A friend brought the insane amounts of rubbish left behind at the end of Glastonbury this year to my attention in an article here. It talks about the writer’s outrage at the lack of care that people take over their rubbish, and their belongings… its not just carboard plates being dropped or people peeing in hedges, there are thousands of tents being left behind… every year.
Its easy to sit at home and complain- after all, I didn’t go and leave any rubbish, and when I was there 20yrs ago I used the bins and took all my stuff back home- including my tent which had acquired a broken zip when a drunken neighbour tried to enter one night…
But the problem is bigger than recycling cans, or buying food with less packaging… there’s something fundamentally flawed in how we live our lives, and I’m coming to the conclusion that I’m as much to blame as those who buy a cheap tent for the weekend and don’t bother trying to take it home.
At the heart of it all- I want what I want. And I want to have it. And when I want something different, I want that too. The thing that I used to want? I don’t want it anymore… I don’t want it later or tomorrow… I don’t want it. The only reason I might still want it, is if I can sell it to someone who wants it, so that I can get more of the thing that I now want.
Whatever it might be. Here’s an example- I don’t think I’m very materialistic- I’ve had 5 mobile phones in the last 12 years, which i think puts me fairly low down on the spectrum of phone owners in the uk… but when I buy a new phone, do I consider what I’ll do with the old one? I can leave it with the shop- they may recycle it (which, if they do, is certainly a recent development). I can give it (or sell it- see above) to someone else- that worked for phone number 3 and extended its life by another 2yrs. But at the bottom line, I want a new phone to improve my life, and the old phone is redundant and unwanted. I don’t want to spend time, thought or money on it anymore.
Back to Glastonbury- I’m at a festival, surrounded by thousands of people eating takeaway food on disposable plates having driven here in cars in order to watch music that I’ve got a pre-recorded copy of… I’m trying to create an experience that matches up with my desires- I want it, and I want it now. If I see someone with tasty falafels, then I don’t want my homemade pasta salad anymore… Once one or two people start to say its ok to trash/dump things, then the idea of not having to dispose of or sort out my rubbish/tent/clothes when I get home becomes attractive- I want it, because it is part of the dream experience- all the fun with no mess!
But what is the solution? Its not hiring cleaners- that just makes me more prone to leave things lying around. Its not pointing the finger- that ends up with me looking like an eco-pharisee. Maybe its to do with rethinking the story- I’m still creating my experience, still living the dream baby… but there’s a different ending… I have the great time, and I know I trod lightly in the world whilst I was here (being careful not to tread on others)… and maybe if a few of us start to live this new story (which might be a really old story, maybe?) then a few others might be intrigued or inspired too…
In Nepal when climbers go to Base Camp to climb Everest, there’s a requirement that you have to bring back a certain amount of stuff, based on your group size and the weight of luggage you’re carrying- basically so the mountain doesn’t get covered in rubbish. Its something that was introduced a number of years back, and as far as I know its working- there is less rubbish now than 15 years ago… but it works because the people involved understand the idea- they get the story thats being told and want to help create a different ending. They’ve been willing to take responsibility for solving a problem that they were creating.
Who’s fault is it?
Is that even a helpful question to ask?
Maybe one alternative is ‘can it be my responsibility?’ and if the answer is yes, then how can I rewrite the story.
You may be wondering how this all fits with exploring and living a life of faith… well hold that thought… till another time…