So, what kind of ecological consciousness is there in El Salvador?. On the surface, El Salvador looks pretty rough. In the city you see tons of buses and trucks spewing black smoke. The smog is frequently visible and is particularly bad because the city is surrounded by mountains that trap it in. Huge piles of garbage on the sidewalk or street are common. Recycling is possible in El Salvador but it doesn’t seemed to be practiced in most homes. There is garbage pick up but if you want to recycle, you have to take it to the facility yourself. In theory anyways. In practice if you leave a bag of cans or glass on the street, someone in need of a bit of extra money will take it to the facility to recieve the deposit on the items. And ya there’s no thought of abolishing the plastic bag yet. So the things that a Canadian would look to to judge environmental standards are pretty weak. And they definitely (thankfully) haven’t caught on to the concept of being fashionably green.
However, what the Salvadoran system lacks in organized efforts towards a more environmentally conscious society, they make up for in their lifestyle which allows no room for waste. Also, because the waste disposal system is less than efficient, garbage is more visible. As a result, people are more aware of what they’re producing.
Ok, examples needed. The basics of Salvadoran life are wonderfully utilitarian. Hot water is just not necessary, even people who could probably afford it don’t bother to get it. But don’t think that just because its a hot country the water isn’t cold. It is cold. But you get used to cold showers pretty fast. Air conditioning? Only in malls. The houses here are built for constant ventilation. No need for a dryer. People just hang their clothes. During the rainy season dryers would actually be extremely useful, but whatever, you get by. Even their dish soap is less wasteful. Its in a paste form that you just dab into. I loveit!! I’m definitely bringing a couple tubs home with me.
Rural communities are much more bare bones than this. Homes rarely have electricity. Many buildings are made out of earth. This is done impressively well. You often can’t tell until the wall starts crumbling a little. We can say that this wouldn’t be possible in Canada due to our cold weather. But these houses withstand (most of the time) earthquakes and hurricanes. Eating locally isn’t a politically correct trend, its the only way to eat when you live at the top of a mountain or in the middle of a forest.
You can’t flush toilet paper. Ok, this doesn’t seem like much, but trust me, you want to use less. The bins for throwing out your paper are always small, to discourage frivolous wiping. Plus eventually you’re gonna have to empty that bin and you want to do that as infrequently as possible. If you’re in the countryside, they don’t keep the paper in thier outhouse, its in a box or on a table somewhere so you gotta remember to ask for a couple squares.
And some more examples of Salvadoran brilliance. Mop? You don’t need a mop. Just slip an old (really old) t-shirt over the broom (the neck goes around the broomhead) and you have a perfect mop that is way easier to wash when it gets gross.
Also the garbage cans on the street are really not used, and I don’t think anyone actually collects their contents. But not to worry, they don’t go to waste. People break them off their posts to bring them in as scrap metal.
Ok these are just random observations really. I really don’t know what kind of conclusion to come to. But I gotta say, Salvadorans step up to the plate when it counts. Recently Canadian (and a couple US) mining companies have been making deals with the Salvadoran government to set up mines all around the country. If all the contracts go through, and its looking like they will, mines will take up over 5% of the land in El Salvador. The run off from these mines will contain lots of toxins, in particular, cyanide. This will get to the main rivers that provide water for many people in El Salvador. Forest will also be destroyed in the process. Obviously this is a huge environmental and public health concern. But not in the government’s opinion. They see it as a way to up their economy. There’s much discussion to be had about this, but my point for this blog is, the people of El Salvador have produced a huge backlash against this. There is incredible movement to try to stop the government from selling their land and destroying their beautiful countryside.
So no, people are not buying hybrid cars or stopping the use of plastic bags. But they are mobilizing against their (and our) government with impressive power and solidarity. There will be more on this as I learn about it. And I’m sure there’s something that we as Canadians can do.
I’ll let you know what I find out. In the meantime, here’s a couple articles: