Survivors’ Guide: Rubbish

Growth of cities has required supply chains of great complexity to bring fresh food, other consumables and movables to growing populations in ever increasing quantities.

Packaging and transportation have become indispensable. Both consume large amounts of energy and produce waste products galore. Atmospheric pollution and accumulations of rubbish abound in and around cities.

Residents of gentrified areas see none of this. Local authorities ensure they are immune from unpleasantness. Some local authorities manage waste disposal systems well. They collect and use all waste: organic waste is converted into useful compost, metal waste is recycled into new tins and cans, burnable waste is incinerated to provide central heating to large areas. These are the exceptions. Such schemes are costly to implement, although they pay for themselves longer term.

Mostly commerce and industry cause new types of rubbish to accumulate before anyone is aware of the problems created. When plastic bags first hit developing countries they were everywhere, in trees, rivers, ankle deep in the streets. Co-ordination between making and collecting rubbish is poor and response is slow. Napoli was infamous for years because of the failure to collect rubbish satisfactorily. Visitors to the National Museum there wondered what had become of ancient civilizations.










Not only beaches are littered with rubbish around seas and oceans. There are huge islands of rubbish accumulating,  getting bigger all the time. The effects of human life as now lived are visible all around us. What is not seen is worse. Very small white plastic particles are a main ingredient of many toothpastes. They finish up in the sea in the gills of fish, blocking intake  of oxygen and thus die.

Gaseous, liquid and solid chemicals, often designed to enhance affluent life styles, have the opposite effect on the majority of life on Earth, humans as well as animals and plants.

In his account of the effects of Climate Change Pope Francis drew attention to the fact that we are turning planet Earth into a rubbish tip and risk collapse of the ecosystem as we know and need it.  The pope’s message was ignored completely by powerful elite Catholics, who have been bought by the fossil fuel industry to deny Climate Change.

Pope Francis published his account in August 2015 in advance of the PARIS COP 2015, the opaque name of the United Nations 21st  Climate Change Conference. The Conference was held under tight police control, achieved by a State of Emergency that had all the characteristics of contrivance. The International Conference achieved negligible results, the same as the previous 20. Nation States handicap progress. They don’t make it.

However, there was encouraging report of sensible action being taken by local authorities, commerce and industry. Naturally, with Nation States doing their utmost to delay progress in the interests of their oil and coal industries and pusillanimous and corrupt political classes  progress is painfully slow.

Pope Francis pulled no punches in his account. He has commented several times since on the lack of response and the further increase in accumulation of rubbish.


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