I’ve cringed about the trash each time I’ve walked the last km home from the bus stop/Main Road. I once started picking up 4-5 pieces each time I did, and dumping the same in the dry bin near our apartment gate – but the hopelessness of it got to me. I once even tried organizing a cleanup activity but it fell flat owing to various reasons.
So I was delighted when a group of enthusiastic folks started the efforts towards organizing cleaning up the entire area around our apartment and the neighbouring ones. I joined them – and after a few meetings over a couple of weeks, lots o background activity and WhatsApp messages later, a couple of dozen people assembled this morning to start on this attempt.
I say “attempt” because – well – let me just recount some bits of conversations I had with Abinav, a neighbour who’d also volunteered and who I teamed up with for the most part today.
“God – this is enormous! We’ve been sitting at this one spot and picking stuff immediately around, and you get up to see how you’ve done and it seems as dirty as ever!”
“Center Fresh is invading the planet!”
“Boss – just a 1 sq. metre area will take over an hour to really, truly rid of plastic etc. Maybe more…”
“We should setup a Man vs. Wild(-people) challenge here and get them to clean up a few hundred metres completely inside a day. And keep it that way for a week.”
“3 (small) truck loads of garbage taken away, so much piled up and it’s still all there. All this plastic and muck – just in the last 7-8 years. What are we doing?”
“Feeling defeated” (this was a common thread every half an hour)
“This HAS to be pinned on the producer. Trying solving it after consumption isn’t just going to work. We have to realize what we’re doing.”
“Hiding behind the economy argument is stupid, if this is how bad it’s deteriorating and failing for the next gen.”
“Dustbins and recycling probably just help encourage more such behaviour. People have been chucking natural stuff for ages with no such ill effects – we have to look at what we’re producing and thrusting into people’s hands.”
“Why should people in Mandur and Gorur be willing to handle our crap? We should probably ask each household to deal with it.”
“People get used to this and don’t even see it anymore. It’s good in a way that we’re coming face to face with it in a relatively short period – people in countries which are more efficient at carting it away ‘somewhere else’ aren’t likely to have questions asked of their conscience anytime soon and consumption will keep killing land/water/air even longer.”
“We are all responsible – irrespective of how responsible we think we are. We should pick, say, 10 adults every week and ask a few sub-15 year olds to flog us publicly at Cauvery junction for leaving this place like this for them. We really need to be sorry to them.”
“Really – we need to eat that many center-freshes!??”
“Forget it – let’s just cover it with grass!”
“Let’s just go watch TV/have biriyani/read up ‘green’ articles on FB”
“Let’s go door to door in the neighbourhood asking them to reduce their consumption of packaged stuff by at least 50%. Most don’t even do it consciously.”
“Once you take on such a battle you realize how easy it is to crib about the government and expect them to do this that an everything. This is just a few stretches of roads and we – the well read, ‘problem solvers’ and managers can’t seem to get a grip on it”
You get the idea .
It was a beautiful community effort, and we connected with many. It must have sensitized a lot many to how bad it is and why it’s worth fighting hard to forgo ‘convenience’ and try and avoid even that little bit of plastic. We actually picked a really large amount of junk, painted some walls, cleaned the road side.
But it’s still dirty. It’ll take sustained effort, and more importantly, prevention and consumption-end fixes to try and win this back.
That picture up there was the end state of today’s efforts. LOTs collected, send and piled up. And yet, LOTS and LOTS more to do.
Anything bigger than fixing a specific spot ain’t happening without a social change.
Let’s all think seriously where we’re headed.