This week, my parents were in India visiting Mat and me. We took them on a tour of the southern part of the country, which included a two day trek in Kerala. Our first day of trekking took us to the top of Meesapulimala, the second highest peak in the Western Ghats mountain range. Our ascent was breathtaking, steep and enshrouded in clouds and mist, and at the top we looked down into a valley dense with green jungle. It was the most beautiful place I'd ever been, and I felt lucky to be able to stand there and experience it.
We were near the town of Munnar, which is known for its tea estates. The hills and valleys of the area are carpeted with bright green tea plants as far as the eye can see. After our summit at Meesapulimala, we descended into the valley towards Kolukkumalai tea estate, whose claim to fame is that it's the highest one in the world. It's a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners alike.
As we approached the estate and its adjoining factory, we started to notice litter on the side of our trail. At first it was just a sparse smattering of plastic bags and water bottles, but as we neared the bottom, we saw more and more litter, until at one point I looked out over a newly planted patch of tea plants, and saw what must have been hundreds of plastic water bottles.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Here we were in some of the most spectacular natural scenery on earth, and people had just discarded their trash into it. This was not the work of a handful of people, but of hundreds. I was shocked and saddened by the utter disregard and disrespect for this incredible place.
But I was also inspired to try and help. Did you ever read the parable about the man who tried to change the world, then ended up realizing that the only thing he could change was himself? I can't change the world, and I certainly can't change India, but maybe India can change me. And maybe by making some small and gradual changes in my own life, I can inspire others to do the same.
What are the things that add value to my life? They aren't disposable, and they don't come in plastic packaging. Maybe with a little planning and hard work, I can limit the amount of waste I leave behind.