Small Streams

The Dispersal of Seed
August 9, 2009, 10:09 am
Filed under: ecology | Tags: , ,

While we were in Massachusetts, Liz picked up a book for me at the Annisquam Seafair. The book, Pittsburgh Regional Economy, seemed a long way from its origins. But I can imagine its sojourn to New England on the fetters of an environmentalist, its dormancy, and the happenstances that led to a planting into my hands.

Paperback, saddlestitched, and typeset with an IBM Executive typewriter, this 38 years-old book would only seem to be classified as ephemeral, what with all the technological developments and the shifting environmental landscape.

Unfortunately, the problems remain the same (air and water pollution, gypsy moths, strip mining, the degradation of bee habitat, ad infinitum) and the public awareness and will has barely changed. If you go back another 30 years you begin to think we’re seriously moving backward.

We entered the war [World War II] with a vast and well-organized collection industry of over 200,000 junkmen withh their horse-drawn carts, push carts, and motorized trucks. By February, 1942, the federal government had
organized the junkmen, gas station personnel (no gas to sell) and the
rest of the civilian population down to the city ward levels with Allegheny County having 5 pick up zones. The whole country went from one pick-up drive to antoher with scrap rubber campaigns being the most numerous. For rubber, tin, and lead there were house-to-drives as well as campaign goals for the nation, the state, county and collection zones. The 1942 June scrap rubber drive achieved its commonwealth goal of 355 tons but not all collection zones achieved their target goal in our area. By 1944, the scrap rubber campaign ended as a result of a reduced demand for rubber goods by the military and the production of adequate synthetics by industry.

From Pittsburgh Regional Ecology, edited by Earl R. Schmidt,
published by Vulcan Press, State College, PA, 1971.

Think of it, a network of 200,000 junkmen, most likely free agents with volumes of embedded knowledge, and myriads of customer and vendor connections. Talk about a distrbuted solution! What if we could make ragman as desirable a position as barista?

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