Grand Canyon (Garbage)–Sponsored By Coca Cola

Item #462 in the Corporatization of EVERYTHING Watch: Coca Cola steps in to derail a plan to ban plastic water bottles–which comprise 30% of the garbage left in the Grand Canyon National Park. Because why would you think that keeping a national treasure pristine is more important than selling Dasani water?

"Damn, my empty plastic bottle is sorta heavy."

Here’s the story:

Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon late last year when the nation’s parks chief abruptly blocked the plan after conversations with Coca-Cola, a major donor to the National Park Foundation.

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.

A spokesman for the National Park Service, David Barna, said it was Jon Jarvis, the top federal parks official, who made the “decision to put it on hold until we can get more information.” He added that “reducing and eliminating disposable plastic bottles is one element of our green plan. This is a process, and we are at the beginning of it.”

Two other telling items in this story: That visitors feel fine just tossing away so many bottles. And the ban would only have applied to smaller water bottles, and not big old soda and juice bottles. Really?

Random, But Cool, History: The Obliteration Of Black Tom Island

Quick: what was the first major terrorist attack by a foreign power on the United States?

If you answered an ingenious German plot in 1916 to blow up a major weapons depot in New York Harbor, you win a prize.

Aftermath of the Black Tom explosion, an act of sabotage on American ammunition supplies by German agents which took place on July 30, 1916 in Jersey City, New Jersey

However, I am guessing that you didn’t come up with that answer. But it is a story worth knowing. It’s got spies, heroic rescue efforts, a pencil bomb, and an investigation that took years, and Smithsonian’s awesome Past Imperfect blog has the details:

All was dark and quiet on Black Tom Island in New York Harbor, not far from the Statue of Liberty, when small fires began to burn on the night of July 30, 1916. Some guards on the island sent for the Jersey City Fire Department, but others fled as quickly as they could, and for good reason: Black Tom was a major munitions depot, with several large “powder piers.” That night, Johnson Barge No. 17 was packed with 50 tons of TNT, and 69 railroad freight cars were storing more than a thousand tons of ammunition, all awaiting shipment to Britain and France. Despite America’s claim of neutrality in World War I, it was no secret that the United States was selling massive quantities of munitions to the British.

The guards who fled had the right idea. Just after 2:00 a.m., an explosion lit the skies—the equivalent of an earthquake measuring up to 5.5 on the Richter scale, according to a recent study. A series of blasts were heard and felt some 90 miles in every direction, even as far as Philadelphia. Nearly everyone in Manhattan and Jersey City was jolted awake, and many were thrown from their beds. Even the heaviest plate-glass windows in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn shattered, and falling shards of glass preceded a mist of ash from the fire that followed the explosion. Immigrants on nearby Ellis Island had to be evacuated.

German Master Spy Franz Von Rintelen and his "pencil bomb" were responsible for acts of sabotage in the United States during World War I. Photo: Wikipedia

The German masterminds of the attack are straight out of central casting:

One of those newcomers to America was Count Johann Von Bernstorff, the German ambassador to Washington. He arrived in 1914 with a staff not of diplomats, but of intelligence operatives, and with millions of dollars earmarked to aid German war efforts by any means necessary. Von Bernstorff not only helped obtain forged passports for Germans who wanted to elude the Allied blockade, he also funded gun-running efforts, the sinking of American ships bringing supplies to Britain, and choking off supplies of phenol, used in the manufacture of explosives, in a conspiracy known as the Great Phenol Plot.

One of his master spies was Franz Von Rintelen, who had a “pencil bomb” designed for his use. Pencil bombs were cigar-sized charges filled with acids placed in copper chambers; the acids would ultimately eat their way through the copper and mingle, creating intense, silent flames. If designed and placed properly, a pencil bomb could be timed to detonate days later, while ships and their cargo were at sea. Von Rintelen is believed to have attacked 36 ships, destroying millions of dollars worth of cargo. With generous cash bribes, Von Rintelen had little problem gaining access to piers—which is how Michael Kristoff, a Slovak immigrant living in Bayonne, New Jersey, is believed to have gotten to the Black Tom munitions depot in July of 1916.

Investigators later learned from Kristoff’s landlord that he kept odd hours and sometimes came home at night with filthy hands and clothing, smelling of fuel.  Along with two German saboteurs, Lothar Witzke and Kurt Jahnke, Kristoff is believed to have set the incendiary devices that caused the mayhem on Black Tom.

Read the whole thing. It’s an incredible tale.


The Costs Of Car Commuting

Serendipity: on the day Washingtonian posts my article arguing for using variable congestion fees to reduce traffic, Treehugger posts a great graphic on what car commuting really costs.

One of the reasons people hate the idea of paying congestion fees is that they are often pretty bad at calculating what traffic really costs them. But time is money, as they say, so congestion fees are offset by the time savings you gain. Plus, the revenue can be invested in transit improvements and options that are currently paid for with a gas tax. Think about it.

Anyhow, if you really want to save money, this graphic really drives home the key point: try to live near your work! The Suburban Dream is very expensive.

Everest Captured

Mount Everest is not the majestic, sublime icon it once was, and Jon Stewart and the writers of the Daily Show perfectly nail that sad evolution.

Here’s how their book, Earth: A Visitors Guide To The Human Race describes the mountain everyone wants to say they climbed:

This is Mt. Everest, located on the border between Nepal and Tibet in the Himalayas. At 29,029 feet (sic) above sea level, it is the highest point on earth. Everest was a metaphor for the outer limits of human achievement. Asked why he sought to conquer it, mountaineer George Mallory famously answered, ‘Because it is there.’

“Today, you’ll find this symbol of mankind’s loftiest aspirations gaily festooned with used oxygen tanks, over 100 tons of garbage, and heaping dollops of human waste. If you visit, we’re sorry for the mess. On the plus side, you will find about 120 perfectly preserved frozen corpses for your dissecting pleasure. Feel free to take any or all of them. Including George Mallory … because he is there.

Snap. (h/t Expedition News)

Enhanced by Zemanta
%d bloggers like this: