Conversations with Klaus
Halifax unveils impressive new recycling program
Letter to The Lethbridge Herald
28 November 2015
Less than 20 per cent of households in Lethbridge practise recycling. The recyclables of the other homes land in our landfill. However, households in Halifax, N.S. are no longer so wasteful. Their new recycling program is an impressive display of community co-operation.
Their program is concisely explained on two pages “How it works” and “What goes where.” To conform to the new rules requires effort. Containers which do not conform are labeled as incorrect and are not picked up.
Garbage is picked up every second week and is limited to number of clear bags or containers and their weight. Items which qualify as garbage are listed.
Recycled items and organics are picked up every alternate week. Items which qualify as recyclables are listed and go into tainted blue see-through bags. Paper and cardboard have separate specifications. Ready-to-serve containers are to be taken for refund at Enviro-Depots. Organics are placed in a specific green cart and items which do not qualify are listed, this includes grass clippings. For grass clippings visit halifax.ca/recycle.
Special Wastes are listed as paint, motor oil, batteries (call2recyle.ca) and electronics (recylemyelectronis.ca). Items which should be taken to the Special Waste depot are listed. Leftover liquid paint goes to Enviro-Depots, but almost empty paint cans go to garbage.
This is only a taste of the details. Residences of Halifax have recognized that household recyclables are controlled at source.
Last chance for the Castle Watershed?
Southern Alberta Group For the Environment
The Castle Watershed (CW) is an integral part of the Crown of the Continent which comprises Glacier National Park (Montana), Waterton-Lakes National Park and the Flathead Valley (British Columbia) west of the continental divide (see Miistakis Institute for map).
The (CW) has more diverse plants and animals than any other area of Alberta.
Since 1954 the area has been managed for multi-use purposes and consequently natural life has declined in the watershed.
The ecosystem has suffered from too many human intrusions, interfering in species interrelationships.
The following highlights our management of this special place over the last 100 years:
Before 1911: The CW was used by many species as asource of food and by humans also as a source of lumber. Fire, beaver and bison had the greatest impact on the land. The land and rivers were teeming with diverse life forms.
1911: The Dominion Forest Reserve and Parks Act was passed by the federal government.
1914-1921: The splendour of the CW made it an obvious inclusion in the Waterton-Lakes National Park.
1921: The CW is removed from National Parks status. The federal minster is believed to have yielded to forestry interests.
1930: Federal government passed ownership and administrative control of Public Lands, except national parks, to Alberta. The province managed the watershed for forestry and water use.
1921-1954: The CW was declared a game preserve. It was teeming with life. The day this game preserve status was lifted some 600 elk were taken by hunters.
1954-2015: The public lands of the CW have been administered as a multi-use area by Alberta Government agencies. The CW was never granted Special Place 2000 status.
1960-2015: The following public interest groups have campaigned for enhanced protection of the watershed and restoration of damaged sites: Alberta Wilderness Association; Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition; Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society; Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative; Crown of the Continent Conservation Initiative; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club Canada; Pincher Creek Chapter of the Alberta Fish and Game Association and Castle Special Place Citizen Initiative.
1993: The Natural Resources Conservation Board held public hearings and produced the Vacation Alberta Decision Report. These hearings offered a science based assessment of the area. The Report stated the requirement of the creation of a Waterton-Castle Wildlands Recreation Area, even if the Vacation Alberta Project were not to proceed. The report also included land-use and management guidelines. The decision was accepted by government but rescinded six months later. The CW continued to be a multi-use area under various management plans without enforcement.
2014: The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan recognized the need for more protection of the CW but offered only small steps: Wildlands Provincial Park for the alpine prime protection zone and Pubic Land Use Zone for the adjacent lower valley areas.
2015, Sept. 4: The Minister of Environment declared the entire CW a Wildlands Park (104,000 hectares, 260,000 acres) with a smaller provincial park to the east. Definition of enhanced protection management practices will follow as well as dedicated legislation in the Fall of 2015. Enhanced protection management practices will give the CW a chance to recover some of its splendour of 60 years ago. What level of protection will the public demand for this public land? How much leadership does the provincial government offer to recover some of the former glory of this watershed?
