TCS Daily

Euro Trash

By Tim Worstall - May 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Can recycling actually be bad for your health? If you're a garbage man, it might very well be. According to the Sunday Telegraph all that well-meaning sorting of bottles, newspapers and tin cans actually leads to outbreaks of violence (and apologies for the funny spellings here, this is a British newspaper after all):

Binmen say recycling schemes have led to a surge in attacks by householders who find their rubbish uncollected when they fail to follow strict rules.

Unions for refuse collectors are threatening to strike over what they say is a rising tide of violence that has seen one in five of Britain's 40,000 binmen injured in physical attacks at work and more than two thirds verbally abused.

They blame the violence on growing frustration with complex regulations requiring people to minimise waste and separate recyclable materials. If households fail to sort their waste or put out too much, binmen are ordered not to take it.

We can, of course, empathize with the trash collectors. It's bad enough starting work at the time of day that a really good party is just winding down and dealing with the noisome waste of your fellow citizens has never been either well paid or socially highly thought of. But that such good honest yeomen should, as happened to Bruce Rose, be hauled off the truck and repeatedly punched would seem to show that we need to rethink the whole process of the recycling of such domestic waste. The only appropriate place for such violence is when attempting to beat some sense into any random passing politician.

Which rather leads to the more important point. Recycling schemes are, almost without exception, a gross waste of time, money and effort.

One extremely useful and entirely valid point that has been made by the environmental movement over the years is that "true costs" and prices are not always the same thing. Economists put the same thought another way when they talk of externalities. There can indeed be costs associated with a certain behavior that are not actually incorporated into the price that we pay for them. If such prices do not reflect the "true costs" then markets are incapable (note please, not just bad at, but incapable) of dealing with the issue. One method of correcting for this is to have green or environmental taxes. Economists would prefer to call them externality taxes as that focuses on the real problem but the point is much the same. Such taxes should be set at exactly the level of those external costs and once they are then we can leave it to the markets to decide upon what is an optimal level.

But if we are to decide that we need to intervene in markets (and please note that all markets have at least some government intervention in them, even if only in the provision of law courts to allow the enforcement of contracts) on the basis that all of the necessary information is not already included in them, then we should at least make sure that when we plan said intervention, we do actually include all the relevant information. Which, sadly, we don't.

The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit released a report back in 2002 (warning: large .pdf) which dealt with this very issue of domestic waste. In the foreword by the PM (you might be surprised to find that he is a little less popular at home than he is in the US: he is often referred to as The Dear Leader in mimicry of Kim Jong Il of North Korea) he stated:

At current rates of growth the amount of household rubbish will double by 2020, and cost £3.2bn per year to dispose of. That would mean spending an extra £1.6bn a year on waste management. So we need first to reduce the amount of waste we create.

So, we have a £1.6 billion problem (one which will rise to be sure) and clearly, if there is to be a sensible solution to it that solution should cost us less than the £1.6 billion. If it's going to cost us more than that then we should of course simply continue digging holes and pouring the trash into it.

So, quite apart from injuries to the trash collectors, does our new and improved system cost us more or less than the old? Now I'm going to do something a little naughty here. I'm going to completely ignore the stated costs of such recycling schemes. All of the factories, the different colored collection cans, shipping the stuff around the country to the specialist plants, the reduction in digging holes to dump it in, I'm simply going to assume that these are pretty much a wash. They're not, of course, but I'll assume they are.

There is one other cost that completely dwarfs all of these: the time spent by the citizenry in sorting the trash into the correct containers. We should, if we are to take our task seriously of making sure that prices reflect "true costs" include this as well.

There are slightly over 24 million households in the UK and their time spent sorting trash should be valued at, well, what? Say the minimum wage...well, say £5 an hour (around $9, which is a little lower than the actual minimum wage) for ease of calculation. If it takes each household one hour a week to follow these regulations on sorting the trash then we've got a cost of £6.25 billion. Err, that's four times the cost we're trying to save! It's also about 0.5% of the GDP...correct, half of one percent of the entire output of the country!

