Editorial - The Mosquito Democracy

A vast floating waste island that's so immense it seems like a continent unto itself. The subversive idea emerges from the mind of French playwright Daniel Pennac. in an otherwise pristine ocean, he portrays a continental “raft” piled high with plastic bags, bubble-wrap, broken phones, old computer parts, used clothes, dirty toothbrushes, and an assortment of cables. Pennac conjures up this drifting mountain of floating garbage to offset the illusion of cleanliness and order of the inhabited world.

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every production process produces waste, which can be treated and disposed of (made harmless if toxic) or converted into energy or new raw materials. For most of us, the idea of waste recycling is an abstract process that doesn’t involves consumers. We just buy our tomatoes at supermarket and toss plastic bags into the trash and then into a dumpster. our involvement in the process ends there.

Meat eaten and what’s left over discarded. We don’t think about what happened to the animal carcass, to the remaining blood and bone. in efficient slaughterhouses bacteria “cleans up” after the remaining blood and organic material. in others, the blood is allowed to coagulate and becomes nutrition for flies and other insects.

The point is this: in a chemical reaction, matter is neither created nor destroyed.

Eighteenth-century French chemist antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, a scientist and writer guillotined during the reign of Terror, first enunciated this groundbreaking principle of modern chemistry. sadly, it’s a reality that latter-day economists appear to have conveniently set aside.

Holland imports garbage that it then processes into electrical power. The southern city of Naples pays up to €223 a ton to dispose of its waste near the northern city of Varese. in the West, iPhones and Macs are the status symbol of a generation. in africa and india, heaps of aging high-tech are a source of pollution and disease among those who try to extract what’s left of their precious but toxic metals.

Landfills and trash mountains are altering parts of the global landscape, yielding squared-off mounds where trees won’t grow. rivers near these dumpsites change colors and begin to smell. clouds of screaming gulls feed on the detritus, carrying it outward.

Illegal waste disposal is a $400 billion a year business whose volume is doubling, if not tripling, annually, generating a literal mound of opportunities and jobs for crisis-stricken economies, which at this point includes just about country in the West.

Waste production and export can make a wealthy country even richer. a poor state produces less and takes in more, the mounds of detritus left to rot on city streets, in the countryside, and in the woods.

Africa and Asia is adrift in paper-thin black plastic bags, some of them stuck in tree branches, others clogging drains or drifting like tumbleweed over filthy beaches. Landfills see colonies of abandoned
children who traffic in selling empty coke cans and copper pulled from circuit boards. They dress in garbage.

In nature, all changes but nothing disappears. To ignore this principle is to condemn an ever-larger swathe of the planet to live a life in the trash of others. Thousands of landfills breed billions of mosquitoes, flies, bacteria, and viruses. None has ever paid much attention to class or social status before getting to work.

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