Friday, November 05, 2010

The Greatest Job in the World

(Above: A New York City street in 1893.)

Robin Nagle has my dream job. She's an anthropologist who works with the New York City Department of Sanitation. What does that mean? It means she gets to study the relationship between people and their trash.

I've long been fascinated by sewers, garbage collection, plumbing, and all of the things that make modern life relatively sanitary. It wasn't long ago that the world was a filthy, disgusting place. And New York City may have been one of the nastiest cities on earth.

Here's Ms. Nagle describing the average New York City neighborhood in the late 19th century:

Imagine, on your own block, that you can’t cross the street, even at the corner, without paying a street kid with a broom to clear a path for you, because the streets were layered in this sludge of manure, rotting vegetables, ash, broken up furniture, debris of all kind. It was called “corporation pudding” after the city government. And it was deep -- in some cases knee-deep.

Wow. The rest of Ms. Nagle's interview with onearth can be found here!


Blogger Kitty said...

Oh ewww D: We really hadn't gotten better though.. We've now included air pollution in addition to ground pollution

12:00 PM  
Blogger montana irregulars said...

that is awesome!! if i wasn't such a germaphobic maybe that would be the job for me (:

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the part in Sara Ryan's "the emporess of the world" where the archeology professor says the field is "trash" only to be completely misunderstood by one of the students. Seriously, if you were digging up the mounds of Hissarlik (Troy) would you rather get the palace of Priam or dig into about twelve centuries of stratified municipal landfill?

Robert in San Diego via cell phone, wondering if recycling is going to be a factor in archeology in about three hundred years.

3:25 PM  

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