A muddy teddy bear buried in a ditch. Cardboard cartons, napkins, paper cups and plastic straws. Half a Styrofoam plate with remnants of pork and rice under the assault of an insect army.
The Ferris wheel and the crowd may have left the grounds around Vidinha Stadium but weeks later the leftovers of the farm fair still litter Ho‘olako Street. The discarded items are getting ground into the sides of the road and blown into nearby water supplies, returning to the Earth in a classic out-of-sight-out-of-mind fashion. But does anyone care?
Trashing our home is not uniquely Kauaian by any means. It’s oddly human nature. We’re a species of convenience. It’s easier to toss dinner wrappers out the truck window than find the nearest rubbish receptacle, which of course is far easier than taking a zero-waste initiative and bringing reusable dishes.
Thousands of miles away in any direction stretching around the globe, people are dealing with the same issue despite growing awareness of the dire consequences.
The 2010 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner “Waste Land” explores the topic on an intimate level in Rio de Janeiro. Renowned artist Vik Muniz showcases Jardim Gramacho in his native Brazil.
He enters the world’s biggest trash heap through the eyes of the catadores, people who persist each day by picking through the recyclable goods dumped there.
Muniz’s art project that develops out of his three years at Jardim Gramacho displays not only the disgustingly wasteful habits of humans, but people’s ability to change.
As the movie’s synopsis states, the directors (Lucy Walker, Joao Jardim and Karen Harley) take advantage of their access to “offer stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.”
The film got me thinking that maybe a massive art project based on our island’s soon to be overflowing landfill in Kekaha may hold the key to unlocking collective change in our habits here. Our finite space should be motivation enough but it’s evidently not.
We can entertain ourselves responsibly. That means reducing our consumption of biodegradable goods and not leaving our ‘opala for someone else to clean up. If Mother Earth absorbs it, so do we. And I, for one, am not eager to eat plastic or drink Styrofoam.
These changes are easy. They’re smart. And they leaves the next generation a legacy they can be proud of — a clean Kaua‘i. Let’s all do our part to protect and preserve this island we all depend on.