Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Grazers of Edmonton, or Hard Core Dumpster Diving

I've seen very little about this activity in the media, but I know through my son that it is going on. The group my son was involved called themselves "grazers" and were quite happy to live off the excess of modern society. They "harvested" from back yard gardens and dumpsters. I did a quick google search and see that this activity is starting to show up on the web.

Here's a dumpster diver in Calgary.

And here's a meetup site looking for local dumpster divers.

There's a cachet to this sort of activity. After all, there's evidence of excess everywhere. For some people, it can become a mission to reduce that environmental load. Kind of like a modern Robin Hood and his merry men. They get to know the disposal cycles of the stores and where the best "takes" can be found. My son casually mentioned, for instance, the great finds of pre-packaged and expired sandwiches he was able to pick up behind a local convenience store. The "grazers" held a lot of appeal for my son, as he has a very strong miserly streak (I recently broke him from picking up cigarette butts when he's out walking with me). For him at least, the activity also had a side benefit of saving enough money to re-invest in drugs.

Which is the grimmer side of the grazer culture. It tends to pick up people who, for whatever reason, are not fully engaged with society. They could be suffering from untreated illness or addiction. They can literally drop off the grid. Living on the streets in Edmonton is doubly hard because winters can kill.

I won't comment either way on the wisdom of the grazer lifestyle, but I am worried that it's a quiet subtext in our society that no-one is talking about.