Saturday, August 1, 2009

Consumption City



Eating is consumption at its most basic and vital level.
Eating is living. Ergo living is consuming... errrr... not quite?!!?

Consuming food is life giving, but the consumption of disposable goods is definitely not. As the current strike in Toronto, and the recently ended one in Windsor, have shown Canadians, wanton consumption leads to piles of garbage.

And it gets stinky. Really stinky. And it hasn't even been a particularly hot summer. To think that at least 30% of those mounds of garbage is compostable... But city employees were on strike, so there was no municipal composting being done anyway!!! No, indeed, but the waste could have been composted or vermicomposted at home. And those mounds of garbage would have been a third less big.

I don't have a garden. Nor do you need one. If you have a balcony, a sunny windowsill, or even a couple of houseplants in a dark bedroom, you will find use for that compost. If there are community gardens in your neighbourhood, apply for a plot -granted, it can take a while before you actually get a parcel- then you can feed the land that will feed you. Another option is the garden share programme, whereby an eager-yet plotless-gardener is paired up with a landed-yet somewhat disinterested person. Or you can always donate the compost to someone with a garden: compost makes a great gift for the green thumbed!

If you've ever visited New York City, than you must have noticed all the gardens. Yet most Manhattanites do not have actual gardens: they have pots of flowers on their doorsteps, planters on their windowsills, and some have also overtaken those squares of soil around the trees planted in the sidewalks. Such small, confined gardens really benefit from good compost, and the rewards are plentiful: beautiful flowers to brighten your day (and your plates if you grow edibles), tasty veggies and fruits that are the height of local-ness. And last, but not least: tended gardens tend to cut down on the littering. Seriously, if you grow some flowers in a pot or a couple of lettuces under a tree, most passers-by will get the message that whoever lives there cares about their living space and will feel less inclined to chuck their garbage amongst your zinnias.

The garbage truck (usually) takes it all away, so why should I care? You should care because landfills are reaching capacity, and cities are running out of space to build more, incinerators spew out tonnes of greenhouse gases, and right now you are digesting food that was grown on Earth. And whereas we keep taking from the earth, we give very little back. Composting is the least we can do to ensure that our soil will continue to feed us. Though organic gardening advocates have been saying it for years, recent studies have shown without a doubt that no amount of fertiliser (organic or otherwise) can compensate for the effects of soil erosion. Modern agriculture, urban sprawl, combined with the aberrant effects of global warming are washing away what little fertile topsoil we have. Without topsoil, food yields plummet, without food there is no life.

Fertilisers are to plantlife what multivitamins are to us: useful in a pinch, but they don't fill you up. Compost is like a big plate of whole wheat pasta smothered in a chunky ragù, a side of veggies, and why not, a steak on top. All that roughage is what constitutes earth.

So please, start a compost pile or vermicompost bin, ask your mayor to implement a brown waste pick-up. Stop buying bags of black earth, and start using your own homemade compost. Use it in your garden, on your lawn, in your flower pots.

Feed yourself, feed the Earth, and there will be a little less hunger.

In the meantime, here's another movie suggestion if you want to save yourself from brain rot before the summer's end:




And you might have noticed a new feature on my blog: the plastic bag count ticker under my profile. Scary to think of all those bags floating about.

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