attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Driving the Snakes out of Croydon (long and bad-tempered)

I am in two kinds of pain today.

The first is the usual, though it's been more intense of late, requiring my maximum dosage almost every day. Fortunately I have a backup stash if I run out (not on the scale of House's backup, but enough to get me through a week). The Lidocaine patches help a little, but not much.

The second is the absence of Bob, who is down at the farm, building us a garage. I know I sound like a complete baby, but I miss him so much, my heart aches. I honestly don't know how military wives do it, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they go through - I am lonely after four days with daily phone calls, and I will see him on Thursday, so have nothing to complain about. But I still can't sleep without him beside me.

Wah, wah, wah. Enough about me.

Let's talk about the end of the world (You know how I love it).
Sunday evening was "We are all Pigs, and Should Just Give Up and Die Right Now Because The World Would Be Better Off Without Us" night on the higher cable channels - I watched NatGeo's Aftermath: Population Zero , which purports to tell us what the world would be like if we all upped and disappeared, and then Dumped, where spoiled Brits argue and whine at each other while living in a morass of their own filth.

No, it's not a dating show, surprisingly enough.

But first, let's talk about Aftermath - I had a bit of a problem with the start of the show, where we all disappear - *poof!* - in an instant, which sets up all sorts of crashes and explosions, but is a ridiculous premise for the end of humanity, especially when so many delightful epidemic diseases or natural disasters exist to take us out. Instead of letting us all die of a strain of Avian flu that doesn't kill anything else, they decided that we would all disappear in a Rapture-like way, perhaps all spirited off to eco-terrorist hell, or something.

(I bet all those assholes who bought the H3 wish they'd bought a Prius when they arrive in the circle of E-Hell designated for Gas Guzzling SUV Drivers Who Thought Big Wheels = Big Dick. The thing doesn't even have any useful storage space, for chrissakes.)

So, we go poof. What happens? Well, cars crash, planes fall out of the sky, and pets shut indoors starve to death (oh, and zoos. Zoos are bad, m'kay?). This section pissed me off a bit, because the stuff they got onto later was interesting enough on its own without the 'splosions. I wonder if they made humanity disappear because it would be too much for the more sensitive viewers to realize that pet dogs who go feral will happily munch on Master's dead body when the canned food stops appearing - they showed smaller dogs being attacked, but humans? Oh, no - better that they all vaporize in a COMPLETELY IMPLAUSIBLE MANNER.

Sorry. Got a bit irritated, there. I'm better now.

Even with piles o' corpses (which would be gone in less than a year, if the dead animals I occasionally find in the woods are any indication), the other things that happen if people all stop existing, such as nuclear plant meltdowns, electricity failures, gas plant explosions, and dam burstings are surely cool enough that we don't need the car crashes and plane crashes at the beginning? Are we so squeamish we can't handle the idea of an absolute epidemic that wipes out every last person on Earth? Bodies decompose quickly, and without other humans, who cares about disease? Animals are smart enough to avoid eating putrid flesh (excpet, y'know, for the ones adapted to it), and will not stay crammed together in cities when the wide open country beckons. The world will fall apart quite well with our bones littering the landscape.

So, while it was mildly fun in a "see the Eiffel Tower collapse" kind of way, Aftermath loses massive points for prissily skirting the whole "corpses in the streets" reality of any humanity-ending event. Wusses.

Talking of wusses, Dumped is a massive wuss-fest in the worst way. The premise is that a bunch of people signed up for an "Eco-Challenge", and instead of being taken to an exotic far-away country as they hoped, have been literally dumped at a landfill outside Croydon. There they must live for four weeks, making a living and a home off the rubbish dumped off every day. Predictably, they are horrified, but what really horrified me was their total inability to work together in any coherent way. They whine, they mope, they balk at taking suggestions/orders, and they won't take charge themselves. They're full of big speeches, but empty of actual usefulness. In a word, they suck.

I'm big on self-sufficiency; I do not find the idea of making a living off a dump horrifying, but intriguing. The point of the show is that Britons dump off tonnes of useable, recyclable stuff in landfills every day; that "rubbish" should be going anywhere but there. My take on this is that there are people who live in landfills in other parts of the world; experiencing what poorer people have to live on because we are such filthy bastards is good for the soul.

(Whether those poor people would be better off if we produced less trash is a point you can debate with your friends for fun and profit!)

