We are producing and consuming plastic at an exponential rate, and at this point we are producing more plastic than ever before. The big problem with plastic is that it does not break down, in fact, according to GreenPeace – every piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists somewhere on the planet. That’s an alarming statistic, especially when you consider every plastic bottle, bag, wrapper, toothbrush, etc. By 2050 our oceans might contain more plastic than fish, and 80% of our tap water may contain microplastics if we don’t do something to change our current habits.
Fortunately, this problem is garnering a lot of attention and there are many initiatives designed to cut back, limit, and provide alternatives to our plastic consumption. The New Plastics Economy, for example, is aiming to reverse this problem by encouraging the plastics industry to design reusable plastic products. Others are looking to change the very nature of plastic altogether, and are searching for more alternatives.
Have We Found A Solution?
Scientists from the Centre of Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath have now successfully created a plastic that does not use harmful chemicals during production, which creates pollution. This new method is completely biodegradable, and it’s made from sugar and carbon dioxide – nothing more. CO2 is added to naturally occurring sugar from thymidine at very low pressures at room temperature.
This process creates a polycarbonate, which is a tough type of plastic that can make beverage containers, lenses for glasses, DVD’s, CD’s (in case anyone still uses those things 😉 ) and scratch resistant screens for cell phones. Typically, polycarbonates are made from petroleum and the chemicals that come from it. These plastics DO NOT biodegrade and we have been producing and consuming them at an alarming rate since the invention of plastics derived from fossil fuels in 1907.
It wasn’t until WW1 that plastics began being produced, plastic changed many aspects of our lives and even though it seems shocking to us now, it seems no one really thought about the potential long term effects of this exponential plastic production, where it would all end up and whether or not it would harm our environment.
Biodegradable Plastics Do Exist
Unlike the petroleum-based polycarbonates we’ve been using for decade, the plastics created by the team at the University of Bath can break down naturally. We have seen a few other examples of biodegradable plastics, but these attempts have been harshly criticized. As pointed out by the UN Environment Programmes chief scientist, Jacqueline McGlade, they were only a “false solution” because many of these alternatives would only biodegrade at temperatures of 50C. This isn’t exactly a common temperature in most parts of the world.
The plastic created by the scientists from the University of Bath do not need high temperatures to degrade. Instead, they can be completely degraded back into sugar and CO2 just by the enzymes which are found naturally in the bacteria located within the soil.
Another plus to this new plastic is that it is completely void of any and all toxic chemicals, so the production does not create any pollution. Also, most polycarbonates contain bisophenol-A, which you might know by the name of ‘BPA,’ it’s a known toxin and hormone disruptor that’s often used in drink and food containers. At certain temperatures, these toxins can also leak into our foods that we store in them.
What About Other Biodegradable Plastics Made From Sugar?
There have been other attempts, and successful ones in terms of their ability to biodegrade, but the problem with these is that the manufacturing process contains the use of a highly toxic chemical called phosgene. Phosgene was actually used as a weapon of chemical warfare during World War 1 and was responsible for 85% of the deaths caused by gas attacks.
According to the scientists of this newly developed plastic from the University of Bath,
“Our process uses carbon dioxide instead of the highly toxic chemical phosgene, and produces a plastic that is free from BPA,” said Dr Antoine Buchard, Whorrod Research Fellow at the University of Bath’s Department of Chemistry.
“So not only is the plastic safer, but the manufacture process is cleaner too.”
By selecting thymidine as the sugar used to create the biodegradable plastic, the university’s scientists may also have found a medical application for it.
“Thymidine is one of the units that makes up DNA,” said Georgina Gregory, a PhD student and lead author of the research paper.
“Because it is already present in the body, it means this plastic will be bio-compatible and can be used safely for tissue engineering applications.”
This Is Great News, But What Can We Do Now?
It is amazing to see that safer, cleaner, environmentally friendly alternatives are becoming available, but the fact of the matter is that they are not yet in widespread use and as consumers we must take responsibility for our actions and be the change we wish to see. Vote with your dollar!
