Megan said, “Monday is Blog Action Day; so far there are over 11,000 blogs participating, and on October 15, every blogger will be talking about the environment. Maybe your blog (speak for yourself, Megan! I am!) doesn’t have the hugest amount of visitors, but if every little voice joins together, we’ll create a magnificent din.”
Well, it is Oct 15 and I’m lending my voice, too!
Being such an energy and natural resource consuming society is a rather modern occurrence and confined to the more prosperous parts of our world, like the USA. It would have been much different in the Regency. In those times, the very poor survived on what we would throw away.
Janet has already taught us that our lords and ladies gave away their clothing to their servants who also had certain rights to recycle things like candle stubs and cooking fat. What the servants didn’t use was sold to the rag and bone man, the era’s answer to what we would call the junk man. The rag and bone man sold what he collected.
All the dust and ashes from the cooking fires and fireplaces also had to be collected and carted away. This was the work of the dustman. The dust was sold to brick makers and to farmers for fertilizer. In the musical My Fair Lady, Eliza’s father was a dustman.
Here is an article from the New York Times January 27, 1878, about London Dustmen:
Another set of recyclers were the mudlarks, mostly women and children who scavenged around in river mud for items of value. In London the poor would scavenge in the River Thames during low tide, searching for anything they could sell.
A bit later than “our” period (1851), Henry Mayhew wrote about mudlarks in his book, London Labour and the London Poor:
“ THEY generally consist of boys and girls, varying in age from eight to fourteen or fifteen; with some persons of more advanced years. For the most part they are ragged, and in a very filthy state, and are a peculiar class, confined to the river. The parents of many of them are coalwhippers–Irish cockneys–employed getting coals out of the ships, and their mothers frequently sell fruit in the street. Their practice is to get between the barges, and one of them lifting the other up will knock lumps of coal into the mud, which they pick up afterwards…..
Some of them are old women of the lowest grade, from fifty to sixty, who occasionally wade in the mud up to the knees. “
You can read more of Mayhew’s book here.
Of course, raw sewage was dumped in the river and the mudlarks were exposed to cholera and other diseases, as well as really nasty things like dead bodies of people and animals.
The movie poster above was for a 1950 movie about a little boy, a mudlark who overheard someone say that Queen Victoria was mother to everyone in Great Britain. He took it to heart and traveled to London to see if he could sit on the throne.
I can’t sign off without mentioning my friend Delle’s book, The Mudlark. Read more about it here.
What do I do for the environment? I recycle glass and plastic and cans. And I drive a Prius, Toyota’s hybrid car! I’ve also been conserving water because we’re really having a bad drought. And I NEVER throw out a book.
What do you do?
Great blog, Diane! I mentioned it in my own attempt to write a Regency-themed environmental blog on my website today. Fascinating how efficient Regency-era people were at reusing things, despite the many environmental problems. I so agree about never throwing away books! :-). I’ve also been replacing my regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents (which work great and last longer while using less energy). And recycle as much as possible and carpool when I can–every bit helps!
People were definitely more efficient in their use of everything in those days, weren’t they? I use the squiggly bulbs. I also don’t use the stores’ shopping bags. I bring my own big handled cloth bags. I get a lot of odd looks, but hey, that’s me. I got in the habit in Europe. I turn off lights and unplug things that suck energy when they’re not on. I conserve water as well, but that is a necessity because here in Alabama we have had a serious drought this year.
Love the post, Diane! Lots of neat info I didn’t know. 🙂
I recycle, and use cloth bags at the grocery store, and we’ve switched as many lighting fixtures to compact fluorescent as will fit. I also try not to be a mindless consumer — I buy used a lot, and try to reuse or donate what I can’t use anymore.
I’m conserving water, too… I’ve recently put a pitcher by the sink, so any unused water (what’s left in the kettle after making tea [once it cools] and such) gets saved and used for dishes, etc.
I really should walk to places more, and use more public transportation, though! Todd’s much better at that than I — he takes public transport to work, and he’s only ever used a car to commute for three months once…he always walks, or bikes, or uses public transport, even if it means walking for an hour through the snow, like he did in Pittsburgh…
Thanks for such a great post, Diane!
Recycling is so important, I have to do that bag to the supermarket thing more often.
Really interesting post – never thought about recycling from that point of view. My nephew has made living green a way of life and everyone else in the family tries to keep up. We’re both pack rats so nothing gets thrown out unless it can be used again. The new lightbulbs save energy and recycling glass, cardboard and paper helps.
I go to a lot of blogs and so far you’re the only one I’ve read about this.
I totally forgot about this until I saw your blog post, that this was happening today. I’m only, oh, halfway through all the blogs I visit in a day and this one’s the first environmental one.
Anyway, yeah, I do somethings but could do better. . . but I just love those light bulbs. The first and foremost best thing about them is that I absolutely do not have to climb chairs nearly as much as I used to with the others. And I hate doing that. 🙂
Yeah, okay, that comment’s sort of missing the point, but hey, it’s a very important thing! I really hate climbing the chairs!! LOL
My family recycles papers, magazines, bottles, cans and plastics. My husband carpools to his job. This saves on gas and car maintenance.
We don’t use the squiggly bulbs but my DH does go around turning off all the lights and wondering aloud if we are single handedly supporting the energy company and sounding more like his father every day.
Recycling works best when it is easy, Lois.
I have to thank Megan for this, because I would never have known about it without her.
Great blog! I do all the things any sensible person should–use fluorescents (which have really cut back on my electric bills, too!), recycle, watch water consumption, grow some vegetables, etc. I take a canvas bag to the farmers’ market, but confess I do get plastic bags at Target because I use them to line my cats’ litter box (but that’s recycling, right????). I really need to watch the stuff I keep I plugged in, though. Maybe I need a sign for my desk.
I think a lot of recycling is just common sense: Turning lights off, turning water off, etc.
Right now it can be very expensive to have a ‘green’ house–bamboo, recycled glass, fixtures, etc. are much pricier than traditional items, but that is going to change as capitalists realize there is a real growth potential here.
The unplugging all appliances thing just seems really difficult to actually do, although I appreciate the effort.
Anyone heard about noimpactman? He’s going carbon-neutral for a year, recycling everything. He’s at 10 months now: http://www.noimpactman.typepad.com/
Awww, gosh! That’s awfully sweet! 🙂
Fairness forces me to point out, though, that since Cara works at home, she actually consumes far less energy in commuting than I do, even though I do take public transportation. 🙂 I wish I were more like Cara…