Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Wealth, Waste, and Trash…this is American the Beautiful?

with 14 comments

I made it safely across the country via Amtrak. I have any number of observations about the trip, but I will try to limit myself to the most important. I kind of wish I had brought my laptop on the train, it seems that every other passenger did. And I had the good fortune to be seated next to the only outlet in my train car, so I got to meet almost every passenger in the car as they asked to charge their laptops and cell phones and CD players. I worry about the next generation, here kids were passing some of the most incredible scenery known to man…and instead of watching it they were engrossed in watching drek or Shrek or whatever on their CD players. God’s beautiful gifts trumped by a talking cartoon donkey…if the terrorists find out what we use our freedom for…maybe they won’t hate us anymore?

Moving right along (yes, that was a bad train joke) the first thing I noticed was the fabulous wealth still existing in America. There’s lots of construction going on, and the new cars on each and every block must be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m sure most villages in the third world can’t afford one new car, let alone dozens.  And again and again I saw lots and yards full of vehicles, construction equipment, and other detritus of industrial America…clearly not in use but clearly quite salvageable and the sort of thing that would likely still be in use in other times or other parts.

And this leads to the second thing I really noticed, the staggering amount of waste in America. From vehicles/equipment not in use to giant heaps of obviously recyclable scrap it was astounding. In the nineteenth century metal was almost always recycled and made into useful new products (This is why pre 1850s locomotives are scarce as hen’s teeth, they weren’t scrapped, they were salvaged for their iron to make newer locomotives.) And besides vehicles and equipment, the number of clearly idle and unused but obviously serviceable buildings was amazing. Again, I know damn well that in most parts of the world if it has a roof…someone is using it for something.

Lastly I was saddened to see just how goddamn dirty and trash filled our great country is. Maybe one yard out of ten was well kept and pleasant to look at, most of the others ranged from merely being indifferently maintained to being suburban junkyards. And private businesses were no better, while some were obviously well run by owners who took pride in their business, many others were run down to actually decrepit. I mean, someone owns a business or house, and they just let wind blown trash accumulate until the place looks like a landfill? And almost any sort of road accessible public place basically was a dump, not only filled with wind blown trash, but also liberally sprinkled with old furniture and crap that people had obviously just tossed out of vehicles to “dispose” of them. I don’t know how many animals crap in their own dens, but sadly many humans are among them.

The overall conclusion I reached is that despite the fabulous wealth and prosperity America still enjoys, we sure as hell don’t take much pride in our great land. Maybe other countries are better, maybe they are worse, I’m not much of a world traveller. In fact I would love to get feedback on such from readers who have travelled abroad, do other nations look like extended dumps from passing train windows? Still, that doesn’t change the fact that while many Americans still talk about what a great country we are, I find it hard to understand how one can simultaneously be proud of a country and yet treat it like a landfill. When I go on hikes I not only carry my own trash out, I often carry other trash that I find out as well. Clearly I am in the minority here.

On the plus side, I noted that graffiti on freight cars has made great strides in both quantity and quality since my last train journey.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: Solid Gold. Coming soon: Polygamy and Pitcairn, and a frightening post about an airborne “pesticide” so dangerous it turns people’s brains to mush before it is even used.)

Written by unitedcats

April 19, 2008 at 5:46 am

Posted in World

14 Responses

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  1. You should visit Switzerland. It seems to me it is the perfect opposite of what you describe, especially by train.


    April 19, 2008 at 9:20 am

  2. Of course, the view from the train tracks is often the not very best parts of towns.


    April 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  3. YOU WERE LOOKING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS DOUGLAS. god this is really depressing but still good


    April 20, 2008 at 4:30 am

  4. I found those comments fascinating from several perspectives. So only the privileged classes have pride and show it by keeping their properties clean? I dunno, industrial areas were easily the worst, and they are owned by people with more money than most of us will ever dream of. I guess I’m not sure what was meant by “the best parts of towns” and “the wrong side of the tracks.” From what I saw the filth and waste crossed all social barriers and was not limited to any particular part, though some towns were clearly much nicer than others. Anyhow, food for thought, I will be posting more on national pride and how it manifests to be sure, thanks.


    April 20, 2008 at 4:34 am

  5. I think you read in more than was meant, Doug. Residential values along train tracks are low, that does not say anything about the makeup of the populations living there.


    April 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm

  6. True enough, but why would low residential values mean that people use the public and private areas as dumps? In any event your comment inspired thought and speculation on my part, and if I read more into it than was intended, mea culpa. I will be expanding on some of these thoughts, and thank you for inspiring them even if I misread you.


    April 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm

  7. People usually don’t use high residential value areas as dumps, the neighbors complain.

    Living along a railway is noisy and not where people who can afford to live elsewhere will usually prefer. If you’re asking why poverty looks dirty, I don’t know what to say.


    April 21, 2008 at 12:15 am

  8. speaking about people not caring about their “dens”, question comes to my mind: how to change that? (besides doing it ourselves)

    i hope you’ll write some article about possible solutions to bad things you’ve seen on your trip..


    April 21, 2008 at 1:26 am

  9. Ah, civic pride… I studied this way back in high school. The gist is that poor neighborhoods CAN be maintained with a certain amount of residential participation that wealthier neighborhoods don’t require (because wealthier neighborhoods have the tax base to pay for town police and more frequent trash pick-up, etc.). The trouble starts with vandalism that is left there (including grafitti). If it is not cleaned up, it sends a message that the locals don’t care–and to be honest with you, in today’s society they DON’T care, for reasons both valid (too busy trying to put food on the table, worried about becoming a victim of crime) and not (“that’s not my problem”). Next thing you know, you have everything from vandalized storefronts to headless parking meters. Don’t forget, too, that a lot of the “wealth” you are seeing isn’t real. The number of foreclosures and repos these days is testimony to that.


    April 22, 2008 at 6:39 am

  10. Well at least we don’t have shantytowns extending from the railroad tracks (like most of the 2/3 world countries)… yet.


    April 22, 2008 at 6:45 am

  11. One of the great ironies when it comes to litter and outright filth is that the cost to prevent it sometimes contributes to it.Car,furniture,washing machine,or CRT all come with a disposal fee that can be prohibitive or at least enough to encourage bad citizenship.


    April 22, 2008 at 11:30 am

  12. There are so many thoughtful and thought provoking ideas here that it is beyond the scope of a comment to give them justice, I will follow up with a civic pride post when I return from vacation. Thanks! —Doug


    April 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm

  13. um well i was just making a silly comment but yeah, they try not to build houses around the train tracks and graffitti artists like to write on trains because trains go places and people can see them

    is everyone that reads your blog like a college graduate rich snob or something


    May 18, 2008 at 11:18 am

  14. you wanna see the brighter side go to alaska its awsome they have everything! look it up its easy alaska .com

    darker side is the part thats not alaska go to germhan and go to the parties theve got the best boose and the worst wemon!!!


    December 15, 2008 at 12:33 pm

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