Nature vs Garbage

For those who are short on time and inclination, here is the conclusion in advance: kindly carry your own trash bags wherever in the remote wilderness you go and carry back your non-biodegradable trash with you, even small chocolate wrappers, and dispose it in a city.

Mudhumalai - notice the white spotsThis photograph shows one of the most beautiful and secluded places I've been to - Mudhumalai, and you can see the garbage thrown around there too (see near the bench). What a pity!






I am presenting a true incident here only as a 'technology demonstrator' that change is possible...!!

Some time back I went to a place Thattekere, very nice spot with a small lake and some hills... We finished a short trek by afternoon and were relaxing at the lake shore. The natural green lawn was spotlessly picturesque.

Birds eye view of Thattekere

Then a large group of people comprising mostly of middle aged men came there, and had lunch next to the lake a little away from us. I walked near them after some time and could see that the place now looked like a garbage dump. I wondered what I could do, if I were to simply go and ask them to clean it, they would probably feel insulted and point it out that it was none of my business, it was a free country and they could do as they liked etc etc. They looked like a tough group and I could easily get into trouble if I said anything which even remotely looked like offensive to them.

Having spent the whole morning in the midst of nature, my mind had become very peaceful, and in such a state, one is very unlikely to get into trouble! :-) I picked up a large cover, walked up to the group, took a fleeting wild guess at who appeared to be the most rational of them, and walked up to him and asked casually "do you need this cover or do you already have one?" He was surprised that a total stranger was talking to him like an old friend, and asked "why?". I replied "so that you can put all this trash into it" as if he was going to do it anyway. He was a bit off balance but only for a moment, and replied "no thanks, we already have some". I replied, oh ok fine, and walked away.

I returned to my group, chatted for a while with the others and did some general time pass... and later the other group came in sight... they were leaving the place. I walked back to their spot and was amazed... it was restored to its former perfection!

I looked around and saw two large plastic covers next to a tree... full of used plates, plastic cups, etc.

In Germany, I have seen even the richest people partition their garbage and personally carry and drop it into the respective recycling bins in the street. Here somehow many people seem to have the impression that disposing of garbage personally is below their dignity and should be done only by 'low class' people.

To continue... I picked their two bags and started walking back, and happened to overtake the group which wasnt very hard since they were chatting and walking very slowly. The same gentleman whom I had spoken to earlier asked what I was planning to do with those bags. A lot of funny responses came to my mind but I restrained myself; I expressed my admiration on how neatly they had cleaned up the place without leaving any trace behind, and explained that since nobody would come and pick up the covers, soon monkeys or some other animals would come and distribute them all over the place again when they smelt some left over food inside. And these animals would possibly choke on the plastic stuff and go through a lot of misery. I added that I myself hadnt known all these things, until I happened to read them in the paper. Hence the best thing to be done with the garbage would be to take it back and throw it in the city where it would be picked up.

He replied "no problem, please dont take the trouble, let me do it myself" and took the covers from me. He wondered if I some officer or custodian or something and I said no, Im an engineer at HP. We started chatting and he said he he and his group were from BHEL and just stopped by since they were passing through the place. Eventually we parted as friends.

I am not really a nature activist or something. Im only a software engineer who also cares about the environment and does a little bit for it now and then. I considered it one more victory for nature, just for one more day.

Maybe tourists cant really be blamed because they have no idea what to do with their trash, because dustbins cant possibly be present everywhere. One solution could be that they be given bags to put their trash in at the entry point to any place (which somebody told me is actually done in many places in the US). I suggest this to government agencies wherever I go, but these things take time. For the time being, lets all carry our own trash bags.

EEEeeeeyuck... plastic !!!
I suppose by now everyone knows about the plastic problem... for the few uninitiated or who think its someone else's problem (else please skip to the next para) I'll give a very brief description... conduct this hypothetical experiment in your mind... dig a small pit and fill it with plastic junk. Cover it with some soil and try growing any plants in the spot. It's pretty improbable that you will succeed. Step into your time machine and travel a bit to the future, for e.g. 2100 AD... chances are you still wouldn't be able to grow any vegetation in it. Now magnify this pit a few thousand times, and you get one garbage dump: a few acres of uncultivatable land. And thats just one garbage dump.

I had thought/come across some solutions to the plastic problem. Whenever anybody says anything, a common reaction would be "have you done it yourself", so I have cultivated and have been following these habits for over a year, and I write about it only now.

- don't throw the plastic bag away but take it back to the shop next time and reuse it. (for eg I always carry some bag in my scooter's box). Hence refuse to accept any new plastic bags as far as possible!

- when packing food from a restaurant to take home, take vessels from home instead of using their plastic covers

- when doing some simple shopping, carry only the item without accepting the cover if feasible

(The above three were a bit inconvenient in the beginning, but gradually they became a habit.)

- when any of your friends/relatives are arranging a large social gathering, try to encourage them to use plastic alternatives instead of plastic for cups, tamboola covers, covering sheets, etc.

Any more ideas!?

The root cause for all this thinking is that its pretty appalling to see the amount of disharmony in which man lives with nature. To quote Douglas Adams:

"On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more
intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the
wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever
done was muck about in the water having a good time. But
conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far
more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons."

"Every new truth is first ridiculed, then opposed, and finally accepted as self-evident"