I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The real cost of a cheap toaster

This post was originally done over the long Thanksgiving Holiday but I think it's important so I'm moving it up.
The only groups for whom "free trade' is free are the multinational corporations. When you buy that cheap toaster at Walmart you are paying a costly hidden surcharge that has a negative impact on the health of you and your family. The electricity used to manufacture those cheap products you buy at Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer etc is generated by dirty coal plants. A series of articles in the Oregonian today explain.
China's dirty exports: Mercury and soot
The enormous dust clouds gather in the Gobi Desert. They sail on Siberian winds to China. They pick up mercury, aerosols and carbon monoxide spewed by Chinese coal plants and factories.

Then every five or six days in spring, eastern China flushes like a gigantic toilet. The dust plumes, now as large as countries, ride high over the Pacific Ocean, pushing hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and ozone.

They reach Oregon in less than a week, sullying springtime views at Crater Lake and scattering dust as far as Maine. Researchers climb an ice-encrusted ladder atop Mount Bachelor's Summit Express ski-lift tower and collect the evidence.

Beyond the views, China's contaminants affect Oregon in two key ways:

A growing amount of the greenhouse gases that trap heat, shrink Northwest glaciers and raise ocean levels comes from China.

A substantial share of the mercury that pollutes the Willamette River, making fish unsafe to eat, has traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific.

And it's only going to get worse.
But China's emissions are getting bigger. It plans to add at least 500 coal plants to more than 2,000 operating already. It spews more soot than any other country.
But who's to blame?
Yet it's all too easy to blame China for the mess. U.S. consumers, who buy China's goods and use far more resources than the Chinese, share responsibility.
The dangers of mercury contamination are well known and attempts to reduce mercury pollution have been underway in the US for several decades. Unfortunately -
China's mercury flushes into Oregon's rivers
The inky smoke belched by chimneys in Chinese cities such as Linfen and Datong contains mercury, a metal linked to fetal and child development problems. Trace amounts of the poison can take less than a week to reach Oregon, where research suggests that about one-fifth of the mercury entering the Willamette River comes from abroad -- increasingly from China.

Mercury and other airborne contaminants collect over China during the winter and spring until Siberian winds arrive bearing dust from expanding Chinese and Mongolian deserts. Every five or six days, the winds flush out eastern China, sending dust and pollutants such as ozone precursors high over the Pacific, says Russ Schnell, observatory and global network operations director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Mercury is a good traveller.
Mercury is especially suited for long-distance travel because at the smokestack in elemental form, it's insoluble. By the time it reaches the West Coast, however, some of the mercury has transformed into a reactive gaseous material that dissolves in Western Oregon's wet climate. It washes into the river, where microbes convert it into a form that further concentrates in fish.

Most of the mercury entering the Willamette comes from Oregon's volcanic soil and from sediment churned up on the river bottom. But Bruce Hope, senior environmental toxicologist of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, estimates that global sources beyond the state's control contribute 18 percent -- more than four times the share from local air deposition.
So what can be done? Trade agreements always include language concerning patent and copyright infringement. It would not be that difficult to include language that demands pollution curbs as well. Of course this will not happen as long as the corporatists are in charge of writing the trade agreements. And yes, that includes both Democrats and Republicans.

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