The facilitator asked us to do some dream-work. That’s normally not so hard, but there we were, standing in an awkward-shaped T-allotment strewn with bits of broken glass and featuring some derelict out-buildings. The site had previously been a city recycling depot and in a way one of our goals was to continue that recycling heritage. We were asked to dream of what the features would be for our ideal sustainable-living community on the site. It all seemed pretty much pie-in-the-sky, but the suggestions rolled in. We wanted a green community, comfortable for the residents but kind to the environment; something that would significantly cut our environmental footprint. We wanted a working alternative to urban sprawl. We wanted to help heal the web of life by bringing biodiversity back into the city. And we wanted it to be a community, not just a collection of disconnected dwellings.
We need to talk about light bulbs. For years we’ve all been busy replacing traditional energy-hungry incandescent light globes around our homes and offices with those ubiquitous compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
Certainly they use only a fraction of the power, and that’s great for household budgets and as a carbon pollution reduction measure. But unless the used CFLs are diverted from landfill to a properly qualified recycler, the pollution risks are high. The main worry is mercury – a notorious heavy metal that brings with it serious health and environmental risks.
Now that media coverage has died down following the tragic loss of life at the Ain Amenas natural gas complex in Algeria, it’s a good time to reflect on the way in which the story has been relayed to us by the mainstream media. In essence we’ve been given a picture like this:
• Good hard-working men and women from around the world have been slogging away in harsh conditions deep in the Sahara, helping to secure the world’s energy reserves at the natural gas complex in Algeria.
• Despite the best efforts of all nations participating in the global war on terror, the attempt to contain militants linked to al-Qaida had failed. A group of terrorists was able to storm the Ain Amenas gas complex and take a large number of hostages.
• In order to stop the terrorists from escaping and disappearing into the Sahara, Algerian forces attacked the gas complex, resulting in the death of more than 30 hostages and at least 20 militants.
• The US has had its hands tied in combating the rise of extremist militants in the region because few nations have been prepared to admit US forces onto their soil because of fears of loss of sovereignty.
But is there more to the story? Heartbreaking experience shows that we need to have our hypocrisy antennae fully extended and tuned whenever the war on terror is involved.