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Total ban of “single-use” bags? Don’t overdo it!

We (hopefully) all know about the environmental problems plastic causes. We see regularly pictures and read reports about animals that were interfered with by getting caught in or swallowing items made of plastic. The plan is to forbid forks and knives, straws and plates and cups made of plastic and while there is a lot of sense in some of this, there is the possibility to go overboard a bit in an over-exaggerated “we have to do something” drive.

Ireland was one of the earlier countries to charge for the use of plastic bags and in the meantime MANY countries caught up or even did better by forbidding certain type of plastic bags. But at a visit in Germany a few months ago, I came across a situation that showed me that we really can overdo it!

I was in a middle sized town and had a look at some shops without any clear intent to buy something. C&A, a big clothes shop, was also there and I went inside to have a look. They are known for good quality for low prices. Not as low as Penney’s, but still very competitive. And while having a look around, I found a T-Shirt that I really liked and one or two other items that looked great and were at the right price.

So I went to the till and pushed the clothes across the counter to pay. The employee behind the counter scanned the labels of the three items and pushed them back to me. :-O I looked at her in a quizzical way and she said “Oh, do you need a bag?” I said “Do you have a paper bag?” Her reply: “No, we don’t do paper bags, but you can buy a plastic bag.” :-O :-O

I had no interest in using a plastic bag, but I also didn’t want to walk out of the shop with three pieces of clothing clenched under my arm just because I hadn’t pre-planned the purchase and therefore didn’t bring my own bag!!

Is it too much to ask to get at least the flimsiest of paper bags to put your purchases in if you go clothes shopping? C&A also sells suits and evening dresses. Would you not think that it is in the interest of the shop to provide customers with basic means to bring their garments home unblemished?

I am all in favour of protecting the environment, but that experience did annoy me quite a bit. I could have bought a plastic bag, but I decided not to (for environmental reasons), so I DID walk out of the shop with three items of clothing clenched under my arm. :-O

Weather Shambles in Ireland!? Can we handle the weather?

Before I start into this article, let me state – for the avoidance of any doubt – that neither the Irish government nor Irish Water can be made responsible for the weather. Irish politicians would probably love to lay claim to organising the most suitable weather for their constituents and Irish Water is never at fault about anything at all anyway, but we will have to let them off the hook regarding their weather responsibility. :-)

The question that I came across during the week does, however, have something to do with Irish authorities and with their ability (or not!) to forward plan and to do what we need them to do when it comes to weather challenges.

Weather is an important topic in Ireland! We love to talk about it and even more to complain about it. We don’t really have any weather extremes, but you wouldn’t know that if you listen to weather news or read just a normal newspaper.

Oddly, though, we seriously struggle as soon as something out of the ordinary (i.e. 13 degrees and scattered showers) happens. If we have 2 cm of snow, the country comes to a stand still. Traffic collapses, schools close and the country stops operating. On the other end: Give us around 20 degrees for a few weeks with no significant rain fall and we are (nearly) running out of drinking water.

Is this normal? Well, there are countries in Europe that regularly have significant snow fall and just keep going. And there are other countries where they know they will have hardly any drop of rain from Spring until end of Autumn and still, people will water their lawn and drinking water is plentifully available.

We claim that we are not used to it and therefore we struggle dealing with it. Hmmmm, Middle Europe (around Germany) had temperatures of above 35 degrees for well over a week and they are also not used to it, but life continues. Water is still there despite very little rain this year. Mallorca, Fuerteventura and the south of Spain (just to mention a few popular places) have no rain at all in the summer, but there doesn’t seem to be a hosepipe ban. And if we look at the other end of the year: Snow is never guaranteed in parts of Middle Europe. But if there is snow, then they deal with it and continue!

When will we start to prepare for increasing temperatures, lack of rain and occasional snow? The holes in the water pipes need to be plugged asap, we need more deep wells to get better water than surface water and we need to think about water desalination.

But what about winter time? We now do have salt and we have snow ploughs and still there is panic and mayhem. Do we need new rules? Make Winter tyres compulsory? Make it compulsory that house owners clean the footpath?

