bicycle touring Photography Sustainability


“I confess that I am angry at the manufacturers who make these things. There are days when I would be delighted if certain corporation executives could somehow be obliged to eat their products. I know of no good reason why these containers and all other forms of manufactured ‘waste’—solid, liquid, toxic, or whatever—should not be outlawed. There is no sense and no sanity in objecting to the desecration of the flag while tolerating and justifying and encouraging as a daily business the desecration of the country for which it stands.

“But our waste problem is not the fault only of our producers. It is the fault of an economy that is wasteful from top to bottom—a symbiosis of an unlimited greed at the top and a lazy, passive, and self-indulgent consumptiveness at the bottom—and all of us are involved in it. If we wish to correct this economy, we must be careful to understand and to demonstrate how much waste of human life is involved in our waste of the material goods of Creation. For example, much of the litter that now defaces our country is fairly directly caused by the massive secession or exclusion of most of our people from active participation in the food economy. We have made a social ideal of minimal involvement in the growing and cooking of food. This is one of the dearest ‘liberations’ of our affluence. Nevertheless, the more dependent we become on the industries of eating and drinking, the more waste we are going to produce. The mess that surrounds us, then, must be understood not just as a problem in itself but as a symptom of a greater and graver problem: the centralization of our economy, the gathering of the productive property and power into fewer and fewer hands, and the consequent destruction, everywhere, of the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community.”
— from the essay Waste by Wendell Berry 1989

The above photograph is from the tail end of the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park just outside Trenton, NJ. That’s right, this is sponsored by the State of New Jersey (although, in fairness the rest of the canal trail was extraordinary.) It gets worse further on into the actual city, though. The whole “urban nightmare” is in effect. I took this picture last summer while Brie and I were on our bike tour, and I regularly go back to look at it, and try to reason how it made, and makes, me feels to see all that trash, with the turtle presiding over it all like it’s his kingdom. As I was reading the essay from which the above quote is copied, I realized that Wendell Berry had articulated my comparably rudimentary thoughts some 20 years ago in this powerful injunction. I challenge every one who reads this to go a single day without consuming something that comes pre-made or packaged.