There are many ways you can reduce your plastic consumption, here are just a few examples,
- Use a reusable water bottle
- Opt for no straw when at a restaurant
- Bring your own containers if ordering take out
- Say no to a lid at your coffee spot or bring your own reusable mug
- Use glass containers for storage of leftover food
- Try using alternatives to saran wrap
- Buy in bulk, using reusable bags
- Bring reusable bags to the grocery store
- Don’t purchase products packed in a ton of plastic
- Buy products that are made to last
- Simply stop consuming products that come in plastic i.e. Coca Cola
- Make your own personal care and cleaning products
There are so many ways that we can easily incorporate these changes into our daily lives and find ways to cut down on the amount of waste we are producing. If we don’t do this now, it is possible that it will be too late. It is up to each and every one of us to take responsibility, learn from our mistakes and be the change we wish to see. Do you want to be a part of the solution or a part of the problem? The choice is yours.
‘Jeffrey Epstein Committed Suicide’ Rules Medical Examiner
- The Facts:
New York’s chief medical examiner has ruled Jeffrey Epstein's death suicide by hanging.
- Reflect On:
How could the biggest most important witness of our lifetime die so carelessly before trial? Why is there still so much we haven't been told about this Epstein case?
New York’s chief medical examiner has completed their autopsy and ruled that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide by hanging himself his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City.
Epstein was awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges that had been reported for years but not much was done about them. His case is the highest profile case in a very long time involving many high level and elite figures and politicians. Due to this, many believe he may have been murdered, and regardless of this ruling, that may still be the case.
It appears Epstein fashioned a noose out of a bedsheet and hung himself from a bunk bed in his cell. Epstein was allegedly able to kill himself just days after being taken off suicide watch at the prison as he had previously attempted suicide. Just so happens, guards on duty at the prison reportedly left Epstein unsupervised for longer than prison regulations require, giving him the time to commit suicide.
If Epstein’s case is this high profile, and he is likely the biggest most important witness is perhaps our lifetimes, how is it that the prison could have let this happen so easily and carelessly? Worthy of questioning regardless of the medical examiners ruling.
More details to come.
The First & Only No-Kill State For Shelter Animals In The US Has Been Declared
- The Facts:
America has finally announced its first no-kill state: Delaware. All brick-and-mortar shelters in the First State have at least a 90% save rate which qualifies it as the very first full state working to lead a no-kill movement.
- Reflect On:
The no-kill movement is a beautiful one. It shows that the human-animal bond is not only seen and felt, but important enough to us as a collective to take action. Do you believe the goal of having all of America being no-kill by 2025 is attainable?
Sound the alarm! Happy news to share with you all today… Amid all of the perceived chaos that is taking over our screens and mainstream media, it’s always important to touch base on the good news that occurs. This week, Delaware has become the first official no-kill state for shelter animals, and I couldn’t be happier to hear and share this.
As not only a pet lover myself, but a cat-mom of 3 amazing shelter animals as well, I know and have seen the various traumas that can result from either life before being placed into a shelter or during their time there due to anxiety, etc. — and it doesn’t stop there. We’ve all heard the stories, and though I had yet to dive into the details myself personally due to not having the heart for it, it is a fact that some shelters rid themselves of ‘unwanted pets’ every cycle as the shelter seeks more room for new-coming potentials.
With that said, this is very BIG news — not only has Delaware taken on the task to reevaluate how its shelters are run and deal with overcrowding, but Delaware has also taken initiative in the ‘no-kill’ movement.
The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society, which is working with shelters, animal welfare organizations and government agencies across the country to make America a no-kill country by 2025, announced the news at their annual conference in Dallas, Texas.
Linda Torelli, director of marketing for the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which has three locations in Delaware and cares for more than 14,000 animals each year, credited a multipronged approach with helping the First State achieve no-kill status — and its citizens.
“The community in Delaware is very oriented to pet advocacy, so we had their support,” she told TODAY.
Brandywine Valley SPCA implemented numerous programs so that 95% of animals that enter the open-admission shelter find homes. Torelli said because cats are euthanized at twice the rate of dogs, the nonprofit instituted the practice called trap, neuter and return, aka TNR, to save the lives of feral or “community” cats that would otherwise be euthanized. In TNR, advocates humanely trap the felines, and veterinarians spay or neuter them before they are released back into the community.
