Posts Tagged ‘gleaners’

Trashonomics and the power of good journalism

Saturday, March 15, 2014

This morning a friend shared this beautifully-written tribute to Matthew Power, a journalist who died recently while reporting in Uganda. I didn’t know Power’s work before reading this piece, but the author Abe Streep’s description of his friend compelled me to seek it out. As someone who works in global health and travels frequently to places haunted by thrill-seeking writers and photographers, I found this line particularly intriguing:

Matt traveled to hard places, but he didn’t court danger.

Clicking through to a link shared in the tribute, I found “The Magic Mountain,” a sprawling Harper’s article written with old fashioned take-me-there charm. In it, Power simply and elegantly tells the story of a giant trash heap that piled up in Quezon City, Philippines, and the community of people who now live and eek out a life in its shadow.

San Man Legacy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I got all excited when I downloaded the latest Moth podcast this morning and read the description: “A young man struggles with his role in the family sanitation business.” Luckily, this week’s installment lived fully up to those inflated expectations. It’s a sweet New York story and well worth a listen. Thank you, Terence Mickey, for brightening my morning commute. The outro references a novel in the works called The Gleaners. Trashtastic title, can’t wait!

The Gleaners and I

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A clip for anyone not yet familiar with the full masterpiece, which in referencing yesterday I realized not everyone has seen. See also this past post on modern day gleaning in France.

The Beaches of Agnès

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Agnès Varda, director of the amazing documentary Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I), has a new film out—what appears to be a fantastical, memoir-documentary about her life as a New Wave pioneer, wife and lover of Jacques Demy and all-around badass.  Here’s the trailor.

And here’s  A.O. Scott‘s piece on the project and its creator. In it, he calls Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse “a personal and philosophical inquiry into the practice of gathering what has been discarded or passed over.” And it is. Because Varda made it. In France. If anyone else had tackled the project, it would have been a movie about freegans and politics and all that is wonky and dull and without the fun of a wacky French/Belgian woman inserting herself into the action as a very present narrator. In short, it would have been no fun at all and noone would remember that in France, they have a crazy law that requires farmers to open their farms up to the public after harvest to collect leftover food. I can’t wait to see what the rest of her life/career was like.

Anyway, since this post is only tangentially trash-related, I’m throwing in this link from a few months back on urban gleaning.  Check it out now if you missed it then.

Hard times call for gleaning (new study)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The French have a long, proud history (protected by law and immortalized in film) of preventing produce waste by opening up their farms after harvest to allow scavengers  to collect the left overs.  Gleaning still takes place in the countryside, but works a little differently in modern cities, where it takes the form of collecting discarded fruits and veg after farmers markets and from commercial trash bins.

And in these tough economic times, gleaning or “doing the end of the market” is more common than ever in Paris and smaller cities, especially among youth, the homeless and…the elderly.

OFRTP-FRANCE-PAUVRETE-GLANAGE-20090203

Reuters/Eric Gaillard

To get a better sense of who gleans, how and why, the French High Commissioner for Active Solidarity Against Poverty commissioned a report on the topic from a French think tank called The Center for Study and Research on Philanthropy (CerPhi).  So, CerPhi conducted a qualitative study, scoping out prime gleaning spots in Paris and two smaller cities and conducting in-depth interviews with over forty men and women spotted in the act.

While they didn’t exclude people who consider gleaning a political or environmental act, the report focuses on those who glean out of financial necessity.  In other words, everybody but the freegans.

The most interesting take-away is the fuller profile of urban gleaners the study provides. For the most part, they are young people, retirees and the homeless.  Young people have the fewest health and safety concerns about eating discarded produce.  Longtime homeless men use gleaning as a survival mechanism and continue to do it even when they have housing.  Retirees glean out of financial necessity and are, for the most part ashamed of gleaning (with the exception of a small minority who barter what they glean and gain self-worth from the practice).

The study specifically investigated the relationship between gleaners and social security to better inform government  programs.  What they found reveals a lot about pride and the challenges of aging in a failing economy.  Take these two quotes, for example:

Woman, 82 years old, Paris

Have you been “doing market ends”  for a long time?

It’s not really market ends, I buy, I see if I see something.

I think I saw you last Saturday.

Yes, Saturday I was here.  If I see something, I pick it up but I buy a lot.  Really, I do, I buy a lot, and I do it if I find something, otherwise I mainly buy,

Did you buy everything in that bag?

No, I didn’t buy everything, but I bought a good part of it, a large part of this here was picked up, it depends on the day.

Woman, 75 years old, Paris

Are you familiar with food aid, like soup kitchens?

No, I don’t go there.

Why not?

Because my grandchildren work and that doesn’t interest me.

If you read French, the full report is a heartbreaking page-turner full of nuanced questions about what gleaning means to different groups, concepts of transiance and urgency as well as larger societal questions about the relationship between hunger, public assistance and stigma.

And it’s getting harder and harder to be a gleaner, the study reports, as farmers markets and supermarkets go to greater lengths to destroy food waste and discourage scavenging.  Sadly, the report lacks clear-cut recomendations.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

PS Thanks, Gillian, for sending me an article on this study in the first place.


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