There are many thousands of words on that EPA website but there are also lots of "big picture" graphs that help make all those numbers easy to understand. It all begins with the total annual tonnage of municipal waste.
The only good news
in the graph below is that the tonnage going to landfills seems to have leveled off at just under 150 million tons per year.
The bad news
is that we're still sending 150 million tons of municipal solid waste to landfills every year.
Regarding the above chart, the total amount of municipal solid waste is still increasing - reaching 267.8 million tons in 2017, which is 5.7 million tons more than what was generated in 2015.
As for the landfill tonnages leveling off, here's the big picture from the EPA as of 2017 - with different colors representing different products.
What's missing here? There is one huge segment of our civilization's waste that is not covered under the "municipal solid waste" category. The key word here is
municipal, which does not include the enormous amount of non-recycled waste (manure) produced by the world's animal food industries. Read on.
According to a September 2019 article in
, the world's livestock are on track to produce over
five billion tons of manure
per year by the year 2030, much of which ends up in our rivers, streams and oceans. They call it the
Planet's Poo Problem
As a point of reference, five billion tons is more than twenty times the USA's 2017 total waste from "municipal" sources.
What does five billion tons look like? How many half-ton pick-up trucks would be needed to carry it away? Would you believe ten billion? That's almost forty times more than the 275 million vehicles now registered in the USA.
Ten Billion Truckloads of Livestock Poop
Ready for some good news?
I found all of the above to be very depressing until I got to thinking about how we could handle both the recycling and the planet's poop problem in the envisioned green paradise of the Great Big Northern.
As for the poop problem, the GBN will not be contributing to the world's five-billion-ton annual total. That's because there will be zero manure from farm animals as all of the food there will be plant-based.
Urgent adoption of plant-based eating is a no-brainer after any sane person examines the two huge problems with animal agriculture regarding health and sustainability:
- Most of our chronic diseases can be slowed, stopped or reversed simply by switching to a whole food, plant-based diet.
- Animal-based foods are one of the leading drivers of climate change, ocean acidification and water pollution - and it's the only major driver of those problems that can be addressed quickly by anyone who so chooses.
Our food is just one of the many elements of our ultra-wasteful and harmful American lifestyle that must be totally re-invented so that the net effect of everything we do has a positive effect on the natural world. Here are some of the other lifestyle categories that will be carefully reexamined and redesigned.
Now that we won't have to worry about the poop problem in the GBN, let's move on to lifestyle and product design. Following the rules of a circular economy, our way of living will be designed following a strict set of survival principles that virtually eliminate the plethora of ways in which we are inflicting damage in 2020.
is an alternative to a traditional linear
(make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
Lifestyle Engineering. That's the term that I use to describe the process of ensuring that every element of our way of living be carefully examined and re-engineered so that only green options exist in the GBN - making it effortless for us to
live in harmony with nature.
Positives outweigh the negatives. As we move down that path, some elements of our lives will be dramatically different from what they are today but, if we do things right, there should be enough positives to offset the pain of giving up some of our favorite things.
To be sure, many people will not want to move to the GBN during the first five or ten years, but as environmental conditions worsen, more and more people will find the sparkling new super-corridor increasingly more attractive.
All regional laws and rules will be developed by AGRA, the American Green Region Authority,
and will be focused on one guiding principle: making life as enjoyable and as comfortable as possible while ensuring that Mother Nature always comes first. Provided below are two
lifestyle guideline lists - with the first list being somewhat more challenging than the second one.
Four Lifestyle Guidelines that some may fear at first
- Unlike the never-ending growth and maximizing of consumption practices that exist today, the economic and governance systems in the GBN will provide incentives for minimizing consumption. That's right, we'll be rewarded for consuming less.
- For example, no one will own real estate, automobiles, bicycles, clothes or home furnishings. Think of living within somewhat of an uber model where all of those things are shared or, in the case of home furnishings and clothes, delivered to the living space when it is assigned to an individual or a family.
- People will earn privileges based on their education and their level of contribution to the overall survivability and enjoyment of the entire GBN Corridor. For example, superstars might be rewarded with better-furnished living quarters with fabulous views in a superior building and within walking distance of the HyperLoop.
- Everyone will apply for and be assigned some kind of role in the operation of the GBN and will earn a form of currency commensurate with the type and quantity of work that they do. There will be full employment as everyone who wants a job will have one.
Four Lifestyle Guidelines that everyone will like:
- Everyone living in the GBN will have the same high-quality level of healthcare as everyone else. The ubiquitous, highly nutritious, whole, plant-based foods will quickly result in the rapid decline of most chronic diseases for all people who move there.
- Everyone will be provided with free food, transportation and housing - to be assigned based on their level of contribution to the overall GBN lifestyle.
- Although some of our current entertainment venues will not be available in the GBN, there will a plethora of superb, highly regarded entertainment options for every person who lives there: things like symphony, museums, amusement areas, parks, recreation areas...
- Only residents and their guests will be allowed to travel on the GBN HyperLoop system. Likewise, those fabulous new Flying Cruise Ships can only be enjoyed by GBN residents and a limited number of their guests per year.
When will the GBN be ready? Assuming that we can launch a high-level global "conversation" about the urgent need to completely redesign the way we all live on this planet - I could see the massive design project starting sometime in the window between 2022 and 2026.
If we get started on the design phase in 2022, there may be a real possibility that the first 100-mile section of this 3000-mile, phenomenally-beautiful, futuristic and ultra-sustainable living corridor might be ready to receive its first residents as early as 2030.
But realistically speaking, our government will likely need to be jolted into action by something really horrific - like a sudden increase in temperatures in the midwestern USA that lowers the agricultural yield there by more than 50%.
Sadly, our somewhat dysfunctional U.S. Government will probably need a series of horrible events that make this OUTCRY from the billion animals who perished in the Australian fires look like child's play in comparison.
I continue to emphasize the
urgent need for a "global conversation"
on how we can create a pleasant and meaningful life in complete harmony with nature. In reality, the best that we can hope for is that the ideas expressed herein will help to spark that crucial global conversation about maximizing the chances that our species will survive beyond this century.
What I do know for sure is that the days are numbered for our grossly unsustainable, harmful and wasteful way of living that we've created for ourselves in just a blink of the eye in geological time.
I am damn sure that we can do better. And we must!
Last week, I included this brief description of how we can begin to change the narrative. It bears repeating.
Changing the narrative.
Rather than continuing to talk about how bad climate change is and what we're going to have to give up to control it - we can begin to envision and promote a superior way of life that over 80% of the world's population would welcome with open arms.
As we begin taking steps toward that vision, we must keep this question at the forefront: H
ow we can create a comfortable and meaningful life for ourselves that is "green enough" to convince Mother Nature that we deserve to continue living here? Exactly how green is green enough?
You also may want to refer your friends and family to that same page, where they might notice something that helps to spark their interest, enthusiasm and action.
I choose to believe that we can turn the climate change monster into a spark for moving urgently toward a sustainable civilization.
Finally, I believe that if we can get this process started here in the USA, that the rest of the world will follow. That said, we should welcome environmentally-conscious leaders from other countries to join us in the design process.