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Do We Want A Healthy Planet or Cheap Stuff?  RSS feed

 
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This article is in response to another discussion in the Gear forum about cheap vs. expensive equipment.  

Since I assume this audience here wants to help the planet, wants to keep things organic, safe, and help stop climate change, one of the things I see happening on the West Coast is the massive shipments of goods brought on polluting ships, that don't hold up, items that need to be repaired and replaced much more often than quality goods, then go into landfills by the ton, only to off-gas and pollute as they break down under the soil, near our clean water sources.

This article is about how the Mega ships/container ships are polluting the oceans, while leading us to believe that buying cheap quality items is good for us.


The Mega Ships that come from China, that pass by every day of the week here on the West Coast, many, many of them, that are on their way up the West Coast, have millions and millions of cheap items that break down way before they should, go into landfills that become toxic, and pollute the drinking water and then the sea water.  

And the kind of fuel those ships use, there are no restrictions on it, no environmental laws protecting the ocean/fish/environment or us from it.

I haven't found any quality machinery-type items that stand up to wear and tear, and salt air, and freezing that have been made in that country.  I'm sorry to say it, because we're all pretty open minded on the coasts.  But I will avoid any tools, clothes, plastics, machinery and food from there.  Just go breathe the air in the plastics or car/bike department of a Walmart, it's really creepy smelling air.  And that's from all that stuff off-gassing and breaking down.  And that's why it doesn't last.

And when millions and millions of us order goods from the internet, they often get shipped by polluting mega container ships from a place that produces items that fall apart.  Is anyone noticing that plastic containers for storage are cracking and disintegrating within a couple of years, even if they aren't in the sun?  The lids go first, then the sides crack, and they are impossible to use.  Nowhere else to put them but landfills.

Then the goods get delivered by stinking diesel trucks to every single house in a neighborhood, day after day after day, one item at a time, every single house.   And that made me wonder, what's the point of using an electric vehicle when we employ diesel trucks to do that delivery for us?

About the electric vehicles, I'll just say a little something, since this isn't on the topic here, the West Coast is full of them.  They are excellent vehicles that can get upwards of 250,000 miles on them with very little maintenace, hybrids,  without having to buy much gas at all.   They save a ton of money, and a ton of gas.  A lot of people have solar setups so they can charge the all-electric vehicles, and are only paying for the cost of the solar equipment that can last 20+ years.  Some car companies are actually laying off workers in the gas-engine parts of their plants, and hiring more for the electric cars they plan to develop.  They are good vehicles, but if we employ more and more diesel delivery trucks to delivery our stuff, I'm not sure what good it's doing.



 
Cristo Balete
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Here's the article:


Container Ships Use Super-Dirty Fuel. That Needs to Change

   Author: Maria Gallucci
   science
   11.09.17
   08:00 am
]
This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The platform overlooking the Panama Canal’s Pacific exit is buzzing with energy on a muggy October afternoon. Tourists cram together, jostling for the best views of the blue container ship gliding by in the gray-green water below. The ship’s crewmembers wave from aboard the 690-foot-long vessel, smiling as they end their eight-hour, 48-mile journey.

An employee brandishing a wireless microphone—the canal’s hype man—leads the crowd in a series of cheers, his voice as bombastic as a sports announcer’s. “Let’s give them a round of applause!” he booms in Spanish and then English. The visitors heartily oblige, clapping for the sailors aboard the Greek ship named Em Corfu.

Next in line is a colossal Japanese carrier that just unloaded cars on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Its blue metal sides block out the sky. Behind that comes a red tanker hauling liquefied natural gas produced in the United States to terminals in Mexico.

Watching ships pass through the century-old Panama Canal offers a glimpse into our modern economy. Every day, vessels converge here to move billions of dollars’ worth of food, fuel, cars, clothing, raw materials, and electronics to the far corners of the world.

It’s awe-inspiring. But it’s also fairly alarming.