Well, perhaps it doesn't take a household an hour a week (although my quick survey of a few friends indicated that wasn't all that far off)? We can look at it another way of course. Let's imagine then this new method of sorting trash completely wipes out all of the cost of processing it. Say, perhaps, that the value of materials recycled is such that the net cost, after the sorting, is nothing. How much time should we ask each household to devote to the sorting then? Clearly it should be the amount of time that has the same value as the money we'll save, that £1.6 billion: which is 15 minutes or so per week per household.

Now I know of no one who thinks that such a recycling scheme, the sorting of the trash that is required to make them work, takes less than 15 minutes per week per household (if it did, of course, there would be little incentive for people to haul the binman down and give him a good thumping now, would there?). It is, therefore, entirely a waste of time, money and effort and we should stop doing it immediately.

While these figures are only for the UK the idea applies more generally: whenever we look at the costs and benefits of recycling schemes we have to include the time spent by the citizenry on making them work and this almost always will mean that they should not actually be implemented. To the great relief of traumatized trash collectors everywhere.

Tim Worstall is a TCS contributing writer living in Europe.



socialist garbage in; garbage out - - -
Adam Smith's good ole invisible hand would pick up, and take care of disposal and recycling efficiently, without rancor or strife, if it were free of petty government control. There is plenty of real estate for convenient and safe, disposal and/or money-making recycling sites.

This insanity that it's a proper government function, or that governments are competent to regulate it, without corruption; is rubbish, literally. Problems could all handled within ordinary economic negotiation and market competition, including the tort system; like anything else.

Adam Smith, yeah, yeah, yeah
Or will it just be dumped in the dead of night down some country lane somewhere? That would be the low-cost solution...

In the UK, one of the drivers behind recycling isn't environmentalism or socialism or any other 'ism'. But the fact that the country is simply running out of space to bury it.

Although as a free-marketeer I'm sure you'd say it's perfectly okay to buy up some valleys in Wales and dump it there - if it weren't for those petty environmental regulations!

"Adam Smith's good ole invisible hand would pick up, and take care of disposal and recycling efficiently, without rancor or strife, if it were free of petty government control. There is plenty of real estate for convenient and safe, disposal and/or money-making recycling sites."

A key problem
here is not simply recycling but the complexity of regulation surrounding it. What the British government ignores is that if regulations become too onerous, folks will simply end up doing a lot of midnight dumping. The role of waste management is public health, not the genuflecting to Green totems. Illicit dumping certainly constitutes a threat to public health and greatly outweighs any putative benefit from recycling accompanied by excessive regulation. Curbside limits constitute perhaps the silliest of such regulations.

Underlying economics must make sense
Here's a news flash for you. Recycling works only when the underlying economics behind it makes sense. Thus its perfectly suited for metals such as aluminum and copper. These can be recycled for about 1/3rd the cost of mining/refining/smelting new ore. By contrast recycling is a complete bust for products such as plastic, paper, and glass. Virgin resins and pulp can be turned into higher quality end products at a fraction of the cost of recycled waste.

Government does not need to be in the recycling business. If there is money to be made the private sector will fill the void. If there is no money to be made then it is not worth doing. Period.

is in the garbage business principally for public health reasons. You appear to have misunderstood what I wrote. My point simply was that government involvement in recycling must not be allowed to interfere with the public health mandate of garbage management, as is clearly becoming the case in Britain, as Worstall points out. At no point did I indicate that government SHOULD be in the recycling business.

"or will be dumped in the dead of night"
Great Britain saw that when they started charging disposal fees to people dumping fridges. Suddenly the incidence of fridges being dumped by the side of the road rose significantly.

The critical difference
The original contribution garbage collection mad, (and it was huge,) was in handling septic wastes. The government should be setting up rules for this.

