Friday, July 04, 2008

Waste Not, Want Not

I just saw Wall-E last night, the new movie about the last lonely robot on a future, uninhabitable Earth whose job (or 'directive' as they say in the film) is to compact bits of trash into small cubes and build huge skyscrapers of compacted garbage. Although it's a G-rated film, the talented folks at Pixar definitely had an adult audience in mind when they made this strangely and wonderfully sweet and romantic dystopian movie, and I think everyone should go see it. As a film, it's brilliant cinematically, plot-wise and in terms of character development and 'acting' by the animated robots. As a commentary on the effects of our rampant consumerism and accompanying laziness (especially in the First World) on the Earth and our own evolution, it's also totally on target and profound. My stomach even started to turn a little when they showed the potential future of human beings in outer space: each human being, fat from lack of exercise and having machines do everything for us, sitting in individual moving chairs that have people plugged in to an instant-gratification communication, shopping and entertainment monitor (sound familiar to anyone?) and oblivious to anything else going on around them. It was bizarrely cute, creepy, comical and uncanny at the same time.

The film made me think a lot about how much we waste things in this country, in this society. I remember when I went back to the Philippines, to the province where my family lived (basically the countryside) and there were so few garbage cans anywhere. Not that there wasn't garbage to be sure--they burned a lot of it which has its own environmental downsides--but there was much, much less there than here, because they recycled so much. In Cuba even moreso, there was so little garbage. I remember being in Santiago and even Havana, the two largest cities in Cuba, and being amazed at the lack of trash on the streets, even in the garbage cans that sat unused at the edge of plazas and sidewalks. When you don't have much, you don't waste things, you figure out other ways to use them. Cuba is the best example to me of a country that has survived, despite massive economic and political pressure from the US, by recycling and repurposing 'old' stuff. And they've not only survived--albeit on a level of tough struggle that I don't envy--they've been able to create beautiful works of automotive art out of salvaged cars and parts, maintain and evolve a rich musical heritage through the decades that includes music like son, 'salsa', reggaeton and Cuban hip hop, and become a popular tourist destination for people from the Global North who want to experience this amazing display of ingenuity, culture and resistance.

I'm rethinking how I can have less, waste less and therefore want less. It's no longer a way of life that I think we can decide to choose or not choose. By our past choices to waste and exploit and be greedy with the Earth's resources, we are quickly realizing that this new way of anti-waste is choosing us.


PeonInChief said...

Cuba is very important in figuring out how to live with less of some things--garbage and energy being the most important. Cuba is the only country that provides a decent life (measured by the basic indicators) while using less than one world's resources per person.

jc said...

I made my band see this movie and we were all deeply moved, some of us squeezed out a few tears. Then afterwords we sat in a roach infested old bar and talked about it for a long time.

Wall-E rocked my world