How the Philippines disaster from Hurricane Haiyan will highlight problems with material recycling.

Hurricane Haiyan was hitting the interwebs as it’s oceanic pathways and expected approach to land predicted the one of the worst environmental events in modern history.  Now that it has hit and global communications are exposing the real damage of this storm, the world is witnessing one of the worst events in modern history.    According to a blog by Dr. Jeff Masters, this hurricane is  the strongest hurricane to hit land in recorded history and the worst in over 50 years.  In the coming days the news will cover nothing but this hurricane, and the world will unite to support the  100’s of thousands that will have a catastrophic change of life having survived the event.  In reality this support is needed.  The spread of disease due to dead bodies, the need to clean debris, to sort natural resources and waste, to reestablish an infrastructure and provide food sources, machinery, medical care and most importantly consumable water.  Agencies like the Red Cross, who have already sent support teams, are fundraising and the world is looking at this disaster with compassion and heartache.

This is a good thing, for people in our world to tend to the needs of those that don’t have – especially in times of dire troubles.  The sad thing is that as our populations continue to grow, the impact of weather events will continue to worsen.  There are several simple truths to be examined that will help put this into perspective.  First of all, it is proven that people are drawn to live in areas of mild climates, with fresh water and bountiful food sources.  According to a newscast by CNN, Florida is a perfect example of this fact.  Some data from the video – if a storm the size of Hurricane Haiyan hit the state of Florida, over 11 Million people would be displaced due to flooding in a state that produces over 1 billion dollars worth of food each year.

It puts things into an interesting scope for me because I have been on the teeter-toter lately with the feasibility in instilling change in humanity’s capacity to react to the environmental remains of such a tragedy.  News casts are already reporting the ‘need to take care of the living’; which is a true and necessary component of surviving a tragedy.  Having been in and out of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina I know how slow the recover process is.  The mass scope and level of reclaiming the ability to reuse land effectively continues to be a struggle in Haiti as this Nation still struggles to rebuild amid the lessons of ‘effective humanitarian aid’ do’s and don’ts.  If you are unaware, this blog from Jezebel.com provides some great insight to the real tragedy as Americans have unintentionally polluted and caused more harm in the inability to process excess waste products, primarily due to over consumption, but also out of good will.  It was the Haiti event that most recently pulled so many together, seeing such devastation so close to home.  This is I believe, the biggest event with loss of life in a single day in my lifetime.  I say that very specifically because, with the waste of humanity strewn about everywhere, diseases- especially waterborne, are going to be a prevalent issue of concern in the weeks to come.
In addition, the timeline of cleanup must be prompt and swift.  Our military will be moving in to assist,  and one of the fist and most necessary requirements is that the bodies be removed.  In such a temperate zone, decay is rapid and will cause the spread of human and waste borne diseases rapidly.  To complicate these matters, metal, plastic, wood  debris will be mixed within making these areas necessary for quick remediation or habitats for mosquitoes will quickly increase and the spread of disease like Malaria will spread.  In addition to insects, the debris poses a special problem – a mass amount of it is not made of natural materials.  In this island nation, where will all the garbage go?
My opinion is that many of these masses of materials will end up as ocean pollution.  Besides the masses of material that washed out to sea, much of the material currently clogging streets, all the stuff of society – will be stuffed in a landfill, maybe even have a new one created in the middle of the jungle.  Either way, the one thing that you won’t see happening on a grand scale – recycling.   As we globally prepare to handle circumstances of the environment, humanity needs to find or create greater ways to manage cleaning up the messes we make through consumption.

I was there when the shooting happened, and it’s not going to change my behavior…

Really, it pisses me off more than anything.  Gunfire isn’t exactly a new thing to me.  I’ve fired guns before, I’ve lived in a community where (as aggravating as it is) guns were shot fairly regularly within city limits.  Sitting on the front porch,  I could hear them in the distance, “down the hill” if you will.  Now I don’t feel that I lived in a war zone, but I’m not a stranger to the sound of gunfire in my life.  It’s not like I lived in a war zone or a ghetto where it was around me on a constant basis either.