Once you get to recycling, you should let the market work. There are funtioning recycling methods separate from garbage collection for copper, aluminum, etc. With these functions, the people themselves can make a value judgement as to what their time is worth, and act accordingly.

Recycling Paper is Stupid Anyway
The theory behind recycling PAPER is that by doing so we will prevent the harvesting of Redwood trees and other old-growth forest which are habitats of spotted owls and other endangered species. This rationale is totally fictitious. Paper comes from fast growing trees like white and yellow pines, and cottonwoods, that are planted and harvested on a 10 year or less cycle. There are better things to do with hardwood trees and redwoods than grind them into pulp. Since paper comes from trees that are grown as crops, they are the ecological equivalent of a field of corn or potatoes. They need no protection. If we didn't grow them for paper, they wouldn't be planted in the first place.

The second reason that recycling paper is REALLY stupid is that is is in fact ecologically irresponsible! The real global ecological crisis du jour is not a shortage of trees generally (there are more forests in the US now than there were 100 years ago). The crisis is GLOBAL WARMING, partly caused by excess Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. In addition to whatever measures we might take to limit addition of excess CO2, we should also take advantage of opportunities to SCRUB excess CO2 out of the atmosphere.

This is where trees come in. The fact is that ALL of the carbon in the body of a tree or any other plant comes out of the air, not the ground or the water. Every plant represents a subjtraction of its carbon from the CO2 pool. The process of photosynthesis that performs this task of CO2 extraction is the basis of most life on the surface of the earth.

Recognizing this fact, the Federal government is handing out grants to people studying ways to "sequester" carbon once it has been captured, not only by high tech scientific methods at the smokestack, but also by hiding away carbon that has been captured into the structure of plants. If plant matter is buried somewhere where bacteria cannot break it down, it is taken out of the carbon cycle of the planet, and the net CO2 level in the air, and presumably global warming, goes down. Farmers are being given money to look at ways to dispose of their wastes so they stay out of the carbon cycle.

Add to this need for carbon sequestration the fact that dry paper (old phone books, newspapers, files, etc.) buried in landfills does NOT deteriorate or break down, but stays intact for decades.

Thus we have our contribution to fighting global warming: We capture vast amounts of CO2 from the air using plants that grow, then we put the plant matter into the ground to ensure its carbon does not return to the atmosphere. This is a lot of trouble to go to, so we need a source of revenue to continuously fund it. How can we make money from this process that will ensure it pays for itself, and in fact provides a profit that will attract MORE of this behavior?

It's called making paper. We need to grow cheap trees, turn them into paper, sell the paper, then either put the used paper into libraries and archives, or dispose of it into landfills. Either way, the carbon subtracted out of the air stays out of the air.

Recycling paper does nothing for the ecosystem, and it interferes with a program of massive scrubbing of CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestration of the captured carbon. The paper recycling program creates economic disincentives that tend to increase greenhouse gases!

Here is something that every child in America can do to feel like he or she is fighting global warming: Go buy a ream of paper, use it any way you wish, then send it to a landfill where its carbon will not be able to escape to the atmosphere.

Any sources?
Do you have any sources for this information coltakashi?

I have to say, your comments are heresy to my current perspective and beliefs, but what you say about trapping the carbon to keep it out of the atmosphere, etc. makes sense. So I do question the truthfulness of your comments. Your comment that there are more forests today in American than 100 years ago makes me suspicious of how truthful you are. That seems like a comment that may be technically correct, but you're implying there are more trees than 100 years ago, and that seems impossible. Save for some historical anomaly, its impossible.

Anyway, Google didn't help me find anything to support what you say, you got any sources to offer? Anyone?

I know landfills emit methane, another global warming encourager, but I don't know what paper in the landfill would have to do with methane.

