Monday, July 10, 2017
Redneck Waste Management
“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash. Each of our bodies may occupy only one cemetery plot when we’re done with this world, but a single person’s 102-ton trash legacy will require the equivalent of 1,100 graves. Much of that refuse will outlast any grave marker, pharaoh’s pyramid or modern skyscraper: One of the few relics of our civilization guaranteed to be recognizable twenty thousand years from now is the potato chip bag.”
― Edward Humes, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Remember the old commercial that ran back in the 70’s with the Native American shedding tears over the pollution and litter that was ruining his land (or what used to be his land). Iron Eyes Cody was his name and he captured the hearts of America as did the slogan:
“People start pollution. People can stop it.”
So some people, a lot of people, started hanging little trash bags on the dash board of their cars. Instead of wadding up those food wrappers and paper cups then chunking them out the window as you sped down the highway, you put them in the trash bag. Handling your trash in a responsible manner was cool. Throwing your trash out the window was not cool. Iron Eyes Cody’s tears were a great motivator. (Ironically, he wasn’t even a real Native American. Espera Oscar de Corti, aka Iron Eyes Cody, was born in Louisiana to an Italian father and Sicilian mother.)
But somewhere along the way, our paper cups got too big and wrappers turned into Styrofoam cartons and automobile dashboards became high-tech, cockpit control panels and the only place to throw trash was in the back seat or out the window. A lot of people do not like trash in the backseat, so it goes out the window. Especially when they think no one is watching.
I live out on a country road where no one is watching most of the time. So people throw their trash out on my country road. And it’s not just paper cups, Styrofoam containers, beer and soda cans. I get furniture, clothes, construction materials, cats, dogs, car parts and carved pumpkins. I’ve yet to find human bodies or body parts, but I’m sure that day is coming. Body parts and/or money, it will happen.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and I can assure you that Texas (and Oklahoma) are among the worst when it comes to roadside trash. It must be something that followed our ancestors from the South. The South is just about as bad, but I think it’s reached a higher level on the Southern Plains where the wind must create the illusion that somehow the trash all just blows to a neutral site where it is gathered and disposed of properly.
There’s less trash in the Midwest and the farther north you go the less trash you see. Some of it may be tied to the Germanic and Scandinavian influence in those regions. Even in Texas, the old German communities are relatively neat and clean. West of where I live there are towns such as Muenster where you just don’t see roadside trash and the farms and ranches are all well-tended and proper. But the old Southern Scots-Irish-Anglos that settled most of Texas brought their trashy ways with them. Junk cars, porch furniture (and appliances), stray dogs and a steady stream of trash flying out the windows of their pick-up trucks. My people. You might be a redneck if…..
So I’ll continue to pick-up trash. The little stuff goes in the regular trash. The stray animals get picked up by the county shelter. The big stuff: mattresses, couches, chest of drawers, etc will go up in smoke. My neighbor across the road has a “burn pile” hidden at the back of his property. (You might be a redneck if...you have a burn pile.) So I drive through his pasture over a little hill and down to “the pile” where I will dump the latest collection of abandoned chattel. When there is little or no wind and things aren’t too dry (rarities in Texas) we’ll have a big burn sending no small amount of pollutants into the atmosphere. It's probably not what the environmentalists had in mind back in the day when old Iron Eyes Cody was shedding tears. But it works. Which is the redneck rationale for a lot things.