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Rolla Peace News

February 27, 2018

Dear Friends:

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          In this newsletter is:

3. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)
          Developing an Ecological Civilization



We vigil for peace in front of the Rolla Post Office THIS THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2018, (and all subsequent Thursdays until peace is established) from Noon to 1:00 PM. Please try to join us. The temperature is predicted to be near 50. If you do not feel comfortable standing with us in front of the Post Office, please consider driving by and showing your support for our message by honking your horn and flashing a peace sign.


Chris Hedges writes about the culture of violence in the United States, and how it is encouraged by the ruling elite class, the NRA, and the arms manufacturers. Supposedly, the first colonists came from England and the European countries to escape religious persecution and in the hope of a better life than those they left behind. It seems strange that within a few years of settling, they began persecuting people of different religious beliefs, and destroying the way of life that existed among the native population whose land they wanted. But that's what happened, and Americans have been following their lead ever since.

For many years, it appeared that violence was getting us what we wanted: global military supremacy, access to all the wealth and resources we wanted or needed, and a standard of living at the top of the heap (at least for middle class white folks). Lately, things seem to be falling apart, though. Our much-bragged-about democracy has ceased to exist, and people are falling out of the middle class and into poverty. Our infrastructure is failing, our jobs are being outsourced to third-world countries, and we don't feel safe. There is money for wars and weapons, but not for feeding, housing and educating the populace.

Hedges makes the important point that poor white men value their guns so highly because being armed is the only way they can feel powerful. Just about everything else has been taken away. They have no voice in government, no decent jobs, very few civil rights (though still more than their black and brown brothers), and no money to obtain the lifestyle that television tells them successful people must have. Is it any wonder that poorly-paid policemen use their guns to feel more powerful than the people they are charged to protect, but encouraged to fear — or that disaffected owners of AR-15s open fire on a crowd because they despair of having any other way to make an effect?

This quote from Robert Koehler nails it:
“Before we need a gun debate in this country, or on this planet, we need a sensible discussion about the nature of empowerment, and we need to wrest the concept from the hands — if necessary, the cold, dead hands — of gun-industry shills, who claim that unarmed means disempowered, and who forget, among much else, to warn us that it’s possible to be both armed and disempowered, and that this is perhaps the most dangerous state of all.”
3. THE MISFIT MATHEMATICIAN (Tom's column, http://tomsager.org)

“Man and nature form a community of life; we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways, and protect it. Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.”
We'll begin this snippet with a short quiz. Who spoke the above quotation? Hint: It was not Donald Trump.

Answer: Xi Jinping, President of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, October 2017

I've been intending to write about China for some time; but it always seemed there were more pressing events to write about. But this week two events caught my eye and said to me: This is the week you will write about China.
  1. China has thrown the US market in recyclables into disarray by refusing to accept contaminated recyclables, which the Chinese refer to as “foreign garbage.”

  2. In a study at Leiden University in the Netherlands, volunteers are deliberately infected with schistosoma, the dred parasite that causes schistosomiasis. Mao Zedong called schistosomiasis the “God of Plague” and almost eradicated the disease in China; but it has made a comeback. The researchers at Leiden hope to develop a vaccine to protect against schistosomiasis.
I'll write more on these two events later; but first let's look some more at the environmental portion of President Xi's speech (about 3/4 of the way down).
“The modernization that we pursue is one characterized by harmonious coexistence between man and nature.”

“We will step up efforts to establish a legal and policy framework that promotes green production and consumption, and promote a sound economic structure that facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development.”

“We will encourage conservation across the board and promote recycling.”

"We encourage simple, moderate, green, and low-carbon ways of life, and oppose extravagance and excessive consumption.”

“We will promote afforestation, take comprehensive steps to control desertification, stony deserts, and soil erosion, strengthen wetland conservation and restoration, and better prevent and control geological disasters.”

“We will take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment.”

“We should have a strong commitment to socialist ecological civilization and work to develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature. We must do our generation's share to protect the environment.”

“We will get actively involved in global environmental governance and fulfill our commitments on emissions reduction.”

Reading this, you might think that the environmental portion of President Xi's speech was written by Greenpeace. Is China serious about this? I suspect it is.

In their rush to “develop,” China has made some terrible mistakes. The campaign to increase grain production by killing sparrows was an unmitigated disaster. Air pollution in Chinese cities has reached legendary proportions. And China has surpassed the United States to become the world's number one emitter of greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, in the 40 years since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has become the second largest economy in the world and has assumed leadership in some important areas, like super computing and artificial intelligence. So, having beat the West at its own game of “economic development,” perhaps, over the next 40 years, China will transform itself into the world's first ecological superpower.

This will not be easy. It is far better not to make a mess in the first place, than to try to clean it up later. But China has succeeded before in ways that few in the West have thought possible. I think the Chinese are quite likely to succeed again.

Like the United States and most other nations, China was a class of leeches who have grown fat on “economic development” at the expense of the people and the environment; and a cadre of politicians and civil servants who enable them. However, I suspect that China will find it far easier to bring wealth and corruption under control than we have. They have done it before; they can do it again.

Meanwhile, others, who do not take controlling corruption and living in harmony with Nature seriously, will be left behind.
So, what are we to do, now that China will not accept our contaminated recyclables?
I have three suggestions:
  1. Start keeping our recyclables clean. (More on this below.)

  2. Stop using single-use plastics. Other countries are phasing these out now.

  3. Build a recycling industry here at home. We're training environmental engineers right here in Rolla. Let's put them to work designing and constructing better recycling processes. Recycling can be a dirty, polluting business. But, why should we expect China and other countries to do our recycling for us?
A note on schistosomiasis
When I was young — oh — many, many years ago, I was most impressed by the story of how China, under Mao Zedong, eradicated schistosomiasis. The whole population in infected areas was mobilized to kill the snails that carried the disease. It's amazing what people can accomplish, if they work together under effective leadership.

Unfortunately, with China's rush to industrialize, many important aspects of society like public health were neglected; hence, the return of schistosomiasis to China. China is now paying more attention to public health, and the incidence of schistosomiasis has fallen. However, there is still much room for improvement. And with the warming climate, it is likely that the range and incidence of tropical parasites like schistosoma will again be on the rise.

And one final thought: instead of complaining about China, let's try to become an ecological superpower too. Two ecological superpowers would certainly be better than one. And if China and the United States were to work together to clean up the world, the chances of success would likely increase ten fold.
Some things you can do to make recycling more effective
  1. Buy stuff in easy to recycle containers

    Go for paper packaging whenever posible. Get reusable cloth sacks for shopping. If you buy something in plastic, look for the recycle code. Here, in Rolla, only #1 and #2 plastic is recyclable. If the code is missing or the code is #3 or higher, buy something else.

    Avoid drinking bottled water. It takes three times as much water to make the bottle than fits inside and it is probably no better for you than tap water. Get a reusable bottle, if you want to carry water with you. Get a water filter, if you think tap water has too many impurities.

  2. Clean recyclables

    Rinse out all the scuzz before recycling. These are industrial raw materials. They need to be clean. Otherwise, they are simply junk recyclables.

  3. Sort recyclables

    Someone has to sort all these recyclables; and the easiest place to do it is before you put it out on the curb. Get some bins for: #1 plastic; #2 plastic; aluminum cans; tin cans; glass containers (ABSOLUTELY NO PYREX, LIGHT BULBS, OR PLATE GLASS); newspaper; cardboard; and other paper (NO WAXED PAPER).

    Like everything else in the United States, recycling runs on economics. Sorting is time consuming and expensive. If its too expensive, it won't get recycled.
More information on recycling at Rolla Environmental Services web page.