Why recycling paper is not stupid
There is a number of fundamental flaws in your idea about the paper/tree participation in the carbon cycle:

Trees that are planted for paper production (the cycle can not be as short as 10 years, but that is beside the point) are felled, which, accidentally kills them, so they stop sequestering CO2. Then, about 1/2 of their mass can be transformed into paper, while the other half is (hopefully) used for other products, but some portion simply rots to release the CO2 back into the atmosphere. The products - paper etc., if not recycled will eventually also rot, even if landfilled - that is why landfills release CH4, as well as CO2 - the products of rotting. Furthermore, landfills have the potential to leach pollutants into the groundwater and because of that and other reasons, they are not welcome by any community. In fact landfill space and suitable landfill sites are running out quickly, due to which garbage is routinely dumped into the ocean (for ex. City of New York), where it ... rots or, worse - creates pockets of anoxic waters.

Recycling paper absolutely makes sence from an ecological perspective, if not from economical one.

paper in landfills
Doesn't rot away that quickly. Especially in areas with little rainfall.

I remember reading about an archaeologist doing a test dig in an Arizona landfill. He found that 50 year old newspapers were still legible.

My County
My county started recycling long before I moved here. They recently negotiated a new contract for next year. It is going to cost more to keep materials out of the landfill than it would cost to build a new landfill. The county commission decided to keep recycling even though it was costing more than it was worth.

The county is moving a park to a new larger location. They are going to sell the old location. The county school board needs to build a new school in the area. The school board offered $4.1 Million for the old park to build the new school on. The county commission refused to even negotiate saying they could get more money for the old park from private developers.

The county commission seems to have forgotten that the money they get from the sale of the old park belongs to the same tax payers who will buy land for the new school.

Why do I tell these stories? The issues aren't the environment or money, but control. Beware of anyone who wants to help by controlling.

Politically, not scientifically, correct
My brother is an engineer with the City of Seattle. He tells me that, since the City passed a law requiring recycling, almost none of the stuff we put in the recycle bins is actually recycled. The stuff is cherry picked and the rest, most of it, is dumped in the landfill anyway. The biggent globalwarming gas is methane, so the greatest threat to humanity is "biodegradable" diapers! They degrade into, you guessed it, methane (mostly).

In John Stossel's new book he writes that all of the garbage produced in America in the next 100 years would fit in a landfill covering just one of Ted Turner's ranches. My brother the environmental engineer agrees.

Too true
Excellent comments but don't forget that Socialists also lust over power and this includes dictating how people should live their lives. The UK is becoming a nightmare where Yaboos run wild while society collapses.

Background on Recycling Paper is Stupid
If you live in the eastern states, you should be aware of the vast increase in the population of wild deer, which uses the vast residential "forests" as habitat. When lands were settled during the 19th century, many trees were cut down, burned, and the ash shipped to New York and Britain to be made into potash/potassium for all sorts of chemical processes (including manufacture of gunpowder and dyes for cloth). The cut trees were the first crop off the land. as agricultural production of essentials like wheat have moved to large farms in the never-forested midwest, the old farms in the East that used to raise wheat moved to other crops, or became residential land. You can see the difference by comparing photos of, for example, upstate New York in 1905 and now. Denuded hillsides are now covered with trees. You should be able to find statistical evidence confirming that if you look somewhere other than The New Republic.

On how much carbon goes into a landfill: So what if not ALL the carbon absorbed into a tree gets into the landfill? It's more than YOU are absorbing with your own bodily processes. It's not 100% efficient, but it doesn't need to be perfect, you just need a lot of trees and other crops scrubbing CO2 from the air. In fact, it's more efficient to use a solar powered CO2 scrubber like plants than it is to use scrubbers that are powered by coal-fired power plants!

Will paper in landfills generate methane? If the material is placed above the water table (which is where current regulations require it to be anyway!) the paper can avoid decomposition for decades. It doesn't have to be eternal to effectively decrease the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, especially since we should be putting a new "crop" of tree-captured carbon into the ground every year. It might reach equilibrium in 50 years, but at a much lower level of CO2.

