How England got plastinated…

Storm Ciara, Storm Dennis. Floods! Floods! Yet more floods. High speed watercourses sending large portacabins down what were once mere roads. It seems its getting worse. Is it global warming? Or is there something else that is happening that we haven’t yet acknowledged? I think its the latter. Even the Greens do not seem to have egged on in the slightest the fullest extent of what’s happening…

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Screencap of a large container floating past a bus stop down a Todmorden street caught the nation’s attention a couple of weeks ago during Storm Ciara. The video can be seen here.

Yes we’ve always had flooding in the UK but its becoming more vicious, nasty and there can only be one reason for it – and that is due to something no-one is telling you about!

You see, England, Wales, Scotland, its a small country. And with the kind of experimentation we as an industrialised nation have been conducting for the past four centuries or so, there’s no real surprise we are now reaping the benefits of centuries of accelerated development. And the UK, impervious to major global disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, who needs these especially when the UK has now constructed itself as its very own super-enhanced disaster theme park.

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Who needs zip lines or surfing parks in North Wales when there’s all the fun of wading through floods too? Source: Twitter

Where were the plans for this? Who authorised these? And why the hell have we a super duper disaster theme park in place of England’s once green and pleasant land?

The secret is, no drawings were made, no plans were passed, no acts of parliament were authorised to convert the UK into the planet’s newest disaster theme park! No-one thought of the idea itself even though many people thought of a lot of things besides. No debates were conducted either in parliament nor council chambers as to whether this new development should go ahead or not. Nevertheless because the UK is a small country, the results have been profound and its only just now, well the last few years, there has been a phase transition – and nature is responding appropriately.

If we look at Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis (and others before these) we can see serious ongoing effects whose origins were established far back in time. I have been interested in the environment for decades, I was a member of Friends of the Earth in the early 1970s, thus I consider myself to have a good oversight (if not professionally or scientifically) of the issues at hand. Thus on the basis of that knowledge, here’s my thoughts for all they are worth…

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When our rivers flood its shocking at the amount of plastics that comes down them! This is Stanley Ferry in Yorkshire, a spot where when flooding occurs, the footbridge across the river becomes a trap for rubbish. The amount of plastics found here, even in normal conditions, is just shocking. In October 2019 during one week (when river levels were normal) locals alone filled 36 sacks with dumped plastics. Source: Twitter

To start with, I allude to a matter of some simplicity – fracking. We know the effects of fracking. Interfering with nature in various ways causes earthquakes. That’s a very simple thing. But even it seems the profiteers of fracking are not too concerned about that, especially when its peoples homes that shake and shudder – and very simply that occurs because the stratum of the earth reacts in the only way it can in the face of human activities.

But we have been interfering with nature on a scale more vast than mere fracking. The scale of interference in nature in the quest for human dominance and perfection has a considerable bite back. Interfere with nature in ways that are not how things should be – and nature will hit back hard! This simple ‘equation’ is of course why we are seeing these unprecedented conditions which have been prevalent recently.

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Field in mid-Wales with approval for 41 houses! Seen after Storm Dennis! Source: Twitter

Well the fact is we have been preparing the ground for centuries, if not millennia. As soon as humanity started building on a large scale towns, ships, cities, wharves, roads, pumping stations, coal mines, this is where the rot set in.

We had that fantastic notion, no doubt given to us by Descartes, that it was a case of us and them. Yes this was more about specicism, the animals, but that same dualism in fact counts towards nature as well. In this particular case. we thought nature to be non-sentient, emotionless, nothing but a total sucker whose coffers we could raid repeatedly without fear of recourse. And we thought just so bloody damn wrong!

Certainly there is proof we have made our country more prone to flooding. Not only that we have made our rivers better at delivering water where its not even wanted. We have super-fast rivers! Fantastically constructed high speed water delivery systems that dump water exactly where we don’t want it! How did that even happen?

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This picture from the other day of swans on a canal in Merseyside wading through plastics made the pages of several newspapers. Source: St. Helens Star

It all starts with plastics, although there are many other modern deriatives that do a good job of damaging things too, but plastic is the main culprit obviously….

You know we love those plastic bottles or polystyrene coffe cups? Can’t do without these? Exactly. Practically all plastics retain water. Want to build a garden pond quickly? Simple! Dig a hole, buy a sheet of plastic and line the hole with this and then fill with water, add a few pond based plans and perhaps some fish and voila! A garden pond.

