Monday, March 22, 2021

Shit, Garbage, and Old People

The three recession-proof economic sectors are sewage, refuse, and the elderly. The fourth is sick people, but rhetorical units of three are more powerful than four. And the sick and the elderly form a collective bloc that is exploited in basically the same way, by a unified industry.

You'd think that food would be recession-proof, because everyone needs to eat, but food production and distribution are vulnerable to too many variables. Once the food gets eaten, however, it becomes a much more uniform product. It all runs downhill. The money is in directing the flow and processing the effluent. It's going to happen. I used to see that on a bumper sticker.

Trash in the industrial age became a trickier problem than it was when everything was more readily biodegradable, and there were fewer people chucking it. Even in areas that don't go in for a lot of fancy attempts at recycling, someone needs to dig a hole, transport unwanted items to the hole, and dump them into it. Strip away the illusions from a lot of our waste management programs and you eventually come to a hole anyway. Trucks full of rubbish drive up, unload, and trundle back out again for another load, because we keep unwrapping things. Even when it seems like no one can afford to buy anything, trash keeps spontaneously generating. Most of the products we buy are just trash in waiting.

In this intricately connected world, almost everything seems to pass through the bike shop eventually. In our own little refuge we get money that came from trash and money that came from sick and old people. The shit business is a bit more compartmentalized, because sewage treatment facilities are usually overseen by government entities at some level, even if the design, building, and operation are done by contractors. However, in an area with a lot of septic tanks, a go-getter can buy the right kind of truck and build up a client list. And then there's the portable toilet business. "Your 'business' is our business."

Sick and old people are just another waste product of society. Depending on the age and the severity of the illness, a sick person might be returned to functionality as a tool or a cog in the machinery of society. As for the rest of them, we care for them out of what? Compassion? Superstition? Empathy? All the above. Imagine yourself in need of care or at least of comfort as you fade out. We hang onto people for a number of reasons. While they're in need, a good businessman can rake in a bundle from whoever pays their bills. At the end, a funeral industry takes care of the body. Somehow it doesn't seem quite as lucrative as the big three, but it's kin to both shit and garbage.

With this in mind, we the living take the cash that flows and feed the system with ourselves. If someone comes in dripping money, is it wise to question where it came from?

No one looking at my life choices would ever accuse me of being wise.

Bike infrastructure in a certain self-absorbed lakeside village just got a serious shot in the arm from a "health care" executive who has blithely pledged a half a million dollars for an ambitious construction program centered entirely on mountain biking, with a few enhancements for path riding, mostly to help connect the mountain bike facilities. So far it seems to do diddly crap for road users. It's hard to help road riders. Real transportation infrastructure is a vast circulatory system with many user groups vying for priority consideration of their wants. But if the grand plan for youth opportunity relies on kids being able to ride their bikes to the various places to practice their skills, they're going to need safe ways to get there. Who knows? Some of the little whippers might also discover that they'd like a bike that doesn't feel like such a pig on the pavement. More likely they just hang tough until they get their driver's licenses, so they can buy a truck and haul their toys to various venues near and far.

The trail and parks plan will improve the fortunes of a friend of mine in the business of designing and building such things. He gave up the road a long time ago, probably back at the end of his paper route years. An intrepid adventurer and energetic worker, he knows what he likes, and participates in trickle-down economics with few qualms about the ethics of the funding. Does it matter that you're not making the world as a whole a better place as long as you're making your own neighborhood more fun for yourself and your own kind? "People" to most people usually means "people like me."

The funding will get filtered through a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so that the benevolence is tax-deductible. Being nice should always make business sense. Big philanthropy is just tax evasion with good PR.

When it comes to funding, I started asking way too early in life, "Whose blood is this?" I couldn't always trace it very far, and you have to get money from somewhere. My jobs grew out of my interests and knowledge. In the yacht business and related industries you're in a world completely dependent on disposable income, but growing up in the culture made it seem normal. Lots of worker bees toiled away in the industry and supporting institutions. I was one of them for a few years, before my interest in human powered exploration drew me away from the shore.

If you're not prepared to bite the hand that feeds you, you are not free. That being said, wolves, coyotes, and feral dogs live hard lives and get shot at, while lap dogs and useful breeds get vet care and comfy beds. If Wolfeboro turns into a mountain biking destination, it may improve the shop business, or it may just draw competitors more cynical and less concerned, to finish trampling our aging bodies into the dirt. The overall family behind this current benefactor is already well on the way to turning the town into their own little theme park as it is. On the one hand, we're all a bit grateful to them for subsidizing local landmarks that were no longer able to survive as independent entities in today's economy. On the other hand, it brings us inexorably closer to being members of their household staff, at least indirectly.

Little towns live on their looks these days. Just in this area you can see the ones favored by their bone structure and complexion enjoying the attentions of sugar daddies, while the ones less blessed have to make do with the more frequently abusive relationships offered by rougher companions. There hasn't been much of a real economy in rural New England in decades. As the big forest products industries pulled out and abandoned their extensive timberlands, recreational uses have struggled to pick up the slack. The forest survived as a cash crop. The long harvesting cycle allowed people to play on quite a bit of it between cuts. As that stability has dwindled, the locals figure out ways to pimp out the local attractions to transients who will pay to use them.

In towns that had long ago abandoned resource extraction, where small industry had faded out, the economy has depended on attracting people with money who just like it there. Since the alternative is complete collapse, judgement is suspended. Only a rare idiot will look beyond and wonder what would keep us all afloat on a longer term basis if the current system of enabling the wealthy and tickling them for a trickle eventually runs out of fuel.

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