Sunday, January 2, 2011

Environmental Offenses

I have always considered myself an environmental advocate.  Environmental science degree, recycling my bottles, using reusable bags, buying a car with good gas mileage, the works.  My road rage is not summoned by people cutting me off or stealing my parking spot, but throw some wrapper out the window and I will probably cuss you out.  Then I come to Senegal to plant tree simultaneously improving the livelihood of farmers and to combating desertification.  Yet, I am ashamed to admit, how quickly I slipped into what I used to define as the role of the Once-ler!
List of offensive environmental activities:
  • Throwing trash on the ground.  I never know what to do with my trash.  There is no good infrastructure to deal with trash in my village.  The system is to throw your trash on the ground and then later sweeps it into a pile to burn.  I feel guilty throwing trash on the ground, but now I do it regularly, even going so far as to roll down my window to throw the trash out of a moving car.  If I don’t throw it on the ground I bring it to Tamba where it is carted to the outskirts of the city and then burnt.  Either way, it gets burnt, so I usually end up just tossing it.
  • Discussing the construction of a dam.  There used to be a dam and reservoir in Madjaly, but the force of the water eventually broke the dam and now the water flows quickly to the ocean.  When the dam was intact the water table was higher, trees grew stronger, fruit was sweeter, and life was easier.  My villagers want to fix the dam.  I know there are a lot of environmental problems associated with dams, but I also want life to be easier for my village.  I’m researching groundwater recharge methods so that I might be able to raise the water table without destroying habitats.  If you have any ideas, let me know.
  • Actively burning bags.  My counterpart has a lot of left over black plastic tree sack bags.  He wants his garden to be clean, and since, as I discussed before, there is no real way to deal with trash, he burns them.  The other day he wanted help dealing with the bags so I happily collected and burnt them.  The smoke was green and the best I could so was to tell him not to breath too much of it in because it was bad for your health… before collecting more bags to be burnt.
Life here in Senegal has definitely shown me the prevalence of grey lines within this world.

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