Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How we became 'Plastic People': Startling new documentary tracks global spread of toxic microplastics from the bottom of oceans to inside the human brain

"Toxic"? More scaremongering that totally misrepresents the fact that these particles are inert. They have to be in order to be used as freely as they are. So evidence that they can do anything is what is needed but is very unlikely to be found. Many of the things that we routinely eat -- such as most meat -- have greater potential for harm

A new film, called 'Plastic People,' has tracked the particle problem to the 1950s when the plastic industry convinced the public to abandon their thrift and frugality in favor of disposable products more beneficial to their bottom line.

The documentary team zeroed in on a 1955 LIFE magazine feature with the oddly euphoric title 'Throwaway Living' that celebrated a 'modern lifestyle' of single-use paper and plastic goods.

The article came with a photo spread of a happy family tossing all their single-use plates, cups and silverware up into the air like confetti.

The LIFE article positioned the plastic revolution as easing the burden on housewives by letting them toss dishes, cups and utensils in the trash and forgo hours of scrubbing and rinsing.

By the 1960’s, plastic had replaced other materials in the home like wood, metal, and glass.

Families began stocking cupboards with plastic tableware as companies produced them in an array of colors and at an affordable price.

The societal shift also saw people begin to furnish their homes with plastic-finished items like tables and couches.

Advertisements began to fill newspapers and magazines proclaiming plastic as the material of future that lets consumers create any shape with ease.

Then in the 1970s and 1980s, the world was introduced to bottled water, which was touted as a healthier solution to tap water.

Humans have continued to path of plastics to today - producing over 440 million tons of plastic waste each year.

And as the waste sits in landfills, it breaks down into microplastics, which are smaller than five millimeters in length.

'The first fact about microplastics is that they're everywhere,' said Addelman. 'You're breathing them in right now. There's nowhere on Earth you can avoid them.'

Microplastics enter our bodies through plastic packaging, certain food, tap water and even the air we breathe.

From there they enter our bloodstream and cause untold harm. In just recent years the tiny particles have been found in semen, the heart, breast milk, placentas, kidneys, livers and lungs.

The particles have been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease and dementia, as well as fertility problems.

Addelman noted that making Plastic People posed a unique challenge: how to illustrate a microscopic but pervasive problem.

'As far as a film goes, it's a tough subject,' Addelman said. 'It's an invisible and kind of literally 'hard to grasp' subject.'

Studies have estimated microplastics exposure cost the US healthcare system $289 billion in 2018 alone, in part because plastics do not decay back into natural organic molecules, instead retaining their synthetic chemical make-up as they get smaller.

And worse, thousands of hazardous chemical additives and precursors, including many of the now infamous cancer-causing 'forever chemicals,' come embedded in these microplastics as they seep deeper into humans and other living things.

Co-director Ziya Tong, Addelman and their film team traveled across the world — from Adana, Turkey to Portland, Texas; from Rome in Italy to Rochester, New York — interviewing scientists who investigate microplastics and shadowing their field work.

One researcher, Dr. Sedat Gündoğdu at Cukurova University in Turkey, walked filmmakers across beaches were fine grains of microplastics intermingle with Mediterranean sand and farmland where plastics absorb into crops as they grow.

Dr. Gündoğdu, whose work as a marine ecologist studying fisheries got him into tracking microplastics, showed Tong some of the first-ever evidence of microplastics crossing the blood-brain barrier in humans.

Tiny blue pigment from PVC piping had gotten past the barrier, a membrane that ordinarily helps keep any toxins in the blood from entering or harming the brain.

'If plastic can transfer from blood to brain, it can transfer from everywhere to everywhere,' Dr. Gündoğdu told Tong. 'It's really scary, but it's not surprising.'

While animal studies have previously shown that microplastics have been able to migrate into the brains of mice, the 15 samples obtained by Dr. Gündoğdu and his colleague, neurosurgeon Dr. Emrah Çeltikçi, appear to be the first in humans.

Tong said that more micoplastics were actually found in the brain samples than scientists could identify. 'It's one of the things that we don't talk about in the film,' Tong said.

'Because of the lack of transparency [from the plastics industry], there's a whole bunch where we don't know what the chemical cocktail actually is.'

'So he [Dr. Gündoğdu] was able to find these particles, but he's not able to identify them,' she explained, 'because they're not in the database.'

This week, the international Scientists' Coalition for an Effective Plastic Treaty will attempt to persuade UN member states convening in Ottawa, Canada to compel the plastics industry into reporting on what they produce for these public databases.