About 90 percent of everything we buy will travel on ships like these at some point. And all of these behemoths burn fossil fuel, contributing significantly to the warming atmosphere and shifting climate patterns.
Onlookers await the arrival of the Greek ship Em Corfu as it enters the Panama Canal in early October.
Maria Gallucci

Many cargo ships still use “bunker fuel”—the sludgy dregs of the petroleum refining process. The noxious blend is dirt-cheap, making it possible to charge next to nothing to ship goods internationally. All of which means our unbridled consumerism hitches a ride on some of the dirtiest vehicles on earth. (At least they hold tons of stuff, right?)

The industry’s reliance on high-carbon fuel poses a major stumbling block for global efforts to rein in pollution. A few companies are ramping up investment in pilot projects that use renewable fuels and cleaner technologies. And a vocal minority within the industry is clamoring for a maritime climate policy to spur more innovation. But on the whole, there’s widespread reluctance to adopt meaningful change.

Clean shipping advocates plan to spotlight the sector’s emissions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which opened on November 6 in Bonn, Germany. Known as COP23, the gathering marks two years since the world agreed in Paris on a landmark climate accord—one that the Trump administration plans to abandon. The agreement, however, excluded pollution from international shipping and aviation in its targets to limit global warming. Officials had argued that those industries don’t easily fit into national or regional emissions schemes—and so they were left to regulate themselves.

Experts say regulatory action and big, bold investments will be essential to curbing the shipping industry’s contribution to global warming. Left unchecked, its carbon footprint is expected to soar in coming decades—just as emissions from cars and power plants flatline or decline. That means shipping could cancel out progress in other sectors.

The International Maritime Organization, the industry’s main regulator, suggests that carbon emissions from shipping could shoot up as much as 250 percent by 2050 as the world’s population grows and economies expand. At that point, the European Parliament estimates the industry could produce 17 percent of global emissions, up from less than 3 percent today.

But Tristan Smith, a leading shipping researcher at University College London’s Energy Institute, notes companies still have little reason to spend their time and money building a greener cargo fleet. “A very large proportion of the sector is really not interested in doing anything until the very last minute that the regulation hits,” he says.

From the Panama Canal, a string of heavily congested highways leads to Panama City’s glitzy downtown core. At a high-rise convention center in early October, hundreds of seafarers, naval officers, and industry officials have gathered for an IMO-sponsored event.

Jorge Quijano, administrator of the Panama Canal Authority, tells the crowd the canal is doing its part to “bring about a sense of responsibility with our planet.” In January, he explains, it launched a program to reward shippers that meet high energy-efficiency standards or use low-sulfur and lower-carbon fuels, including cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas. Companies that do so can boost their standing in the canal’s ranking system for determining who gets priority access to the waterway.
Tristan Smith of University College London’s Energy Institute says that, without a major regulatory push, shipping will never change its polluting ways.

International Transport Forum

The industry finds initiatives like these, which encourage upgrades but not drastic overhauls, generally palatable—they promote good behavior without overtly punishing status quo ships.

But shipping executives like John Lyras bristle at the notion of setting ambitious sector-wide targets for reducing shipping emissions and total fuel consumption. Such efforts, he argued earlier this fall, won’t make any sense until cleaner maritime technologies actually exist at commercial scale.

“If we really want to reduce CO2 emissions to zero today we can do it in two ways: We can stop trading, or we can go back to sail,” the Greek shipowner said while speaking on a panel at the International Chamber of Shipping’s conference in London.

The pushback from executives like Lyras comes as more progressive voices are increasingly clamoring for the introduction of so-called “zero-emissions” ships, which don’t directly produce any greenhouse gas emissions. A research consortium comprised of major shipping companies and academic institutes asserts such vessels must start entering the mainstream cargo market by 2030. By 2050, the group says, nearly all operating cargo ships must generate zero emissions in order to fall in line with the Paris agreement goal of keeping global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.

Proponents say it can happen if the industry doesn’t drag its feet. “We’re not saying you have to decarbonize right now,” says Smith of University College London. “You just have to start the process of figuring it out.”

Over the next two weeks in Germany, UN negotiators and thousands of other participants will gather to discuss not only promising ship technologies but also strategies to convince an old-fashioned industry to embrace new ideas.

