Two bad ideas that are supposed to be good for us

Ever use anti-bacterial soap? First, bacteria are supposed to be on our skin–the right kind of bacteria form an essential part of our body's defenses against disease and intruders. Second, if you use a soap with triclosan, not only are you helping to create bacteria resistant to one of the most important anti-bacterial chemicals used in hospitals, you are also sending a bacteriacide into the rivers and lakes and oceans and drains, where it persists and unravels the fabric of the aquatic ecosystem. Triclosan is not removed by the typical sewage treatment plant, it bio-accumulates, and it kills all kinds of microbial life, which is the foundation of the ocean's life.

(Alcohol, used in many hand-sanitizers, and vinegar, are alternatives that can be used as bacteriacides but which can be processed by the ecosystem without a problem.)

All of this is done in the name of making money. We live in a foolish society where money matters more than life. We create needs that don't exist and meet them with products that kill.

And it happens in the name of ecology, and not just in the name of sanitizing our lives.

CFL's, compact flourescent bulbs, are supposed to be an important way to cut down on CO2 emissions. They help some, sure, but they are laced with mercury, and they use many times the energy of LED bulbs. And now that they are basically required, they are being manufactured in all kinds of shoddy ways that give us plenty of bulbs that last a lot shorter time than an incandescent bulb. So what we've done is create a huge new stream of mercury that is entering the environment.

It's also true that the extra power it takes to light an incandescent bulb means, in our filthy energy economy, that more coal is burned, which also releases mercury into the air. But if you break a CFL bulb, your releasing mercury in a gaseous form in an enclosed space–that's many many times the mercury exposure that you might get in almost any other context, in a form that is absorbed directly into your lungs.

That's assumining your energy comes from coal. If it comes from other sources (e.g. natural gas, and of course, renewables all the more so), then your bulb is one drop in a mighty stream of mercury being poured into the ecosystem that would never have been released except because of our laws that are pushing CFL's.

CFL's are supposed to be good things. I'm not even touching on fracking and GMO's and all the other great ideas that are putting us in a worse position than we have ever been for survival–even if we were to stop global climate disruption now, which we are not doing. Not a pretty picture.

What about nuclear power, btw–another idea that has arisen anew as an alternative to CO2 emissions and global climate disruption? Well, the lethal products of nuclear power will outlast our species and many many other species. Some of those radionuclides will persist to harm all forms of life for as long as they exist on this planet. We can't figure out how to stop global warming, but we are going to figure out how to sequester lethal radioactive waste for many many times longer than human civlization has existed? Not likely.

It's bad enough for us to create conditions on this planet that will harm the lifeforms that exist now–the Cenozoic patterns of life typified (in the human mind) by birds and mammals. Life can evolve to meet the new conditions created by global climate change. We may or may not be part of that life, but it will continue. Shall we now also create conditions that will harm all the lifeforms that don't yet exist?

We need to be thinking very long term. Not just seven generations, but beyond the life of our species, to the worlds that will unfold over millions of years and not just over millenia, if we want to act responsibly now.

No Replies to "Two bad ideas that are supposed to be good for us"

    Got something to say?