Tag: Trash

Trash Nature, Trash Ourselves

pond

Near my daughter’s apartment in the Midd Cities, Texas, there is a small pond next to a highway. It is the only place to walk in an unconstrained natural landscape, though the pond has the feel of a very damaged place. There are few waterfowl to be found on the water, though I saw a beautiful bluebird (sialia sialis) in a tree the other day. The flora is the sort that propagates in disturbed habitats: a couple of black willows, Roosevelt Weed (bacchais neglecta), common sunflowers, asters, goldenrod, and a field of Silver Nightshade (solanum elaegnifolium), their silvery stems now carrying tiny tomato-like seeds.

Towering over the southeast corner is an immense Lotto/Power Ball billboard (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/five-myths-about-the-lottery/2019/12/27/742b9662-2664-11ea-ad73-2fd294520e97_story.html ) that announces in huge letters the money to be won; the numbers increase daily. Below, the still lovely landscape is polluted by trash, some tossed from cars, some left by the fishermen who use the pond for occasional recreation.

There is no signage anywhere, and as the property appears neither connected to the neighboring apartment complex nor to the golf course across the street, it is fair game for trashing. In this place, at this time in history, to most people this small piece of the Earth-unappropriated, unowned, and unprotected- is unconnected to them, so they feel free to dump on it. (This is a problem for the whole area. Tarrant County is attempting to control it with citizens’ help: https://access.tarrantcounty.com/en/transportation/environmental/illegal-dumping.html)

I have been cleaning up the trash since I began using the walk around the pond for exercise and started using the leaf piles for clandestine composting of my kitchen scraps. It is clear that the majority of garbage is from food and drink containers: soda cans, plastic juice bottles, liquor bottles, styrofoam dishes, plastic silverware, Starbuck cups, plastic bags of every size, most advertising some sort of fast food: chicken wings, fries, burgers, tacos, etc. And while this pollution is degrading the landscape, it has already done the damage to the people who have bought and eaten this cheap and unwholesome food (diabetes and obesity are diet related and increasing in Texas: https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/annual/measure/Obesity/state/TX)!

This is my point: every one of us, every human being is an integral part of the environment in which we are embedded. Our own personal environment is as susceptible as the greater enveloping environment to being exploited and ruined, and by the same forces of greed and ignorance.

A society like the one here in Texas which denies climate change and supports the exploitation of the land is the same one that sees people as being only a means to make money, without taking responsibility for the destruction of people’s health or well being.

Without a connection to the natural world, without an understanding of the laws of Nature, how do we instill in ourselves, our society, and our culture a love and care for the natural world and for our bodies which are just an extension of that world?! To be blind to the interdependence of  the land, the air, the water, the insects, the birds, the plants, the microbes, and ourselves is to be blind to the reality of life itself!

 

 

Taking care of ‘Stuff’

trash july 1 ,2018

July 1st, two weeks ago, was moving day in Montreal. Between 200,000 to 240,000 people moved their residences.The streets were filled up with worn out mattresses, broken furniture, and garbage bags of trash, recyclables, and reusable objects, all thrown together highly piggy because their owners were too rushed or too uninterested to sort out their stuff, or to take the still usable items to the local Salvation Army or Renaissance thrift stores.

It is shocking and saddening to watch these folks, who are clearly not well to do (most of them are moving themselves with the help of friends), being so wasteful with their possessions. It is as if the physical world has no meaning or reality for them. They have taken as a fact of living that it is normal to buy then to trash; to buy then to trash; to buy then to trash; and to repeat this process ad infinitum as if the resources of the earth are unlimited and they will have access to these resources forever!

But there is a secondary assumption at work here, and that is the belief that taking care of one’s stuff is somehow demeaning work! The goal appears to be to grow wealthy so that one can hire another person (less rich or lucky) to clean up and take care of one’s rapidly accumulating stuff.

So the skills of cleaning, tidying, repairing, and ordering are no longer learned nor respected. Once the skill of sewing is forgotten, a rip in a garment sentences the piece of clothing to the garbage unless one has the money and time to take it to a seamstress to be fixed. The ability to fix broken furniture is beyond the knowledge of most people even if all that is needed is wood glue & clamps. And in a disposable culture such as ours, the time needed to learn these skills makes the learning not worth doing. It is cheaper and faster to buy it new.

There also seems to me a final reason that what the care of things demands is beyond our present day understanding or interest. The world of objects, of our stuff, operates in the physical sphere which is bounded by time and energy, unlike the virtual world.  It takes discipline and the ability to stay focussed to organize and pack up a household, to take on these mundane tasks in the physical world; and this is qualitatively different than our experience in instantaneous online reality where most of us spend so much of our time.

Is it any surprise then that, as we are unable take care of the simple objects that make up our households, we find the natural world with its complexity, its vastly slower and infinitely longer time; and its profound subtleties beyond our understanding or concern?