A ringside seat at the end of the world: Leaf blowers


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It’s fall in Indiana, and folks everywhere are competing with each other to see who can burn the most carbons disposing of their fallen leaves with a leaf blower.

There are a variety of instruments with which you can unnecessarily burn carbons, from the gas powered leaf blower to the “greener” options of battery- and electric-powered leaf blowers.

An add bonus to burning carbons for no good reason with a leaf blower is the noise factor, which ranges from annoying-as-hell to kill-me-please-before-I-kill-myself.

The gas powered leaf blower is a lot louder than other options, so it makes it seem like you’re working harder, so that’s a plus. The electric leaf blower, here in Hoosierland where 95% of our electricity comes from coal, helps keep coal-fired plants from going out of vogue.

Today, on my bicycle, I passed a man using what looked to be a leaf vacuum the size of a washing machine. He was in fact vacuuming the leaves from his curb, which, I have to admit, is a more mindful tactic than the more traditional system of blowing the leaves and other yard detritus out into the street, because apparently if it used to be in your yard and you can use an appliance to blow it out of your yard it is no longer your responsibility.

Back in the day, there was an implement people used called a “rake.” People would rake their leaves into piles with this tool, and then their children would take turns running pell-mell into the piles.

This, of course, was back when children played outside, instead of unnecessarily burning carbons inside with their computers and hand-held gaming devices.

Purveyors of the rake approach often collected the leaves into plastic bags that giant, gas-guzzling and carbon-burning trucks picked up and took to landfills to rot and create plumes of methane, because that’s far preferable than leaving leaves (and grass and twigs and whatnot) for the compost or to simply stew in the corner of your yard so that it can decay and become mulch for next spring.

In modern times, other than vacuum-man’s approach, leaves are mostly scattered into streets and sidewalks by leaf-blowers to be crushed to bits by cars and the occasional, lone passerby.

There are those who still burn their piles of leaves, which smells great and also contributes to the airborne particulate pollution level — Indiana is a proud leader in airborne particulate pollution. I’m sure your town or state leads in some indicator or two of our coming apocalypse.

Unfortunately, though, there is a “burn ban” in our county — in fact in many counties in Indiana (and beyond), due to the persistent lack of rain. Climate scientists have noted an increase in these conditions, as well as the concomitant wild fires you see everywhere, as a consequence of global warming.

In Indiana, we don’t concern ourselves with so-called climate science. We’re busy cleaning our yards with the most wasteful and loud and carbon-burning strategies, so we can hurry back inside to forget that nature exists at all, let alone that we are part of it.

Jim Poyser watches it all fall apart on This week, he will be blogging from Missoula, Montana, where he is attending the annual conference for the Society of Environmental Journalists.


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