14 April 2010

Not in Our Back Yard

With the return of sunny, warm weather, I’ve been spending a lot of time in our woods. Sometimes I just walk around, observing how things are growing and changing with the coming of spring, listening to the birds, and sneaking around trying to surprise some deer or wild turkeys (no luck yet).

Other times, I am hauling trash out of the woods. We inherited a lot of junk with our property, which is apparently a fairly commonplace thing in the country. So I’ve been spending some time every day donning my work gloves and consolidating the garbage so we can haul it away to the dump.

More than anything, the trash is automobile-related; a veritable graveyard of auto parts, made poignant in this age of peak oil. I have found just about every part of a car: reflectors, rearview mirrors, seats, spark plugs, smashed windshields, tail pipes, hubcaps, carburetors, and many parts that I don’t have the knowledge to identify. And tires! There’s 55 in this pile alone, which we are going to turn into some sort of art project before they become mosquito incubators.

As I’ve been crawling around in the brush untangling car parts from the foliage, I’ve been thinking about stuff. About how much stuff we buy and how most of it never goes away. You can leave it at the curb in a garbage can, toss it in the woods or haul it away to the dump, but it still exists. Last week I watched some disturbing footage of the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, and if I hated plastic before, witnessing this ecological travesty is enough to turn me off buying anything plastic ever again. In case you don’t know, the Garbage Patch is a floating trash heap estimated to be the size of Texas; even worse, it is literally impossible to clean up.

As I was picking trash in the woods, I came across a pile of empty baby food jars. Now, I don’t have children, but if I did, I cannot imagine feeding my baby and then throwing all these jars into the woods as if there were no tomorrow. Far be it from me to judge the generations of people who lived on this land before us. Maybe there was no garbage pick-up, maybe they didn’t have enough money to take their trash to the dump, maybe they were careless and selfish and stupid as we all are at one time or another. I moved to the country for many reasons, one of them being that I love nature in all its fresh, unspoiled glory. I cannot live with these strangers’ trash in my woods, so I am moving it from point A to a point B that is out of sight. The ultimate futility of this act is not lost upon me. The junk will still be out there, but at least I won’t have to look at it.

A few weeks ago, Milé and I went on the Green Homes Tour, organized by the County Sustainability Group. Prince Edward County is truly a hotbed of green thinking and alternative energies – geothermal, solar, wind power and bio-diesel. In our short time here we’ve met a number of people living off the grid, as we hope to one day at Small Pond. During the Green Homes Tour we visited the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese, an incredible off-grid facility that makes out-of-this-world cheeses. We were toured around by architect Francis Lapointe, and one thing he said really struck me: "The greenest product is the one you don’t use."

Although a number of the plays that I’ve written have environmental messages, I’m not into gloom-and-dooming about the environment. I think at this point we all know that we’re in some pretty deep trouble. What I’m interested in is solutions. Buying less and living more. Re-using, repurposing, and throwing away only what we must and in the best possible way. If you’re interested in banding together with your community to find creative solutions to climate change and peak oil, then check out the Transition Town movement. There’s a burgeoning Transition movement in the County that I’m proud to be a part of. As we celebrate Earth Day next week, let’s remember that the earth is our home, and stop throwing junk in our collective back yard!


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt5tLTnu7Ws&feature=related

    Don't throw your junk in my backyard, my backyard, my backyard
    Don't throw your junk in my backyard, my backyard's full!

  2. Ha ha! Meg...good one, I just hummed a little diddy in my office! People are disgusting - I don't know if it's me getting older and not caring what people think of me anymore, but I have gotten to the point that if I see someone do such things, I stop, comment, or, while in the car, finger them. Just last week I watched a guy toss his big gulp cup out his window like it was nothing - I was apalled! He got one nasty look from me. Anyways, good reminder of us all having to do our part! I heard about taht trash island last week too, so shocking.