J.T. Green & Peter Werbe

J.T. Green
I READ PETER WERBE’S ARTICLE IN THE AUGUST EDITION OF FERNDALE FRIENDS with some alarm, and would like to present a rebuttal to what I believe are serious flaws in both facts and arguments.

The thrust of Mr Werbe’s argument is that the Ferndale recycling program is a net loss to the environment.
Firstly, Mr. Werbe focuses his ire on plastic exclusively; and in the process completely ignores that it is uncontroverted that glass and paper are the most easily recyclable substances known to man. If all of the paper currently thrown away in the United States were to be recycled, it would save approximately one billion trees a year. Similarly, producing glass consumes a huge amount of energy (inasmuch as sand is essentially melted down). The process for recycling glass for commercial use is much less energy-intensive. In order to promote recycling, Ferndale uses “single stream” recycling; meaning that all recyclables are recycled in the same container, a method which has been proven to increase recycling among the general population.

Speaking of containers, Mr. Werbe goes on to complain that the containers used to recycle are not themselves recyclable. Well, that’s beside the point, isn’t it? Unlike most household plastics, things like traffic cones, park benches and recycl-ing containers (which also come in for undeserv-ed criticism) are not intended for one-time use; they are intended to be a durable good. There is no point in a park bench being recyclable a sec-ond time, because it’s meant to be installed in a park and sit there for the next 20 years.
Mr. Werbe then goes on to argue that recycling plastic is a net loss to the Earth; a proposition that is as ludicrous as it is completely discredited by the scientific community. The process of recycling plastic uses 50 per cent less energy than the most common method of plastic disposal; which is incineration. By choosing to recycle plastic, we cut our carbon emissions by half. Secondly, by recycling just one ton of plastics, roughly 2000 pounds of oil can be kept in the ground. Recycling plastics further creates jobs; it’s a $5.4 billion dollar industry, which does not include the jobs generated at recycling plants in which recyclable materials are sorted.

No one is arguing for the use of more plastic, but we have to take the world as we find it. Recycling plastic is the best way we have to mitigate the effects of our use of plastic on the environment. What I find truly shocking, is that in 2017, I have to write an article in Ferndale Friends, in one of the most progressive cities in America, in support of recycling.

J. T. Green is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as EarthLaw, but is writing in a personal capacity.

Peter Werbe responds:
THANK YOU, J.T. FOR EXTENDING THIS CRUCIAL DISCUSSION. I’m sure you, like so many others, realize the planet is at a critical point, perhaps one of no return from the damage done by the fossil fuel/petrochemical/nuclear/industrial system. The rise in CO2 content in the atmosphere, the increasing species die-off, the systematic destruction of forests and natural environment, the poisoning of the seas and over-fishing — the list could on considerably longer.

Recycling as a solution to this is an illusion, one sown primarily by those industries which cause the damage in the first place. Let me repeat a little of what I said in the column you find alarming.

Most of what is threatening life on the planet comes from industry, not municipal waste streams. Although the 97%-3% ratio is challenged to some extent, industrial and mining solid waste still make up the vast majority of the trash of an out-of-control production and consumption system. These are older figures, but 250 million tons of municipal waste is produced yearly, while 7.6 billion tons of nonhazardous industrial waste comes out of factories and mines. And it’s growing steadily each year as the world-wide machine increases its frantic pace of production.

Sure, some of the latter can be recycled, but your organization cites metal reprocessing, for instance, as a major source of pollution in Houston, as are the city’s waste oil disposal sites. And, this is true of every recycling facility.

Increasing the number of recycling plants will add measurably to pollution overall. As I wrote, the reprocessing of anything is a toxic procedure (how do you think they get ink off of paper and where does that go?) and adding more buildings, trucks spewing exhaust, workers driving, etc., means it’s less than zero sum.

But, let’s get closer to home and look at the green behemoths that were recently dropped off and made so many giddy with excitement. With single-stream recycling, glass is a major component, but a third of it winds up broken and it’s off to the landfill. That same figure applies to all of recyclables that are contaminated by broken glass shards, food residue, oil, etc.

And, who are the big advocates of recycling as a mask for their poisonous products? The Union of Concerned Scientists cites the American Chemical Society, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council as using their advocacy of recycling as a fig leaf for continuing their practices just as they are.

