A. While in India a few weeks ago, I was appalled at the lack of awareness people had of their personal environmental impact. When I asked my friends if they recycled, they laughed. I got the sense that people did not see waste disposal and energy consumption as a problem. For such a developed country that is technologically advanced, and has a huge industry that supplies many parts of the world with various goods, it is surprising that people are not aware of how their actions and consumption habits affect the environment. Living in New York, and constantly being bombarded with issues about how we are destroying the planet and how each individual needs to be conscious of their impact on the environment, I have become deeply involved in and personally affected by these issues. I am consumed by these thoughts daily. Knowing that a country with the second largest population in the world is not thinking about how they have an impact on the planet frightens me! I would like to concentrate on this issue for my thesis.
B. I am shocked that this is even a problem… That individuals in a country that is highly developed and has such a large population, are not aware of their personal environmental impact. I feel that there are a number of possible reasons for this; there is inadequate policy and legislative instruments, there is no funding, the waste disposal system is still under-developed (possibly due to the first problem mentioned), individuals are not educated and are ignorant about how they affect the environment, there seems to be a general feeling that one is exempt from having to deal with environmental issues as people feel that they are not affected in their day-to-day life, and some feel that it is not their problem but someone else’s- this could be an issue due to the caste system. Now because of the possible reasons for the lack of awareness of personal impact on the environment, so many other problems rise. For example, burning garbage, which is highly dangerous due to the presence of toxic chemicals, is preferred over recycling or a more holistic disposal system as it is cheaper and easier. The poor suffer the most, as they are the ones dealing directly with the waste. They often live in unhygienic conditions right alongside garbage dumps. http://www.ecologycenter.org/iptf/Ragpickers/indexragpicker.html And this is only part of the problem...
C./D. Although this is more of a conceptual, artistic solution, I thought it was an interesting commentary on consumption and waste. In a city called Chandigarh, in the north of India, there is a rock garden designed by the artist Nek Chand. He has created a whole landscape of people and animals made from concrete that are covered in pottery. The artist collected these materials from demolition sites. This garden addresses the need for the conservation of the environment, but does so in a seemingly subtle and artistic way. But when one realizes what they are looking at, they are taken aback. The garden acts as a tool to make people aware of the amount of waste we create, and the potential there is in that waste for it to possibly have a second life. And because it is accessible to everyone in the various classes of society, and can speak to everyone regardless of their cultural background and language, everyone is able to experience it and understand the issue it is addressing. http://www.nekchand.com/
E. There is no small niche or community that is affected by this issue- the whole population of India is affected, as well as the environment, which then affects the rest of the world. I am hoping that my thesis idea will help make people in India aware of their ecological footprint; that in fact, each individual’s actions and consumption habits do affect the environment.
F. I researched possible organizations that I could get in touch with to research this topic further:
-UNDP: The United Nations Development Program
-UNEP- The United Nations Environmental Program
-India International Recycle and Waste Management Exhibition
-International Plastics Task Force
-Bureau of International Recycling
I also thought of individuals who could give me a better perspective of
this issue: -Individuals of different social classes in India -Garbage collectors/rag pickers -C. Srinivasan, the president of the Exhora Solid Waste Management
Program in Tamil Nadu, India
G. I feel that the next step for me would be to interview various individuals of different social classes and backgrounds in India in order to get an understanding of their feelings about the environment, and what they are currently doing to reduce their ecological footprint.