Except this is something we have been doing for decades, centuries even. What I mean by this is we have lined our rivers and our fields with microplastics, oils, and other materials that have altered the composition of the subsoils dramatically. Remember too in the sense of the scale of things, we too, as human beings, each and everyone of us, has been drinking, breathing, eating plastics on every conceivable scale from the macro to the micro, which means its traceable in our bodies, heart, stomach, lungs, blood, fluid systems, excrement etc. This is exactly what the earth is finding itself these days. Plastics (and the derivatives) is just everywhere, there’s not a single location anywhere that is free from the damned stuff.

Research shows that since the 1940s our rivers have been steadily lined with plastics. Its been said that we now have a considerable sub strata which in hundreds, thousands of years into the future, scientists will be able to dig down and find and identify as belonging to a particular epoch – yes that would be ours!. What we have done is we have baked plastics right into the fossil records of earth. Its called plastiglomerate – but for the purposes of this article I am using plasticination for want of a better word in terms of how we have waterproofed our lands to create this excessive flooding….

As for plastics in the fossil record? Here’s a report on how that came about. And that other term, plastiglomerate, here’s a report on that too.

The idea that dredging doesn’t help flooding is debatable. There are good points for not doing it, but at the same time the lack of dredging is quite possibly allowing the sediments at the bottom of our rivers to congeal in ways we hadn’t thought possible before, especially with the plastics, oils, and other nefarious stuff that’s now down there, long mixed into the natural order of things.

One might think this is rubbish but let’s consider another aspect that has resulted from our societies. The skies. Oooh they look lovely – nice blue skies (when the weather is great) lovely sunsets, oooh look there’s Venus in the early evening sky – an incredible testimony of how far we can see with the naked eye, but that is about it. In many places what once could be seen up there now cannot be seen. The Milky Way has vanished from many people’s lives. Not only that, think of the huge numbers of planes cross crossing the skies adding to the whole soup mixture and then of course the thousands and thousands of satellites, and millions of bits of space debris. To the uninitiated eye things look quite normal, but on a deep level, the damage to the skies is wholly significant, not to mention the ozone etc. Same with our rivers and our lands. We simply cannot see the extent of the damage.

In this Manchester University article we can see just how SERIOUS the ingress of plastics into the ecosystems and the sediments of our rivers is. The article tells us ‘We are only beginning to understand the extent of the microplastic contamination problem in the world’s rivers.

But what it doesn’t even do is what I am telling you, that we have created a special kind of substrate, a sediment type that is highly plasticanted, and it gets everywhere. The bottom of rivers, and in fields, in parks, and anywhere it can get thus lining and waterproofing the countryside for generations to come. And that is why we are getting hyper flooding!

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Ironbridge as the River Severn reached its highest ever levels during Storm Dennis. Quite ironic that we need to use plastic to counter the effect of, shall we say, plasticination? Source: Twitter

One might say this cannot be possible because plastics are a recent invention, how could all this shit have occurred in such a short time? Yes they are recent but its destructive ability knows no bounds. It doesn’t rot, doesn’t degrade, is difficult to recycle etc. It can break up and become macroscopic or microscopic and then mixed with other stuff to present a layer of impermeability.

As for how old plastics are, there have been earlier types of plastic materials such as Bakelite – the most common – which has been around since the very start of the 20th century, with huge numbers of products being made from this plastic, such as radios, telephones, kitchen wares, even toys, and products again such as toys have been made from the present types of plastics for more than seventy years. And that before everything else like plastic bottles, cameras, computers, televisions etc.

Yes even the humble dummy used to sedate million and billions of babies hasn’t vanished in any sense. Each and every one of these is now somewhere in the earth’s ecosystem – probably screwing up someone’s life somewhere in the chain of events. Essentially one could say a baby’s dummy dumped in someone’s trash is now causing a major flood catastrophe in Hebden Bridge. Even the most expert environmental organisations, not even Thames 21 for example, are not yet grasping this issue. The other thing is, whatever is done, there’s very little mitigation that could be achieved.

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The issue of plastics is something beyond even the wildest dreams of organisations such as Thames 21! Protecting a river isn’t going to do terribly much especially when there are other more severe factors problems at play.

Its not only that, we are a species that does things on a vast scale. Consider war, that fantastic huge project undertaken by humans to reconstruct many parts of the planet far beyond the wildest dreams of the most dedicated naturalist, and not only that the pollution that arises as a result. The ongoing tests to perfect weaponry and ensure the maximum damage can be done. Its a project that has been ongoing for nigh on two hundred years or more, so the land has been suitably pummelled and reshaped in order to rescind any possibility it had ever been natural. Even mountains are moved and deserts are reshaped in this particular quest. And yet in the bizarre depths of the reptilian mind there seem to be consensus that this is something important that must be done, that for some damn fucking damn stupid reason, we need these big big explosive devices as if they were an absolute necessity!

So it follows that we declared war against nature in many spheres. Industrialisation and of course the huge plastics, throw-away industry. Yes its all part of the shit project that hopes to re-balance the earth. After all, its simply just not enough, the efforts we have been making so far to alter Earth on a large scale! And yes, billions and billions and billions of pieces of that particular shitty stuff has been made and its all been dumped. It hasn’t vanished. Not gone out of sight.

Its like the skies, it looks blue, looks lovely, but the damage is huge. Plastic is everywhere on the earth. The Arctic, Antarctica, in the depths of the deepest oceans, on the beaches, in the seas, rivers, up in the mountains, in the jungles, on fields, in crops, in the food chain, and in our bodies.

The recent phenomenon of the fatberg is another testimony to the plastinication of the UK. Fatbergs are composed of fats, cooking oils, wet wipes, condoms, and what have you. The speed at which these grow and block drains and sewers, and then broken up before being flushed away must surely tell us what is happening to our rivers is only skin deep. Imagine these rivers lined with thinly spread fatbergs, and one would soon understand how we are getting these hyper forms of flooding in the UK.

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Fatberg alert! These can totally block drains, leading to excessive flooding. Who put the fatbergs there? We did. We’re all part of the fatberg problem! Source: Twitter

Concrete is another culprit. Its been around since the Mayans and Romans, but its only in the last three hundred years its become a huge asset in terms of construction and the concreting over of our lands is in fact quite sobering when we think about the scale its been done. Concrete has been at the fore of UK industrialisation which means we have had the damned stuff about a very long time.

Concrete has been a wonder material, easier to use than bricks or stone and bigger, taller, larger developments have been possible. Lots of massive developments have been built out of concrete and then – when the time comes to replace with another new development (or substantial improvement) – the breaking up of that earlier built concrete means it has to be deposited somewhere. It gets broken up, crumbled, and dumped, but it doesn’t disappear out of sight, out of mind. It breaks up even more, and like plastics it too leaches into watercourses, rivers, onto the fields, and into our food, our bodies etc.

This Guardian article about concrete explains how it is one of the most destructive materials on Earth. It has a huge carbon footprint besides a lot of other factors. This other article, by the World Economic Forum, explains exactly how concrete is costing the Earth.

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This picture explains how the craze for concrete is causing further flooding in places never affected before… Source: Twitter

Oils, greases too, these are essentially plasticised liquids, which under the right conditions, will not allow water to pass. Oils and greases are essentially to ensure things move without friction but in a lot of cases they are also to ensure things are sealed from water ingress. Which means they have poor permeability. Now think about the amount of oil spills we have had, whether its on the land, the rivers on the oceans. There’s been a lot. The amount is sheer yet unquantified. But its gone somewhere. The bottom of our rivers, oceans. In the sediment that lines our fields and our countryside.

There are also solids such as coal, stones, peat, all these require specialist extraction processes and there’s slurry too. This gets dumped in watercourses and then into rivers. It all becomes a specialised, impermeable mix of materials and minerals. A mix that has occurred beyond the wildest dreams of the best inventors. Nature did it for us because we supplied it with the necessary ingredients. In fact no river is ever safe in any way or any form from the processes of humanity. In turn no human is safe from the massive anger the rivers can vent upon us as a result.

We have been lining many parts of the UK with an impermeable base of a huge mix of various man made materials through which little water can pass, thus water ultimately has no choice but to stay on top of things – as it were.

Couple this with the excellent techniques such as roads, railways, new towns, motorways, flood plain development, airports, shopping centres, where we have built an accelerated means of disposing of excess rainwater, we are now finding water goes where we don’t want it to.

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Even the new HS2 will cut a concrete scar across England because the track has to be the concrete slab type. Pic source: Twitter

Yes there’s global warming which to some extent creates wetter conditions, heavier rainfall etc, but we have been preparing the ground for that for a long time. Global warming is just one side of the problem but we have exacerbated the impact of that by impregnating everything that is possible with plastic and its derivatives.

Thus what we have is a system of accelerated water disposal. We built civilisation and sought to drain water away effectively so that our towns and cities and homes wouldn’t get wet. Roads have become effective channels in which water is sent away at high speed in order to prevent roads flooding.

In terms of modernisation and development we created super water resistant products – plastics, oils, fibreglass, glues, epoxies, and the rest of it. Plastics – being bottles, bags, flysheets, corrugated roofs, toys, packaging, fridges, vehicle parts, shop displays, store fronts, watches, computers, trainers, sports equipment, waterproof clothes, the list is endless. All this has to be dumped. It goes to waste. A lot is of course dumped in official but practically overfilled and oversubscribed wasteland described as landfill. And there’s simply nowhere else for it to go.

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Even in London numerous small rivers are used as dumping grounds… this is the Quaggy. Source: Twitter

The damned stuff gets blown about, onto fields and into rivers. Into the air. Across the oceans. It gets dumped everywhere by humans, whether its a bagful of kitchen trash or the wrapper around a cigarette pack that’s just been discarded out of a car window!

Remember we haven’t just made a few thousands plastic bags and bottles over the past few decades! Its billions and billions and billions of these! Essentially this would constitute a sheet of plastic material which I am sure would stretch practically to the ends of the solar system – yet what it amounts to is we have been wrapping the Earth hundreds of times round in the damn infernal stuff!

Rivers carry thousands, millions of plastic bags even. The general consensus among many is that this floats down to the oceans, and thankfully out of sight (never mind what it does to the unfortunate marine life – which some of us will ultimately eat! People will not taste the plastic that is in a nice scrumptious piece of cod or salmon, but it will be present and they will be eating decades of carefully garnered, ground, micro beads and other stuff that has come from the excellent plastics project we have created.)

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Shocking dumping of plastics near the source of the Thames. Source: Twitter

As well as ending up in marine life and in the bottom of the seas, I can assure you plastic can also sink to the bottom of rivers. Isn’t that nice? Out of sight out of mind at all times! When rivers flood and these sediments are uplifted and redistributed it means micro bits of plastic are too spread over a vast areas of land (that’s on top of the plastic we dump too, shopping bags flying around in the wind and then ending up in rivers, if not dumped deliberately.) The entire lot ends up embedded right in the fragile eco systems and sediments that have been the feature of our lands for millennia.

Other factors can also help. Coal deposits, slag heaps, quarries, slurry, slate, crumbled, waste water (carrying various deposits) from building construction, and the many developments that have been demolished over the decades. All these can become part of a super mix of sediment that created a super water proof lining for the land and this creates the hyper flooding we are now seeing. Yes there has been some debate that slag heaps are lovely and can help the environment, but many still have dangerous levels of pollution.

Another problem is present too. Disposal of industrial waste. Sure there are processes that is said to suitably treat this sort of thing but it is practically impossible to ensure a clean output in any sense. Have you seen those videos where lorries simply draw up to the side of a river and then tip their entire contents into the water? Kitchen refuse, industrial waste and everything else. Easier to do than sort! And that is why people flytip.

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Never mind the beauty, its a great spot for dumping stuff! Hundreds of tyres found in a Welsh river. Source: Twitter

Even a nice river or canal again provides too tempting a hideaway for ill gotten products and so into the water goes kitchen refuse, asbestos, oil, petroleums, wet wipes, the list is endless. If there isn’t a river nearby people will fly tip in country lanes or in parks, and if there isn’t this, people WILL STILL fly tip in the centre of towns and cities and make a beeline for it, hoping they wont be caught. And of course whatever happens to the stuff, whether its intelligently disposed of or otherwise, its going to end up somewhere nasty.

What it means is we have lands that are now substantially waterproofed. That’s quite a shallow way of putting it. Its worse than that in fact. Plastics have altered the composition of the soils and subsoils so that water has no choice but to flow elsewhere. It means, besides super duper drains (gardens and driveways concreted over which send water into drains faster) we’re dumping increased amounts of water into rivers.

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Crazy that we even think of building on floodplains! Source: Twitter

The rivers in turn have been lined quite suitably with micro plastics thus are too trying to dump excessive amounts of water downstream as fast as possible. But of course rivers can only carry so much water!

We have flood plains. But these are in some respects rendered useless because they too have becomes places where water has to seek an escape because the flood plains cant absorb, mitigate the excess. Thus its going every which way – and very loosely – and everywhere its like there’s nowhere for the water to go. In the end it simply floods. It doesn’t give a damn frigging fuck where it ends up or what sort of damage is done on the way.

