Friday, March 25, 2022

One Helluva Pipe(dream)

Big numbers can be tricky to get ones head around. It's why they get kindergarten kids to bring in 100 of something on the 100th day of school. Our brains sometimes struggle to grasp the enormity of big numbers. 

 340,000 is a huge number. I've been trying to get my head around just how big that number is in the context of litres.

A Boeing 747 uses 14,400 litres of jet fuel per hour. So 340000 litres would be enough for a 24 hr flight and then some. 

A round, backyard pool measuring 15 ft across and 5 ft deep holds 25000 L. You could have nearly 13 pools in your backyard and still not have 340000 L of water in them. 

A large milk truck holds roughly 20,000L. So you'd need 17 milk trucks to hold 340,000 L. 

Yet, somehow last summer, a pipe moving liquid cow manure through a culvert and across a field burst and for three hours, gushed liquid shit at a rate of 340,000 L PER HOUR. FOR THREE HOURS. That's a total of well over 1 MILLION LITRES OF TOXIC LIQUID MANURE in a matter of THREE HOURS.

I keep waiting for this number to be corrected in the CBC article, thinking it simply cannot be correct. But it still stands, a day later and is based, presumably on court documents, so must be correct. It is little surprise then that the reported number of brook trout was 600 and that's just the ones they found. The nearby public beach was closed for the season and shellfish was limited in the area. 

The take away from this article is not about this specific farm however. It's not even about the shit or the fish. It's the fact that we've designed a system to heralds the capacity and size of farms like this. We've placed efficiency and cheap food on such a high pedestal over the values of sustainability and ecological awareness that we shouldn't be shocked when disasters like this happen. 

We can discuss the multiple dangers of liquid manure another time, but consider that a small farm wouldn't likely be moving manure so far. They wouldn't be moving it by pipeline. They wouldn't have such a large pipe or pump system. Manure wouldn't be a waste product to be rid of, but a valuable input to be managed and monitored closely. A small farm would never have found itself in the position of being in court for spilling liquid manure at a rate of THREE HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND LITRES PER HOUR.

$50,000 is a significant fine in the world of PEI agriculture and it might even lead to changes on that farm. But it doesn't do anything to move us toward a system of more, smaller farms with more farmers and happier neighbours. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Dangerous Part

 The argument over whether the trucker convoy headed to Ottawa is a bunch of hillbilly-anti-vax-white-nationalists or the most hopeful momentum of protest against government restrictions is a distraction from what I think is the real tipping point here, and it only serves to continue to divide the country even further.

This has grown into a much larger issue than just vaccine choices and while some will certainly frame the protest in such a light, given the scope of support it's seeing, I think it's important to consider that it is much more than a single issue movement (and in fact, some would argue is not about vaccine choice at all). 

When Trump was elected, I was among those who was astounded and confused. And I stayed that way for the first months of his election, confused over the support such a deplorable leader could rally. But the more I paid attention to the kind of folks who were behind him, the more clear it became that it was less about him as a person and more about him as a boisterous voice, an attention getter. He was offering a very public and loud voice for a large segment of people who felt ignored and marginalized.  Whether they actually were or not, is up for debate in a different article, but they FELT they were and they were angry about it. 

I think we're seeing a glimpse of that with this Freedom Convoy. There are a lot of people who have kept their opinions to themselves about the rules and regulations over the last couple years. The risk of saying anything against the rules was to risk being labelled a careless, selfish bigot who doesn't care if vulnerable people die so rather than question a publicly supported narrative, a lot of folks have kept to themselves. Some, more vocal folks have fanned dangerous flames on the internet, spawning lots of questionable information and garnering support from some vulnerable folks. 

But there are a lot of people who roll their eyes at the angry Facebook warriors and still have questions that they're scared to ask and are frustrated at the limited dialogue. Just as there were a lot of folks who didn't attend Trump rallies but who still quietly put their vote beside his name because they finally felt heard. Just as there are a lot of people in support of the convoy who have never posted a comment on the internet, waved a flag or complained to you about any of the rules. 

So if you're someone who has been publicly critical, shared a dismissive article, maybe posted a clever meme or come up with a cynical new pun for the name of the movement, consider that there may be someone close to you who you assume has the same views as you, but has just been keeping to themselves because that is what is acceptable. Consider that by sharing your negative views of what is (thus far) a peaceful protest that is clearly supported by a lot of folks, you're making yourself yet one more unsafe place for that person to turn with their questions. 

And if your reaction to that is, "Good! I don't want to be a safe place for 'anti-vaxxers'! They're not worth my time!" then it's time to consider that you're no better than the most vocal, unmovable protester and we'll never reach common ground as a country. 

And the problem with that, is that we risk electing officials over ideologies and not policies. That's where things get dangerous.