During my first year at Woodstock, my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Sue Rollins would take the whole class on a walk to the bazaar with a common mission: to spread awareness of the significance of climate change.
To prepare for each trip, we spent weeks designing posters that conveyed the importance of climate change. Most of the posters talked about using an alternative for plastic, while some of them stressed the importance of not wasting food. With happiness and relief, we finally completed the posters and were ready to walk into the bazaar.
At the bazaar, we walked to different shopkeepers and proposed the idea of keeping our posters on their walls. Most of them ignored us or just shrugged, while only a few of them nodded with approval and let us tape the posters on their shops. Relieved that at least some people were willing to take their responsibility to protect the environment, we walked back to school with hope for a cleaner environment.
After a few weeks, we went back for our monthly bazaar trip. I remember my friends and I hurrying to the bazaar so that we could look at our posters hanging on the walls. We walked by some of the shops, but we saw nothing.
Our posters were gone.
We expected so much more from the local residents. We expected them to try to make some changes in their lives, either big or small, to protect the environment. Walking back to dorms that day, all we could think of was how they were to blame for Mussoorie’s garbage problems.
This lack of care for the environment isn’t something seen in Mussoorie alone. Bangalore, popularly known as Garden City due to its clean environment, saw an overwhelming 1,750% increase in the amount of garbage in 15 years. In 2001, Bangalore city corporation had to deal with 250 tons of garbage, but in 2015, the number increased to 3,700 tons of garbage.
Recognizing the seriousness of the garbage pollution, there are several groups that attempt to address this issue. In Mussoorie, the NGO KLEEN, started by a mathematics teacher Dick Wechter, actively promotes garbage separation and the ban of plastic bags in town since 1995. After he left Woodstock, Dana Crider took over the NGO, which is now called Keen (Keeping the Environment Ecologically Natural).
Since 2005, Keen managed waste from over 1,000 houses and 50 hotels. Moreover, in May 2016, Keen collected over 6,000 kg of recyclable waste. It also partnered with the Municipal Council to educate locals about waste segregation and trash.
Furthermore, in mid-January, a group of three friends — Vipin Gunsola, Sudhanshu Rawat, along with over 500 Whatsapp members — formed a group to address sanitation and waste management issues in Mussoorie. They were originally inspired to form this group as they were tired of “over-promises” in politics and would rather “solve the town’s problems than wait for authorities to take action.” Their motto was: “no politics, just work.”
The group started its first clean-up drive in the Camel’s Back Road area in association with Kleen. It collected over 300 kg of garbage, which strongly encouraged the group members to go for another clean-up drive the following week.
Some might argue that our status as students limits us from reducing garbage pollution. However, it’s not age or status that determine how capable people are in addressing the issue. It’s putting words into actions, something that these organizations demonstrate extremely well.
I now realize that putting up the posters wasn’t enough. We expected others to be inspired and to take the responsibility for the environment when, really, we should be the ones who take the initiative and address this issue.
Edited by Hakyung Yi