I mentioned one of my first impressions of Africa was the amount of trash everywhere. I have since learned that in the early days of our trip the garbage collectors were on strike, which somewhat explained the huge piles of trash everywhere. However, even when these workers are doing their job, garbage and pollution still abound.
A very important issue in Africa is the lack of space that exists here. Space is a luxury that only the wealthy can truly afford. One of the professors on the trip with us lived in Senegal 30 years ago. She said at the time she was here, the population of Dakar was 150,000. Now the population is close to 3 million, about 25% of the country’s population. With that many people living in such close confines, unless you can afford to create space for yourself, you have none. The whole city becomes your home. You maybe have a roof or a small shanty to sleep in, but people seem to roam freely. You eat where you can, you use the bathroom where you can, you make money where you can, and you throw your trash where you can. In poverty, there is no defined space for such things, which is somewhat of a foreign concept to an American. We have a kitchen to eat in, a bathroom to relieve ourselves in, a bedroom to sleep in, trash cans in nearly every room, a dump to bring our garbage too, and endless amounts of space in which to perform our daily activities.
The director of WARC made what I felt was a rather important comment that “Plastic is invading us.” He mentioned specifically the impact that plastic bags have had on rural villages. Plastic bags that litter the ground are accidently eaten by cows as they graze and, ultimately, cause the animal’s death. Is there anything more unnatural than plastic? Yet it is everywhere, even in Africa, the birthplace of humanity, where nature has always been revered as central to life. How has this invasion of the unnatural affected Africa? Has it hindered, destroying the pureness of the land and the livelihood of rural families, more than it has offered? Even in America, such synthetic materials make our lives convenient, tidy, easy, but what have they cost us? We are, for example, told to avoid plastic water bottles containing certain chemicals now known to be toxic to our bodies. Are we poisoning ourselves, losing our connection to the natural beauty that surrounds us, in the name of convenience?
It’s difficult to take pictures that truly capture the amount of garbage, but it is somewhat overwhelming. Plastic has truly invaded the landscape.