Culturally Inept

by bicyclemark 9 Comments

Whenever I come back to NJ, I expect to see changes. Not so much people, as of course there are always changes there, but I’m speaking more about changes to this place; suburban NJ, the suburbs of New York City and Newark.  I expect to see some new buildings, new construction projects, and generally speaking.. signs of a new era… new ideas… the future. Among those changes for the new era, I keep a close eye out for developments related to energy conservation, pollution, and sustainable living.

As is typical for much of the US, this region is especially a hub for car culture.  You can hardly do anything without an automobile, so while in Amsterdam it seems that everyone rides a bike, in New Jersey it seems that everyone drives a car.

Every year I return and end up, naturally, in a car on a highway.  This year it is no different, but considering the fact that global warming has finally reached the mass audience and seemingly has been accepted as a problem, I expected to see some changes.  Smaller cars perhaps.  More of those hybrids people talk about.  Less people driving or at the very least, less cars with only 1 person in them.  In each of these cases, besides the occasional hybrid, I’ve seen almost none of these things. Just like 7 years ago, back when I still lived here and global warming was a myth, there is nothing but cars  and traffic jams.  If anything they’ve gotten worse, more cars leading to traffic jams all over this state at any given time of day.

As I visit people’s houses and walk the streets, I look for signs of energy conservation.  Solar panels? I guess that was wishful thinking; there are none.  More people turning off lights and turning down the heat? No one seems to mention it or think about it.  Plenty of those little flourenscent bulbs, that is about the extent of the energy saving practices I see adopted.

At any shop you find lots of green labels and references to all-natural, clearly people want to feel better about their choices and actions.  But seeing the amount people here consume; whether its goods or energy, despite everything they know about their impact on the planet… none of it has slowed down. If anything, this state, like much of the world, seems to be marching even more quickly towards environmental holocaust.

bm228 The Polish Highway Debate

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

One of the newer members of the European Union, Poland plans to build a highway to the Baltic states. However part of that highway would run through an ecological preserve. The classic debate begins, development versus conservation. Economy versus Environment.

First guest is Peter of the Beatroot, who blogs on Poland and Eastern European Affairs.
Second guest is Ellen Townsend of Birdlife International in Brussels

Discussion Includes:
– The proposed highway
– The reasons for construction
– The route it takes and the risks involved
– public opinion locally and nationally in Poland
– the view from brussels
– EU environmental regulations
– Lobbying Brussels
– Alternate Plans
– The state of the case
– European Court of Justice
– Development versus environment


Highway Through Poland

by bicyclemark

With all the problems related to automobile exhaust and the destruction of wetlands throughout the world, I didn’t expect to hear that an EU nation was pushing to build a new highway through wetlands in order to connect to neighboring countries. But that is what has been going on in Poland.

It is not a new story, but it is an unresolved issue that seemingly doesn’t make the radar of most European media. Or if it does, it is summarized in brief in a tiny little column.

In the latest reports I’ve found at this moment, construction of the highway has been haulted because of pressure from the EU. But the fact that the Polish government wanted (and still wants to) execute such a project despite all that we’ve learned in the last decades about how important natural preserves and wetlands are. Somehow having a highway from Poland to Finland is more important that maintaining an ecosystem when so many have already been destroyed.

This might call for a conversation with the great blogger and journalist in Poland, Mr. the Beatroot. I’m especially interested in just how these plans can be reversed and the opinions of Polish people and other follow citizens on this continent. Building a highway.. how 20th century. Build a high speed rail line, or better yet.. a maglev train… whatever you do, plan for the future with what we’ve learned from the past.

Researching Gold Crimes

by bicyclemark

For the past week I’ve been researching the activities of gold mining companies around the world. I’ve narrowed my focus to two places, Chilé and Romania. In both places it is one mining company above all, that is focused on extracting gold despite whatever risks to the environment or communities that may involve.

In the coming weeks I intend to have a few podcasts on both places and on this topic. Eventually I may hitchhike my way over to Romania in the coming months and see things with my own eyes, make some video entries about it.

But at this point I wanted to start the conversation about the practices of mining companies, and specifically the gold mines. Barrick Gold is a Canadian company, which of course, tarnishes my naive hopes that all things Canadian are considerate and kind. This company is one of the largest mining operations in the world; in Chilé they are set to mine under glaciers, insisting that the exact spot where they are mining, no glaciers will be harmed even though the area has several. As if the world was so brimming with glaciers that it would be no big deal to go and destroy one in order to extract gold. In Romania they’ve been trying to buy out an entire community and create Europe’s largest open pit gold mine. Unfortunately for them, many of the people living there do not want to sell their land and let it be cut open. As you would expect, some are very ready to sell and to hell with whatever happens to their former home. While surrounding communities are concerned about the amount of pollution they will suffer because of that type of mining going on near them.

Of course there is much more to all these stories, and I’ll get to it. But right now, what bothers me most of all is that so much of this destruction is done for getting…. gold. Gold that does what for people exactly? Does it even power anything or help build something useful for human life? A friend of mine called it “free money”. Of course it costs money to actually mine it, but still… all this destruction and conflict because this mineral is so valuable in some bullshit in-humane place called “the market”.