rained out

October 5th, 2007

Yesterday it was illness (as in the weirdest cold I’ve had in a long time), today it’s rain. We were supposed to be heading out to pick corn this morning, but it started raining yesterday afternoon and didn’t stop until late this morning, meaning no corn is being picked today.

Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to ramble about this time.

About midday, after Ma and lzh had gone into the county town to do some shopping, and while Ba was off cutting some weeds for lamb feed, I was standing in the courtyard looking around at all the stuff that’s here.

Y’know, one thing I really like about rural China is that nothing gets wasted out here. Well, precious little is wasted, anyways. Scattered around our courtyard are three central heating radiators, bricks, stones, buckets, barrels, vats, baskets, basins, pots, pans, at least one carrying pole, bamboo poles, various lengths of various kinds of pipe, intact items of furniture, broken items of furniture, pieces of furniture, car parts, tree parts, vegetable parts…. All kinds of stuff. And it’s sitting there waiting to be used for… something. All of these things will be used in whatever way they can be, in whatever way will benefit Ma, Ba, the cat, the dogs and the sheep. And that is totally cool. Waste not, want not.

In fact, the roofs of the sheep pen and toilet are made of asbestos shingles held in place by bricks, lengths of wood and pipe, and other random assorted heavy-but-not-too-heavy bits and pieces. And the fence around the sheep pen is made of concrete beams, various bits of various trees, steel pipes, wire, sheets of that board made of polystyrene sandwiched in…. something solid-ish…. that are normally used for the inside walls of houses and apartments, sheets of plywood, and perhaps the odd random sheet of steel. The asbestos roof shingles and most of the bricks were bought new, but although some of the other materials used may have been bought, most of the materials used to build the fence and many of the bits used to hold the asbestos shingles in place look to have been scavanged in some way or another. Scavenged from scrap dealers or neighbours in exchange for money, scavenged from the detritus of construction or destruction projects, scavanged from the left-overs from building this house, or scavenged from the fields, orchards and forests around the village I don’t know, but still scavenged in some way or another. Like I said, this is totally cool. Waste not, want not.

I guess I could say something vague and hippy-like about how this is so environmentally friendly, but what’s the point? Fact is, like so many other green lifestyle choices, the lack of waste I see around here is first and foremost cheap. Good for the pocketbook or wallet or bank account or space under the mattress or whereever it is you hide your money. It’s economical and just plain common sense. And yes, it is good for the environment, too.

Well, using scrap paper and cardboard and other combustibles as fuel for the cooking and heating fires isn’t so environmentally friendly… But I can’t help but thinking that burning such things is better than dumping them, and I haven’t seen any recyclers up here.

Now, if we could get a biogas digestor installed… and solar panels on the roof…. and maybe even some geothermal heating system for the winter… now that would be cool.

But yes, there is some waste. Like all other Chinese villages in my limited experience, there are rubbish heaps scattered around the edges of the village- far enough from the houses that we don’t get stunk out in the summer, close enough to make it easy for people to dump that which can’t be reused. But even then, the rubbish heaps never seem to get too high, and the multitude of local dogs (nobody has their pets “fixed” up here) can often be found rummaging through the rubbish heaps looking for what they can reuse- what they still consider edible- so I don’t think there’s a huge amount wasted even then. Dogs will eat just about anything.

Well, the dogs will eat just about anything, provided it is organic and edible from a dog’s point of view. The local dogs aren’t as stupid as the local sheep- they’ll eat anything that so much as looks to a particularly stupid sheep like plant matter, even if it’s actually a bright red plastic bag.

But, yeah, the lack of waste up here totally rocks. So much stuff that city people would through away as useless junk gets a second, third, or more, life up here. Sure, that’s mostly because of poverty, but it’s also, like many other green lifestyle choices, largely due to plain, old-fashioned common sense.

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