Sunday, April 26, 2009

burn baby burn

Jeremy Hardy has argued that we need to stop using the military euphemisms. There is, he says, something obscuring about calling kidnap for torture 'rendition'. It's a word you used to hear on the Two Ronnies with Corbett saying 'and now here's Barbara Dickson with a lovely rendition of a song,' and it didn't then have her waterboarding Ronnie Barker.

Personally, I'd add 'waterboarding' to the list. It sounds like a daring adventure sport rather than a terrifying method of torture.

Local government in Leeds seems to be following the American government's example, though. Leeds City Council are pushing this through doors in the city.

Leeds Recycling and Waste Update newsletter.

It's full of positive reports of Leeds' recycling, a visit to the sorting plant in the city (no more sending it to China for recycling that was actually sly landfill), encouragement to compost at home and other worthy things.

Turn to the back page and you find this.

article headed 'Update on the City's Waste Solution'

A 'solution'. That sounds practical and good doesn't it? Who wouldn't want a solution?

It explains that they are going

to build a facility to deal with Leeds' waste and stop us having to rely on landfill sites.

Less landfill, great.

The council are currently working hard to appoint a successful contractor to build this facility.

Working hard, that's good to hear too, isn't it? And a successful contractor will be appointed? Great. Lovely lovely reassuring soothing positive words. Verbal Horlicks.

And, like pretty much any leaflet that uses that sort of language, it's a load of PR waffle. Given that the contractor's appointment is the definition of their success, 'appoint a successful contractor' is somewhat tautological.

But what's missing from this picture? There's the word 'solution' and three uses of 'facility'. No further information given.

What they're actually talking about is a PFI rubbish incinerator to be built in the city. But if they said 'incinerator at several times the cost of construction and operation with a chimney near thousands of your houses' it wouldn't sound as nice.

With this 'solution', the people of Leeds will pay over the odds to burn rubbish, with a serious risk of high pollution emissions in the city and a disincentive to ever reduce the amount of rubbish they produce or recycle.

Until recently, Leeds was governed by an unlikely coalition of LibDems, Conservatives and Greens. After some hesitancy, the Greens came out against the incinerator, and were put in the peculiar position of arguing against their own administration's policy.

With the Council pushing ahead with the plan regardless, in May 2007 the Greens acted with integrity and resigned from the coalition, saying 'the solution is not incineration or recycling, but waste reduction'.

But just as Windscale is Sellafield, as the War on Terror is the 'overseas contingency operation', as charcoal is biochar, so incinerators are now Energy From Waste facilities. So there's not only no need to reduce waste, but a reason to actively increase it.

Accelerates unsustainable consumption, hits all the targets, misses all the point.


Jim Bliss said...

My local community recently succeeded in preventing an incinerator being built less than three miles from the centre of the village. It helped, of course, that not a single local politician was in favour of it. And I suspect the economic downturn may have hit the developer pretty hard too.

All the same, for two years we've lived with the threat of having -- get this euphemism -- an "Energy Recovery Facility" on our doorstep.

Now, it goes without saying that much of the opposition was NIMBYism. But beyond that... the very idea that we should rely upon the indefinite production of large amounts of household and industrial waste to keep the power on, is beyond reckless and right into psychotic.

merrick said...

it goes without saying that much of the opposition was NIMBYism.

NIMBYism, like preaching to the converted, is an underrated activity.

To decry NIMBYs is absurd. We all have more concern for the things that affect our personal lives, we all care more about the things we see every day.

A friend of mine was campaigning against some nonsense from his council and knocked on doors in his street. One person said 'you know your problem, you think you can change the world'.

My friend replied, 'how big's your world? Our street is a pretty big part of it. We can change that. If everyone did the same, then in the bigger sense we would change the world, too'.

Jim Bliss said...

Your comment about NIMBYism led to a bit of a meandering meditation on the subject over at my place.