The Saving-a-Billion-Trees line is one promoted by the American Loggers Council. Almost all trees cut for paper are ones grown specifically for that purpose.

Plastic? You are defending plastic? Oh, if only everyone would recycle their plastic. Well, they don’t, they won’t, and they can’t. Much of what is produced isn’t recyclable and 20 years goes by pretty quickly for your park benches. Where do they go then? Most of it just gets dumped into landfills where it takes 1,000 years to break down, while leeching toxins into our land and water systems.

Here are a few things that aren’t recycled: The 100 billion plastic grocery bags used every year and are not permitted in our bins. The 500 million straws a day Americans throw away. The 25 billion Styrofoam cups discarded every year, including four billion from Starbucks alone. Plus, even though the U.S. is now the leading oil producer, it will still fight wars to protect petroleum sources in the Middle East.

Coca-Cola, which airs all those TV ads about how much they value water purity, increased its production of un-recyclable PET bottles by one billion last year, in a yearly total of 110 billion Coke containers.

And, to accommodate single-stream recycling, the SOCRRA facility on Coolidge will close for an indefinite amount of time, leaving all of what we can’t put in the bins…where?

As the American poet, E.E. Cummings once wrote, “I don’t want to startle you, but they mean to kill us all.” Well, I do mean to startle you.
The fate of the earth is at a tipping point and we need to quickly get rid of items that require recycling by first extremely and drastically reducing production and reusing what we can. If not, I fear a bad fate awaits us.

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WHAT YOU ARE HOLDING IN YOUR HANDS, BY CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, IS A DINOSAUR, soon to be a fossil. That’s right. We’re told that the Print Age that began in the Fifteenth Century is over, supplanted by electronic devices, with only a few remaining holdouts.

In fact, visiting news sites on one’s phone may soon be outdated technology replaced by holograms appearing with the wave of a hand (or maybe just a thought). Who needs a tree-killing, labor and machinery-intensive, hard-to-deliver, expensive means of communication when the whole world is on our phones?

Well, that would be me, but more importantly, so does this paper’s readership and those of the many other Detroit-area publications that defy so-called conventional wisdom, and see their circulation rising.

What is declining significantly is the corporate media. As an example, The Detroit News and Free Press now limit delivery of their daily edition to Thursday and Friday. In New York City, the drop-off in circulation of The New York Daily News is staggering; from 4.9 million copies of their Sunday paper in 1947 to 235,000 today. No more, “Extra, extra; read all about it.”

News is now garnered instantaneously from the Internet, so the social need for newspapers as an immediate information source is gone and won’t come back.

BUT FERNDALE FRIENDS and the other paper I write for, the Fifth Estate, and a host of other local papers such as the Metro Times, Between the Lines, and several more, serve a need not provided for by the Web.

One important aspect of each paper is that they serve very distinct
communities, and simply having it present is an affirmation of what each publication projects. Most young people grew up with a phone in their hand, so maybe they don’t have a reaction to the important tactile feel of holding a newspaper. But, if you’re reading this, you very well may.

This paper has the culture and residents of Ferndale and the surrounding area all over it, including its advertisements. Most people don’t like ads on TV, which is why programs are recorded and ads get the fast forward function. On radio, as soon as the spot break comes, boom, you hit the button for your second favorite station. But, if you’re like me, you probably read not only every article in this paper to see who is doing what and what is going on, but pay attention to the ads since they are a source of information around the community as well.

Here’s what Stephanie Loveless, Ferndale Friends publisher, had to say about print in a recent conversation I had with her. “I like print. Nobody ever got hacked reading Ferndale Friends or Fifth Estate! We don’t collect cookies, plant spyware or malware, and we make a nice friendly ‘plop’ when we hit your porch. What’s not to love about print?”

ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE IMPORTANT to recognize the Buddhist concept of Impermanence, having back issue available is an important source of history of events covered by a publication. When the Fifth Estate celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, with exhibitions at the Detroit Historical Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), there was the first edition from 1965 on display, and the 1970 women’s issue which was the paper’s highest circulation. So was the paper’s coverage of the July 1967 Detroit Rebellion, a copy of which is part of the current million-dollar exhibition at the Historical Museum devoted to the uprising.

What’s on your blog is gone in a minute. Well, maybe not from the NSA computers if you are an enemy of the state.