Diane Gilpin, who’s helping organize a pro-climate shipping event that will take place on the cruise ship Rhine Fantasy, tells Grist about the sector’s reluctance to go green. Gilpin once worked to introduce mobile devices to British corporations. Now, she’s leading an effort to build a 100 percent renewable cargo vessel. She says the shipping industry’s apprehension reminds her of the late ‘90s and early 2000s when many people saw the cell phones they’re now wholly consumed by as frivolous and costly.

“Because we never had cell phones before, we didn’t think we needed them,” she explains. Gilpin describes her current work trying to change the shipping industry as “a human challenge in having people accept change.”

The most prominent options for powering a ship without fossil fuels include hydrogen, batteries, sustainably produced biofuels, and wind-assisted technologies that can reduce fuel use. All of these are being used or tested in small-scale vessels—primarily passenger ferries or supply boats that keep close to shore. But if any are going to gain favor in the mainstream shipping industry, today’s reigning champion—ultra-cheap bunker fuel—will need a price tag that reflects its true environmental cost.

According to a recent report by the global shipping services company Lloyd’s Register and University College London, about 75 percent of companies agree that forcing shippers to pay for carbon emissions is required to make a zero-emissions fleet a reality. The IMO would likely oversee such a program, and it plans to adopt an interim strategy for reducing greenhouse gases caused by shipping in April 2018. But the regulatory body doesn’t expect an agreement on actual pollution targets until 2023.
International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Kitack Lim speaks at the International Transport Forum’s 2016 summit on “Green and Inclusive Transport” in Leipzig, Germany.
International Transport Forum

The IMO is made up of 172 member countries. Getting all of them, as well as the world’s top shipping groups, to sign on to a set of goals would undoubtedly be a hard-fought and controversial process. Take as proof the latest round of IMO talks in October, which included discussion of slashing carbon emissions by 2100. A group of Pacific island and European nations pushed for drastic cuts by mid-century, while Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, and the International Chamber of Shipping proposed a far less aggressive approach.

As country representatives went back and forth, InfluenceMap, a nonprofit that tracks corporations’ impact on climate policy, published a report accusing shipping lobbying groups of holding “unmatched power” over IMO decisions. Those groups resoundingly denounced the report, and IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim defended the organization’s neutrality. But one shipping executive—Andrew Craig-Bennett, who works for the UK subsidiary of Chinese shipping giant Cosco—stirred the pot even further in a widely shared opinion piece.

“We can feel nothing but contempt and disgust at the prostitutes employed by our racket to try to put one over on the general public,” he wrote with a sailor-worthy flourish.

Ultimately, the most effective driver for steering shipping away from its high-carbon path may come from outside the industry. The customers who place their goods on the ships are likely the best lever for forcing the sector to go green.

That’s the solution Maurice Meehan sees as a key way forward. Meehan is director of shipping operations at the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit founded by Virgin’s Richard Branson to promote business-oriented climate solutions. He previously worked with shipping giant Maersk.

As he explains, companies that produce all the T-shirts, smartphones, sneakers, and goods that are shipped around the world have substantial leverage with their logistics providers. If climate-conscious companies push their shippers to do more about reducing vessels’ carbon footprints, the industry would have to change. Dirtier ships would face a competitive disadvantage if manufacturers got serious about slashing supply-chain emissions.

“That’s a great approach,” Meehan says by phone from Copenhagen on a call in September. “Now you’ve got shipping going, ‘Whoa, wait, if we don’t have plans to meet the target our customer has set, we’re not going to be in the market in a few years?’”

Meehan says his team is talking with big users of cargo ships, such as apparel companies, to help them target shipping-related emissions. As part of that, Carbon War Room is developing tools to make it easier for companies to choose vessels with lower emissions and better efficiency—or at least ensure their products aren’t loaded onto the worst offenders.

But this approach is still in its early days, Meehan says. Most brands and shipping companies alike remain reluctant to do anything that would raise the cost of transporting goods or the final price tag. That’s largely because end users—you and me—still prefer buying a lot of cheap stuff.