Open adoptions — which don’t require time-intensive applications that involve things like home inspections but instead focus on matching a pet with a potential adopter’s lifestyle — help move animals more quickly through the shelters. – As reported by TODAY
We all either know someone or are that someone who has gone to a shelter and adopted their best friend at some point. And while we all aim to do our part, it’s a HUGE step to know that shelters themselves are now also taking initiative so that there is ‘no pet left behind’ if you will.
So many wonderful pets, companions, and memories are birthed thanks to adoption and it is beautiful to see that more intention is being set on creating a community that is aware of a movement to aid in eliminating the need to kill for the lack of insufficient adoptees. As a personal thank you to all of you who have or will adopt and welcome a new friend into your lives & homes – a reminder to remember you are saving a life when doing so. So, THANK YOU! And thank you, Delaware, for being the shift!
What Are The Hong Kong Protests All About?
- The Facts:
Protests in Hong Kong against an 'Extradition Bill' that threatens the freedom of residents have ramped up, to the point where the Hong Kong Airport had to be shut down and the Chinese army is closer to intervening upon this semi-autonomous nation.
- Reflect On:
Is Hong Kong now the central theatre playing out the struggle between Eastern and Western sociopolitical ideologies?
I decided to take on this article, first to inform myself better about the motivations behind the Hong Kong protests, which have been ratcheting up in recent days, and then to pass on a basic understanding to you, the reader, so that together we can follow the events going on in this allegedly ‘autonomous’ Chinese territory with some degree of context.
First, it must be understood that Hong Kong developed into a commercial powerhouse as a British colony, and its residents enjoyed some aspects of democratic freedom not available on mainland China. British rule of Hong Kong ended when it was returned to China in July of 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems.” The “Basic Law” constitution guaranteed to protect, for the next 50 years, the democratic institutions that make Hong Kong distinct from Communist-ruled mainland China.
The struggle for an expansion of democratic freedoms on the island have been ongoing in some form or another ever since, with some initiatives specifically supported by the “Basic Law.” Meanwhile, the national Chinese government has attempted to resist such reforms, and has been working to augment its own power and influence over Hong Kong:
- In 2003, Hong Kong’s leaders introduced legislation that would forbid acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government. But when an estimated half a million people turned out to protest against the bill, it did not go forward.
- In 2007, China delayed constitutional plans to implement universal suffrage in elections for the chief executive of Hong Kong until 2017; however, they added more seats for lawmakers elected by direct vote in a way that divided the pro-democracy camp.
- In 2014, the Chinese government introduced a bill allowing Hong Kong residents to vote for their leader in 2017, but the candidates still needed to be approved by Beijing. Massive protests led legislators to formally reject the bill, and electoral reform stalled. As a result, the current chief executive, Carrie Lam, was hand-picked in 2017 by a 1,200-person committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites.
In other words, it was not a question of if there would be another populist uprising in Hong Kong, but when.
New Extradition Bill Is The Catalyst
Earlier this year, Chief Executive Lam pushed amendments to extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to face charges. In some ways, this had a similar agenda to the bill introduced in 2003 that would have directly forbidden acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government.
This latest bill is a bit more subtle, but the end result would be the same: those Chinese dissidents who are working for greater autonomy from mainland China and full democracy in Hong Kong are de facto enemies of the state, since they are working to erode China’s power over the economic and political affairs of Hong Kong. And China wants to be able prosecute such activities.
Even before this bill, Beijing’s influence over Hong Kong had been on the rise. Activists have been jailed and pro-democracy lawmakers disqualified from running or holding office, while independent booksellers started disappearing from the city, before reappearing in mainland China facing charges. And so when the extradition bill came out, the population of Hong Kong clearly saw it as an attempt to undermine and subvert The “Basic Law” and give Beijing full authority to try pro-democracy activists under the judicial system of the mainland.
Protests started small, relatively speaking, but as we have seen with the Yellow Vest protests, attempts to crack down with a hard hand are not deterring people as much as they used to, and in fact protesters become emboldened by seeing an increase in participation. Here is an early timeline of the protests:
- March 31: the first protest was attended by 12,000 pro-democracy protesters according to organizers (police put the peak figure at 5,200).
- April 28: an estimated 130,000 protesters joined the march against the proposed extradition law (police estimated 22,800 joined at its height), the largest since an estimated 510,000 joined the annual July 1 protests in 2014. A day after the protest, Chief Executive Carrie Lam was adamant that the bill would be enacted and said the Legislative Councillors had to pass new extradition laws before their summer break.
