By Tom Weis
Day 27—If you asked me a year ago if I pictured myself sleeping outside in winter-like conditions in a horse pasture behind a gas station in northern Nebraska after pedaling eight straight hours, two and a half of them in the dark cold on a road with almost no shoulder to a town too small to have an inn, I would have told you no. As much as I enjoy riding bikes, I don’t really want to be out here. I want to be home, close to my loved ones. Every day proves a challenge, physically, mentally and emotionally. But some things are more important than one’s personal comfort. Since President Barack Obama won’t do his job (protecting America from international thugs like TransCanada), the American people are going to have to do it for him. That’s why I’m out here pedaling the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline route, and why we need reinforcements, and help. As the saying goes, democracy is not a spectator sport.
Fortunately, the gas station I slept behind had a diner inside with great food, so it didn’t take long to warm up and feel rejuvinated. Then the one-on-one meetings began. First were ranchers Teri Taylor and John Harter. John and Teri had called others, and soon the dining room was full of opponents of Keystone XL—Todd Cone, Terry Frisch, Byron Steskal, Lynda Buoy (thanks for breakfast) and Myrna Stewart, each with their own compelling personal story to share (look for their interviews to be posted on YouTube soon). Each in their own way shared with me the underhanded ways in which TransCanada has dealt with them and how this pipeline proposal has turned their lives upside down. If Obama goes the wrong way on this, Todd plans to erect a monument to memorialize the individuals in the Obama administration and Nebraska State Senate who contaminated Nebraska’s water. Such a Monument of Shame should be erected in every state Keystone XL threatens. Nebraskans are rising up against this travesty.
Later, after taking a group photo with the trike, we heard a loud hissing sound, with all eyes going to the rear tire. Probably a burr from the field had punctured the tube and it was just waiting for an audience before going comically flat. A good laugh was had by all, only problem being now I had to get it fixed and I was already behind schedule. Right about then, the owner of Rock County Tire, Brent Giles, drove by the lot. His friends flagged him down and he cheerfully fixed the tire in almost no time as I finished packing up my gear. Thanks so much, Brent. Then it was back on the road, where I did a roadside interview with Karl Connell, who gave me an earful on TransCanada’s shenanigans. A short while later I stopped into The Atkinson Graphic for a quick interview. Just as the reporter was about to take a picture of the trike, three young boys walked up to admire it and shared with me how they were against the pipeline proposal. So the picture included all four of us.
Hopped back on the Cowboy Trail (a bike/pedestrian trail closed to motorized vehicles), for what will probably be my only car-less stretch of the whole ride, soaking up every tranquil moment. Adding to the day’s beauty were two hawks who flew with me for short stretches. Ended the 40-mile day shortly after dusk in O’Neill, where I met up with Karl, Susan Loebbe and Ernie Fellows, who were on their way to Lincoln to testify (for the second time in three days) in the Special Session devoted to Keystone XL. Look for their interviews here soon. Am finally getting this all written down at 1:00 a.m., when what I want most is sleep. Some things just have to wait.
How fitting that the man who headed South Africa’s Truth Commission has taken such a strong interest in Keystone XL. Check out this powerful editorial by Desmond Tutu, The Devil in the Tar Sands.
For more information, click here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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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