Is recycling in the North really a good idea?

I’ve been having trouble with the whole concept of recycling in the North lately. As in: is it really a good idea?

The first two R’s I have no problem seeing the value of: reduce and reuse. Yeah, they just make sense on so many levels.

But recycle? In some ways, it doesn’t seem to fly for the far North. For example, I’m having trouble grasping how the concept of shipping garbage thousands of kilometres to undergo a toxic material retrieval process makes sense. It seems we’re just trading visible garbage (landfill) for invisible garbage (air pollution).

I’ve been doing some research on the subject but have come up largely empty handed. Does anyone know of any research that has been conducted on the subject of long-range recycling and its effects on the environment?

I’m particularly interested in learning just how much pollution is generated through the process of recycling materials in an environment such as Whitehorse. How do we measure the air pollution generated by thousands of people driving their Yukon beaters down to idle for fifteen minutes at Raven once a week, of the heavy machinery used to manage and compact the garbage at Raven, of the trucks that carry the garbage thousands of kilometres to be recycled?

What other negative environmental impacts of recycling in a northern community might exist?

And then how do we compare that to the potential impacts on the local environment if a recycling program weren’t in place?

In other words, how do we measure the total value of a northern recycling program against its environmental impact?

The recycling paradigm seems to be an established fundamental aspect of urban environmental management; but does that paradigm extend to the North?

So many questions…

High-speed Chinese train kicks French, Japanese butt • The Register

The Harmony has a top speed of 394kph (245mph), and during its inaugural run it averaged 350kph (217mph), well faster than the 300kph (186mph) “maximum service speed” of France’s TGV and Japan’s Shinkansen, aka Bullet Train.

By contrast, the FT points out that it takes the US’s Amtrak Acela Express three and a half hours to traverse the 300km from Boston to New York City – although that train has hit 217kph (135mph) in time trials.

Considering that we can’t have anything on our lap on a plane anymore (thanks a lot, Umar Abdulmutallab; quick, somebody nominate him for the Darwin Awards), train travel become ever-more attractive. Especially with this new Chinese line in action.

via High-speed Chinese train kicks French, Japanese butt • The Register.

Dogs vs cats: The great pet showdown – life – 09 December 2009 – New Scientist

“THE world is divided into “dog people” and “cat people”, each passionately believing that their preferred pet is superior. Until a decade ago, there was very little scientific evidence either camp could muster to support its claims. Then animal behaviourists became interested in dogs and unleashed a pack of ingenious experiments testing canine capabilities and cognition. Recently, researchers have started doing similar work with cats. Could it be time for that showdown?”

via Dogs vs cats: The great pet showdown – life – 09 December 2009 – New Scientist.

The Gap in History


It’s 100 years or so from now.

A young girl pulls an ancient box out from under a bed.

Its clear body is blemished with age.

A cloud of dust stirs around her as she pulls it across the floor and sits down beside it. The girl glances quickly at the door. She’s being secret, doesn’t want to be discovered.

The morning sun pours in through the window behind her as she carefully lifts the cracked lid off the box. Its fragility is almost unbelievable as it flexes slightly. She looks at the word on it: Rubbermaid.

Plastic. She’s been told this is plastic.

Inside she finds more plastic, only it’s different.

Continue reading

We Humans Are Nothing Without Technology

Humanity is a strange concept. I don’t even know if we get it any more.

We seem so prone to disqualify it, to deny it’s relevance as a contributing factor in our designs and actions.

Governments are inclined to disengage from basic humanitarian values and needs in order to push forth fundamentalist political concepts.

Businesses promote altered states of reality with the designed intention of affecting what it means to be human.

Then, of course, there are geeks like me. Continue reading

The Day I Met Terry Fox

It was just before I turned 9.

My mom drove me and my two little sisters out to a barren shoulder on the highway to wait. It was probably somewhere around Burlington, where we lived at the time.

We sat in the car and watched a few other vehicles show up. My sisters and I were probably fidgety and uncooperative.

We watched him come from a long way down the highway. There were police cars, I think. And a white van led the way. It seemed that he took forever to reach us with his steady, limping gait. But I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

When he arrived he sat down in the sliding side doorway of the van and had some water, then caught his breath.

I walked up to him and he looked at me and said something. I was so bashful, all I could do was lift up my hand and offer him my week’s allowance. It was maybe a dollar or two. He took if from me and said thank-you.

And then it struck me: he was honestly grateful. My measly two bucks was actually of significance to this man and his cause. My little contribution mattered. I was gratified. And probably honoured, if I even knew what honour was at that age.

He reached out to shake my hand. I held his hand. It was sweaty and warm. His grasp was firm, gracious. Then I looked at him and noticed how sweaty he was. He looked tired, there was a sense of exhaustion about him. But his blue eyes shone, glowed even. I didn’t want to let go of his hand.

It was a quick stop. And then he was gone, headed down the highway. And I felt this yearning sense of wanting to spend more time with him.

That was the day I met Terry Fox.

Visit the Terry Fox Foundation.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace: Social Media or Selfobject Media?

I don’t believe that today’s most popular sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, can be considered “social” media in the proper sense of that term. As I examine and observe the activities of people within these environments I recognize that there’s more a quality of egoism than socialization. People come to Facebook not to interact, but to redefine themselves and express that new definition of self within a controlled environment. The same goes for Twitter, MySpace, and other so-called social media environments.

There is no possible way for the true “self” to exist online. And, besides, why would we want to re-project ourselves into an artificial realm with all our flaws and blemishes? What we instead project into these environments is an idealized version of ourselves.

This stream of thought lead me to examine “psychoanalytic self psychology,” a school of thought developed by Heinz Kohut, MD (1913-1981). Drawing on Freud’s work, but rejecting much of it, Kohut focused on one’s need for empathy to reconcile with developmental issues that resulted from an individual’s relationship to his or her parents in early childhood. The adult product is a collection of “selfobjects” that we each generate and depend on to support our own sense of self, and to provide ready access to a form of empathy.

To my mind, there is no better self0bject than a “social” media site. We each construct a favourable environment online that is conducive to maximum empathy, and feed that need through artificial communication: me reject or block those people who do not provide empathy, embrace and engage those that do. These sites are a constant display of our egos logically satisfying our hungry ids as public selfobjects. (I realize I’m mixing my psychoanalytical theories there, but WTF.)

That’s why there is such a disparity between the sites in terms of what age groups they tend to attract. Different age groups would have been brought up in different fashion and been provided different levels and forms of empathy from parents. Each “social” media site provides empathetic feedback in a fashion conducive to the needs of these age groups.

So I wouldn’t call Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and their ilk “social” media sites, so much as I’d call them “selfobject” media sites. They are not about how we engage others, or even how we exist in society. They are about how we optimize empathetic feedback via a conduit of optimized self-recognition.