- June 9th: while reports suggested it had been the largest ever, it was certainly the largest protest Hong Kong has seen since the 1997 handover, surpassing the turnout seen at mass rallies in support of the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and July 1st demonstration of 2003. CHRF convenor Jimmy Sham said that 1.03 million people attended the march, while the police put the crowd at 270,000 at its peak.
- June 16th: even though a day earlier Carrie Lam announced that she would suspend the second reading of the bill without a set a time frame on the seeking of public views, the pro-democracy camp demanded a full withdrawal of the bill, and went ahead with the rally, which the Civil Human Rights Front claimed saw the participation of “almost 2 million plus 1 citizens.” The government issued a statement at 8:30 pm where Carrie Lam apologized to Hong Kong residents and promised to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public.” Still, she did not meet the protesters’ demands of withdrawing the bill completely or resigning.
As the timeline goes forward beyond the suspension of the second reading of the bill, the protests have grown bigger, with more widespread involvement. It is impossible to list all the events that have taken place, but a good compilation can be found here.
Police have violently clashed directly with protesters, repeatedly firing teargas and rubber bullets. As well, it seems that there have been instances of unsanctioned pro-Beijing thugs on a mission to injure protesters, where police did not intervene. However, as political authorities are slowly learning in recent times, protests that resist strong-arm tactics see their demands grow beyond their initial grievance and demand reparations for state violence that has occurred during the protests themselves. Protesters have vowed to keep their movement going until these core demands are met:
- the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam
- an independent inquiry into police tactics
- an amnesty for those arrested
- a permanent withdrawal of the bill
The Geopolitical Context
The protests here are emblematic of a larger struggle between different systems of national governance. Hong Kong is a particularly unique case as it is a region that developed some mature institutions of Western Democracy while still always being tied to a major Eastern civilization.
Beijing has issued increasingly shrill condemnations of the protest but has left it to the city’s semi-autonomous government to deal with the situation. But that does not mean they cannot influence even more serious internal measures. On Thursday, Chen Daoxiang, the head of the Chinese army garrison in Hong Kong, said the military was “determined to protect [the] national sovereignty” of Hong Kong and would help put down the “intolerable” unrest if requested. The army released a promotional video showing tanks and soldiers firing on citizens in an anti-riot drill.
A tweet yesterday from the Editor in Chief of China’s state-owned tabloid, Hu Xijin, warns of an imminent showdown in the wake of protests at the Hong Kong airport that were so disruptive that the Hong Kong airport authority advised all passengers to leave the terminal buildings as soon as possible:
Hong Kong Airport canceled all remaining flights Mon afternoon due to illegal assembly. Central government still exercises restraints, and respects HK’s high-degree of autonomy under one country, two systems. But I have an intuition riots won’t be allowed to keep on like this. pic.twitter.com/ouFP3ON1Pj
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 12, 2019
There is an implied threat that the mainland Chinese army may get involved. Chinese military vehicles have gathered in Shenzhen, a city in mainland China bordering Hong Kong, and military exercises may soon be underway.
Of course, the actions of the Chinese government are being closely watched by the Western world, and there has been no lack of condemnation for the strong-armed tactics of police. The condemnation will only increase if the Chinese government institutes even more severe measures. Countering this, Beijing has ramped up its accusations that foreign countries are “fanning the fire” of unrest in the city. China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi has ordered the US to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form”.
Whatever happens, the people in Hong Kong seem quite steadfast in demonstrating that they don’t want to allow meaningful change to be kicked down the road any longer, and certainly don’t want any more limitations to their freedom. We will see how this struggle plays out this time around.
Before we start taking sides on the issues behind this protest, it is important to note that neither Chinese-style communism nor any current implementation of Western-style democracy present themselves as true vehicles for the full burgeoning of our individual sovereignty and our collective evolution.
Certainly the struggle in Hong Kong provides more and more individual citizens the opportunity to implicate themselves directly in our system of governance, and the ripple effect of this is that more people in the world will awaken to the fact that each and every one of us has an innate choice in the way we consent to be governed as a society.
Once we clear the veils of control-based deception and come to truly grasp our sovereignty and our ability to choose, we will then be in a much better position to give an informed consent to any social or political institutions we decide to create and maintain.
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