Listen to the Visitor

A week or two back there was an article in the Guardian Weekly to which I responded with a letter to the editor. You can read the article here

This was my letter.

Listen to the visitor

Regarding your 20 November story Crowdfunding plan to tackle ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’: we need to look at our world as a visitor might.

A visitor to our planet might see the plastic crisis we have created and ask, “What are you going to do about the plastic that is endangering life in your oceans?” We might respond, “Well, we are thinking of trapping it and then recycling it back into more consumer products.”

Our puzzled visitor shakes his head and asks, “Have you considered banning it completely where there are alternative materials?” To this we might respond, “Just how you would propose we do that?”

The visitor continues: “Considering that it is the people of the entire planet who will bear the consequences of inaction, my advice is to ask the people from all your 190-plus nations to formulate the plan. Together, list everything made of plastic, and have the people decide just what they can live without. Start simply while you gain public support and then tackle whole groups of things such as toys, building materials and packaging. Be determined and ignore those with a monetary interest in the status quo.”

To which we might reply, “Seriously, what should we really do?”
Matthew R Foster
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada

Earth Triage

Earth Triage

If there was an organization which sent you and its members a petition with worldwide significance, would you review it and add your support to the effort if you were in agreement with the objective?

If this organization sent you a new issue/petition, at the same time each year, would that be too often?

If you received the following (sample) petition which would be not only forwarded to all Canadian members of Parliament and Senate, but would be sent to each and every legislative assembly on the planet, would you consider signing it?

Sample one.

Category – Human rights – Issue – Female Genital Mutilation of young girls – Petition wording – We the undersigned believe that Genital Mutilation of girls is a crime against humanity and must be made illegal in all 196 nations –

Signed  _____________ (FGM is happening here in North America/Europe/as well as the Middle East and Africa)

This first sample is from the Category designated as Human Rights. It is obviously a social issue whereas some categories would be classed as environmental issues. (In this proposed concept)

The proposed concept would allow for 26 categories of issues. Human Rights would have equal weight to all other categories in this plan. If it was assigned to have its issue/petition placed in the first week of January 2016, then it would present its second issue/petition to its worldwide membership in the first week of January 2017, and so on for the next 25 years of the suggested plan. If human rights were the only concern a member had, then he/she would only need to review one petition per year.

Sample two.

Category – Plastic – Issue – Plastic used as fillers in food packaging – Petition wording – Plastic is itself a great waste of a natural finite oil resource; to use it as a means of deceiving the public should be made universally illegal, as it is deliberately dishonest and unjust. We the undersigned demand that our elected/appointed/governing representatives stop the use of plastic fillers in food packaging.

Notes – It should not be made illegal in Canada alone. It should be made illegal everywhere on the planet. The first and all subsequently proposed petitions would impact on issues of global concern.

In this particular category we might just as easily have considered many things. We might consider the decimation of albatross fledglings that perish in agony when the parent feeds them a diet of bottle caps, throwaway lighters and other plastic waste. We might consider the lost plastic fish nets, and lines, that drift the seas and kill forever by entangling great whales, turtles, and other marine life. We might consider the canning of food in plastic lined cans that leach chemicals into food or the issues of plastic toys or signage. There are lots of choices in this oft overlooked tragic and devastating category.

In normal triage procedures one would select the most severe problem first. We cannot do that unfortunately. Choosing the first issue in each category must be done carefully, remembering that membership will be low at this initial stage. This packaging issue should be easy to defend in the public arena where we need to show that a new movement has been started, while we hint at our objectives. This issue is one that should cause the least threat of the inevitable corporate criticism and backlash. There will always be critics and short sighted naysayers.

Plastic is just one of the 26 categories suggested. Like the previous category of Human Rights, it would be assigned a place on the calendar with equal weight to Human Rights. Those who champion this category, like me, might understandably like it to have more weight, but this cannot be the case.

Sample 3.

Category – Water Resources – Issue – Ground water contamination – Petition wording – We the undersigned believe that there is no need for embalming of human corpses in a ritualistic interment process, as the carcinogenic chemical eventually seeps into, and contaminates, groundwater.

