Trying to Live a Day Without Plastic – A. J. Jacobs – The New York Times

Jacobs is a journalist in New York who has written books on trying to live by the rules of the Bible and reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z.

11 MIN READ

“On the morning of the day I had decided to go without using plastic products — or even touching plastic — I opened my eyes and put my bare feet on the carpet. Which is made of nylon, a type of plastic. I was roughly 10 seconds into my experiment, and I had already committed a violation.

Since its invention more than a century ago, plastic has crept into every aspect of our lives. It’s hard to go even a few minutes without touching this durable, lightweight, wildly versatile substance. Plastic has made possible thousands of modern conveniences, but it has come with downsides, especially for the environment. Last week, in a 24-hour experiment, I tried to live without it altogether in an effort to see what plastic stuff we can’t do without and what we may be able to give up.

Most mornings I check my iPhone soon after waking up. On the appointed day, this was not possible, given that, in addition to aluminum, iron, lithium, gold and copper, each iPhone contains plastic. In preparation for the experiment, I had stashed my device in a closet. I quickly found that not having access to it left me feeling disoriented and bold, as if I were some sort of intrepid time traveler.”

The world produces about 400 million metric tons of plastic waste each year, according to a United Nations report. About half is tossed out after a single use. The report noted that “we have become addicted to single-use plastic products — with severe environmental, social, economic and health consequences.”

I’m one of the addicts. I did an audit, and I’d estimate that I toss about 800 plastic items in the garbage a year — takeout containers, pens, cups, Amazon packages with foam inside and more.

Before my Day of No Plastic, I immersed myself in a number of no-plastic and zero-waste books, videos and podcasts. One of the books, “Life Without Plastic: The Practical Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy,” by Mr. Sinha and Chantal Plamondon, came from Amazon wrapped in clear plastic, like a slice of American cheese. When I mentioned this to Mr. Sinha, he promised to look into it.

I also called Gabby Salazar, a social scientist who studies what motivates people to support environmental causes, and asked for her advice as I headed into my plastic-free day.

“It might be better to start small,” Dr. Salazar said. “Start by creating a single habit — like always carrying a stainless-steel water bottle. After you’ve got that down, you start another habit, like taking produce bags to the grocery. You build up gradually. That’s how you make real change. Otherwise, you’ll just be overwhelmed.”

U.S. Carbon Emissions Grew in 2022, Even As Renewables Surpassed Coal – The New York Times

3 MIN READ

“America’s greenhouse gas emissions from energy and industry increased 1.3 percent in 2022, continuing to rebound from an abrupt pandemic decline in 2020 but not quite reaching prepandemic levels, according to preliminary estimates published Tuesday by the Rhodium Group, a nonpartisan research firm.

Emissions ticked up even as renewable energy surpassed coal power nationwide for the first time in over six decades, with wind, solar and hydropower generating 22 percent of the country’s electricity compared with 20 percent from coal. Growth in natural gas power generation also compensated for coal’s decline.”

Margaret Renkl | The Unexpected Gift of Dead Plants – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — The winter storm that swept in just before Christmas, moving from the West Coast to the East, was a slow-motion devastation. For a week, it was all meteorologists could talk about — temperatures dropping tens of degrees in a matter of minutes, motorists stranded, flights canceled, power disrupted across the land.

It was 52 degrees here the day the front was due, but the birds were already making their cold-weather plans. The dominant bluebird down at our end of the neighborhood spent much of it sitting on top of the sunny nest box in our front yard. He wasn’t laying claim to the box for nesting season, which is still months away, but for shelter. On bitter nights, whole families of bluebirds will crowd in to escape a storm.”

Has the Amazon Reached Its ‘Tipping Point’? – The New York Times

Listen to This Article  Audio Recording by Audm Listen 53:03

“One of the first times Luciana Vanni Gatti tried to collect Amazonian air she got so woozy that she couldn’t even operate the controls. An atmospheric chemist, she wanted to measure the concentration of carbon high above the rainforest. To obtain her samples she had to train bush pilots at obscure air-taxi businesses. The discomfort began as she waited on the tarmac, holding one door open against the wind to keep the tiny cockpit from turning into an oven in the equatorial sun. When at last they took off, they rose precipitously, and every time they plunged into a cloud, the plane seemed to be, in Gatti’s words, sambando — dancing the samba. Then the air temperature dipped below freezing, and her sweat turned cold.

Not that it was all bad. As the frenetic port of Manaus receded, the canopy spread out below like a shaggy carpet, immaculate green except for the pink and yellow blooms of ipê trees, and it was one of those moments — increasingly rare in Gatti’s experience — when you could pretend that nature had no final border, and the Amazon looked like what it somehow still was, the world’s largest rainforest.”

