Monday, March 31, 2014

Impact Reminder

For years now people have mistook Re:Vision’s Kepner Middle School Educational Farm for a dumping ground and left trash there – anything from lawn mowers that don’t work to tires, old sections of plastic fence, and empty oil drums. As countless volunteers have helped Re:Vision grow the garden’s size and scope over the years, cleaning up this trash pile always seems to fall to the bottom of the to-do list. The small patch of space with tall grasses and a few trees offers a convenient and out-of-the-way place to pile the trash for ‘later’. Well, today was later. Yesterday a team of volunteers loaded the trash high in a large dump trailer and this morning I hooked it up to the truck, checked the straps to ensure nothing wouldn’t make it all the way out to the landfill, and began the trip across town.

Have you ever been to a landfill? I know its been about three years for me. I worked landscaping through college and there were a few trips back then to carry various types of debris out to ‘somewhere else’. Every time I see a landfill, whether here in Denver, or abroad in Nicaragua or Niger (very different experiences mind you), I am struck with both gratefulness and guilt. Wonder and disgust. Mindfulness and a desire not to know.

Gratefulness that I don’t have to see the vast wreckage called a landfill every day. Guilt that my trash’s ‘away’ is here – buried beneath this dirt and littered across hundreds of acres. Wonder at the shear mass of garbage and the massive machines running around the clock to pile dirt on top of it. Disgust with myself and my brothers and sisters who are so wasteful so as to consume and throw away so much. Mindfulness that forces recognition and acknowledgment of my imperfection and the imperfection of society. The desire not to know, not to be reminded of this horrible truth the machines are working so hard to cover up – the impact we humans have on the planet is immense and undeniable.

And those dots in the sky? Seagulls, thousands and thousands of seagulls. When I was still about ½ a mile away from the dump site I could see a column of them swarming and circling hundreds of feet high. The sight made my stomach sink. It made me think of death, of vultures, of tragic imbalance.  What other creature produces so much waste that cannot be reused by another creature? What other species rips minerals from the earth and converts them (ingeniously) into products that are only designed to be useful for a few years (at best) but whose materials are toxic pollutants that take centuries to break down?

Was this what God meant when he said to Adam and Eve to rule over the Earth and subdue it? Nothing could feel further from the truth as I stood there, almost weeping at the enormity and gravity of the landfill. What would happen if every man, woman and child had to spend a few hours at the landfill each year? Would our culture begin to realize that when the trash truck comes for our dumpsters or bins, ‘away’ is actually a very real place? Would it change our behavior? Would we opt for recycling more, for composting more? For consuming less, for reusing more?

I think so.

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