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Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life Of Garbage Hardcover – October 1, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

*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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848799
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848795
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I purchased this book, I thought it might add to my store of trivia knowlege, sort of a fun little look at something most of us never think about. I expected to describe it with words like "nifty." This book was not what I expected, and I'm glad.

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!
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Format: Hardcover
In this incredibly well researched and clearly written social history of rubbish, Rogers does 3 things (at least).

1. Denormalizes waste: It is a serious myth that the garbage we live with and create today has always existed. This historical presentation shows us the ways in which people had to be TAUGHT to waste.

2. Teaches the concept of Political Economy through the lens of something that we all touch but rarely think about. There is a flawed logic that organizes our production and consumption patterns and I have never understood it so well than through Rogers tale-telling.

3. Implicates the industrial Producers and their accompanying PR machines as the primary perpetrators - not the litter-bug consumers that we've all been taught to blame.

(Plus the book taught me about 10 synonyms for garbage that I never knew existed. )

"The Golden Age of Waste" is by far the most enlightening chapter in the book. The rest of the chapters successfully sandwich this middle chapter to help us make sense of the economic, historical and cultural logic's that have created the trash that surrounds us today. The critique of corporate green-washing is also particularly helpful for anyone who is slightly suspicious of the re-branding efforts that have reconfigured the public face of many corporations in the last 20 years but not erased any of their polluting tendencies.

I have not read a book in a long time that actually found such relevance in my daily life. Garbage: you see it, live with it and make decisions about it every single day - so it is mandatory to finally have this tool kit to help us understand how it got into our collective lives.
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Format: Hardcover
In my archaeology class we learned about the importance of the village midden, or garbage pile, in determining the culture and practices of the people inhabiting that village. On that basis, future archaeologists are going to have a heyday trying to figure out our current civilization.

Gone Tomorrow, the Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers is fascinating and depressing at the same time. There are fascinating tidbits such as the idea that garbage is a relatively recent invention, that less than 300 years ago it would have been unthinkable to consign so much of our production to the trash heap so soon after it is produced. Before mass production and mass marketing, items were produced to be repaired and reused again and again and slogans such as "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" were common. There wasn't anything to throw away as even scraps of cloth became part of a quilt or rug.

There are horrifying descriptions of garbage dumps such as Rikers Island:

"The rats became so numerous and so large that the department imported dogs in an effort to eliminate the rats... there were more than one hundred dogs on the island, dogs which were never fed by authorities but lived solely on these rats."

"Gases... were constantly exploding, erupting through the soil covering and busting into flames. ... When a hot spell would come along in the summer, the ground resembled a sea of small volcanoes, all breathing smoke and flames."

Another disturbing idea brought out by Rogers is that the trucks that pick up your garbage and your recyclables may be dumping them into the same landfill because recycling often just isn't economically sustainable. But it's politically impossible to cut back the appearance of recycling.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found the free Kindle sample fascinating despite the author's flair for using creepy words, so I ordered a used paperback copy of this book. Most people probably don't give enough thought to reducing the waste they produce and don't think about where their garbage winds up. Unfortunately, after the informative beginning, the book turns into what is often a political rant. The author takes a dim view of capitalism as a whole and certain groups in particular. One especially offensive example is in chapter 8 where the author blames local residents (residents!) for the eventual export of New York City's garbage to other sites after the gigantic Fresh Kills Landfill near their neighborhoods finally ran out of space. At 2,200 acres, once the largest man-made structure in the world and visible from orbit, and having served as NYC's main garbage dump for over 50 years, I'd say those particular residents had served their time hosting the enormous dump. And she doesn't mince words: "...Staten Island's majority white and Republican residents... shed their putrefying, filthy burden onto less politically powerful rural areas. They also shoved the mess onto neighborhoods..." What? After over 50 years and 2,200 acres of garbage nearby? The residents themselves got shovels and "shoved the mess"? Come on. This rant is very unfair and extreme, and was a total turn-off imo.

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.
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