Friday, May 27, 2011

Boroughs and Bureaus

I got to sleep in late today, wasn't even out of bed until 7:45!  Once I made breakfast and got myself organized for the day my host, Nancy Dewitt, offered to give me a ride with my bike to the Bureau of Land Management's office where I was to take my B-3 Aviation Safety certification course.  On the way we stopped at one of the Borough's transfer stations.  A couple weeks ago that would seem like absolute gibberish to me so i will translate for those in the lower 48.  A "Borough" is what we normally call a county and "transfer station" is a place where people can bring their trash before it is hauled to the dump.

The city of Fairbanks grew rapidly when the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline was being built and it grew with almost no city planning.  The result of which is a very spread out and disorganized infrastructure making things like garbage collection near impossible, especially in the winter.  So people bring it to a single location for the city to then collect it all later.

Now the transfer station is quite an interesting place.  As you would imagine there are quite a few large dumpsters and there is even a roofed structure where you can put things for the dumpster-divers.  As we were driving, Nancy regaled me with stories of insanity and downright aggression that she had personally witnessed as people fought tooth-and-nail over things like tires, soiled mattresses, broken appliances, stuffed animals, clothing and anything else deemed reusable.

The odd flip-side to this equation is that within Alaska, there are virtually no recycling programs.  Apparently, up until a couple years ago, there actually were none.  It was all just trash.  Now there are several and the level of material being recycled here is slowly rising.  Of course you have to gather it, separate it and then drop it off at the not-so-convienent collection areas which are completely different and unassociated with the garbage transfer stations.  Even those who believe in recycling are reluctant to do the cross town shuffle to get their garbage and recyclables to the proper places.  It is an unfortunate system and I hope that someone puts two and two together soon.

At the training today I heard all about the various ways to get seriously injured by small aircraft. most of them involve something big spinning very quickly and somebody not paying close enough attention.  Each possibility for injury that we covered was a followed by a story of someone doing exactly that.  What struck me the most during this course was hearing about how many people actually live after the crashes.  It is more of a rarity to die in the crash than it is to die while waiting for rescue.  Now, crashes are not particularly common in general... so don't worry to much mom. We just spent the whole day talking about the few that have happened and how to avoid them or to be safe if it does occur.

Now I am certified by the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management for the next three years to fly on helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.  ABO will be happy to have me back next summer, if not only because they wont have to pay for any more training.

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