Category Archives: Mother Earth

landfills r us

I both live and work near large landfills that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to ignore. They are eye sores as well as quite stinky, as you can imagine, but on a less cosmetic level, they are frightening.

I don’t think about it often and I doubt most people do. I concentrate my efforts on recycling as much as I can and while I could do more, like compost, I don’t. We live very disposable lives. On more than one occasion, when the recycling bin is full, I’ve seen my boyfriend put a can or bottle in the garbage out of sheer laziness. It’s easier to throw it away than it is to take the recycling outside in order to make room for more cans and bottles. I don’t blame him, really: he is a byproduct of this disposable culture. We spend 99.9% of our day pretending like bad things don’t exist so we can focus on getting by. Point in case: we have a very scary percentage of people acting as though global warming is fiction. We are running our planet into the ground. But we don’t think about it because we’re really good at compartmentalizing, so that means it isn’t happening, right? Like child pornography and rape and drug cartells–if we just don’t talk about it, maybe we can will it to go away. Let’s just not give any oxygen to the fire and we’ll get through unscathed; let future generations deal with it.

I don’t think about landfills much. But I saw a WM truck yesterday that had some verbiage about how they “create and preserve habitats” (I’m paraphrasing because I couldn’t find an image of the actual truck anywhere out there on the interwebz). This pissed me off. When landfills close, waste companies have a whole host of money-making ways to incorporate that garbage-stuffed land into something usable, like golf courses, so at first I was outraged, thinking they’re turning the actual landfills into habitats. Upon further research, that doesn’t seem to be the case (at least, I hope it isn’t). But the idea is that big companies like WM are trying to make good and preserve wildlife habitats–to sweep under the rug the fact that so much of our planet is now being stuffed to the brim with waste.

From the source:

Waste Management’s continues to surpass their sustainability goal by earning Wildlife Habitat Council certifications at 110 sites and preserving 26,000 acres. The “Wildlife at Work” program preserves land as wildlife habitats by provides food, water, shelter, cover and space “suitable to animals’ needs.” A site must be actively maintained and monitored for a year before it qualifies for certification. The “Corporate Lands for Learning” promotes using “Wildlife at Work” certified land for hands-on environmental education by school and community groups. These certifications recognize outstanding native habitat management and environmental education programs developed through partnerships with local organizations.

PS, let me [sic] that because holy typos, batman. Who’s in charge over there?!

This may be better than doing nothing at all, but I have a hard time buying into this scheme. This may help the CEOs sleep better at night and it may give them a redirect for pissed off customers like me (“please see our website, which outlines our current ecological initiatives, we think you’ll be pleased!”), but it ignores the true issue at hand: the fact that we–the people–are acting foolishly with Mother Earth.

We are commonly told that we have but one body and we should treat it right. The same goes with our planet. There is only one Earth.

When I was in college, I had this one really great class. It was an English class called Postmodern American Literature. It was heavy on theory. My professor was just great–he was married to another of the English department’s professors and they were in the early 40s, childless, and I imagined them to have this amazing, enlightened life where they discussed politics and wrote poetry and traveled and hosted wine tasting parties. I don’t know if they did, but that was the kind of life I wanted to lead. He was really lenient with due dates, which I remember made him the anomaly of the department. He would rather we turn in our best work than turn in something half-assed on time. I don’t think I ever took advantage of one of his extensions but he granted them liberally. I thought that was really cool. He talked often about his graduate school days (at the University of California-Irvine, in the 90s, which I imagined to be a crazy, drug-addled ride). Anyway, one of the main course themes we discussed was consumerism and commodity fetishism. I wrote a lot of poetry that year, not for class but during my free time, due to his inspiring course. We read a lot of Joan Didion. This was my first exposure to like-minded people who were equally as outraged by the way our culture treats our planet.

But all we really did was talk about it, we didn’t do anything about it.

And that’s the problem.

At my last job, a small family-owned company, there was no recycling initiative. Which is scary considering it was a publishing company. I took it upon myself to bring in my own bin and everyone in my department brought their loose papers to me and I took it home and recycled it myself. It made me feel better. I think we often look at life through the eyes of one person who couldn’t possibly make a difference–but I’ve been that one person, and as one person who brought in one recycling bin, I transported pounds of paper to be rightfully recycled. That made a difference, though it might have been small. But it was something.

Maybe WM taking it upon themselves to preserve so many wildlife habitats is the exact same “something” but it’s not very helpful when the rest of us continue to ignore the problems and put it in the hands of large corporations. WM’s business model depends on us producing the same amount, if not more, trash. Capitalism doesn’t want us to rewrite that plan.

I’m not the next big brain of our time but maybe you are. Or maybe if we all put our minds together, we can be the next think tank our generation needs. I’d love to hear what you think. I’d love to be involved in enacting change. Our planet’s wellfare depends on it.

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