It's not just the economy stupid

“I AM shocked, truly shocked,” says Katey Walter, an ecologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. “I was in Siberia a few weeks ago, and I am now just back in from the field in Alaska. The permafrost is melting fast all over the Arctic, lakes are forming everywhere and methane is bubbling up out of them.”

(New Scientist).

It’s not just our economy that’s going down the tube.

Happy Thursday everybody.

Failing to punish

Clifford Fenton, who lives in the beautiful Glen of Imaal in County Wicklow, allowed his land to be used for illegal dumping. Up to eight thousand tons of waste was illegally dumped there over a number of months in 2001 (RTE News, 9th report).

The waste, which originated from the Mater Public and Blackrock Clinic hospitals in Dublin, included – Blood contained in tubes, blood stained bandages, used incontinent pads, sharps such as scalpels and needles, bodily fluids and laboratory waste. There was also construction, chemical, domestic and animal carcasses.

For most sane people this is a very serious crime. It’s one of those crimes that has the potential to cause massive environmental damage not to mention the serious risk posed to people. It’s the sort of crime where a strong message needs to be sent out by judges so that others will be deterred from such reckless activity.

Unfortunately, the judge in this case would not agree. He fined Fenton a paltry €70,000 saying that he wasn’t a serious player in the scam. This is like saying somebody who supplies a murder weapon is only a minor participant.

The owner of the waste disposal company and a truck driver are awaiting sentence. What punishment can they expect from this judge– an all expenses paid FÁS holiday to Florida perhaps.

Hard to believe but true

Dublin City Council has admitted that they are incompetent, that they are not up to the job of keeping the city clean and generally well run. This is despite the millions they receive from the State and hard pressed traders by way of penal rates (Liveline, Wed 19th Nov).

In order to resolve the problem DCC have set up a private company to make itself more accountable. The new company, called BIDS (Business Improvement District) Scheme, has a team of ambassadors who patrol the streets with clipboard, pen and camera compiling a daily log of every bin not collected, every street light broken, every wayward scrap of litter.

The ambassadors have no legal powers but do meet with DCC officials once a month to present them with a file of their daily logs, which, we are told will result in DCC becoming efficient and accountable.

At first glance it seems like a good idea, traders not happy with DCCs performance can opt to employ the company or even become a member in order to get things done. But that’s the catch, membership is compulsory, all traders must become members and pay an annual fee of €500.

One trader called the whole scheme insane. She pointed out that in addition to penal rates traders also have to pay for bin collection, water and even damage caused by vandals and now they have to pay this additional €500 to get DCC to do the job they’re already paid to do.

One trader in favour of the scheme argued that the company arranges for floral displays, Christmas lights and the removal of chewing gum stain.

Joe pointed out that there’s already a tax for gum removal but the trader quickly retorted. No, that’s for the removal of gum but not the stain. We employ a powerwash company to come in and remove the stain left after the gum has been removed – I mean, can you get any more Irish than that?

Ok, we all know what’s happening here. DCC needs money but don’t have the neck to impose yet another direct tax so they create a new indirect tax collecting agency. And when they need some more dosh they’ll simply create another company to monitor the company that monitors them.

What continues to astonish me is how docile the traders are; they come on Liveline and complain but take no direct action like just refusing to pay what is an unjust tax.

Fianna Fail Cllr. attacks delinquent trees

“I am sick of trees all over this city causing annoyance at one level or another for residents.”

With this comment Fianna Fail Cllr. Michael Crowe brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘Fianna Fail backwoodsman’.

Crowe was giving out about problems caused by trees in and around Galway city (The Last Word, Today FM). Here’s some of what he had to say.

“While trees serve a very worthwhile purpose across the city and country definitely they are causing significant difficulties and it is becoming a hazard for communities and residents.”

According to Crowe these trees were hiding (deliberately?) some very anti social behaviour like illegal drinking and illegal dumping. He didn’t say whether the trees themselves were also involved in these activities.

From a distance, according to Crowe, everything looks fine but the reality is somewhat different. These trees are harbouring dangerous rodents just yards away from where our children are playing football.

