Ecology or practicality? Musings on “developing” vs. “developed” countries

Interesting that what we take for granted in the West (cleanliness, timeliness, accessibility etc.) are naught but whispers of a dream in the developing world and what we take to be an ecological or ethical approach becomes a question of practicality in a place without…garbage or recycling services.

It’s also interesting to see how the times have changed so quickly and so drastically within the last 2 or 3 generations.  When I talk to my grandma about eco-housing, compost toilets, firewood for heat and organic gardens she reminds me that most of these “fancy, ecological ideas” were everyday occurences and the norm in Poland when she was growing up.  Everyone with even the smallest plot of land would take the opportunity to grow some food on it, in many towns sewage systems weren’t necessarily in place so out you would go to your outdoor toilet to do your business and petrol and gas was expensive – so yea, you’d take your buddies and go chop some firewood in the forest!

Here in Peru, the garbage and recycling situation remains a great mystery to me.  One that I hope to resolve very soon, although from what I remember of improvised communal mini-landfills just outside of the small towns where I used to go for a walk and stumble upon hordes of pigs come to feast on the debris…is not a very promising beginning.  Here, organic waste obviously goes to compost, and we do separate plastics from papers although I haven’t yet received a definitive answer as to whether or not there actually is recycling here.  The paper we can burn…but the plastic? the metal cans? glass?  Practicality comes before ecology here – there is simply nowhere for this stuff to go!

Same goes for food – it’s simply cheaper and more convenient to grow some of your own; as for taking the bus, walking or biking – again, cars and petrol are expensive and unaffordable to many.

I guess it’s just a little reflection on us spoiled gringos – let’s thank our lucky stars that we have the privilege and the opportunity to think in terms of Ecology. It’s truly a luxury.

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