For the last 60 years the natural life of the CW had to endure human rules. It is our turn to use our foresight and apply the rules of nature for the CW to regain its health. This special place is not for human use only. We and natural processes are a unit and we need to work together. Can we do it? Can we get it right this time?
This is the last chance for us and the CW.
LETHBRIDGE HERALD OPINON ON OCTOBER 24, 2015.
Energy and greenhouse gases
Life is energy. All life functions are based in energy.
We cannot create energy. The energy we use is converted by us from other primary energy sources. All methods of converting energy require energy input. Thus, energy output requires energy input, or energy resources over input energy (EROIE).
This energy ratio differs for all conversion methods. For example, fossil fuels require little input energy but nuclear energy requires a lot of input energy for a plant.
All input energy is associated with greenhouse gas (GHGs) production. Only one output energy source is associated with GHG emissions, namely fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas and biomass). These fossil fuels are the main source of man-made GHGs.
Water vapour is a natural GHG and the most common of GHGs. Natural processes (fire, fermentation) and all human energy uses are associated with GHGs: Carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide. These human energy-use-related GHGs differ in prevalence, effect and duration of action. GHGs have been associated with climate change. This has driven the global attitude away from fossil fuels, towards the alternate sources of converted energy: hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear. Of these, the first three renew themselves.
In southern Alberta it was tempting to convert the winds into electricity with wind turbines. Thousands have been installed and transmission lines placed to move the output energy to users. But how GHG-efficient are they? What is the total GHG production from input energy needed for wind turbine design, construction, shipment to location, installation, operation, repair, and replacement and transmission lines? Has anybody evaluated the GHGs associated with the input energy and related it to the output energy for the local variable wind conditions? Have the wind turbine owners, the transmission line owners (taxpayers) or Albert Energy done it? Does anybody know?
The same considerations of GHGs/energy ratio over average period of time apply to other energy sources. Which energy source is to our greatest advantage? In the meantime, our global energy hunger is increasing to meet our ever-increasing “standard of living.”
LETTER TO THE EDITOR ON OCTOBER 29, 2015.
Decision-Making Process at City Hall
The recent public debate about the disposal of resources at our landfill prompted us to question the decisionmaking process at City Hall.
More than ever, managing a modern city is knowledge-based. The speed of adaptation of technology by the rapidly increasing population makes most issues complex. This applies to water/sewer management as it does to transportation, parks, or resources temporarily stored in landfills (examples of landfill mining to recover resources already exist). The complexity of issues of modern society requires detailed study by participating citizens and counsellors.
Our final decision-making body is City Council. The decisions they make is only as good as the information they were given or sought. We assume that such up-to-date information is provided by supporting departments such as Infrastructure, Planning, Parks, Law Enforcement, or Waste Recycling services, Economic Development Lethbridge, Environment Lethbridge, Council Environment Committee or Council Financial Committee.
If these city sources cannot provide the needed information, then they and councillors have to seek it elsewhere and share it amongst themselves. At this stage, it is not helpful to ask the general public for their opinion, because collectively they too will not know. It is also not helpful to ask various committees for their opinion, unless they can be assured that committee members were well informed. The same applies to the purchase of expensive consultants, whose recommendations are often difficult to ignore because of their expense.
Once City Hall has gathered the best information available for the issue at hand, an effective public information program needs to be instituted. Following this open public debate it is then fair to ask Councillors to make their final decision. This is what we ask of them when we vote for them. We trust that this decision is made in the resource, financial and environmental interest of the public for the long term. Piecemeal shortterm solutions are not helpful.
To reuse or recycle resources is indeed a complex issue and obviously not solved by present black boxes, expensive city recycling stations, or volunteer efforts. The disposed resources are just too valuable. We expect academic and research institutes and industry to lead in the correct management of these resources. Judge a community by its resource recovery operations which focuses on reducing, reusing (for same purpose), recycling (for other purposes), recovering (energy), before disposal is considered.
