UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The joys of scavenging

A passion for cast-offs is tops for the planet

By Carolyn Pogue

John Doyle, a likable columnist in the Globe and Mail, recently wrote that we’re living in a “scavenger economy.” Like that’s a bad thing. He worries we’ve changed from a manufacturing society to a scavenging one, and seems to think we should be making more new things — as if the planet can survive that mindset.

My parents taught us to repair, recycle, reuse everything. Scavenging fits right into that. Perhaps Doyle has never visited community-building dumps, like the one in Water Valley, Alta., or in Yellowknife, where people sort unwanted items for easier shopping, take their kids and a thermos of coffee and make an afternoon of it. He must not have felt the joy of being given a beautiful sweater now soft and comfortable from being worn by a good friend. He’s likely never shopped at the Free Store on Hornby Island, B.C. Maybe he forgets that without other scavengers like ravens, crows, magpies and coyotes, his visits to cottage country would stink. After all these years reading his column, I thought I knew him. Silly me.

Doyle makes disparaging comments about recyclers, describing a bottle depot scene this way: “The old, the desperate, the impoverished and the lost are there, getting a few cents per bottle for what they’ve scavenged off the streets.” Does he want recyclers to wear ball gowns and tuxedos when they go to work? Would he prefer that empty bottles are kicked down the street, rolled under hedges or smashed on the road to slice his tires? Or (and wouldn’t this be good), maybe he means that people should be paid more than a few cents per bottle for providing this service?

Doyle describes turning on the TV (he gets paid for that) and being inundated with ads asking for second-hand jewelry, “old stuff for cash.” The channels are filled with new so-called reality shows like Storage Wars, where unclaimed stuff in storage lockers is auctioned. He argues that this reflects a manufacturing economy falling apart; it’s desperation.

Certainly when people dumpster dive for food, they are desperate. So we need governments that put our money into programs to help. We need living wages, not minimum wages, and more affordable housing.

But in other cases, recyclers, scavengers, call us what you like, are creative people, like set decorators for television and theatre. Back alleys, second-hand shops and auctions can yield the perfect 1890s chair or fedora for Act 2. Artists shop in dumps, alleys, ditches and garage sales for found objects, glass, even dead birds for art making.

Doyle should be happy that scavengers tidy up the world. God help us, the planet needs less stuff, not more. Oh, wait. It’s spring. Must dash to get ready for the church rummage sale.



Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Environment

Song leader, police and gate blockers in front of the Kinder Morgan gates. Photo by Kimiko Karpoff

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

A faith leader reflects on protesting the pipeline with the Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. Photo: Lindsay Palmer

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Society

June 2018

Why some women of colour are hesitant to say #MeToo

by Jacky Habib

Three women share their stories in the hope of creating safe spaces they never had.

Environment

May 2018

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures.

Faith

June 2018

After 93 years, this will be the United Church's last General Council meeting

by Mike Milne

When the United Church meets in July, top priorities will be a streamlined governance structure and Indigenous ministries.

Justice

June 2018

#MeToo in the United Church

by Trisha Elliott

9 women share their stories of harassment and sexual assault in the United Church.

Columns

May 2018

On grief and the healing power of gardening

by Paul Fraumeni

A writer reflects on how growing tomatoes is helping him find peace while dealing with the loss of loved ones, including his son.

Editorials

June 2018

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image