>Permanence

>In preparing a new batch of soil recently, we have been unearthing a lot more garbage. The whole property is a midden of varying density and depth. Of course, I have repurposed some of the above ground junk into coolers, dryers, shelves etc. but almost all of the buried garbage was at the end of its life when it was flung out the back door decades ago and it hasn’t gotten better with age … though not much worse either.

When I unearth certain pieces like the one pictured, I am stopped in my muddy tracks where I have to pause from collecting stones and just contemplate. The photo shows the top page of a 3 page excerpt of a booklet used by muffler shops to produce replacement exhaust system components using a Worth Bend – o – Matic. The document appears to be from 1977 for use on 1971 Ford Mustangs, Pintos and Comets.

Finding an Explode-O-Matic – er, Pinto – to fix up these days is, happily, a rare event but, if you still had your Bend-O-Matic, you might still be able to use the specs on this scrap to fix up a set of pipes for it, despite the fact that it’s probably been in the ground for 20 years. And that’s the part that troubles me. These little scraps of garbage are just small symbols of the problem. For every excerpt of a Bend-O-Matic booklet, there was a whole booklet for not just Ford’s proud line-up but for all makes. And not just one copy; perhaps tens of thousands for all the muffler shops. And that’s just one component of one product type in one part of the world. There are at least 100,000 Pintos in or on their way to a landfill.

The degree to which we are converting natural resources and energy to junk and entropy makes me long for what I think are simpler days to come, where things are less disposable than they’ve become. But even if we somehow stopped making garbage starting today, we will still be unearthing stuff for millenia to come.

But to make this entry yet longer, I have to comment on the whole practice of burying stuff in the back yard. At first it seems like a terrible thing to do; batteries, plastic and whatever 1980’s Adidas runners were made out of, all slowing leaching their chemical components into the soil. But is it better to collect all these things and deliver them first to an on-island transfer station where it sits for several weeks and then to a Vancouver Island landfill? I say yes but only because the soil our junk is currently buried in can easily be used to grow food and because the landfill has presumably been selected because it can more safely house our trash without it causing much environmental damage except to the exact place it will rest.

On the other hand, if people were forced to house their junk on their own property, they would think twice about bringing new things home. If you personally had to find a place to put AA batteries when they were done, single-use or rechargeable, you might just re-evaluate their use in the first place.

Here on Salt Spring it costs about $5 to dump a large bag of garbage, provided you drive it to the transfer station yourself, or about 10 cents per pound in bulk. I find these rates cheap yet it already seems like dumping – on others’ property or on public land – is a problem. Apparently, one or more island plumbers take old pink and harvest gold toilets up Mount Tuam for free disposal. There, they are shot to pieces by ATV ridin’, gun-totin’ red-necked slack-jawed local yokels. If tipping fees were further raised, we could expect even more of this. Policing the dumping of garbage on an island this size would be almost impossible.

And so I avert my gaze and carry on.

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