If the Panama Canal illustrates the shipping sector’s climate challenge, it’s also a showcase for the industry’s progress to date. Alexis Rodriguez, the environmental protection specialist for the Panama Canal Authority, says many of the newer vessels passing through the canal today “have more efficient engines and more efficient designs.”
A container ship navigates through the Cocoli Locks in the expanded Panama Canal in late June.
REUTERS/Carlos Lemos

On a recent morning, he pulled his spotless black minivan into the parking lot of the Cocoli Locks, the Pacific entrance to the newly expanded canal system. The $5.25 billion, nine-year expansion can accommodate colossal “mega ships,” like the 1,200-foot-long Theodore Roosevelt, that couldn’t pass through the original locks.

We’re here to greet a forest green container ship named Ever Living. The vessel, which is bringing Asian-made goods to ports on the U.S. East Coast, has an “optimized” hull design made from lightweight steel that makes it easier to move through water and thus cuts down on fuel use. Once docked, the ship can plug into shore-side electrical power and turn off its oil-burning engines, a process known as “cold ironing” that reduces local air pollution. Thanks to its larger-than-average size, Ever Living can also, in theory, burn less fuel and release fewer emissions for every unit of goods it carries, compared to smaller vessels.

Such upgrades are positive signs, but green fleet advocates like University College London’s Tristan Smith say a bigger, sustained push is required. Recent shipping data shows that efficiency gains might not be enough to offset rising fuel consumption and emissions in a growing industry.

Better designs and data analytics barely move the needle when it comes to decarbonizing the global shipping industry, Smith explains. “I would call them marginal improvements in efficiency, which do a tiny amount to get us nowhere near where we need to go.”

For shipping to play its part in fighting climate change, vessels crossing this canal and traversing the world’s waters will need a more radical redesign—and in just a few decades’ time. Delivering on demand for lower-emissions vessels could be the industry’s most arduous journey of all.
 
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Thanks for starting this thread. I don't have time immediately to read through your posts kicking off the topic, but will get to it as soon as I can.

As I said on my thread that sparked this, I do agree this is an important issue to consider. So very glad you started a separate thread to deal with the topic. This will give the idea a lot more room to be discussed.
 
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Cristo Balete wrote:
Since I assume this audience here wants to help the planet, wants to keep things organic, safe, and help stop climate change

 

I completely agree; I want all those things.  I don't, however, have much in the way of resources, let alone infinite, so I have to spend my cash very, very frugally.  I prefer to scrounge and re-purpose materials, buy used where possible, and buy as cheaply as possible if buying new.  If I'm buying new and I can find something anywhere for less than I can get it here, I'll take a look at it.   I much prefer to buy from someone local, but many times I can't find what I want in my country at all and sometimes I can find it from someone in the US, but they won't ship to me.  If I can find it locally, I'll pay a premium up to about 25-30%, because I'd like them to stay in business, but much more than that and I'll buy it from anywhere if I can be sure that I'll be happy with it and that it'll get to me.  The reality is that almost all of the stuff we buy is made in Asia or Indonesia, regardless of where we buy it.  I won't buy food of any kind that comes from China, and I prefer not to buy anything from them, but you can find good quality buys there if you put in the effort to research.  I don't buy much period, and what I do buy is mostly stuff to grow plants or animals, so I don't have any qualms about buying quality items from overseas if it lets me do that and live as sustainably as possible.

Cristo Balete wrote:, one of the things I see happening on the West Coast is the massive shipments of goods brought on polluting ships, that don't hold up, items that need to be repaired and replaced much more often than quality goods, then go into landfills by the ton, only to off-gas and pollute as they break down under the soil, near our clean water sources.



Yep, there's a lot of that.  It's a throw-away society now, but you're painting with a very wide brush.  There are a lot of things that come from overseas that are quality items.  I think we're also seeing a change in the international marketplace as overseas manufacturers are recognising that there's a market for well-made products and putting more of an emphasis on quality.  When I was a kid, the Hondas and Toyotas that were imported were pretty crappy.  They rusted out very quickly and were known to be junk cars.  Then both companies addressed the issues and offered a longer warranty.  People bought into it and now they make some of the best cars.  I also drove a Hyundai Pony when I was young.  It was such a POS that I swore I'd never buy one.  Years later, they'd done the same thing as the Japanese mfgs and are much better cars.  I even owned one and regretted it when it was hit.

