a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Ecology: Its Price (Again)

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Ecology: Its Price (Again)

SUMMARY: From spewing sewage and garbage to fouled water to colored toilet paper and Bald Eagles to speeches to composting and cleanup and dog agility.

Earlier posts in a similar vein:

Backfill: My response on a Facebook thread discussing Glass Beach up north from here, near Fort Bragg, where there's almost no glass left of the once profuse garbage dump remnants because people have taken it, and one person's astonishment that people would have dumped their trash into the ocean: 
"so sad.  'It’s ok, let’s pollute the ocean.' It just blows my mind that people in an my day Would think that way." 
I don't know her or her background at all, but I'm grateful that it sparked my brain's sh**load of material on that topic.

Disclaimer: Wrote this on the fly in a comment, haven't edited much at all except adding some links, so sorry for haphazard wandering. No theme statement. No outline. No editing for readability. Just--dumping my truckload of environmental stuff into your ocean.

Yes, sadly, welcome to the 20th century. And--still onward into the 21st. 🙁 Dumping stopped at the Ft. Bragg Glass Beach(es) in the late '60s as I understand it and they started cleaning up dump leftovers (not sure what exactly that entailed). But people's junk STILL has to go somewhere.

Down here in Silicon Valley, the valley and surrounding hills are filled with active "landfills" and also lovely cleaned up, grassy, elevated parks and hills that are former landfills within my lifetime. But residents have spread out enough that trying to find somewhere to dump the trash of the 2 million people in this county is dire--we'll run out of current space eventually, despite all the effort at recycling.

The East River in NYC was still receiving dumped waste and sewer waste into the '90s. Now it's actually swimmable a good portion of the time. The Hudson River (I lived within walking distance of it for several years), which flows to the sea around Liberty Enlightening The World, was notoriously bad and although much has been done to improve it, the residue lingers.

The rivers that caught fire in the late '60s from all the pollution-- much better now.

But the first earth day was only in 1970. Most people didn't think about all of these things much. I did an award-winning speech in a local competition for students early that decade on the topic of "ecology: its price". (I think my focus was more on "ecology: the price of ignoring it!" Also: "ecology" was the term then; not so much "environment".) That was when I thought that I'd never see a live bald eagle here in the mainland U.S. because they'd all be gone because of DDT (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring only came out in the '60s). Now they're nesting in school yards and parks near populations of millions.

That was when I started convincing family and friends not to buy colored TP [that's a fun link! Check it out for the photos anyway] because of the toxic dyes being dumped into waterways (I mean, who'd want white when you could have bright blue to match your decor? -- nowadays, I don't think I ever see colored TP anywhere). That's when we started collecting cans and bottles to take to the very small very local recycling center at the nearby college where we'd have to crush the cans and break the glass before tossing them into the huge separate dumpsters--one for aluminum, one for tin cans & such, one for green glass, one for clear glass, etc.-- to be taken to recycling places. So we went out and bought our own different-colored plastic bins to put our compostables in. (The last of mine just died--have used them only for garden chores since the garbage companies started providing their own containers.)

1994: In the background, our black trash cans. Behind them are a green and a yellow bin (can't see the blue one) that I believe are those that the garbage company eventually provided us, not the ones we bought.

(Plastics weren't A Thing back then--we've really gone backwards since then with plastic use and we're in trouble again if we can't get that under control, and people don't think about how plastics are so much worse than cans and bottles! You undoubtedly are aware of that yourself. It scares me. And it scares me how much it limits my purchases of anything--food or anything else--if I try to avoid plastic) .

When local municipalities started requiring you to put your recyclables into separate containers from the trash for trash collection--so amazing to see that happen!--around here in the late '80s after the passage of AB939 required California municipalities to have a plan to reduce landfill waste (and I know all of this because of my work as a Master Composter--in fact, the MC training program existed because of it and I was in the 2nd-ever class)-- I remember a good friend ranting about how disgusting it was that she had to maintain more than one container for garbage in her yard and that she had to keep the metal and glass garbage out of her kitchen trash or she'd have to handle it all covered with garbage and she was furious for a long time, despite all the data I spewed at her about landfills and all that. (Another example of people who don't care about something or have a strong opinion not being swayed by data.)  [CAN YOU BELIEVE almost that entire paragraph was one sentence?! This is why I should edit my brain dumps.]

Nowadays, around here anyway, you cannot use just any container for trash. They'll collect trash ONLY from the bins that the garbage company provides and ONLY from the recycling bins ditto.  Now we don't have to separate our recyclables into several separate containers--it all goes into one big one for sorting later. So now I use my old wonderful eternally lasting black plastic ones (previous photo) for other stuff.

My containers from the trash collectors:
my neat and tidy giant recycling bin and tiny trash can, and the neighbor's overflowing ones
(garbage company doesn't like that, but they collect 'em anyway)
Does show progress that the recycling bin is so much larger than the landfill bin

Some local cities sort the trash even *after* it has been collected (<- video, kind of cool; I've been on a tour, but note that the huge quantities that they discuss are ONLY for the small city of Sunnyvale pop. 153,000, vs. the total population of the county pop. 1.9 million).

For years, we held agility competitions in the  huge softball fields adjacent to
the old landfill hill that the preceding video shows at about a minute in.

All of this to say-- "pollute" wasn't a big word until well into the 2nd half of the 20th century. People didn't think like that. I don't know how much of that you lived through, but that was the way the world worked for millennia. 🙂 (I haven't lived for millennia, in case you wondered.) And many  people are still thinking like that in many areas (who cheered when Trump backed us out of the Paris Accord?).


  1. I remember master composter classes. I was taking the master gardener classes and considered doing the compost class too, but I was overhwhelmed at work and just didn't do it. We have landfills too, that get higher and higher, mountains here where no mountains existed before. I wonder what happens when they can't go higher.

    1. Then I imagine everyone has to move to a new continent.