NY environmentalists’ next target? Individually wrapped cheese slices face ban under far-reaching bill

Hey! I use these. They prevent my cheese from becoming inedible if I don't eat it straight away. They REDUCE waste

Individually wrapped cheese would be largely banned under a far-reaching bill getting pushed by New York environmentalists and politicians to reduce the use of plastics, The Post has learned.

The state bill — called Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act — would require companies with net incomes over $1 million who sell or distribute food or products to reduce plastics and other packaging that ends in landfills or waterways by 50% over the next 12 years.

It would also impose a fee on companies that use plastic packages, with money going toward recycling programs and infrastructure.

“This legislation shifts the onus of recycling from municipalities and ensures that producers of products are serving our interests by establishing solutions to sustainable packaging,” Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Peekskill) said in a memo promoting the bill.

The typical New Yorker creates nearly 5 pounds of trash every day, which means the state produces approximately 15 million tons of waste each year, according to Harckham, who introduced the measure along with Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan).

“This waste primarily goes to landfills and incinerators, but can often end up in our water, natural habitats, and municipal spaces,” the memo said.

Four states have implemented similar programs — Maine, Oregon, Colorado and California.

One leading environmentalist backing the bill confirmed that the goal is to eliminate single slices of cheese packaged in non-reusable plastic, as well as other wasteful packaging.

“We have to do something about the plastic crisis,” said Judith Enck, president of the group Beyond Plastics.

Enck, who previously served as the federal regional administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency under then-President Barack Obama, said mico-plastic wrapping for cheese slices could be replaced with alternatives.

“There was a time in America when we didn’t put a piece of plastic between every slice of cheese. They can substitute plastic with paper,” she said.

She noted it costs New York City $420 million a year to transport and dispose of its trash to landfills and incinerators — and manufacturers should be doing their part.

“These companies have to take responsibility for producing the waste. They’re getting a free ride right now,” Enck said.

Other companies — such as Starbucks — are voluntarily reducing the amount of plastic used.

But the war on plastic cheese wrap and similar packaging is provoking a ferocious backlash from food manufacturers, supermarkets and the toy industry that package food and products in vacuum-sealed wrapping for protection.

“Under this bill, New Yorkers can expect a future where they’re grabbing unwrapped products – from cereals, to cheeses, to hot dogs – from grocery store bins before buying them and carrying them home,” said Nelson Eusebio, a representative with the National Association of Supermarkets.

“There’s no question such a drastic change in shopping habits will reduce the flow of packaging waste to our landfills, but it does so at the risk of ignoring all we’ve gained in food preservation and health benefits with sanitary, air-tight, plastic packaging.”

The law could mean higher grocery bills, he warned.

“For grocers, this structural change in how we sell goods will mean more of the food we’ve purchased landing in the dumpster rather than consumers’ grocery bags, only adding to the 25% increase we’ve seen in grocery store bills since 2019 – a faster price increase than housing, medical care, and most other categories,” he said. “Worse, so many of the products impacted are the household staples available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), hitting low-income earners the hardest.”

Owen Caine, vice president of the Toy Association, said plastic packaging keeps toys and popular dolls from breaking during transit and carries the appropriate labeling to insure safety.

“If we remove the current packaging tools without an existing, viable replacement, we’ll simply raise costs and put New Yorkers at risk of receiving faulty products that they cannot verify is legitimate and/or tested to ensure it is safe,” Caine said.

Anti-plastic packaging bills have been voted out of the environmental committees in the Senate and Assembly. It will now being reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Codes Committee.


In California, Newsom’s Energy Experiment Goes Awry

This Earth Day, which falls on Monday, California residents must be glad that their state accounts for less than 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions of the top 50 countries. Yet Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, still wants to achieve 100% net-zero carbon electricity by 2045.

With the highest effective poverty rate in America and some of the nation’s highest electricity costs, Newsom’s top priority should be to shift to energy affordability.

The intermittency of renewables such as solar and wind is one reality plaguing the Golden State. Another is the fact that the state’s transmission lines are sparking many wildfires, exacerbating problems with an increasingly strained and poorly maintained electrical grid.

In October 2017, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s equipment caused 16 fires in California. By 2021, California experienced roughly 7,000 wildfires, some still resulting from trees and other flammable detritus hanging on transmission lines, which are PG&E’s responsibility to remove.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has estimated that “average annual losses” resulting from wildfires from 2017 through 2021 totaled over $117.4 billion. These incidents have led to numerous lawsuits against the utility and repeated bankruptcy restructurings.

