Balloon releases2017-09-22, 11:33:14
In other news - balloon releases, and similarly, sky lanterns. Yeah, they look pretty, and can be a nice gesture as a celebration of a life lost. But actually, they're not really that nice at all, when you remember that what goes up must come down. A city - or a field, out an ocean - littered with balloon debris isn't very nice, and neither is the charred remains of a house, park, or warehouse after a still-burning sky lantern has landed on it and set fire to it. Balloons are often sold as biodegradable - what that means is they'll biodegrade in landfill over a period of years, it doesn't mean they biodegrade in a field or a river over a period of weeks.
If the litter and environmental impact of balloon releases doesn't convince you, maybe the human impact might. Helium might be the second-most abundant element in the universe, but on Earth it's actually extremely rare - it's difficult to extract, and the known stocks of it are being depleted at an alarming rate. Why is this a problem? Essential medical equipment such as NMRI scanners need it as part of their cooling systems. No more helium, no more NMRI, no more life-saving brain scans. So this goes for all the other ways helium is wasted, too.
There have been a few attempts at petitions to get these things banned, and somebody has done another one. It'd be nice if this one is signed - and shared - in sufficient numbers to at least get parliament to discuss the issue and acknowledge there's a problem needing to be solved. Generally I'm not into banning things, but this problem - not least because it's so under-acknowledged - is sufficiently large that I do think some form of legislation and regulation is necessary.