Even with the smell, I think I could make a real go of showing people how to use the majority of the things in that landfill usefully, and not just the obvious things, like building materials. Perhaps it's a little bit of the pioneer spirit, perhaps the small amount of experience roughing it (and perhaps I'm full of crap), but there's a whole bunch of obvious things I'd have done from the outset that they whinged and whined about, and in some cases, didn't think of at all. Interestingly (for me), only the person with military training (Navy) had any sense about food storage - the hippies and eco-princesses (male and female) were leaving the remains of their food sitting around, and whining about cleaning up.

In a landfill. With rats, seagulls, and assorted English wildlife. With bacteria, filth, and flies. FLIES, PEOPLE!

Any North American camper worth their salt knows that you pack and store your leftover food in a way to disguise its scent, otherwise every animal within a four mile radius is going to be making a bee-line for your camp that night.

("Look, honey - bears! Eating our food! Get the camera!" No, not that kind of camper, the smart kind.)

Perhaps it's the lack of large predators in Britain, or just a complete lack of understanding of germ theory, but I would never leave my food sitting out - and why waste it like that? They weren't scavenging food from the landfill (even reality TV has standards. Not high ones, admittedly, but they prefer not to kill their contestants right off). It was being provided for them for health reasons, but just because you're getting more, doesn't mean you should waste what you have. Smell that pungent smell? That's the food other people wasted - aren't you supposed to be getting more aware of what Britons throw away?

Food is a funny thing - I don't toss my leftovers until they're sassing me, but many people have been trained to throw out leftovers a couple of days after cooking. As a result, tons of food is wasted every day. Composting for fertilizer and fuel can help alleviate some of the problems experienced in landfills, where food does not rot properly.

As for the lack of work ethic - when Gardiner's camps, there is a chore list, and the chores rotate, so that no-one is stuck doing the same thing all week (and no-one gets stuck doing all the work).  It seems obvious, but the Dumped people didn't do that. They scrambled to make the most makeshift sleeping area possible, all while whining (and this in a country with a lot of rainy days), and screamed bloody murder when their chemical toilets were taken away, and they were told to make composting toilets. By their reaction, you'd think that none of them had ever done what a bear does in the woods, and maybe they hadn't. Despite their expressions of horror at losing their chemical toilets (I admit, I love mine at Pennsic), a composting toilet is one of the easiest damn things to make ever, and if maintained properly (fat chance with this lot, obviously), barely smells at all. A little lime helps, but in the absence of lime, a little fresh earth on top of the waste does wonders. 

(Dig your hole pretty deep.  At the end of the week, cover the hole and leave it to mature, and dig a new one.  Voila!  Compost that everyone feels slightly weird about!)

Seriously - I'd have had ones up by the end of the second day, since it became obvious from the very beginning that the show's host had a penchant for removing amenities. A couple of deep holes, a couple of buckets and discarded toilet seats (you cannot go to a landfill without seeing toilet seats), and luxury fit for a king! 

Speaking of cleaning, is it me, or is it insanely annoying that Clorox's line of Green works cleaning products has the tagline "At last, Green works", like there's never been a real line of household products that's effective?  It's so patronizing (and they've bought out Burt's Bees, which makes me happy for the founder, but sad for the company, since I fear for it's message once the huge company swallows it).

And the toilets were nothing compared to the whining when it was suggested they make a solar shower! When they were told that a large number of the world's people live without any hot water except that which they boil for themselves, one of the contestants had the nerve to say "I don't see why I should think I'm 'lucky' for having hot water".

You are, my son. You are damned lucky. Hot water is one of the massive energy drains of the Western world, where we get miffed if we do not have hot water on demand, regardless of the cost. And a solar shower is similarly easy-peasy to make!

Come on - they get fresh clean water, and don't even have to make a solar still for drinkable water. All they have to do is use the sun to heat it (this is a bit of a challenge if it's a rainy summer, mind you), and hot showers for all.

I don't understand why they find this so difficult. Really.

No really - these bastards were hopeless. I despised all of them (except the Navy guy, who had much more of a handle on the whole idea than anyone else, and the drive to get it done) by the end of the first episode, and the second episode simply sunk them deeper in my estimation. One woman is so moved by the whole experience, she is determined to make a huge "art installation" to express the experience; of course, she's so focused on her "experience", she's not doing any of the work to feed and shelter her. She stopped everyone in their work so she could share an "important discovery" - a dead snake. You see, snakes are spiritually linked to her because of her name, and now she has to spend half a day ceremoniously burying the damned thing. Meanwhile, everyone else works (in between whining, they got the toilets done).

