Category Archives: Simple Life

Garbage Guru



On our second day in Arizona we attended to urgent business. We went for supplies including Costco and then refreshments from Total Wine where we passed a man wearing T-shirt that read, Garbage Guru.  What is a garbage guru?

Since I had no idea when I got home, I checked with he who knows everything. Professor Google.

I found there were a few people or organizations who claimed the title. The most interesting one I found was the was one from New York City.  Ms. Nagle the New York Sanitation Department’s very own anthropologist-in-residence going by the name of Nats.  Nats is a garbage guru who studies garbage in the largest city in America. She pointed out, quite fairly, that we (all of us not just New Yorkers) are part of a throw-away culture where few people pay any attention to our stuff that we throw out. We don’t pay attention to the consequences of just throwing everything away.

As Nats said, “we are also therefore creating a kind of waste stream that will probably outlive even our children’s children because plastic in particular is such a new product, such a new chemistry, in human history, we don’t know it’s half-life.” Her position with the City is actually honorary. I found that a bit disappointing.

She is actually a professor  at New York University who spends a lot of time looking at garbage. She reminds me of this guy who used to regularly go through Bob Dylan’s garbage and then report on it to his legions of fans. Even though I was a big Dylan fan, I did not think this would be worth a lot of time.

Speaking to a bunch of sanitation workers at a workshop, Nats explained to them, “I will also make clear to you that it is far more dangerous than being a cop or a firefighter. According to the bureau of labor statistics you are three times more likely to be killed in the line of duty as a sanitation worker.”

Who would have known that?


Decline of Ancient Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert


At Casa Grande Arizona, a steel and concrete canopy was built in 1932 to protect what remained of the Great House from the elements.

As I mentioned earlier  the great puzzle is why were these magnificent structures and elaborate towns abandoned in favor of smaller communities after about 1450 C.E.

Some have speculated that some catastrophe caused the people to leave. There is evidence that the area experienced significant floods between 1300 and 1450.  Those were followed by intense periods of drought. Severe climate change in other words.

Archeologists use multiple kinds of evidence to answer such questions, or at least shed some light on the questions posed. As a result, they have been studying salt discharge on the Salt and Gila rivers, as well as the increasing soil salinity, diseases, and evidence of malnutrition. It is likely that environmental conditions changed and the Ancestral people of the Sonoran Desert (formerly Hohokam people) did what all smart people do, they adapted to changed conditions. That is how people survive. That is a lesson we moderns are beginning to experience. How will we adapt is not so certain.

The evidence does show that the extreme flooding deepened the Gila River Channel making it more difficult for canals to carry water to fields where water levels were low. Part of the canal system was abandoned while other parts were extended miles upstream to maintain proper water flows. Around 1350 C.E., the time of the Great House, a combination of factors may have triggered a breakdown of Hohokam society and undermined their leadership.

It is probable that as a result of all of these factors, the survivors of the floods and droughts abandoned large sites like Casa Grande in favor of smaller settlements along the Gila River. Today’s O’odham people believe that they are the descendants of the Hohokam people. As a result, Hohokam society never disappeared it just adapted and changed to a lifestyle that was better suited to the changed conditions. This change was likely to one more similar to their ancestors. They changed to a simpler life. Perhaps that is what we will be compelled to do.

There is a lot to be said for a simpler life.

Sacred stuff


One thing that really struck me as we saw Arizona for the first time in 3 years was the large number of new storage places.  A few years ago these were extremely rare. Now they are ubiquitous. Everyone in Canada and the United States needs extra storage space. Even though house sizes had doubled in size in the last couple of decades while family sizes shrunk, people needed more storage space.  This is the product of a society enamoured of stuff. Devoted to stuff. As a result, we have a society of stuff. Sacred Stuff.


I have also noticed in the neighbourhood that everyone seems to have a truck. A huge truck on the driveway. Is that because they can’t get it into their garage. Is it too big for the garage? Eventually I learned that many of the garage were stuffed with stuff! Huge mounds of stuff inside garages. I was too shy to photograph them. What would people think?

Chris and I know a person in Winnipeg who is a hoarder. Really a hoarder. Her house we have heard is stuffed with stuff. No one is allowed in to see the state of the house for she is too embarrassed. But recently she had a problem.  Her heating system was malfunctioning so she had no heat in her house. That is a pretty big problem in Manitoba in winter. But she did not want to allow anyone to come into her house. She refused to allow any worker to come in to fix the furnace. Therefore she lived in a house in Manitoba without heat in January! That is insane. That is more insane than having a house stuffed with junk.

Here in Arizona, I have seen many garages filled with stuff. As a result their vehicles are left on their driveway permanently even though that is very tough on tires in the desert sun. Why do people have so much stuff they can’t use it? These often are not rich people. But they are dysfunctional people.

Is that not a sign of spiritual decline?