Getting my eyes off of my phone and desktop screen, and onto a printed page is something I look forward to. I can read lengthy articles at my leisure and not get that immediate restless feeling that accompanies viewing Internet articles to move onto the next one. Remember that in George Orwell’s 1984, one of the goals of “Newspeak” was to diminish language and the capacity for full discourse. Although you can publish articles of any length online, how many people are going to read long ones on their phone?

A writer recently submitted an 8,000 word article to the Fifth Estate when we had asked for 1,200 maximum. When we declined to print it, they withdrew it and published it on a news site. It’s doubtful many visitors there read the entire text.
Granted, once you’re set up, online posting is relatively easy, certainly much less than all the effort it takes to publish a newspaper. But how do you know when it’s time to pack it in, like the venerable NYC’s Village Voice did this year after 62 years of print publishing?

Whether to continue printing is actually self-regulating. Newspapers are expensive, so if Ferndale Friends doesn’t get advertising it won’t publish any longer. If the Fifth Estate doesn’t receive subscriptions, it too is history.

For now, though, for both publications, no worry. Same for the others mentioned above. And, yes, I am blowing our own horn. There is a sense of enormous satisfaction that comes with the publication of each issue no matter how many times you’ve seen one roll off the press. You know you’ve connected with lots of people and connected them with each other through what appears on the printed page.

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

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By Rebecca Hammond

ON OUR MANY MINI-MICHIGAN TRIPS, WE NOTICE A LACK OF MILKWEED IN places that could sustain it, but we also notice an abundance of goldenrod. Monarch butterflies need both, milkweed being their only host plant, goldenrod and asters being the nectar plants that get the last generation of monarchs each year from northern places to central Mexico. You may have been told that goldenrod revs up your fall allergies. I was. But goldenrod pollen is too big and heavy to blow around and be inhaled. Most of us are really triggered by ragweed, which blooms at the same time, but with no attention-getting showiness.

I saw many monarchs in the UP a week or so ago, some along Lake Michigan, about to cross the Straits, one just off the coast of Grand Island, in the winds of a coming storm. We were on a ledge watching that storm roll in, and the monarch was a surprise.

If you visit Grand Island, consider the ferry schedule online and on the door of the ferry office in Munising to be a wee bit more flexible than stated. We thought we had a half hour to kill before the 9:00 A.M. ferry made the three-minute trip, but the captain wandered into the parking lot and gathered up four of us, and off we went. The ferries are actually pontoon boats, carrying only six passengers at a time, with three official trips a day at this time of year.

THREE DOWNY WOODPECKERS flew onto our porch recently, obviously nest-mates, a female and two males. They explored the place, rear-ranging things here and there. I have a bee house (although wasps and fireflies seemed to use it, no bees appeared to) and one compartment is full of wood shavings. A male pulled them out and dropped them, one at a time. Then the female pulled them out and inserted them into a different compartment, one at a time.

KATE FOX, NEIGHBOR WITH the “Keep Fernlandia Weird” straw-bale vegetable garden last year, expanded this year, same plants, just more of ‘em. Her carrots were so thick and abundant with foliage (itself edible) that she laughed at my inability to keep my hands out of it. The bales of straw are conditioned with fertilizer and heat up and cool down like compost.

Kate made recesses in the tops of the bales, and filled those with soil-less mix. The plants go right into that. Her basil was a healthy little fragrant forest, and the tomato plants were towering. She also has eggplant and cucumbers. The bales are already breaking down, and can be spread else-where like any mulch. Kate says this is her gardening method from now on.

My own tomatoes and peppers were lackluster. So, I googled. Filled a big watering can from the rain barrel, tossed in a handful of Epsom salts, and about the same amount of blackstrap molasses. Tomatoes like calcium. Molasses supplies that, and iron and potassium. I keep a bottle around for electrolyte issues I have in this older age, making sure to take a couple of spoonfuls any night we’ve been out getting sweaty hiking or biking. The salts have a lot of magnesium, which is supposedly why a good soak in a salty bath relaxes the muscles. If you’ve never tried this, you may be surprised. The tomatoes looked better two days later, and did fine from then on, as did green peppers that got the same medicine.