If I was participating in this thing, I would be pushing very hard for making sure she would not share in any of the benefits of the work she refused to contribute to. Far from understanding what the hell she's doing here, she's still a parasite - just this time, on a small group that can't afford her shenanigans, rather than on the larger world's resources (who don't care if she lives or dies, and frankly, I don't either. She gives artists a bad name). Make your own shelter, shower, and toilet, beeyotch - you can't use ours because you didn't think they were "important".

Useless, useless, useless. Art is a privilege, not a right - it can only become useful when the basic needs of humanity are met. Society can only afford to support artists because we have a large enough balance of people to support such things. In smaller, less technological societies, art is what happens after the day's work is done, not the day's work.

Whether this is good or not is moot - when hands are needed for survival, then it is the height of selfishness to refuse, and the height of arrogance to then expect to benefit from the work of others.

The final irritation in last night's program was the challenge they were given to collect scrap to re-sell for money to buy luxuries - the person they initially assigned to this task (while the others were building toilets) was deaf-eared to the pleas to find metal and things of value - she was determined to "get all this plastic out". Predictably, her two days of effort were worth zero - and when she said "But at least I got all the plastic off the ground", I threw something (soft) at the TV. Bitch, where do you think all that plastic is going to go? In a pile back in the landfill. Idiot.


The selfishness of the group astounds me - the indigent people who work/live on the landfills of Manila (the link actually talks about the lack of useful living scraps poor people face when recycling lessens landfill waste, in a blackly amusing irony) would be dead if they worked like this lot. They work in torrential rain, and they don't get "tea breaks" whenever they feel like it. If they don't scavenge, they don't eat. There's nothing like basic survival to give you a work ethic.

Shelter, food, toilets/hygiene - these are the basics that are required for living. Once you have achieved a good level of each, you can start to think about other things, like selling scrap for cash (a popular choice the world over for people keen on being able to feed their families), and "art" - or, more accurately in this case, piles of rubbish slapped together by snake-obsessed Scottish-Canadian hippies (your choice).

The landfill question is not easily tackled or solved - throughout the ages, the leavings and discards of the well-off have fed and housed the poor (in a way that disgusts many people, but hey - you didn't want it), and governments the world over have been famously reluctant to fund a better life for the indigent. In turn, you can't solve poverty by throwing money at it. Problems, problems - and no easy pat answer for you in this journal, I'm afraid.

(If I had those answers, I wouldn't be wasting my time here. Helloooo, Nobel Foundation.)

What I do think is that from a survival standpoint, the Dumped people should be dead (and one can wish). They have not built adequate shelter (next week's episode - we're several months to a year behind the UK in shows - has them dealing with pouring rain and leaks in their totally lame shelter), they whine about working (and avoid it when they can), they don't work well together (taking ten times as long to get anything done is not healthy  - "well, Selena, I think the Sabre-toothed Tiger would be better stopped with a spear" "no, no, Frank, we need a trap". *CHOMP!*), and they keep making what sound like deep pronouncements about the environment, but are really the empty phrases of people who know they will be going home to clean sheets and hot water on tap in less than four weeks.

From an ecology standpoint, I think we're making a big mistake by not requiring separation of food/biomass and metal/paper/plastic; the energy that can be pulled from a food landfill is useful, and there's no point in contaminating re-useable items with rotting biohazards. Everything in that landfill that is not quickly boidegradable (or medical waste, but hopefully they don't mix that into the general trash) can be used for something - maybe it's not immediately apparent, but empty milk bottles can be filled with earth/sand and used for weights; mattresses and sofas beyond use as seating/bedding can be pulled apart and used as insulation (which protects from the heat as well as the cold - and there are some hot days in Britain), metal and cable can be sold as scrap (in their scavenging, the contestants totally forgot about cable wire, which is quite valuable, containing large amounts of copper), and wood, plastics, fabrics, and metals can be used as building materials (as anyone who has built a "wall" out of soda cans can attest).

Give me a week, and I can build a palace in a landfill. A small palace, but a cozy one that doesn't leak, with a working composting toilet, a kitchen, and a bed/sofa. It reeks a bit, but you stop smelling it after a while. Heck, it will be luxury living! As good as places that aren't buried under tons and tons of rich people's filthy leftovers!

After all, the poor can do it, right? Who needs hot water when you've got mountains and mountains of shit to scavenge on? The world needs more trash! Fuck indoor living - we'll soon be buried under our trash anyway, right? May as well get used to it now!

Maybe we should think about alternatives before it's too late - but I don't think our Dumped contestants have picked up on that idea yet. Let's hope they do.

Let's hope we all do. 
Tags: environmentalism, the end of the world, tv

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