We are years behind other communities. Let us learn from them.
Southern Alberta Group for the Environment
Consumption: Human ownership of objects
On August 11, 2012 we had yet another garage sale to free ourselves from objects which we no longer need or to which we no longer feel sufficiently emotionally attached.
The article “Mine. Ownership of objects plays a critical role in human identity” by Bruce Hood in the September issue of Scientific American Mind, 2011 is relevant. Bruce Hood is director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol, England. The following is excerpted from this article.
Behavioural economics is unravelling the cognitive processes that lead humans to make decisions about ownership and transactions.
Humans place greater value on objects in their possession than on identical objects held by others. This is called the endowment effect. So far only humans show endowment for objects. Humans express this effect as early as 6 years old. Other primates exhibit the same effect but only in relation to food items not to objects. Just the prospect of eventually owning something like you are bidding for an item in an auction, makes you value it more, especially if you have had a chance to handle the item before buying it. Commonly accepted explanation for the endowment effect is that it reflects something called loss aversion. According to this theory, people consider a loss as more significant than an equivalent gain; in other words we fear loss more than we welcome gain. It is the emotional reactions to potential losses and gains that fuel the endowment effect.
Over the course of our lives we increasingly use objects to express our self-identity. This endowment effect is influenced by culture. Some cultures are less focussed on individual belongings and more on culturally meaningful objects that are frequently exchanged and shared within the community. Western culture, which is more individualistic, may produce a strong attachment to objects as an extension of self. The way society regards the self - whether attention is centred on a person as an individual or as a member of a group - appears to influence people’s attitude towards possessions.
Children see ownership as limited to their own possessions whereas adults possess and respect the belongings of others. Humans seem to have a deep seated need to own things.
Today manufacturing technologies have all but replaced the need for us to make things. Although we are said to be living in the age of disposables, we still retain a need to ownership. Children have the need for strong emotional attachments to sentimental objects such as comfort blankets and toys. Bonding with more than one object is rare and loss of IT is catastrophic. Children who sleep with their mothers have less need for these emotional objects. Extreme fondness for specific objects increases between the ages of one to three, plateaus between three and four, then drops around age six.
We are what we own. Young children will fight over toys and other items to establish self identity and dominance over others. Belongings define part of who we are. Because objects often serve as extensions of the self, we experience personal assault when our belongings are defaced or stolen.
In addition to contributing to our sentimental sense of self, possessions can also serve as an expression of personal preferences. Advertisers understand that costumers identify with brands; the more a brand signals success the more people want it (BMW, Rolex, iPods, Nikes etc.).
Needless to say it is all in the brain. When people look at objects they like their Nucleus Accumbens is activated, a region in the brain’s reward circuitry. When it is likely that we may own the object, at the right price, the Medial Prefrontal cortex is activated. When we sell a product at a lower price than expected the Insula becomes activated. This region signals discrepancy between anticipated goals and outcomes and could be regarded as the neural correlate of disappointment. When the Canadian 4 x 100 metre Olympic relay team had their anticipated medal removed, their Insular must have fired maximally. This activation was in proportion to the desire to own the “won” medal - the endowment effect.
Humans have strong loss aversion. A discrepancy between perceived value and the offered sale price produces a negative emotional response. It is not simply that we have a bias towards items we own, but we also feel bad about selling one of those items for a price below what we believe it is worth. Loss aversion.
So we are made. Technology has given us thousands of objects for potential ownership. We strive to own as many as possible within our means = consumption. We have difficulty giving them up for emotional reasons (mother’s mink coat) or price reasons (5$ for a set of china?) = stuff accumulation. Oddly our emotional ties to items which serve us is minimal. We have no difficulty dumping electronic items, cars or kitchen tools and replacing them with newer items.
There is hope: Cultural attitudes and imposed limitations appear to be able to overrule our natural tendencies.
Southern Alberta Group for the Environment