Organic materials that decompose and generate methane generally have their own water, such as domestic food garbage and unprocessed tree branches and debris. Sites that have substantial methane generation are usually required to flare it off, or otherwise capture and use it. Methane burns a lot cleaner than coal, and its output of CO2 can be captured again by plants.

The cycle for yellow pines in Michigan and cottonwoods in Washington and Oregon to paper pulp production is 10 and 5 years respectively. The yellow pines only grow 10 to 20 feet high before being harvested. The cottonwoods are planted tightly together for maximum density and light capture on minimum land. The first crop is cut off by a machine a couple of feet above the roots, then a second crop can grow from the root, which is pulled out in toto, and then a new planting is made.

Most carbon sequestration schemes propose to subsidize farmers in assuming the extra cost of burying crop waste, but growing trees for paper pays directly for the costs of the entire cycle of carbon capture and sequestration.

The actual acreage used for landfills in America is not large. Anyone who has driven across Nevada and the deserts of eastern Oregon knows darn well that there is plenty of room for more burials. We are NOT running oujt of room for landfills.

Hazardous chemicals leaching from landfills come NOT from paper, but from waste paint, solvents, batteries, metals in electronic equipment, and other sources. Industrial disposal of toxic materials has been banned since 1980, and the law was made stricter in 1986. The main problem today is household chemicals and waste. Efforts are made to capture, treat or recycle those toxic materials (which DO have better uses outside of landfills). The biggest fraud ever put over on consumers was "biodegradable garbage bags". Garbage bags are not left on the land surface, with the intent of letting the garbage blow off in the next tornado! Garbage is buried in the ground, and the best garbage is stuff that acts as much as possible like dirt and rocks, and do NOT biodegrade into methane or subside. I work on a project that is unearthing buried radioactive waste from the 1960s, and plastic bags and cardboard boxes are amazingly intact because the burial site was dry ground, 500 feet above the water table.

People don't want landfills near their homes because they smell, attract vermin, and trucks carrying trash go down the road dropping banana peels and diapers. The solution is to have waste transfer stations that are near town, and the landfills out in the sticks, where the stink is less odoriferous than a cattle feed lot. They should require fluorescent lights and ballasts with mercury switches to be sorted out and recylced, along with anything containing toxic metals and persistent organic chemicals. Modern environmetnal law requires that toxic materials have to be treated to reduce their hazard, sometimes through mixing with a solidifying material that prevents the toxics from being carried by rainwater down into the aquifer.

There was plenty of logging of old growth redwoods and Douglas firs in the past, but it has nothing to do with making paper pulp. Let me repeat: Saving a paper pulp tree from being harvested is like "saving" a stalk of corn. WHY?

Gary Larson came out with a cute bvook about 10 yars ago, explaining all the silly notions people have about nature. If we really want to save our world, we need to deromanticize it, and actually understand how it works. The stupidest thing that easterners and other urban dwellers do is try to prevent all animals from dying. ALL animals die. The point is to maintain sustainable populations. Letting one species run rampant can destroy habitat and food for other species. We shouldn't let the worship of some sacred ideal of "wilderness" make us think that nature will fall apart if man builds something in the middle of a million acre wilderness. Nature is NOT that delicate. The caribou herds in the ANWR are self-sustaining, even though several thousand are harvested every year by native Alaskans on their migration south. Nothing done by oil production on the adjacent North Slope has diminished the caribou or other animals. If it had, we would have been hearing about it every day. But the truth is that oil development on 1% of the land does NOT adversely affect those species. The state of Utah has solme of the most beautiful wilderness, and national parks, in the US. It also has densely populated urban areas of 2 million people, and oil and gas wells out in the eastern part of the state. Designating 1% of the land for some use other than caribou will NOT affect the other 99%. Westerners know that elk, moose, bears and cougars are NOT intimidated by human dwellings. Only the part that is built on is subtracted from their habitat. They do just fine around man's works. They are NOT distressed by the sight of man. If we don't intentionally interfere with their lifestyle, they will be OK around us. You need to come out and visit Yellowstone and see how the bison and elk go about their business as long as we keep our distance. They will NOT fall over dead at the sound of a diesel engine. And it is easy to ensure that we don't pollute the soil and groundwater. We know how to do it. It's simple.