What do you think would fix the problems in summer and in winter?

“Hosepipe Ban” – Are they for real??

When I read this, I thought it was a Waterford Whispers News story. (Waterford Whispers News is an Irish satirical news website that usually hits the nail on the head with their brilliant headlines.) The announcement that made me think it is a joke was the announcement by Irish Water on Friday that from Monday 02 July a “hosepipe ban” would be in effect in the Greater Dublin area.

At first I thought it is Irish Water nonsense, but checking into it a bit more I realised that a piece of Irish Law really mentions that the “use of water drawn through a hosepipe” can be prohibited for the use of “watering a garden, watering recreational parks or sports grounds […], irrigating or spraying crops […], or washing a mechanically propelled vehicle or a trailer”.

Water conservation makes sense if there is a shortage and due to the idiotic way public water supplies in Ireland are ONLY served from surface water in lakes and reservoirs (instead of using water from underground sources) we are currently entering a period of water shortage. BUT a “hosepipe ban” just sounds like a ridiculous piece of law.

The ban will be in place for the whole month of July and if someone is found in breach of the ban, they could be fined EUR 125.

But here comes the interesting stuff:

While the wording above is taken from the “Water Services Act 2007”, Irish Water is NOT banning all wasteful water use. Instead they reduce the ban to “watering a garden, cleaning a private motor-vehicle using a domestic hosepipe. […], filling or maintaining a domestic swimming or paddling pool (except when using hand held containers filled directly from a tap), […]” so that means if you use a domestic hosepipe you are not allowed to clean the car, but if it is a commercial hosepipe, you can go ahead without any issues. It also means that your swimming pool must not be filled via hosepipe, but if there is a tap above the swimming pool OR if you get LOTS of big containers and fill it by hand, you are all above the law.

Met Eireann are in panic…again!

Weather happens, no matter if we like it or not. But Met Eireann seems to be panicked easily and then panics the whole population.

Germany has very hot days and there are regularly VERY severe thunderstorms with dramatic lightning, torrential downpours and hailstones. I was there during the week and the newspapers reported from some locations in the northern half of Germany that had up to 150 litres of rain per square meter. With basements flooded, a shopping centre 1.5m under water etc. Serious stuff! But I never heard that there was an orange or red or yellow weather warning. And even if there had been one, it wouldn’t have stopped the weather.

In Ireland it is different, we have a weather warning. Then we panic and then nothing happens. Again and again and again. On Friday, Met Eireann issued a Status Orange weather warning for heavy rain in 16 counties of Ireland, including Dublin. A third of the torrential downpour from Germany (only 50mm) was expected and nothing happened (at least in Dublin.

Is it not time to overhaul and correct this silly weather warning system that we have at the moment? There is nothing wrong in forecasting bad weather but “crying Wolf” all the time and being totally wrong after an exaggerated warning is not helpful to anyone.

Election Posters? Yes or No?

Elections usually come with a small discussion about election posters. At every election a vast amount of “Vote Me! Vote Me!” posters with the faces of the numerous candidates are put up on lamp posts and bridges all over the country. But it is not certain, possibly even doubtful, if the posters have any positive effect on voters. Many think that they are just totally ineffective and do not influence voters at all.

The rules around election posters are very strict. They are only allowed to be on display from a clearly specified date before the elections (max 30 days) and until 1 week after the election. If posters are up too early or didn’t get removed in time, they are considered as litter and the party will get fined for each poster that has been found. But even with all these rules, many think posters should be forbidden completely.

And then a Referendum comes along that doesn’t just bring mugshots of wannabe politicians onto the posters, but instead shows foetuses, pregnancy bellies with painted babies on them and other graphic posters by the NO side with all sorts of dramatic and seemingly not always truthful warnings. The YES side on the other hand might be accused of too much simplifying the options. And since we know that this is a hugely emotional disagreement between YES and NO and that it is highly unlikely that the posters will change someone’s opinions, I am totally in favour of forbidding all election and referendum posters in future.

Keep the lampposts free from litter and save the money for better uses!

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