Recycled cars

I’ve already written about how waste has conquered the world through the rise of Convenience (read All hail the Goddess Disposability!), particularly in light of electronic rubbish.  But there’s a myriad of other gratuitous waste surpluses floating around the world.

Cars are just one of these.  Remember watching the cars on the road about 15 years ago?  You could pick the ‘rich’ people in town because they were the ones driving the few new cars, still shiny with the novelty of recent purchase.  Everyone else was still driving around in the first and only car they ever bought new, 5, 10 or even 15 years ago.  If it still started and stayed in one piece, there wasn’t really a reason to buy a new one.

Now, cars are designed specifically (yes, it’s true, I’m not being a cynic) to last only a few years.  You are encouraged to buy a new car every 5 years (and you thought the sudden rise of perfect competition in new car extended warranties was just your lucky day!).  The concept of dud car makes has become pretty much obsolete because EVERY make is built to run like a dream for the first few years. Continue reading

Engineering Nature

Humans are the greatest ecosystem engineers.  We’ve already altered most of the world’s land surface through mining, agriculture and urban development; we’ve modified marine ecosystems through introduced species, commercial fishing and shipping infrastructure; chemical pollutants from our greywater entering waterways are creating inter-sex fish; and light pollution from our cities, and even from ski-runs, is altering behaviour, reproduction and circadian rhythms of resident wildlife.

Now even the mere sound of our existence is reworking Nature.  Noise pollution from development, airports, mining, and road traffic has always been an issue, not just as an annoyance to our own communities, but as a threat to nearby wildlife.  Animals and birds can abandon their habitats through fright, or be driven out because the human-made noise makes it too difficult for them to find food or mates.  Many birds and even whales have been forced to change the volume, sound frequency or timing of their calls to ensure they are heard above the din of human existence. Continue reading

All hail the Goddess Disposability!

I think our future holds a problem even more pressing than climate change—the burgeoning issue of waste disposal.

Since the invention of Convenience, disposable everything has become commonplace and it’s beginning to catch up with us.  Once upon a time, milk was delivered to the house and poured straight into your own milk jug.  Store bought books and clothes were wrapped in cloth or newspaper to be carried home.  Food was bought from markets and put directly into your basket or wooden box, sans plastic wrapping.

It worked.  It may not have been the most luxurious way of living, but it worked.  But someone decided that it wasn’t good enough for us, and the Goddess Disposability was born.

At first there was just plastic in all shapes and forms with some glass, cardboard and aluminium thrown in for good measure.  But then we stepped it up a notch.  Everything from food cans to aeroplanes couldn’t be manufactured without at least one ingredient that was toxic, immutable or just plain unfriendly.  Hence, we have a problem. Continue reading

Supermarket ecology

I have an amensal relationship with my local supermarket—I give it money, it gives me rotten fruit and rancid yoghurt in return.

My fridge was low on fresh food the other day, so I headed off to my neighbourhood Superagora megabyssiae. Mine’s about 10 minutes up the road. It lies in wait like a huge concrete anglerfish, luring me into its automatic-opening jaws with its promises of “fresh food” and “everyday low prices”. I stood in the ‘fresh’ produce section eyeing soft apples, wilting lettuce and green potatoes with distaste. I even found a mouldy capsicum. And don’t get me started on the dairy cabinet. Continue reading