Why not make our bin collections daily Eric?

James Newton reports:

Soooo… Eric Pickles believes we should encourage people to ‘throw away’ more often by reinstating weekly bin collections. Why?

I assume that this may be because Mr Pickles believes in the first instance that society is so beyond help that rather than educating the British public to reduce the unnecessary amount of waste we all create, Government should take the responsibility away from people to manage the crap they produce and throw it away for us.

Who is taking responsibility for this? Sooner or later we will run out of places to hide and forget about it.. Individuals should be but (more importantly) industry must be held accountable if they are producing high levels of un-recyclable waste.

This is embarrassing: As a nation we produce more waste per head of population than many of our European counterparts, with an average of 592kg (1,306lb), above the EU average of 577kg, (1,274lb). We also lag behind in the amount of waste recycled, with a UK average figure of 18% based on these figures, well below the EU average of 36.4%.

The government believes that better procurement and joint working can improve the efficiency of collections while improving the frontline service for the public in an affordable and practical manner… They ‘understand’ that the public have a reasonable expectation that household waste collections services should be weekly, particularly for smelly waste.

Do they? Is this a reasonable expectation? No. How does improving the efficiency of a system that is so instrumentally defective make it better? Somebody has missed the point here. There seems to have been a huge over sight in assessing the root cause of the problem, a belligerent obsession with efficiency rather than effectiveness.

Perhaps this may be because Mr Pickles believes that the polluting way and rate at which we create, consume and discard things is working out just fine… Perhaps industry have it right, we need coke bottles that have the potential to last 400 years after the drink has been drunk…

There needs to be an emphatic message sent out to change the perception of ‘rubbish’ from the junk we want to dump, to a valuable resource to be cherished and only thrown away as a very last resort and in-still an understanding in everyone that there is no ‘away’. Then a trip back to the drawing board to re-think the way we make things by starting with what we do with them when we’ve had our way with them.

Government should be facilitating our ability as a country to deal with this. Fortnightly collections, since their introduction, have helped improve recycling rates. In returning to weekly emptying it is projected that it would cost an extra £200m annually. I thought we had a deficit to reduce not to mention a planet to preserve…

James Newton

What is Sustainable Development?

It’s something you hear quite often, two words that enter the conversation but they seem to carry no meaning. We hear it so often but we never consider what it actually means, almost like hearing someone say ‘moving forward’ or some other unintelligible management speak. Used so often, its meaning has dissolved into the aether.

So what does the phrase actually mean? Well, primarily the words ‘Sustainable Development‘ are used by many people within the environmental movement to describe the way we should start to develop – sustainably. It’s a kind of description of our situation, and what we need to to about it, but somehow the gravity of the words are lost whenever they are used. Think about it again, they are a description of our situation, and what we need to do about it.

So lets be abundantly clear. Our society isn’t sustainable, in much the same way that a wooden boat that’s on fire isn’t sustainable. If you’re like most people, and for the sake of this explanation I will assume that you are like most people, there’s next to nothing about your life that can be sustained for much longer. Your food, your clothes, your car, your iPhone, your heating bill, your electricity bill, your entire lifestyle is the fire on the ship. There’s a misconception that sustainable development is some tree hugging nonsense that places the life of an endangered snail above the life of your own, but the truth is that sustainable development has our civilisation at its core. Sustainable development has recognised the fire and it wants to put it out.

Some clever people worked out how much land – or ecological services – we collectively use as a society. The idea being that, say we use up a forest, earth can replenish that forest given enough time, but if we cut down the trees faster than the earth replenishes them then we have a problem. You can replace ‘forest’ with just about anything, fish, agriculture, oil, coal, aluminium, tin, anything can fit in there, since they’re all ecological services. Well it turns out, that when you add all of this stuff up, we are currently consuming about 1.6 Earths and the rate at which we’re consuming the earth is accelerating. In other words, we’re using Earth’s resources about 1.6 times faster than Earth can replenish them. If you fill a bath with water faster than the drain can take away the water, we all know what happens. If you fill a bath at an accelerating rate, you simply speed the up the inevitable.

When the resources run out and there are 7.5 billion hungry people on the planet, you can imagine the ensuing chaos. Sustainable development isn’t just about saving the environment for the environments sake, it’s about saving it because every single thing we do is dependent on ecological services. Everything.

Next time you see a freight train, or a lorry, or a car, or a bin full of rubbish, or a ferry full of goods, just multiply it out across the entire planet and think about the sheer scale of energy and ‘stuff’ that’s needed to keep this society moving. Ask yourself the question, ‘where did all that stuff come from and where’s it going?’ and ask yourself if you think it can carry on indefinitely.

Sustainable development isn’t just some fancy word, it’s an absolute imperative. We have to drop the meaningless fluff surrounding our lives and change direction because we are on a collision course with nature. Whilst nature is as solid as brick wall, we are as fragile as a fly.

Can Earth reproduce?

