While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. each year ends up overseas. Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
image courtesy of the NYTimes
Meanwhile, the NY Times reported yesterday that the United Nations released its final report on climate change and the news is what we've been thinking all along; reductions in greenhouse gases need to start "immediately to avert a global climate disaster, which could leave island nations submerged and abandoned, reduce African crop yields by 50 percent, and cause a 5 percent decrease in global gross domestic product." According to the article, the IPCC scientists spoke more freely with their mission completed than they had previously, including Martin Parry, a British climate expert who was co-chairman of the delegation that wrote the second report:
"The sense of urgency when you put these pieces together is new and striking.....I’ve come out of this process more pessimistic about the possibilities than I thought I would.”
Finally, we are not without legislators trying to do something about reducing greenhouse gases. The LA Times reported on Friday that the city planning commission approved "one of the most ambitious green building programs of any big city in the nation, requiring large new developments to be 15% more energy efficient." Under the new rules, new buildings with more than 50 units or 50,000 square feet of floor area will be required to meet LEED certification standards under the ratings system established by the United States Green Building Council. This is a landmark decision in one of the largest cities in the country, since, according to the article, construction is the largest manufacturing industry in the nation, and "buildings account for 39% of U.S. energy use, 70% of electricity consumption and 12% of potable water use."
Is it any wonder then, that when we start to look at ways to slow the pace of global warming, we need to start with buildings?