New Orleans Ok, I’m thinking about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and the 10,000 person march in Phoenix on Saturday that is so much in that tradition yet has been silently buried in the press, and suddenly I stumble on an article about domestic disputes that are straining relationships around the issue of recycling. This is a total bicoastal story because here in New Orleans the argument is about the fact that we have NO public recycling. Nada! To recycle even newspapers and cardboard means a drive not far away to the Green Project, and forget about cans and plastic, which, gulp, have to go right in the can.
The terrible truth is that even before the storm when we had recycling in the city, it required a hefty public subsidy from a broke-ass town. Now that we are even more impoverished and caught in a recession, all the candidates say they support curbside recycling, but none have a clue about how to pay for it.
In the current economic catastrophe besetting local governments throughout the country, I would fear that the real issue is not how to find a freaking therapist to help young couples through recycling crises, but how to confront the issue that New Orleans may be on the front wave of this trend. I would bet money that increasing number of cities will be debating whether or not to cut back on publicly subsidized recycling programs and weighing the politics of whether or not to close libraries, eliminate child recreation programs, or trim recycling.
The market for the recyclables is way down, which contributes to all of this, and is devastating the income of the ragpickers we organize in places like India, but one wonders if the “Indian” model of informal worker based “curbside” recycling might have some attraction now, as public coffers are thinning, and jobs are desperate to find. Informal work might have some dignity finally.
I read some of the article out loud this morning. We all thought that this guy who was biking more than 12 miles each way to work needed not just one long hot shower per day, but two for god sake. Whew! Down here in New Orleans we call that getting real about community values!