doesn't make a difference at all? Climate change is not a big on/off switch where things are either ok or not, there's a gradation of outcomes with every extra degree (or even fraction of degree) of warming having potentially disastrous consequences, so surely any way we can mitigate it has to be worth a try. I just don't understand the rationale for talking up political action instead of individual action, rather than as well as individual action.
                            Individual consumer choice doesn't make systemic change.

                            An example: suppose a large proportion of us individually move to green energy companies that get their energy from renewable sources.

                            There's still mining companies, coal burning power stations - an infrastructure that depends on extracting and burning fossil fuels, shareholders who need to see return on their capital. They're not going to go away - instead, the reduced demand causes them to drop their prices, stimulating demand. Maybe they decide to cut their costs by making extraction more dangerous, maybe they lower their environmental standards. Maybe some enterprising people take advantage of the low price of coal by setting up coal-fired server farms to brute-force pointless mathematical problems for cyber-tokens.

                            Individual consumer choices within capitalism can't solve the problem. Rather the infrastructure of climate change needs dismantling.

                            Climate change is one of the most serious humanity as a whole faces, but what's also clear is that green liberalism is inadequate to solve it. Many of the world's biggest polluters are in the grip of reactionary movements that immediately roll-back the timid, inadequate reforms of the centre-left.

                            And, as the impacts of climate change become worse, and are increasingly concentrated in the global south, we face the prospect of militarised global north borders, coupled with lifeboat ethics. That's why, imo, the rhetoric of "our" "extinction" is dangerous - green fascism is waiting in the wings to use climate change as a justification for ethnic cleansing. We stand at a crossroads...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              But surely both are necessary, the sum of Individual action- or much better collective action whether that's changing their habits, boycotts, occupations, and creating a differnt culture around consumption and carbon use can help put the pressure on for the necessary political and infrastructural change. they are also the best protection against "green fascism"

                              Here for example is Momentum's calling for a Green New Deal and the 4 day week
                              Last edited by Nefertiti2; 16-05-2019, 08:53.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by Bizarre Lw Triangle View Post

                                Individual consumer choice doesn't make systemic change.

                                An example: suppose a large proportion of us individually move to green energy companies that get their energy from renewable sources.

                                There's still mining companies, coal burning power stations - an infrastructure that depends on extracting and burning fossil fuels, shareholders who need to see return on their capital. They're not going to go away - instead, the reduced demand causes them to drop their prices, stimulating demand. Maybe they decide to cut their costs by making extraction more dangerous, maybe they lower their environmental standards. Maybe some enterprising people take advantage of the low price of coal by setting up coal-fired server farms to brute-force pointless mathematical problems for cyber-tokens.

                                Individual consumer choices within capitalism can't solve the problem. Rather the infrastructure of climate change needs dismantling.

                                Climate change is one of the most serious humanity as a whole faces, but what's also clear is that green liberalism is inadequate to solve it. Many of the world's biggest polluters are in the grip of reactionary movements that immediately roll-back the timid, inadequate reforms of the centre-left.

                                And, as the impacts of climate change become worse, and are increasingly concentrated in the global south, we face the prospect of militarised global north borders, coupled with lifeboat ethics. That's why, imo, the rhetoric of "our" "extinction" is dangerous - green fascism is waiting in the wings to use climate change as a justification for ethnic cleansing. We stand at a crossroads...
                                Very good post.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Incidentally, anyone with access to the BBC iPlayer should watch David Attenborough's documentary that aired this week How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth? It's grim and it touches on several aspects of what BLT has referenced.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Agree with the thrust of what SB and BLT have said. Linking climate change to a virtuous individual lifestyle is counterproductive. It's not that kind of a problem, and the logic that "if millions acted like I do, things would improve" is wishful thinking. A fossil fuel company isn't going to act like you do; it will continue to sell cheap energy until it's forced not to. At this point we either replace fossil fuels with something better or revert to a much less globalized economy. The latter won't happen unless climate change forces it to, and I assume will come with a massive population correction.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Bizarre Lw Triangle View Post
                                      Individual consumer choices within capitalism can't solve the problem.
                                      I don't disagree with that, but they can make the problem worse. Say we all start flying more, doesn't that end up in companies building, buying and flying more planes (which they then have to keep full by encouraging more people to fly), governments building more airports etc? Same with roads which are constantly built to accommodate traffic and end up generating even more traffic. This is probably simplistic but I feel that we are constantly seeing around us the effects of aggregate consumer behaviour driving not only company behaviour but also public policy.

