It is from the discards of former civilizations that archaeologists have reconstructed most of what we know about the past, and it is through their examination of today’s garbage that William Rathje and Cullen Murphy inform us of our present. Rubbish! is their witty and erudite investigation into all aspects of the phenomenon of garbage. Rathje and Murphy show what the study of garbage tells us about a population’s demographics and buying habits. Along the way, they dispel the common myths about our “garbage crisis”about fast-food packaging and disposable diapers, about biodegradable garbage and the acceleration of the average family’s garbage output. They also suggest methods for dealing with the garbage that we do have.
|Publisher:||University of Arizona Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
William Rathje is Director of the Garbage Project in the Bureau of Applied Reserach in Anthropology and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Cullen Murphy is Managing Editor of and a frequent contributor to The Atlantic Monthly. He lives in Boston.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Co-author William Rathje is the director of the Garbage Project at the University of Arizona, a research group which over the years has investigated all kinds of garbage-related subjects. Now, you might well think that there can't possibly be all that much about garbage that's worth researching, but if so you would be very, very wrong. It turns out that not only is the excavation of ancient garbage heaps an invaluable tool for archeologists investigating ancient civilizations, but that searching through garbage cans and landfills can tell us a surprising amount about our own society, some of it not just academically interesting but of real practical use. And, of course, understanding garbage -- how it's generated, how it's disposed of, and the various factors that influence those things -- is also extremely important when it comes to figuring out the environmental and economic factors involved in areas such as landfill management and recycling. This book talks in some depth about all these things and quite a bit more, and it offers up plenty of genuinely fascinating facts about garbage. (For instance, did you know that so little biodegrading happens in landfills that newspapers can remain perfectly legible for decades after they're buried? Amazingly enough, there was even a court case in which documents that had been consigned to a landfill many years before were dug up and used as evidence.) The authors also engage in a considerable amount of calm and level-headed discussion on the public policy issues surrounding garbage, including taking a thoughtful and interesting look at the surprisingly vast differences between the things that people believe are filling up our landfills and the things that actually are. Admittedly, since the book was first published in 1992 some of that is a bit dated, but it remains very much worth reading. And while the text is full of carefully presented scientific facts and figures, it's also extremely readable and features occasional flashes of very real wit.