Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

A Story for World Environment Day


Here’s a common occurence here in El Médano:  Early morning, someone draws up at the containers sited on the coast road, where I am walking my dog.  Without getting out of the car, they toss their plastic bag of rubbish in the direction of the rubbish bins, but it misses and lands alongside.  They speed off.

Now, let me tell you what happens next, after I’ve walked by, not picking up that bag because of the usual worries about infections these days.

The bag lies there, the food scraps inside rotting and beginning to smell, which attracts a passing cat.  The cat scratches at the bag until it opens.  It pulls out an empty cat food can, and begins to lick out the remains of food, but when it gets down to the bottom of the can its head gets stuck, it gropes at the can, but its paws just slip off the metal.  It panics and begins to back away from the containers……..and right into the path of an oncoming car.  The driver is looking for a parking place, and doesn’t see the poor cat.  It goes right under the wheels of the car.  Victim Number One.

Our enviromentally ignorant rubbish tosser’s rubbish includes some pills he/she was prescribed so long ago he/she doesn’t even remember what they were for.  They are only being thrown out now because he/she needed the bottle for something else, so the pills go directly into the bag.  There are also some detergent tablets which have gone sloppy,  a bleach bottle with a little still left in the bottom, and a broken jar of jam.  A stray dog is the next to pass by.  He is a very hungry dog, having been kicked out some days before by his owner, who got bored with him.  He is not so neat as the cat, and he tears into the bag, scattering the contents around the area.  As the contents of the jam jar are smeared all over everything else, making it all smell like a feast to a hungry dog, it eats a fatal comibination of detergent, bleach and pills, not to mention some broken glass.  Victim No. 2.

It’s windy here in El Médano, almost always, and it isn’t long before the plastic bag, emptied of its contents, is swept up by the breeze, and blown onto the beach, where it clings to the juniper bushes for some days, along with several other plastic bags, making it look as if the beach has been decorated for some zombie movie.  The winds blow stronger, and the bag is detached from the juniper branch eventually and blows out to sea.  It flutters across the surface, teasing the waves, until finally it becomes waterlogged, and becomes part of the flotsam and jetsom which move across our modern oceans.  A couple of days later, a passing turtle spots what looks like a tasty lunch of jellyfish, quietly waiting for it on the ocean’s surface, and happily gobbles it up.  Only it wasn’t a jellyfish.  It was our plastic bag, and it doesn’t nourish the turtle, it kills it.  Victim No. 3.

Only the first paragraph of this story is provably true, the rest is my imagination, but it’s very possible that all of this happened.

It’s ironic that on this day in which we should be celebrating the wonderful diversity of our environment we are gagging over our breakfasts at these pictures which dominate the tv, internet and newspapers today:

There isn’t an awful lot we can do, as ordinary citizens of the planet, short-term, about this.   We can boycott BP.  We can determine to save as much energy as we can so that our dependence on oil is less, and we can think twice before using our cars, but disposing of rubbish is something we do every day.  It doesn’t take a lot to give it a bit more thought.

The irony of this situation in El Médano is that we have recycling bins on every street corner.  We can recycle paper, containers and cans, bottles and cooking oil, just by walking a few meters.  In the south of the island there are also two Punto Limpio, one in Buzanda in Arona, and the other in Adeje, where you can recycle bigger items, like those shown in the picture below, for instance, also paint, batteries, X-Rays and household electrics like old tvs and computers.  There, seriously, is little excuse not to do this.  Even if our ignorant rubbish tosser, who is NOT fictional, cannot be bothered to recycle, he/she could at least have made sure that their rubbish went into one of the containers, which have lids, so it wouldn’t have blown away.  This would have entailed GETTING OUT OF THEIR F***ING CAR for god’s sake.  OK,  I meant to be rational, and now I’m angry.

That photo was taken the same day I took these:

Now, wouldn’t you think that the people who dumped their unwanted car parts and paint cans there would have been too embarrassed, at the very least, to have blighted such a pretty and famous landscape?  And at a time of year when the celebrated hikes take place, so hundreds of people saw this sorry display of ignorance.

This snap in la Plaza de la Iglesia de la Concepción in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.  My first thought, being a generally tolerant person, was “Well, it was a fiesta last night”, but then I thought, “Why should that be an excuse?”  Well, why should it.  Why can’t people take their rubbish home or find a suitable bin in which to dispose of it?  My second thought was, “Why doesn’t the ayuntamiento get this cleaned up more quickly?”    This was at the end of last year, and I can’t for the life of me remember what fiesta it had been.  What I do remember is that this was a Sunday – a day when wealthy tourists come off the cruise ships, visit the market and Calle Noria, and find ……….this!  Then I thought, “Well, ok, that’s valid, but if they bother to educate their citizens then there wouldn’t be all this mess anyway.”

And this is the ugly face of La Playa de la Tejita.  Usually, when I post pix of my favorite beach it looks something like this:

This is my favorite beach in Tenerife, and I hate, to point of wanting to cry sometimes, to see its surroundings disrespected in this way.  Just this week it was announced that it has been awarded a European Blue Flag, and it’s a couple of months now since I was there.  I’m wondering is the award just for the beach itself, not for the immediate surroundings?  Maybe there is some major cleanup I’ve missed out on.  More will be written on this!

It may already be obvious to you that I love this island.  I write about Santa Cruz or La Tejita, and I ignore this aspect of both, because I am one of those people whose glass is usually half full, happily.  But it really is a disgrace that more is not done in areas outside of the major resorts.  I joined an environmental group last year, and was surprised at the lack of knowledge of most people in the group.  These were intelligent people who cared enough to join the group, but didn’t know very fundamental things, which I’d picked up just from reading or watchinng tv.  At the end of the course there was a discussion about what we could do as a group, and it turned out that no-one in the group knew if there is any such thing as litter laws here.  If there isn’t already then there should be.  If people won’t voluntarily get off their bums to throw their trash into the dumpsters then they must be made to be afraid NOT to do so.

Both local authorities and the Cabildo have run advertising campaigns in recent years aimed at educating people on rubbish disposal and recylcing, but you can’t see a huge response around the island.  The campaigns have been a bit wishy-washy, especially the one Arona ran last year.  They had well-placed ads around the municipality, but they totally failed to attract attention……oh to be ad advertising guru!  Now in the depths of La Crisis I don’t doubt that money will be short for things like that.  Now, here’s a thought you could MAKE money by fining people for dumping rubbish!

I know, I know, I know that I should be writing this in Spanish and not in English, but it is quite beyond me.  It would take me a week, and the day is today.  If any Spanish friends would like to translate they would be most welcome.


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

2 thoughts on “A Story for World Environment Day

  1. There seems to be this attitude that if you put your rubbish in a carrier bag and tie the handles together like rabbit ears, that’s “job done” so you can then dump or throw it anywhere.
    I do lots of walks and it’s damm annoying to climb up to a remote outcrop and then find rubbish up there or graffiti on a rock or sculpture – Montaña Roja springs to mind.

    • It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it. I hate being negative, but this so needs addressing, and the answer isn’t simply in collecting the rubbish more efficiently, it’s in either educating people (residents and tourist alike, because I believe a lot of people do on vacation what they wouldn’t do at home) or if that fails, the fines. That has the added advantage of creating revenue for the municipalities!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s