What a Waste!

What’s Waste?

Most people understand the term Waste. The only questions are about who does it, who cares, and what to do about it. Waste Not, Want Not is a common thought. But tens of millions around the world get their living from it. Some even live in garbage dumps to find items to sell. In other words, ‘One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure’ .

Last week Chicago had its annual 3 day Air and Water Show along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. I watched on and off from my condo apartment 23 floors up. Unfortunately the weather kept switching from sunny to downpours. I saw two streams of heavy foot traffic going in opposite directions – one leaving the Lake pulling children, wagons and beach supplies, having given up in the rain. The other going towards the Lake pulling children, wagons and beach supplies, having heard that the rain was about to end.

Some people might say the whole show is a waste of money, and environmentally damaging. But federal and local politicians support this costly campaign to market the Military-Industrial Complex. It’s the same Complex that Eisenhower warned about in his 1961 farewell address, to which we can add Corporate Interests today. The unwarranted influence of the latter has only been increasing in the 50 years since Ike’s warning. I saw an insignificant and laughable example of waste at the show. A small ship cruised up and down the shoreline, sending up a huge fountain of water in all directions from fire hoses. Of course it wasn’t wasting water – only recycling it from the lake. It was a small effort to get a big public’s attention. ‘I matter too! Look at me!’

I suppose waste is part of modern life. There’s certainly been enormous waste of all sorts during the Pandemic, where people (the ones who can afford it) stay in, and order goods and services for delivery. Most of it is wrapped in single-use plastics that are thrown into trash containers. My grand-daughter is super-conscious of this issue. A trained industrial artist, she now designs and fabricates recyclable packaging. There are non-profits who try to bring environmental damage to public attention, from climate-change to water sources, to plant life and endangered animals. I like the compaign to stop wasting food: “Best if sold by expiration date” with a strikethrough on the second half of the statement. Most of the government promises in favor are lip-service, and the waste ends up in garbage shipped to China, or in various ‘Islands of Plastic’ floating on, or absorbed into the seas.

As is often the case, global troubles like these remind me of Mother – NOT the woman pictured here! She ‘thought globally, and acted locally’. She would never hate any person, but she hated waste. She wasn’t stingy though. Her father was Scottish, and people joked about Scot ‘frugality’. Being a  tightwad was an old stereotype,  still active when I was young. My father had a good income as a contractor and builder. My siblings and I had wonderful private schooling. Here’s a brief discussion of the stingy topic, that includes this fun photo.

Also when I was young, Mother took me to Independence Hall – where the Declaration and the Consitution were debated and composed (to be accepted by the States). At that time the Liberty Bell – as it was later named – was in a tower on the original State House. Mother loved history; I do too! The Bell last tolled in 1846, when it cracked. Mother’s father – Robert Morris Glenn – was named  for Robert Morris, the famed and honorable ‘Financier of the Revolution’. Though a conservative, born in England, Morris came to America and used his fortune to support the troops under Washington. He represented Pennsylvania as a signatory to the Declaration, the Articles of Confederation, the 1781 Congress and the 1787 Convention. But from bad investments later on, he died in relative poverty and obscurity.

One thing about our visit really impressed me. On the sidewalk of Chestnut St. near Independence Hall, a man was scattering dollar bills all around him, and people were grabbing them up in a rush! I started to join in the fun, but Mother forbade me. ‘No, Dear Heart. That man is not in his right mind.’ 

Mother got her name Winfrey in 1897 – long before it was popular. The story goes that her parents wanted to express ‘Win Freedom’, or ‘Win Peace’, apparently believing that freedom and peace are closely tied to winning. Variations of her name go back to medieval times. Our family believed it was their duty to support any war that the government chose to initiate. I think they were right to do so in their day, when World Wars I and II so horribly affected the world. They were good-hearted, responsible citizens. I think they were also naive, if that doesn’t sound like a know-it-all academic. My own turn to progressive politics – after 3 years of military duty – would probably shock and disappoint them. But then angels are all-forgiving. We’ll see.

Leave a Reply