Thursday, February 26, 2009

Observation: Trash

We mentioned in an earlier post that when you go to the grocery store here, it seems there is a competition to see who can use the most plastic bags to wrap your groceries. Well, there is an unfortunate corollary to that practice: how many plastic bags can you throw out the window of your car? As you’re driving through the countryside here, plastic bags and plastic bottles are absolutely everywhere. It’s tragic. When we were in Catavina early in our trip, our found friend Ralph pointed out a bundle of plastic bags and other trash on the side of the road and asked us if we knew what it was. It turns out that a cow had died in the desert, and after the buzzards got done with it, all that was left of the cow were the contents of its’ stomach. It seems the cow had eaten so many plastic bags that it died. We believe this story is true, but it is also a bit of an allegory about what is happening to our planet. We saw this same behavior, although not quite as pervasive, in Africa. We don’t quite understand what would cause people to do this, as the impacts are not subtle like carbon emissions are. A corollary to this business of plastic bags is that recycling is almost non-existent everywhere we have been so far. A few campgrounds have recycling receptacles for aluminum cans, but only rarely, and never anything more. Oddly, we also found this to be the case at all the campgrounds in California just after we left home. The current market for recycled materials can’t be helping the situation. Sad.

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