Can't see the forest for the trees
There are more forests in the country today than there were a hundred years ago, if you define "forest" as acreage covered by trees and scrub. Up to the 1930's nearly every arable acre in the country was being farmed by small family farmers. Then as that way of life died, the "useless" land reverted to scrubland and second growth forest.

Also countless acres of forest, once timbered, have been converted into tree farms. For the owner this is just prudent forest management. But it does mean that the resulting wooded lots bear little resemblance to primeval forest cover. Today we have next to no remaining original forest, other than the Tongass. And a lot of hungry eyes are looking at the Tongass.

The source would be land records from any county seat. Look at land use in the 1920's, and compare to today. About the only place forests are being taken down now and NOT regrown as tree farms is the land cover at the edges of our various metropolitan sprawls. A lot of land is being claimed for subdivisions, office parks and shopping complexes. Once the global population hits its projected nine billion, a lot more prime land will be used up in this fashion.

Coltakashi's idea is a novel approach. We might just want to bury the planet in paperwork, and require that permanent file copies be kept of every record we generate-- old inventories from every store shelf, driving records from the 1970's, minutes of every meeting ever taken... the mind boggles at the information we would need to store.

It would be like Forbidden Planet-- where the original inhabitants had to move to another star system because their home planet filled up with calculations.

Only in America
Oh Please it's called English, guess why!
As for recycling it's all about recycle or reuse we use to do it all the time. It's only recently we stopped doing it, Ask your mummy or Daddy how they use to manage their waste.

Sort of a mixed-bag post...
Are you trying to say that because tree farms work in Michigan and in the eastern deserts of Washington and Oregon, that the government should allow oil resources to be developed in ANWR?

Ah...come again?

The west has sufferred greatly by tree harvests. Much of the land forested in the turn of the last century has remained clear because the clearcutting changed the soil chemistry. Erosion was also a huge problem.

The cattle industry has destroyed much of the public lands that are not held in special designations.

And Utah is no shining gem of sustainability. The Logan area not only smells like a sewer pond all winter long, it has the worst air quality in the USA by some accounts. The other worst air pollution in the country (by other accounts) is up north of Salt Lake City at Woods Cross.

Utah also has sleeping giant mercury problems that are only now being discovered. Many of the aquifers are poisoned by organic solvents and toxic metals. And according to the EPA TRI reports, Utah has the second highest toxic releases of any state except Nevada.

Developing natural gas wells in eastern Utah have apparently done nothing for the local population since the cost of natural gas has doubled there over the last 5 or so years.

I suggest that you sit back and studying what is going on in the world. Your point of view is interesting and you have valid points, especially about paper recycling and the problems with plastic bags.

But you need to take a deeper look at the whole life-cycle of things. You are basing your ideal society on there being an infinite source of energy and land. Your model state of Utah is nowhere close to sustainable. Wyoming is running on tourism and natural gas. Yellowstone is a national Park with enforced wildlife protections.

98% right on the button
You give an admirable amount of detail, unusual for a posting here. Mostly what we're seeing is rants and opinions with scant evidence behind them. And IMO your information is correct in every respect but two.

First, we actually do have a serious shortage of landfill sites, because we create so much trash that there is a bulk transportation problem. Landfills need to be sited adjacent to cities-- and that land is precisely the land most coveted by developers. It's a big problem, and getting bigger the more expensive fuel becomes. We won't be dumping it all out in the salt flats, hundreds of miles away from home. It'll mostly have to go in someone's back yard.