Signed  _________________

Notes – The wording in these samples is intended to give a quick snapshot of the petition. Obviously in the final product, there would be supporting information and the member would have ample time to read up on the subject and make an informed decision.

Obviously not all worldwide members will speak English, so the site would have multi language capabilities just like the UN site. Each proposal would be translated by accredited volunteers from satellite sites around the planet.

So far we have seen three samples of issue/petitions that might land in your email box. Anyone could subscribe to participate in one or more categories of issues. If we are real concerned and energetic we might evaluate and participate in all 26. They would arrive as email each 14 days. They could remain open for signatures indefinitely and only are forwarded when sufficient people have had their opportunity to participate.

Here are the proposed categories that might be used. There are actually 23 listed here with a place for three more.

  1. Air quality
  2. Democracy/Voting
  3. Drugs
  4. Energy
  5. Farming/Forestry
  6. Fishing/Whaling
  7. Food
  8. Genetic engineering
  9. Health
  10. Human Rights
  11. Information & Education
  12. Land/Soil Degradation
  13. Mining
  14. Nuclear Issues
  15. People’s Commons/natural resources
  16. Plastic Dangers
  17. Population
  18. Species (or biodiversity)
  19. Toxins
  20. Trade and Labor
  21. Transportation
  22. Waste/Recycle
  23. Water Resources


I’m sure that many readers here will note that this concept has hitch hiked on the concept and model used by Avaaz. Unlike Avaaz, and a number of similar organizations, this new organization would focus on issues that affect worldwide social issues and the planet’s ecosystems. It would not be dedicated to resolving injustices in single countries by individuals, groups of individuals or corporations. It would be methodical and hopefully not reactionary. Issues would be chosen after careful selection, deliberation and by consensus of members. Priorities could and would be changed by consensus as circumstances dictate. Remember that a full twelve months is available between issue/petitions in a category.

I am an enthusiastic member of Avaaz and a couple of other such groups. I marvel at their ability to attract new members. (41,000,000 at last count) I attribute this to the fact that we can sit at our computers, and evaluate an injustice that is taking place in real time anywhere on the world. We, as truly global citizens, can then add our voice to the hundreds of thousands of likeminded people and know that our petition will be speedily sent to the legislative body that can take appropriate action. Like Avaaz, millions of participating members from every nation, and speaking with a single unified voice, should be our ultimate objective, if this is to succeed.

There is indeed no shortage of individual organizations independently working to resolve social and environmental issues. This fragmentation is indeed a major problem as we all try to be heard all at once, on all issues. They all have their own agendas, their own memberships and their own methods of raising money. Just imagine for a moment that all of the issues represented by all of these groups could be combined into one. While still leaving all existing groups to continue their independent agendas, we would call on the expertise and dedication of such groups for categorizing, prioritizing and participation in the new process. Indeed NGOs and groups of NGOs and activist groups could form the nucleus to spearhead specific categories of issues.

Categorizing, and reaching a consensus in establishing a priority list could be the job of members and the existing NGOs. NGOs have a wealth of information, in thousands of data bases, which can be used as a resource, along with their staff expertise and enthusiasm.

I could conceivably write multiple papers of just why our leaders, our politicians, our political parties, our corporations, the UN, our NGOs, our activist groups, our climate change conferences, our scientists, our media outlets etc. all fail to make much difference in altering the course of government action, particularly when it comes to environmental and social change. We need to accept that we need a different approach. Noam Chomsky said that “all change comes from the bottom up” while we seem to think we will get results by doing the same things that have proven to be ineffective over and over and over again. We are destined to stay on the bottom and be trodden upon if we do not stand up and make our unified voices heard. Avaaz has shown us how to get people engaged; we need to follow their lead.

In closing, I believe that all members is a new organization should be encouraged to support at least one other NGO or activist group. I like to look at it as hiring someone to do a job, for which I have neither the time nor talent.

To contribute ideas to this proposal, please visit Perhaps we can find a way to turn this basic idea into an adventure.

You are the key

You are the key

To make a better world we need to establish just two things. One – we need to ascertain what has to be done and two – we need to ascertain who is responsible for making it all happen.

