February 9, 2015
No Tire Basura: There is No ‘Away.’
It is a tribute to Julia Butterfly Hill to remind ourselves that the trash simply does not go away.
As I am driving the libre roads of Mexico on my journey so far I see plastic garbage littered nearly everywhere. Most people simply ignore it while they drop another small water bottle, another plastic bag, another empty aluminum coke can.
The Spanish word is ‘basura.’ It sounds like a cute Disney bear character in a blue jacket coat and green pants doesn’t it? Well, friends, it is the same old same old trash, and it is almost exclusively plastic trash, mixed with aluminum cans. It is drifted in piles next to buildings everywhere from the very small roadside towns to the center of the cities, in the streets and alleys of the midsized places and along the highways everywhere.
I stopped at an elaborate shrine constructed into a large boulder at the perimeter of the wide open area along the highway. It had been lovingly made, painted and decorated with images of our Lady of Guadelupe and Day of the Dead effigies and, it was thickly banked with basura, all colors and varieties of plastic garbage, next to the sacred shrine, across the wild garden behind, around and in the right of way off the road.
In the US people are doing a little better. State highway departments do the roads and rest stops. Towns and cities collect the stuff and whole corporate organizations are dedicated to recycling. It is a little better and it is still bad. We should not be patting ourselves on the back about our treatment of basura.
None of it ever goes away. Where might it be going, anyway? It does not rot as compost to turn to dirt; at least not for some exorbitant thousands of years! In each of the 5 major ocean bodies on the planet are festering boils of plastic circulating across many cubic miles within the water. They are a danger to the local life in the ocean and a hazard to all swimming and flying creatures. Even the humans who think they are immune are contaminated not only by the actual physical stuff wherever it is but also by the mindset that allows it to be in the first place and the simple disdain of all the trash lying around. These heartbreaking evidences of toxic pollution are only symptoms of a much more prevalent disease. It is no longer possible to mask the symptoms; we must seek to cure the disease itself: the primal cause.
That will not be a simple or easy task because it begins first in the mind of science that daily seeks to create materials and products that aid our notions of convenience and utility. People do their jobs and are paid and do not feel in any way responsible for the widespread results of what they invent. Individually there is no fault, the ideas that impel science are ill considered of consequence.
It is not until much later that I see the stuff strewn on the highways. It is not until much later that you in the US pay a monthly fee to a garbage company to haul the stuff out of your sight. It is not until much later that the ocean cauldron cooks with the swirls of toxic stuff.
Unless we allow ourselves a peek at the vast problem that has been created, we will not be able to change it. I believe that the same science that created it can also create a chemistry that will once again alter it back to a biodegradable form. I also believe that it will take a worldwide commitment and an individual human effort to heal the point of view that has permitted it in the first place. Then, it will be possible for us all to clean it up piece by piece and with the technology gifted to us of chemistry to turn it all into something benign.
I believe it is possible but I do not yet see on the horizon that there is a collective social will to even begin. It seems that, as it is here in Mexico and in Central American, not one actually sees it on the ground.
No tire basura. There is no ‘away.