Thursday, January 29, 2009

Talking Trash

According to GOOD magazine, each American throws away 5 pounds of trash per day. That, coupled with industrial waste, generates 251 MILLION TONS of trash each year. You can watch the video here.

So it got me thinking about the things I throw away. I am currently living at home with my mother, and between the two of us, we barely generate any trash whatsoever. Garbage collection is tomorrow and there is nothing to be taken out this week. Sure, we have a half-full bag in the kitchen, and sure, there are bags filled to varying half-degrees elsewhere in the house, but that represents one week where we will not contribute a thing to a landfill.

Last week, there was one bag. I noticed it because, the night before, I was going to take the trash out to the curb, but there was nothing to go out! The next morning, before she left for work, she took the mostly-filled bag of kitchen trash out. And that was it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Logic of War

I've been reading an anthology of essays edited by Ira Glass, The New Kings of Nonfiction, and was struck by an essay by Lee Sandlin entitled Losing the War. He points out what over and over again history books and docudramas seem to marginalize about World War II: "what an absolutely miserable, pointless, blundering, screaming bloody hell it was," to quote one review.

What I found most interesting, after reading it, was that the piece was written in 1997. It's so relevant to the current situation in Iraq and, in my humble peacenik opinion, just about any other war that has ever been waged. War is so barbaric, so out of place on this small planet, and yet conflict smolders and burns all around us.

Sandlin does a quick run-down of what he calls "the standard autopsy of the causes" of WWII: Germany crumbling after WWI, Japan's wounded national pride, racism, military stockpiling, fear mongering. And then he hits you upside the head with this...

"All of this is true enough, yet there's something faintly bogus and overly rationalized about it. The approaching war didn't seem like a political or economic event: it was more like a collective anxiety attack. Throughout the '30s people around the world came to share an unshakable dread about the future, a conviction that countless grave international crises were escalating out of control, a panicked sense that everything was coming unhinged and that they could do nothing to stop it."

As I read that, I had to stop and remember that Sandlin was writing about the days leading up to WWII, not the current fears about which the world is currently so panicked. Not only is this not written about our current world crisis, but the article is ten years old. So many other articles in ten years would feel quaintly outdated, but war is always familiar.