Seven Generations

One sculpture in Harrisburg’s riverfront park grabbed my mind like no other. Seven silhouettes each cut out of the other lined up in a row.  Looking at it head on, it appeared to be one silhouette.  The effect of their joining together and breaking apart as I passed mesmerized me.

I didn’t want to spoil the effect by learning hard facts about it from any plaque that may have been with it, so I continued on my way.  Yet, the sculpture stayed with me, begging questions I barely knew how to form.  I began to wonder what the artist intended.  My curiosity was unexpected rewarded while I waited for my train home.  The walls of the station had some posters which I read to pass the time.  Turns out they were a guide to the sculptures in the park.  The piece that had engaged me was a reference to the Iroquois stewardship policy to consider the effect any decision would have on the next seven generations before making a choice.

Seven generations.

That would be my great, great, great, great, great grandchildren.

None of the trees my great, great, great, great grandfather and his father-in-law encountered while establishing their homesteads in Western Pennsylvania still stand.  Though it has been sold outside the family, the house my Cross ancestor built is still occupied.  How many of the new buildings I have approved for Zoning in the last four years will still stand seven generations from now?  Will they even survive for two generations?

How many of the next seven generations will be outlived by the plastic bag I brought home from the grocery store because I forgot my reusable bags?

What will happen to the latest gadget that will become obsolete in a year or so?  What will happen to all the energy and waste that went into creating it and then destroying it?

I’ve sometimes heard people question what kind of world they are leaving their children and grandchildren, perhaps even their great grandchildren, but no further than that.  What would happen if we set our sights a little bit further–a few more generations out?

Out of Sight…

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Trash Train Passing through Pittsburgh

Once a week, I put a bag of trash out at the curb before going to bed.  When I leave for work in the morning, it’s gone.  Poof!

Yesterday, while enjoying the beautiful summer day, the stench of garbage made me look up.  Crossing the railroad bridge, chugged a train full of trash.  I couldn’t see either engine or caboose, only car upon car upon car full of trash.  As I passed under it, smelling the breadth of the aura of stink surrounding the train, my mind imagined all the homes, parks, farms, mountains, forests, and prairies that would be polluted by this rotting mass before it reached its final destination.  A destination that is forever polluted.

I don’t litter.  I recycle when possible (or easy).  I don’t have a newspaper delivered as most of it ends up going straight to my recycle bin, wasting energy and resources.  I try to buy yogurt by the quart instead of single serve to reduce the amount of plastic used.  I plan to compost, one day.  Yet, I had no qualms setting out a bag of garbage every week.

In a corner of my mind, I knew that a truck comes and takes the garbage away to something called a landfill.  And that the garbage will sit there…forever.


A Storm Drain Treated as a Trash Can

Today, that image of the trash train is causing me to question my behavior.  Is my habit of collecting all my “garbage” in a plastic bag and setting it at my curb for it to find its way to this train and then to a landfill really any better than the person whose habit is to drop their trash on the ground or down a storm drain?  Is a landfill really any better than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Social media is filled with indignation over the trash vortex floating in our ocean, but maybe there should be more discussion and awareness about the rest of our trash: where it goes and what alternatives we have.