My infamously sensitive schnoz had a bad day today. It started with a trip to the Ada County Landfill, ran afoul of some perfume soaked ladies at a pawn shop, and then endured its final assault at Harbor Freight which, owing to the questionable materials and origins from which its notoriously cheap goods come, always reeks of chemicals and cancer starting from several feet outside the door.
The last two were annoying to be sure, but it was the first which rendered me more heartsick than I have been in some time. And, while I certainly didn’t relish the idea of taking anything to the dump, it wasn’t until we wended Charley up the hill and I spied the circling scavenger birds marking the spot where our collective refuse is meant to be buried and buried again, as though it will just go away, that I began to feel utter despair and wish that we had more time to dispose of this random assortment of things in any way other than this.
It wasn’t like we were dumping anything that had been purchased brand new by us or that could be easily repurposed. We had Charley’s old bench seat, some wood pallets that were half munched, an office chair that was in three or more pieces, and a particle board “bar” that had been picked up for free and passed around the family for years before it was finally deemed no longer of use. All told, 540 pounds of junk that we couldn’t justify moving with us or leaving behind to ultimately become someone else’s chore.
And “someone else’s chore” is exactly the mentality we have about this concept and many others. From what I saw today, this particular example of a North American landfill, although essentially automated and more sophisticated than other such operation I have seen, lets that pervasive apathy and detachment continue even when the people who go there are staring one of the worst things about our species in the face. I say this because, while there were signs posted and areas designated for separating and recycling, the traffic flow and manning were not adequate to ensure that things would be disposed of in the least impactful way. There wasn’t a person to explain the system at the entrance. Just a scale to take our starting weight and a ticket to tell them what to charge us when we left.
There was a person to usher us into a space to drop our load, but he did not inspect what we had or advise us to take the pallets elsewhere to be recycled. He simply motioned us into position and joked about us being allowed to sit in a broken down easy chair that had already been deposited nearby. Har har. Just another poor schmuck trying to make the best of a shitty job. According to the time on our ticket, we had to endure this wretched smelling apocalyptic landscape for 20 minutes. This guy had to be there all day. He seemed to be in good spirits. I was horrified. Lance, upon seeing the misery on my face, commented that this was an exercise in self-loathing.
He was right. I hated myself for being there at all. I hated the people next to us for throwing yard trimmings into the ever-growing mountain of waste when they could have taken them to a recycling center on the other side of town and had them turned into mulch. I hated humanity in general for buying into the idea that all the things we don’t want somehow magically just go away (wherever that is), for not considering sustainability and far-reaching impacts, and for consuming voraciously enough to necessitate operations of this size and, I’m sure, far larger, just to keep up with the unending binge and purge cycle dictated by those who love money more than life.
Without wishing to sound sanctimonious, I’m not sure many would be so affected and leave a dump run physically ill and in tears as I did today. But I do wish that more people would at least visit such places just to see that there is no such thing as throwing anything “away”. Perhaps this reality-check brand of awareness would bring about more social action than registering to participate in a wacky-themed fitness event or rounding up to the nearest dollar so as to not seem like a jerk when the cashier asks us to support whatever cause they are pimping this week. Not to say that contributing in these ways doesn’t matter. But for me at least, they don’t make me aware of whatever cause they are championing on more than a cursory level. However, when the cause is really THE cause, our terrestrial home and the resources that sustain us, and the negative effects of ignoring this cause are so viscerally apparent, apathy isn’t an option. Life is a concept and a condition I find impossible to value less than any other single thing.
We each decided some time ago and on our own terms, that we want to make a life far more than we want to make money. Our journey now is about learning to sustain ourselves while eliminating our potentially negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of others. This means we have to live thoughtfully, intentionally, and with a goal of zero when it comes to our contribution to the growing garbage pile. Today we vowed to make this our last trip to a literal and figurative wasteland.
Happy Belated Earth Day, fellow earthlings. ❤