I start this blog in response to a simple assertion I discovered by Richard Dawkins regarding Gaia theory.

In criticising Gaia theory, Dawkins claims that Earth cannot be a living organism because it does not have parents, and is therefore not the offspring of any other living organism. Dawkins also claims that Earth has no way of reproducing, again indicating that it cannot be a living organism.

The critique seems logical, certainly worth considering. As soon as I read the words my imagination roared into action.

What if Earth is indeed the offspring of another organism? Much like the way bacteria or viruses infect their host, life could have arrived on the planet fully formed, in the form of some fertilised rocky panspermia. Contained within is the DNA required to incubate the rocky planet with the necessary pathogens, bacteria, single cell organisms, elements, atmosphere and nutrients required for Gaia to grow into a healthy adult. The process may take billions of years, but from the moment sperm from another planet fertilises the earth, Gaia is born. Like all life forms, it then grows into an sexually mature adult, but on a much longer timescale than any other known life form.

Billions of years into its evolution, Gaia is now ready to reproduce again. This time however, it will send much more complex forms of life organisms to its next host planet, which will speed up its reproduction by an order of magnitude.

Inside of Gaia’s protection, care, and abundance, humanity grows more technologically advanced. Soon enough the human cells will be strong enough to survive on the harsh conditions of a baron egg planet. Sexual maturity is finally reached when the humanity cells are able to traverse the great distance between their host, and another egg. Thousands of the human cells die in the attempt to traverse this great distance, but eventually the strongest specimen will make it. As they reach the surface of the egg planet, contained within their DNA, and evident in all of their hopes and desires, is all the genetic information needed for Gaia’s daughter. Their presence and technology begins to reintroduce an atmosphere and the foetus’s tiny lungs begin to form. As the atmosphere roars into life, the human cells bring greenery, life forms and livestock, and eventually the rains begin to fall. A new daughter is born.

She will be much like her mother, but in many ways she is different. Her skin colour is darker, her skies more hazy, her appearance is unique, but she has all the knowledge and wisdom of her mother contained within the human cells that now occupy her. Her adolescent years are rebellious and creative, many phases come and go, until she stabilises into a well rounded, loving individual.

* * *

It may not seem immediately obvious that Earth may have parents, or the ability to reproduce, but in considering humanity as highly evolved reproductive fluids, the reproductive process begins to become clear.

The code for sustainable homes

In case anyone didn’t know, the Code For Sustainable Homes is a government led ratings system to identify how well a building performs in terms of sustainability. Sustainability being a loosely used word to describe how ‘good’ the home is. As a home builder, you get different points for implementing different features, with everything from water run off to the size of your recycling bin covered.

Interesting highlights are getting 4.9 points (which is a lot) for ‘major improvements’ to the local ecology. This will sit well with permaculturists and urban idealists like Zhao Benfu who’d like to see more wilderness, food, and greenery being grown in our cities.

The governments U-turn on Zero Carbon

It looks like the government has made a ‘u-turn’, as the UK Green Building Council put it, on their commitment to Zero Carbon Homes by 2016. The energy use by the tenant’s is no longer considered part of the zero carbon goal with house builders only being regulated on carbon emissions coming from fixed lighting, hot water, and building services.

9) The Government is announcing the regulatory requirements for zero carbon homes, to apply from 2016. To ensure that it remains viable to build new houses, the Government will hold housebuilders accountable only for those carbon dioxide emissions that are covered by Building Regulations, and will provide cost-effective means through which they can do this.

2.297 The UK needs to deliver carbon savings in order to meet the Carbon Budgets to which the Government is committed. This means that the carbon footprint of new homes cannot be allowed to add to overall carbon reduction burdens.

2.298 Building Regulations cover carbon dioxide emissions from energy use through heating, fixed lighting, hot water and building services. They do not cover emissions related to energy use from cooking or from plug-in electrical appliances such as computers, as these are beyond the influence of housebuilders and will be addressed by other policies, for example the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

2.299 The Government will introduce more realistic requirements for on-site carbon reductions, endorsing the Zero Carbon Hub’s expert recommendations on the appropriate levels of on-site reductions as the starting point for future consultation, along with their advice to move to an approach based on the carbon reductions that are achieved in real life, rather than those predicted by models. This will be complemented by cost-effective options for off-site carbon reductions, relative to the Government’s pricing of carbon, and Government will work with industry through consultation on how to take this forward.

2.300 This approach will deliver zero-carbon homes on a practical basis from 2016, with significantly reduced costs to industry, compared to previous proposals. Government will continue to work with industry on how the principle of its Green Deal scheme can be extended to new homes, enabling house builders to offset the upfront costs of building to more challenging carbon reduction standards.

Taken from the 2011 UK plan for growth.

So it looks like the Government are dedicated to reducing the emissions from grid energy so that new homes can use that energy without contributing carbon emissions? The ever shifting definition for zero carbon homes can be found at Zero Carbon Hub.