“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit” This quote in a book by environmentalist and author David Suzuki had a big impact on me growing up. I had this plastered on my wall while attempting to gauge its relevance for every decision I had to make and the consequences it had on my life as I took those decisions. It was then and it is now my wake-up call to be kinder to our environment. Every environmentalist will agree that all our sustainability challenges and management issues stem from the simple fact that we as humans are comfortably and cozily indifferent.
Indifferent to the fact that we constitute the environment we live in. It isn’t external or separate from us. So, any form of insult to our soil is transmitted back to us as irreparable ecological impact. We treat our environment as what lies outside of us and pretend to take the stance of the ‘unaffected’ bystander. Mindfulness isn’t hard. It is just difficult to remember to apply it to everything we engage in everyday. Therein lays its challenge. But, with some persistence and little patience change can come forth in small things that have the power to bring huge shifts in the dynamics of ecological change. The mantra is to practice recycling in every act from the moment we wake up till the moment we retire to call it a day.
When I decided to take up composting I knew what I was signing up for from the get go. A compost bin needs to be nurtured and fed adequately with supplements that gently nudge our soil bugs to turn kitchen scrap into rich manure. In many ways it’s a laboratory experiment. It requires the right mix of microbes, the ideal ratio of carbon to nitrogen elements, ambient temperature, regulated moisture and just the right amount of air in the bin to bring forth the transformation.
The agility with which waste can be turned back into earth within a measurable period of time is surreal. Earlier today I had the pleasure to visualize kitchen waste repackaged into a thriving eco-system in my balcony. I wake up this morning and sit down to greet my humble garden. I notice something move in my pot of tomatoes. A squirmy earthworm emerges bang on time to announce the arrival of spring and vouch for my compost bin as a healthy and a safe place for it to call home. The tomato plant that is now the home of my new friend was never planted by me intentionally. She is one of many saplings that emerged out of my compost bin, survived and made it through. My reward for kitchen recycling is the resilient shrub that rose from pits of waste, is now my source of succulent and healthy tomatoes for the summer.
Silently I wish days like this would come by more often. I stepped out to stock my pantry with fruits, and as always armed with my trusty recycled bag I venture out. The generous banana lady comments on the relief of not handing out a plastic bag. She instantly rewards me with an extra banana. The radiant flower lady spots my steel container and hands me an extra rose in my hand with the most infectious of smiles. The grumpy Pomegranate man spots my cloth bag and drops an extra pear into my bountiful bag. Neither of us is grumpy by the end of the transaction. The jolly date seller – weighs up a handful of fresh dates from his basket and sneaks a couple of extras just to fill my tray.
Richer today by a banana, a rose, a pear and some generously handed down dates I come home feeling so hopeful that tucked away somewhere in the noisy crowd are conscious beings who are willing to rise above everyday compulsions and make the biggest difference to me, to us all.
People are by nature so very generous, more generous when we all work towards a common goal, hoping against hope that a bigger change will find its place in our world, albeit slowly, but change nonetheless to leave behind a better planet after we are all gone from the face of the earth. The simple act of recycling, repurposing and reusing can go a long way to secure our environment and its upkeep for many generations. The awareness once it sinks in is hard to brush off as the rewards are endless.