Letters for July 19, 2012

Free yourself

Re “Unplugged!” by Aaron Lake Smith and Amy Kline (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

It was good to read SN&R’s thoughtful analysis of the addictive potential of technology.

As an old man who participated enthusiastically in the youth rebellion of the ’60s, I admire the facility of younger people to learn and adapt to the constant stream of technological innovation in our society. I also appreciate much of the innovation itself for the way it helps us conduct our business, gather and share information, and maintain our friendships.

However, where the primary thrust of the counterculture of my generation was to sharpen the intellectual skills, which would allow us to stay free in the face of the corporate state’s pressure toward conformity, I see too many young people who mistake technical prowess for understanding. These young people have surrendered uncritically to the control exerted by Big Brother—the manipulative corporate state—which is reducing us from citizens to consumers, tools of the master class, the “1 percent” who call the shots and want the masses to behave like robots.

In the Arab Spring, young people used technology to overthrow corrupt governments. Americans must free ourselves from technological and media manipulation.

Brian Hassett

‘Reusable’ bags are garbage

Re “Bag ban” by Jonathan Mendick (SN&R Eco-Hit, July 12):

What really needs to be banned is those cheap “reusable” bags that all the stores are selling for $1 nowadays. They fall apart after a couple of uses, if the corners of cardboard boxes don’t punch holes in them first. I tried to be responsible, but after spending many, many dollars on “reusable” bags that didn’t last (some didn’t even make it home from the first trip to the store), I went back to the free store-provided plastic bags.

At least the so-called “single-use” bags can be reused as trash bags, to contain used Kitty Litter, to bag up soda cans to be left out for the homeless to recycle, to carry things to a potluck or wet swimsuits home from the pool. I rarely throw away a “single-use” plastic bag after a single use, unless it’s too damaged to be used again.

And I bet the thin “single-use” bags decompose in a landfill faster than the heavier “reusable” ones, of which I’ve thrown away dozens.

Karen M. Campbell

Oh, the irony

Re “Unplugged!” by Aaron Lake Smith and Amy Kline (SN&R Feature Story, July 5):

I was so in agreement with this article, that I immediately posted it on my Facebook page. (You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?)

David Balla-Hawkins
via email

Bravo for monkey man love

Re “Monkey Man Love” by William S. Gainer (SN&R Poet’s Corner, July 5):

I don’t pretend to understand much poetry I read these days—The New Yorker offerings included—but I understand “Monkey Man Love” big time. Good show. Nothing like telling life like it is.

Robert M. Stanley

Undead soil

Re “Soil isn’t dead” by Auntie Ruth (SN&R An Inconvenient Ruth, July 5):

It seems the dangers of post-asphalt farming may be overstated here. [On] the www.grist.org, [UC Berkeley professor] Garrison Sposito’s concerns pertain to general urban “trash, construction debris, weedkiller, and lead from automobile exhaust,” rather than asphalt, per se.

The wise gardener should find out everything possible about the history of the potential reclaimed garden site, such as what happened before asphalt was applied. However, asphalt concrete itself doesn’t seem to be particularly problematic. Asphalt paving apparently contains 95 percent rock and sand, and the 5 percent that is actually true asphalt is generally inert once the volatiles which are present (and toxic) when it is laid down have evaporated; I suspect in weeks to months. And old asphalt is eminently recyclable, as I was informed by several trade associations.

“Asphalt” as a word turns out to date from ancient use of “natural” petroleum tar, or bitumen, which has been found here and there on the surface for millennia. Some in-depth Googling suggests that, in many cases, people have simply built raised beds with imported soil on top of old pavement; concerned gardeners might want to build extra thick ones.

Some expressed a concern about water collection from asphalt-shingle roofs. While I’m not a toxicologist or a botanist, I do know that various plants are more resilient than other plants; some do preferentially bio-accumulate specific toxins. If you are really worried and financially secure, you can have soil testing done. If the news is bad, check out Paul Stamets’ amazing toxic remediation work with mushrooms.

But basically, it’s really about rejuvenating the dirt and bringing back the all the mini and micro life that makes plants happy. Fortunately, they all basically want to grow like weeds.

Bottom line: The biggest danger of asphalt is the motor vehicles that now infest it.

Muriel Strand