As part of the bankruptcy reorganization plan, PG&E was forced to adopt an Enhanced Oversight and Enforcement Process to manage vegetation. Despite missing every fire-risk-reduction target of its bankruptcy reform, the utility claimed that it couldn’t afford to keep its 5,500 tree trimmers on payroll. Instead, it wanted to distribute over $187 million in stock bonuses to the top 400 executives and employees—almost half a million dollars per recipient.

Facing financial strain and pressure to transition to renewables, the utility raised rates and saw profits increase by 25% in 2023. Over the past 10 years, PG&E customers have seen rates increase 127%, disproportionately affecting the poor, small businesses, and farmers.

Additionally, the Californian Public Utility Commission adopted new guidelines on net energy metering, which drastically reduced payouts for rooftop photovoltaic solar panels. Due to these needed reforms, rooftop solar sales have declined by about three-quarters since 2022. Currently, 75% of solar installers are considered “high risk,” with over 100 companies already filing for bankruptcy.

Despite these regular curtailments of solar panels, a joint report from the California Air Resources Board and other state agencies anticipates that electricity generation capacity will need to triple by 2045 to meet the state’s net-zero carbon goal.

Since solar and wind output vary with weather and time of day, California’s power grid will rely more on carbon-intensive natural gas “peaker” plants rather than on low-carbon, combined-cycle natural gas plants and carbon-free nuclear plants.

State law now requires zero-emission vehicle sales to be 35% of total sales by 2026 and 100% by 2035. Some have equated these energy policies to a new “Green Jim Crow,” as the policy disproportionately will impoverish the most disadvantaged Californian communities. The Public Policy Institute of California found that nearly a third of Californians live in or near poverty, and this policy will only exacerbate this situation.

If Newsom’s vehicle regulations are fully implemented, California would require drastically more electricity.

The California Energy Commission projects that transitioning to electric vehicles would require an additional 1.2 million charging stations by 2030 to accommodate the mandated 7.5 million EVs.

With a deficit of 54,000 installations in 2021, the goal of 250,000 chargers by 2025 is already out of reach, even with the $63 million federal grant approved in January.

This policy malfeasance of requiring massive electrification without drastically increasing grid capacity already has been felt. In August 2022, shortly after Newsom’s electric vehicle rule became state law, California faced a 10-day power shutdown. Subsequently, the governor announced that citizens should refrain from charging their electric cars—a few days after Biden Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm praised Newsom for pursuing his green energy agenda.

Newsom’s green energy policy experiments, such as the 2022 comprehensive energy bill, could result in an additional electricity cost of $830 a year per person to California residents. Only reality stands in the way of his plan for a net-zero power grid and automobile fleet by 2045.

Newsom’s policies have cost state residents almost a million jobs over the past five years. Millions of Californians have left for other states, with almost two-thirds of Californians considering following them.

Despite the increase in energy and transportation costs that will result if similar policies are pursued nationally, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken Newsom’s lead with its new tailpipe rule, which would mandate that 70% of new vehicles sold will be electric plug-in capable by 2032.

As we observe Earth Day on April 22, we should hope that any emulation of the failed Californian experiment will be stopped before such bad policy experiments further reduce economic growth.


Australia: Zombies cast fear across renewables dreamland


Last Thursday, the Queensland parliament passed a law committing the state to reduce carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2035. Debate resumed at 11.44am, and the Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Bill was done and dusted in time for lunch. Back-slaps all round.

At 4.32pm on Friday, Ark Energy announced it was withdrawing its application to install 42 wind turbines at Chalumbin in far north Queensland following advice that the federal Department of Climate Change and Energy was about to reject it.

The meagre odds that Queensland can meet its legislated emissions target using renewable energy are now too small to be visible under a microscope.

For the wind industry, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s rejection of Chalumbin is its Franklin Dam moment. It was a test case of the federal government’s willingness to weigh the environmental cost of installing turbines against the assumed benefits of low-carbon electricity.

Last July, when I drew national attention to the Chalumbin proposal in The Australian, I opened my column by noting that it would destroy 1000 of the remaining 8000 hectares of wet sclerophyll forest, the buffer zone between the rainforests and the open plains to the south.

Nine months later, the minister reached the same conclusion, telling The Guardian at the weekend the forest “provides a vital habitat for many birds, plants and animals, including the spectacled flying fox and the northern greater glider”.