Cristo Balete wrote:This article is about how the Mega ships/container ships are polluting the oceans, while leading us to believe that buying cheap quality items is good for us.



I think that buying cheap quality goods can be good for us in the right circumstances, but I understand what you're trying to say about rampant consumerism.  What I don't understand is who, exactly, is "leading us to believe that buying cheap quality items is good for us?"  I think we're doing that to ourselves, speaking to the whole, but I doubt many people here are overly consumerist.

I think that all we need to do is look for a comma.  Instead of cheap quality tools, buy cheap, quality tools.
 
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I assumed that the dreaded smell of certain goods was from the pesticides used to fumigate the loaded containers prior to shipping. It's awful.
 
Cristo Balete
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The notion of "saving money" is about the first thing retailers say, in whatever ways.  If cheap stuff is available to buy, then why would we pay more?  Lots of reasons, actually.

I have noticed that on major retail sites, when narrowing a search for an item, they now have a choice on the left-hand side, usually, below color, size, materials,  of "Country of Origin" or "Made in America".   So they are making it easier.  One item I was looking at didn't have a single recliner chair for sale made in any other country than....you guessed it.

Sure, a lot of good quality items come from elsewhere, other than our own countries, but as long as we make informed decisions about how much of that we want to do, being aware of what we are doing, then that's the best we can hope for.

 
Devin Lavign
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So I finally had time to read the posts, as well as do a little research.

Three articles worth noting from my research.
https://www.nrdc.org/issues/importing-solutions-chinas-fight-cut-air-pollution-shipping-and-ports
https://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/04/20/chinas-plan-cut-shipping-emissions/
https://e360.yale.edu/features/at-last-the-shipping-industry-begins-cleaning-up-its-dirty-fuels

From the last linked article

By 2020, the global shipping fleet will be required to slash the noxious emissions from thick, sulfur-laden “bunker” fuel, a move that is expected to sharply reduce air pollution and prevent millions of cases of childhood asthma and other respiratory ailments.



The gist of them, China is aware and working to reduce the problems. Though it is worthy to note the thrust of the articles is about port pollution not what is happening outside the ports in the voyage across the oceans. That said, without greater demand for solutions less is done and slower the change over.
 
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So beyond the cleaning up of the shipping fuels, there is the issue of consumers turning a blind eye.

Paul has talked about the Greenwashing of commercial products. Feel good solutions that don't really do anything for the environment. There is a serious problem with Western culture and it's over consumption. Especially with cheap disposable items. Of course also it being cheaper to buy something new than get it fixed, if you can even find parts or someone to repair things.

The hard thing is getting the public aware and caring about these things. They seem quick to jump on feel good "solutions" but less quick to make sacrifices to their way of life. As long as they can still consume and live comfortably, while buying Greenwashed products and doing minimal effort solutions they not only continue to create the problem but act self righteous about how they are the solution.

It took me 3 yrs to build up enough trash on my homestead to take into town to the dump. 3 yrs to produce 13 45 gallon bags of trash. Most of which was plastic and styrofoam which was bulky. This a big part of how I have been making a difference. By reducing my waste dramatically. But I also have a 40 acre property that I am developing into a permaculture homestead. Which is another way to make a difference. So I look around at what is going on in the world as standard practice and I am horrified at the lack of concern for the environment , the cost of the rampant consumerism, and disposable products.

There is a lot of press right now about the kids marching and protesting about Climate Change. But this is not new, the children have been speaking out about the environment and questioning the adults dedication for a long time.

For example Severn Cullis-Suzuki at the Rio Earth Summit 1992. For this she received the UN Environment Program's Global 500 Award in Beijing the following year. But did the adults take action? No not really, thus the mess we are in still today.

 
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