Sir: What is to become of future archaeologists? That is the vital question that no one is asking. It is all very well to talk about environmental responsibility and honoring Mother Earth and other such foofaraw, but a healthy environment will do us archaeologists no good if we are unable to function in it.
The archaeologists of the future will be simply delighted with the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first. Think how much they will have to learn! A consumer culture that wraps perishable items in printed plastic, and then throws the plastic away into giant repositories, is a culture that is practically devised with the needs of archaeologists in mind. Think of the treasures for future archaeologists to discover in the smallest municipal landfill! Why, the libraries of Nineveh or Nag Hammadi are nothing in comparison.
But now come these environmentalists and their parade of thou-shalt-nots, and city councils start banning plastic bags. How will future generations know what supermarkets their ancestors patronized? And worse yet, under the pervasive influence of these insidious ideas, or perhaps I should say the insidious influence of these pervasive ideas, major suppliers of consumer goods are beginning to advertise that their packaging is biodegradable. Biodegradable! Has it never occurred to them what a disservice they are rendering to the archaeologists of centuries to come? What if the Epic of Gilgamesh had been written on biodegradable tablets? But that is exactly what we are doing with the marketing copy on every biodegradable package. Think how future generations will lament the loss of “Brenneman’s Wheat Shards Are Your Best Fiber Friend”!
What can be done? The ordinary citizen can do much. Above all, I urge your readers to sign the pledge currently being shoved in their faces at busy corners in major retail business districts. It has been difficult for us to compete with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many of us proudly bear the bruises and black eyes incident to such competition, but we have established a presence that cannot be ignored in every business district in the city. Sign the pledge to patronize only retailers who stock properly packaged goods, goods whose packaging will convey a wealth of information to archaeologists centuries or even millennia from now. One person may not accomplish much, but millions of us working together cannot possibly fail. We must all do our part to build a better tomorrow for archaeology.
Montague F. Pickenspade,
Archaeologists for a Better Tomorrow