Her decision measures how far the wind industry’s fortunes have sunk since June 2022, when the Queensland government approved the Chalumbin proposal under the corner-cutting assessment process. It applies to anything with the word “renewable” attached.

Bulldozers were ripping swathes through hundreds of hectares of remnant native forest at nearby Kaban, blasting 330,000 tonnes of rock and dirt from the sides of hills to build access roads and turbine pads bigger than football fields.

All of this was occurring without a squeak from environmental groups, every one of which appeared to have swallowed the renewable energy Kool-Aid and, in some cases, its cash.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen set a target of installing a giant 7MW wind turbine every 18 hours until 2030. He boasted of the number of projects in the pipeline, the implication being they were just a short step away from approval.

Today, the renewable energy industry has a name for projects that slip off the back of the pipeline: zombie projects. Last year was the worst year for the financial approval of renewable energy projects since 2016 and the worst for wind since 2015. The latest Green Energy and Investment Markets Review reports the window is closing fast on the government’s 2030 target.

Assuming an average of two years for construction, 8GW of new projects must receive financial approval every year from 2024 until 2027. That is almost five times higher than the amount approved in 2023.

Bowen could ill-afford the 400MW Chalumbin project to fall into the zombie zone, particularly since it was backed by Korean Zinc, a cashed-up corporation keen to get a slice of Australia’s renewable energy action.

Chalumbin signals to renewable energy speculators that the Dirty Harry days are over. The environmental costs of wind, solar, hydro and transmission will no longer be overlooked because of their assumed noble goal.

Now Plibersek has knocked back Chalumbin, it is impossible to see how she can approve the Upper Burdekin project in an equally sensitive area 4.8km from the boundary of the Wet Tropics World Heritage area.Global tech giant Apple read the writing on the wall a year ago when it walked away from an agreement to buy power from the proposed plant. Andrew Forrest, whose WindLab company is behind the project, might as well throw the towel in today.

The odds must be rapidly closing against Mt Fox, a 350MW wind turbine project in mountainous remnant forest on the edge of the wet tropical Girringun National Park, 50km southwest of Ingham. From there, the ruler must be run through cascading proposals hugging the Great Dividing Range to the Darling Downs. Few, if any, will be situated in already degraded environments since developers seek ridge lines that are unprofitable and, in many cases, impossible to farm. The remnant bush line has provided sanctuary for enough vulnerable and endangered creatures to fill Noah’s ark.

The Chalumbin precedent subjects every proposal to potential trade-offs. How many hectares of bulldozed koala habitat are too many? Which species are so unlovely, small or insignificant that we are prepared to sacrifice them in order to save the planet? If the same rules that apply to mining were applied to wind, solar and pumped hydro, the jig would be up.

Plibersek will be aware of her decision’s taming effect on the animal spirits of renewable energy speculators. On Saturday, she issued a keep-calm-and-carry-on press release announcing she had approved 63 wind turbines at the aptly named Mt Hopeful in central Queensland. “I’ve now ticked off 46 renewable energy projects … and we have a record 130 renewables projects in the approval pipeline.”

Yet the minister’s tick does not make Mt Hopeful immune from zombification. The developer, Neoen, still struggles to make the numbers stack up. Costs are ballooning as it discovers that making a project work on a spreadsheet is very different from making it work on planet Earth.

Even the environmental movement is waking up to the realisation that wind turbines might not be the answer to their prayers. Bob Brown, the father of the green movement, led the campaign to stop turbines chewing up birds in his home state of Tasmania. In Victoria, wetland conservation groups opposed the proposed terminal for offshore wind construction at the Port of Hastings, which Plibersek blocked in January.

The Chalumbin decision brought Queensland conservationists scurrying out of the woodwork to make out as if they had opposed the proposal all along. A year ago, all the Queensland Conservation Council was prepared to say publicly was that the issue was “complicated”. On Friday, the Council declared the Chalumbin decision as “welcome”.

“Today, our community breathes a sigh of relief as those important bits of nature remain intact,” said Lucy Graham, director of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre.

It is too early to declare that the renewable craze has peaked, but that moment is a step nearer in Queensland, where expectations rise of an LNP victory at the state election in October. LNP leader David Crisafulli’s decision not to oppose Labor’s legislated target invites an intriguing question.

Since the LNP has pledged to pull back Labor’s renewable excesses, might Crisafulli be the first Coalition leader to seek an electoral mandate for lifting the ban on nuclear?


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM )

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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