IF YOU’RE UP EARLY and sit outside in the dark, you may hear screech owls calling to each other just before dawn. Sitting outside in the early morning is so wonderful, so life-enriching, it’s a wonder that anyone who does it once isn’t up early and outside every day. Humans are odd things about continuing that which we find rewarding. We so often just go back to sleep, in more ways than one.

IF YOU TIRE EVEN OF FERNDALE’S great bike-lane system, head up Schoenherr and turn west on Clinton River Drive. You quickly come to a parking lot along power lines. It’s a trail-head for a paved path that goes through Utica and beyond. It shadows the Clinton River and goes up and down and around enough curves to be a relief to those of us locked into our incessant rectangles and straightaways. And it has some fun tunnels and bridges. Most of it feels quite remote from urbanness. Check out the paved trail right here in Harding Park. Fun addition to a pedal around town.

This urban setting is home to more deer now than I can believe. We visited some former neighborhood pals who moved to south Royal Oak, and were admiring their new home and back yard. Up walked a doe and buck. As the six of us, two couples, our friends’ two little girls, were shouting with surprise, and ooh-ing and ahh-ing, the deer decided to, right then and there, um, mate. At that moment, the older of the two girls remarked, quite innocently, “Maybe they’ll have a baby!” Uh, yeah. That’s just about a sure thing.

ADDING TO THE ONGOING LIST OF reasons I know I live in a great city this: When a police officer showed up at our house to take a look at vandalized plants in our front yard, her first comment was that the plants are milkweed, and monarchs need milkweed. And that we need to protect it. Thank you, officer. We are, and will continue.

Becky Hammond loves the Michigan outdoors and never wants to be anywhere else. Heaven is here.

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By Rudy Serra

Q: IF I AM BEING CHARGED with embezzlement and I admitted to it, will I be able to get a court-appointed attorney even though I confessed? I am being charged with embezzlement (less than $200.00) from my place of work. I admitted to it, apologized and offered to pay it back on the spot. They told me to keep it, and told me they were going to press charges. This is my very first time doing anything so stupid. What will happen at my arraignment hearing?

ANSWER: The purpose of arraignment is to make sure you understand the charges against you and your legal rights. Some-times, defendants go through arraignment without a lawyer. When you face potential incarceration, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer. Since bond is set at arraignment, in many cases there are court-appointed lawyers available at this stage. Sometimes, the court does not appoint a lawyer until after arraignment.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case called “Gideon v Wainwright.” In that case, the defendant was not able to afford to pay for a lawyer. He wanted one anyway. The court decided that defendants have a right to a government-paid lawyer in criminal cases if they can’t afford to hire one on their own.

Later, the court clarified that poor people can have a lawyer appointed if they face incarceration. If an offense is punishable only by a fine or some other non-jail sanction, then there is no right to counsel. You do not get a court appointed lawyer for running a stop sign or over-parking because these are called “civil infractions” for which there is no jail penalty.

The fact that a person pleads guilty has no effect on their right to a court-appointed lawyer. If a guilty plea could possibly result in jail time, then the court should appoint a lawyer for you.

Usually, a defendant has to prove their own inability to pay. The court pays for counsel only if you are “indigent.” Also, usually, if you get convicted, part of your sentence requires you to repay the court for your lawyer. The courts have adopted competency standards for appointed criminal defense lawyers. Some courts use a “House Counsel” system, where an assigned public defender rep-resents everyone in court that day. In more serious cases, like felonies, the court assigns one lawyer to one defendant. In either case, continuing legal education and other standards apply.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcomes questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to: rudy.serra@sbcglobal.net. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

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By Jeannie Davis
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF EVERY GROUP? Every person working for a cause? Every com-mission that plans events? Fundraising!

It’s a universal problem – how to raise funds for your group or cause. I have helped raise funds for the Ferndale Foundation, the Ferndale Art Commission, the Ferndale Historical Society and more political campaigns than I can remember. I am not alone. Every other passionate, involved person in this city has had the same experiences. We have all worked hard for so many causes.

Some of the methods have been typical, like banquets, raffles, bar parties, and house parties. My particular favorite is the “moo-poo” event held to support sports at the high school. It involves a cow, a field with squares drawn and numbered, and I think you can imagine the rest.