“We’ve got to cut them down. You wake up one morning and the trees and vegetation are out of control, you just don’t know what’s happening in there.”

“I’ve had a significant problem with a number of trees both individual trees and trees in residential areas, trees that are too tall and pose a danger to people’s houses.”

The Cllr. didn’t actually name any ‘individual’ tree but we can assume he’ll have no problem identifying the culprits, if required, in any subsequent police line up.

I have to say it’s a very strange case but if what the Cllr. says is true, if the trees really are responsible for illegal drinking and dumping, if they’re providing shelter for nasty rodents, if they are deliberately attacking human by growing too tall with the intention of falling on houses then there’s only one thing to be done – Kill, kill, kill them all.

I do, however, disagree with the good Cllr, on one point. The trees shouldn’t be summarily executed. They should be arrested, put on trial and only then executed.

After all, humans, unlike trees, are civilised, intelligent creatures, masters of nature and guardians of the future of the planet.

Copy to:
Cllr. Crowe

Groundhog Day in the West

Six One News report (8th item) Thursday 24th January.

A report by the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that nobody is to be prosecuted as a result of the recent (very serious and dangerous) water pollution problems in Galway.

The report says:

“Rather than hauling people through the courts it’s going to work to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”

Later, in the same report Dr. Diarmuid O’Donovan, Director of Public Health, HSE West stated:

“The report confirms that there are water supplies around the country that are at high risk, that people could be exposed to contaminated water. We could have more seriously ill people; we could even have deaths due to contaminated water.”

Let’s hear that again – The EPA couldn’t be bothered prosecuting those responsible for allowing water to become contaminated even though people are being put at risk of serious illness or even death.

Instead they’re going to work to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Six One News report (15th item) Friday 25th January.

More than 30,000 people living in two West of Ireland towns have to boil their water as a result of new water contamination problems…

Copy to:

Stupid 'entertainment'

A recent episode of the popular BBC programme TopGear featured a race to the North Pole between a traditional sled and a heavily modified Toyota pick-up truck. It was the first time a car had been driven to the North Pole.

The show made great television but ultimately it was a depressing demonstration of human stupidity. The show had no value other than the ‘entertainment’ of television viewers.

As always with this kind of stupidity the impression was given that this was a heroic event; man against the elements, striving to prove the unrivaled courage and determination of the human species.

It was, of course, no such thing. The ‘stars’ of the show were supported and protected by a large group of other humans with more vehicles, aircraft, film crews and mechanics.

Much was made of the courage of the ‘stars’ as they struggled through bear infested country. In fact they were never in any danger whatsoever. They were armed with what the programme production notes described as a plentiful supply of “anti-bear weaponry.”

Should any of these magnificent beasts get in the way of this human entertainment they would have been blasted into eternity.

Television programmes of this sort have a powerful influence on human behaviour. If a highly respected institution like the BBC thinks it’s ok to exploit endangered environments for ‘entertainment’ then ordinary people cannot be blamed if they follow the example.

I can just imagine the reaction of a bored Mr. and Mrs. Yuppie who have been to all the usual holiday resorts and are determined to outdo the Jones’ this year.

“Darling, why don’t we do that. We can take all the family and have wonderful time.”

I’ll get right on it dear, I’ll have James modify the Merc tomorrow.”

Businessmen are probably already planning the construction of staging posts to accommodate tourists – hotels, car parks, fuel depots and of course lots of anti-bear weaponry.

I have long held the view that the human brain is not sufficiently evolved to ensure the survival of the species. While we have the ability to realise the massive damage we’re causing to the environment we do not have sufficient brain cells to actually take effective action to prevent the process.

That leaves only one question. Will we kill ourselves off before we kill everything else?

I hope so.

Copy: BBC

Irony of ironies

After years of passionate campaigning by environmentalists and locals to stop Indaver setting up their incinerators; after years of official backing (sometimes with very questionable decisions) the company itself has pulled the plug because of government incompetence.

Surely, environmentalists will be looking to bottle this official incompetence as a potent weapon in future battles.