If we systematically list all of our concerns and then put them into categories we will find that we then know what has to be fixed, and then we can prepare a plan. Later on, we can prioritize the list into a comprehensive 25 or 30 year plan.

If we look to whom is responsible for the dire mess we are in, we will surely see that we need to look elsewhere for a solution. It is not hard to find the answer as it is ultimately you and I who are the key. That is, you and I, and all like-minded people worldwide.

As an example, let’s assume that in step one we decided that PLASTIC was a category that needed to be addressed. If you watched today’s news regarded the pollution of the oceans with plastic you might agree that this would be a suitable, and essential, category. The newscaster suggested that the problem lies in the world’s recycling and waste management programs. This is a grave error in reasonable thought as plastic and the manufacturing in plastic is the problem itself. It is a problem so destructive that it threatens every aspect of all that exists.

Can we eliminate all manufacturing in plastic? – Not realistically or likely! Can we eliminate manufacturing of drinking straws in plastic? Why not? Using waxed paper straws would not diminish my lifestyle at all, but it would be a small step for correcting earth’s ecosystem.

Using the above logic, after demanding “No manufacturing of plastic straws” we could demand “No manufacturing of citrus, onion and garlic bags.” Manufacturers and suppliers could revert back to twisted paper code bags. My life style would not be diminished.

As you will note, we would prioritize the problems. We could put the “no brainer” ones first and gradually add the more difficult ones as the movement grows.

Next might come “No excess plastic may be used as fillers in packaging of food stuffs”. My life style would not be diminished.

As we progress we might demand “No manufacturing of toys in plastic”. Kids would still have toys to play with, as manufacturers look to alternative material. Life would not be diminished what-so-ever.

Let’s try tackling something that might be more contentious. “No packaging of toothpaste in plastic tubes” I’m not sure that this could ever be accomplished but really, if my tooth paste came in powder form in a little tinned or cardboard container I’m sure I could survive. Also, more than one billion tubes would be essentially removed from the ecosystem each and every year, forever and ever. (Imagine the number of albatross that might survive because there were fewer plastic caps to feed (and kill) their fledgling offspring)

Here are a few more (you are welcome to offer more.) “No plastic in razor manufacturing”, “No plastic coat hangers”, “No plastic stickers on fruit and vegetables”, “No plastic inserts in bottles”, “No injection molded chairs” etc. Again my life style would not be diminished.

In this exercise, I have addressed only one category of problems and only a few issues within said category. Altogether, I suggest 26 categories be used in this plan so that one of the 26 categories would put forward one issue, to the public, for consideration, each and every year. Over the course of one year all 26 categories would demand action on one issue. They would have their chance to gain public support and action in this first ever exercise in worldwide participatory democratic action.

In summary you are the solution to the problem. Your participation, your opinions, your input, your voice added to one larger worldwide voice will be the key to turning things around. We can make a difference.

If you would like to write a paper on any category of your choosing let me know. Together we can formulate an all-encompassing plan.

Sincerely – Matt Foster world att golden dott net


The ‘Stupid’ Albatross

The ‘Stupid’ Albatross

There is a heartbreaking video on YouTube web that shows the plight of the splendid albatross on Midway Island. See –

The parent birds comb the ocean for food for their chicks. They pick up our discarded plastic waste and bring it all to the nest to disgorge into the waiting beaks of their offspring. Of course the chicks wither and die agonizing deaths when the ‘food’ provides no nourishment and clogs their collective digestive systems. The unfortunate chicks rot in the sun and the released plastic returns to the environment to potentially kill again and again. We may well think about how unfortunate it is that these ‘stupid’ birds cannot learn from this cause and effect experience.

This unfortunately is but one example, with one single species, but it plays out similarly with many fish, turtles, mammals and birds – E.g. Pick up coloured plastic waste – eat it or feed offspring – consumer dies – slow erosion of the species – eventual extinction – poor stupid creatures!

