Steady Employment

“Many Pakistanis are suddenly unemployed, so the government has given them jobs as tree-planters. Unemployed day laborers have been turned into ‘jungle workers,’ planting saplings for 500 rupees a day ($3), which is roughly half of what a construction worker would normally earn. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get by, and that can mean the difference between survival and starvation.” Read the full article at

Earlier today, I was cleaning up trash from a small wooded area in my city. I go there to enjoy a slice of urban nature. But sometimes it gets a little too “urban,” as people throw unbelievable amounts of trash in there. Sometimes homeless people camp there. I sometimes fantasize about giving “camp hygiene” workshops. You would think that if nothing else, a wish to remain under the radar would motivate the campers to clean up their trash. But that is assuming a degree of rationality that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

For awhile, our city had a “streets team” of homeless people who picked up trash in exchange for a few bucks, lunch, and a place to sleep. I would love to see more of this kind of program.

Furthermore, I would love to see “caretaker’s huts” set up in every park. One or two people would get to live there in exchange for cleaning up trash and being “eyes on the street.”

Awhile back, a privately owned empty lot by the river started turning into a homeless camp. It wasn’t visible from the road but I guess the folks in the condo next door could see it. The upshot was that the lot ended up getting “cleaned up,” by which I mean a large oak and other trees were cut down. And the lot is now mowed on a regular schedule. We are supposed to cheer that as an improvement, but it is hideous to see nature being scalped as a “solution” to a human problem. Not to mention the fact that the vegetation was providing ecosystem services: biodiversity (there were many species of native plants); stormwater absorption; pollutant filtration. Some landscaping (landscraping, landscalping) company gets a steady gig now though. Meh.

What if, instead, there could have been a caretaker(s) living on the property in a little hut? Cleaning up trash, being “eyes on the street,” and doing minor trimming with hand-tools just to create a “looked after” appearance? This kind of thing was common in the “olden days,” but reintroducing it now would take considerable effort, not only in terms of designing codes and ordinances to accommodate such, but also in terms of gaining social acceptance for such arrangements. Mentioning it in conversation (be it in person or via a blog) is a step in that direction! So here you go.

And to circle back to the article linked at the beginning of this post: There is more to landscape maintenance than cleaning and trimming. We could use a lot more people planting trees! What if instead of unemployment checks, people could get tree-planting checks?

The trash I cleaned up today was just a tiny fraction of the total, even though I filled two of those giant black plastic yard trash bags. Clothes, shoes, endless plastic shit: water bottles, soda bottles, bags bags bags f’in shoot me now. Cans. I talked with a couple of homeless folks who were hanging there, think I may have got them to see our common interest in keeping the area clean. Me, because I didn’t want some power-that-be to come cut the trees and tall grasses down. Them, because they wanted to stay under the radar. I left my last remaining trash bag with them, and they were picking up trash when I left.

The trash bags I brought for the job were ones I had “recycled” from curbside. Bags of other people’s oak leaves and other valuable mulch material that I brought home and then kept the bags to reuse sometime. I hate that those thick, single-use plastic bags even exist. I hate that any single-use plastic bags even exist.

Ditto single-use gloves. Am I the only one who doesn’t feel they are any more hygienic than just plain well-washed hands? Ugh! I actually feel kind of grossed out by them, always have. At some point in our history they became mandatory attire for food service and certain other settings, and of course the pandemic has just multiplied that trend. I’m horrified at how many disposable gloves must be piling up in landfill now that almost the entire population of the United States is using them on a daily basis.

As for me, I’ve just ordered several pairs of easily washable, sun-dry-able cotton gloves for my post-pandemic-world attire. I hope to start a fad. Cloth gloves instead of those yucky disposable rubber ones. I don’t really think that gloves, no matter how clean, are any cleaner than well-washed hands. But if the sight of gloves (together with mask, which I also wear when going into stores or other close quarters) is reassuring to a restaurant employee or store cashier who’s ringing up my order, maybe it’s worth it. And hey, it’s a look! Kinda retro.

After the virus had hit multiple countries, but before the pandemic shutdowns had stopped most travel, I took an overnight train trip to a town about 60 miles away. A sweet woman I met on the train was wearing cloth gloves as one of her precautions. They were floral-patterned, and they looked very chic with her outfit.