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Flood plains are extremely useful but only if they are as they were, made of the materials they were made from, not added super enhanced stuff such as oils, plastics etc. And definitely not concreted over, built upon! Source: Twitter

Its a bit like our having laid a super gigantic sheet of plastic over the entire UK and then pouring a cosmic sized bucket of water upon that very land – and then standing back to watch the results.

Nasty isn’t it? Yes, absolutely! Its time to party on! Pretend none of this isn’t even happening. Yet the fact is even the most stoic environmentalist is involved because I can assure you, each and every one of us is involved whether we like it or not. Look around our homes, daily lives, and think about the number of things that can cause damage to the fragile eco system of a simple pond.

Plasticination is an interesting process. It its intended to preserve. make permanent. But its also a water proof material. We might think Gunther von Hagens’ examples of plastinised humans either to be fantastic or abhorrent, depending on our personal point of view. What it boils down to is humans are not meant to be plastic are they? But that is what we’ve done to ourselves and to our world. The skills of von Hagen were not needed they were already being used by us on an industrial scale – which means each and every one of us has been collaborating on a project far greater than anything Von Hagens could ever have done.

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The idea of replacing nature with plastics existed long before von Hagens. This is Honoré Fragonard’s work, 200 years earlier, the techniques of which are apparently unknown. Basically this is what the UK has become beneath its green and pleasant land. Totally plastinated! Source: Twitter

Not only that we didn’t have to make much effort to gain those objectives in hand. We got nature instead to do the dirty work of processing the products and ultimately plastinating each and every one of our living bodies. You, I, everyone, we all have plastic pollution in our bodies – whether we like it or not!

The fact is we have plasticinated the world, its rivers, beaches, oceans, mountains, fertile lands – and especially the UK in terms of its long and established pedigree of industrialisation, has been overtly plasticised. And you know what, it keeps water well above its station. It has nowhere to go, no soakaways, no refuge of any sort not even temporarily. On top of that water knows no bounds in terms of being a disruptive force. Its powerful. It destroys on a massive scale. Remember Japan, the earthquake of 2011? Ships were sent careering across fields and down streets into buildings, apartments, factories and so on.

There’s no surprise at the force of nature that is now being experienced in this country. Thank goodness we haven’t yet had tsunamis! We, as a country, would be finished off! (Not to mention the threat of sea levels rising besides!)

There’s another downside to this. Something beyond the wildest dreams of the even most stoic environmentalists. Friends of the Earth, Thames 21, etc. Everytime there’s damage, like this flood damage we are experiencing (how many homes damaged how much plastics, carpets, the rest of it is turfed out as people try to start anew??)

What this mean is is having built new homes on flood plains for example these then get damaged and thousands of tons of products have to be dumped. Carpets, beds, tvs, computers, and so on. It doesn’t disappear. Eventually it leaches back in to the system causing further problems.

Clearly more and more plastics and a host of numerous incompatible materials and stuff is dumped into the ecosystem in one way or another. Huge amounts of oils, other water proof materials such as destroyed clothes, carpets (remember a lot of this will probably come with rubber underlay) and so on. Thus everytime we damage nature, its damaging us even more.

On a sliding scale we could say the ‘investment’ we put into everyday things brings a ‘cost benefit ratio’ where the resultant damage and environmental degradation is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. It should be multiple climaxes all around because we are getting severe payback and that is something we as human beings should be extremely proud of!

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A fantastic picture of Dubai along with a concrete block and a pretty sky. A modernist’s wet dream. But at what cost? Source: Twitter

The earth was not designed for the use it is being put to these days. That is something we just dont understand. Yes, the Burj might be fantastic, New York a massive wow, the height of these buildings and humanity’s ingenuity in constructing these just amazing. The TGV network a transport enthusiast’s dream, the London Underground an example of great urban transport innovation, the sprawling cities of the far east with their huge skyscrapers a planner’s dream, our national parks mollycoddling and cosseting the apparent fragile nature of the environment (especially when we have in fact changed it so much that barely any of it is natural.)

What it means is this is no longer planet earth but the planet formerly known as earth. We’ve built a self-enabled high speed destructive system.

What’s more fantastic about this is the whole lot is going to be practically shrink wrapped in plastics, no doubt for make benefit of the glorious future generations who have to deal with the shit we created.

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