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This recycling bin is designed for paper. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
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The City of Johannesburg has just announced that the city is
going green. Soon, they tell us, residents of the city will be recycling the
hell out of everything. Undoubtedly, the mayor expects a cheer from those who
care about plastic bags and abalone and stuff. But they are not going to get
one from me. Not yet.
Because there is no chance that I will recycle in the dark.
I know that I am meant to care about conservation. I know
that I'm meant to recoil at the very thought of a plastic bag. But the
honest-to-God truth is that if I never see another abalone (or perlemoen) so
long as I live, I am pretty certain that I wouldn’t be the worse off for it.
And before anyone screams anything about the next
generations, I can say with confidence that if either my children or theirs
lived in a world where abalone didn’t exist, I am reasonably confident that
they could still thrive.
I cannot even say with any certainty that I have even ever
seen an abalone. That is aside (maybe) in the ugly seventies when we stayed at
the not-even-then-famous Van Riebeek Hotel in Benoni for one awful weekend for
a family function. Or something.
I think that there is a chance, that at the end of a dark
passage, just past the bar, on the left (that we were warned not even to look
into), there might have been a threadbare couch with a tea doily on the arm. The
chair must have been frequented by smokers, because there was most likely a
little table next to it, on which there could have rested an ashtray. And that
ashtray could have been abalone.
The focus on the environment is no doubt important. But
residents of Johannesburg have a lot to contend with. I can’t help thinking
that with all we have to stress about in the form of crime, infrastructure
collapse, that surely the one thing what we have the privilege of NOT worrying
about is plastic bags in the ocean. Surely now that the Capetonians have water,
they can focus on this? We simply don’t have enough time in the day to add
As an aside, I also can’t help thinking that if Syrian children
who are being slaughtered and orphaned and left destitute would be seen as just
as important as plastic straws, maybe the world would be a better place. But
that’s just me.
So here it is. This is why I am somewhat cynical about the
new recycle initiative.
Until I receive water when I turn on my taps and there is light
when I switch on my lamp; Until our roads are not pockmarked with potholes the
size of the Eastern Cape, our residents of Alex have reasonable service
delivery, our public hospitals can provide acceptable healthcare to those who
cannot afford private healthcare and we have adequate schools for residents who
are desperate to educate their children, I will not be recycling.
I will also be waiting for the City of Johannesburg to start
to communicate with its residents as though they are adults. I find it
difficult to get behind a project that is no doubt wonderful. Because I will
NOT be recycling in the dark.
Johannesburg has seen power outages greater in the last week
that we have ever seen before. The City Power Twitter feed is now NSFW (Not
Safe for Work) as residents' anger and frustration builds. Communication has
been appalling as Joburgers forage for scraps of information that will calm and
Businesses without a back-up generator might as well close
their doors because the cost of staying open is too great when you can’t make a
sale. Restaurants are suffering as not only are residents of the city going out
less because of the unpredictability, but even when they do, they might be
forced to leave a venue because of lack of power. People are despondent and
negative. And, it’s winter, so they are cold and irritable too.
This makes the timing of the launch of the City's recycling
campaign a little tone deaf. Whereas there is little doubt that the new
initiative is forward thinking and wonderful and might even save the abalone
from plastic bags (or at least straws), I am certain and confident that I will not
recycle a darn thing whilst in the dark.
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