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Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life Of Garbage Hardcover – October 1, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Americans produce the most waste of any people on Earth, says Rogers, but few of us ever think about where all that trash goes. Rogers endeavors to show the inner workings of the waste stream, from the garbage truck to the landfill, incinerator or parts unknown. She points out that recycling, once touted as an environmental lifesaver, "has serious flaws," and has done little to mitigate garbage's long history of environmental damage. Rogers also includes chapters on the history of waste removal and disposal, highlighting early sanitation efforts in New York City, as well as the multi-billion-dollar, multinational business of garbage. Consistently engaging, the book delineates the myriad problems caused by the country's waste output, but offers very few concrete examples of what readers can do to improve the garbage situation; instead, Rogers stoically acknowledges that "while consumers making choices with the environment in mind is a good thing, it is in no way a real solution to our trash woes." Nevertheless, the book is an intriguing look into an often misunderstood and overlooked industry.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* America leads the world in garbage, and that is nothing to be proud of. A clear-thinking and peppery writer, Rogers presents a galvanizing expose of how we became the planet's trash monsters. Americans were ingeniously thrifty until industrialization ushered in consumer culture and the age of disposable goods and built-in obsolescence. But once the public was exhorted to buy stuff whether they needed it or not--and Rogers provides many eye-opening examples of corporate strategies and propaganda--new forms of garbage began to pile up and break down into toxic substances. Rogers details everything that is wrong with today's wasteful packaging, bogus recycling, and flawed landfills and incinerators. Here, too, is the inside story of the plastic revolution and the irresponsibly wasteful beverage market, the Mafia's involvement in commercial waste, and the illegal overseas shipping of garbage, especially toxic e-waste--trashed computers and cell phones. Rogers exhibits black-belt precision in her assault on American corporations that succeed in "greenwashing" the public while remaining "hell-bent on ever-expanding production no matter what the ecological toll." Set this beside Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land (2005), and contemplate Rogers' dictum: garbage "never really goes away." Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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The book could use a bit more updating because it does not mention other aspects but that might simply be due to size constraints. For example when it references ewaste it does not fully explain that some major retailers offer recycling. Infact with given commodity prices some might actually pay people to take it away. The book does drop the ball a bit on RoHS. The RoHS concept of course attempts to eliminate lead from electronics but this is controversial as the replacements for it do not always conduct power the same way. This has resulted in the so called "red ring of death" with Microsoft Xbox 2 as well as created higher prices which some might argue are a form of class warfare.
It does note that solutions for problems create their own problems. Horses as a means of transit meant animal wastes all over the place. Cars replaced that with their own wastes. Likewise we should be careful that we do not have future issues. Incandescant light bulbs are horrid in terms of power consumption as most of the output is not in light but as heat. LED's produce much less heat and last longer but if it is used as a traffic light during the winter it can be rendered useless.
This book was an engrossing discussion of how the nature and quantity of consumer garbage (as opposed to industrial waste) has changed. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution and moving up through today, this book considers the ways in which government policy and the corporate profit motive create a socity in which garbage - lots and lots of garbage - is inevitable, and why even the best-intentioned efforts at recycling barely make a dent in the mountain of trash.
I have a professional background in economics, and so I got a great deal out of some of Rogers' arguements that were based in economic theory. However, her simple, straightforward style makes it easy for anyone to follow her reasoning.
The subtitle, The Hidden Life of Garbage, was misleading. Perhaps a better subtitle might have been The History and Social Implications of Garbage. Although that sounds a bit scholarly, this book, while extremely well researched, did not read at all like a textbook. Rather it was an approachable discussion of why garbage occurs and why the current solutions are not working.
A must-read for anyone who cares about planet Earth, whether they are chaining themselves to trees or just recycling their soda can!
The valid concerns she expresses about the waste problems we face would be better taken without the political bluster. All in all, there are much better books available if you want to learn more about how our garbage is handled and ways to reduce it.