Doing Our Bit For The Planet
And other myths
Global waste management is a bit like Covid, nobody is ready to question where such a s*itload of rubbish comes from, nobody can quite finger point and nobody is ready to claim ownership either, yet the s*itload of rubbish is there and we are asked to do something about it. We put on our masks, sanitize our hands frequently, practice social distancing with discretion, et voila’! We get to feel like we have done our bit, displaying an element of quasi-pride and also a touch of self-entitlement, expecting everybody else to do their bits too, and rolling our eyes when they don’t.
Same happens with the s*itload of rubbish we produce. 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33 percent of that — extremely conservatively — not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Worldwide, waste generated per person per day averages 0.74 kilograms but ranges widely, from 0.11 to 4.54 kilograms. (Source: datatopics.worldbank.org)
2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, we did not see that coming, did we? So what do we do about it? Ah, yes:
- People dying of hunger will do nothing, not that they don’t care, they do, but to do something you actually need to access the bare minimum amount of food to create the energy to activate your brain and body and move from survival to action. Living on UNICEF Multiple Micronutrient Powders does not allow such activation. By the way, people dying of hunger are not necessarily people living in poor countries, they are the people who chronically get dealt a bad hand by the big powers governing our economies, they are also the people who produce the coffee beans, cocoa, and the Madagascan vanilla of our underpaid and overpriced venti lattes; yes, people in Madagascar are dying of hunger.
- People living in poverty are literally dying to work and survive. Let me repeat this, they are dying to work and survive, and bring enough food to the table. They work in the sweatshops and factories producing the tons of rubbish we in the West might die-to-buy one day and carelessly dispose the day after. They die to produce the rubbish for the West and they die in the landfills and swamps of clothes and rubbish returned to sender. Yes, Karma is a bitch, but we are the ones orchestrating the entire tragedy.
- The thrifty, which includes my loving mom and dad, do not use and abuse resources — including money — just because they can. They cut the toothpaste tube to use up every nano-particle. They wear a thicker jumper when it is cold, and they mend holes and tears like their lives depended on it. They plant trees under whose shade they will never sit, they do not associate their self-value with their purchase-power, because honestly, that is for sore losers.
- The middle class will invest 20 minutes a week separating plastic from paper, from cans, from milk cartons, from compostable stuff. The more educated might spend an extra 30 minutes a week checking labels (microplastics, recycled material, palm oil, sulfate and parabens, or the scarecrow du jour). They free up their closets and garages regularly by taking their now unwanted clothes and bric-a-brac to Salvation Army, and might consider putting a couple of solar panels on the roof in the next renovation project.
- The wannabe influencers on Instagram will go for organic and fairtrade, and farmers’ markets too. Outside of Instagram hours, they may turn back to their vanilla venti skinny latte with extra cream at Starbucks, using the free wi-fi to check their performance on their latest iPhone.
- The more affluent owe nothing to the world and will do as they please, while getting their avocados from their private avocado orchard. They will have their shopping delivered at their mansion with infinity pools, and use personal jets to stay untouched and above it all.
The economic and cultural divide of who can afford a green lifestyle, tell us that the majority of the people on this planet do NOT have the right to choose. Recycling or switching to renewable energies, i.e., investing in less-polluting ways to maintain our frantic ways of living based on a never-ending wish list triggered by compulsive consumerism, is a way to soothe our guilt, not a way to fix the climate crisis.
Nobody seems to be wanting to tell the truth, and nobody is prepared to hear it either, so let me give you a taste of what it may look like.
This is going to hurt
What we do not want to hear is that we need to change, and more precisely we need to stop consuming, stop buying, and stop wasting. We need to rethink our lives and really renounce a lot of the comforts and privileges we consider either earned or our birthright.
The so-called green economy is a false promised land to whitewash our fears and guilt. Doing our bit is palliative care, we are slowing down the death of our future generations, we are not curing the disease.
Radical problems require radical solutions
Start with recycling, continue with the green transition, and anything that can reduce emissions, but do not pat yourself in the back and stop there.
The global population is likely to reach 10 billion in less than 30 years, we can not ask developing countries or countries which just jumped on the flashy hamster wheel of consumerism to contain themselves, when we can’t get off ourselves.
Think radical, real radical. While we all point fingers to big emitters (financed by closeted wannabe green emitters), please understand that even the most mundane choices you make every day, like having coffee, have a tremendous impact on this planet.
Let’s say that you normally pick up the car every time you think you need something, can you reduce your use of the car to once a week? Instead of buying the next thing on Amazon with free delivery, can you soothe the itch and go for a walk instead? Can you reduce the use of water to max 10 liters a day to cover all your needs? Yes, that radical.
Can you cut your use of air-con or heating by 50%?
We’re buying 60 percent more clothes now than we did 15 years ago, seriously, have we lost our mind?
The question is about what we are ready to cut out, and not about replacement. There is no place for more.
Who knows, maybe no more nail polish, no more cut-flowers, no more stuffing our closets, and garages, and stomachs, and newsfeeds to calm all our unresolved problems and traumas. Are we ready for that?
What if tomorrow no one came to pick up our rubbish? What if tomorrow instead, someone came with tons of rubbish, and unwanted clothes and appliances, and toxic waste, coming from remote places thousands of miles away, and dropped the rubbish right there in the middle of our backyard, in the same way we do with developing countries. What was that word that starts with K and ends in arma?
What goes around comes around. We can not go down the same path that took us here and expect a different view. Business as usual will continue to feed the monster, including the monsters in us.
Brace yourself, it is going to be scary and unpleasant. More than a revolution, we need a sort of tsunami uprooting the current status quo and shaking the epicenter of our very own existence.