20 December 2008

We Lost Our Garbage


Our mayor has done some really outlandish things, but the craziest idea he ever had was to take away all public garbage cans and residential garbage collectors and trucks. The city dump had begun to overflow and the incinerator had burned out so instead of making new places for all of the garbage, he shut them all down!

You can imagine what happened around here. People didn't know what to do with all of their junk so they started throwing it in the street and there were protests pretty much all over. Some of us were afraid that diseases would break out because rats multiplied and the stench was absolutely unbearable everywhere you went.

The mayor just ignored the protests and went about his business as usual.

After about three weeks, though, some amazing things started happening. When businesses realized that people stopped buying stuff that had lots of packaging they scrambled to offer their goods and services with less wrapping. Everybody started returning their junk mail and the post office became totally inundated with it until the post office decided not to deliver it anymore.

Also, people started figuring out ways to recycle almost everything and things slowly started cleaning up. Recycling companies offered their services door to door, compost classes became popular and whole neighborhoods began organizing themselves as garbage free zones. Even large international companies began competing among themselves for consumer attention by offering to receive and in some cases buy back their products once they were no longer useful. They would recycle them, refurbish them, reuse them, anything to avoid creating garbage. Small second hand stores sprang up all over and people started renting things they really didn't need to buy. Fix-it guys became the most important job around here and they were actually able to make a living wage!

The mayor sent all of the garbage collectors and trucks to work for recycling companies, which gave them quite a boost. With a glut of recyclable material, it became cheaper than virgin material in most cases so business picked up even further.

Now that some time has passed, people see garbage in a totally new light. In fact, the idea is almost completely absurd and it seems that is what the mayor wanted to get across. People lose sight of the fact that we are part of the earth's natural cycles once we see ourselves as something separate from all other living and inert things. That line of thought progresses to the point that we feel we can throw something where we no longer have to deal with it. This becomes a blind spot that bothers our intuition in the best of cases and just becomes a non reality for everybody else.

Our mayor hit us over the head with our blind spot and helped us become more integrated with the Earth's natural cycles. The concept of garbage no longer exists here to the extent that we can reject wasteful products from other cities. Industries haven't changed as much as we would like because they depend on distant markets and can't really treat our town as a special case. Recently the mayor has contracted companies to turn organic and body waste into bio-fuels for all government vehicles, so we are pretty excited about that. We are hopeful, though, that our culture of integration and garbage-less waste will be contagious to nearby towns and cities so our region can be greener and more beautiful.

9 comments:

lydia Mills said...

okay, that sounds almost like a fairy tale....is it still happening? Are people still thinking about what products they buy and are businesses still offering their products with less/no packaging? And is this in all of Guayaquil or only in the sector where you live. It sounds too good to be true!

Justin said...

Well, it is definitely too good to be true. You could call it a fairy tale, but I would rather look at it as a thought experiment. Think about your community and what would happen if people no longer felt they could throw something where they no didn't have to deal with it anymore. If we actually had to deal with our waste, if we felt that it had to come back around to usefulness somehow, our behavior would change dramatically.

Nestor y Nicola said...

Definitely an awesome piece. I actually thought it was something that was really happening when I started reading it. I loved it because it is an that hits close to home in our constant quest to recycle and make a small impact in the world. It made me think about the things that we are doing to be proactive instead of reactive. We recycle faithfully even though we were the only ones for a long time in our neighborhood, it is starting to catch on. I am happy when I hear my son say, "mommy the organics is getting full, do you want me to take it out" or my daughter say, "don't put out the plastics tonight, tomorrow is paper day". I have gotten to the point that I don't use plastic bags anymore at the grocery store, I use the reusable bags. I even give them as gifts now. I now only take out two small garbage bags a week-that is a little bit for 6 people, it used to be two or three big ones twice a week.

By the way, I think that this would be an excellent story for children. You can do a digital story, with voice over, which can be uploaded to TeacherTube for the education of our children. Educating students about how one little act directly or indirectly affects others, will help them to make changes in their way of life. Global warming is a big part of the curriculum now, especially in NJ.

Loved it!

katty scoggin said...

Excelente propuesta...si las decisiones del Alcalde tuvieran este final le animaría mucho a que lo haga...
Nuestros hijos Joshua y Raji han disfrutado y comentado mucho sobre este artículo. Joshua pensó que era real, y a Raji le pareció una buena propuesta para aplicarla...
Creo que es una buena propuesta para formar nuevas generaciones les animo a quienes han leído el artículo a que lo hagan y lo comenten con sus hijos.
Recuerdo cuando Justin comenzó a preguntarnos a todos (amigos y parientes) que pasaría si esto sucediera en Guayaquil? y la mayoría contenstó: "los guayaquileños contratarían a un camión para que bote la basura en otro barrio..."

De todo corazón espero que esta imagen de los guayaquileños comience a cambiar..y veamos la posibilidad de una ciudad que aprecie la belleza de los árboles, el verdor de las plantas y la hermosura de las rosas...
Guayaquil de por si es una ciudad que la caracteriza la diversidad...racial, cultural de todo tipo de grupos...por qué no aplicar eso en otras áreas?
Nuevamente gracias...una reflexión más...

Justin said...

Thanks so much Nicola and Katty. Nicola, the idea of doing a digital story sounds like tons of fun, but I can't see myself doing it any time soon. If you want to use the idea and make a go of it, be my guest because you are probably right that it would be a useful teaching tool.

Katty, a local magazine with a pretty good circulation is publishing some of my articles on ecology, so let's see if anybody reacts to that so we can get some dialog going here about how to change attitudes towards the earth.

Thanks so much for the wonderful comments!

Nestor y Nicola said...

Hey Justin,
Well I think that the digital story is something that I would like to take on. My plate is very full right now, but I will have some "free" time this summer, so I am on it. Since we will be in close proximity we can even collaborate on breaking it down for the "screenplay", etc. Well, I look forward to it.
Nico

kattyscoggin said...

la idea de Nicola me parece genial...que tal proponerla en la escuela de los chicos...
Justin sobre la revista en la que saldran tus articulos creo que sin duda tendran un impacto grande...y que tal enviar estos articulos a los diarios....ya se esta viendo algun tipo de conciencia ecologica...puede ser un buen comienzo...para que los Guayaquilenos vayamos mas alla de hacer conciencia pensando en que "debemos sembrar un arbol" y hasta ahi llego nuestra labor...

Goyo said...

Very interesting approach to garbage. I live in Buenos Aires where the infamous and semi-official 'Cartoneros' would come out and sweep the city by night, sorting through everyone's garbage. Here in the U.S., it's still 'out of site, out of mind', even though we recycle.

On another note, I'm headed to Ecuador in April to do some photography and would like to possibly speak with you by phone at some point with some beyond-the-basics questions, if you have the interest and time.

Thanks,
Greg
groden@gmail.com

Justin said...

Goyo - Yes the cartoneros do what everybody should be doing in the first place. I find it strange that few people recycle here at any level of society.

Yes, let's be in touch about your trip in April... your photos are inspiring.