Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fantasy v. Reality - Trash

Trash is made up of a variety of items:  papers we no longer need; spoiled (and even good) food; packaging from things we've purchased; items that have broken or we no longer want.  And we simply place it all in our kitchen or bathroom wastebaskets, then empty those in our outdoor garbage cans or large trash bags that we put out on the curb for the sanitation truck to come around to pick up on "trash day."  Although many of us do our best to "recycle," we tend to generate a large quality of trash that we really never think about.
But that trash has to go somewhere.  Some of the trash is incinerated and used to generate power.  However, the vast majority goes to landfills throughout the country and the world.  In the United States, we have such an abundance of land that it is easy to hide our trash problem.  But with some countries, they don't have the luxury of wide open spaces.

File photo of rubbish on Thilafushi
This photo shows an example of a country with no place to put its refuse.  A BBC article about Thilafush, an artificial island in the Maldives, says that boats sometimes had to wait as long as 7 hours to unload trash onto the island.  Much of the trash was from the tourist hotels on other islands.  The government suspended use of the island as a dump site in 2011; however, all of that trash is still going somewhere.  All around the world there are giant dumps of trash.  And for trash that doesn't make it to landfill and escapes into streets and fields and ultimately waterways, there are five huge trash gyres in the oceans of the world where it can continue to accumulate.  The one in the Pacific Ocean spreads out into an area the size of the state of Texas - a plastic Texas.  Instead of a landfill, we have created "water-fills."

Here's a trailer for a movie that I'm looking forward to watching:

As I wrap up this series, I think about how history will treat this generation.  I consider how, when reading about the history of slavery in the U.S. and the individuals who said they were opposed to slavery but continued to own slaves, most people think that those individuals were lying.  Yet more and more, as I study social justice issues, I realize we are no different.  After watching Blood in the Mobile, I cannot look at my cell phone without thinking of that 16-year-old boy who went into mining believing it was an opportunity to make money only to find himself living a week at a time in a dark, dirty, and dangerous hole in the ground.  He did that to extract a mineral necessary for the convenience of my cell phone - and other electronic devices.  I wonder how hungry, thirsty, and scared he must have been, all so I can text a friend to remind her we're meeting for lunch.  We are no different than the slaveholders.  Just like them, we would have to give up luxuries and even make sacrifices to help people like that 16-year-old boy and other de facto slaves around the world or to stop environmental devastation.  When I talk of such things, I see eyes glaze over - I'm killing the party, the festive mood.  But maybe that party needs to be killed.  We need a new way of doing life.

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