Thursday, June 25, 2009

If I believe in Recycling, how do I deal with Cultural backlash?

Sometimes there is such a disparity between culture and beliefs that it encumbers you. I wish to go for a conference on recycling in Romania, but the people I grew up with - in fact - the society I grew up in - especially close friends and family, scorn at ideas such as recycling, social responsibility and such.

It is true, my mother did teach us not to throw garbage on the streets. She taught us to try to utilize every blank spot on a piece of paper before moving on to the next one. As a mother and a school teacher, she even taught us to buy those disgusting pink-coloured 'rough copies' which are made from recycled paper in Pakistan. But when we all grew up, most of us preferred to use paper cups and plates instead of reusing porcelain ones.

Studying with a sibling in a foreign university, we often bicker about washing dishes amongst each other and friends after cooking every meal. My kid sisters who are visiting me in Singapore surprise me by the amount of paper they waste, tearing them out one by one just because of an accidental line here and a mistake there.

Awareness is not embedded in our society. It is an acquired attitude. In a corporate environment where a mistake is treated like it is the end of the world, to send out just one letter on behalf of a CEO could require up to 20 pages or even more paper being wasted in the process of rectification. To have a sip of water means wasting an 'expanded polystyrene foam' (Styrofoam) cup, when it could easily be reused while taking care of proper hygiene at the same time.

It is difficult for me to accept these things because I notice and I can not do anything about it. But of course, I am no angel myself. Being a smoker, I have extinguished thousands of cigarette butts and thrown them around unconsciously, not realising these are pieces of foam that are not bio-degradable. While at university, I have made a countless number of reprints when submitting research papers and sundry, in the name of 'presentation', for if I were to edit a printed paper using pen, it would look messy to the professor. But of course, I am able to justify each such instance that reveals my hypocrisy with regards to the cause of recycling and environmental sustainability. Human beings are justifying machines, but we can always try, can we not? That is what they say about following religion anyway, so why not a social cause?

Recycle IN is the first International Conference on recycling organized by AIESEC Timisoara, being held from July 30 to May 6, 2009. Through this conference, this branch of AIESEC in Romania is hoping to inform and educate participants (as well as the Timisoara populace) about issues such as recycling, sustainability and being friendly to the environment. The conference is split into three tracks: Out-of-service Auto Vehicles if you have an interest in the automotive industry, Waste Products to learn about recycling processes for common materials, and Electronics and Appliances for those with an interest in the Physics or History of Electronics and how they are recycled.

The conference application form is very basic and simple to fill, and the fee is just 90 Euros including meals and accommodation for EIGHT days! With that deal one can also save money to visit Serbia or Hungary.

The issue for me now is: how can I wake up this morning and sign up for a conference on recycling when I had dinner in Styrofoam plates and cups just last night?

I may blame society for inhibiting me from taking an active stance against environmentally unfriendly behaviour, but the fact is, I still allow it. It is still within my control. To resolve this disparity between culture and beliefs, I have no choice but to develop a consistent attitude, whether my close friends and family like it or not. I must minimize my hypocrisy with regards to this issue by being more environmentally friendly, whether I sign up for the conference or not. People might think I am rude for pointing out such things, but I can live with that, as long as there is some positive impact. (After all, I am still alive after pointing out facial hair and pimples on women a countless number of times!)

In the end, everyone of us likes to believe that we are good human beings (despite all the nasty and selfish things that we know we have done). So why not be proactive and assertive as we adopt better attitudes to become better human beings? The world is our stage and we are the actors, but when will we actually start doing something?

Posted via email from nubeals's posterous

1 comment:

fruzsi said...

Hey Stranger,

I'm Fruzsina Nagy from Hungary, I will be the chair of Recycle IN. It's so nice to read a post like yours, knowing that the idea of the conference touched someone :) Whether you make it to the conference or not I wish you keep up with your attitude and no matter what you try to live an environmentally friendly life :)
AIESECerly yours,
Fruzsina Nagy

PS: If you really wanna visit Hungary, after the conference I can show you around :P