David Lindsay:  This undercuts the idea of a happy new year. Here are two of a number of comments I liked:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC4h ago

1/2 We see the evidence that just like the organs of the human body the elements of the earth system are causally coupled together, and if you tip one you’re going to have consequences for others. Most notably we know that the Arctic is warming four times as fast as the global average, because of the retreat of the sea ice exposing a dark ocean that absorbs far more sunlight. We know that Arctic warming is accelerating the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the permafrost which locks up more than twice the carbon that is currently in the atmosphere. Arctic warming is also causing much more rainfall in the arctic that freshens up the surface of the North Atlantic ocean and contributes to an observed weakening of the great overturning circulation of the Atlantic ocean (AMOC) which kind of drags heat at the surface from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere and gives us a nice equable climate in Western Europe but also sets the position of a great band of rainfall all the way around the tropics.

2 Replies28 Recommended

Pablo Mas commented 4 hours ago

Pablo Mas
Chicago4h ago

Coalition of modern nations should seize the Amazon as a vital global resource to secure it before catastrophe. The Americans have the resources and fortitude to lead the initiative. It’s too important to leave solely in the hands of Brazilian politics; they’ve squandered their responsibility and privilege.

1 Reply27 Recommended

A Toxic Stew on Cape Cod: Human Waste and Warming Water – The New York Times

Flavelle spent time on Cape Cod with residents, officials and waste experts.

8 MIN READ

“MASHPEE, Mass. — Ashley K. Fisher walked to the edge of the boat, pulled on a pair of thick black waders, and jumped into the river to search for the dead.

She soon found them: the encrusted remains of ribbed mussels, choked in gray-black goo that smelled like garbage and felt like mayonnaise. The muck on the bottom of the Mashpee River gets deeper every year, suffocating what grows there. It came up to Ms. Fisher’s waist. She struggled to free herself and climb back aboard.

“I did not think I was going to sink down that far,” said Ms. Fisher, Mashpee’s director of natural resources, laughing. Her officers once had to yank a stranded resident out of the gunk by tying him to a motorboat and opening the throttle.

The muck is what becomes of the poisonous algae that is taking over more of Cape Cod’s rivers and bays each summer.”

EPA Tightens Rules on Pollution From Vans, Buses and Trucks – The New York Times

By Lisa FriedmanDec. 20, 2022, 9:45 a.m. ET4 MIN READWASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday strengthened limits on smog-forming pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers and other trucks, the first time in more than 20 years that tailpipe standards have been tightened for heavy-duty vehicles.The new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency is designed to cut nitrogen oxide from the vehicles by 48 percent by 2045. Nitrogen dioxide is a poisonous gas that has been linked to cardiovascular problems and respiratory ailments like asthma. The rule will require manufacturers to cut the pollutant from their vehicles starting with the model year 2027.

Major Nuclear Fusion Energy Breakthrough to Be Announced by Scientists – The New York Times

“Scientists at a federal nuclear weapons facility have made a potentially significant advance in fusion research that could lead to a source of bountiful energy in the future, according to a government official.

The advance is expected to be announced Tuesday by the Department of Energy, which said a “major scientific breakthrough” was made at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, and White House and other Energy Department officials are expected to be in attendance. The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the scientific advance involves the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, which uses giant lasers to create conditions that briefly mimic the explosions of nuclear weapons.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
This is extremely good news, if we keep the planet healthy enough to ever enjoy it. Thank you Kenneth Chang and the NYT.
We will still need a revolution in human consumption and population reduction, since according to leading scientist, our survival most likely depends on the survival of many other species. And we do not know which ones are essential, wrote Edward O Wilson.
InconvenientNews.net

Animals Are Running Out of Places to Live – The New York Times

“WILDLIFE IS DISAPPEARING around the world, in the oceans and on land. The main cause on land is perhaps the most straightforward: Humans are taking over too much of the planet, erasing what was there before. Climate change and other pressures make survival harder.

This week and next, nations are meeting in Montreal to negotiate a new agreement to address staggering declines in biodiversity. The future of many species hangs in the balance. Meet some of the animals most affected as humans convert more and more land:

At least 60 percent habitat loss since 2001
At least 50 percent habitat loss since 2001
At least 45 percent habitat loss since 2001
At least 40 percent habitat loss since 2001
At least 35 percent habitat loss since 2001
At least 33 percent habitat loss since 2001″
x
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Great article and wonderful comments. But such a sad and tragic story. How about a follow up story, how best to stop and reverse population growth. How do we get rid of 4 billion people, at least get to 30 by 30, 50 by 2050 or 2300. Half Earth (for other species) is a great little book by Edward O Wilson.
Question for the NYT staff, when does this important piece show up in print” It should say at least at the end, if not the begining, when it will, or when it did, show up in print at the Times. David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Earth Now Has 8 Billion Humans. Les Knight Wishes There Were None. – The New York Times

Buckley interviewed Mr. Knight in Portland and was surprised to find him curiously uplifting.

