mindy talked about climate change in africa and environmentalism. for some reason, i’d been thinking about this a lot today also:
in africa, we produced so little trash, and still produced much more than the residents of the village. almost everything we used was either reusable or biodegradable. the only trash we produced was pretty much from tissues and face wipes and empty tuna packets. we probably filled up about a gallon sized ziploc once a week. and still, it felt like a ton. they burn the garbage–we’ve watched plastic bags get burned–and so we became very conscious of the garbage we created. plus, it was so much more than they created. they don’t have so many things, and they keep what they have. water bottles get reused again and again, for holding salt or oil or just to have. i’ve been home now for two days and i’ve become so aware of trash. in those two days, i’ve produced a lot less trash than i otherwise might, but still, it’s a lot. every time i throw out a napkin, every time i use a bag, i’m very aware of it. this is sort of a double-sided awareness. on the one hand, i’ve begun to realize how big this issue is. a few napkins a day is absolutely nothing compared to what gets wasted all around. and even a few napkins is so much more garbage than we should be producing. but on the other hand, consciousness is crucial to change. when i was little, i knew lashon hara was bad, but i wouldn’t feel bad speaking it, so i wouldn’t be aware of it. and i recognized this problem–i recognized that the lack of awareness/lack of guilt would hold me back from bettering myself. and at some point, i started feeling bad. if i spoke badly about someone, i felt guilty. and little by little, we work on ourselves. but i know that for myself, i only really work on something once i’m aware of it. and i can only feel bad once i’m aware or be aware once i feel bad (i haven’t quite worked out that directionality yet). so i hope that in recognizing this garbage problem, i work on it. i already have a bit, and i hope to a lot more. which leads me to my second thought process:
the environment. mindy and i both have had the unique opportunity of riding long bus rides squished between two people–one on either side of us. one such ride was our last bus ride, which was to jinja, where my head was practically in the newspaper of the guy next to me. as this was the case, i kind of glanced over at what he was reading. there was an article by a columnist who was writing about how since women wear pants and even mini-skirts these days (this is pretty radical for parts of africa–in the cities, women wear pants, but it’s unacceptable in most villages), why can’t men wear skirts. and so the author goes around a city (kampala maybe?) wearing a skirt. anyway, he reports some of the feedback he got, which mostly was along the lines of people thinking he was nuts. but one response particularly interested me because of its implications. two religious men saw him and blamed him for causing the problems in the world like climate change. now the reason this struck me as particularly interesting is that climate change is completely a given to these people. in america, it’s not a given to many, and it often happens to be that religious people fall into the same categories as the people who deny climate change. we saw it with “the youth,” i.e. our friends/students who are finishing secondary school and are about our age–they would talk about climate change also.
there has been a drought in much of uganda for awhile. the north has been terribly afflicted. famine reigns, and fundraising campaigns have been set up to counter the damage done. but it got worse and worse and hit our area as well. they cut down the maize plants in putti because they were too dry to produce viable fruit.
climate change is a given in uganda because they don’t have the luxury to deny its existence. climate change is a given because when we in america produce garbage and carbon emissions and burn all sorts of things and waste all sorts of things, the villages in africa don’t have rain. in america, we afford ourselves the luxury not to be environmentally sound because we don’t see the effects of our actions–not till so much later that we don’t see in an obvious way what their cause was. but in the villages in africa, in the arctic, in so very many poor regions, they do see the effects, and it hurts them so much more than it would hurt us because they don’t have the resources to outsource.
sometimes we see things happening and we just want to shake everyone around us. this has been one of those things for us. if you didn’t recycle before, if you always took plastic bags at the grocery store, if you didn’t pay attention to the garbage you produced, please please, for the sake of our children and our children’s children, but also for the sake of the world right now–maybe not here, but in a community not so different from our own–please make some changes.