September 2008
Drowning in plastic - Living in a toxic world


Sixty years ago plastic was an exotic development of modern chemistry. Today it is the most widespread humanmade substance in the world. More than 250 billion pounds of raw plastic pellets are produced from petroleum feedstock every year. It is everywhere, in places you never imagined: computers and cell phones; packaging; food and drink containers; home furnishings and building materials; cars, trucks, airplanes and boats; children's toys and beauty products.

Slum dwellers in Latin America and Africa build their shanties from plastic sheets and collect their water in plastic buckets; plastic flip-flops protect the feet of millions of peasants across Asia. Western consumers eat their take-out food with plastic cutlery from plastic foam containers while swigging water from plastic bottles. Now no part of the planet can escape its toxic impact on human health and the environment.








2 Letters

4 This toxic life
They're in our homes and our workplace, in the air we breathe and in the food we eat. Wayne Ellwood argues that toxic chemicals are changing the nature of nature.

8 The polymer revolution
A history of plastic.

10 Message in a bottle
No matter how you look at it, bottled water is a scam of major proportions. Zoe Cormier confirms that oil and water don't mix.

12 Plastic is forever - the facts

14 Sea of garbage
The good ship Alguita sails an ocean choked with plastic. Blog by Anna Cummins.

17 Plastic plants
As oil supplies dwindle, the plastic industry is pinning its hopes on biomass. Not a great idea, reasons Jim Thomas.

20 Abandon the toxic treadmill!
plus campaign action

Cambodia: Year Zero on trial
What can be wrong with putting five notorious Khmer Rouge leaders on trial? Plenty, argues lawyer Brooks Duncan, as he examines the nature of the long-awaited, and foreign-funded, trials currently underway. They are, he says, seeking to 'rewrite history' and 'to criminalize ideas' rather than to punish the wrong-doers. He puts forward his controversial case in this month’s special feature.

25 Currents
A special on coal - including the 'clean coal' con, windpower in China, success in Bangladesh and activism everywhere.

28 Big Bad World
Polyp's peak oil fun ride
PLUS: NI Prize Crossword

29 Making Waves
Senegal's beacon of good music and positive energy Youssou N'Dour talks to Ed Stocker

30 Mixed media
Chinese Mongolian 'Björk' steps into Tibet controversy; the Garifuna Women' s Project from Central America; a film about the Pope's toilet; and superstar philosopher Slavoj Zizek writes in defence of lost causes.

32 Southern Exposure
Earthworks 2008: highlighting cartoonists from the global South taking part in the Biennial Ken Sprague competition.

34 Essay
Things to do before I retire…
humble thoughts from the diary of GW Bush, as revealed by Stefan Simanowitz

36 Country Profile: Botswana





NI Japan




<This month's translation>

- This toxic life (NI p4-7)

- The polymer revolution (NI p8-9)

- Plastic is forever - the facts (NI p12-13)

- Plastic plants (NI p17-19)

- Abandon the toxic treadmill! (NI p20)

- Country Profile: Botswana (NI p36)


Back Number List