Monday, May 18, 2009


How did we become so disconnected with our world, I wonder. When did it begin? For the past week, I have been coming across several examples of the way we expect the earth to continue providing. Actually, that statement is not absolutely true. We don't really think of how are needs are being met.

Sadly, this attitude does not even change when there is a crisis. 'somebody' is supposed to 'do something'. My sister was telling me of the garbage crisis in Pune. Pune's garbage landfill is now full, and the villagers are protesting against a health hazard in the vicinity of their homes. And who can blame them? Matters have reached crisis-stage now with some of the dumps of uncleared garbage self-combusting. This constitutes a major fire hazard, as most of the public trash collection points are near the slum areas. Summer showers are due too, and that might lead to an epidemic.

The solution is not to look for another dumping ground, but to lessen the amount of garbage in the first place. But how many people are willing to consider that? despite the considerable awareness about the harmful effects of plastic bags, people ask for them, fight for an extra bag with the vegetable vendors. Pune has in place a household segregation drive. It did not even work in the area where I live- an area where the affluent, educated, presumably-aware people live. Segregation is still done by the rag-pickers, mostly women and children, who climb into trash buckets with no protective gear whatsoever and pick through our waste for a few rupees. The rationale for not segregating one's waste at home seems to be, 'they will do it.'
This does not make sense. The knowledge that a human being will soon be touching your garbage should be incentive to segregate, to infuse some dignity into the process, rather than the other way around. As it is, people like my family who do segregate the garbage are considered to be wacky and naive at best.

I see this in unexpected areas too. from my wacky and naive point of view, a professional gardener should be intensively in tune with the earth. I expect that he or she has a keen awareness of what the earth needs, and a desire to nurture all that forms part of the garden. however, that seems not to be the case. My landlady has employed a gardener whose main concern is to keep it looking 'tidy'. This, for him, takes the form of obsessively removing the plants as soon as their flowers are past the peak, leaving the soil between the plants bare, and pruning in straight lines. This goes against the grain of all that I believe. You see, the garden is not a flower vase to display the best roses and dispose of them once they wilt. A patch of land is an organism, and everything has a function. Plants produce flowers by borrowing nutrients from the soil. Once they die, they give back those nutrients- with interest. Even as they decompose, the leaves and stalks shade the soil, prevent water loss, and provide shelter to small animals. If plants are pulled up after the flowering season, the soil is cheated of its nutrients, the animals are killed, and the garden becomes sterile. As every organic farmer knows, the essence of gardening is making sure to give back more than one takes..

This is a very hippie post, isn't it? but no, I have not been smoking pot. I did have a cannabis plant in my backyard, but last week the gardener pulled it up.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

the sterile vase-like 'gardens' in shopping malls, the plastic bags that hold the unnecessary stuff that's sold in the malls, and a heap of plastic garbage just outside the gate.


we are so grateful that you wrote about our garbage problem, Uttarakhandi.