It’s 4:40am on Monday the 1st of October. I’m here in my hotel room in Los Angeles, at the end of a fairly long trip. I set off from my home in New Zealand on the 30th of August. It’s been a while. I went from there to Los Angeles, and then on to England, and then back through Los Angeles on my way back to New Zealand. One of the main reasons of my trip was to gather information for Co-Opera, whether material, artistic or written. There’ll be some of each of that definitely. One of the main highlights were conversations that I had with my son-in-law, Steven, as I mentioned in Part I of this blog. He has been in the business of clinical waste management for many years, and it’s a subject that I’ve always had a marginal interest in, but because of the focus in the work I was doing before, my interest was just that – marginal. Now that I’ve opened my eyes a bit more thanks in part to a good friend and partner in uncrime, Alexandra Bwye, that interest has grown.
There is a difference between clinical waste and general waste. We have a margin of control over general waste, as we can buy less, and we can recycle. We do have control over clinical waste, but that has to do with a more abstracted set of choices. If we take care of ourselves and our health, which funnily enough often relates to consuming less food for bodily health, and consuming less materials for mental health (as the need to amass material possessions tends to indicate the need to fill an emotional need that will only worsen the more distracted by materials we get), we will have less of a need to be in a hospital in the first place. When one goes into the city, it is amazing how much ‘disposable income’ people have. It’s mind-boggling to see what people are purchasing. There are so many storage facilities as well. I go to an outdoor shopping mall here in El Segundo sometimes to get to Whole Foods, a health food store. It’s very well done from the point of enticing people to spend more. I used to spend quite a lot of money there myself, hence me having a lot of stuff to dispose of upon leaving the United States altogether. *As a side note, I will say this – a lot of these things I do speak from experience. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, just that some things I have been through can help people in some way.* Anyhow, right behind this mall in El Segundo is an immense storage facility. Generally what storage is used for in the USA is people whose homes have filled up and they need to put some items somewhere else to continue to amass more things. As time goes by, hopefully we’ll see these places becoming emptier and the selling off of items, or better yet giving the items to other people in need.
Going back to clinical waste, it’s not so much something we generally choose to create, aside from simply taking care of ourselves, but going to the doctors for an appointment or going to the emergency room will all create waste of course, as when flus, viruses, and accidents happen. In cases such as epidemics and accidents we don’t have too much of a say over clinical waste. Landfills, as touched on in the last piece are taxed in the UK 64 pounds per ton, which is considerably more than it costs to simply take it from the original building in the first place. The less you can put in a landfill the better obviously – its better financially and environmentally. Other than landfilling, clinical waste is either incinerated (burnt until not hazardous), which simply means it has been reduced to ashes by creating unused energy (fire/heat) from it, which is wasteful in itself, or generating power from it, which is growing in popularity. The machinery used to do this is still very expensive, so it is not a big power generator yet, but as I mentioned, it is growing.
One more point which I’ve seen in my lifetime directly or indirectly: When I grew up, a lot of Europe was under the grip of the Soviet Union, the world’s largest Communist regime. It doesn’t exist in that form anymore since the Berlin Wall came down, but nevertheless here’s the significance of all of this in my opinion: It does matter what political paradigm we ascribe to – Republican, Democratic, Communist, Socialist… the root of it all is Capitalism, the operation of societies using money as a means of exchange and enrichment. Sadly at this point in time in 2012 we’re seeing distribution of wealth falling back to the rich, almost going back to the times of royal families. Royal families did exist whether we liked it or not, but now we have these rich individuals and families by austerity measures. The main focus here is clinical waste however, so at the end of it all everything revolves around money. A lot of the things that we need to happen are only going to happen if there’s a way to make equitable money from it so that whomever is benefitting from that money (hopefully on a grand scale where most people are), so power generation from clinical waste is definitely an optimistic start, if we can’t simply hold back from creating waste in the first place by creating more health in our lives.
As people wanting to make the world a better place, we cannot ignore Capitalism, which exists on every country on Earth. There is no society where you can live without money. It’s as simple as that, and anything that relates to that is Capitalism in my mind. In order to make the world a better place for the future generations, we have to figure out how to live within that system while moving forward.