Coal and the Curse of Commercialization
By Cher Gilmore
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial crowed "Coal Makes a Comeback," touting the 14.5 percent increase in weekly coal production nationwide in 2017 compared to 2016 and the 58 percent increase in exports during the first quarter alone. That newspaper views the economic growth in coal-producing states like West Virginia, New Mexico and Kentucky stimulated by the current administration's policies as something to celebrate, and the editors conclude that "there's still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow energy markets to work."
While the increase in coal production and use may be good news for coal companies and the states to which they pay taxes, economic growth is not the only thing to consider when weighing the costs and benefits of an activity. What about the beautiful Appalachian mountain landscapes completely destroyed by "mountaintop removal" and the streams and aquifers filled with toxic mining waste? What about the "black lung" disease suffered by too many miners, and the deaths from collapsed mines? And, perhaps most significantly, what about the fact that coal-burning plants are some of the biggest emitters of the greenhouse gases causing global warming and wreaking havoc on the planet?
These effects of coal production—the ones that affect the daily lives of actual people—are not even considered in the calculation. Why would that be? British author Benjamin Creme said it's because we don't understand the larger purpose of life. "We have replaced our reverence for life with commercialization, a market forces economy and the worship of money. The economy is the new religion of the world, and it is this commercialization that is driving us to the very edge of destruction."
In a world of commercialization, everything becomes a commodity with a price tag. Individuals are seen only as consumers, and those with the biggest bank accounts are able to buy whatever they want. Those who have little get little, and what they do get—including basic necessities like food and water—is often second rate or worse. Corporate and financial interests rank above the needs of human beings and the health of the planet, and unhappy people are either lulled into apathy by 24-hour digital entertainment, or turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from their narrow, unsatisfying lives.
In thrall to market forces, governments compete fiercely with one another, sacrificing the livelihood and well-being of their peoples. The major industrialized countries, making up only a third of the world's population, dominate the global economy and impose their chosen structure—commercialization or "competition" biased in their favor—on the other two-thirds. "This," said Creme, "is economic totalitarianism and must come to an end. It is based on the lie that we all start equal; we do not."
Creme has been the major spokesperson for decades regarding information about the World Teacher for this age: Maitreya. According to Creme, Maitreya is expected to appear at the invitation of the world's media on an international television broadcast when the conditions are right—most likely following the predicted world financial collapse, which will awaken humanity to reality for the first time and open us to hearing Maitreya's advice.
During that broadcast, Maitreya will analyze our present problems and show clearly the consequences of various actions we might take. These revelations will ultimately bring us to an inevitable choice: to continue in our destructive business as usual mode and extinguish all life, or to follow his suggestions for a simpler, saner way of living that will guarantee a happier future for all people.
Maitreya will teach, most basically, the need to share the natural resources of the world, which belong to everyone equally and should not be greedily usurped by the wealthy few. Since this is antithetical to the direction the developed world in particular is moving, in order for Maitreya's central principles—justice, freedom and sharing, for all people on Earth—to be put into practice, the existing social/economic structure will have to be dissolved. The financial collapse will have that effect. In its aftermath, we will begin to know ourselves as brothers and sisters, and with Maitreya's help will come to see that the only way forward is together, in cooperation, for the common good.
When we have come to our senses, we will not choose to "grow our economy" regardless of the burdens it places on ordinary people and the planet. Nor will we choose to promote the burning of coal—which is only today's example of commercialization gone amok—or any other action whose end result is planetary destruction. Benjamin Creme's spiritual Master assures us, "From the ruins of the old, a new civilization will be built by human hands under the inspiration of Maitreya ... Humanity will overcome this time of crisis and enter into a new and better relationship with itself, its planet and its source."
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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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