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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brittany's green toxic tide, the horses and the cart

An otherwise innocuous alga has become, thanks to the massive agricultural pollution, in a major threat to the ecosystem, tourism and even lives. The now widespread green toxic tide of sea lettuce remains forms a crust under which a deadly gas, hydrogen sulphide, forms, threatening the lives of those who may dare to walk on it.
A horse has already died and its human rider could only barely be saved from the same destiny.

The culprit? Pollution. Nitrogen pollution from the many farms throughout a country that is the major producer by far of pork (60%), poultry (45%) and dairies (30%) in the French Republic. The nitrogen high residues from these farms hyper-fertilize the coastal sea causing overgrowth of these weeds and the subsequent problems that threaten the tourism industry, as well as people's lives and cause a huge cost in the municipalities that desperately try to keep the tide away from their beaches.

More at BBC.

The real problem, I understand, is that these destructive "industries" are being allowed to pollute without paying for their damage. This makes their products "competitive" but the costs are only transferred to Nature and the public.

It is obvious that industrial or agricultural pollution should not be tolerated, certainly not beyond a minimal threshold, and that instead of investing so much public money in ecologically-friendly projects, authorities should be punishing destructive practices instead. This would result in healthier budgets and, of course, environments.

Some would argue that this would make industries less competitive, which only has an answer: eco-protectionism: forbid imports from polluting countries and/or make them pay high taxes. But first we have to clean our home, so we can ask the same from others.

But the opposite practice is what prevails.

Here for decades, we have been paying to electric companies an special "tax" just because they were forbidden to build new nuclear facilities. Logically, they should be the ones paying us for the facilities already built, which cause clear damage to the environment (either by leaks, the ever present danger of an accident and the totally unmanageable residues). Same for the conventional burner facilities.

That would make ecologically friendly electricity to be competitive. But the interest of the monopolistic industry remains, instead of that of the consumers, taxpayers and environment. And nope: electricity is anything but cheap.

What about water? In southern Spain for example, edible water is being misused brutally in golf courses and intensive industrial farming, causing, along with global warming, the rapid desertification of the area. Yet edible water is there a lot cheaper than here, where it rains every other day, and farmers and tourism entrepreneurs still demand more anti-natural water transfers from other hydrographical basins.

Again the interest of the industry and not that of the country (environment, people) is favored. The cart is once and again put before the horses in a never satiated capitalist accumulation process in which the wealth is extracted from Nature and the people into the pockets of a privileged class of vampires.

And I could continue but I have to stop at some point.

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