We Took a Field Trip to the Dump!


There are few things more visceral than looking at acres of trash with your own eyes, smelling it and watching the circling birds. But I know one thing better - contributing!

Most people throw their trash in a bin and have it picked up in a truck. Hard to know what happens after that (if you don't, just look at the truck in the background). In Taos, there is little trash service, so most folks have to haul their own trash to dumpsters or bins at various "transfer stations."

But if you know the right people (and I do), you can ride with them all the way in to the very place where the trash is thrown on the earth, there to remain for the next few thousand years.

Last Thursday, we did just that. The kids and I helped haul trash out of the trailer, watched as trucks came and went, emptying their contents, and generally gawked at the enormity of it all (if it's not obvious, all the dirt you see in the photo is just earth piled on top of more trash). And this is just Taos. Imagine what's it's like in more populated areas!

I take major exception to one of the primary strategies of the environmentalist movement, which is to describe rainforests and whales, rivers and aquifers, and how it's all going to shit if we don't save it. There is growing evidence that this just overwhelms kids and leads to adults who feel impotent, not courageous.

What children do need is direct experience with the natural world (which my class gets plenty of). So, when I brought them out to the dump I didn't harangue them with do-goodisms. It's enough to just look at it, and maybe take a little responsibility for it (that's our trash in the foreground).

I was thirty years old before I saw something like this firsthand. I think everyone should go to the dump once a year, starting around age six. I even think they should have a good time doing it (we did).