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Excerpt from What We Leave Behind

Burned Tomatoes (p. 34)

From chapter "Garbage"

Let’s follow the chain. Subsistence farmers in Mexico are forced off their land so a transnational agricorporation can grow tomatoes on the land that used to be theirs. The soil of this land quickly becomes toxified by the use of pesticides. The local river—which has forever been the source of water for local villages—is ruined by the pesticide and fertilizer runoff from the new tomato fields. Or it would be ruined if it hadn’t already been diverted for irrigation.

Now utterly impoverished, one of the men who used to live on this land (and whose wife is now dead from cancer and whose children are now brain-damaged from pesticides) leaves these children with his mother and crosses the (heavily guarded) border into the United States, which happens to be the destination for the tomatoes grown on land that used to be his. He works his way toward Spokane. Along the way he is robbed at gunpoint twice, beaten thrice, and raped once. Of course employers steal his labor any number of times. One night in Spokane he is hungry. He has no money. He goes to a dumpster. It is locked. Inside are a couple of dozen crates of tomatoes—coincidentally tomatoes that were grown on land that used to be his. He can’t get at them. Tomorrow morning these tomatoes will be taken to the incinerator and burned (insofar as tomatoes can burn at all). Whatever ash is left from the tomatoes will not even nourish any soil, because the incinerator is at the same time burning all sorts of other wastes, including plastic containers that formerly held toxic chemical used to manufacture pesticides that were sprayed on the land where the man used to live.

This makes no sense.

This is how the system works.