GARBOLOGY: OUR DIRTY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRASH
By Edward Humes
Reviewed by Autumn Rose
And now for something completely different.
This may seem an odd choice of book to review in a publication about Druidry, but there's a rationale for the choice. As pagans, we are by definition committed to tending and healing the earth. Some of us have been doing this for so long that we do it more out of habit than out of the passion that motivated us in the beginning. This book provides new fuel for that passion. Call it a booster shot.
The art and science of waste management is as old as humanity itself. Needless to say, it has undergone many permutations, from the simple middens of cave dwellers and nomads to the towering garbage mountains and waste-to-energy plants of the present day. Humes's book deals with the present day and the United States in particular. Its major thesis is that waste management in the 21' Century is - to understate the case — problematic. Much of the book is devoted to describing the problems, of which two stand out: first, that we generate far too much trash; and second, that discarded plastics are unmanageable and everywhere. Hume presents absolutely mind-boggling facts about the situation, a few of which are listed here.
- The amount of space needed to accommodate one American's lifetime output of trash is equivalent to the space occupied by 1100 graves.
- While many people know about the collections of trash that have accumulated in the world's several oceanic gyres, many more are not aware that the top few feet of the seas everywhere are filled with plastic confetti.
- At least 25% of the American food supply is thrown away — by some estimates, as much as 40%.
- Every year we throw out enough aluminum to replace the entire commercial air fleet four times over, and enough steel to duplicate Manhattan. Repeat, every year.
Having presented an updated picture of the problem, Hume next turns to possible solutions. The first, and sadly the most difficult, is to change our attitude towards trash. He makes the rather startling observation that the "hoarders" currently starring in several TV reality shows have only reacted in a pathological way to what used to be a nearly universal human impulse: an aversion to waste. Hume suggests that we need to cultivate this aversion anew while applying it with more forethought and practicality than hoarders are able to manage. He quotes a statement by the Berkeley Ecology Center: "If it can't be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production." That's advice for legislators, designers and manufacturers, but it can be adapted for indivduals and households by replacing the words after "then" with 'don't buy it."
Hume tells the story of one family who were able to collect an entire year's accumulation of non-recyclable waste in a quart Mason jar. (To learn how they did it, read the book.) The planning and discipline required by their program would be too onerous for most of us, but there is no question that we could all reduce the amount of trash we produce with a bit of thought and care.
The author also reviews waste management efforts by various levels of government, with special attention to ease or difficulty of execution, and to what has worked and what hasn't. Readers can mine these chapters for ideas as to what trash regulations and disposal methods they would like to promote to their representatives.
Read the book. It will benefit you at both ends, opening your eyes and delivering a kick in the pants.
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash
Paperback: 336 pages
Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
Publisher: Avery Trade; Reprint edition (March 5, 2013)
[This reveiw was originally printed in Henge Happenings #100 - Samhain 2013 - ed]
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