Waste not, want not!

While looking through some old photographs I came across a cutting from a local paper from the 1960s showing me and two scout friends in front of a huge pile of newspapers with the heading “Waste not….”.
This campaign for collecting waste paper was a local effort in the aid of gathering funds towards the cost of building a new Scout Hall for us so we took part in the exercise with appropriate enthusiasm. The scout masters were always finding projects to keep us busy; the saying “The Devil finds work for idle hands” was taken seriously and the scouts’ motto “Be prepared” gave plenty of scope for activities. I’ve no idea of what was done with the paper we collected once it was taken away!
More organised collection of all household refuse started much later when boxes and bins for different kinds of materials were delivered to homes and they were emptied regularly by the councils’ collection trucks so that even the least interested residents were recruited to the cause.
It must be admitted that many people still felt it was all a waste of time and wouldn’t make any difference anywhere but because the boxes were there, it was very little trouble to sort out the rubbish more or less correctly.
I’ve always loved movies and one that made deep impression on me was “Silent running” (1972), of the “let us look at the imagined futures” genre. In it all that was left of the Earth’s forests was floating on a space station, being looked after by a few arborists/gardeners. Eventually they were ordered to destroy even that!
I don’t want to spoil the ending but it left room for optimism and, so far at least, that scenario remains in the realm of fiction. Previous to that, Rachel Carson’s book “Silent spring” warned about the harmful effects of pesticides used in farming and gardening, destroying the livelihood of the useful birds and resulting in a spring without birdsong. This concern has been taken up and farming methods adjusted but now the general threat of the climate change is adding to the difficulties all round.
Here in Finland the nature is so close to urban areas that the forest is taken for granted and we tend to enjoy it very carelessly. We throw food containers and snack bags down as we go, not thinking that they are not only unsightly beside the path, but a danger to the dogs and wild animals passing by.
We seem to have lost the idea of “keeping our street tidy” and the environment is the sufferer the world over. It’s amazing that some people still don’t want to believe that we have been destroying our home while concentrating on progress, growth and profit.
Of course, now it is very difficult to halt the process and the individual actions don’t seem to make much difference when the problem is so enormous.
The worst outcome for the world is so terrifyingly bad that we really don’t want to think about it. Here in Finland we may feel powerless because the pollution from large countries travels through the air to harm our environment, whatever we do.
We are unable to save the planet all by ourselves but by our everyday choices and routines we can help our own neighbourhood. As to the world forum, we can support and encourage our politicians to keep up the pressure on their colleagues at the international meetings.
It is a long and thankless task but important; what would be the result if they give up?
The nature has wonderful powers for healing itself, given a chance, and we must try to give it, for the sake of the people now growing up and still unborn.

Paul Dockree


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