GONE TOMORROW : The Hidden Life of Garbage Hardcover – 1 Dec 2005
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If You've ever wondered why our society spits out so much garbage, then read Heather Rogers' brilliant book. With terrific storytelling she uncovers one of the most invisible but troubling aspects of modern life. Gone Tomorrow cuts to the heart of what ails the planet.
"Covers fascinating, stinky terrain." —"The New York Times"
"Cogent and beautifully written . . a compelling commentary on the state of contemporary society." —David Harvey
"Consistently engaging . . . an intriguing look into an often misunderstood and overlooked industry." —"Publishers Weekly"
"Out of sight, but, thanks to Heather Rogers, not out of mind. We spend an awful lot of time thinking about getting and spending, and next to none about disposing--this splendidly documented book is just the thing we need." —Bill McKibben
About the Author
Heather Rogers is a journalist and filmmaker. Her documentary film "Gone Tomorrow" (2002) screened in festivals around the globe. Her writing has appeared in "The Nation," "Utne Reader," "Z Magazine," the "Brooklyn Rail," "Punk Planet," and "Art and Design." She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Top Customer Reviews
The largest criticism in the book is reserved for the manufacturing industry and the author makes a good case for it being there that we need to see the largest changes at the root of the problem rather than by tackling improving recycling rates.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
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.
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.
There are also some distractions in the book as when the author claims the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign was modeled after a later series of clean-up efforts by Ladybird Johnson. I'm not sure how you model something after something that comes later.
The book definitely has a pro-environment, anti-business, distrust of government bias to it. In spite of that, it is an interesting and enlightening book.
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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