Garbology

This book was very intriguing and informative. I found it a little hard to believe, but Humes reports that we as a nation throw away an average of 7.1 pounds of trash per day. Okay, nobody I know throws out anyway near that much. But when we consider the country as a whole (including manufacturing and other sectors), and divide using the current census figures, that is the number we are left with.

If the entire point of Garbology was to chastise us for the way our society uses and discards items. Not even the rightest wing antienvironmentest among us could believe that this type of waste is a good thing. There are a couple of other very strong points that Humes makes as well. One is to remind us of the way we as a nation once treated items that we purchased. During the Great Depression, people did not throw things away. Items were used and repaired until they could be used no longer, and even then the individual parts were salvaged for other purposes.

The more insidious problem we face is the encouragement from the very top to consume, consume, consume. Anyone remember George W. Bush’s idea to improve the national mood after 9/11, and later to get us out of the recession? Go out and spend. Obama has said much the same thing about the financial problems the country is facing today.

Humes also talks about the big profits, and government encouragement for the common, yet obviously un-sustainable policy of just burying our trash in landfills. Seriously, how long does anyone think that can go on? He talks about methods of converting much of what is thrown out into fuels, but various interests have blocked this type of sensible alternative for their own reasons.

There is a case study of a family who are so serious about reducing their trash that they have found other uses for practically all of it. By recycling, repurposing, given things away, or composting, their yearly output fits in a single mason jar. I’m not sure the rest of us are capable of going that far, but it makes for a hell of a benchmark to work towards.

This book is a well-written look at the real problems we face in disposing of our waste. The misguided policies and basic avoidance of the problem do not make the situation go away. This is a book with some very valuable alternatives for us to consider in (at least) reducing the amount of trash we dispose of. Even in a consumption-based society, creating as much garbage as possible is not our patriotic duty. If every parent truly wants to leave a better world for their children, we are not doing a very good job of it.

In Garbology, the author takes a sober look at a very serious threat to our world, but he does so in an extremely inviting style. Celebrate Earth Day with the purchase of his book, then pass it along to a friend. His publisher may not appreciate this little piece of advice, but I have a feeling Humes would.

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