I moved to  Denver, Colorado about ten months ago.  The first thing I did when moving here – volunteer for HeavenFest as a security agent.  My biggest difficulty was working with security executives that didn’t handle crowd control very well.  As a matter of disclosure I will state that my experiences in security include events from local bars to massive 20,000 in attendance events.  Then there was the Aurora theater shooting,   that occurred within 3 weeks of arriving.  While I personally wasn’t at the theater, my brother-in-law and I  had talked about going.  Fortunately my nephew wore us out that night and we opted out.   When I was at worship that Sunday it was obvious that many of the church had been there for a youth group outing, and had been involved as people- and as pastors in the love given as first responders.  Having been surrounded by people personally impacted by the shooting experience was intense, but over the last several months things have been quiet.

Then there was Saturday.   I decided that I would go to the ‘4/20’ celebrations at Civic Center Park with curiosity in mind.  I am an environmental reporter and one of the most common arguments for the reintroduction of Cannabis and Hemp into the US marketplace on an industrial basis is the Environment.  From paper production to textiles and new bio-fuel production, I expected legitimate information on the plethora of uses for HEMP, to be made available. Additionally, the news indicated that there was to be a significant police presence due to the bombings in Boston.  There were concerns of the size of the event in addition to the recent Boston Bombing that caused my sister to advise caution and quote news reports before I left for the event.  I like many new to Denver, did manage to spend time exploring much of Denver With these voices in the back of my head, as well as personal reasons, I was not on site during the actual ‘zero hour’ when, as I have read, thousands of people participated in consuming Cannabis simultaneously.  Instead I arrived an hour before the zero hour, did some reconnaissance work examining the layout of the event, left for the ‘main event’  and returned afterwards, anticipating a large crowd who would be taking a breather.  Instead I found several things occurring.

First: the event was over in the minds of many.  It appeared that the only ‘cool’ thing was to be on site to participate in the consumption of cannabis, also known as marijuana, for the Pot Holiday.

Second:  Security was a joke.   I’ve done more work preparing for large scale events that were expected to have 1/4 of the crowd, than was probably spent putting up snow or ‘security fencing’.   I found no general comfort at any time in the efforts of the police or other security people in holding any type of presence.

Third:  When gunshots went off, things were a mess.  Yes there was a wave of people fleeing the site, and there were people cowering underneath tables and behind one another.  There was no security to be seen yet I wasn’t afraid.

Now let me be clear, I didn’t run.  I didn’t hide, I counted several pops, said, “oh that’s just some dumb ass with a firework” and watched the crowd.  As the first wave was running by, my phone went off.  It was gunshots after all.  Well, shots were fired, but they aren’t going off anymore.  It took ten minutes to get two items of food because to food vendor was stoned stupid.  I placed my order multiple times before I got my food, but hey the place was emptying out, might as well get something to eat.  By the time we got our meal, ate it and left the grounds a process that took over twenty minutes; I still didn’t see any type of security professional or police on site.

And now, I’m mad about it.  I’m not going to stop going to public events.  I refuse to fell less safe.  I refuse to be scared.  I am however mad.  I’m mad that we have to be aware that my life could be threatened today.  I’m mad that we aren’t as able to feel safe and free at large community events.  I’m mad that I am analyzing the event and writing this post about it.  I’m mad that people would bring children of all ages to a closed off marijuana  smoking festival and I’m mad that they weren’t safe while they were there.  I hope everyone will share this feeling, “I will not be timid, I will not be confined and I will not focus on fear.”  Were you somewhere something tragic happened?  Go ahead and repeat that italicized sentence a few times, it’s ok.

But I’m digressing.  For the record it’s not the public consumption of marijuana that I’m bothered by.  It’s the way this group of people is treated as second class and not deserving of something that represents events put on by those who are highly respected.  I’ve seen more security at a Winter Jam concert where tens of thousands of Christians combine for a night of worship, fellowship and community and are protected mostly by volunteers there to do the same thing while ensuring everybody else has a good time.    I’m shocked that I entered and left an area with security fencing and no security personnel.   I get that this was a sketchy event to begin with and I’m sure there were concerns about who would or wouldn’t come if there was someone looking at you and your belongings when you come in.   At the same time this was a family event and while  I admit that I don’t know anybody other than the Pillsbury Dough Boy that might enjoy going through security.  However it’s the same measures that might have convinced someone to leave their gun at home.  After all in Colorado it’s still Illegal to have both at the same one time.