What happens in a vicious circle between the waste bin and your next bottle, can, bag, headphones, or any other item for that matter? Every item that once so desired and given to satisfy the consumerism monster to grow stronger day after day; the same items that are thrown away just moments later. The lifestyle of the average citizen opens up the environmental dimension so big that is enough to welcome everyone who is ready to talk, speculate, argue, raise awareness, fight against, stir the emotions around it, or even getting involved. But mostly talk. Unfortunately, environmental activists at almost all levels at best look like a bunch of idealists struggling to offer long-term perspective for the shortsighted majority.( Which is terrifying, if not for anything else, but because in a fast-changing world, the ‘long-term’, may come true earlier than anyone could imagine.) In case of waste treatment, it is a struggle with landfills growing to become dump cities literally, against the pollution, Eastern garbage patch after all, but most of all against the mentality. With the environmental issues the thing is, even though there is a great intervention made by people, who put their lifeblood to make an impact and connect the dots into big picture, without a feedback, the overall support, this intervention, unfortunately, in harsh words means close to nothing. Digging a cross-continent tunnel with a spoon.
Green efforts may be supported as a ‘moral act’ in the West or as economic necessity in the developing world, but how many reports, art works, discussions and disasters do we need to get scared enough to break the habit? For instance, to concern about where does 11.2 billion tons of solid waste collected worldwide yearly go, even if we are being persuaded, that there is a comforting waste management tendencies growing in some parts of the world. The amount of garbage produced in modern society, regardless of how it is discarded afterwards, is a shocking figure to imagine. Gregg Segal, among other artists, this summer contributed to visualizing the human destructive impact. With his series of photographs “Seven Days of Garbage”, he pointed finger at everyone. At everyone, who ‘has made their beds, and in it will lie’. That piles of trash which is taken away daily to prevent us from realizing the scale of negligence would most likely to turn the bed into a pool of filth.
So, what now? Three years ago, according to State of the World report, approximately 1.7 billion people worldwide belonged to the “consumer class”. A smaller part of the global population, whose lifestyle is characterized and determined by accumulation of non-essential goods. However, the ‘values’ that are created by the group are popularized so obtrusively, that the goal for those, who are backing the comfort of the consumer class, is to join in. Yes, part of the rise in global consumption is the result of population growth, but even the most vivid imagination would most likely fail to picture or assess how the population of 8.9 billion people estimated by 2050 would trash the planet. That is billions of lives, each producing kilos of wastes daily. The careless population with growing appetites is simply incomparable to amount of environment workers or those who are thoughtful in ecoterms. So what now?
One striking question has been repeated loudly: What planet are we leaving for generations to come? To be more realistic, it’s probably more appropriate to start asking what generation are we leaving this planet with. If the ‘throw away mentality’ keeps being promoted and trashing a recyclable waste into appropriate bin is considered the most ecological act one can do to sleep tight; then those are the greedy consumer monsters whose lives are determined with shallow values, careless and non-responsive. Perhaps, now is the time to make a “zero garbage challenge” go viral, instead of doubtfully entertaining useless ‘challenges’, like those that fascinated millions this year. Well, probably now is the best time to pitch in, start changing the way of thinking and hopefully living, so that environmentalists do not stand in the battlefield alone.
Photos Gregg Segal