Monday, November 3, 2008

Day at the Dump

This is a landfill. I went on a tour of one this past weekend and learned all about the way we bury our trash.
We all throw things away every day but it’s pretty surreal to see where “away” actually is. I think I always felt like it just disappeared—the garbage truck came with its noisy claw, jostled the trash from our curbside cans and then it all just blinked conveniently out of existence. Modern systems of convenience have a way of engendering those feelings in people. Obviously, at some level, we know that’s not how it really works, but rarely do we bother to follow every-day life processes to their logical end. We live lives of comfortable in-betweens—rarely concerning ourselves with the beginnings or ends of the things around us. We buy pre-packaged food—poptarts, frozen dinners, canned soups—without giving a second thought to where this food began. Who grew the individual ingredients? How is it that they came together in such handy little packages? And food is just one example: every object, every article of clothing, every commercial good began somewhere. And that which is not directly consumed, or actively used is going to end up somewhere someday. It is only logical. Matter is neither created nor destroyed.

I didn’t realize that such a simple truth could be so jolting. As we hopped out of the jeep and walked out over the vast landfill I kept glancing around at every bottle and every box peeking from the dusty earth, wondering if perhaps my trash and I were experiencing an unexpected reunion. I imagined it all rising from the earth and haunting me like a zombie. The un-dead, the un-disappeared. whispering: I am still here.
It’s an interesting yet eerie thought isn’t it?

Another unexpected feature of the dump was the sheer quantity of birds. Hundreds and hundreds of seagulls crowded the landscape, taking off in a frenzy as our cars approached.
We ran out to greet them—pressed ourselves flat to the ground and lay still in hopes that they would settle back down around us. They didn’t, but we laughed and got our backs dirty and talked about what it feels like to know you are laying atop 80 feet of compacted waste.
Anyways apparently the dump is the hit hangout for food scavenging—those birds really know where it’s at. Our tour guide told us that Stouffers alone hauls in batches of botched noodles by the ton. Every single day. I forget the exact number, but it was mind-boggling to think of that many tons of noodles going to waste on a daily basis.
We dreamed briefly of a Patch-Adams-esque noodle-filled swimming pool experiment. But then we got a good whiff of the rotting noodles and changed our minds.

I am still sorting through my thoughts about the whole experience. Overall it was nice to become more aware of the systems I utilize and depend upon. I am obviously thankful that I live in a place and time where such convenient and efficient services are provided for me—but I also think it’s important not to take them for granted. I think there is value in being conscious of both beginnings and of ends. If we are not conscious, thoughtful, and even critical of the systems we partake in then we will become stuck in a state of stagnancy and decay. There should always be room for positive change. This applies in more than one realm: systems of agriculture, waste removal, energy, politics. It extends to the houses we live in, the clothes we wear, the food we eat.
I am still learning every day, and most of the time I don’t even know where to begin…But it is my hope that we can all try to live a little more deliberately and humanely. Leading lives dictated by love and striving to avoid waste and excess as much as possible.


L. Laws said...

i totally know how you feel. ever since i saw Wall-E i feel so guilty about throwing things away.

i just think of that cute lil' robot.

and it is really frustrating. what do you do??

petition for more recycling at BYU!

kelly said...

what an experience, i can't imagine seeing all that trash, i would feel so guilty. i do some recycling but i know i could do more, i will try!
btw i love patch adams, just saw it the other day, but i don't think i would want to swim in noodles.