One of our members had an extraordinary conversation recently.
It occurred when he visited a village bar, at the invitation of the pleasant proprietor. The surroundings were heavily littered which detracted from the appeal of the bar. Fortunately, the proprietor said he would clean up with the help of the community. It was suggested by the member that the proprietor purchase a bin to be placed at the edge of his property.
When he returned the week as agreed to check on progress. The proprietor was at his house opposite, with several women and a toddler. The shop and its immediate surroundings were spotlessly litter-free. So far, so good.
But just a few steps away were the usually discarded bottles, plastic bags, food containers etc., some on a pile of heaped-up bush that would surely be burned.
“That’s the airport authority’s problem”, said one of the women. He disagreed: the airport authority had not put it there. “What does it matter: I’m comfortable with it”.
He asked whether she knew the damage that plastic did. She did not. He explained that burned plastics release dioxins, which are extremely carcinogenic, can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, and settle on leafy vegetables that we eat; and that plastic in the soil assists the uptake of toxic heavy metals into plants that we eat.
Her reply: “We’ve all got to die sometime”.
He could not resist asking whether she was happy to die (painfully) unnecessarily young; and whether she wanted to expose the very little child to such dangers. She would not let her child near a busy road unsupervised; however, plastics were another, more insidious form of danger that young children were exposed to. Don't we have a duty to protect others?
“A little child would have the sense not to cross a busy road”, she said. “It has more sense than you”, she told the member.
This reminded him of other conversations. One was with the importer of hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles every year. “How can the used bottles be disposed of?” He asked. “That’s the government’s problem”, came the reply.
March is the anniversary month of the Revolution. Isn’t it time we had a revolution in our way of thinking about responsibility to others? Or are we happy to sleepwalk ourselves and our children into the toxic sea, soil and air, and blame someone else? These are the sad facts.