Second, you say that elk, moose, bear and cougars are not intimidated by human beings. And I think that misstates what's going on today both out west and back east. Their habitats are being encroached on, and animals normally very shy of man have had no option but to remain in place while suburbia grows up around them. Once their home territory is no longer forested but put up in lawns, black bears and raccoons must forage in your trash can, and cougars have to hunt little Fifi the poodle because there's no more skunks and groundhogs.

The bison and elk in Yellowstone have no place to go where they're not surrounded by man. Fear in such an existence would be inappropriate, and would only lead to stress related diseases like hypertension.

BTW there is a great problem in the world at large now that we don't much see in America. The remaining natural forests of the world are being cut down wholesale to make tree plantations, such as oil palm and pulpwood operations. This makes economic sense because the only costs associated with taking virgin forest are those needed to bribe public officials of the host country. God's trees are free. Costs go up after the trees are gone, but you still have raw real estate, waiting to be developed. A lot of it goes into soy, the all purpose crop.

But thanks for the trash lore. I have a long time interest in the subject, and it's a pleasure to hear from someone who really knows how to talk trash.

Adam Smith was -- is -- right
As one who lives in the country and whose property has been the site of several illegal dumpings of my neighbor's trash, I can assert that this was not a problem until our county imposed ever more draconian fees on rubbish dumping in the county dump.

I can't help but think that the free market can do this better, just look at the absence of aluminum cans from the countryside since a market formed for such one-time waste.

By the way, in both cases where I found some citizen's pile of garbage on my land, I found letters with the dumper's name/address. A call to each, threatening to make a second call to the County Sheriff's office if the pile didn't immediately disappear, had the salutory affect of removing the pile from my property.

The environmental issues you mention for Utah have nothing to do with oil and gas production.

The first thing to note about the environment in Utah is that it has the second highest longevity of any state except Hawaii. People in Utah, despite being in a highly urbanized environment with several large extractive industries like the Kennecott mine and smelter, are NOT keeling over dead at a young age.

Logan's problem is NOT too many cars or smokestack industry. It is a high altitude mountain valley that has less air movement than most other places. It not only gets higher pollution buildup from its small population, it is also one of the coldest places in the 48 states in the winter. This is a natural problem more than a man-made one. I've personally never smelled anything in Logan, but the southern Salt Lake valley is notorious for the Draper Vapor smell that comes from the Jordan River wetlands (i.e. it is all natural!).

The EPA toxic release inventory under SARA Title III does not have a strong correlation with human health. The main polluters on Utah's list are on the west side of the Great Salt Lake, miles from major population centers, and the lake itself is an undrinkable solution of mineral salts, which is also the source of the stuff in the air emissions.

As an undergraduate student in 1971, I did one of the first analyses of air pollution movement in the Salt Lake Valley. I showed that the diurnal air movement between the valley and the lake meant that the air from the industrialized west side did not mix with the air on the urbanized east side.

I am not an advocate of clearcutting per se. Again, harvesting of cheap trees for paper pulp and of larger trees for lumber are two different things. We shouldn't confuse the two, which is the point of my original post.

As to cattle harming the land: Areas of Utah that have sustained cattle ranching for over a century seem to be just as diverse as the areas that have not. Some theories assert that the cattle replace the natural foragers that kept the soil broken and allowed diverse plant growth, instead of monocultures of dense scrub that grow and crowd out everything else. Areas of BLM land that do NOT have cattle grazing are being cleared of that scrub, which has a much more adverse effect in altering the NATURAL ecosystem than catle grazing does!