This all leads to our Ferndale Senior Group. We are limited in raising funds, particularly within our peers, by the fact that the majority of seniors are on limited, fixed incomes. We can only raise so much money during our meetings with 50/50 raffles, pick-your-own prize raffles, and other efforts which raise limited amounts. We reach outside our group periodically. We are indeed all good bakers, and our bake sales are our biggest money-raisers. However, we can only have so many bake sales, and our ladies can only bake so many cookies.

In specific instances, we have applied, and received grant money from the Ferndale Foundation. What do we need money for? We pay for lunch at the Center once a month for members. We offer a special free trip for members every year. We partially subsidize holiday parties during the year. We provide small refreshments at meetings. We pay for speakers and entertainment at our meetings. This certainly is not covered by our $10 annual dues.

Please understand, we are not begging for money. Rather, we are begging for education on raising funds. We need ideas on what we can do to earn enough to be able to continue to offer these services to our people. The hard part is that the people doing the work are somewhat limited physically. Some of us can’t stand for long, lift heavy stuff, nor do we have the endurance for long shifts. Obviously, we need to reach outside our group. Pretty small parameters, but some of you must have ideas.

Maybe we could assist another group with a fund-raiser and have a small share in the profit. We have bounced so many ideas around during our meetings. My particular favorite is still the calendar-girl idea. Steve at Western Market even volunteered to allow us to use his fruit displays in his store for staging. However, only two of us were willing to do it. So another idea hit the dust.

So, please, if you have any know-how, or know of things which have worked out in other cities, please contact me, or stop one of us on the street, and talk to us about it. Even if you get an idea at 3:00 A.M., just call Virginia Saxton. She will be happy to answer the phone and talk!

Jeannie Davis, 248-541-5888

By: Sara E. Teller

ROBERTSON BROTHERS IS A FAMILY-OWNED COMPANY IN BUSINESS for over 70 years,  providing housing mainly in Oakland and Wayne Counties. Some notable projects include Lexington on the Park, Sherman Oaks and Normandy Oaks in Royal Oak.

As of late, the company has been busy completing two new home sites in Ferndale at the former Wilson Elementary School and Taft Digital Learning Center locations. “Organizationally, we’re very excited,” said Tim Loughrin, Manager of Land Acquisition. “We’re happy to be in Ferndale.”

The Wilson site is a little further along, abatement beginning roughly a month ago, followed by demolition. “Trees have been cleared. Contractors [have] moved in,” Loughrin said. “Grading and installing the underground utilities, including water, sewer and storm, will follow the demo, and paving is scheduled to begin sometime in November.”

Twenty-eight single-family homes will be constructed at the site of the former Wilson Elementary school. There will be four options in total: two main floor plans, with an additional two variations of those. The homes, ranging from 2,100 to 2,400 square feet, will be built to order. Homeowners will be able to select a lot, home plan and color scheme, as well as their finishes starting in November. There hasn’t been a new project for single-family homes in the area for 50 years,” Loughrin said. “That’s what excited me the most about this project.”

The Taft site is a new concept for the area. “We’re providing options that don’t exist in the current market. I like to call it the ‘missing middle’,” Tim explained. This is essentially offering an option somewhere between a hi-rise and a single-family home. “Townhomes with medium density don’t exist,” Loughrin said. “We’ve been successful with offering this in other markets.”

Taft will consist of 72 one-to-two car garage townhomes ranging from 1200 to 1500 square feet. Two or three-bedroom options will be avail-able, and homeowners will be able to select their finishes within 30 days of purchasing their new home. All finishes will be available at the Robert-son Brothers design center located at their main office building in Bloomfield Hills.
Because of the new concept at Taft the approvals took a bit longer than expected, but the project is only slightly behind Wilson’s schedule.

Demolition is scheduled for mid-October, which will be followed by grading and installing the underground utilities. “Unfortunately, paving won’t likely happen until next year,” Loughrin said. The asphalt plants will close down in late Fall, reopening sometime in April or May. He is hopeful they will be able to complete a model in the meantime, however.

Subcontractors have placed bids on both projects, and Robertson’s project managers are busy overseeing work. According to Loughrin, the community was heavily involved in the planning phase as the company engaged in neighborhood meetings to ensure they were offering new home options needed in the Ferndale area. “The community is aware of what we’re doing.” Loughrin said.

