A Landfill Fantasy
by Stephen Morris
Going to the dump always brings out the deep thinker in me. The last time I recycled, the “eternal flame” of flared methane struck me as a monument to our ability to create malodorous trash, I had this thought. What if we changed the story? What if, instead the landfill being the place where we take our garbage, we make it our repository of wealth? It can become our own “localvore” Saudi Arabia, teeming with riches below the surface that improve life above. Through the miracle of anaerobic respiration, we could enjoy a new resource for food, energy, and community.
The penny dropped, and I was seized by a big picture solution to planetary problems. Let’s begin by building a greenhouse over the methane flare. Voila! Heated greenhouse. The north side of the greenhouse could be constructed of straw bales to improve the R value. We could then lease out greenhouse space to the local, organic farmers and gardeners who could cultivate seeds much earlier, preserve late season harvests, and supply us with fresh greens year-round.
What the heck, since we’re at the landfill anyway, let’s start a composting operation next door. People are bringing their wet garbage and lawn clippings anyway. We could give people an economic incentive for brining their organic waste, one pound of finished compost for every fifty pounds of raw material.
As people flock to the landfill for free compost we’ve got the traffic for a farmer’s market where the community gathers for fresh produce, yummy foods, and demonstrations by local craftsfolk. We could build a little amphitheater out of straw bales to listen to local musicians. And, of course, there would have to be one of those outdoor bread ovens for making flatbread pizzas.
What the heck, we should have a complete community kitchen to encourage small-scale food ventures.
And a root cellar. We definitely need a community root cellar.
And a masonry oven for making breads and pizzas. Now should the masonry oven be inside or outside the greenhouse? And if it is inside, is it too fanciful to imagine a related sauna? A sauna will necessitate a pond with all the related aquiculture, but why wouldn’t we want a pond?
While we’re at it, we need one of those “living machines” that processes toxins by using natural systems that extract nutrients that can be used to nourish crops of flowers and medicinal herbs. Imagine giant, fragrant tropical flowers growing by the edge of the small pond doubles as the fish farm for Tilapia and brine shrimp which will eventually be harvested and served at the barbecue stand.
Is a banana plantation out of the question?
I forgot the barbecue. In addition to the grilled fish and shrimp, the barbecue will serve the free range chicken and grass fed beef that graze on the hillsides of the landfill. We’ll also need a few sheep and goats for milkers to provide material for the local cheese makers and ice creamery. There needs to be an outdoor pond for ice skating in the winter and swimming in the summer. As opposed to the interior pond, this one will be populated by crayfish that keep the waters pristine, while providing culinary focus for both the annual Crayfish Festival and the signature Landfill Bouillabaisse.
“Landfill Bouillabaisse” doesn’t have quite the right ring, but let’s make the landfill our new village green.
This will quickly become THE place to be. Teenagers will hang out just to be seen by members of their own species. Singles will abandon Match.com and Facebook in favor of taking their pets down to the new village green for a stroll.
Dads will bring their meticulously sorted recycling, while Moms will use their skills and resources to launch fledgling businesses selling innovative products ranging from horseradish jelly to doggy bandanas. Thanks to free community WiFi, they can process orders from all over the globe using their smart phones in between chats with the neighbors.
Such a confluence of humanity will, in turn, attract local politicians who will be confronted with the overwhelming community fabric. As they stroll from booth to booth, enterprise to enterprise, they suddenly understand their dual duty to lead and represent the interests not of special interests, but rather the commons.
By this time I can barely see the flared methane in my rear view mirror. How difficult could it be to get from here to there?