The object was white- not a dense white, it had flecks of grey as well- it had been lofted. Not hurled. Not thrown. Not aimed. Not even propelled with malice. Simply lofted. That’s all I would call it, nothing more, nothing less. It reached its zenith at my chest level at the same moment my left foot touched the pavement a short distance in front of my right. The pavement was uneven. The grey concrete lifted at an angle toward the cream wall to the left. Toward the door frame that the object, the white object- with flecks of grey- had been lofted from.
My mind followed the object back in time- back to the point where my right foot had placed itself on an earlier piece of pavement, this piece leaning toward the road. The road where the white object with small flecks of grey would land on a medium sized pile of other nameless objects in the gutter. Next to the cars. Next to the rickshaws. Next to the scooters. Right there where it would wait for some unknown individual to sweep it up, place it in a cart laden with other objects, and from there it would take its next journey away from the place where it was lofted from- my mind closed around the image of a man with a small white object in his hand that was about to be lofted, and then it returned to the present.
The object reached my chestline and rushed passed. It began its descent. It could have been a milk based dessert. It could have been curd rice. I don’t know. And really, that is beside the point. I’m not angry with the bag of white food with its flecks of grey. I’m not annoyed or grumpy with the man who had lofted it- never seeming to notice me- toward the gutter. I’m not bemused by the shopkeeper who had sold the product in a bag instead of only selling the product to be eaten in a reusable bowl at the shop’s counter. I’m not even surprised- it has happened to me more times than I can count.
How is it that I can walk down the street knowing that if my left foot needed to step a slightly longer distance to avoid something on the pavement, I would have been connecting with the white object with grey flecks during the midpoint of its journey from hand to pavement, and still be happy walking down that street?
I could find countless answers to such a question but the reality is that that is the system that is here. There is no formal waste collection. There are no bins on street corners. There are no signs highlighting how to segregate one product from the next. So why, I ask you, should the man who had lofted the bag care about a bag that he knows is going to be swept up by an informally employed waste picker at a later date? Why should the shopkeeper change practices away from an economical method of selling goods?
The fact is that this event could have occurred anywhere. Well, not anywhere. There are numerous locations around the world where there are formal structures of waste collection. Where there are signs raising awareness. Yet, I cannot guarantee where all that waste goes to. Similarly, I cannot guarantee that a person placing a white object with grey flecks into a bin to be collected by a formally paid waste collector is going to care about where that bag goes more than the man who lofted the bag in front of my chest yesterday.
We should all care, we are not in little bubbles of our own that never interact with one another.
I researched and found a recently published article last week stating that marine plastic pollution costs the world up to 174 377 036 102 500 Rupees a year (2,506,556,072,524 USD) (source). Looking into this further I promptly sought out the world population- 7.7 billion as of May 2019 according to the most recent United Nations estimates elaborated by Worldometers (source)- Therefore 174 377 036 102 500/ 7 700 000 000= 22 646 Rupees (324 USD) per person per year, which is a conservative estimate, and marine pollution only! And this is if we only care about the costs from our personal bank accounts!
Perhaps this fact would have made the man who lofted the white bag with little flecks of grey care. Perhaps it would make an individual in another location of the world care as he/ she placed a white bag in a bin to be collected by a formally employed garbage collector. I think either is as likely. From what I have found- and yes this is all very subjective. I am happy to be wrong- is that either is as likely as one another. If I asked both people to read and absorb this fact into their consciousness, they are as likely to change their habits in the initial instance. They are as likely to walk back to the shop and ask to eat the white meal with flecks of grey in a bowl on the shop’s counter. How likely is it that either of them continue this practice a week from now or a year? I have no idea. I doubt that without reiteration of these types of facts any of us- myself included- will form habits that will adjust the system enough for a long term adjustment, no matter where we are standing on our planet.
Next time there is a white object lofted. Not hurled. Not thrown. Not aimed. Not even propelled with malice. Simply lofted reaching its zenith at my chest level. The best way I have found to help change the system (fix perhaps?) is not to be grumpy, angry or annoyed. Nor is it to try and connect my chest with the object so that the man is (finally) aware that he had lofted the bag away and had almost hit a passerby. It is simply by strategically thinking about that scenario and working out solutions to that problem. There are solutions to all of these problems and they need to be put into practice by all of us understanding the reasons why we need to find new methods. We also need to care about how all moments that we are walking through are intrinsically interconnected- there is never only a white object with little flecks of grey being lofted through the air independent of everything else that surrounds it.