Earth Day 2009

I’d like to distract you from the fact that I have yet to post the post that I wrote two weeks ago because I haven’t kicked Jeff off his computer long enough to grab some pictures… so… Earth Day 2009! Last year I celebrated Earth Day by blogging about reusable menstrual cups. I still highly endorse and support them! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions 🙂

As most of y’all know, Earth Day is celebrated around the world (or so they say… we celebrated it at our school, but I’m not sure that the rest of Mongolia was celebrating with us…) on April 22nd. This past week our school has been donning various colours to represent things like the sun’s energy (yellow day), land (green), water and oceans (blue), the earth (rainbow colours). I believe that it’s really just a good excuse to get the teachers out of wearing “fancy” clothes, but it does create awareness in our students, and I believe that is the first step towards change.

Living in Mongolia while trying to be an environmentalist is difficult. I do take public transit (the bus is often very crowded, but only 30 cents…), I turn off the lights when I leave the room, I walk to school (!!), I carry reusable bags when shopping… but it’s hard. There are no recycling programs, or composters around. Garbage is burned (in a wooden box… maybe not the smartest idea, but somehow it works…), coal is used to provide heat for the entire city of Ulaanbaatar, and there are SO many people here who drive SUVs – I can’t believe the number of Hummer’s I’ve seen on the road too! While I can somewhat justify the use of an SUV (there are almost no roads outside of UB, whenever I’ve gone to the countryside we’ve had to off road for most of the trip…) it’s hard to see this beautiful country slowly being destroyed because of human impact.

Mongolia is a gorgeous country, full of blue blue skies, and wide open spaces. Unfortunately it’s also a country full of poverty. In my experience (and I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone who is living in poverty…), it seems as though when people are poor, or struggling to get by, they don’t worry about things like the environment and whether or not burning garbage is a good idea. They worry about getting through the month, or the day. Putting clothes on their kids and food in their mouths.

Side note: Rwanda is also a country full of poverty and and coping with a difficult political situation (the 1994 genocide still has an impact on Rwandans today), and yet they were able to implement a law that forbids stores from using plastic bags. I believe that Ireland has also done away with plastic bags, but I find it very noble that Rwanda was able to recognize the problem of excessive amounts of plastic bags flying around their country, and that they worked to find a solution to this problem.

So how can I reconcil that? How do I live as someone who is concerned about the environment in a country that doesn’t really think like that? I can’t believe how much stuff we throw out each week. There’s not a lot of pre-packaged food that we buy, but somehow we still end up with a ton of garbage. I would like to believe that more than half of it is rabbit food, stuff that could be composted if we were able to pull that off. We had talked about composting at the beginning of the year, but it just never made it off the ground… and now it’s almost time for us to head home.

It’s going to be really hard to leave Mongolia, but I am looking forward to being able to be better environmentalist back home. I still worry about these countries that just can’t do it right now though. Just because I leave this country doesn’t mean that the problems will go away too.

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~ by dawseng on April 23, 2009.

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