- Industry Links
- HCB Shop
Old before our time
Regular readers will be aware that this magazine does not carry a particular torch for the environmentalist movement. It’s not that we don’t care about the environment – we are not suggesting that economic activity should carry on with reckless disregard for its impact on the world, and environmental protection legislation is an important and proper element in the range of measures with which our readers must comply – rather that there is something inherently dishonest about the demands of the more extreme wings of the green agenda.
For a start, it is nonsensical to claim that human activity is damaging the earth. For sure it is changing the earth, but the earth has changed before and it will doubtless change again in the billion years or so before our sun expands and consumes the solar system. Once upon a time oxygen was scarcer in the atmosphere and life on earth was different. We warm-blooded creatures have only taken over the upper reaches of the food chain since conditions on earth became suitable for us. In the future, conditions will be less suitable – so unsuitable that humans and other evolved mammals will probably become extinct.
What the environmentalists surely mean, if they think hard about it, and what they specifically do not say, is that economic activity is damaging the earth from the point of view of humans. If anthropogenic climate change is a reality, then we are merely hastening the inevitable. It is our own future we are risking, not that of the earth. The earth will carry merrily on, probably glad to be free of human intervention.
So let’s all be honest about this: if we’re going to be green, it’s for selfish reasons. We don’t want the earth to become uninhabitable (for humans) before its time. That means it’s probably a good idea to try and reduce our environmental impact in whatever ways we can. At the moment much of the focus is on ‘carbon footprint’ – a concept that this page has derided before for its facile approach to assessing overall impacts. As one of the speakers at the recent Durban conference on transport and the environment mentioned (see page 10), other gases – methane for one, but hydrofluorocarbons especially – are far more deleterious to the atmosphere than is CO2. And seeing as mammals live by converting oxygen in the atmosphere to carbon dioxide (by aspiration) and methane (by flatus), then we are dependent on the availability of systems (such as forests) that use up CO2 and emit oxygen.
That conference, which was organised by the Responsible Container Management Association of Southern Africa (RCMASA), is worth taking a look at, since South Africa does seem to be taking a leading position on many environmental matters (and in a good way). It has, for instance, established a multi-agency strike force to root out and prosecute environmental crimes; it is wrestling with ways to fund projects that will adhere to the best environmental practice but, because of that, may not be justifiable on purely economic terms; its industries are seeking ways to valorise waste through incineration and power generation.
Climatologists seem unsure as to the precise effects of global warming, although it seems certain that the effects will not be uniform. It is more likely that summers will be hotter while winters are colder and/or wetter. So we are going to take our chance while we can and take a break for a little while, especially as many of our readers will also be on vacation during August. Also, given the recent upheavals caused by the change of ownership, we do need some time to get some systems bedded in and settled down, revamp the website and get prepared for the next few months. We will be back with a packed September issue ahead of the EPCA meeting in October, and will keep you up to date with breaking news through the weekly newsletter.