We can do it – without an air laser

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By Jody Benson, Pajarito Group Newsletter Editor

Here’s a solution for three critical environmental issues: (1) coastal-land loss by a climate-caused rise in sea levels; (2) overconsumption; and (3) excessive population.

The solution? Use an air-based laser to melt the plastic in both of the Great Pacific Garbage Patches (in the eastern and western Pacific convergence zones) to create a consolidated plastic island, then drag one to North America, and one to Japan.

Offset sea-level rises: Once consolidated, the trash would create a climate-change Ark (minus the animals because the plastic, ingested by wildlife, has decimated many species) on which Homo trashiens could reside, a space that would, in fact, continually increase in size with a monthly lasering of continually discarded plastic.

Recycling trash: With an annual importation of 32 million tons of plastic to the American “Plark” alone, residents would just fill up a wheelbarrow with water bottles and diaper liners, then use a hair-dryer set on high to melt it into walls for a house, or use a 3D printer to transform the plastic trash into whatever disposable they could want. By recycling all the plastic, the Plarkians would need to import nothing except the occasional vegetable prepackaged in plastic. Then that packaging plastic could be composted into snack food.

Population: This is a two-fold solution. Plastic contains estrogen-mimicking chemicals that increase the disruption of reproductive development: the masculinization of females, the feminization of males, and abnormal reproductive organs. In other words, decreased fertility. And plastics cause cancer. In other words, increased death.

That’s obviously not the scenario we want to be stuck with. But until corporations decide to invest in creating solutions rather than problems, we individuals must address the issue of the plastification of the Earth. Although the problem of plastic may seem as insurmountable as climate change (to which plastic contributes), we can take one small step for a community that could lead to a giant step for humankind.

This tiny step is to convince our Los Alamos leaders to join Santa Fe, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Italy, Australia, Germany, Bhutan, and dozens of other municipalities and nations to ban the plastic shopping bag.
At 7 p.m. Jan. 15, the Pajarito Group and allies will meet for the Ban-the-Bag Action Committee campaign kick-off. Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman will lead this first meeting to articulate both our short- and long-term goals. This is where we decide what exactly it is that we want, whether it’s a complete ban in perpetuity or a simple one-year trial of pay-per-bag. Once we articulate our goals, we will develop teams.

Our teams will be: Technical (including researching the science of plastic, how other communities succeeded in their bans, and creating the resolution to present to the City Council); Outings (i.e., a Tour de Trash, a kids’ contest for collecting the most bags or a screening of “Bag It”); Communication (creating the media such as You Tube, PowerPoint slides, letters to the editor, coloring cards for kids, to present to the entire Los Alamos demographic); Tabling (making the case one-on-one at events, and collecting petition signatures); and Presentation (going to the population to present the information).

By the end of the meeting, we will plan the campaign, decide a timeline, join our teams, and leave with our assignments.
The expectation is that each Team will meet the predetermined roll-out deadline. Then we’ll blast out into Los Alamos like the March winds, but with the goal of eliminating at least some of the trash that those winds blow.

This effort needs your energy and ideas. This is doable. This is important.

In Santa Fe, elementary school kids brought the issue to the City Council because adults would not. But for us Sierrans, it’s not just kids who care about turtles, whales, and albatrosses. Hopefully, we Pajaritans value the Earth’s future enough to work toward eliminating just one life-destroying toxin.

A few of the many facts about plastic toxicity:
 Since the 1950s, humans have discarded 100 billion tons of plastic.
With its multiple components that we won’t list specifically, each offering a cornucopia of toxins, we present a short and general inventory of plastic’s toxicity to humans and the environment:
 Toxicity to humans: endocrine disruptor; breast cancer; neuroblastoma; prostate development and cancer; DNA disruption; methylation; asthma; estrogen-mimicking hormones; obesity including metabolic interference and toxicity to gut bacteria….
 Toxicity to wildlife: death to marine life (primarily through ingestion of small plastic items along with plastic bags that mimic jellyfish and nurdles, or plastic pellets—that mimic plankton); toxic chemicals released from plastics biodegrading; suffocation of plant life and plankton; multiple species mistaking plastic for food. The Monterey Bay Aquarium says 97.5 percent of albatross chicks on an island 1,000 miles from the nearest big city have plastic in their stomachs.
 Toxicity to the environment: extraction of petroleum and all its related pollutants (including water); water consumption in plastic production; chemical contamination of groundwater; climate change resulting from: methane from biodegradation and incineration of plastics, and the initial carbon use in transportation from source to consumer to Third-World plastic-recycling locations.

We are in the geologic era that some have named The Plasticine. And thus you may ask: with all the poisons from plastics, why focus on just the bag? Because it’s doable, and as such, it’s a start in the effort to reduce just one contributor to plastic toxicity.

Consciousness is raised one idea, one action at a time.
Let’s start where we can.