Temas Especiales

24 de Jul de 2021


Carnival overrides educational needs

The four million dollar Carnival extravaganza starts today, hidden away on Transistmica, the wasteland that in normal times feels like a...

The four million dollar Carnival extravaganza starts today, hidden away on Transistmica, the wasteland that in normal times feels like a parking lot to frustrated motorists. Touted by some as a tourism booster, for others it is time to get up and go --- anywhere away from the noise and bacchanalian goings on.

It’s good business for the condom and beer manufacturers, a downtime for restaurants as regular customers flee the city, and a busy time for emergency services and police, and families visiting morgues or hospital beds, who learn that drinking and driving don’t go together.

This year, the rising crime rate puts additional stress on the security forces as petty criminals move to the happy hunting ground.

All of which provides a startling contrast to the recent Jazz festival which, in spite of parking problems, was a haven of cultural enjoyment, which actually kept people in town, brought tourists to the city, and provided educational endowments to promising young musicians.

There were no protests from local residents, and no petitions to the courts to move the location. Maybe it’s time for the festival organizers and legislators to rethink their approach. After all they get $4 million to spend, while the education system is falling to bits. Priorities.

RECYCLING WOES. Panama is not currently world leader in recycling, and those from other countries who are used to separating bottles, plastics and paper into piles before putting their waste into different boxes for the garbage collector may have to wait some time.

Then there are other items, that need special treatment, like batteries and, the latest on the scene as we try to reduce electricity consumption and global warming, the CFL bulb, rapidly replacing the heat producing incandescent bulb that we grew up with.

People are accustomed to throwing small objects like light bulbs into the trash. But CFL bulbs require special recycling, to remove and reuse the mercury they contain and can't simply be tossed in with the glass recyclables, or the general garbage. Who will want to build another Costa del Este on top of a mercury polluted garbage dump.

In the US efforts are under way to encourage stores that sell the bulbs to open recycling centers, so that recycling a bulb can be as easy as buying one. It’s time to ask your local retailers if they will accept the used bulbs now or in the future. The bulbs should not be incinerated.

Meanwhile some users are worried that if a bulb breaks, mercury may be released and pose a health risk. While the glass in CFL bulbs is sturdy, if it does break the mercury will vaporize inside the room, possibly taking an hour or so to completely clear. Environmental expats recommend these clean-up steps, which on first glance can appear alarming: Open windows, leave the room for 15 minutes, don gloves to sweep, and dispose of the waste in two sealed plastic bags.

However, the amount of mercury that would be released from breaking a CFL does not exceed the recommended limits for safe exposure.

Helen Suh Macintosh , an associate professor of environmental health at Harvard University's School of Public Health, posted the math at treehugger.com: If one CFL bulb containing 5 mg of mercury broke in a 25-cubic-meter bedroom (medium size) then vaporized immediately, which is unlikely, the exposure would average.025 mg per cubic meter over an eight-hour period, below the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard of.05 mg per cubic meter averaged over eight hours.

Environmental groups say they would not promote the bulbs if they thought they posed a health risk.

LIGHTING THE WAY. But recycling is another matter, and if retailers don’t take action, maybe it’s time for the government, or at least the city to step in. But somehow I feel that in the midst of election campaigns, recycling is not going to be at the top of election promises, not even from recused city mayor Juan Carlos Navarro , running for the vice-presidency. However, it does seem that the campaign he and presidential candidate Balbina Herrera have mounted, needs lighting up.

Super market mogul, Ricardo Martinelli, is a retailer of CFL bulbs. What an opportunity to lead the people to new recycling habits. Other than recycling the current government of course.