The children had a field trip last week and were taken from their schools down to the beaches to learn about conservation. They were released like a kindle of kittens to tease the water’s edge, scattering across the sand while being reminded to keep their sun hats on and their school shoes out of the water. They discovered the feathers of sea birds and the shells of old crabs while their teachers explained what they could take home from the beach and what needed to stay.
Then they were driven past town to the Longpoint Industrial Site to see where garbage is taken, to see how it is separated, piled and packed. It is not a place for children to get out of the bus but they could see the heavy machines pushing and shoving, building a mountain of landfill that will be the monument that remembers these days of plastic and waste. Let our children learn from this looming mass.
We didn’t have the same trips when I was a boy, but still my friends and I walked down to the sea when other children went home for lunch. It was a much smaller town then, with not many cars and every adult knowing who each child belonged to. So we went down to the water, with lunch in brown paper bags, and once or twice came back to our classes soaking wet, with no good explanations for our teacher.
We also found our own way to the dump, walking into the savannah, outside of town where junk was heaped. It was an informal place, communally maintained with a sign in big painted letters: “WHERE EVER, HOWEVER, AND WHATEVER YOU DUMP WILL DECIDE THE TYPE OF PERSON YOU ARE.” We went by ourselves, not in a class, just children looking for amusement, to rummage through the flotsam and jetsam of our island life. We found old rope to make swings, broken fans to build windmills and broken appliances we were sure could be fixed.
Now, hearing about my children’s field trip I wonder how has the world changed? Is island life not the same anymore, or is garbage just different than it used to be?