Emerging Ideas Roundup

| Utne Reader January / February 2007

Signs of the End Times

What kind of sign would scare people away from a biohazard-in the year 12006, when people and machines are likely to be communicating in (or with) a different tongue? That's the conundrum facing the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), a New Mexico salt mine earmarked to house nuclear weapons waste that must be safeguarded for 10,000 years. According to New Scientist (Sept. 9, 2006), it's been determined that facial expressions are both universally understood and capable of withstanding time. One of the ideas 'reverse archaeologists' at WIPP came up with: a face modeled on Edvard Munch's The Scream.

E-Waste Eradication

With Americans ditching more than 100 million computers, monitors, and TVs each year, e-waste is now the fastest-growing garbage pile in the industrialized world. The United States has been slow to tackle the issue, though, leaving it to China-where 90 percent of those old high-tech gadgets end up-and the European Union to create tighter restrictions on the toxic substances used in electronics. According to OnEarth (Fall 2006), these evolving standards include state-sponsored product testing; more prominent labeling; and full disclosure regarding elements, like lead and mercury, that are used, as well as their potential dangers.

Sewage Dump

Every day, the city of Victoria, British Columbia, dumps more than 34 million gallons of raw sewage into the ecologically fragile Strait of Juan de Fuca. Environmental groups have unsuccessfully tried lobbying, campaigning, and suing, but politicians have delayed any meaningful action.