The Wall-e World Comes to the Finger Lakes

I was traveling to Geneva, New York, at the northern end of Seneca Lake, passing through the many attractive villages along the way, and congratulating New Yorkers on having the sense to support Governor Cuomo’s moratorium on fracking, thereby preserving this beautiful part of the country.  Geneva is a nice-looking college town, and Seneca Lake, like all the Finger Lakes, is spectacular.

But…

If anyone wants to contemplate what the future looks like, travel to Seneca Falls, NY. This picturesque town has a main street full of beautiful old 19th century houses, among them the home of that powerhouse of the women’s rights movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.   In her honor, Seneca Falls hosts the National Women’s Hall of Fame.   It’s also home to two monstrous artificial mountains of garbage, trash and detritus from counties all over New York State and the Northeast, to the tune of 450 tractor-trailors a day for a total of 6,000 tons each day, six days a week. That would be 4 tons every minute of the day if they ran around the clock. Strangely enough these gargantuan piles of industrial waste, sewer sludge, and contaminated soils are called Seneca Meadows. Perhaps they took a page out of the book of that enterprising viking who brilliantly named his new-found island “Greenland” in an effort to lure settlers to that ice-encrusted wasteland.

Seneca Meadows’ website tells us it is “responsible waste management for the next generation” and I have no doubt they are doing all they can to fulfill that promise.                           They have an education center, they sponsor programs for kids, they do a lot of things for the community, but not everyone is pleased at the change in topography. There is an anti-waste group, the Concerned Citizens of Seneca County, who find the newly arrived mountains offensive. It’s not just the view, it’s the methane escaping into the atmosphere, the leachate ( what a word!) getting into the watershed, and the toxic-gas stench.

The Trash Mountains rise up noticeably from the horizon when you look over the flatlands north of Geneva, two ziggurats memorializing a decadent culture of waste. It’s a Wall-e World in real life. The trash has to go somewhere, right? and this is just one of several sites in New York State that processes, if that’s the word, the garbage and junk of our 21st century lives. What are we supposed to do with it, if not pile it up in Seneca Falls?  We need some better answers.

Two generations of Americans probably have no idea who Pogo is, but he said it all back on Earth Day 1971, staring at a junkyard in the woods :  “We have met the enemy and he  is us.”

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