Monday, May 21, 2018

Aussies co-authoring garbage

My old friend Professor Robin Jeffrey and his friend, anthropologist Dr. Assa Doron, have written a new book called Waste of a Nation published by Harvard University Press.

The book is about garbage and India, or India and garbage, whichever you prefer, but does not send the same message as do articles or books about pollution that have been published elsewhere in the world.

In this new book, their take on the subject of garbage is as different from mine as is India from British Columbia where Robin and I grew up, and is also as different from anywhere in Canada as is Australia where he and Doron both live.
Robin Jeffrey, left; Assa Doron, right: Book Talk (photo from Wikipedia)
In reading about this book, I have found that North Americans and others in this world deal with garbage in a far different way than do the people of India.

Map via Wikipedia
I was surprised, as I think you will be, that the big problem isn't pollution of the waters surrounding India to the west, south, and east, but rather the way in which waste has been handled for centuries compared with the impact of new technology on the people who once took care of their country's garbage.

Large-scale waste management as we now know it...with Sweden being today's model and other countries thus inspired...might become a serious problem in India rather than a solution.

The management of waste in India was handled by its specialists for centuries with no interference from scientists and their ilk. Of course, waste itself is a problem everywhere, as we all know, but solving today's pollution problem with technology might not be the end game for India.

I haven't read Waste of a Nation because it hasn't yet arrived by mail from Australia, but I have been apprised of its content by one of its authors — not only apprised but also surprised, because I have always been used to the view that so much of the world has on the subject.

We sit in our houses or apartments or condos, and we travel in our cars or trucks or camper vans or motorhomes, spewing waste gases into the atmosphere and dropping bottles, cans, papers, wrappers, and other detritus into bins or, heaven forbid, onto the roadside, some of which will be picked up by vast garbage trucks every day or week, depending on the location, and the rest of which will be left to moulder by the wayside or be eaten by animals who cannot digest it properly. Yet so many people in 'civilized' countries see ourselves as superior beings, or at least see our systems, as superior.

We've probably all been raised to believe that in waste as in everything, our way is the right way, and have only recently started to realize we could be wrong. (For recently, think 21st Century.)

It never occurs to North Americans, for instance, that a much, much older civilization might have been dealing with waste in its own way for centuries.

I look forward to reading this book by Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey in order to learn more about those ancient practices, and how they compare with waste management in 'our world'!




Powell River Books said...

Living in a float cabin we are very away of our waste and have to manage it. Black waste is processed in a compost toilet and the results can be used on ornamental plants. We do not do the extra year of processing needed to make it safe for the vegetable garden. Gray waste is processed in several steps including a device approved for use in Australia and a homemade charcoal and sand filter. The results can be used for plants. Paper and cardboard products become kindling for our woodstove. What I save up during the summer gets us through the winter. I collect recyclables and take them to the collection station in town. What's left does go in the garbage. The sad story about that is that it is transported to the State of Washington to go into a dump there. While it's not the best system, it is at least a step in the right direction. - Margy

Lady Fi said...

The book sounds refreshing and fascinating!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
When you sent the links to me last month Kay, I read with interest; having seen India's garbage 'management' at work, it is astounding. The fact that it provides an income for those on the edges of society (as that linked article points out) is a factor so readily overlooked by many. Not just India, but Africa and Oriental countries also 'recycle' manually, but nowhere is it as sophisticated and thorough as in India. The tradition of road-sweeping is also to be admired. Truly one can walk cleaner streets in India than in Scotland, let me tell you!!! Great post today my friend. YAM xx

Joyful said...

Well, now I'd like to know what they do in India...probably an awful lot of recycling and repurposing.

Stewart M said...

Strange that book is coming from Australia - at present we have a bit of a problem working out what to do with waste - but also all the material that is put in 'recycle' bins. China used to take a significant part of the recyclable waste - but not any more. So, now we need to find a way to deal with it.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

eileeninmd said...

Hello, all the countries need to follow a good waste management plan. Sounds like Sweden knows what they are doing. Enjoy your day and new week ahead.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We have the same problem (in Oregon) that Stewart mentioned. And it seems as if since China won't take it, the State (which used to be a leader in recycling) has just given up. Heartbreaking.

carol l mckenna said...

Much needed post ~ bringing us all to awareness ~ USA and others need to wake up soon.
Great article in National Geographics on Plastics and what it is doing to the world.

Happy Day to you ~
C & z

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

I'm veru aware of the proliferation of garbage and try to do my post. Great post!

colleen Looseleafnotes said...

So many issues and it doesn't help that the Trump administration is dismantling our EPA, meant to protect the public and our resources.

Marcia said...

A world problem. Especially the plastics which I read form floating islands in every ocean. I think businesses need to rethink packaging. Some of them take it to excess. 1st world countries can learn from 3rd world on what to do with trash.

Al said...

Somewhere along the line we have to get to a 100% recycling solution if we want to survive as a large-scale society.

magiceye said...

Glad that someone has nailed it!
Posts of Kumbharwada, Dharavi you see on my blog was once known to be the biggest slum in Asia but now it has become a major waste (plastic,metal and paper) recycling centre in Mumbai apart from churning out fancy leather goods for export.

Andrea said...

That is a good post, now i am curious of what they do in India. I am sure our country can learn a lot from it as we are still very far from the system they do in advance countries like Australia. It is still our big problem.

Fun60 said...

The banning of single use plastics will be one small step in trying to improve waste management. This is being introduced here. So there will be no more plastic drinking straws or those little cotton buds in the shops soon. Banning giving out plastic bags in shops has already made a difference. Small steps but they are going in the right direction.

Gattina said...

The garbage has become a worldwide problem ! How could we clean our good old world ? Instead of looking to live on other planets or the moon, why can't we put the world's garbage up there ??

a jar full of marigolds said...

One man's garbage is another man's gold. Sounds like a very interesting book.

Phil Slade said...

Interesting thoughts Kay. I know that when I have visited Africa and India, very little is wasted. Their way is to recycle as much as they can, whether it be plastic, metal or wood. Their basic materials are so expensive to them that recycling is often the only way they can make something inexpensive. Here in the West of course we just buy a new item and throw the old one away and there is very little cheap recycling.

Birgitta said...

Interesting post! Take care!

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting subject, Kay! Have now come closer in contact with the problem ourselves, since we live "in the middle of nowhere" where many take care of their own garbage (meaning they recycle and and bring the non-recycable to the dump themselves).
I have started thinking that a big part of the problem in modern culture is the packaging - why do we need wrapping for literally everything?
Also thanks for you kind comment of last week at my blog!

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

Sounds like a very interesting read! Not related to trash, but I saw a piece on painting streets white in big cosmopolitan cities that are hot in order to bring down the heat and reduce the need for hair conditioning. I love that the world hasn't given up on age old problems like this and continues to look for better solutions.