PORTLAND, Ore. — For someone who wants his own species to go extinct, Les Knight is a remarkably happy-go-lucky human.

“He has regularly hosted meteor shower parties with rooftop fireworks. He organized a long-running game of nude croquet in his backyard, which, it should be mentioned, is ringed by 20-foot-tall laurel hedges. Even Tucker Carlson proved no match for Mr. Knight’s ebullience. During a 2005 interview with Mr. Knight on MSNBC, Mr. Carlson criticized him for espousing “the sickest” of beliefs but then added, “You are one of the cheeriest guests we’ve ever had.”

Mr. Knight, 75, is the founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction movement, which is less a movement than a loose consortium of people who believe that the best thing humans can do to help the Earth is to stop having children.

Mr. Knight added the word “voluntary” decades ago to make it clear that adherents do not support mass murder or forced birth control, nor do they encourage suicide. Their ethos is echoed in their motto, “May we live long and die out,” and in another one of their slogans, which Mr. Knight hangs at various conventions and street fairs: “Thank you for not breeding.”

David Lindsay: I wrote a comment to the following comment:

Seriphussr
United States Of The Socialist Republic1h ago

“. . . . This is a good idea. I have four adult children. None of them have kids. The oldest two (40-ish) have decide not to have kids. The youngest two (early 20s) are still trying to figure out what it means to be an adult. While my wife and I would love to have grandchildren, I tend to agree with Mr. Knight. It’s time to start depopulating this planet. I don’t think we should ALL stop having children at once, but limit it to two or less. Not as a government mandate, but voluntarily. It took a long time to get to 8 billion. We’ve built civilizations on the idea of perpetual population growth. If everyone just stopped having children, civilizations would collapse. That would be awful for the survivors. But if we ramped down over centuries, we could eventually get down to a reasonable population. I’m not sure what amount is reasonable, but maybe something under a billion would be a good start.” . . . .

Reply:

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT   NYT Reply 

@Seriphussr Good comment, good thoughts. We went from 2 billion to 8 billion since about 1930, just 92 years. That is fast, since it took us 200,000 years to get to 1 billion. It took us about 300 years to get to 2 billion. I read that several scientists have agreed that the possible limit of humans on the planet for sustainablily and biodiversity might be 4 billion. My source might be Edward O Wilson or Elizabet Kolbert. EO Wilson calls us to set aside half the earths real estate for non human species to live in, and he co-founded the Half-Earth Foundation to promote this idea, as well as writing it up in his book Half Earth. \

David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Reply7 Recommended

Somalia Braces for Famine, Trapped Between Al Shabab and Drought – The New York Times

Chief Africa correspondent Declan Walsh and photographer Andrea Bruce reported this article from Baidoa, Somalia, a city threatened by militants.

“The sea of rag-and-stick tents that spreads in every direction from the hungry, embattled city of Baidoa, in southern Somalia, gives way to sprawling plains controlled by the militants of Al Shabab.

Over 165,000 refugees have streamed into Baidoa since early last year, fleeing the ravages of Somalia’s fiercest drought in 40 years. Among them was Maryam, a 2-year-old girl whose family had lost everything.

The drought withered their crops, starved their animals and transformed their modest farm into a howling dust bowl. They endured a five-day trek to Baidoa, braving Islamist check posts, hoping to reach safety.

But one recent afternoon Maryam, weak from hunger and sickness, began to cough and vomit. Her mother, cradling Maryam in her arms, called for help.”

Somalia is on our minds. We watched a PBS NewsHour a few nights ago, and they showed an emaciated infant in somalia, looking far more dead than alive. We are tough old birds, but this was almost more than we could stomach. It definitely infringed on dinner. This article is more gentle, there are no such pictures. But Somalia is on our minds. Here are the top comments, which I endorsed:

Peter Johnson
London

Extreme weather is not the whole story for Somalia’s food shortages. The population has more than quadrupeled in the last fifty years (from 3.48 million to 16.6 million), and agricultural productivity cannot keep up.

4 Replies50 Recommended

joe
St Louis

Starvation in Africa was a staple of late night TV solicitations back when I was growing up in the 70’s. 50 years later nothing has changed. Tribal warfare, a population that can’t feed itself, and not using birth control are not going to be made any better by charity. If people want change than something fundamental needs to change.

Reply34 Recommended

Silas Campbell
Paris, Kentucky

Completely omitted from this article is the fact that the number of people in Somalia has grown from about 2 million in 1950 to about 17 million now, i.e. there are over 8 times as many Somalis as in 1950. Could it possibly be that this exponential rise in the number of people needing resources has anything to do with the famine ?

Reply28 Recommended

mushmouth
Jacksonville

what these poor people need is systematic and free birth control. and then classes on how to use it. why would you bring children into a famine situation?

Reply27 Recommended