Monday, January 10, 2005

Who's Cryin' Now?

The environment. What would fit into a square hole cut out of remote Wyoming or Nevada (or any other suitable place) one hundred yards deep and thirty-five miles on each side? Give up? The answer is All The Garbage Generated By Americans in The Third Millennium. In “Recycling is Garbage,” an article published in the New York Times magazine in 1996, see, e.g.,, author John Tierney audits the claims of necessity and fear concerning the alleged landslide of landfills that environmentalists assert will dominate America’s landscape. This seems like the sort of question one could actually understand and quantify. After all, after a few years of paying attention, one should be able to determine whether or not the family’s waste, together with all of the waste in the neighborhood, added, for that matter, to all the waste in the city and state, is crowding out mothers and their babies, dogs, cats and playgrounds. A cursory look around suggests that, after a couple of centuries of post-Industrial-Revolution civilization and the detritus thus caused, Americans are still living in rather commodious digs. Imagine then one’s bemusement at the Local Paper’s trumpeting – on its editorial page – of the vasty dangers of accepting trash for cash. Apparently, outfits in Michigan are considering whether or not to accept trash from Canada for disposal. For a fee. Imagine. Canadian trash in Michigan landfills. Michigan landfills making money for Michigan taxpayers. [The cached version from Google can be found at ] You can almost smell the Local Paper’s position on this, can’t you? Needless to say, Fearless Editor was agin’ importing Canadian Trash into Pristine Michigan. Doing so would make folks cry for the lost beauty, ya see. In service to this opinion Your Editor impressed the memory of that noted Native American environmentalist, Iron Eyes Cody, the glycerin-teared icon of fell-good environmental television advertisements a while back. Ole Iron Eyes oughtta know what clean is. After all, until the Dirty White Men arrived, the land was preserved by the Native American Clean Ones. Trouble is, though, ole Iron Eyes Cody was really “Espera DeCorti,” an regular American of Italian descent. He didn't have any Native American blood in him at all (except of course in the non-PC sense). He was a fake. The editorial concludes by asserting that the importation of trash from Canada would somehow harm “Michigan’s landscape.” This assertion, however, is nothing if not counterintuitive. After all, the trash would be landfilled. In a currently existing, licensed landfill. In the same gull-infested areas that are currently receiving trash. The places that are so far out of sight that most people don’t even know when they drive by them on the highway. And so the Fearless Editorial from the Fearless Editor of the Local Paper had a sort of mock-solemn symmetry: both the main argument and the symbol for that argument were fakes. There is no garbage "crisis" and ole Iron Eyes is not a Native American. A Curious Reader wonders when – if ever – Michigan residents are ever going to get unbiased information from the Local Paper about the causes, the costs, and the relative value of trash, its disposal and its actual effect on the environment in a form that does not betray a religious belief in NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”).


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