“We are some serious nuts!” blurted Aleš on the international e-chat, which took part among the volunteers of the “Let’s Do It World!” campaign in the beginning of 2010.
“Yes. These Slovenians are totally crazy!” commented Stanislav from Serbia. Romanians, Portuguese, Estonians and Indians approved of the comment with the international intelligible replies: lol 🙂 ;o) …
It is difficult to understand what made it possible that in the age of cruel capitalism and in times of global recession a bunch of enthusiasts worked like crazy—for ten, twelve, fifteen hours a day without asking for any payment. At the meetings they didn’t argue, because they wanted a higher pay, they argued because they didn’t want it! How could they accept it? They are volunteers!
And what was and still is their goal? Clean the waste from all illegal dumpsites—within huge one-day actions around the world!
But why? This is a labour of Sisyphus! It is clear that the waste will not cease to be in one day, it will continue to increase from day to day. It is obvious that the increasing population will keep producing more and more waste and not less and less.
If you produce more and more for two hundred years, huge stocks of trash will continue to exist for at least another hundred years, even if the goods-production completely stopped. Economic growth also brings an increase in the waste disposal.
It is true that the idea of cleaning illegal dumpsites is a labour of Sisyphus, but on the other hand people were enchanted by the simple directness of the legitimacy of the result it promised. Is there a man in his right mind who would accept a pile of garbage in the middle of the forest without indignation? Usually the indignation is followed by shrugs and comments: “What a horror! Why doesn’t anybody do something about this?”
But who? Who should we wait for? Institutions never clean up the waste, only people can clean it. We need to simply take up the bags and start picking up waste that stains the nature and poisons our drinking water and air? And we mustn’t stop there, we have to make yet another step forward and let the industry know it has to start producing products and packages in an intelligent way?
The idea of a world without waste will sound utopian only in the eyes of apathetic sceptics, while in the eyes of biological beings, integrated into living environment, this is the only future, worth striving for. We’re not living in times when it would be necessary to get approval for every single decision and action; today one can decide alone and do what he knows to be right.
Mobilisation of a huge number of people did not start for the sake of war against another group of people, but for the sake of the war against the “immobile” enemy that lies in the bush, defeating us for as long as it lies where it isn’t supposed to lie. To defeat this enemy, we need to collect it and convert it into a friend—a raw material for a better future.
Intelligent design of things is the basis for an intelligent society; this can not occur without intelligent people that treat all around them thoughtfully. It is about time to show how intelligent our civilization is on the level of a simple relation to raw materials and residues of the goods we consume—globally and without seeking authorization from the ruling classes.
Self-organization of individuals on the grass-root level of the society is virtually inevitable, because the administrative mechanisms are too clumsy and too bureaucratic to be effective—let alone agile. There is simply no time. We have to start making changes right now, focused together on each specific problem, one after another. Huge cleanup proved to be an excellent first step, therefore we—totally crazy guys mentioned in the beginning of this article—are starting to organize worldwide campaign for 2012, in which at least a hundred countries are going to participate and millions of volunteers.
Over the next decade psychologists and sociologists will have a chance to study the phenomenon of mass voluntary waste collection, which began in 2008 in Estonia and exploded on a global level in 2012. Have people attended one-day cleanup events because they felt guilty for being filthy? Or maybe because they would otherwise lose the sense of belonging to something special? Because of complexes? Maybe a candid need? Or simply due to the craziness?
Why did my friends on the chat agree, these Slovenians were totally crazy? Because a group of wild and courageous young people, who have never run large projects, managed to bring together hundreds of volunteers to work hard for several months like never before, to prepare everything necessary for the cleanup day. And on that day, 17th of April 2010, these hundreds of volunteers made 270,000 Slovenians (13,5% of the population) take up a huge collective action!
I wrote most of this essay sitting in the library of Sieben Linden eco-village in Germany, and in the corner of my computer the date was: “23rd of February 2010”. Later on I edited the essay slightly (and added this very sentence, of course—and a few others). When you’re reading it, the year 2010 has already passed by, Slovenia has been cleaned (and it’s going to be cleaned again). There are people now, who can be our judge, who know what the atmosphere was like on that day and how we all felt. They know how crazy we are and whether or not this madness might actually be a feverishly sign that we’re finally coming to our senses as a civilization.