Justin Lyons, Planner at the City of Ferndale, said, “These will be a big benefit to schools. The sites were a bit of a burden to the community, with the buildings deteriorating. The development partner came up with a plan to alleviate this burden.” He adds that the new sites were “part of a master plan adopted earlier this year regarding the major theme and goals, including providing more types of housing and housing options.” Through a public participation process, the City tried to determine what residents want, and new stock was an issue that came up time and again. “This’ll be a great option for families or anyone who is looking to move to Ferndale,” he said.

NOT EVERYONE IS SO ENTHUSED. David Lungu of The Ferndale Historical Society went to Wilson Elementary as a child. He lived one block from the school for a number of years. “I am 52, and have been a resident of Ferndale almost all my life,” he said, having moved to Southfield just a few years ago.

He has been a board member of the Historical Society for 25 years. As far as the new housing project, David said, “I am really not in favor…because we will lose valuable green space. I remember watching commission meetings where they said they will not get rid of green space. I guess times change,” he sighed. “I do think if they had just replaced the existing footprint of the school with new housing and kept the rest green it would be okay, since buildings were already there.” Ferndale will always be special to David.

“My favorite thing about Ferndale is the friendly and nice atmosphere. I felt real safe and still do when I visit now. For over 45 years I lived in Ferndale, went to Wilson school, then to the old Coolidge Jr. High, then to Ferndale High School where I graduated in 1983.” He recalled many fond memories of attending Wilson Elementary School and baseball games at Wilson Park.

SO, THERE HAS BEEN A MIXED REACTION to the two builds, consisting of either enthusiasm or a sort of nostalgic regret. The area is losing a couple of valuable historic monuments, but the new housing will no doubt attract new residents and boost commerce.

By : Jon Szerlag

TO MAKE CHANGE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO SEE IMMEDIATE RESULTS. Sometimes it’s opening peoples’ eyes and minds to a thought, an idea. That is what one local Ferndale resident did when she went for a walk one day in late August near the Wilson Park.

As construction at the site of the former Taft School began (see adjoining article), Shannon O’Brien, a resident of Ferndale for about 25 years and Ferndale Friends Circulation Manager, noticed trees that were marked to be cut down. Already feeling a little disheartened, she remembered taking her son when he was younger to the park, and how he would sit under the trees for shade.

Piece by piece (trees and nature) are disappearing,” O’Brien said. “When my son was in kindergarten, we would go to this park and it was great. I never thought about it at that time.”

While the city landscape has changed, O’Brien said cutting down these old trees which have stood for more than 100 years, and a philosophy of developing every inch of space, is not characteristic of the Ferndale she loves.

O’BRIEN WENT HOME WANTING TO DO SOMETHING to try and save the trees. Then she had an idea: She looked around for something to write on but all she could find was a brown paper bag. She made a quick sign that simply read, “SAVE ME! I am 150+ years old. I cannot be replaced. Please think about my bottom line, not just yours.” Then she marched down to the park and hung it on one of the trees.

Not thinking her brown paper bag sign would have much of an impact, she was surprised to find that within several days signatures started to show up on her sign, which stayed tied to the tree on the south side of the former campus. Before she knew it, there were more than 50 signatures on her sign, and the brown square with her words printed on it stayed until it was one of the last few trees standing.

While the trees were not spared, O’Brien’s spirits were lifted not only by the people who signed her statement, but also stepped up to try to save other trees throughout the city of Ferndale as others began posting similar signs. And her tiny campaign sparked a minor fury around town on social media, and led to articles in Oakland County Times and an interview with Channel 7 WXYZ News.

When she went to where the tree once stood, after work as a caregiver, the tree was now only a stump. O’Brien went and counted the rings. 127 in total.

O’Brien does not know what will happen next, but her love for trees and finding a balance between development and preserving the rich and old natural habitat of the city will continue to be on her mind. She has reach-ed out to the developer and city officials, and if she can find others to help her she may start reaching out more in a grassroots effort.

While development, growth and progression will most likely continue in our city and others, O’Brien is becoming more hopeful that developers and City officials will be more conscious of the area’s natural habitat.

“My son said to me, ‘Do one thing different, and it will make a change,’” O’Brien said. “One small thing can make a difference: ask questions, ask for support or join an organization. I want to bring more consciousness and am thinking of reaching out to different organizations like the Historical Society to see if there is interest (in preserving nature in the city.

