The Inspector

Backyard secrets brought to light

By Ragan Sutterfield

Illustration by Felix Sockwell

The news was chilling but didn’t surprise me. Not long after I’d called the EPA on him, the SWAT team had descended on our quiet neighborhood because Mike had a violent argument with his girlfriend. No one ever had a clue as to what kind of person he was before then—unless they looked, as I did, behind his house. There were fancy cars and landscaping in the front, but in his trash-strewn backyard, Mike’s disregard for life was already apparent.

Several years ago, I went to hear the late philosopher Paul Ricoeur speak; in his talk he recommended that we place dumps and prisons in the middle of our cities. “We must make our problems visible,” he said. I think of this when I remember Mike. We have so many backyards in the world. The Ivory Coast is the backyard of Europe; the American countryside is the backyard of its cities—all of them strewn with exported trash. But to those who live there, these places are the front yards, the places their children play and neighbors visit. It’s important to remember that there are no backyards, really—just front yards seen from a different perspective.

Ragan Sutterfield is a sustainable farmer in central Arkansas. He raises sheep, cattle, chickens, and a rare breed of pig called the Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig.

 1  |  2 

Issue 25

Sign up for Plenty's Weekly Newsletter