Burn Trash

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The pilot announced “We’re about to land in the beautiful island of Bali…”. My mind runs to the priming paradigm that this resort island has managed to spread internationally.

Let the tourists think they are coming to paradise and they will think so. That’s how priming works right? Put in the mind of people a prefabricated definition of what they are about to live and they will describe the experience using exactly those words.

Fact is that, behind the beauty of flowers and infinite pools postcard image, which this island manage to spread, there are a few huge problems still without a will to be resolved.

The island still lack a serious sewage system, I am not talking about rocket science, Romans built aqueducts and sewage systems all over the mediterranean some 2000 years ago.

Hygiene is still optional, so food is of very often cooked without being properly cleaned or it’s washed using tab water which is very dirty, as in… forget about brushing your teeth with it… oh hum… Bali belly, you’re not used local food and you spent the night on the toilet… right!?

Ok, let’s do away with that and get the the most subtle, unavoidable, of all the shocks, one has to put up with when staying here, breathing the fumes of the burning of trash.

If you think you can avoid it, think again. Burning rubbish, despite being illegal, is so wide spread that no areas are safe, not even the most high-end places like Kesiman, Canggu or the Bukit. It will hit you in the night time, at dusk or before dawn. You will have hard time to determine were it comes from, due to the darkness. Grab a water bucket and go extinguish the fire? Forget it! You will suffocate silently wondering were can you go to avoid this cancer.

Trash is full of plastic, so burning it produces Dioxins that are very, very harmful. The World Health Organization has a page about it, when you want to know more.

I had always thought that’s just poor people, who can’t afford monthly fee for trash collection, but I had to change my mind. I spoke recently with a rich kid from an high status family in Sanur, as I had discovered that in the back of their land they have a trash dump with evident signs of their trash burning habit.

I was asking why they don’t simply pay for the trash collecting service that is very, very cheap, and got answered, very politely and naively, that it is traditional to burn the rubbish. I still don’t get it, if they like traditions why do they use motorbikes, phones and the such?

Maybe is just a “Bule” lack of understanding, a Westerner fixation on critical thinking. When the beautiful sun light is gone, ignorance settle in. Failing to care about basic health principles will kill us all. It’s an other “tragedy of the commons” going on un-reported.

Btw, “tragedy of the commons” is a term used in social science to describe a situation in a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently, according only to their own self-interest, behave contrary to the common good, depleting, spoiling or damaging that resource through their collective action.

Published on non-profit magazine Fumes.