It was a sunny, but a cold winter day and I needed to clear my mind. What can be a better way, than to go to the park and walk, meditate and relax? It seems parks are some place in this huge city that helps me to forget about the noise of the streets and stress of everyday life. I went to the park where I haven’t been for a while and I was shocked! The park changed. It was full of trash and dirty. I felt like I could not sit on the grass, because there were small trash pieces everywhere around. The benches were occupied but I felt like there is no point to sit and have that kind of view. I tried to walk around and ignore it. But I could not.
I felt bad because we are not able to maintain these small green pieces of land in the city. I felt bad because it seemed like we don’t care enough. I felt bad, because the only thing I could see was plastic bags, everywhere. In the mix of sadness and angriness I tried to figure out who is responsible to maintain the park in this colony. Who should clean it? Is this a residential colony and does it have a proper waste management? I was asking people but I didn’t get a proper answer.
And I didn’t need it. Everyone is responsible to take care of the parks. The person who is jogging in the park, the person who just cross it, a local waste manager and the government – everyone is equally responsible to keep it nice, so anyone can use it. Because it is a public space and we all share it and we all have to take care of it.
But I have started to think more. Are there enough public places for all of us? With every year more people are living in the cities. Some are born in the city; others come looking for the work or a better life. The streets were historically in many different cultures places where people engaged with each other, exchange ideas, learn, make businesses, eat,…The growing car transportation and big transport roads has crowded people out of their streets. Nowadays, we have coffee shops, restaurants and parks where we can meet and interact. Even more, these public spaces are not only that, they are important in active political involvement of citizens as well. It is seems like we are not valuing it enough. A lot of land is sold, with very little effort to protect public interest in any way.
As human beings we cannot only live indoors in our homes and offices. At some point we need to breathe, interact and walk. If cities do not provide these basic elements, the system might become like a pressure cooker, waiting to explode.
There is a deficit of public land and huge numbers of people who are using it every day. We clean every corner of our homes, but we act irresponsible outside. We blame improper waste management. We blame the deficit of trash bins on the roads and in the parks. Maybe we don’t believe in public places anymore.
What we really should do – we should look at ourselves. What can I do to change the reality? Am I also the person who throws the empty chips bag on street? Am I the one who is too lazy to find the nearest trash bin?
Even if my acts are right and I care where my empty chips bag ends I can always do more. Actually it is my responsibility to do more. I have to educate people and show them what is right. One of my friends has a beautiful habit to pick bag, a bottle or anything which is lying where it should not be and throw it into the trash bin. He is not a rag picker, a waste collector; he is only a person who cares. If you see somebody throwing something, silently pick it up with a smile and few nice words. Anger has never solved the problem. If I say: “hey, I know, the bin is far away. But no problem, I will pick it up for you!” This person might react differently next time, because somebody was actually kind to him. Behaviour and manners change with sweet and encouraging words.
We have to act differently to bring the difference. Only with good examples the word will spread and more people will start to follow it. It is not a shame to pick a trash!
I learned it from a friend and now it is my turn. And so could be yours!
Katja Polc, member of Vatavaran team