Let’s admit, the last place you want to take out your loving date is to land spread over acres with just garbage and more of it. But wait, what worst could be is to take them to the biggest landfill in your city. A city housing 11.2 Million people ( UN World Population Prospects, 2021) and if we believe World Bank prediction, by 2050, Chennai's population may reach a whopping 13.8+ million. Through site visits to the Kodungaiyur Landfill Site, we aimed to enable a safe space for young people to be the ones witnessing first-hand, the issues with our lifestyles in cities and also bring action-oriented focus on critical domains namely Food, Stuff, Move, Money, Fun, and Work. The compelling ecosystem at the dumping station gives a shocking picture of how many of our households and workspaces choices and actions meet an end at a piece of land not far from habitation.
We never wanted to go and see ourselves in a seemingly alien and extremely toxic environment filled with the residual waste of almost 60% of the population of a megacity. We went there as we have been advocating for mainstreaming sustainable lifestyles and exploring different ways of integrating them into our daily lives and infrastructure. Sustainable lifestyles are “a cluster of habits and patterns of behaviour embedded in a society and facilitated by institutions, norms and infrastructures that frame individual choice, in order to minimize the use of natural resources and generation of wastes, while supporting fairness and prosperity for all.”
While the population in cities grows, there also exists extensive consumption along not just the traditional lifestyle items such as food, but also in the domains of well-being whether physical or psychological, fashion, travel, and more as the public moves towards more advanced living. Chennai city, on average, generates around 5,000 tonnes of waste daily, comprising wet and dry waste. ( Greater Chennai corporation, 2021 ). Based on the per capita generation of solid waste it is estimated that by 2026 about 6590 tonnes of solid waste will be generated in the local body areas of CMA including Chennai City. ( Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority ). This shows the urgent need to reverse the current consumption trends, noting that 4- 5 million new consumers will be urban youth who set consumption patterns, get a significant portion of their information from social media, and will be tomorrow’s decision-makers.
The evidence on what we can do as individuals and what governments and businesses can do to make a sustainable living (for all) the default option is clear, and there is a movement underway towards a sustainable future, whereby individuals all over the world are taking micro-actions that when copied and replicated by others, accumulate to have a positive impact on the planet and help to orientate the economy, and change is burgeoning around the globe though it remains fragmented and piece-meal. ( Anatomy of Action, UNEP SL&E Team, 2020)
“Our actions impact not only humans but even more on other living organisms”
But, We also have to acknowledge that we are losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history, and one million species face extinction in the World currently. We had to do it because we chose “NO EXTINCTION”, not only working for every human on the planet but also for biodiversity, and nature in general. We don’t choose extinction because we believe in the sheer power of culture, and we feel we did this to only show how our small changes in a simple theme of life such as, ‘dating’ made more sustainable can inspire and drive global change at scale.
To summarise my statements, there were two major reasons for our quest into the landfill:-
First, Hope is Important for the Future.
Second, Compassion may be the missing key.
We hope that our efforts of acting for nature, compels you to think positively before you act next time! Until then, Let’s keep Dating for the Environment and in Peace #WithNature.
P.S. #TurnitAround even for the frontline waste management professionals and workers! Your thoughtful actions matter to the #Environment and to them. At this stage, we also wish to state that, only kindness can not help with the sheer amount of change needed, but we need a world with spaces filled with the power of radical kindness.
By: Sehaj Sahni
Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author's personal views. The blog is meant for educational purposes only.