Garbage in Venice Italy

I was reading a story about Sweden importing garbage from Italy and it reminded me of the weird garbage problem I saw in Venice.

They had a small market square next to our hotel. In the day time, vendors set up shops to sell trinkets. Like everything in Venice, it was close to a waterway. At night, all the shopkeepers put their garbage, in bags, in a pile right next to the waterway. During the night, birds would come to the garbage pile and rip open all the bags. Garbage spills everywhere, including into the water.

It’s really a sad sight. For a city that prides itself on their beautiful water canals, they seem to have forgotten simple steps to protect it: provide garbage bins.

In the morning I see workers come by and sweep the garbage up and take it away. But it’s a little too late since some of the garbage is already floating in the water.

Vietnam 2011

Before I forget, I want to jot down my experience visiting Vietnam for 3 weeks. To dissolve my reputation as a negative person, I will start this by listing four positive impressions I had of Vietnam:

  1. Halong Bay is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The shrub covered rocks jutting out of the blue ocean is absolutely breathtaking. Hard to describe in words or pictures, but something you just have to experience. Much like how I felt when I first saw the Grand Canyon.
  2. Tropical fruits are a mouthwatering treat available everywhere you go. Rambutan, Mangosteen, Longan, Soursop, Durian, Jackfruit, Sugarcane, and Coconuts. In my heaven, I would be surrounded by overfilled baskets of these wonderful fruits.
  3. The Vietnamese people are extremely innovative – In a country stricken by poverty and lack good work opportunities, the Vietnamese people have found extremely creative ways to survive and make money. The myriads of restaurants that litter the streets, a man who makes sandals out of old car tires, factories manufacturing bricks out of mud collected from the riverbed, and locals making rice-pop using every part of a rice grain, even the husk!
  4. Being a good neighbor is a way of life. In a country where living and personal space seems to be a limited resource, the Vietnamese have learned to live as a community. I witnessed two poignant examples of this camaraderie. 1) When giving directions, one guy told me to go to the intersection and ask for the house I was looking for by name. He told me everyone in that neighborhood should know where the person I was looking for lives. Good luck trying this in America. 2) When we came upon a family member’s house and they were not home so the door was locked, the neighbor came out and opened the door  for us. In my neighborhood, I feel lucky just to know one of my neighbor’s name.

But alas, among all the beautiful scenery of the Vietnam country side and its creative people, there are unescapable environmental, social economic, and cultural problems that must be discussed:

  1. Traffic – You can say anything you want about how it’s just a way of life there, but the reality is, it is very unsafe and thousands of Vietnamese die every year because of it. My advice is to never cross the street in front of a cab, they will never yield to you.
  2. Polluted waterways in the city – it’s sad that the Republican party wants to do away with environmental regulations and the EPA. If they want to see what happens when government does not come out to protect the environment, just look at Vietnam. In the afternoon, the river thats runs through the city is completely black, and covered in garbage.
  3. Police corruption – ask anyone about how the police system works in Vietnam and you will hear the same story. If you get pulled over by a Vietnamese cop, you have to pay a bribe 100% of the time. It makes me wonder how Vietnam will ever get better if all the money that should be designated to public works such as fixing roads, are going into the pockets of corrupted government officials and police officers?
  4. Wealth Gap – You will see 5 years old begging for money on the same street that LV toting women and men are driving their Mercedes through.
  5. Building Codes – When you are in Vietnam, look up. The criss-cross of wires that looks almost like a bird’s nest will surely scare you. No wonder there are so many blackouts. On top of that, buildings are stacked like Legos. I say Legos, but I really mean Jenga. It is unbelievable how they can build dilapidated shacks one of top of another. God forbid if there was ever a fire, or earthquake, the whole city would be up in flames. One again, I am so glad that we have government regulations to help us build safe and beautiful living spaces here in America.
  6. Bartering and scams – The Vietnamese people do not understand the concept of honest business. There is no such thing as fixed pricing in Vietnam. You have to barter for everything. It’s annoying. On top of that, there are plenty of stories about fake products. I was afraid to drink coconut water because I kept hearing stories about how they drain the milk out of the coconut and refill it with sugar water to save money.
  7. Business Regulations
  8. Water and Food Quality Regulations – I will never take the FDA for granted again. Three days of diarrhea made me appreciate all the regulations we have in food preparation and sales. In Vietnam it is not uncommon to see slabs of meet sitting out in the hot sun COVERED in flies. Even after the meat is cooked, it is again left to sit out for flies to feast on. In Vietnam flies eat first, humans eat after. If you look closely, you will also see that washing dishes in many of the Vietnamese shop consist of rinsing the bowls and utensils in a bath of soapy water and that is it.
  9. … to be continued

Kevin Costner solves Climate Change

Kevin Costner has done it folks! He has single handedly saved the world by building a miracle machine that converts GreenHouse Gases to puppies and cotten candy!

This comes after the announcement that BP has bought over 30 machines that Costner and his team developed to clean oil spills. This purchase was also approved by our government (House Commitee on Science). I am sold, aren’t you?

Since when has Kevin Costner ever made a bad investment? I mean he obviously has experience from ‘Waterworld’. O wait..that was a colossal bust and lost a lot of money. He’s just trying to do his patriotic duty like in the “Mailman’ O wait that was also a colossal bust. My point is that Kevin Cosner financed these two colossal busts in an industry where he has been successful, and now we are supposed to trust that these machines will do the job?
The machines work using a centrifuge. Which basically means it spins things REALLY fast to separate different substances based on physical properties such as density. I used to use centrifuges in biology labs and they are used everyday in biotech labs to extract DNA from cells. The technology is the same concept as if you were to put random sized things in a long tube sock and spun it around reallly fast for a long time. Eventually all the heavier stuff would shift to the bottom of the sock and the lighter stuff would be at the top creating layers.
This only works if you have everything tightly sealed in the sock and not all things in the sock are just heavy items.
Two things I am worried about with this machine. You need to put a massive amount of volume into the machine for it to work effectively. This would be brilliant if you could somehow fit the gulf of mexico into a test tube and spin it at ridiculously high RPMs for a long time, but I do not think the machine does that..

