Piles of garbage, the Doomsday Clock, and other fun facts

dscn9939 Earlier this week I grabbed my bag of black oil sunflower seeds and crept across the snow (ice sheet) to refill the bird feeders.  I also opened a packet of suet to refill the empty suet hanger.  I was in a rush and sorely tempted to toss the empty plastic suet packet into the huge trash can in the garage.  But instead I put it in the recycling bin.  This took approximately two more seconds, so I’m not sure why that counts as a victory, but for me it did.  I also got some fun shots of this cardinal, always a favorite winter friend.

dscn9981I  can tell when I’m not on the top of my game, because tasks as simple as choosing to wash and recycle a container seem beyond my ability to manage.   My six year old neighbor recently rejected a reasonable request from her parents by saying:  “If you make me do that I’ll scream my face off.”  I totally get how that kid feels.  Sadly, nobody much cares if I start screaming my face off.  They just get frightened and cross the street.  I don’t blame them.

Now, I understand that thinking about garbage is probably not a top priority for most of us.  Too many other “important” things going on.  I certainly haven’t had much reason to focus on garbage at any great length lately.  Maybe I should.  Americans use 15 million sheets of paper every 5 minutes, 60,000 plastic bags every 5 seconds, and throw away “enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet every three months.” http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/07/trash-charts-world-bank-report-economy

We haul our trash bags and recycling to the local transfer station on Saturday mornings.  With only two adults in the house we don’t have an excess of trash, though we could do better.  We also attempt to compost.  Being eternally frugal (school loans will not pay themselves, sadly), years ago we made a compost bin out of a large storage container that my husband drilled holes in.  Poor choice, since our two dogs would go straight to the oozing holes to lick the brown juice.  When we moved across town we left that gem frozen to the backyard.  I don’t feel terrible, though, since the people who bought my house also got all my lovely hydrangeas.

Given the opportunity to start fresh in our composting efforts, and knowing an oozing bin wouldn’t work for our family, we forked over an obnoxious amount of money for a “real” composter.  I overloaded it and now it is more or less broken.  I envy people who have brazenly wide open compost piles, food waste and lawn clippings heaped in an enclosure of wood and chicken wire, or something along those lines.  Earthworm heaven, that heap.

Composting an apple core and putting a yogurt container in the appropriate recycling bin seem like small beans when held side by side with the rate at which we continue to destroy our planet.  The matter of too much stuff piling up on our planet is no small matter.  For a bunch of hard data on this topic check out http://www.motherjones.com/environment.  And for tips of how to improve your efforts to reduce, reuse & recycle, check out the https://www.epa.gov/recycle.  And I’ll try harder to remember to bring my reusable bags into Hannaford.  Why is that so difficult?

And how about those Patriots!?  Going to the Superbowl.  Fantastic.  Oh wait – I don’t actually care.  But I do care about the fact that a group of brilliant thinkers (atomic scientists, that is) who monitor the health of our planet recently sent a stark message about how much closer we are to destroying our planet.  As reported on NPR.org:

The minute hand on the Doomsday Clock ticked closer to midnight Thursday, as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said it’s seeing an increase in dangers to humanity, from climate change to nuclear warfare. The group took the “unprecedented” step of moving the clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, to leave it at 2 1/2 minutes away.

The setting is the closest the symbolic clock has come to midnight since 1953, when scientists moved it to two minutes from midnight after seeing both the U.S. and the Soviet Union test hydrogen bombs. It remained at that mark until 1960.

Read up on this for yourself: http://thebulletin.org/timeline.  How’s that for “sleep well at night” information?  About as comforting as everything else coming out of the news pipeline these days.  I am reminded (gently but firmly) by a Bates professor (an environmental scientist, I’m guessing, but when we are changing for the pool I’m not asking for her credentials) that we must act locally, act locally, act locally.  She’s right.

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs…. for years I have walked past this sign:


I appreciated the sign’s original sentiment, as it stands guardian over a lovely stream, and I’m willing to be the stream used to be a backyard dump of sorts.   It wasn’t until this fall that somebody felt compelled to edit the sign in an exercise of their First Amendment rights.  (This exercise of a civil right involved a simultaneous undertaking of criminal mischief, unless the owner of the sign made the change. But I digress).  The sign is within ten feet of a  high school running trail, so I’m guessing a student made the change.

I found the sign interesting because it was not clear for me what the “artist” intended to convey – Trump is rubbish?  Or Trump is not rubbish?  I never was good at multiple choice questions.  Perhaps the most important message to take away from the altered sign is its original message: don’t leave your trash for others to deal with.

About 18 years ago my mother and step-father bought a house on a lake in Waldo County.  The property had had only one previous owner – an older couple.  The lake front did not appear to have seen much in the way of swimming parties.  I recall that several of us children teamed up to haul trash out of that lake.  We planned to swim , after all, so best to yank the rusted beer cans and other completely random garbage out from under foot.  We hauled out plenty.

Fast-forward fifteen years and I am suddenly the owner of lake front property that yet again needs a major trash removal undertaking.  I remember the day I hauled an SUV load of debris to the transfer station.  I stopped at the window to ask the attendant where to throw certain things and how to pay for whatever was above and beyond the limit.  I explained that I’d just bought a foreclosure on Annabessacook and I was cleaning up nearly 500 feet of shoreline.  The attendant was amazed at what I was doing, and she waived me through without any charge.

I guess I’ve always been a little overzealous in the realm of trash picking.  Ten years ago when we lived near the local high school, the high school trails and sidewalks became our extended backyard.  I remember one warm March day angrily picking up trash that littered the tall grass on the perimeter of the school campus.  Best part of the day – the $20 bill I found in a snow bank.  You just never know what you’ll find when you set out to pick trash.

And why, why, why do people still think it is okay to throw McDonalds bags and beer cans out the window?  I guess too ashamed to bring home our truth.  I wonder what Mother Earth would look like if we could all be braver, better?

dscn9986Blue jays make no bones about being loud and pushy. At least they are not trying to be something other than exactly what God made them.  They hog the bird seed, scream at each other, and generally act like a bunch of punks.  I guess when you are pretty it is easier to get away with naughty behavior.

And then we have the black-eyed junco, looking for a meal, minding his business.


He is quiet, and persistent, foraging in a bed of pine needles for what I do not know.

dscn9984And what of a water-logged squirrel?  I wonder if we practiced feeling love for something that is ordinary, even just a bit annoying, we could stretch our love-instinct, sharpen it, have it prepared to default to a kind thought rather than a critical one.

dscn9987It is easy to love beautiful things, things that love us back.  (Note the tongue sticking out.  I believe my little old lady was licking her brown lips.)


I captured this picture yesterday afternoon.


What can you do to protect what you hold dear?  What one thing can you do better?

dscn0021And I captured this picture this morning.

January is almost gone.  As was the case last year, this winter seems odd to me.  Lots of ice, open water on the lakes in many places.  What will February bring?


2 thoughts on “Piles of garbage, the Doomsday Clock, and other fun facts

  1. I must wonder, with your obvious talents for nature, that you have not become an atty for WWF or a similar org?


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