Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bringing it all back home

There's an interesting Q&A in today's Inquirer about space junk. The danger it presents is not so much of falling on our heads (most of it burns up in the atmosphere) but of staying up there in orbit in perpetuity, ready to smash into something that may not be, but might then become, more space junk.

Bringing it all back home

A NASA graphic vividly illustrates how our planet is girdled in multiple directions by many small pieces of metal and machinery.
A NASA graphic vividly illustrates how our planet is girdled in multiple directions by many small pieces of metal and machinery.

There's an interesting Q&A in today's Inquirer about space junk, entitled "Why we need a trash code for outer space." The danger it presents is not so much of falling on our heads (most of it burns up in the atmosphere) but of staying up there in orbit in perpetuity, ready to smash into something that may not be, but might then become, more space junk.

The green connection, of course, is that it's an issue of litter that has been created, unwittingly or not, and who should be responsible for clearing it up, i.e. cleaning the environment, which in this case is one of several orbits around the earth.

Most of the junk in question - tiny bits of machines that have collided and can do still more damage as they whiz around at dizziyingly high speed - is not a threat to us down here, but to other (super-expensive) stuff up there. And the scenario of their ability to become weaponized junk seems to have been largely disregarded in their deployment.

There's increasing discussion about internalized costs vs. externalized. In short, it merely means tracking the ultimate costs of something and being accountable for them in going forward with it. In the junked-up orbit situation, as with other large-scale industries, costs (here, the very real risk of unintentionally destroying our own, and other nations', technology) have not been internalized. If they had, there would already be a plan for how to rectify the problem.

The situation away up there in space mirrors (until said mirror gets cracked by a fleck of paint traveling at 29,000 miles an hour) the one down here. The entire point of "green" is about bringing externalized costs - those that "somebody else" has to pay - back inside their proper realm, whether that's a given industry, a particular company, a unit of product, or our own homes and lives. Paul Hawken was out in front of this issue and his The Ecology of Commerce contains an important treatment of it.

While nations bicker over needed industrial regulations and back at home we dicker over CFLs vs. LEDs or which things to recycle or not recycle, there's one clear area where every single person on the planet can drastically reduce cost externalization: Our food.

It's now clear that choosing to consume meat and dairy - foods that we absolutely do not need, according to the American Dietetic Association - is choosing to keep animals enslaved and killed as well as choosing to increase the level of greenhouse gases and many other pollutants closer to home. Maybe you and I can't do much about the trash in outer space, but we can choose to avoid foisting those extreme costs on others, by eating vegan.

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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