Review: Garbology – Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash

GARBOLOGY: 
        OUR DIRTY LOVE AFFAIR WITH TRASH

By Edward Humes

Reviewed by Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

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.

Garbology Book Cover

  • 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 TrashGarbology Book Cover
Paperback: 336 pages
Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
Publisher: Avery Trade; Reprint edition (March 5, 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1583335239

[This reveiw was originally printed in Henge Happenings #100 - Samhain 2013 - ed]

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Ask the Wild Bee What the Druid Knows

Ask the Wild Bee What the Druid Knows

By Karl Schlotterbeck
Beekeeper and mead maker

Photo of Karl Schlotterbeck

Karl Schlotterbeck

There is, I’m told, an old English saying: “Ask the wild bee what the Druid knows.” Maybe it’s just a quaint folk saying but, even if it were, we’d need to ask why they said it in this way. Indeed, what where they saying? Of course, we do know of the Celts’ fondness for mead, the drink made from fermented honey. In most of the world, it was known that most any liquid with sugars might ferment because of naturally occurring yeasts. [These naturally occurring yeasts, however, (known as “wild yeasts”) made a relatively weaker wine than we are used to today because our modern vintners have bred stronger yeasts able to tolerate a higher level of alcohol before it kills them.] Mead, then, is a product of flower, bee sugar and yeast. Mead is an intoxicating, sweet drink named after a queen – sometimes referred to as a queen of Ireland, and sometimes as queen of the Otherworld.

Our quote suggests that Druids know something not known by others, but could be known by bees. Why would bees be the ones to ask if we want to know about the Druid’s knowledge, if they did not have something to do with it themselves? They are, after all, the source of honey. It may be the mead itself – product of land, water, flower, and invisible forces that provide intoxication. Or might it be something about the life of the bee and its hive?

Perhaps we might change the question to ask the Wild Druid what the Bee knows. Indeed, what is it that bees know? An English woman recently told me that her gramps told the members of his family that they should always tell the bees their family news. (Curiously, she hadn’t heard of the saying “Ask the wild bee what the Druid knows.”) Apparently, bees are expected to hold knowledge – maybe even disseminate it as they make their journeys from flower to flower. Perhaps that’s one clue – like traveling Druids open to sources of knowledge that, in their search, also sparks new life in others. I refer here to the honeybee, which is only one kind of bee, but is my favorite.

And then there is the mead. Bees are the source of the basic element of this particular intoxication or inspiration of mead - an alteration of consciousness that can, if used carefully, prompt inspiration, courage, poetry, creative art, love and lust; opening our senses to the world, to possibility and to a freedom that we seldom have in our sober world. That would seem to be enough, but I think there’s more.

 

Photo of Bees

Bees

What does the Wild Druid know about the Bee? Bees are a highly organized matriarchal culture. They may travel miles to collect their riches (pollen and nectar), which are shared with the entire hive; and they recognize no human boundaries. They collect pollen from whatever is available: tree, flower or grasses. They are organized into non-rigid castes or jobs that support the colony: those that attend to the nursery, or attend the queen. There are scout bees that search for sources of food and return to communicate what they’ve found to others through dance-like movements. There are guard bees that prevent “robber bees” from other colonies from invading their food stores. And all of these workers are female.

A healthy colony has few (male) drones that hang around waiting for a queen’s one virgin flight. After impregnating the queen, they are of no further use to the colony. Individual bees live only a few weeks during the summer (except for the queen) and so the survival of the colony depends on the contributions of all members – each one responsible for a fraction of a teaspoon of honey. The health of the queen is paramount and her condition is broadcast to the entire hive through pheromones. If anything in the hive becomes unsatisfactory – like crowding or an ailing queen – the workers feed some larvae “royal jelly” to make a few new queens. The first queen out of her cell finds and kills the others, and then leaves with half the hive to establish her own colony. Watching a swarming hive is an awesome sight as tens of thousands of bees take to the air, circling around an invisible center making a noise like no other. I’ve seen them move slowly away like a cloud of hums. And I’ve seen them cluster on the branch of a tree where, if I’m careful, I can bring them to an empty hive where they make their new home.

We see some parallels here with old Celtic society, where the health and uprightness of the ruler meant a good relationship with the Goddess of the Land which, in turn, brought prosperity to the tribe. Not only men, but also women were rulers, warriors and workers, and the male ruler’s authority derived from the Goddess of the Land. An unfit ruler who lost her or his connection to the fertility of the land could be dethroned and a new one selected. Rulers were, above all, servants to the relationship between the people and the Spirit of the Land.

For bees, there seems little significance given to individual survival as the bee can make only one strike (sting) – and then she dies. Thus, their champions go out to meet the invader and are ready to sacrifice their lives to attack or drive them off. There is an immediate cost to aggression.

We know that bees are responsible for a tremendous amount of pollination and thereby our food. In this way, they are truly intermediaries in the fertility of the land as they go about their work. And they are willing to die for the sweetness they produce.

Modern times have seen “Colony Collapse Disorder” where whole hives disappear. Theories abound, but it seems caused by a combination of factors including the stress of moving colonies for pollination of fruit fields, diseases, and insecticide. This sounds like our life today: accosted by stresses that weaken the immune system, diseases becoming resistant to our treatments, and environmental toxicity. Our needs are so similar to those of the bee: safe food, clean water and air, community and a balance of contribution and benefit.

In short, the state of the bees and that of the land (and, therefore, us) are inextricably entwined; the fate of the bees and human food sources are interdependent. It’s true: what we do to the land we do to the bees and to ourselves. Disruption of the colony’s organized tasks in which all contribute and receive benefit, as well as any cult to an individual, are threats to the survival of the tribe.

That said, we do not have one ruler these days, but rather a collective of people who are charged with making our land prosperous and safe. It’s now difficult to see how our “rulers” (legislators, senators, warriors, presidents, oligarchs and mega-corporations, etc.) gain their right to rule from their fitness in the eyes of the Goddess of the Land. These days it seems to be about the amount of money one can accrue – power for its own sake. And I hear the sounds of discontent, a swarming of people in city after city, objecting to how the benefits of American society are apportioned, perhaps looking for the new queen or champion who will take up their cause and make their lives-in-community worth living again.

It appears that bees do know what it takes to make a working tribe, and they show us what endangers it. So maybe we’d be wise to, indeed, ask the Wild Bee what the Druid should know.
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