Way #15: Where is "Away"?
Where is “away”? No, really? Can you find it on a map?
This is not an inconsequential question; the very concept of “away” has serious ramifications for the planet and all of its inhabitants.
Today, as you go about your day, notice how many “disposable” items cross your path that get thrown out: all sorts of packaging––especially food packaging––to-go food containers, paper towels, styrofoam cups and packing materials, and junk mail. What are you unconsciously throwing “away” every single day?
Why Do This Way?
It is vital to our survival as a species that we begin to generate less waste. Disposing of trash by relying on our ability to move it “away” may have worked when there were fewer of us sharing the planet. Now it is simply not sustainable; we live on a finite planet.
Another important thing to consider is, when we act as if there is an “away” it reinforces the story that people are separate from the rest of the natural world and even from one another. Waste is buried in landfills, dumped in the ocean, or incinerated as if nature were a warehouse of resources or a dumping ground and nothing more.
And it’s not just the natural world that is disregarded in this process. Waste facilities are often located in poor neighborhoods, impacting people whose health and well-being are disregarded as well.
If you’ve had a chance to explore Way #9 and the messages of Awakening the Dreamer, you know that this story of separation is at the heart of the environmental and social justice challenges we’re facing now.
Engaging with This Way
If you have the time and interest, go deeper with this topic:
- This 15 minute story from NPR’s Planet Money on how the global economy largely defines what constitutes “trash” is an excellent blend of both the practical (trash was tracked by GPS as it made its way to “away”), and the conceptual (an enlightening explanation of how what is recyclable relies entirely on whether there’s a market for recycling that material).
- For visceral reminders of where trash can end up when it’s tossed, check out this story from CNN of a beach in India ruined by trash (but with a happy ending), or of this very recent news story of the ocean clean-up effort that launched from San Francisco just a few days ago.
- The Story of Stuff group just released this new video on the Story of Plastics.
- For inspiration on how you can track your waste, revisit the trailer for the 2009 documentary No Impact Man, about a family who tries to live without generating waste for a year.
- Zero waste resources:
Feel free to share any thoughts you have about "away" in the comments below.