My grandson was a kid who loved fiddling with things, unable to walk by a stereo without tinkering with every dial and jack. Nothing was safe. Whatever he tinkered with was rendered useless within minutes.
My friend Arthur fiddled for hours to find the optimum angle to maximize the vortex speed of water pouring out of a jug.
I crack up at Rube Goldberg gadgets, the complex devices in Wallace and Grommet claymation comedies and their relationship with over-gadgetized media centers and coffee makers that require instructional DVDs.
A newspaper story caught my attention: Proctor & Gamble spent eight years and hundreds of millions of dollars to make palm-size, detergent-filled “pods” — to take the “messiness” out of laundry.
“Improving” mundane items often takes years and hundreds of millions to develop and market. Still, the story continued, “New products are a tough sell to consumers.”
Selling fluffy toilet paper now contributes to global deforestation; P&G’s gadget adds a dissolving package that increases water pollution, hardly a cultural contribution. We’re learning that some industries create more environmental damage than what they add to the economy.
Our society has few ways to discern which corporate activities are destroyers, reducing Earth’s natural wealth while claiming they’re just meeting consumer demand.
Even diligent consumers lack the information to make informed choices; witness the battle giant Monsanto is waging to avoid labeling GMO foods.
Researchers free from corporate interests, nonprofits and independent media decry genetic engineering, calling for serious evaluations of its ability to harm Earth’s ecosystems.
While futzers fiddled with plant genetics to create “Roundup Ready” crops, Mother Nature leaped ahead, creating Roundup Resistant weeds.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says the proverb. But without simple ways to tell tinkerers to butt out, we can’t follow this simple wisdom.
Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be.
Our national panic about energy has unleashed more corporados peddling an array of techno-fixes — all involving disastrous consequences to our health, fresh and salt water and endangering Earth’s ability to sustain us.
Simple measures like making homes, offices and other buildings energy efficient, installing solar panels on public buildings, schools, shopping centers and parking structures can go a long way toward easing future energy requirements.
So can more energy efficient transportation — cars, trucks, ships, trains and buses. To the dismay of some, conservation isn’t gizmo-rich.
Fracking, injecting water and chemicals to fracture underground rock formations, evokes our fondness for crashing, smashing and blowing up things, popularized in Hollywood action movies. In reality, fracking pollutes the air, contaminates wells, causes earthquakes and threatens aquifers.
Similarly, biomass incinerators like those proposed by Nippon in Port Angeles and Port Townsend Paper use monster machines to masticate slash and toss it into diesel trucks that roar down local waterfronts.
The toxic gases and life-threatening particles from diesel trucks and the burning biomass threaten our health, our water and our air, researchers find.
Tiny, virtually weightless nanoparticles can enter the blood stream carrying dioxins, heavy metals and other toxins to the heart, the brain and every other vital organ, even crossing placentas to reach fetuses in the womb.
Current technology can’t filter out nanoparticles and today’s environmental laws don’t protect us as the winds carry them into our bodies and our homes, farms and fields, our playgrounds, harbors and bays.
Biomass projects use tax dollar subsidies to make electricity to sell to the highest bidder. Neither the power nor the profits will stay here. Neither mill has guaranteed the preservation of current jobs. Neither has pledged to remove toxins from its site, the water or the local environment.
Citizen groups are asking for a moratorium on biomass incinerators to give people in the community a chance to examine their impact. Port Angeles City Councilman Max Mania became the first official in Clallam County to support a moratorium.
Can corporations be dissuaded from further damaging our health and our environment? Will techno-fixers listen to Mother Nature’s needs?
That may be as likely as getting a 5-year-old to abandon an X-Box for a walk in the woods. But it may have much greater consequences for the future of the peninsula.
Diana Somerville writes about creating more sustainable communities and our personal connection with the environment.
A Clallam County resident, she’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Reach her at www.Diana Somerville.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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