People talk about the arrival of plastics like about the beginning of a new era. The garbage era. Times in which tourist guides are ashamed of showing their villages to guests because they lead Flipflop-feet through piles of plastic bottles. Westerners driving by nod knowingly: it’s a developing country after all. At home… – at home we either burn or bury plastics, providing soil for some fine toxic tomatoes. In India, it is in our face – developing in which direction?
As it has become my habit, I question Marina about this. She has lived in India on and off since she went backbacking from Rome to Delhi after high school. (I just love this. “Bye mom, I’m off hitchhiking through Afghanistan.”) I’d guess she is around 50 today, which makes her a never ending source of information.
“People are used to throwing things”, she says. “Everything used to be biodegradable. Banana leaves were used as wrappings and plates. You just threw them out the window after eating, where the cow would continue chewing on it. No problem, with all the vegetarian food. Cups were made from clay only, so they also went back to earth. Dried cow dung was used for making fire, which saved the Indian forests – until the English came and taught lumbering. Also, there used to be these UFO-shaped things in every kitchen, for organic waste.”
– What? I wonder.
“Biogas! Marina says. “They cooked with it!”
Isn’t this fantastic? The question mark over my head only grows and the absurdity makes me wriggle my head like a real Kerala girl. There we are in the western world, with a successfully run down eco-system and besieged by nuclear power plants, fighting for alternative energies and biodegradable plastics (!) when all of this was at our hands ages ago. Would looking backwards be a solution for a change?
Or is it human nature to first run over a flower with big fat tires, then comment the situation with “Oooops” and follow up with a helpless attempt of reconstructing the lily with a 3D virtual high tech- or plastic solution? It would be a jolly good idea to use Gowalla, locate our roses and avoid smashing them in the first place.
In India, they turn them into ornaments.