Democracy at Its Best: Boulder County Extends Fracking Ban
“The time is always right to do the right thing.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I sat in the hearing room of the Boulder County Commissioner yesterday I witnessed citizen-led democracy in action.
In a unanimous vote, three Boulder Colorado County Commissioners voted to extend the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the county for the next three-and-a-half years. The three Democratic party women not only voted against fracking until July 1, 2018, they did so with strong language and gusto as tens-of-thousands of wells loom just across the border in neighboring Weld County waiting to invade the Boulder County landscape.
Commissioner Cindy Domenico started off the discussion with references about the increasing concerns and impacts of fracking on the public’s health. Commissioner Deb Gardner followed up by pointing out how fracking is related to climate change, and how Boulder County wants to be at the forefront of protecting the planet for future generations. Commissioner Elise Jones batted cleanup and knocked it out of the park with a discussion about the “industrialization of well pads in suburban housing communities” that she witnessed during her fracking tours in Weld neighboring county.
For their action, the commissioners will likely get sued by the oil and gas industry. Encana, one of the biggest oil and gas driller/frackers in the U.S., has several well permits hanging in limbo in Boulder County, as do other drillers eyeing the “Niobrara Shale” that underlies this suburban landscape.
In nearby Longmont, a city within Boulder County, the oil and gas industry has already sued to try to force fracking down citizens’ throats, as they have in nearby Fort Collins, Broomfield and Lafayette. The fight against fracking continues to escalate in Colorado as citizens and their elected officials stand up against this powerful industry and its backers in Governor Hickenlooper’s office and beyond (Hickenlooper famously boasted to a U.S Senate Subcommittee that he drank fracking fluid).
It wasn’t always this way, even in Boulder County. Eighteen months ago, these same three Commissioner waffled and waxed, seemingly afraid to enact a long-term moratorium to fight this industry. It wasn’t until the will of the people—hundreds of people—rose up and created a citizen-led movement that gave the commissioners the backing to stand up and fight this industry. A few days ago, nearly a hundred people spoke at the Commissioners’ public hearing on this topic. Several groups formed to address the issue including Frack Free Colorado and East Boulder County United and then other groups like the Sierra Club jumped in to bolster the fences.
We’re seeing this citizen-led democracy against the powerful polluters in the fossil fuel industry rise up across the U.S. With people-power backing, these three Boulder County Commissioners even had the moxie to make the vote themselves rather than pushing it off to a vote of the people in the next election. Good for them!
Democracy gets in your blood when you see it happen. It’s uplifting, alive and a force of nature that makes the corporate zombies in the fossil fuel industry look like pawns on the battlefield of human history and justice.
We must keep fighting—every town, every county, every state and across the U.S. It’s our moment in history to do the right thing, and it feels great.
Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist in Colorado.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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