N Touch
Monday 14 October 2019
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Commentary

Ramping up the pressure

I watch the pile of expired batteries of all sizes and shapes slowly growing on the ledge of my kitchen window and I worry about them just sitting there, but I do not have any idea of how or where to dispose of them safely. Nobody I asked can advise me. Some want to know why I just don’t put them in the bin, because everyone else does.

I do not believe that last piece of knowledge. I am not convinced that there do not exist in TT some sensible people who know how damaging it is to the environment and to our water and agricultural production to just cast everything into non-biodegradable plastic bags for the garbage trucks to collect and then dump into some landfill somewhere. And that does not even take into account the welfare of the human scavengers who live off of the stinking, simmering dumps.

But what do those civic-minded individuals do with their material waste, especially the very harmful variety?

It is not a rhetorical question. I really would like to know. There was an overused waste collection point for recyclable materials in my area, but the challenges of keeping it going privately have severely reduced the service while the relevant government department sorts out the bureaucracy and the legitimacy of the private endeavour. I would have thought that state support for a private initiative that was getting the job done, albeit within limitations, would be desirable and welcomed.

We in TT who live off the energy riches we have been gifted without a care in the world are like children who completely take for granted that food will be on the table, clothes in the cupboard and money will be doled out as we need it.

The best parents always let their children know that none of it is an entitlement, rather, that it is all the product of someone’s hard work that has been exchanged for cash, either in this generation or the past and of which they are merely beneficiaries. We do our children a disservice not to teach them independence and not to develop their sense of responsibility to others.

Similarly, when the State does not encourage us to help ourselves, it steals our power and stacks up problems for itself.

I recently read in an article somewhere that globally the gap in the states’ ability to provide infrastructure is US$400 billion, and eventually it will not be bridgeable. People and state must work together, therefore. I would say the environment is the area that most requires the government to empower the people.

One of the surprising aspects of growing up is learning that everything is fragile. Not even the gigantic, seemingly bottomless oceans can continue to support the full range of maritime life if we interfere. Evidence of the environment being stressed by human activity is mounting – the Arctic and the Alps suffered heatwaves this summer and July was the hottest month on record internationally; fires all over Europe are matched by unprecedented flooding elsewhere. Those phenomena may not be our experience, but we are part of a global eco-system and certainly we will be affected in some way, even if it is having inadequate rainfall and nearly empty reservoirs.

How do we get our governments to take environmental degradation seriously, especially when tiny islands such as ours are most likely to suffer its consequences?

Per capita, TT is one of the highest polluters in the world, and maybe schoolchildren know this and remedial teaching is taking place, but I would be surprised. And in any event are we just hoping for them to grow up and start solving the problems that are deepening each day?

A hard-hitting public-education programme should be a priority for us, all of us, and we should be encouraged each to take, say, four or five steps to contribute to solving the mammoth task of changing our ways.

It is the only strategy that can work, given that our governments themselves are so overwhelmed by the task that they have become inert.

Simple examples: Stop eating so much meat, because research shows that rearing animals is a major factor in global warming; cut out the ridiculously cold office temperatures that require staff to dress as if journeying in Siberia; encourage Massy Motors to import affordable electric cars to reduce poisonous diesel and petrol emissions; recycle paper, bottles and anything that has an extra use; dispose of dangerous waste responsibly.

These are the sorts of simple measures that many people in other countries have made their norm. Each person doing a little helps, but we do need business and the State to be our partners. They will only do it if we push them to act, by using our powerful buying and voting powers.

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