Of course the ‘stupid’ albatross will never learn from the experience as it is beyond its ability. Only we ‘advanced and evolved’ humans have the capability to reason out this simple cause and effect equation and resolve it. However, we humans appear to be as helpless and as unwise as the lowly albatross. If we examine this plastic crisis, we know without a doubt, that we are headed for certain disaster. We however expand our use of plastic at a horrendous rate and (like the ‘stupid’ albatross) we feed it our planet, and every organism upon it, at an ever increasing rate. We then fly off, again and again, to purchase more to use, discard, corrupt, poison and kill.

Before you shrug your shoulders and say “it’s not my fault, and I cannot do anything about it” let me suggest that you can do something, and that you must do something.

First have a look at the ideas expressed at Read closely and if you think there is any merit in the basic ideas, then ask your friends to help debate, refine, and expand them.

Only when we categorize the whole range of problems; list the issues under the headings; prioritize the issues into a long range plan of at least 25 years; unit the people worldwide under a common banner with a common mission to resolve the issues one by one; resolve to make our elected politicians represent our collective interests; stand united in our resolve; only then will we make any headway.

Pass this on if you do nothing else. Show the world that we can do something tangible. Let’s create a worldwide movement that will put the common people in charge of our own destination and survival.

Remember that time, above all things, is now our greatest and unforgiving enemy.

Matt Foster – civis mundi


PLASTIC – a 25 year plan 

“The ocean is like a soup of plastic mostly composed of fragments invisible to the human eyes, killing life and affecting dangerously our health.” Pierre Fidenci,

The Montreal Protocol was an internationally ratified treaty to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. We urgently need a similar international treaty to curb the devastating and deadly effects of plastic. –Matt Foster – Civis Mundi

Preamble Considerations

The banning of plastic products must go well beyond bottles and bags. We must seriously look at legislating against the use of plastic in manufacturing worldwide. It is a threat to our existence and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

Plastic is not benign. It is like a malignant cancer causing devastation to every organism and ecosystem it touches on the planet. Educating the public on the threat of this destructive substance must be a priority. Banning it worldwide, in all but a few situations, is crucial.

Here are some of the problems with plastic:

  • Excess packaging meant to deceive the consumer.
  • Leaching of toxins into food and environment
  • Ingestion by birds from floating plastic waste leading to death
  • Floating plastic waste as transport for invasive species
  • The ability to kill over and over again due to its longevity
  • Micro fragmentation in oceans used as food source by fish and birds
  • Waste of a petroleum resource
  • Fish and mammal entrapment from lost plastic fishing nets
  • Most plastic products could be manufactured with alternate materials
  • Clogged waterways and swirling mass of floating plastic in waterways and oceans
  • Reproduction abnormalities from ingestion and exposure to leachates
  • Teflon concerns
  • Clogging of sewers and drains

The first global petition might look something like this: 

Directed To: The governments of all 190 (plus) countries of earth. 

“As concerned citizens of this planet, we urge you, our political representatives, to immediately ban the food industry’s use of plastic identification stickers from fruit and vegetables grown, packaged, imported and distributed within our countries. Clear and effective action is needed immediately to reduce the flow of plastic waste into our collective landfills, water-ways and food chain and the subsequent harmful effects of such stickers” – Of course the first item proposed need not be fruit and vegetable stickers – it could be candy bar wrappers, coffee cup covers or drinking straws. The important thing is to get a start.

The following 24 year petitions could draw from the following:

The fast food industry

The snack and candy industry

The signage and labelling industry

The toy industry

The food packaging and container industry

The laundry and cleaning products industry

The appliance industry

The indoor and outdoor furniture industry

The beverage industry

The health care industry

The stationary industry

The apparel industry (manufacturing and packaging)

The shoe industry

The plumbing and electrical industry

The automotive industry

The eyewear industry

The waste collection and recycle industry

The throwaway products industry

The aviation industry

The building industry

All other industries using plastic.


Video links by others (What are you suggestions?)

Catalyst ABC TV – Plastic Oceans

MIDWAY – a film by Chris Jordan

Plastic and the Indian street cow

Groups reporting on this category (what are your suggestions?)

It would help if you supported some of these groups

The Times of India: Plastic bag threat more serious than atom bomb: Supreme Court