In February 2010 in Germany I wondered what kind of confidence was necessary that I dared to write my essay in past tense already back then, and to put myself two months in the future and prophesize what will (would!) happen? How would you react if you read two months in advance such bold words? I hope you would get up and rush to help! I hope such responses will be as numerous as possible in case of World Cleanup 2012.
None of you, who haven’t been there right from the very beginning, can imagine what amount of enthusiasm had driven this project! All-Slovenian movement came about from a simple question: “Dude, are we really daring enough to do it? Are we even crazy enough?” If you’re crazy enough, you can disarm any wise guy. You can defeat even the strongest warrior. You can be more diplomatic than any politician. Crazy person is with God even when denying him.
Once the project was over, we said: “And what now?” In Slovenia we have seen that small cleanups hadn’t moved the government agencies to take up serious measures. But when national environmental cleanup took place, something started to shift even in the government.
On a global level these few hundred thousand people are but a drop in an ocean. To make the world truly clean, the shifts would have to be made on the largest possible level. The only thing we had left was to convene a global one-day cleanup event, and to invite people from all countries in the world to participate. We called it day C (Cleanup). The date we chose was 24th of March 2012. So we started the organization.
Well, the project is absolutely too large to say that we are organizing it—it is organized by hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide. A small group of people has set up the fundamental bits and established the identity of the project, which will very soon be implemented throughout the world.
In mid-April 2010, a conference “Clean the Balkans in one day!” took place in Slovenia, attended by representatives from almost all the Balkan countries and a few other ones. Slovenians managed to spread the cleanup to a dozen of neighbouring countries, with the total population of hundred twenty million people. During the year, that number will get many times larger, until throughout 2012 even a hundred million people could join the worldwide cleanup.
Waste is uniting us; it transcends all cultural and other differences. It is the same for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, healthy, sick, rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, athletes, scouts, politicians … We are all creators of waste, and because at least a few percent of us has a good sense of conscience, we’re not indifferent. There are no parties or ideologies here, there is no struggle for supremacy, there are just people without titles with the same gloves and bags, into which we’re picking the waste of generations.
For many years I’ve been waiting for a quality impulse to a genuine social initiative, which would unite everybody on Earth around a common goal. All of my friends thought this was utopia. Some two years ago my gut feelings began to sink to depression, joining my friends, and that was exactly when I got shook out of my saddle by unexpected news. Until then, I thought I knew what would unite us: a lofty, trans-political idea, some kind of eternal inspiration from timeless ethics, poetically beautiful, of course, which would move the bodies and souls of all the diverse members of the global community.
I sat on the back of the horse called wisdom of generations, in the saddle of centuries-old philosophy, I looked in the sky and waited for a sign … and thus I completely overlooked the actual reality, which had been trampled by the beating of the hooves. I had to fall into the bushes in order to realize where the soul of the people is rooted—and what is in the way of our roots. When I bowed down to simplicity I could, together with thousands of others, begin to humbly pick up our incompetence and our nightmare: real trash in real environment, where it simply doesn’t belong.
After a thousand years future generations will look back on our time and remember the waste as a “one century fly”. The twentieth century, including several decades before and after, will probably bear the name “plastic age”, following the stone, iron and concrete ages; that’s what should happen, based on the usual practice—when we look into the past we tend to call different ages by what people left behind.
Fatalistic forecasts say the end of the world is due in 2012. The disaster will be upon us and global catastrophes will bury the entire population of our planet. Are we really to believe this?
To me a different scenario is much more plausible, by which people will consciously decide to change their behaviour—why not exactly in 2012?—and thus refute (or perhaps confirm?) the forecast of the end world. With the massive cleanup of the world we will symbolically say that we’ve got enough of such a life and that we want something better. This will be the beginning a new era, year 0 a.b.c. (After the Big Cleanup) in the new counting on the new calendar of the new civilization.
It is true that such a courageous vision may only arise in heads of a handful, but it can only be realized by all of us together. And why shouldn’t it? It must be realized exactly because this is so essential that we can’t allow it to be impossible. All we need is to awaken the hope in our hearts and transform it into concrete, synchronised activity—so intelligent, ethical and uncompromising, that from the common person’s perspective it can only be called craziness.
Maybe we’ll live to see the day when a prestigious commission for the insanely beneficial achievements for Earth and humanity will, instead of Nobel Prizes, be awarding plaques with the inscription: “You are some serious nut!” and I’ll try to make sure Aleš will be the first to receive it.