My friend Josh is currently studying art at UBC, and that’s great because when you study something that can’t be defined, you have a full license to do just about anything. Including traipsing around all sorts of strange places at ungodly hours of the morning. Yesterday we explored part of Burns Bog and Vancouver’s major landfill for his latest photography project. I’m not in school right now, but as someone who was born and raised in Vancouver, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go somewhere most locals just do not ever go.
Before I continue I should probably hit you with some background information, because if you’re from outside the Vancouver area, you have no idea what I’m talking about.
At roughly 4000 hectares, Burns Bog is the largest undeveloped urban landmass in North America. It’s located in a hellish suburb of Vancouver called Delta, which is about 20 minutes from the city center. Aside from just chilling and being a bog, Burns is home to the largest landfill west of Toronto. I guess the theory is that if we can’t raze and develop it, we might as well dump our shit there.
For this project we unfortunately had to rouse ourselves at 5 am to beat the first rush of garbage trucks, avoid as many people as possible, and arrive before the all-important sunrise. When we got to the bog about half an hour after waking up, we loaded up the camera equipment and proceeded to divide our time between following deer trails, and breaking trail in the general direction of the dump.
Horror movie or creepy pre-dawn bog fog?
After about a half hour of slogging through thick undergrowth in even thicker fog, we arrived at our destination. Having scouted the week before, Josh already knew the right mountain of garbage we had to climb. As we hiked, I had a moment to reflect on how lucky we are out here when it comes to skiing, because sadly the mound was higher than most ski hills in the Mid-west.
What went on at the top is documented here in the accompanying photos. Despite a few minor delays during the overall journey, we reached the top of the mound before sunrise, and the excursion ended up a success. Since this was a photo project, I have two things I’m going to mention before I let my pictures do the talking.
The first thing I want to mention is that actually experiencing where all of humanity’s trash ends up is a real chin check to how this world works. I’m not here to preach to you about how you should be living your lives, but I find that we all generally operate on a basis where what we don’t see doesn’t affect us. No matter how many children die in a bombing, or how big an oil spill is, it’s merely news. If it doesn’t personally affect our lives, we just brush it off. I’m a victim of this myself, and while I’m nowhere near perfect, I’m pretty sure that one day everything we do to fuck this planet is going to come back and smack us in the face and we’re going to be really fucked.
A moonscape made of buried trash…
Here’s the second thing. On the hike back to the car, we cut across a farmer’s fields where he grew blueberries, strawberries, corn, and some other assorted crops. This guy’s farm is sandwiched between two huge landfills (the city one and a private dump) and has extremely high voltage electrical lines running over it. It brings home the reality that none of us know where our food comes from anymore, or what happens to it before it reaches our grocery shelves. I see something like this, and it makes me wonder why we can’t understand the reason our cancer rate is soaring.
Sorry if this entry wasn’t proofread decently, I just got back to Whistler and I’m about to pass out. I hope you enjoy the photos.
Next up for you guys I have “What’s Really Old Pt. 3,” a chat with Mike Douglas about some of the things I discussed in the first two entries. It’s going to be amazing once I get all the tape transcribed, I promise.