Friday, March 27, 2009

Bud Lite vs. The Badlands

Desert PC
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
“Wyoming people know what’s best for Wyoming.”

This is the expression that kept on going through my mind as I was walking through a garbage-strewn expanse of Wyoming badlands last weekend. Included with the above statement, there is often some kind of declaration about keeping (big) government out of our lives. I suspect this attitude is fairly popular with many of those who live in the country’s other western states as well.

“Those people in Washington D.C. don’t know nothin’ about Wyoming and what it’s like to live out here, I’d just assume they stay put in their big cities and stay out of our business.”

Yeah, the last thing we need is some big government regulation telling us we can’t litter in our high-country deserts. Surely once it piles high enough and becomes visible from town, we’ll go pick it up... you betcha’.

Here are a few other big questions I was mulling over in my head...

Is the cornucopia of trash residing in the surrounding desert the personification of Wyoming’s distain for big government intervention?

Do people who live and love Wyoming do so because they find the vast areas of wilderness desirable or because they prefer to do whatever they please even if it means transforming the landscape into a giant landfill? Surely most of us living in Wyoming would relate to the former of these two rationales, yet there appears to be enough of the latter who are ruining it for the rest of us.

As far as particulars go, most of the trash/litter out there is limited to those places that are accessible by a vehicle—clear evidence of our ongoing haul-it-off-and-throw-it-away society. Some of the trash is very old, some from the day before. Shotgun shells and Bud Lite containers (both bottles and cans) litter the desert—rivaling the excessive number of cow pies. There are a few other beer bottles and cans from other breweries, but Bud Lite is undoubtedly the hands-down winner.

Bud Lite & Friends
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I always thought Bud Lite was shitty beer and now I have another reason for not drinking it.

It’s likely that underage drinkers are responsible for most of the beer-related litter, but I have to wonder if they are the same individuals who are hauling refrigerators or old cars out into the desert, filling them full of bullet holes and leaving them.

And what else might one find amongst the fossils and petrified wood: old automobile transmissions and other car parts, computer monitors and CPUs, furniture, a microwave oven, plastic buckets half filled with rock-hard drywall mud, dirty rags, televisions, ovens, and plastic bags from an assortment of stores in town. Almost all of the above items are riddled with bullet holes too—true to the spirit of an authentic Wyoming desert party.

Again I wonder, if given the opportunity to sit down and visit with the person who took the PC and monitor out into the desert, shot it up and left it—would there be anything they could tell me or explain to me that would convince me that they weren’t a total, self-centered ass?

Wyoming: Like no place on earth.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter who’s to blame in all of this. Aren’t we all to blame—especially if we continue to ignore this steadily growing eye soar in the desert that surrounds us? Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that citizens of my community (Powell) and the outlying areas are the ones who have created this local environmental blight.

If you think Wyoming has a better quality of life than just about anywhere else in the country, we agree. —Wyoming Republican advertisement

Monitor Landscape
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
There are those in other states that think their state is as beautiful, I won’t argue. Yet, Wyoming probably makes the top 10 when it comes to any poll that list the most scenic states, so aren’t we obligated to uphold this truth as keepers of its beauty?

In a note of irony... some of the older debris out there has a certain nostalgic appeal to it and perhaps will be picked up by a collector in the near or distant future. Yet, this is no justification for our reckless disposal of our now-worthless, worldly possessions.

I’m not a community organizer, but if there is such a person in our community, my wish is for them to organize/activate our community in a clean-up-the-badlands project. I suspect it’s a big job (and ongoing), but surely it is worth it. Imagine, every weekend (at least during the warmer months of the year) a handful of people venture out into a designated area of public land to pick up and haul out the trash. The local landfill is waiting for our recovered products and we probably have one of the highest number of pick-up trucks per capita than any other part of the country. We owe it to ourselves and the desert that surrounds us. I’m ready to volunteer my time and pick-up truck.

So, let’s meet on April 18th at 10:00 a.m.—the Powell Airport parking lot. From there (depending on the numbers) we’ll head off to a location that is in need of a clean-up. Maybe we can get something started. Seriously! I double-dog-dare you to show up.

And while I’m at it, I have a favor to ask of the gun owners and Bud Lite drinkers who wander out into the desert... is it too much to ask of you to bend over and pick up your spent casings and empty beers?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Demetrification of Interstate 19

North Dakota Interstate 94
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
The interstate highway that runs between Tucson and Nogales, Arizona (I-19), might not be one of the most scenic stretches of pavement in the country, but it definitely possesses a different “personality” thanks to the metric-based road signs and highway markers posted along this ribbon of asphalt. I always thought it was kind of cool that we had this "eccentric" little stretch of highway in America that was metric based—a little testimony/illustration of America's diversity where the literal rubber meets the road.

So, how did we get these metric-based road signs on I-19 in the first place? It was a little experiment the government carried out when we were seriously considering adopting the metric system—sometime in the early 70s. However, some 30 years later, the good politicians in Arizona have adopted that McDonald's homogeneous mentality and are planning on using $1.5 million of the state’s half-billion dollar stimulus package to replace the signs with our old-school mileage system.

God forbid the travellers of I-19 become a bit confused or mentally challenged all these years with those damn metric signs.

One colleague pointed out that while John McCain has been ranting and raving over the “pork” particulars that have been folded into the stimulus package, he hasn’t complained a word about the pork that’s in his own back pocket—replacing perfectly good kilometer-based road signs with mile-based road signs.

As I sit here and contemplate this menial travesty, perhaps the money would be better spent if it were applied to converting all the other road signs throughout the country into metric-based road signs. Yet, I suppose we’d rather snub our nose at the rest of the metric-based world because it might be a little too much for our educational system to teach another base-10 measurement system. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only a handful of countries in the world that are not using the metric system.

As long as we’re hell-bent against the rest of the world, I propose we get rid of our nickels and dimes and replace them with eighth and sixteenth coins instead. That’ll show’em!

We always talk about what a great country we are—our innovation, our ingenuity, our creativity, and so on. Yet, after all these years of consideration, we are either incapable or too stubborn to adopt something as simple as the metric system.

Go figure.