                                      Rather the infrastructure of climate change needs dismantling.
                                      Again I agree with that, but as Nef says for there to be the political will to do this, you need pressure to come from somewhere. Ideally activism, but consumer behaviour can also play a part.
                                      Last edited by Fussbudget; 16-05-2019, 11:09.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Bruno View Post
                                        Agree with the thrust of what SB and BLT have said. Linking climate change to a virtuous individual lifestyle is counterproductive. It's not that kind of a problem, and the logic that "if millions acted like I do, things would improve" is wishful thinking. A fossil fuel company isn't going to act like you do; it will continue to sell cheap energy until it's forced not to. At this point we either replace fossil fuels with something better or revert to a much less globalized economy. The latter won't happen unless climate change forces it to, and I assume will come with a massive population correction.
                                        Ouch, 'virtuous' is a very loaded term, isn't it. I would go with 'conscious'. Nobody is saying that individual action alone is enough, at any rate.

                                        I suppose what I'm wondering is, if 'dismantling the infrastructure of climate change' is key (and again I agree that it is), who are we expecting to do this and how? I hear a lot of people (not on this thread) say that it's for other people (politicians, multinationals, China etc.) to take action, but not how we would ever get them to actually do that. Or are we admitting that it's just too big a task and not going to happen, and doing nothing until we're past the point of no return?

                                        Comment


                                          #21
                                          Originally posted by Fussbudget View Post
                                          Ouch, 'virtuous' is a very loaded term, isn't it. I would go with 'conscious'. Nobody is saying that individual action alone is enough, at any rate.

                                          I suppose what I'm wondering is, if 'dismantling the infrastructure of climate change' is key (and again I agree that it is), who are we expecting to do this and how? I hear a lot of people (not on this thread) say that it's for other people (politicians, multinationals, China etc.) to take action, but not how we would ever get them to actually do that. Or are we admitting that it's just too big a task and not going to happen, and doing nothing until we're past the point of no return?
                                          Yes this. How is this going to come about and when? We're just hoping that governments and corporations are going to come to their senses? I'd say that individual action, however unimportant it is in the scale of the problem, at least has the effect that all activism does - consciousness raising, education, building up the potential for mass insurrection.

                                          Comment


                                            #22
                                            I'm with Fussbudget here. Without a LOT of people doing their bit and yelling about it, governments and companies won't do shit. When it becomes a big enough deal, they'll magically find alternatives like they did with leaded fuel, or CFCs.
                                            The EU is fairly good on this stuff too. Just one of the benefits of being an extra-governmental organisation. Politicians can do the right thing without being seen to do it and thus not upsetting their donors\lobbyists etc.

                                            Comment


                                              #23
                                              Originally posted by Stumpy Pepys View Post
                                              I had this discussion on another thread, but living in Germany, there's obviously a recycling culture here.
                                              The recycling culture in this very small part of Germany where I'm currently standing leans heavily towards incineration.

                                              Because nearly every weekend in summer, my three 240-litre plastic recycling bins (and their contents) get set on fire by public-party pissheads. It would be better for the planet if I had no bins at all, but I have to because the law says so.

                                              Comment


                                                #24
                                                https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/60-actions-help- tackle-climate-change

                                                Take your pick as to whether it's too fluffy.

                                                The problem with relying on Government is that all it takes is one President Beeblebrox to get elected to allow decades of unbelievably hard won environmental protection and pollution control legislation to be overturned in a couple of years behind the scenes.

                                                Comment


                                                  #25
                                                  Originally posted by Fussbudget View Post
                                                  Ouch, 'virtuous' is a very loaded term, isn't it. I would go with 'conscious'. Nobody is saying that individual action alone is enough, at any rate.
                                                  True, no one is saying that, but I think it has been a way for many to duck the harder responsibility of pushing for systemic change.

                                                  I suppose what I'm wondering is, if 'dismantling the infrastructure of climate change' is key (and again I agree that it is), who are we expecting to do this and how? I hear a lot of people (not on this thread) say that it's for other people (politicians, multinationals, China etc.) to take action, but not how we would ever get them to actually do that. Or are we admitting that it's just too big a task and not going to happen, and doing nothing until we're past the point of no return?
                                                  I think it certainly looks like too big a task and that catastrophic climate change is pretty much a fait accompli at this point. The more realistic solution to dismantling or drastically curbing global capitalism would have been a set of technological solutions, but the economic basis for implementing enough of those kinds of changes doesn't appear to be an efficient enough response to the scale of the problem. The threat of climate change is more like that of a world war. When WWII happened, the US conscripted the people-power it needed to win, while implementing gigantic austerity measures; we'd have to do similar in response to climate change, and that has never looked remotely likely. It's too diffuse of a problem in terms of collective responsibility. I think it has been baked into the cake of the industrial revolution all along.
                                                  Last edited by Bruno; 16-05-2019, 12:53.

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