Early in the morning, while most are still sleeping, groups of elderly Chinese women spread out across city streets. They tear open trash bags, pick through the litter and sort out bottles and cans that come with a deposit. And then they bring them to the local supermarket to a machine that scans and evaluates each can, accepting and rejecting them one by one, and finally printing out a receipt.
The interaction between the elderly immigrant who speaks broken English or the homeless man who is barely holding it together… and the machine is a stark contrast between what the new smart clean green economy is pretends to be and what it actually is. The machine, like so much else that we design, is impressive, but its existence depends on someone digging through the trash with their hands for much less than minimum wage to extract a generally useless item.
The entire bottle economy, which has more than a passing resemblance to the trash sorting operations in the Third World carried out by despised and persecuted minorities, like the Zabbaleen in Egypt, is artificial. The United States is not so poor that it actually needs to recycle. It recycles not under the impulse of economic imperatives, but of government mandates.
The elderly Chinese women dig through the trash because politicians decided to impose a tax on us and an incentive for them in the form of a deposit. All those useless 1980s laws created a strange underground economy of marginalized people digging through the trash.
Every time politicians celebrate a recycling target met and show off some shiny new machine, hiding behind the curtain are the dirty weary people dragging through the streets at the crack of dawn, donning rubber gloves and tearing apart trash bags. They are the unglamorous low-tech reality of environmentalism.
These are the Green Jobs that aren’t much talked about. They pay below minimum wage and have no workplace safety regulations. They are the Third World reality behind the First World ecology tripe. It’s not that the people who plan and run the system don’t know about them. But they don’t like to talk about them because they come too close to revealing the unsavory truth about where environmentalism is really going.
Environmentalism, like every liberal notion, is sold to the masses as modern and progressive. It’s the exact opposite. It’s every bit as modern and progressive as those sacks of cans being hauled by hand through the streets to the machine.
Prince Charles, that avid idiot and environmentalist, visited a Mumbai slum a few years ago and said that it had some lessons to teach the West.
“When you enter what looks from the outside like an immense mound of plastic and rubbish, you immediately come upon an intricate network of streets with miniature shops, houses and workshops, each one made out of any material that comes to hand,” Prince Charles wrote in his book, Harmony.
The Prince of Wales is quite the author. In addition to Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, he has written Shelter: Human Habitats from Around the World, The Prince’s Speech: On the Future of Food and The Illustrated Guide to Chickens: How to Choose Them, How to Keep Them.