Again as to ANWR: The oil rigs, since they will use slant drilling, will occupay a very small portion of the land, mostly near the coast. The oil deposits are NOT located all over the ANWR. Most of the land will NOT be in visible range of an oil rig. MOst of the caribou will live their entire lives without seeing one. They will, on the other hand, be hunted every single fall of their lives by native Alaskans with rifles, who have done so for centuries. The herd can sustain a large p[ercentage of its members being killed for food and hides every year. The oil rigs will NOT be actively trying to harm the caribou, or any other wildlife. The oponents of ANWR drilling have not offered ONE example of an actual significant adverse effect from drilling the last 30 years on the North Slope. If there were an effect, it would be obvious. But it is just not there. The caribou, unlike some Democratic senators, do not become emotionally distressed at the site of an oil rig or a pipeline, or of people (whom they have always seen, especially on their southern range). If it doesn't scare a caribou to death to see a bear, why should it be scared to death just seeing a human? The coastal areas that would be developed are NOT critical habitat for any known species. They can live just fine on the other 99% of the ANWR. Anyone who thinks human habitation distresses animals should burn down their house and move back to Europe, because any land you use is being denied to wild creatures. The animals have a higher tolerance of normal human activities than Democrats do.

Outstanding response sir
Just the facts, just the facts. I like it that way. Nice job.

Cache Valley’s poor air quality is thought to be due to the combination of automobiles and agriculture. I have ridden my bicycle on "red air days" because the state asks people to not drive only to find myself coughing all evening.

The Cache Valley does not get odors from the Great Salt Lake. The odor is due to agriculture, the sewer waste treatment plant, and Miller Beef factory. With the entrained air, the orders build up, as do the pollutants.

The longevity in Utah has been studied. It has much to do with the particular genetics and not the environment. Utah used to have one of the higher rates of prostate cancer. I don't know if it still does or not. It also had many problems due to radioactive fallout during the nuclear test days.

Salt Lake City’s air pollution has not grown proportionate with the population because of automobile emission standards. That is good.

As for the TRI not correlating with public health, don't you think there is a lag time between pollution and health effects?. Also, you need to remember that the "T" in "TRI" stands for "Toxic".

But you are right that most of the pollution is taking place in the desert regions of the state that we think we have much more than we need. Of course that is now. We don’t know about in the future. Society may find these lands of value in the future. Perhaps a little precautionary principle should be applied. But as it stands, Utah and Nevada are the nation’s toxic waste dumps.

As for cattle not destroying the land, I think you ought to look into why the Mt. Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness Areas were proclaimed. The reason why they exist today is that cattle ranging had totally destroyed the watersheds. So the US Congress passed laws to protect these areas.

This same damage is occurring today throughout most of the Utah and Idaho national forests. It is even worse now because the Bush administration has lowered the grazing fees and raised the numbers of cattle and sheep allowable on much of BLM and National Forest lands.

The scrub that the BLM is clearing came about as a consequence of grazing. The sagebrush scrub took over as a because of what you call ‘a century of sustainable grazing’ and now the land is essentially useless. Ask yourself who I paying for this? Of course we are paying for this with our taxes. Then ask who is benefiting from this? Answer that question and you will be closer to understanding what is happening.

I am still at a loss as to what forestry has to do with drilling for oil in ANWR. But I think the science there is pretty straight forward. You drill, you kill. If not, then it really wouldn’t be an issue, would it? Looky here, you have the whole of the most powerful lobby on the face of the earth wanting to open that area up for oil. They always get their way because they have so much influence. The fact that they have not been able to get their way until now should tell you lots about the validity of the science opposing drilling. You can read about and see what happened to the North Slope. The same will probably happen in ANWR. The technology really hasn’t changed all that much in 20 years.

What is the context of this statement?
I am sorry but I missed where the statement about English came from...

And I guess it depends on how old your mummy or daddy is for the answer to your question about how they got rid of their waste to mean anything. But, having said that, what they "used to do" has no bearing what so ever on the conversation...I mean they "used to" put leeches on people in an effort to cure almost every illness. Would you suggest that we go back to trying that?

TCS Daily Archives