O’Brien is not discouraged by the trees at the park being cut down. The community’s input, signatures and surprising kindness has given her hope for Ferndale, and the surrounding area’s natural beauty and heritage.
“One of my friends said she loves what I am doing, and how I am doing it in a peaceful way,” O’Brien said.

“Where there is a will there is a way.”

SOCCRA, the municipal corporation responsible for recycling in Ferndale and 11 surrounding communities, has recently dropped off 100 thousand 65-gallon recycling bins to area homes as replacements for the old 20-gallon standbys we put out on garbage day. You should have already received yours. The big green bins are three times the size of the ones they’re replacing, and since SOCCRA is converting to a mixed recycling facility, all curbside recyclables can now be dumped in them unsorted.

The Recycling Partnership, a national non-profit that is picking up a portion of the cost, wants to improve the relatively low U.S. recycling rates. The thinking behind making these behemoths the new standard is that people will recycle more since they have greater capacity.

The new containers total 250,000 pounds of un-recyclable plastic items inserted into our communities and mean that the old ones, also un-recyclable, will wind up in a landfill where most plastic produced finds its way. In fact, according to a study published in the July 2017 Sciences Advances, 91 per cent of plastic produced since 1950 – 8.3 billion metric tons – is not recycled regardless of the chasing arrows symbols and number system that we find on plastic products.

The new recycle carts are designed to encourage residents to fill the containers to the brim.

However, recycling is less than a zero-sum game. It actually worsens the environmental degradation of the planet. More recycling means an expanded industry with more factories, more machinery, more energy, more waste, its own refuse and garbage, more workers going to more work on more roads in more cars, with
additional suppliers, ad infinitum.

Disposal of household garbage, however, should only be a footnote when talking about waste. Americans generate ten billion tons of it yearly, but the vast majority —98 per cent — is from industrial and mining operations. The remaining two percent comes from municipal sources.

The emphasis on household recycling functions as a diversion from examining the big sources of waste. A close look at the myths about recycling shows they are being perpetrated less by those committed to ecology and more by those doing the most damage to the planet.

Though they don’t use the recycled substance in production, the American Plastics Council, an industry group for virgin resin manufacturers (first-time-use plastics), is a relentless promoter of plastics recycling. They spend millions on public relations as part of a propaganda campaign to change the long-standing perception of their product as harmful to the environment.

From its inception, plastic has been a synonym for the false and insubstantial. The late Frank Zappa sang about “Plastic People,” and the obscenely-whispered advice to “The Graduate,” similarly was, “Plastics.” Unfortunately, the businessman in the 1967 film was correct; the future did lie in that multi-use substance made from the oil for which the U.S. has been willing to kill several hundred thousand Iraqis.

The substitution of plastics for glass, wood and paper products has been so substantial that hardly anyone even notices. Any public event, a baseball game, for instance, produces massive amounts of plastic cups, plates and cutlery that have been used in some cases for only the seconds it takes to spill down ten ounces of beer before being consigned to a trash barrel. The cups arrive at the local landfill (they can’t be recycled), there to remain intact for hundreds of years, although their slow disintegration begins to release toxins.

They began their ignominious journey in an oil field thousands of miles away and are toxic every moment of their existence from drilling to oceanic and pipeline transportation, to manufacture and finally to disposal. Add wars to secure oil to the equation and you have the premier deadly modern energy source and product component.

The “at least we’re doing something” argument doesn’t work well either. The industrial recycling process which reclaims plastic is highly toxic and much of what is collected in our neighborhoods is shipped overseas and processed under uncontrolled conditions in notorious polluting countries like China and Thailand. In addition, most of the products which are manufactured from what is recycled, such as park benches, traffic strips, and polyester jackets, can’t be recycled a second time. What you set out at your curb is only one generation away from a landfill.

Originally, recycling was conceived of as the last resort in the triad of reduce, re-use, and recycle, the latter being used only for what couldn’t be controlled by the two other elements of waste control. To its credit, the City of Oak Park in announcing the arrival of the new bins, urges adherence to the first principles. But, “reduce,” which means limiting consumption or, at a minimum, less packaging, strikes at the heart of an economy which demands relentless expansion and always increased production and consumption.

On the personal level, there is no way what my household generates as waste can fill 45 more gallons of trash. And, shouldn’t!

How about you?

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

photo ©2017 Dawn Henry