Secondly, how much energy do these machines use to clean up the oil disaster? Just like your dryer uses a lot of energy to dry clothes using rpms and heat. These machines will probably require a lot of diesel fueled torque engines which aren’t exactly environmentally friendly..

Anyways that’s my thoughts on the machine that I only read peripherally about.

Once again, a celebrity uses their fame, money, and power to affect world issues. I think celebs should speak out and make people aware of causes but please do not take an activist role in meddling with things you may not be a top expert on. Take the case of Jenny McCarthy and her crusade on Vaccinations. Read up on this if you have not heard of her anti vaccination cause. She is putting masses of children at risk for highly contagious diseases that should have been erradicated.

If I were famous my campaign would be to “listen to the experts and not to celebrities who takes an interest in a cause. ”

I think BP really bought the machines as a publicity and image ploy and what the hell do congressman on a committee know if they too are not specific experts in the particular science.

But who knows, maybe Costner can save the world. He probably had a dream where James Earl Jones whispered in his ear, “If you build it, BP will come.”

The Great Garbage Patch

Every time I order a cup of coffee, hold a grocery store plastic bag, or use a disposable fork, I think about The Great Garbage Patch (aka The Great Pacific Garbage Patch): A massive pile of microscopic trash choking the fragile life of the world’s ocean.

Regardless of what your political or religious beliefs are, you simply can not argue that it is ok for humans to fill the ocean with trash. If you have ever visited a city dump, you will realize that trash does not simply disappear. As a society, we’ve build up a massive amount of garbage that we simply bury in the ground, hoping that once it is out of sight, it will be out of mind.

But our rampant use of plastic materials and disposable items have polluted our beautiful oceans. Scientists have discovered a large collection of waste aimlessly floating in the ocean water. And because most of the waste is composed of pelagic plastic, chemical discharge, and other debris, it will take thousands of years before they naturally degrade.

So next time you choose a plastic utensil for your dinner party, be sure to buy a biodegradable one.

One coffee cup at a time

Today, I bought myself a new coffee mug because I want to cut back on using disposable cups. After watching a documentary on the big gyro of plastic waste floating around in our oceans ( aka “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” ), it really freaks me out to think about how many disposable coffee cups I have added to that gyro.

My requirements for a good coffee cup are:

  1. Spill proof – getting burned by hot coffee, or have it spill all over your car and clothes is very annoying
  2. Easy to clean – you don’t want the funk to linger on your mug
  3. Fit in cup holder – why do they even make cups that don’t fit in cup holders?
  4. Easy to drink from – the sipping hole can not be too big, that’s how you end up burning yourself

This may seem like a trivial excercise, but in my opinion, if we all can cut down disposable coffee cups and plastic lids, we can save the environment — one coffee cup at a time…

10 Easy Ways to Conserve the Environment

1) Change a Light Bulb

One compact fluorescent bulb lasts as long as 13 regular bulbs and uses 75% less energy. They are also cheaper to buy. Raleys and Ace Hardware has these for less than $3 dollars for 4 mini bulbs.

2) Stop junk mail

Visit this page to take your name off the junk mail list. Reducing junk mail will help save trees used in paper production.

3) Turn off your computer

When you leave the office, turn off your computer. At least turn off your monitor. It may be little, but if we all do it, it can add up to a lot. Screen savers DO NOT conserve energy because the screen is still on. You have to physically turn the monitor off.

4) Bring your own cup

Bring your own cup to work or the coffee store. Reducing the use of disposable products can go a long way in preserving the environment.

5) Wash With Warm Water

You do not need to wash your clothes in hot water. Use warm or cold water instead, to conserve that energy for something else.

6) Bring your own bag

Do you really need all those plastic bags you get at the grocery store? Why not bring your own bag and carry your grocery in them. I know it sounds strange because we are so accustomed to being given bags at the grocery store, but it would help reduce a lot of waste if we bring our own reusable bags to the supermarket. If not, at LEAST recycle those plastic bags before you throw them away. Grocery store plastic bags can serve a second life as garbage bags, doggie bags, and lunch bags. Doing this will also help you save tons of money!

7) Use less water

This starts with turning off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth, and ends with reducing the amount of water used on your lawn. In neighborhoods across America, people love to own a small, green, perfectly trimmed plot of grass all year round. Even in the deserts of Las Vegas, lawns are bright green from the constant sizzle of the front yard sprinklers. If you want to be environmentally friendly, perhaps you can help by reducing the amount of water used on your lawn. Learn to take care of it properly and understand just how much water you need to keep it nice and green, but don’t over do it. Just think, what good is your nice lawn if there are no more trees in this world?

8) Turn down the AC

Its nice to be at constant temperature thorough the day, but that comfort comes at an environmental cost. You’d be surprised how nice it can feel to sleep with an extra blanket instead of paying extra on your energy bill.

9) Buy Local

Pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture production is not only harmful to the environment, it can also be harmful to your health. Buy locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables. They often taste a lot better and are a healthy alternative to mass produced vegetations.

10) Spread the Word

If there is only one thing that you can do to help the environment, do this: tell your friends. The more people are aware of problems plaguing the environment, the more changes we can make – together – to improve things. Next time, before you open your conversation with who was on American Idol, reserve a couple of minutes to discuss what YOU did to help protect your environment, YOUR WORLD.